John described Christ’s life saying, “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). There are a few levels on which we can appreciate this sentiment.
First, and most obvious, is that “God himself shall come down among the children of men” (Mosiah 15:1). Jehovah Himself condescended into this physical world in order to enact physical change. This leads into the second dimension of meaning, which is that He performed God’s will on the earth in real time. It would have meant very little if Christ came to earth and then sat atop a mountain and made no change in the world. In other words, not only was Jehovah made flesh, but the words and will of God were made flesh. As the Father revealed something to Christ, He acted it out.
Jesus explained it thus, “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12:49), and, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19).
In a similar vein, we have been made flesh. We each have an eternal identity and nature, which consists of light and truth (D&C 93:23, 29). As spirit children of God, whose very substance is love, light, and truth, our spirits are composed of this nature as well. When in the presence of Heavenly Parents pre-mortally, the light of God flowed through us without constraint; we freely received, and existed according to, God’s light and word. Because of this, we knew with peace and clarity who we were.
In order for this embodied experience to be meaningful, we must act according to the truth and word of God as He reveals it to us now in the body. To obey God is our spiritual nature and longing. If we do not embody our eternal nature by obeying revelation, then it will be as though our spirits were never made flesh. If we accept false beliefs that tell us that living according to truth isn’t necessary, or get so caught up in studying gospel truths that we forget to live them, we deny ourselves the very reason we’re here.
The physical world is a world of physical action.
The world is changed by the things people do; our lives are changed by the things we do. It is the words and actions of our physical bodies that cause things to happen here.
When God intervenes in the world, He effects physical change. This can only be carried out here by those in the body.
When He called Abraham out of Haran, he promised him physical land. Abraham then had to physically accept the call to action, and follow God into the wilderness. When God called Moses, he required him to do things in the physical world. Israel had to make a physical exodus from Egypt, and thereafter a physical trek to the promised land. When the Savior Himself made atonement for mankind, He had to do so in a physical body, and suffer corporeal pain; there was no other way.
The things that these men did in the flesh has had a profound ripple effect on the world.
This is the essence of faith.
Faith is Truth Embodied
Faith is yielding to God’s word while veiled in this mortal body. Any time God has ever asked anyone to exercise faith, it has required physical action. For example, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house” (Hebrews 11:7).
Faith is found in trusting God’s word unto action. If God says “build an ark in exactly these dimensions in order to survive the coming flood,” it is not faith to do something different. It would not have mattered how hard he clenched his “faith muscles” in prayer when he saw the rain. If there is no active trust or obedience to God’s counsel, there is no faith.
James makes a powerful case in his epistle for why faith must be something that is acted out in the body:
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
“Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:14-26; emphasis added)
Isn’t it odd that faith in Christ has come to mean, “it’s not necessary to keep the commandments because Christ did?” Such a twisting of the scriptures is in fact anti-Christ, who Himself said: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
In Hebrews 11, we read of yet other examples of those that exercised faith through physical action. A few of these are the following:
“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went” (Hebrews 11:8). Abraham had to trust that God had an inheritance for him in order to leave home. Faith is the call to adventure; it’s to press forward, following the iron rod into the mist of darkness.
“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son” (Hebrews 11:17).
“By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24-27; emphasis added).
“[By faith] Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented…” (Hebrews 11:35-37).
The things Abraham, Moses, and many Christian martyrs suffered, they elected to suffer because of their faith in God. They trusted that the course of life God asked them to walk was the optimal way to live, even if it included suffering along the way. Their faith was an abiding trust that God loved them and knew better than they did. It was total submission of the flesh. Why don’t we speak of faith this way more often?
The Sacrifice of All Things
This can be likened to the process of building a fire. Whereas the light of God burned bright in us as spirits, adding a mortal body is like adding another log to the fire – there’s always question as to whether or not the new wood will make the fire brighter, or if it will snuff the flame out entirely. By yielding our bodies to the “enticings of the Holy Spirit,” we allow the fire of heaven to burn through us now just as it did before. If revelation remains un-acted upon for any reason, the fire dwindles. Our goal is for light and truth to flow through us again unimpeded.
When our faith in God is unconditional, meaning we are willing to obey Him at all hazards, we will be made partakers of eternal life. There are a finite number of things in this world that will cause us to lose faith; as we faithfully turn to Him in trials and suffering, He will purify our hearts and sanctify our bodies until each of these have been purged from us. When nothing pertaining to our mortal body impedes the flow of His light and truth, we will have overcome the world as He has (Revelation 2:7, 26, 3:21; cf. John 16:33). As the disciples exhorted the early Christians, “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22; cf. Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:12).
Joseph Smith taught this plainly in the Lectures on Faith. The entirety of this quote is worth reading and pondering:
“Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has, for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.
“It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.
“Those, then, who make the sacrifice will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God, and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life, and will be enabled, through faith, to endure unto the end, and receive the crown that is laid up for them that love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who do not make the sacrifice cannot enjoy this faith, because men are dependent upon this sacrifice in order to obtain this faith; therefore, they cannot lay hold upon eternal life, because the revelations of God do not guarantee unto them the authority so to do; and without this guarantee faith could not exist.
“All the saints of whom we have account in all the revelations of God which are extant, obtained the knowledge which they had of their acceptance in his sight, through the sacrifice which they offered unto him: and through the knowledge thus obtained, their faith became sufficiently strong to lay hold upon the promise of eternal life, and to endure us seeing him who is invisible; and were enabled, through faith, to combat the powers of darkness, contend against the wiles of the adversary, overcome the world, and obtain the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls” (Lectures on Faith 6:7-8, 10-11).
No man having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). Let us willingly climb onto the altar of sacrifice and offer up our whole souls as an offering to God. Let us commit, here and now, to obey the voice of revelation at all times, and in all things, and in all places. If we have not already, let us begin today to yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit that the Word might be made flesh in us.