We claim, in the fourth article of faith, that the first principle of the gospel is "faith in the Lord Jesus Christ," and many have said that obedience is the first law of God. Faith and obedience go hand-in-hand in the gospel of Christ, for never do you have faith spoken of but what you are challenged to be obedient to some aspect of the gospel.
When Alma was preaching to the downtrodden Zoramites, he talked about faith and told them that they did not have to have a perfect knowledge of things. Right away, they wanted to know what they could do. They seemed to be obedient to the testimony that they had received and were willing to make changes in their lives to be in accord with the will of God.In Alma 32:23, Alma outlines the process that shows the way in which the Lord introduces faith and obedience unto men, women, and even children. First, "he imparteth his word by angels unto men," or, the words of the gospel are given to the Lord's children.
When the honest in heart receive that word of God, they then want to know what they need to do. That is when the law of obedience comes in. So it was with the Zoramites, for they wanted to know what they could do. Alma instructed them to "give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, . . . [it will enlarge yourT soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten [your] understanding, it beginneth to be delicious." (Alma 32:28.)
The analogy that Alma used of planting the seed was one that was very familiar to those to whom he was speaking. They knew what was required. The soil must first be prepared. This process removes undesirable tares from the ground and puts the needed oxygen into the soil. Proper moisture, fertilizer, and nutrients are required to have proper germination.
Obedience to these principles is a must to have a healthy plant and to see it develop. When the seed begins to grow, what happens? Your faith is increased. You know that it works, because you have seen it and you have been obedient and planted the seed.
Faith is the first principle and the first step. But you must join with it obedience. But that is not the end, for we still do not have the perfect knowledge of the outcome of the tree and what kind of fruit it will provide.
And so Alma encourages us, "As the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us." (Alma 32:37.)
Not many years ago, I ran a farm for one summer in southeastern Idaho. We were nestled between two beautiful mountain ranges where at night the temperature could approach freezing. Because of the climate, I felt it wise to grow the grain crops that had been proven productive for nearly 100 years.
In the late spring, we plowed the soil and prepared the seedbed. Next, we watered the soil to make sure that there was proper moisture for the seeds, applied the appropriate fertilizer, and planted the grain seeds.
Believing that the crop would grow and develop, I still had some doubt. What if all the barley seeds were bad? What if the fertilizer was mixed wrong? What if there was too little or too much moisture in the soil? But I had faith and was obedient to do what I could to ensure a successful crop.
Several days after planting the seeds, I could see a green hue over the entire farm. I jumped for joy, for I now knew for sure that my crop would come.
But still there was more to be done. Nourishment must be provided for the barley crop, and later in the spring there was the danger of insects.
About midsummer, a storm approached from the east. Knowing what a Rocky Mountain hail storm could do to the crop, I called the family together for prayer that we might be spared. All that we had worked, saved, and planned for could be gone in a matter of seconds.
We watched as the darkness seemed to grow all around us, and then it happened. The wind seemed to shift and the cloud, the storm, and the hail, moved just to the south of our farm.
It isn't until the farmer has completed his harvest that he can relax and rejoice.
So it is with things of the Spirit. First comes faith, step one, wanting to believe in that which is good and that which is true. Then comes obedience, step two.
As we increase our faith, we are obedient to more principles of the gospel, and as we are more obedient, our faith is increased.