FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE
(Or, Five Steps to Eternal Life)
A Talk Given In
LDS SERVICEMEN'S WARD
MADRID, SPAIN STAKE
Tell story of the movie "The Hustler" with Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, and George C. Scott
The classic movie, "The Hustler," (1961, Twentieth Century Fox) is about pool sharks. A "hustle"
is when a very good pool player--a pool shark--pretends to be a bad player. The good player challenges an average
player to a game of pool. They place bets and the good player loses on purpose. The good player then asks for a
double or nothing rematch and then loses again. This cycle of losing and raising the stakes continues until the
stakes are high, like in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. When the stakes are high enough, then the good pool
player wins the game and takes the money. This is a dangerous way to earn money because those who have been hustled
get mad--often violently mad.
In the move, Jackie Gleason plays the part of Minnesota Fats, the best pool player in the country, who is middle-aged.
Paul Newman plays the part of Fast Eddie, who appears to be in his twenties. It is Fast Eddie's dream to play and
beat Minnesota Fats. Minnesota Fats gets challenged a lot. He does not have enough cash to meet all the bets people
place on his pool games. He has a financier named Burt Gordon, played by George C. Scott, who bank rolls Minnesota
Fats, and then takes a hefty cut of the winnings.
In the movie, we watch Fast Eddie hustling his way across the country, accumulating money to play against Minnesota
Fats. When Fast Eddie finally starts playing Minnesota Fats, he can't believe he is beating the master. They play
all night. Fast Eddie has won thousands of dollars from Minnesota Fats. Then in the last game, there is a winner
take all bet, and Minnesota Fats wins. Fast Eddie realizes that he has just been hustled.
Later, Fast Eddie is broke. He goes to Burt Gordon to see if Burt will sponsor him, like Burt sponsors Minnesota
Fats. Fast Eddies says, (paraphrasing) "I know I can beat Minnesota Fats." Burt says, "I know you
can, too. But that is not good enough. You have to know you will beat him before I will sponsor you."
"Can" is not good enough. "Will" is good enough. Now please hold that thought for a moment.
I am going to address a different topic and then I will come back to this concept.
For the purposes of this talk, I will be giving the following familiar terms particular definitions. In other
contexts, these words are often used with different meanings. But, in order to convey my thoughts as accurately
as I can, I want us to share a common understanding of these concepts.
- This is simple. It means to want something. It is a feeling or emotion inside of us. For example, I desire
a new computer for Christmas. Desire is the starting point of Eternal progression. But, if a person does not have
desire, where can he/she get it? Where does desire come from? Stay tuned--I'll answer that question later.
- This is more than desire, more than want. Hope takes desire as its core and adds an external probability to
it. Hope is a reasonable chance, an eligibility, an opportunity that is available. A person has hope when his/her
desire has a reasonable chance of being fulfilled. Hope can be thought of a reasoned and rational desire. For example,
now that I've received a larger than normal Christmas bonus, I hope I can get a computer for Christmas. Before
the bonus, there really was no hope, in spite of my great desire. Hope is in the realm of "can." I can
get a computer for Christmas--but "can have" a computer is a far cry from "will get" a computer.
Can really is not good enough. There are a couple steps before we get to "will."
- This is more than hope. Belief takes hope as its core and surrounds it with a positive mental attitude. A person
has belief when she/he thinks their hope can actually happen. For example, now that my wife mentioned that a computer
would be a good family present, I believe I will get a computer for Christmas.
- This is more than belief. Faith takes belief as its core and adds action to it. Belief propels a person to
start moving. A person has faith when they start to act on their belief. For example, once I believe I can get
a computer for Christmas, I start window shopping; I begin talking to friends about what kind to get; I make a
list of all the hardware and software I need; and I start counting the cost I eventually give my wife a mail order
catalogue with a circle around the model I want. I even leave a note with the toll-free number and the credit card
number I want her to use. Now, that's faith!
- This is the fifth and final step. After I have exercised faith, I just have to wait. After I have done all
I can do, I must be patient. It is by the good graces of my wife that I will get a computer. And while I feel like
I have done most of the worry, research, and work to get the computer, it is actually a gift from my wife. She
bridges the gap. Without her intervention, I would not get a computer for Christmas (my kids don't have authority
to use the credit cards.) Finally, as we go to bed on Christmas Eve, she can't contain her excitement and tells
me that, indeed, I will be getting a computer the next morning. I now have knowledge. And with that knowledge,
I gain a peace and calmness--one that allows me to sleep in freely, confident in the knowledge that the computer
will be there when I wake up! Notice that the knowledge that I "will get" a computer feels much better
than the hope that I "can get" a computer. Notice, I didn't actually have to take possession of the computer.
I was satisfied in trusting my wife's assurance that I would get the computer. As far as Calvin and Computers are
concerned, "can" is not good enough--"will" is.
III. HAMSTER IN THE SANDBOX
When our older children were young, they had a hamster. They liked to take it out to our sandbox and let it
run around and burrow in the sand. One day they built a sand castle with a tunnel through it. They let the hamster
explore the tunnel in the sand castle. While the hamster was in the tunnel the sand castle collapsed.
- My children had a desire to find the hamster alive. It was a feeling they had.
- Beyond desire, did they have any hope of finding the hamster alive? Some, but not much. The probability was
- Did they actually believe they would find the hamster alive? No, they did not have the positive outlook. They
were fatalistic and pessimistic.
- They nevertheless exercised faith. By this I mean they took action. They pushed the sand from the castle aside
and started digging all around where they remembered the tunnel being. However, it was a faith without hope, and
very little belief.
- Did they know the hamster was alive? No. In fact, they never did find the hamster, and gave up in despair.
IV. TESTIMONY OF THE GOSPEL
Let us consider for a moment how we get a testimony of the gospel.
- First of all we have to want it to be true.
- Then we have to access the probability that it might be true. We hope the gospel is true when there is a reasonable
chance that it is true.
- After we desire the gospel to be true, and we hope it is true, we can move to believing it is true. Belief
is thinking that it actually is true.
- Once we believe the gospel is true, we then feel compelled to live by its teachings. The first fruits of faith
is the action of repentance.
- Then we have to hang around in faith for some time. That is we must live the gospel. We must continue repenting.
We must pattern our thoughts and action after the Savior's life. At some point, not of our choosing, but in our
Heavenly Father's own good time, we are given the gift of a testimony. The Holy Ghost witnesses to us that the
gospel is true. A testimony comes as a free gift, after all we can do. At this point we can bear our witness that
the gospel is true. We become comfortable with ourselves. We have direction in our lives.
V. REPENTING OF SWEARING PROBLEM
When I was in the 7th grade I had a big problem with profanity. My friends and I used to see how many swear
words we could fit into one sentence. Eventually, I decided I wanted to be rid of this filthy habit.
- I wanted to be forgiven.
- The Atonement of Christ let me have hope that I could be forgiven. There was a reasonable chance that it could
- Once I determined to repent, I started to believe that I actually would be forgiven.
- I expressed my faith that I could be forgiven by engaging in several behaviors. I stopped swearing. I was sorry
for swearing. I prayed. I asked for forgiveness. I promised I would forever give up swearing. In spite of all these
behaviors, I still lacked at witness that I had been forgiven.
- I had to hang around in faith. This means I had to continue repenting. Eventually, I received the gift of forgiveness.
The Holy Ghost told me I was forgiven. It was a free gift, after all I could do. Now, I no longer believe I am
forgiven. I know I am forgiven. I know it just as I know the Gospel is true. I bear my witness that I have been
forgiven. It is not good enough to know we can be forgiven. We must know that we are forgiven. And with that knowledge,
I gain peace and self confidence. I have an assurance that lets me move on to bigger and better things.
VI. FAMILIES TOGETHER FOREVER
Now, I have a wonderful wife and five great kids.
- I want to be with them forever (as long as they are not teenagers). I know some families that would rather
not be together forever. In fact, I know couples that don't even want to be together for until their kids grow
up. I even know families who don't even want to go to dinner together for an hour. So, consider yourselves fortunate,
if you actually want to be with your family forever. That is a very important first step--and the topic of a whole
- Do I have any hope that we will be together forever? Is there a reasonable chance? Yes. My wife and I have
been sealed in the temple and our five kids were Born in the Covenant. This gives me hope of being together forever.
Without this temple ordinance there is no hope.
- Now it starts to get hard. Do I really think that we will actually live together as a family forever? When
I picture--in my mind--all of us in the Celestial Kingdom, is it believable? I'll tell you honestly, some days
I have my doubts. Some weeks I have my doubts. Some months I have my doubts. This is not good. It is not good because
without this belief it hard to have faith. Belief is only step three. There are two more to go.
- If we believe our family will live together forever, then we exercise faith and we will act like we will be
together forever. We will make our home a heaven on earth. We will live Celestial Laws. We will love one another
as Christ loves us. We will become Christ like in every way. Now let me tell you, brothers and sisters, this is
tough. Really tough. Especially when my kids leave their toys on the stairs. Or when they don't get the freezer
door quite closed.
- This is the bottom line of life. It all comes down to this. In order to know that our family will be together
forever, we have to hang around in faith and be patient. The witness is a free gift from our Heavenly Father after
all we can do. It comes in Our Father's own good time. We sing the song, "Families Can Be Together Forever."
That is not good enough. We must obtain a testimony that our family will be together forever.
A. Just as "can" was not good enough for Fast Eddie, so it is with us.
B. To know I "can" get a computer is not good enough, I must know I "will" get a computer.
C. To know the gospel "can" be true is not good enough, we must know it "is" true.
D. To know we "can" be forgiven is not good enough, we must know we "are" forgiven.
E. To know our family (marriage) "can" be together forever is not good enough, we must know our family
(marriage) "will" be together forever.
A. And what is the product of this knowledge? Security, reassurance, strength, self confidence, patience, calmness,
peace, happiness, freedom.
B. These products of knowledge apply to testimony, repentance, marriage, and family. Of this I bear my witness.
C. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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