Faith and Healing

“And again, it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed. He who hath faith to see shall see. He who hath faith to hear shall hear. The lame who hath faith to leap shall leap.” (D&C 42:48-51)


Can someone help me out with this set of scriptures from Gospel Doctrine lesson #7? (I know, I know: we’re a week behind because we split Lesson 4 into two parts). As far as I can tell, there is little (no) room for negotiation: you have faith and you’re healed, unless you’re appointed to die. Those of us who are not healed and not yet dead apparently don’t have enough faith. Is there any other way to read this?


Just hoping not to offend the entire class on Sunday . . .

30 comments for “Faith and Healing

  1. Rob M
    February 20, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    This is a delicate subject in my family, as my sister-in-law has received several blessings but continues to suffer from ALS (for almost 15 years now—which is something of a miracle in itself). Three thoughts that might be useful:
    1) Maybe we can be appointed to “die” in another sense—which is to suffer with a particular affliction;
    2) Maybe we can gather some insight from the tale of the man with palsy, who was “healed” first by receiving forgiveness of his sins, and then by a physical healing, the latter of which appeared to be an outward manifestation for the benefit of others present; or
    3) Perhaps we just need to wait for the Lord’s answer to happen in his time. Healing doesn’t have to be immediate to be miraculous.

  2. February 20, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Healing was an integral feature of the Restoration. Kris and I treat this in our forthcoming paper in the summer JMH, which chronicles the development of Mormon healing ritual to 1847. In the footnote that cites the verses in your post, we include the following:

    Joseph Smith speaking on September 29, 1839 echoed this sentiment. During a period of immense sickness, Smith spoke about the “false idea that the saints will escape all the judgements whilst the wicked suffer” and that “the just shall live by faith- yet many of the righteous shall fall a prey to disease to pestilence &c and yet &c by reason of the weakness of the flesh and yet be saved in the kingdom of God So that it is an unhallowed principle to say that such and such have transgressed because they have been preyed upon by disease or death[.]” Jessee, Ashurst-McGee, and Jensen, Journals, Volume 1, 352-3.

    This Mormon Providence dissented greatly from contemporary Protestant conceptions and likely informed JS’s theodicy regarding infant mortality. All that said, JS consistently reiterated the view that the sick are healed by faith. Once when JS administered to someone and they weren’t healed, he blamed it on the individuals lack of faith. Modern Mormonism appears to have shifted away from that idea.

  3. February 20, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    …I also think that it is important to note the next verse:

    And they who have not faith to do these things, but believe in me, have power to become my sons; and inasmuch as they break not my laws thou shalt bear their infirmities.

    Even though, according to the scripture, someone might not have faith to be healed, they still can be saved. This is in tension with the BoM which states that if miracles are ceased, than so has faith ceased and it is if there had been no redemption made. Perhaps one can look at the former on a personal level and the latter on a collective level?

  4. Rob M
    February 20, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    On that note, it seems that the distinguishing term is “to be healed.” I don’t believe this is in tension with the Book of Mormon teaching. After all, not all miracles involve physical healing, and thus would not require faith “to be healed.” Many miracles are simply the result of righteous acts performed by faithful individuals. I think that is part of the point of the BoM verse — there are miracles taking place all around us, we just need to see them for what they are; the hand of God working by simple means to accomplish His work.

  5. m&m
    February 20, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Elder Oaks’ talk on this has brought a LOT of help and perspective for me:

    “Healing blessings come in many ways, each suited to our individual needs, as known to Him who loves us best. Sometimes a “healing” cures our illness or lifts our burden. But sometimes we are “healed” by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us.”

    The whole talk gives a lot more perspective on this. Being ‘healed’ doesn’t always mean having the trial taken away (E. Oaks uses Paul and the people of Alma in bondage as examples).

  6. Nathan Bunker
    February 20, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    To have faith is to not only a hope or believe, but to have knowledge by the spirit of revelation that the thing you are thinking is true. A person may be very faithful, and know of great surety of the doctrines of salvation, but may not have the faith to be healed. All because it is not God’s will that they be healed. In such cases we all must be patient and wait. We should not abandon them.

    Faith is not merely a strong belief but a certain portion is personal revelation that testifies of truth. This is what gives the power to heal. When a person has knowledge that this is the Lord’s will and then places their faith in it, they can be healed. But if it is not God’s will then they can not have faith in it.

  7. Hunter
    February 21, 2009 at 2:03 am

    I think it is best understood as the Lord being rhetorical.

  8. February 21, 2009 at 4:25 am

    Kylie, I think a relevant passage might be John 9:1-3:

    1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.

    I understand that in this case the work of God meant healing the man, but think about it. He spent his entire life blind, apparently just waiting for Christ to show up and heal him. The faith he may have had for all those years prior to that did not matter; he could not have been healed until God willed it.

    I guess that I think that if people can be appointed to die, they can be appointed to be sick so that God can teach them something through their illness.

    And besides, you don’t really want to be the Kenneth Hagins of Mormonism. Ugh.

    One more thing. Paul also says in several places in the Bible that not everyone has the gift of healing (1 Cor. 12:9, 12:28, 12:30). The LDS system where every male member is supposed to be able to anoint and heal the sick has never made much sense to me. Sure, God can answer anyone’s prayer, but in general I think you have to have faith and the touch of someone with the gift of healing. Good luck with your lesson.

  9. Kylie
    February 21, 2009 at 9:37 am

    J. Stapley–thanks. I’ll be using that quote tomorrow. Also, I had read on and noticed the next scripture. It fascinated me as well–that somehow it takes less faith to become sons/daughters of God than it takes to be healed.

    m&m and Rob–yes, yes. We’ll talk about what it means to “be healed.” Though, of course, we’ll still have to figure out how the blind can “see” and the lame can “leap.” I do love the connotation of “leap”!

    Nathan Bunker–I’ve thought some of the same thought about faith before. Here’s a horribly pop-culture example, but a friend and I spoke once about Harry Potter in book #3 not being able to fight off the dementors until he KNEW that he had already done it (sorry if that spoils the book for any of you–I’m assuming you’ve all read it). I think about the many Nephite prophets who prayed that God would preserve the records. Then, when they had an answer to that prayer, they were able to exercise faith *in the promise* of the Lord.

    Good point about timing, Jack. Obviously the “faith to be healed” is not the only condition. All things have to be lined up for someone to be healed: faith, timing, will of the Lord and etc. I agree with you about God being able to teach people lessons through their illnesses and infirmities. But that’s kind of a hard doctrine, too: it puts the burden for their illness right back on the person (ie, it is their fault/their lack that made it so God had to “teach them a lesson”). What do you think?

  10. February 21, 2009 at 9:58 am

    I think these scriptures point out that faith (and prayer, by extension) are not tools to change God’s mind, but are methods for us to change ours. The faith to be healed is independent of actual healing.

    All too often, we think that if only we have enough faith, God will grant us our desires. That is not faith. Faith is trusting in God whatever the outcome. Faith is saying, “I know that God has the power to heal me, but if He does not, still I will not deny Him nor His power because I trust Him and His purposes.”

  11. DavidH
    February 21, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Thanks for the Elder Oaks’ quote, m&m

  12. DavidH
    February 21, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Sorry, hit wrong button. Thanks for the Elder Oak’s quote, m&m, which makes a lot of sense and is consistent with my experience.

  13. Lawrence
    February 21, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    When i had polio as a twelve year old, I was left with a severely atrophied and weakened leg. There was no doubt whatsoever in my mind that I could be healed and made whole. I had that kind of strong faith. However, nothing concerning my physical infirmity ever changed and I’ve lived with it for over 60 years. It wasn’t until about 2 years or so when reading Luke 9:11 that the insight and understanding on my lack of healing came.
    “And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.”

    The point is that not everyone has the need to be healed. Of course my life was changed in many undetermined ways. And I must say, for the better. Not in all ways perhaps, but the really important ones.

    This passage may be read differently by others, but for me it was a clear message, a comprehension that we are blessed in many other ways than those we sometimes desire most fervently.

  14. February 21, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Many early Church leaders suffered through illness. Think of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball leaving to serve missions while they and the families they left behind were seriously ill. They did not die, so in that sense they were healed eventually, but there was no immediate, miraculous recovery. Their faith was shown in choosing to push on despite the illness, and their faith has strengthened countless others as the “Hurrah for Israel” story has been retold.

    I think sometimes we have to broaden our perspective on what healing and faith are and learn to see them through God’s timing and perspective. I have also experienced this in my personal life. My husband was ill for several years. We prayed and exercised faith. We felt led, slowly, as we searched for and found the cause (lyme disease) and explored treatments. I felt the impression more than once that “I have him in the palm of my hand.” And yet still he was really sick for years. Eventually he was well enough to function mostly normally. Then he was given a blessing (for something else) in which he was told that he would be healed to show his family the power of the priesthood. He felt better in that moment, and he has not had any symptoms since then. The only way I can make sense of that is to realize that there were things for us to learn through his illness, and there were things for us to learn through the healing. Had the healing come more quickly, we likely would not have appreciated it in the same way or learned the same things from it.

  15. jks
    February 21, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    I lot of good comments here. I especially appreciate Silverrain, Lawrence, m&m & Bridget’s comments.
    For me, when I think about it, I think that there are many ways that we hope to be healed. It sometimes feels like if you have faith, your problem doesn’t ruin your life. Faith can heal regret, bitterness, anger, discouragement, and everything that comes with pain or injury to our soul or our body.
    For me, when my husband got cancer the miracle was never that he survived. The miracle was the peace I felt long before he was “cured.”

  16. February 21, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    Hmm, the only other thing I can give you is this Kylie: we did a study of Genesis 1-3 at my church recently where we carefully noted that men and women aren’t actually cursed. What was cursed in the Fall were the serpent and the earth itself.

    I think that this kind of gets into the problem of evil. I don’t think that God individually wills each virus into the people who get sick; it’s an inevitable problem of living in a fallen world, and sometimes He just doesn’t will the sick people to be healed just like He doesn’t help that child who has been kidnapped or any other evil.

    Perhaps that’s backtracking a bit on what I previously said, but that’s the best I got. Good luck with your lesson.

  17. CAW
    February 22, 2009 at 12:02 am

    Like silverrain (#10) my thoughts went to the account in Daniel of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who had faith that God was ABLE to save them from the fire, but acknowledged that he may not choose to in this case and, either way, they would trust in him. This account is the main part of my sacrament meeting talk today. I’m using Elder Simmons April 2004 talk, “But if Not” (sorry I can’t figure out how to hyperlink to it.) I’m also talking about how Abinidi was in a similar situation and God didn’t save him from the fire. Sometimes it’s in God’s plan for us to be saved — or healed — and sometimes His purposes are met by us learning in a different way. The challenge is to have faith and trust him either way — “but if not.”

    Elder Simmons said: “They knew that they could trust God—even if things didn’t turn out the way they hoped. They knew that faith is more than mental assent, more than an acknowledgment that God lives. Faith is total trust in Him.

    Faith is believing that although we do not understand all things, He does. Faith is knowing that although our power is limited, His is not. Faith in Jesus Christ consists of complete reliance on Him.”

  18. February 22, 2009 at 1:44 am

    I was disabled with encephalitis 6 years ago, and had the opportunity to receive a blessing by a visiting GA. I had faith, my family had faith. I just knew I would be healed.
    I was blessed that I would be patient and that I would not have fear! (What a disappointment, I thought at the time.)

    I am slowly learning a difficult truth: We chose this estate and we knew that we were going to undergo affliction.

    I have been comforted by: 2 Corinthians 15-18

    For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. (redound: contribute greatly)
      For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
     For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
      While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

  19. February 22, 2009 at 1:57 am

    “And again, it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed. He who hath faith to see shall see. He who hath faith to hear shall hear. The lame who hath faith to leap shall leap.” (D&C 42:48-51)

    I guess I just don’t see the alternate readings as viable. To me, they seem like stretching the word “faith” to the point of breaking, just to make it fit the other things we think we know.

    For example, if “healing” is any number of things other than…well…healing (like faith, strength, understanding, etc.) then why would it suggest that those who ARE appointed unto death will NOT be “healed”? Seems to me that within this context, healing has to be something that those who die will NOT be given.

  20. Keith
    February 22, 2009 at 2:07 am

    I haven’t read through the other comments closely to see if anyone else has already said this. I apologize if I restate what someone else has already said.

    The gifts of the Spirit are given “severally” (separately) and so one might have the faith/gift for one thing, but not another. I take the faith spoken of here to be the specific faith to be healed (one of the spiritual gifts). One might not have faith to be healed, but still might have faith in general–faith to follow Christ and become his sons and daughters as verse 52 that follows states. That’s faith to gain eternal life, which ultimately is more fundamental and more important than whether one has the gift to heal or be healed.

  21. February 22, 2009 at 2:39 am

    I’m not leaping and I’m not dead (yet). Thanks for pointing out the inadequacy of my faith. I wouldn’t want to stretch the word too much, because I haven’t been…well…healed. I will work on it.

  22. February 22, 2009 at 4:50 am

    Allan, maybe I’m trying to point out the inadequacy in the scripture itself.

  23. Kylie
    February 22, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Alison, you’ve hit the problem straight on, but I hestitated to say it in those terms (“inadequacy in the scripture”). Thus I find myself in line with those who “stretch” to define faith in other ways. Is it a stretch to add into scripture silent phrases that seem more in line with scripture from other sources and modern day revelation? (as in: “shall be healed” . . . in the time and way of the Lord). I don’t know.

    But, as you’ve pointed out, it’s hard to get around the fact that the words are extremely straightforward and conclusive.

  24. Ray
    February 22, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    I really like Lawrence’s personal example in #13. Let me share one from my own life:

    My second son received an interesting baby blessing. He was born 19 days early, but there were no apparent issues with his health. He left the hospital in a normal time frame, and nobody was concerned at all for him.

    In his blessing, he was told that none of the physical trials that he would experience in life would have the power to derail him from the mission Heavenly Father had appointed to him. It surprised me when I said it, and it surprised my wife enough that she wrote it in her journal.

    Fast forward 18 years:

    This son has severe allergies; none of our other five do. This son’s appendix burst (after leaking for about a week) when he was 11 – almost killing him. Three years ago, he was diagnosed with Type I diabetes, the only person in my extended family of whom I’m aware with that particular condition. Our kids and their friends have a mock bet about which organ will fail next.

    My point? This kid has incredibly strong faith. It really is amazing to see. Especially because of his blessing, he knows God knows of him personally, and his faith in other things is very strong. However, neither his appendix nor his pancreas were “healed”.

    Due to this and other experiences, I tend to look at the word “heal” and see all its possible meanings. Here is a typical list:

    1. To restore to health or soundness; cure.
    2. To set right; repair: healed the rift between us.
    3. To restore (a person) to spiritual wholeness.
    v. (to be healed) To become whole and sound; return to health.

    The definition most people think of when they read “healed” is “cured”. The one I choose to accept in this context is “be made whole”. My son isn’t “whole” physically, but he is about as “whole” in the greater sense as it is possible to be at his age – and I attribute that largely to the strength and nature of his faith.

    I also agree with Alison that there often is something missing from the written word, even scripture, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that this topic is addressed a bit differently in various scriptures. It also doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

  25. Kylie
    February 22, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Ray. Your son sounds amazing.

  26. Jim F
    February 22, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    What is wrong with Hunter’s explanation(#7). That seems like a reasonable explanation to me.

  27. Kylie
    February 22, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    Okay #26 and #7. I’ll bite: how do we know when the Lord is being rhetorical as opposed to when we should take him at his word?

  28. O
    February 23, 2009 at 1:00 am

    I doubt that physical healings are generally very helpful in terms of eternal progression. Coping with the exigencies of mortal life is generally more conducive to growth. It seems like healings are more an occasional proof of God’s power than something that we should want to happen all the time.

  29. Rameumptom
    February 23, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    I think it is in harmony with the book of Mormon, which states that there are various gifts of the Spirit, including the gifts to heal and to be healed. Not everyone has these gifts given to them. If a person hasn’t the gift, and then isn’t healed, then perhaps it isn’t due to lack of faith or from sin.

  30. cinepro
    February 25, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    You could also steer the class discussion into a pondering of how the Church’s belief in healing differs from other religions. I mean, are there any other churches that also believe that sometimes healings work, and sometimes they don’t? Or are we the only ones? You could also ask why the power of healing also seems to be directly correlated to the likelyhood of a particular infirmity being healed without the blessing. Why does the power of healing seem so closely correlated with the ability of a disease to be naturally or scientifically cured? Or does my skepticism answer the question for you?

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