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Camille Fronk Olson

Seeing with Eyes of Faith

Thank you for such a warm welcome. Even though I cannot identify one individual who still works here or is associated with this college that was here when I was employed 24 years ago, I’m still treated like family. Thank you. And what a nice touch to have Brother James here to greet me. I just have to tell you, at a time as I had just returned from my full-time mission and was being considered for a full-time job teaching seminary—I would be the only woman teaching seminary in the Church at the time. There were plenty of others to be naysayers. I remember Brother James took me under his wing, and he saw potential in a young woman being able to teach from the scriptures and maybe make a difference in somebody’s life. I have never forgotten that and will always have a very tender spot in my heart for Brother Rhett James.

I’ve thought long and hard, and prayed about what I could present to you. It’s a tremendous amount of trust that I am given to be given this amount of time in your schedules to talk about sacred things. And I thought about an incident that occurred to me as I worked at LDS Business College.

I lived close enough—this would be the old campus, of course—but I lived close enough that I could walk to work most of the time, and those walks proved to be life-saving for me, as they oftentimes turned into prayers and pondering. I remember a particular time when it seemed like that job of dean of students had no bounds as far as what could be required, and I had no idea of what I would be faced with that day at work. When my new calling on that general board—which I never knew there was such a thing as a Young Women general board—I was the youngest on that board. I didn’t know what . . . I was stretched beyond my capabilities, or at least what I thought I could ever do. And social life, it was a mess.

And I remember walking to work, coming to work at the College, and seeing in the distance a tree in blossom. Growing up in Tremonton with fruit trees all around, I knew from a distance an apricot tree popping like popcorn. My dad had grown many such trees, and it was one of my favorite first signs of spring. It lifted my heart and carried me through.

It was some time afterwards I found myself walking that same path to the College, and I looked up and saw that apricot tree again. But now the blossoms were gone; green leaves everywhere. And as I figured out, knowing apricot trees, there ought to be little green apricots covering that tree by now. As I got closer, I searched to see if I was correct, and sure enough, the tree was laden with little hard, green apricots that would one day be ripe.

As I walked away from the tree closer to the College, I remember having tears in my eyes. I thought, “This is a little strange. Maybe I am under more stress than I thought I was. I am crying over seeing an apricot tree bearing apricots at the very time it should be.”

And then this thought came to me—that that apricot tree, in a sense, was a symbol for my Father in Heaven that God is the only constant in life, and where everything else around me could be swirling out of control, I could still feel there was One who would always be there, who would be that constant for me. I have never forgotten that lesson I learned walking to LDS Business College.

I’ve thought of it as I have seen the example of Jesus Christ as He began His ministry. In Mark 1:35, we read, “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” I don’t believe Jesus ever forgot that God was the constant in His life, and that He ever let one day go by—no matter how full or how crazy and out of control it would seem to appear to be, with so many trying to get a piece of Him—He would never let a day go by, I believe, that He didn’t find time to petition His Father and be with Him.

Last fall at BYU, just before the semester began, our new Church Commissioner of Education, Elder Kim Clark, spoke to all the deans and department chairs. He made a statement in his remarks that I thought about this year, and I want to pass on to you. He said, “No matter what amount of faith you have established thus far in your life, it will not be enough for what lies ahead.”

At first I thought he was saying that so we would pass that along to our students. But then I realized he was telling that to us as well. I don’t know if you remember, but he spoke in general conference just about six weeks later, and he said something very similar to that. I’m going to read this from his general conference talk in October. Again, this is Elder Kim Clark, our CES Commissioner of Education:

Whatever level of spirituality or faith or obedience we now have, it will not be sufficient for the work that lies ahead. We need greater spiritual light and power. We need eyes to see more clearly the Savior working in our lives and ears to hear His voice more deeply in our hearts.[1]

I’ve chosen to entitle my remarks to you today, “Seeing with the Eyes of Faith.” That’s a phrase that we read in the Book of Mormon that more than one author in the Book of Mormon seemed to resonate with (see Alma  5:15; 32:40; Ether 12:19). Seeing with eyes of faith. As we talk about faith, let me just propose—this is the working definition I’d like to propose, and it’s the one from Hebrews 11:1, that faith is the substance of things hoped for, even when evidence is not seen. The Joseph Smith Translation, as you are probably aware, has it read: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for,” when evidence is not seen.

I think there would be evidence that both of those definitions work. Last October, Elder Neal L. Andersen spoke in his general conference address about faith being substance, not just some ethereal essence that floats through the air, but truly substantive.[2]  But I’d like to look at the definition and consider and focus on the definition that faith is the assurance of things hoped for even when no evidence seems to indicate that it could be real—that we can be so sure of what God has promised that we put into action today those promises as though they had actually been fulfilled. That is faith.

And the rest of chapter 11 of the epistle to the Hebrews gives example after example of individuals in scripture and Biblical history who manifest that kind of faith, sometimes dying before they ever saw the promises fulfilled. Say, for example, Abel—as Paul notes—who offered sacrifice of the firstling of his flock in similitude of the One who would come and give His life.[3] Definitely, Abel died before that actually occurred in the life of the Savior Jesus Christ.

I love verse 13: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them.” They embraced and accepted them even though the evidence wasn’t there.

Now, I just want to point out one of them that I think is one of the most fascinating. It’s the one about Noah: “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet”—say for example, a flood—“moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”[4]

I think about Nephi, who that wonderful choir just sang about, holding to that iron rod. But Nephi, who made a boat when his brothers were naysaying all around him. They had come to the waters by Bountiful, and if they were going to continue on with their trek, the only way to travel was going to be by boat. Nephi made a boat—I just think it’s quite phenomenal, and an evidence of faith on the part of Laman and Lemuel that they actually got in the boat and decided to travel with him.[5]

But if it’s faith for Nephi to build a boat there by the waters of Bountiful, what do you say about Noah, who built an ark when there was no water around? This is hardly a great adventure that you do in the shadow of your backyard or in a garage that neighbors won’t see. He knew. He was so sure about what God had promised, he built that ark when there was no water around.

In Hebrew, there is a verb tense that is sometimes called the “prophetic perfect.” It allows you to say things in the present tense that haven’t happened yet. It’s a cool one—to me it is faith—to speak in the present tense of things that have only been promised but that you know are true. The assurance of things hoped for even though evidence is unseen.

Let me give you just a few examples, and I’d like to go back to the Book of Mormon. How about 1 Nephi 5. Let me put this in context: Lehi and Sariah and their children have left Jerusalem—why? Lehi has received visions. He knows Jerusalem is going to be destroyed, not because it has but because he has received that promise of the Lord and he believes it. But more importantly, because God has commanded him through revelation to take his family and depart out of Jerusalem, that He would take them to a better land.

Well, that was all fine and good for the family it seems like until chapter 5 when Lehi again gets a commandment from the Lord. This time, remember, to send his sons back to Jerusalem to get the brass plates. And all is good until mother Sariah figures out pretty quickly that this is taking longer than it should, and like a true mother, she thinks the very worst and accuses Lehi of sending them to their death.

You can hear it—“Oh, no, they’re gone. This is over.” And Lehi has to keep reminding her over and over again that the Lord is with them. In fact, we see here in chapter 5, he says to her, “I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried in Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren.”[6]

Now verse 5—get this tense. What does Lehi say in chapter 5, verse 5? “But behold, I have obtained a land of promise.” They’re maybe two weeks out of Jerusalem. They’ve got another eight years ahead of them before they’re going to hit the promised land. And yet what does Lehi say? “I have obtained a land of promise.” In his mind, it is a done deal. And he is living today as if that promise had already occurred. And with that faith, he bolsters Sariah so that she eventually can get her own witness of that. That’s another story for another time, watching Sariah get that.

But to see that in Lehi—now just go the next generation. Nephi’s nephew Enos. Enos, remember, prays all through—he’s praying through the night, pleading with the Lord for forgiveness of his sins. And why is he forgiven? Because of the faith he has in that Being that will not be born for yet another how many hundreds of years.[7] But he acted today, knowing that Christ’s Atonement is real and will be efficacious in his life. And it worked for him just as powerfully then as it does for us.

Enos’s son—now I’m in Jarom 1:11. The next generation—here’s Jarom in verse 11: “Wherefore, the prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence.” How did they do it? “Teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was. And after this manner did they teach them.”

You follow what the Lord has promised as though it has already been given, and the promised blessings are available to us now.

Okay, let me go to the New Testament, and let’s go to the Savior again. John 16—this is the Last Supper with the eleven. Judas Iscariot has departed. There is probably not a more spiritual environment on the earth—I mean, this is sacred ground as He has washed their feet and taught them of holy, holy truths. But He concluded in verses 12 and 13 that there are still many more things that He wants to teach them, but they cannot bear them now. But “when . . . the Spirit of truth, is come,” He will teach them all things, that there is more that they will be able to understand, once—as I understand that scripture—they receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, beyond what they had experienced with the influence of the Holy Ghost.

And so He tells them down in verse 20: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” And then in verse 33—this is Last Supper. Remember where He goes from here? He leaves the upper room—He will go to Gethsemane and suffer pains beyond anything that any of us can imagine. And the next morning, He will be tried, scourged, placed on the cross, and suffer for all of us.

But the night before, there in that upper room, verse 33, Jesus says: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer;”—notice the tense—“I have overcome the world.” There was no question in His mind that the sacrifice would be successful. He acted then as though it had already occurred, and there was a peace that came to those disciples—and that comes to us—that they will come to better understand as a result.

Now, let me just discuss some ways, perhaps, that this might be applicable in our lives today. I do not pretend or desire to make any list of specific things of how you can apply the “prophetic perfect” or have eyes of faith. That would be very inappropriate and impossible on my part. I do not know what’s happening in your lives. But God does, and the Spirit does. But think about these principles and see if there are ways that the Spirit whispers to you that you can live more fully with an eye of faith today.

One would be, will you reread your patriarchal blessing? Read it with eyes of faith, looking at the promises God has specifically given to you—promises that perhaps some of which have already been fulfilled. But if my guess is correct, the majority of them are in the future. What if you were to live today as if those promises had already been fulfilled? Would that make a difference in your choices, your use of time, what you are willing and able to do today and tomorrow?

A second one: we have been hearing a lot in the Church, have we not, about keeping the Sabbath day holy? I find it interesting that we’re not given a little checklist of things we do. And I say hallelujah. I think it’s the very same principle. That’s something that we need to understand from the whisperings of the Spirit. But there are some remarkable general promises that are given if we will seriously think about how we—me and you personally—can keep the Sabbath day holy, to honor it more fully, to change in the way we typically think and behave on the Sabbath day.

I guess there has been a series of leadership training on the Sabbath day observance that ward and take leaders have been given. Recently in our ward, some of our ward leaders shared some of the highlights of that. I just want to read one brief one from President Russell Nelson that I found fascinating.

He said: “As we learn better now to hallow the Sabbath day, faith will increase across the world.”[8] As we increase in our ability to better honor the Sabbath day, faith will increase across the world. What immediately I thought of as I heard that is that means I personally need to do something to change. I can’t depend on others to do that. I need to be doing that. But it isn’t just enough for me. I need to pray for my neighbors, my family, my friends that collectively we can do that better and that we could then recognize a change will happen across the earth.

The closest thing I can think of that this makes me think of is when I was teaching seminary there at Hillcrest High School here in the Salt Lake Valley, and I remember the Commissioner of Education then was Brother Henry B. Eyring. The LDS edition of the scriptures were not that old—just a couple of years off the press—mid ‘80s.

And I remember he talked to all of us as seminary and institute teachers, and he gave us a challenge. He said,

We need to get every one of our students into the scriptures, and reading the scriptures, studying the scriptures every day. Miracles will happen. There will be a new generation that will rise up, but this one for the first time truly being scripturally literate, that the [student] will teach more and understand more and live more by what is in the scriptures than we have ever done before.

But then he added:

It’s not going to be enough for our students to do this. If this is going to work, if this miracle is going to happen, every one of us that has anything to do with the seminary and institute program—every one of us in Church Education—need to be doing the very same thing. All of you teachers, but also the secretaries in all the seminaries, the custodians in all the seminaries, everyone. If we will all do it, we will see a change happening in the next generation.[9]

Well, I’m telling you, it wasn’t that long afterwards I found myself at BYU teaching that generation as they came through those seminary programs, and now your age and college level. I’ve watched it happen and just be added upon every single year as scriptural literacy has improved. There is something different that has happened, and in the course of all of this, what happens? An announcement comes that missionaries can go at an earlier age, that somehow they can be prepared right out of high school.

What are the possibilities that can happen if we really take by faith the challenge we’ve been given to keep the Sabbath day holy?

Now, let me just offer you one more little way that perhaps this might help this become more personal for you. This is a scripture I actually learned that same time that I met Brother James. The director of the Institute was Brother Jack Kidd, and he talked to me right as I received my first assignment to teach seminary full-time. And he taught me about a scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants that had beforehand not been on my radar.

This is the section that says, I have told you “in your mind and in your heart.”[10] . . . “Did I not speak peace [unto you]?”[11] But Brother Kidd told me the way he, as an individual—not as a Church leader or as a professional religion teacher, but in his individual life—the way he knew what God had in store for him, was section 6, verse 14: “As often as thou hast inquired,” the scripture reads, “thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.”

Look at where you are right now. How did you get to this place? Look in your past. Look at evidences that you can see of God being there, placing people in your path, opening doors in your path. He has brought you to where you are right now, and His promise is that He’s not abandoning us now.

My brothers and sisters, family, sojourners on the same path: I pray that we might have greater eyes to see and ears to hear, that we see with eyes of faith, or—I love this from Elder Packer, back in 1993, to Church Education System faculty—to “see with the eyes [you] possessed before [you] had a mortal body; . . . to hear with ears [you] possessed before [you] were born; . . . to push back the curtains of mortality and see into the eternities.”[12]

God sees that path for each one of us. May we trust in Him. May we not just talk about what He has promised; may we live today in such a way that our very lives bear witness that Jesus is the Christ, that God is indeed our Father, who has promised us all if we would not want anything more but to obey Him, keep His commandments, be true to the covenants we have made. I bear testimony to you as my prayer and witness that we are not alone and miracles will open up before you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] Kim B. Clark, “Eyes to See and Ears to Hear,” Oct. 2015 General Conference.

[2] See Neil L. Andersen, “Faith Is Not by Chance, but by Choice,” Oct. 2015 General Conference.

[3] See Hebrews 11:4.

[4] Hebrews 11:7.

[5] See 1 Nephi 17–18.

[6] 1 Nephi 5:4.

[7] See Enos 1:1–8.

[8] “The Sabbath Day,” Seminaries and Institutes of Religion Satellite Broadcast, Aug. 4, 2015.

[9] See Henry B. Eyring, “We Need a Miracle,” unpublished address to CES area directors, Apr. 6, 1981.

[10] D&C 8:2.

[11] D&C 6:23.

[12] Boyd K. Packer, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Teaching Seminary Preservice Readings Religion 370, 471, and 475 (2004), 68–74.


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