How Do You Measure Faith?

Katrina

It was a spring day in the eighth grade when a cardinal came to school, asking us questions in preparation for the sacrament of confirmation. I was living in a very Catholic Croatia but had befriended a few LDS missionaries at this point.

“Why don’t we see God?” the cardinal asked.

“He is too far away,” someone replied, but none of us were able to answer to his satisfaction.

Finally, he said, “We don’t see God because God is a ghost!”

Somehow I had never heard that before, and never did anything in an otherwise pleasant class setting make me question if I was in the right place. “The Holy Ghost is a ghost. The name tells you,” I thought, “What would be the difference?”

It was a pivotal moment of disassociating my belief in God from a belief in the correctness of a church. Soon after, I was given a copy of the Gospel Principles manual, which put everything in perspective. Reading about pre-mortal life—the idea that we lived with God as spirits before this life—thinned the veil and invoked feelings of undeniable familiarity. For the first time that I could recall, the Spirit made me cry. It testified of truth. I had never actually changed my religion. I had only found where I belonged.

I read the Book of Mormon cover to cover for the first time when I was 14. The imagery created in my mind is still vivid as I read about Lehi and his family leaving Jerusalem behind and traveling to the New World. I had studied the stories of the Bible throughout my schooling, but I had never actually read the scriptures like a book. I never doubted Joseph Smith’s account of how the Book of Mormon came to be, so I didn’t read it to know if it was true. I read it to learn, and the process was empowering. If the Book of Mormon is true, then every single verse in it is true. With all the “Ask and ye shall receive” messages, this opened up a world of possibilities.

Like most children, I had always wanted a magic wand, but now I had come across something real and so much better—the principle of fasting, or going without food or drink for 24 hours while praying for something specific and donating at least the amount that would be spent on meals to the needy. Coupled with real intent and righteousness, fasting was superior even to a magic wand because the omniscient Lord would only allow the best wishes to come true. I began experimenting on the words with excitement, waiting for doors to open in seemingly impossible situations. Though sincere prayers were always powerful, fasting became my way of demonstrating to the Lord that something was important enough to me that I was willing to sacrifice extra for it.

I have always loved discussing deep doctrine. It is so intriguing. Gospel discussions have a way of zooming you out of whatever you have zoomed in on at the moment and revealing the bigger picture.

As the last semester of eleventh grade was coming to a close, there was only one thing standing between me and my plan to attend the last year of high school in Utah while trying to obtain a scholarship to BYU—a visa. Based on a number of experiences, locals working at the U.S. library warned me about the visa interview: “Under no circumstances should they figure out you are planning to stay past your senior year,” they told me. “They may ask tricky questions to get this information. They are like computers. If they get the sense you are planning to stay longer, the visa is automatically denied, you can’t reapply for at least six months (at which point it would have been too late anyway), visa denial will stay on your record and you basically won’t be able to go.”

“Ok, I’ll just have some back up story and not get tricked,” I thought. There was just one problem with this approach—I would be lying. This tormented me all week. If they truly acted like computers (input: yes; output: deny), I felt that I had no choice but to lie. Why would I say “yes” and let some man’s stamp ruin my future—especially when what I say would be of no consequence to him? I was sure there was at least one instance in the Old Testament where someone justifiably tricked someone else, but I couldn’t find it.

The night before the interview, fasting, I met up with a friend from Church. Branch president at 16, he was certainly a better scriptorian. After reading me the likes of 2 Nephi 9:34, where all liars would be “thrust down to hell,” he stated there was no excuse for lying. To be clear, he found equivalent verses in the Bible and Doctrine and Covenants as well, proceeding to read each one to me. One party surely enjoyed this conversation more than the other. Finally, he asked, “Where is your faith?”

A sensation between a spiritual slap in the face and a light bulb going on brought my thought process to a halt. Truly, where is my faith? Had I not seen the hand of the Lord in leading me to the right host family? Had I forgotten about the miracle of avoiding the entire school district’s policy and the fee I could not pay? Had I not had what I petitioned for in prayer come to pass word for word? If I truly believed it was right for me to go, and the Lord had clearly helped me thus far, why was I afraid of what men could do? This boost of confidence was confirmed in a priesthood blessing so I could be completely at peace that all would go well.

The next morning, I felt like some sort of royalty. Common rules wouldn’t apply to me. As I approached the steps of the U.S. Embassy, I saw a girl my age coming out crying, her mother yelling at the guard, demanding her $100 back. It was very clear what had happened.

“Nice try, Satan,” I said in my mind and proceeded through security. Buoyed by newfound confidence, nothing could discourage me. I sat down. I wondered how this miracle would unfold. Finally, my name was called. It was show time. I slid my transcripts and visa application through the glass. An expressionless man looked over them.

“You have good grades. And your English is good…”

“Thank you.” We exchanged a few more words. I was just waiting for the question.

“After you finish high school, do you plan to go to college here or…?”

“Well, I would like to get a good education, so if I get a scholarship to Brigham Young University…”

He started raising his eyebrow but within a split second, as if the Spirit was standing right next to me, the direction was crystal clear: Keep talking. Don’t let him ask you anything else.

“And this family I’m staying with, I met them in Vienna, and their daughter that’s my age might come to Croatia with me next summer, and…”

“Ok, ok…” He tried to stop me, not knowing what hit him. “Your visa will be ready at 3 o’clock.”

As I stepped outside with a triumphant smile on my face, I no longer just believed but knew that, with God, anything was possible. No matter the odds. Analyzing the conversation after the fact, I realized that by implying I was coming back for the summer, I had assured him of my return at which point I would need to apply for a new visa to go back to college. I had thus satisfied the terms of this particular application. But none of that mattered. What mattered is that I now received a witness, after the trial of my faith (Ether 12:6). I could have lied that day, but what a loss of learning opportunity and spiritual growth that would have been. I learned who was in charge that day and I still draw on the power of that experience. I learned that God’s plan for me would never be thwarted by men. I would no longer fear them. My confidence in the principle of prayer and fasting was now unshakeable. I owned the world that day. It was a defining moment of my life.

I now viewed faith as a special power. I feasted on the likes of 3 Nephi 18:20 and Matthew 17:20: “And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.”

“If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”

Through the years, I’ve had my fair share of trials and disappointments too, most notably in love. “God did not lead you for 21 years to drop you now,” is one of the best truths my “church dad” has ever said to me. Though my heart has been shattered a few times since, I have not once worried about this again. It is my firm belief that if God takes away the gold, it is to give you diamonds, not silver instead. Provided we are obedient, I can’t imagine Him saying, “No, no—this is too good for you, let me find something worse.”

I am grateful for the unshakeable testimony, solidified in my youth, that had prepared me for times when answers to prayers no longer came with a February 15th deadline. Over the years I have learned that the greatest miracles are wrought through fairly simple principles. They require obedience and faith. Obedience leads to more confidence in prayer. When we qualify for the blessings we seek, we exert more faith that they will be granted.

“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:20–21).

“I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:10).

God’s will and timing are always paramount, and our patience may be tried more than our faith, but we have the right through obedience to obtain God’s blessings. It is up to us to claim them.

Faith is an actual power. Scriptures teach us that it can be measured. References abound of “little faith,” “great faith,” “exceedingly great faith,” and faith the “size of a mustard seed.” It is a principle with a promise. We receive no witness until after the trial of our faith. I have always been drawn to the biblical story of the woman with an issue of blood for 12 years. The Savior performed many miracles and healed numerous people. He often touched them or told them to do something specific to be healed. He, however, didn’t do any of that with her. On her own initiative, she was the one that used faith, as an actual power, to draw virtue out of Him, believing that if she just touched the Savior’s garment, she would be healed—and she was. Only then did the Savior turn around to comment on it as He felt virtue go out of Him, stating the life-altering truth, “thy faith hath made thee whole” (Mark 5:34).

I don’t know what the unit of measure for faith is but I do know this—the amount of faith we exert is directly proportional to the results we obtain.

 


 

“Hi, I’m Katarina. I am a Croatian convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a BYU alumni, a former Gordon B. Hinckley Presidential Scholar, and a new author. I am excited about life. I love travel, cultures, real food, and people – even my roommates are usually a nice international mix. I love deep discussions and good debates. I am forward thinking and creative but walk by faith and aspire to inspire. I am equally social and independent. I enjoy cooking and won’t follow a recipe if I can make it healthier. Though I reside in New York City, I can be seen anywhere except Antarctica. I’m pretty unique – just like everybody else. “

 


 

This article is an excerpt from Katarina Jambresic’s conversion story found in A Global Testimony, a powerful new compilation of conversion stories from all over the world. As you transcend geography and time, traverse miraculous paths to Christ’s fold, and witness the remarkable power of faith, A Global Testimony is a powerful motivator in reaching one’s full spiritual potential. Endorsed by David Archuleta and Claudia and Richard Bushman (Rough Stone Rolling). Get your copy on www.aglobaltestimony.com or Amazon.com.

 

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