One of the most important things for both Mormons and Christians to remember when talking with each other is that Mormonism and Christianity defines many terms differently. But this is also one of the hardest things to remember during the actual discussion. It is so easy to unconsciously think only of the definition that I am familiar with. I then end up talking past the other person.
Not only is this important to remember so that we don’t talk past each other, but it also often lies at the root of why we believe so differently. A classic example of that is the definition of the word faith. Christianity defines faith as trust and confidence while Mormonism makes action a vital component of faith. As the LDS Bible Dictionary states, “Faith in Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel and is more than belief, since true faith always moves its possessor to some kind of physical and mental action”. Because of these differing definitions, Mormons and Christians hear something drastically different when the Bible talks about salvation through faith.
Therefore it is important to determine who has the proper definition and thus the proper interpretation of these vital verses. Obviously I can’t check every dictionary, but none of the ones I checked mentioned anything about action in their definitions of faith. I also did an Internet search on the definition of faith. Besides discovering that there were a lot of record albums entitled “Faith”, I did not find any definition from a non-LDS source that included the idea of action. In addition, most say that faith and belief are synonymous while many Mormons make a distinction between the two.
More importantly I also refreshed my memory by again looking up the definitions for the Hebrew and Greek words that the Bible uses for faith. The root idea of those words is assurance and certainty. For example, this is what the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says about the Hebrew word “aman”. “At the heart of the meaning of the root is the idea of certainty.” This is just what the Bible says in Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
On what basis then does Mormonism define faith so differently from everybody else? This is a very important question as a huge difference about how people are saved hangs in the balance.
I also want to make clear that the Bible also teaches that faith will spur people to action. But that action is a result of faith, and thus is different from faith. (I elaborated on this in my post of August 8th “Don’t Make the Fruit the Root”.)