In our little MTC branch of 40 to 50 missionaries (The Missionary Training Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), districts of 8 to 12 missionaries would rotate in and be with us for almost 9 weeks. To make things easier for us in the branch presidency, we would go through a cycle of 7 subjects for our talks in our Sacrament Meetings. With 7 topics, the missionaries never heard the same sermon twice. (We didn’t need 9, because during the 9 Sundays we would have at least two Fast and Testimony Meetings.) The topics were very basic—faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, etc.
Although it would have been easier, I couldn’t give the same talk over and over again. If I didn’t prepare something new, I would get bored listening to myself. This meant I spent a lot of time thinking about and studying the same basics of the gospel over and over again.
For reference material we were allowed to use only the scriptures, Preach My Gospel (the missionary manual of the church) words of the living prophets (recent conference talks), and our personal experiences. Speculations, interesting tangents, and interesting ideas of non-prophets (like C. S. Lewis, for example) were forbidden. We taught Christ’s basic doctrine, since that was what the missionaries were learning to teach.
One of the topics was “Hope.” As I did my research, one of my sources was President Uchtdorf’s October 2008 conference address “The Infinite Power of Hope.” In the talk he said, “Hope is one leg of a three-legged stool, together with faith and charity. These three stabilize our lives regardless of the rough or uneven surfaces we might encounter at the time.”
Each time I prepared my talk (and also when preparing talks on faith or charity) I would come back to this statement and try to figure out how faith, hope, and charity fit together to create a stable, three-legged stool. I’m sure there are many good answers, but I offer my conclusion. It will take me a few paragraphs to explain.
Faith is a principle of action and power. When someone disagrees with the statement that “faith without works is dead,” I think that person misses the point of the scripture. The verse is not about faith versus works, or grace versus trying to earn our salvation. I think the statement tries to teach us that having faith and doing nothing is not faith. If we have faith, we are faithful. If we have faith, we act and we do. If we have faith in Christ, we try to be like him and to be faithful to his teachings.
Hope is about emotions and feelings. If we have hope, we are hopeful. We have confidence and enthusiasm. If our hope is centered in Christ, we have confidence in his Atonement, and we trust that eventually everything will work out for the best.
Charity is the pure love of Christ. If we have charity, we love unselfishly. It is never about what we need or want. We love selflessly, expecting nothing in return, and love as Christ would love.
So, how do the three fit together? Let’s assume that we feel prompted to visit someone who is sick. If we follow this prompting with faith, we go. Perhaps we grumble to ourselves that we are inconvenienced or that we won’t do any good, but we go.
If we have hope, we go with enthusiasm and confidence. Perhaps we won’t be able to do any good, but still we go with a smile and a happy heart. Perhaps we go to feel better about ourselves or to finish an item on our to-do list, but we go cheerfully.
Finally, if we have charity, we go with no thought for ourselves. We try to see the person as Christ would. Our concern is for that person, and our only desire is help in whatever way we can.
In the case of a missionary, if he knocks on a door, he shows faith. If she has a smile on her face when the door opens, she demonstrates hope. If the concern is only for the person opening the door, and how he or she might help that person, then he or she does it with love. He or she is not thinking about checking a box or meeting a goal.
If we have faith, we go. If we have hope, we go cheerfully. If we have charity, we go for the right reasons. These are my thoughts on the three-legged stool which is stable, even when the surface is rough or uneven. Life is much better when we do, when we do it cheerfully, and when we do it unselfishly.