“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.” Matthew 17:20
When I first read that, this was my understanding of the word mustard:
Since then, I’ve learned a lot more about Mustard. For instance, I know that Canadians put it on everything (Perhaps it’s the French influence?). I’ve realized that it tastes pretty good on ham. I’ve also found that there are thousands of different varieties of mustard (in Canada, anyway). So, I know pretty much everything there is to know about mustard.
But in all seriousness, for much of my life I didn’t have any idea what this verse about the mustard seed meant. I kind of just skimmed past it every time I came to it in the scriptures. At one point in high school I heard in seminary or Sunday school that mustard seeds were really small. So I had this thought in my mind that this ‘essence’ that we call faith must be really thin, or small, because nobody I knew had ever accumulated enough of it to move a mountain. To gather enough ‘faith’ to be the size of a mustard seed must have taken a life time. That’s where I stood for a while.
Fast forward a few years. I was serving in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan at the time. It was probably winter, and it was probably bitterly cold. When I was in Moose Jaw, we held a weekly Bible study at the chapel. The usual attendees were the four Mormon Elders, Brother Williams, and Brother Johnson. Occasionally we would have an investigator or another member attend, but this was our core group. Brother Johnson always brought this book, written by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, that he used as a kind of study guide. On this particular night, Brother Johnson opened his book to the section dealing with Matthew 13. He then explained the symbolism behind the mustard seed. In Matthew 13, the verses are specifically comparing a mustard seed and plant with the Kingdom of God, but simply understanding what it meant helped me also to understand the Lord’s statement in Matthew 17. Let me explain.
Mustard seeds are small. Extremely small. For example:
Those are mustard seeds on a finger tip. As Matthew writes, they are “the least of all seeds.” Because they are so small, mustard seeds are easily spread. In fact, the mustard plant is often seen as a weed because it can spread so easily. However, when one seed takes root, receives adequate nourishment, and has a little time to grow, it can become a large plant, up to 3 meters high in some circumstances. Matthew explains, “…it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.” In essence, at its creation, a mustard seed will occupy one extreme. It can also grow to the other extreme if it is allowed to.
The prophet Alma continues our analogy, explaining how the raising of a seed is like the growth of our faith.
27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
– Alma 32:27-28
I hope you’re beginning to grasp the symbolism.
Faith often begins, like the mustard seed, as a very small particle. Alma even says, “if ye can no more than desire to believe.” So, my little high school hypothesis was wrong. You don’t even have to have a mustard seed amount of this substance we call faith. You just have to want it, and you have to act on that desire.
Several months ago I met a man by the name of Jordan. When I met Jordan, he had recently been baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He related to me his experience building his faith:
My time as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has been the most interesting time of my life. I grew up with no religion whatsoever in my life, which was okay. I had a good upbringing with fantastic parents. I have always had faith in other peoples’ abilities, but never really my own. I grew up as one of those people who never really believed they were worth much. Fast forward to the year 2013. This is where my life began to change. I got to have the trip of a lifetime, a trip that I will never forget. I got to go to Africa and experience our vast world, full of extraordinary places and people. Africa changed my life, changed who I wanted to be, and showed me that I could be the person that I wanted to be.
When I came home from my trip I had the opportunity to meet a couple Sister Missionaries from the LDS church. These two girls are two of the nicest, brightest, and most knowledgeable girls I have ever met and I will always be thankful for what they have done for me. They taught me about faith and about Jesus Christ. I immediately fell in love with this. I wanted this badly; I knew that this was the missing piece in my life. I went home the night of my first lesson and got down on my knees, and faithfully asked the Lord if he was there, if he watches over me, and if His son Jesus Christ truly lived. I then ended my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ and went to bed. When I woke up the next morning I knew without a doubt that my prayer had been answered. There is no way to explain this, other than through my faith the Holy Ghost told me that God truly lives.
It has been an uphill battle to maintain my faith. Faith is really hard… I feel like it is almost an action. Each day your faith is tested and tried, and it’s hard. Some days you feel so alone and forgotten, and others you feel like He is there right beside you. It is all about how bad you want it, and I know some days I want it more than others, but it never disappears. Through prayer and scripture study, one can grow their faith immensely. What a great opportunity we have to study the scriptures and be able to speak with our Heavenly Father through faithful prayer. Being a Mormon and being a faithful person requires a lot of work and a lot of determination. You need a keen eye to recognize blessings and answered prayers a lot of the time, but when you get that feeling from the Spirit that says God just answered your prayer, the feeling is wonderful. The small and simple things are what keep my faith strong. God works in the most peculiar ways sometimes. It is not always on a large scale, but a simple scale. Heavenly Father wants us to be able to notice his works; He is not just going to immediately give us everything we ask for; we need to work for it, and it may take time. Nevertheless, FAITH is what we must press forward with knowing that our Heavenly Father wants to and is helping us, but in His time. We owe that to Him.
As we test and nourish our faith, it will grow in strength and size, just like watering and giving ample sunlight to a plant helps it to grow deep roots and tall branches. I know that God lives! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen!
1) “The Mustard Seed” – LDS.org Article
2) Alma 32:26-43
3) Jordan’s Blog
4) Faith in Jesus Christ – Mormon.org Page