Selected Teachings on
Faith as a Principle of Action

David A. Bednar (Quorum of the Twelve)

True faith is focused in and on the Lord Jesus Christ and always leads to righteous action. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “faith [is] the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness” and that it is also “the principle of action in all intelligent beings” (Lectures on Faith [1985], 1). Action alone is not faith in the Savior, but acting in accordance with correct principles is a central component of faith. Thus, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). (Ensign, May 2008, 94–97)


The Apostle Paul defined faith as “the substance of things hoped for [and] the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Alma declared that faith is not a perfect knowledge; rather, if we have faith, we “hope for things which are not seen [but] are true” (Alma 32:21). Additionally, we learn in the Lectures on Faith that faith is “the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness” and that it is also “the principle of action in all intelligent beings.” 1

These teachings highlight three basic elements of faith: (1) faith as the assurance of things hoped for that are true, (2) faith as the evidence of things not seen, and (3) faith as the principle of action in all intelligent beings. I describe these three components of faith in the Savior as simultaneously facing the future, looking to the past, and initiating action in the present.

Faith as the assurance of things hoped for looks to the future. This assurance is founded upon a correct understanding about, and trust in, God and enables us to “press forward” (2 Nephi 31:20) into uncertain and often challenging situations in the service of the Savior.

For example, Nephi relied upon precisely this type of future-facing spiritual assurance as he returned to Jerusalem to obtain the plates of brass—“not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do. Nevertheless [he] went forth” (1 Nephi 4:6–7).

Faith in Christ is inextricably tied to, and results in, hope in Christ for our redemption and exaltation. And assurance and hope make it possible for us to walk to the edge of the light and take a few steps into the darkness—expecting and trusting the light to move and illuminate the way. 2 The combination of assurance and hope initiates action in the present.

Faith as the evidence of things not seen looks to the past and confirms our trust in God and our confidence in the truthfulness of things not seen. We stepped into the darkness with assurance and hope, and we received evidence and confirmation as the light in fact moved and provided the illumination we needed. The witness we obtained after the trial of our faith (see Ether 12:6) is evidence that enlarges and strengthens our assurance.

Assurance, action, and evidence influence each other in an ongoing process. This helix is like a coil, and as it spirals upward it expands and widens. These three elements of faith—assurance, action, and evidence—are not separate and discrete; rather, they are interrelated and continuous and cycle upward. And the faith that fuels this ongoing process develops, evolves, and changes. As we again turn and face forward toward an uncertain future, assurance leads to action and produces evidence, which further increases assurance. Our confidence waxes stronger, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.

helix

We find a powerful example of the interaction among assurance, action, and evidence as the children of Israel transported the ark of the covenant under the leadership of Joshua (see Joshua 3:7–17). Recall how the Israelites came to the river Jordan and were promised the waters would part, and they would be able to cross over on dry ground. Interestingly, the waters did not part as the children of Israel stood on the banks of the river waiting for something to happen; rather, the soles of their feet were wet before the water parted. The faith of the Israelites was manifested in the fact that they walked into the water before it parted. They walked into the river Jordan with a future-facing assurance of things hoped for. As the Israelites moved forward, the water parted, and as they crossed over on dry land, they looked back and beheld the evidence of things not seen. In this episode, faith as assurance led to action and produced the evidence of things not seen that were true.

True faith is focused in and on the Lord Jesus Christ and always leads to action. Faith as the principle of action is highlighted in many scriptures with which we are all familiar:

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26; emphasis added).

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22; emphasis added).

“Awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith” (Alma 32:27; emphasis added).

And it is faith as the principle of action that is so central to the process of learning and applying spiritual truth. (Address to CES Religious Educators, February 3, 2006)

David A. Bednar (Quorum of the Seventy)

Faith is evidenced in deeds. And as faith is the principle of action, so the opposite of faith, which we typically refer to as doubt, is the principle of inaction. Thus, if you and I have faith in Christ, we accept and live His teachings and we accept and obey His commandments. If you and I have faith in Christ, we strive to live worthily and seek for the companionship of the Holy Ghost, we repent of our sins, we minister to the poor and needy, we carefully listen to and apply the teachings of the living prophets, and we do the works of righteousness. Faith in prayer is evidenced in part when we kneel down. More importantly, however, faith is reflected when we get up and work diligently to accomplish that for which we have prayed. The true exercise of faith in prayer begins when we say, “amen.” (Ricks College Devotional, August 29, 2000)


We frequently think of faith in connection with mighty and miraculous events such as moving mountains and parting seas and raising the dead. It is important to remember, though, that faith typically is evident in many small events and things rather than in a few big events and things. It is also true that faith usually is bestowed upon us a little bit at a time rather than all at once—line upon line and precept upon precept.

Have you and I ever been frustrated in our efforts to exercise faith in prayer because we expect a “big” answer, and we expect it “now”? We may mistakenly conclude that because no answer came in the first few moments after saying “amen” that our prayer was not heard or that no answer was given. An answer to a prayer frequently is made up of many small answers given over a period of time—line upon line and precept upon precept. And I have also learned that those small answers almost always come as I am working to accomplish the things for which I have prayed. I may first receive a small prompting of assurance to proceed in a particular direction, then a small nudge to adjust my course, and finally a growing confidence and confirmation that the pathway I am pursuing is in accordance with the will of the Lord. Answers often come gradually and are more like dew distilling from heaven than a sudden flash flood…. Remember, faith is evident over time in many small events and things rather than in a few big events and things. (Ricks College Devotional, Aug. 29, 2000)