By Elizabeth Pinborough

The Gospel Doctrine lesson 19 objective is “to help class members develop greater faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ”

Our Objective

To discuss the enabling power of faith in Jesus Christ and the atonement as exemplified in the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.


By way of preamble, I want to say that I believe that the atonement of Jesus Christ is basically the universal law that makes all things, both physical and spiritual, possible. I believe that it binds atoms together with a physical force. I believe that it is the power that will enable our body and spirit to reconstitute as resurrected beings. It is the law of light and the moral law of the universe that allows sins to be remitted. It brings us each to a state of wholeness and to eternal oneness with God and Christ. Christ, and his atoning sacrifice, is in all and through all things, the light of truth, as Doctrine and Covenants 88 says.

So how does faith interact with this universal law? Christ’s simple formulation “thy faith hath saved thee” in John 18:42 contains deep theological implications. Several times throughout the gospels Jesus vocalizes his healing miracles in this way: “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” 1

Christ does not laud his own miracles, proclaiming his Sonship and demanding fealty as our Lord. Rather, this phrasing seems to suggest that the power to be healed has been within those Christ heals all along. Their faith in this healing power allows that power to go to work. Our task is to believe in Christ’s Lordship and to surrender to it. This power can be active at any time. It is the ever-present force that enables, heals, redeems, resurrects at any moment, if it is God’s will to do so. Mary and Martha and those who are near at Lazarus’s death learn this lesson in John 11.

When Christ’s disciples question the wisdom of returning to Judaea, Christ responds with a commonsense parable about traveling during the day. It is easy to walk in light for twelve hours of the day. “But,” he continues, “if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him” (v. 10). This makes sense, but points to a deeper truth—if we have faith in Christ’s healing and atoning power, we need not walk in the dark, even at night. This truth is harder to grasp in extremis.

Mary and Martha understand that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’s death, and their words poignantly query why he did not. “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (vv. 20, 32). Thomas, nobly distraught, tries to rally the other disciples: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (v. 16). They would be together in death, sorrow for sorrow.

But Christ’s atonement creates a better scenario. Jesus responds to Martha, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (vv. 25-26). Martha believes this. She testifies, saying, “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world” (v. 27). Even so, when Jesus comes to the tomb, Martha points out that it has been four days since Lazarus died, that he stinks. Jesus responds, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” (v. 40). He is recalling his words when he is first notified of Lazarus’ death at the beginning of the chapter: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (v. 4). All along this has been about Christ’s glorification in raising the dead through his own death and resurrection, prefigured by his raising of Lazarus.

Christ reveals his Sonship quietly, intimately in his prayer after Lazarus’s tomb has been opened: “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me” (vv. 41-42). Christ wants to create the light of faith within his listeners. He wants them to trust in his present power as the light and life of the world, even in the darkest moments.

Through our faith, we can access Christ’s light at any moment. The outcome of our current predicament might not be as we would wish. Maybe our prayer for health leads not to an immediate healing but to doctors and aides and graces to guide us along a healing path. Yet every circumstance exists so that God’s glory in Christ can be manifest in us. Christ and the Father are glorified in overcoming all. Our belief in their constancy now and forevermore serves as the constant light of faith burning brightly within us. And sometimes our prayer of faith does lead to miraculous reversals, reconstitutions, and resurrections.

If we were saved without exercising any faith, would we truly be saved? Would it do us any real good? Like the baby chick who would die if she didn’t peck herself out of her eggshell, we exercise our faith to gain strength. Salvation is often in the pecking, in the believing, in the search for healing in Christ. The world into which we emerge, gaining a crack of light here and a crack of light there, is that enlightened gospel worldview illuminated entirely by Christ. We see a world without unlit horizons, a world with no more death.

In the October 1999 General Relief Society Meeting, Sheri Dew offered a hopeful call to women to leave this-worldly things behind in favor of the things of God’s kingdom: “We have such cause to rejoice, for the gospel of Jesus Christ is the voice of gladness! It is because the Savior overcame the world that we may overcome. It is because He rose on the third day that we may arise as women of God. May we lay aside the things of this world and seek for the things of a better. May we commit this very hour to come out of the world and to never look back.”

1Matthew 9:22; Mark 5:34, 10:52; Luke 8:48, 17:19; Enos 1:8.

Related Mormon Women Project Interviews

Standing Firm When It All Falls Apart, Ashlee Birk

I’ve always had faith, I’ve always known that Heavenly Father answers my prayers, I’ve always seen His hand in my life. But it wasn’t until I went through this total low point where all I had left with was Him that I realized how much He cared and was there for me. I’ve always known about the Atonement and known that the Atonement is there for me when I make a mistake. Whenever someone would wrong me, I knew I needed to forgive them. But as I have gone through this tragedy, in which three people wronged me on so many levels, my faith has helped me understand the Atonement on a much deeper level. The Atonement is there even if you’re just struggling with the fact that the story you’re living is different from the one you had planned. The Atonement is also there to help you forgive and feel compassion for a man who made a really bad choice. I think that’s been my greatest blessing, to understand the Atonement and the power that it can have on those hard days when it feels like your faith has been flat in the dirt for weeks and someone is just dragging you. If you pray for help, Heavenly Father will send you a little light, and He will send you the right person to say the right thing.

In Darkness, In Grace, Hillary Stirling

It has taken me a long time, but I have come again to a place of surety. I know my Father lives. I know that He loves me enough to let me struggle through the lessons I need to learn. I know He trusts me enough to try my faith. Above all, I know that despite how I felt, the reality is my Savior had already experienced every moment of my despair, frustration, and anguish. I never was and never will be abandoned.

Playing from Her Heart, Tina Richerson

It’s a happy coincidence that my preferring to be single lines up really with what the Church expects of me as homosexual, and perhaps a more faithful way of saying that is that God blesses me to feel this way. That’s what I think. The Great Creator can make us into whatever he wants of us. If we move ourselves in slightest right direction he will take it and he’ll magnify it for our good. I feel like I’ve been blessed to be at such peace about this. I have this incredible relationship with the Lord and with the Spirit. I’m just so peaceful. Peaceful! Joyful! I will take the gifts of the Spirit over the gifts of the flesh any day of the week. I’m all about it.

Other Related Women’s Voices

Seeing the Promises Afar Off, Anne Pingree

Faith is the most personal reflection of adoration for—and devotion to—our Heavenly Father and His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Anchored by this first and all-important principle of the gospel, we look to our Savior, knowing “Jesus [is] the author and finisher of our faith.” (Heb. 12:2)

Show You Know, Coleen K. Menlove

Make a decision today to show you know by following Jesus Christ in faith. The path back to Heavenly Father will not be easy. You will need courage to continue day after day as you follow the Savior. I bear my witness that as you make the decision to show you know by following Jesus Christ in faith, you will experience peace and happiness now and throughout eternity.

Blessed by Living Water, Kathleen H. Hughes

I have dealt myself with the debilitating effects of depression. But I have learned from my own experience, and I learn from those I meet, that we are never left to our own resources. We are never abandoned. A wellspring of goodness, of strength and confidence is within us, and when we listen with a feeling of trust, we are raised up. We are healed. We not only survive, but we love life. We laugh; we enjoy; we go forward with faith.