There seems to be a dichotomy for some between faith and obedience. Joseph Smith taught that faith is the moving power behind action. James in the New Testament wrote that faith is observable through works.1 In the New Testament Greek the words faith, belief and trust are all translated from the same word.2 In other words for one to have faith does not necessarily signify agreement. It is possible to have faith and trust and believe what my leaders are saying and doing and still not necessarily agree with them. For example: in an interchange between Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, Joseph accused Brigham publicly of doing something that Brigham had not done. There was tension in the room as Brigham stood facing Joseph and simply said “what would you have me do”?3 Brigham had faith and trust in Joseph but he did not agree with the accusation. By his actions, he showed faith in that he was willing to follow Joseph’s lead. Brigham Young was well aware of Joseph’s imperfections as a man. Yet he trusted him as a prophet and later expected the same level of trust from those who would follow him as a prophet. As a church we do not now nor have we ever believed in prophetic infallibility. We are led by men who have shown the ability to make mistakes and through inspiration correct them.
However, there is a difference between disagreement and dissent. A dissident is a person who openly opposes another person in a position of authority. Brigham Young was not a dissident. Hyrum, the prophet’s brother was not a dissident when he disagreed with Joseph over returning to Nauvoo just prior to the martyrdom. They had fled the city and Joseph was intending to go West when accusations came that they were cowards and had fled at the first sign of trouble. Joseph by revelation stated that the saints would be fine if he and Hyrum left.4 As it turned out Joseph was correct yet Hyrum believed and trusted that the Lord would protect them in spite of Joseph’s revelation. He was wrong. William Law on the other hand was a dissident. He was a former member of the first presidency and was openly fighting against Joseph and the policies of the church.5 Today there are those who openly and publicly fight against the policies of the church and the decisions of the brethren who have authority to direct the church. Yet sometimes, the same people claim to love the church and have faith and believe in the restoration. Herein then is the dichotomy, faith is shown by action. To believe one must act. Activity in the church is shown by serving in callings, living the commandments and actively studying the scriptures and the words of the living prophets. It is also sustaining and uplifting those called to preside over us.
I personally am willing to follow the decisions of the leading brethren of the church, not because I know them personally or because I believe every decision is always correct but rather because I trust the keys which they hold. In the end, I believe the Lord will work through his chosen servants until they get it right. Opposition does not motivate decisions to change the church, the spirit motivates decisions and affects changes in the church. Those who openly oppose the policies of the church certainly have the right to do so whether they are members or nonmembers of the church. But I do not believe that we can consider those who openly oppose to be faithful. The Lord blesses those who faithfully follow even if they do not fully understand or in some cases agree.
Tim patty received a BA in history from BYU, and an MA in Hebrew and Jewish studies from University of Utah. He has taught seminary courses for 4 years, and institute for 23 years. He currently teaches at the Logan LDS Institute. He is happily married and has raised 5 children.
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|2.||↑||Strong’s Greek lexicon 4100 Pisteuo to have faith, believe, put trust in or with. Pistis 4102 faith, belief, trust.|
|3.||↑||As cited in “Joseph Smith the Prophet” Truman Madsen, Bookcraft 1989, 87-88.|
|5.||↑||Principal writer of the “Nauvoo Expositor” and former member of the first presidency with Joseph Smith.|