During the most recent general conference, in April, President Russell M. Nelson made an unusual appeal to the Church and to all the world, noted Brother Ahmad S. Corbitt during the BYU-Idaho campus devotional on Tuesday, Sept. 21.
Brother Corbitt pointed out that the Prophet’s “unusual appeal” was not an invitation, teaching or urging but a call “to start today to increase your faith.”
Speaking from the BYU–Idaho Center on the Rexburg, Idaho, campus during the first live devotional since the onset of pandemic restrictions, Brother Corbitt, first counselor in the Young Men general presidency, said he felt impressed to help his listeners continue to accept and magnify President Nelson’s call.
Brother Corbitt began his remarks by asking a sobering question: “Do you know and love someone who once had a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ — a seemingly strong youth or even a returned missionary or older adult — who abandoned his/her faith in Christ and left the Church?”
Sadly, Brother Corbitt said, that experience is not new.
Why do some of God’s children turn their backs on Him after once being enlightened? And how can individuals increase faith in Christ and help others do the same? Brother Corbitt asked.
The answer, he said, lies in a vital principle of faith in Christ that too few use, understand or even know about.
“But I promise that if you listen carefully, believe and humbly apply it, you will leave this devotional armed with increased faith in Christ and having answered the Prophet’s call today,” Brother Corbitt promised.
Vital principle of faith
During his “epic teaching” of the Zoramites, the prophet Alma identified two levels of faith. The first is described as beginning.
“This faith experiments with the word of God and comes to learn the gospel is true,” Brother Corbitt explained and quoted Alma 32:28-29: “And when you feel these swelling motions ye will begin to say within yourselves (and to others) — It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good (that the Church is true), for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding.”
For the loved ones who have strayed, “Sadly, their faith never reached the next level,” Brother Corbitt said. “What is this next level? It is to look forward with an eye of faith and see the Lord’s promise of eternal life as already fulfilled in our lives.”
Looking forward with an eye of faith is like an essential course, or class, needed to “graduate” faith from beginning to permanent. “If we do not take this course, our faith does not graduate,” Brother Corbitt said.
Alma teaches that if individuals don’t look forward with an eye of faith, his or her gospel tree — or testimony — will not survive the hot opposition all inevitably face. “Our beginning faith was just to plant the seed to know if the gospel and Church were true, not necessarily to get us through the heat of mortality,” Brother Corbitt said. “Alma said that once we have this beginning experience, ‘ye (must not) lay aside your faith’” (Alma 32:38).
Looking forward with an eye of faith
So what does it mean to look forward with an eye of faith? Brother Corbitt asked. President Nelson has taught “to begin with the end in mind.” President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, has counseled to see “the end from the beginning.” When President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, was president of Ricks College, he taught students that to live in glory forever in families in the presence of a loving Heavenly Father “takes a focused eye.”
Or, in the words of Alma, Brother Corbitt said, “Do you look forward with an eye of faith and view (or see) this mortal body raised in immortality and this corruption raised in incorruption (in other words, the promise fulfilled) to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?” (Alma 5:15-16).
Brother Corbitt said he knows of no more powerful expression of “fixed” faith in God’s promises than to look forward and see His promises as already fulfilled or an accomplished fact, and act accordingly.
In that same chapter, Alma then asks, “Can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed?”
Similarly, Brother Corbitt asked listeners, “Do you ‘imagine to yourself’ what you will become and how you will be, especially in the eternities? … Do you ever imagine what it will feel like in our Heavenly Father’s presence if you continue to do your best at living His gospel and repenting of mistakes?”
To those who feel uncertain of God’s promises or question if their faith is strong enough, Brother Corbitt promised, “As you see, imagine and envision the Lord’s promises fulfilled in your lives, and work diligently and patiently toward their fulfillment, you invite the Comforter to confirm what you are experiencing.”
Brother Corbitt then shared how to apply this principle of faith in Christ and His promises to three major topics: the gathering of Israel, racial harmony and marital success.
The gathering of Israel
In 2014 as Brother Corbitt and his wife, Sister Jayne L. Corbitt, were preparing to be leaders of the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo East Mission, the two attended the Seminar for New Mission Leaders where President Nelson taught them to teach missionaries to begin with the end in mind. In other words, to envision those they were teaching the gospel as being baptized and sealed as families.
“These teachings lit a fire of faith in Christ and His promises throughout our mission,” Brother Corbitt said. “Let them light that same fire of faith in Christ in you as you look forward with an eye of faith and view, imagine and envision God’s children — including yourselves — in this wonderful way.”
Brother Corbitt told listeners they have a pivotal role to play in establishing a national culture of unity and harmony devoid of racism and racial contention.
“Our unity as a people will be evidence for the country and the world that Jesus Christ is really the Son of God, and that He has the power to unify God’s willing children of all backgrounds. If we let Him, He will use us as an example for the United States and an ensign to the nations in all the world,” Brother Corbitt declared.
In 2018, President Nelson, his counselors and national officers of the NAACP joined together and President Nelson said: “We are impressed to call on people of this nation and, indeed, the entire world to demonstrate greater civility, racial and ethnic harmony and mutual respect …, lifting our brothers and sisters who need our help, just as the Savior, Jesus Christ, would do.”
Just a couple of years after the Prophet’s call, racial abuse and strife sparked a conflagration of contention and violence around the country. “Imagine if the nation had heeded the Prophet’s call,” Brother Corbitt said. “How much more unified would we be today? Imagine conditions tomorrow if we do not heed the prophetic calls of today.”
So what should individuals do? Brother Corbitt encouraged his listeners to let the differences they see among God’s children on campus and elsewhere remind them of their important role as catalyst in unifying in peace and harmony.
“Let us avoid negativity and division and work toward ‘perfect peace and harmony’ ‘with great diligence and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof’ (Alma 32:41). Imagine how we could thus guide the United States to increasingly ‘form a more perfect union’ as ‘one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’”
How does the principle of looking forward with an eye of faith apply to marital harmony? Brother Corbitt asked.
“One of the greatest promises God makes to His children is also the greatest of all His gifts to us, eternal life. As you know, this is exaltation, or the life He, Himself, lives in marriage and family,” Brother Corbitt.
Citing President M. Russell Ballard’s latest general conference address, Brother Corbitt taught how Latter-day prophets have confirmed that all those who are faithful in keeping gospel covenants will have to opportunity for exaltation.
Brother Corbitt said he sees hope and power in such teachings. “They enable all the faithful, regardless of whether you have a sealed spouse with you or not, to look forward with an eye of faith and see yourselves exalted in the presence of our Heavenly Father and our Savior.”
He then asked, “Brethren, do we who are married each look forward and see his wife as an exalted and glorious woman, according to the promise? Do you wives see your husbands as exalted and glorious men? What can we do to treat them more according to the eye of faith? If we are not married, how should we look forward with an eye of faith toward our promised exaltation? How should we see ourselves and what should we do? Most importantly, how should we all act toward our Father in Heaven and our Savior who have secured for each of us — married and single — these sure eternal blessings and promises at great personal sacrifice?”
In conclusion, Brother Corbitt repeated his earlier counsel to “help others begin with the end in mind and see the end from the beginning. Let us help ‘nourish … the tree as it beginneth to grow … [by] looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof.’”