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Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional

January 11, 2011




"Faith Like a Grain of Mustard Seed"

Elder Kim B. Clark

President of BYU-Idaho



Kim B. Clark photo









I am grateful to be with you on this historic day—another great day at BYU-Idaho.  I pray that the Holy Ghost will be with us today.


Sister Clark spoke about the courageous pioneers who settled this valley and built this school.  At the very heart of their courage and devotion was faith in Jesus Christ, in His Church, and in His living prophet.  That faith had been tried and tested on the plains of Nebraska and Wyoming and in the mountain valleys of Utah.  There was strength in that faith, spiritual strength that fortified and blessed those men and women.


You and I do not have to survive brutal winters in a mud-roofed dugout or dig canals in the freezing rain and driving wind.  We do not have to travel 200 miles on horseback to find a doctor or try to feed a family when all the crops have been destroyed by a late frost.  That is not our call. 


Our call is different; but we, too, need great faith in the Savior because storms rage in our day as well.  Elder Henry B. Eyring talked about those storms and the faith we need to endure them well:

What we will need in our day of testing . . . is to have developed faith in Jesus Christ so powerful that we can pass the test of life upon which everything for us in eternity depends. . . . We will need to have . . . nurtured faith in Jesus Christ long before Satan hits us, as he will, with doubts and appeals to our carnal desires and with lying voices saying that good is bad and that there is no sin.  Those spiritual storms are already raging. . . . [T]he great test of life is to see whether we will hearken to and obey God’s commands in the midst of the storms of life. [1] 


You and I are embarked on a great journey in a world no less challenging and perhaps even more spiritually dangerous than the one the pioneers faced.  Sister Clark and I love you. 



We know of your goodness and your faith.  We know of the challenges you face now, and we know something of the storms and tests you will face in the years ahead.  We know that Heavenly Father has prepared for you marvelous gifts and blessings that will increase your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.


In the parable of the grain of mustard seed, the Savior taught His apostles about the kind of faith we need.  Please turn with me to Matthew, chapter 13, verses 31 and 32:


Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:


Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. [2]


Please keep this image in your minds and turn now to Matthew, chapter 17, verses 19 and 20. 


Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?


 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say 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. [3] 


Remember what we have learned about the mustard seed:  It isn’t just tiny; it is incredibly dynamic.  It can grow into a tree so large and inviting that birds come to lodge there.  The Savior’s message is clear:  If your faith in Jesus Christ is active and vibrant, if it grows and develops in you like the mustard seed grows and develops into a tree, “nothing shall be impossible unto you.” [4] 


I want to focus today on what you and I can do to have faith like a grain of mustard seed–active, dynamic faith in Jesus Christ that brings heavenly power into our lives.  I will speak about three fundamental principles:  1) faith in Jesus Christ is a gift of the Spirit; 2) faith in Christ is a principle of action; and 3) faith in Christ is a principle of power.


Faith in Jesus Christ is a Gift of the Spirit

Paul taught:  “. . . faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” [5]  Faith in Jesus Christ is the spiritual assurance and evidence that inspires confidence and trust in Him, in His power, and in what He says and promises.  Our faith is in Jesus Christ.  We trust in His will, His timing, and His way.


Increased faith in Jesus Christ is a gift of the Spirit “come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.” [6]  It comes by hearing the chosen servants of the Lord bear witness of Christ through the power of the Holy Ghost. [7]  This is what the scriptures call “the words of Christ.” [8]


When the Lord’s servants bear witness of Christ, “the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.” [9]  As Alma taught us, if our hearts are open to the Spirit, the words of Christ stir our souls.  We receive what the Lord called “the words of eternal life . . . the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory. . . .” [10]  The words of Christ lift our sense of what is possible and strengthen our faith in Him because we feel “the record of heaven.” [11] President Joseph F. Smith said of this marvelous gift:

[I]n coming here, we forgot all. . . .  But by the power of the Spirit, in the redemption of Christ, through obedience, we often catch a spark from the awakened memories of the immortal soul, which lights up our whole being as with the glory of our former home. [12]


I felt that “record of heaven” [13] the first time I saw and heard a prophet speak.  I was 11 years old.  President David O. McKay had come to dedicate our new ward chapel.  I remember the feeling I had when I heard he was coming.  I felt such a strong desire to be there that I went very early and got a seat on the front row.  I saw President McKay and heard him bear witness of Jesus Christ.  I knew he was a prophet of God.  I was lifted and strengthened in my faith in Christ that day by God’s living prophet.  It was a wonderful gift from my Heavenly Father.


We all need to hear the word of Christ from people whose lives are living testimonies of the Savior and who speak by the power of the Holy Ghost.  That is why we encourage you and invite you to come to devotional each week and to participate actively in your wards and stakes.  That is why the Brethren put so much emphasis on daily scripture study and prayer.


Hearing the words of Christ raises our spiritual sights and helps our faith grow.  But if we are hearers of the word only, our faith will wither and die. [14]  The gift of faith in Christ will be like the grain of mustard seed only if we receive the gift and act in faith in Him.  That brings us to the second principle:  Faith in Christ is a principle of action.


Faith in Christ is a Principle of Action

When we act in faith in Christ, we take action to keep our covenants in the face of opposition, even before we know how things are going to work out.  The Lord has blessed us with agency to act for ourselves, but there is opposition in all things.  Opposition may come from temptations of the adversary or from our own fears or weaknesses.  It may come from the actions of others or the natural elements.


That opposition means that when we act in faith in Christ, our faith is tried and tested.  Think about Nephi going into Jerusalem to get the brass plates.  He had an assignment from the Lord, and he had opposition.  He and his brothers had already tried twice to get the plates and failed.  But Nephi would not give up.  He acted in faith in Christ, and he went back:


I, Nephi, crept into the city and went forth towards the house of Laban.


And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do. [15]


As Nephi went toward Laban’s house, the Spirit guided him.  But he was at the limit of his understanding of what to do.  He was at the personal frontier of his assignment.  In order to keep his covenants, Nephi had to go beyond the frontier with faith in Christ. 


I want to share with you a story about two missionaries tracting on a hillside above Baden, Switzerland, who learned the power of this principle.  One of the missionaries had trouble with his right contact lens.  He took it out; but the wind caught it, and it was lost.  They searched to no avail and then decided to pray.  Here is what happened in Elder Richard Cracroft’s own words:


As I concluded the prayer and stood up, I received one of those Joseph Smith “flashes of intelligence.”  . . . Explaining the plan to my startled companion, I stood . . . in the same place I had stood earlier [and] squeezed out my left contact lens.


Assured that my companion was on his knees and at the ready, I put my left lens . . . on my finger some six inches from my face. . . .  A slight breeze caught my left lens, and it was gone. . . .  I stood stock-still, heart in throat, until Elder Reading said, “I see it.  It’s still in the air.”


“Don’t lose it,” I pled.


“It’s still up,” he whispered. . . .  Then, from . . . further away, he exclaimed, “It’s starting to fall!”


“Keep your eye on it,” I pled again.


“I see it!  I see it!” he said.  There was a long pause and then, “Oh . . . ! Oh . . . !”


I braced.


He said, . . . “it’s landed almost right on top of the other lens!”


“You see the other lens?”  I shouted.


“Yes, it’s right here!”


Unable to see a thing, I crawled over to him.  Slowly, he planted in my palm, in order, my left and right lenses. . . .  I wet the lenses and . . . implanted them . . . .  [W]e knelt, and full of gratitude I thanked . . . God for tender mercies. [16]


Elder Cracroft and Elder Reading acted in faith and experienced something President Eyring has taught, “Increased spiritual strength is a gift from God which He can give when we push in His service to our limits.” [17]  That is where we find our personal frontier.  There is a personal frontier for each one of us in every covenant, commandment, calling, and assignment we receive from the Lord.  The frontier is defined by the light we have already received and by our knowledge, understanding, skill, and experience.


There are many examples all around us.  As I share these examples with you, please consider this question:  Where is the frontier in my life?  As you reflect on that question, the Holy Ghost will inspire you and guide you.  Here are some examples of the frontier:


  • A sister who struggles in school and cannot see how to learn either by study or by faith.


  • A young father with an infant child called to be the elders quorum president who cannot see how he can get everything done he is supposed to do.


  • A sister who doesn’t get along with her roommate and sees no way to love her neighbor.


  • A brother burdened with guilt, afraid to confess his sins to the bishop, unable to see how he could possibly deal with the consequences.


  • A young man preparing for a mission, worried that he won’t be able to handle it. 


  • A sister whose whole identity has been built around wearing the latest fashions, afraid she won’t be popular if she dresses modestly.


  • A shy student scared to participate in class, worried and unsure what to do.


  • A young man who needs to forgive someone who hurt him terribly but sees no way for that to happen.


  •  A brother close to graduation, unsure if he can provide for a family.

These situations and the hundreds of others we could describe are the frontier.  You may have felt promptings today about your own frontier.


At the frontier we can’t see how it is going to work.  We can’t see how to do what lies before us.  We don’t know what to do.  We don’t feel we have the ability to do it.  That is the frontier.


The frontier is where the Savior works.  It is where we keep our covenants by acting in faith in Christ.  We face opposition and hard decisions, and we act in faith in Christ trusting that the Lord will open the way.  We pray for help, and then we go to work—we study hard; we seek out the angels in the tutoring center; we talk to our roommates; we go to the bishop; we dress modestly; we work to forgive; we raise our hand in class; we take the internship and a thousand other things with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.


When we do these things, we establish a pattern of faith for life.  We keep our covenants no matter what the opposition is.  We push beyond whatever frontier we face trusting in the Savior; and He blesses us with increased faith, preparing us for new frontiers in His service.  Elder D. Todd Christofferson has taught us how this happens:

[A]s we honor our covenants, . . . faith expands.  In the first place, the promised fruits of obedience become evident, which confirms our faith.  Secondly, the Spirit communicates God’s pleasure, and we feel secure in His continued blessing and help. . . . [18]


Increased faith comes as a gift from the Lord.  It is like the mustard seed and sunlight.  The seed works and works to put out that little sprout, and then comes the life-giving light.  When we hear the words of Christ and act in faith, we invite the Lord to work in our lives.  As He taught the Prophet Joseph Smith, “I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.” [19]


When our faith in Christ is like a grain of mustard seed—active and vibrant—He will work miracles in our lives, increasing our faith and blessing us with His almighty power.  This brings us to the third principle:  Faith in Jesus Christ is a principle of power.


Faith in Christ is a Principle of Power

The power that comes into our lives through faith in Jesus Christ is the power of God.  Through His submission to the will of His Father, through His atoning sacrifice and glorious resurrection, Jesus descended below all things, overcame all things, and received all power over all things.  He is the light and life of the world.  Jesus Himself bore witness of His power to His Apostles just before He ascended into Heaven:

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  


. . . and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. [20]


Jesus invites each of us personally and individually to come to Him, to exercise faith in Him that He might bless us with that power.  In His atoning sacrifice Jesus walked the path He bids us to walk.  He carried the crushing weight of our sins, our sorrows, our challenges, our problems, our mistakes, and our pain.  He faced every frontier we face, and He overcame them all.  He knows that He can save us from the awful darkness of sin, addiction, and error.  He knows that His grace is sufficient to strengthen us in the face of any challenge.  He bids us to come and promises us His blessing.  Please turn with me to 3 Nephi, chapter 9, verse 14, and listen to the certainty in His voice:

Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life.  Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me. [21]


And so the Lord Jesus Christ stands at the frontier—at every personal frontier—with His arm of mercy stretched out inviting us to come unto Him, exercise faith in Him, and be blessed through His power.


A Story of Faith

I would like to close today with a story about a young man who came to BYU-Idaho, accepted the Lord’s invitation, and learned the power of faith in Christ.  I talked with him just a few days ago.  Here is his story, in his own voice.  As you listen, please notice how the gift of increased faith blessed his life.


Let me give you some background to my story.  I was kind of an average student in high school, probably an underachiever.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize early on that things like trigonometry were related to anything important later in life.  I did okay in school, but was not really plugged in academically.  I was on the seminary council, and I tried to do things the right way.  I didn’t think about going to school at BYU-Idaho.


I had made some plans for college, but was still really unsettled about it. One day I drove up the canyon to think.  As I sat there, I had this strong feeling come to me:  “Go home.”  So, I went home and pulled out my patriarchal blessing.  As I read, there was a line in the blessing that seemed like it was highlighted in yellow.  It just jumped off the page.  The line told me that the Lord would help me to organize my life at the right time to accomplish my eternal purposes.  In that moment BYU-Idaho came into my mind.


I went downstairs and told my parents that I was thinking about going to BYU-Idaho.  They were happy.  I applied and got in, and I went to Rexburg.


That is where my life began.  I have been to some very good schools since then, but I have never had an educational experience like the one I had at BYU-Idaho.  I decided to study physics, which scared my parents and worried me, but it felt like the right thing to do.


I took a math class I needed for my major, but realized right away I was in over my head.  I went to the tutoring center and one of the students there figured out that she would need to teach me mathematics from the very beginning.


I burned a tremendous amount of midnight oil.  It was a total awakening. And it was very hard.  I remember one night, especially.  I was struggling mightily in that math class.  I was in trouble and really behind.  I didn’t think I could do it anymore, had actually filled out a card to drop the class, and was about to hand it in.  I called my dad and talked to him.  He encouraged me and gave me some good advice about getting more help.  That night I decided not to give up.  I decided to have faith that somehow the tide would turn.


And it did.  My classmates helped me, my teacher helped me, my tutor helped me, and the Lord was there.  I can see now that I was surrounded by people who wanted me to succeed.  These people cared about me, and I felt the Spirit of the Lord help me to learn.


That experience completely turned my life around academically.  I passed that class and did well in school.  That experience gave me an idea of who I was and of my potential as a child of God.  It prepared me to serve a mission.  I will be forever grateful for that experience. [22]


Today, this young man and his wife have a beautiful family.  He has a productive professional career and has served the Lord in many capacities. 


He still has that drop card he decided not to turn in.  He has kept it because it helps him remember that with the gift of faith and the Lord’s blessing of power he can do hard things.  He still faces frontiers in his life, and he still acts in faith in Christ trusting in His almighty power.  He has faith as a grain of mustard seed.  That is a pattern he established at BYU-Idaho, where people who know taught him the truth of this promise of the Lord to all the children of God:

If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me. [23]


Conclusion and Testimony

I conclude today with an invitation, my witness, a blessing, and a promise.  In the October 2010 General Conference President


Thomas S. Monson said:

Who was this “man of sorrows, . . . acquainted with grief”?  “Who is this King of glory,” this Lord of lords?  He is our Master.  He is our Savior.  He is the Son of God.  He is the Author of Our Salvation.  He beckons, “Follow me.”  He instructs, “Go, and do thou likewise.”  He pleads, “Keep my commandments.” 

Let us follow Him.  Let us emulate His example.  Let us obey His words. [24]  


This is our call, brothers and sisters.  It is a call we can fulfill only with faith.  


I bear witness that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior, and Redeemer.  He leads His Church and kingdom on the earth through His living prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. Faith in Christ like a grain of mustard seed is a gift from a loving Heavenly Father through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  It comes from hearing the word of Christ, acting in faith in Christ, and trusting in His almighty power.  I so testify.


I invoke the Lord’s blessings upon you, that the word of Christ will stir your souls; that you will feel the record of heaven and be lifted and strengthened in your faith in Christ.


I promise you that if you will act in faith in Christ to push beyond whatever frontiers you may face, He will bless you with His power, your faith in Christ will be like a grain of mustard seed, and “nothing shall be impossible unto you.” [25]


I leave you with this promise and blessing, my witness and my love in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.





[1] Henry B. Eyring, “Spiritual Preparedness:  Start Early and Be Steady,” Ensign, Nov. 2005, 37-40

[2] Matt 13:31-32

[3] Matt 17:19-20

[4] Matt 17:20

[5] Hebrews 11:1

[6] D&C 46:26

[7] Romans 10:17

[8] 2 Nephi 32:3

[9] 2 Nephi 33:1

[10] Moses 6:59, 61

[11] Moses 6:61

[12] President Joseph F. Smith, “The Eternal Nature of Man,” Gospel Doctrine, Deseret Book 1939, p. 13-14

[13] Moses 6:61

[14] James 2:20; James 1:22

[15] 1 Nephi 4:5,6

[16] Richard H. Cracroft, “Divine Designs:  Tracing the Lord’s ‘Pattern in All Things,’” Speeches, BYU Devotional, 

       Dec 1996

[17] Henry B. Eyring, “O Ye That Embark,” Ensign, Nov. 2008, 57-60

[18] Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “The Power of Covenants,” Ensign, May 2009.

[19] 2 Nephi 27:23

[20] Matt. 28:18, 20

[21] 3 Nephi 9:14, 22

[22] Anonymous, Personal Communication with Author, January 2, 2011

[23] Moroni 7:33

[24] President Thomas S. Monson, “The Divine Gift of Gratitude,” Ensign, Nov. 2010, pg. 90.

[25] Matt. 17:20