"For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith ni his name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made." Moroni 7:38
The law is that we must have faith to be saved. I think I lack some understanding in this area. If we look at faith as a near equivalent to belief, then Christ can only save us if we believe he can. I have a hard time looking beyond the simplistic idea of comparing it to my belief in something happening. I can say that I believe it will rain tomorrow, but whether it does or not is independent of my belief in it. It almost feels like it is a limitation on Christ's power to say "He can only save me if I believe in him." But faith is more than belief, I think. I don't know if I understand faith as well as I used to think I did.
From the Bible Dictionary:
Faith: Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true, and must be centered in Jesus Christ in order to produce salvation. To have faith is to have confidence in something or someone. The Lord has revealed himself and his perfect character...so as to enable the mind of man to place confidence in him without reservation. Faith is kindled by hearing the testimony of those who have faith. Miracles do not produce faith but strong faith is developed by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ; in other words, faith comes by righteousness, although miracles often confirm one's faith.
Faith is a principle of action and of power..."
It goes on but for now that suffices. So if I have faith in Christ I have confidence in him, and faith comes by righteousness. Is that because it is only by being righteous that we can actually get to a point where we might understand Christ enough to have confidence in him? I can see that we have to get to know him in order to have confidence...could you know him if you are acting unrighteously? Why and how does the atonement only work if we allow it to work in our lives? I tend to believe that there are actual rules that govern these sorts of things, and not that it is just an arbitrary setup. Why do I have to have faith in order to be redeemed from my sins? What is it about faith that allows Christ to help me?
I'll have to do some more research and pondering on the matter. Maybe I'll need to dig out my copy of Lectures on Faith.
So David and I had a discussion on the topic, and we came up with/remembered the following key point:
Faith is an active verb, not a passive verb (like believe). To truly have faith, you must be acting in some way that is taking you closer to the person/idea/concept you have faith in. So if you have faith in the Atonement, you must be acting in such a way (repentance) that puts you in a position to receive it. Without faith, you stand still and don't move in any direction, as you have nowhere to go (what's the Alice in Wonderland quote? If you don't know where you are going, it doesn't much matter which direction you go. Something along that line.) Faith is what makes you take a step towards God, in any way. We brought up that rarely would the self-absorbed hedonist suddenly have an epiphany to find God, simply because they lack the desire. As Alma says, you first start with a desire. I'd guess for most people this is a desire for something unknown, but simply a desire for something better. That is the beginning of a faith, as they are willing to look for something, and hope that it exists.
Well, it's late so I'll sign off for now and hopefully continue this more in the future.