Hymn text by Parley P. Pratt, 1807-1857. View the full text of this hymn.

My reflections today are drawn primarily from the title of this hymn. I’m struck that all of the actions this hymn describes–repenting, coming with a broken heart, being baptized, taking the sacrament, etc.–are all things we perform because “we do believe,” rather than “we do know.”

In the church we talk a lot about testimony and how righteous behavior follows from “knowing” that the church is true. This hymn seems to suggest that righteous living follows from faith rather than knowledge.

Most of us (especially returned missionaries!) know someone–less active members or investigators, for instance–who absolutely knew that the church was true, but refused to change their lifestyle. What these people were lacking was faith. Faith is an active principle, whereas knowledge is primarily a kind of intellectual affect.

In all our rhetoric about knowledge and testimony, we sometimes miss how powerful faith is. Faith is the truly transformative virtue, a point that the scriptures try to teach us over and over again.

Think, for instance, of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:

“… Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. … And now abideth faith, hope and charity.” (1 Cor 13:8-9, 13)

Paul reminds us that knowledge is transitory and passing, but faith is one of the only three virtues that will abide eternally.

I would hope that we can each examine our lives and look for places where our faith has waned, where perhaps we’ve granted knowledge too much room, where we’ve become complacent and stopped experiencing the transformative power of faith.

It’s only through faith, after all, that the ultimate promise of this hymn is obtained:

Baptize us with the Holy Ghost
And seal us as thine own,
That we may join the ransomed host
And with the Saints be one.

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