"I hope you have a good day."
"I hope my team wins the big game."
"I hope the weather clears up in time for the picnic today."
These, and many others like them, are commonly heard around the world in our society today. But what is hope? What does it really mean to hope for something? Where should our hope be placed?
Throughout the scriptures, we are taught the importance of having hope. For most of my life I honestly couldn't tell you the difference between faith and hope because in almost every situation it seemed as though they could be used synonymously with each other. With each of these I felt as though a simple substitution of "hope" with "faith" would leave the scripture exactly the same. For example:
"Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever." (Psalms 131:3)
"For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?" (Romans 8:24, especially when combined with Alma 32:21)
"For, for this intent have we written these things, that they may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us." (Jacob 4:4)
"Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven." (Moroni 7:3)
These are only a few of the multitude of examples that could be used to convey what I mean. For the vast majority of my life I had a pretty firm belief that the writers didn't use the word "faith" there simply because they wanted to say something new and desired to add some variation in their writing.
A few years later I was reading in Moroni 7 (which teaches a lot about faith and hope) and the inquiry again came to my mind: "What is the difference between faith and hope?" This time around, I was old enough to realize that there are a lot of verses which talk about both faith and hope so there had to be some sort of difference between the two but I just couldn't grasp what it was. It wasn't until about a year ago that I finally was able to figure this conundrum out (which I know only came through inspiration from the Holy Ghost).
What is hope?
Preach My Gospel, a manual that missionaries use to help us become better teachers and better representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, we find a section called "How Do I Develop Christlike Attributes?" On this particular morning, I decided I had had enough confusion regarding the differences between faith and hope and I was going to get to the bottom of it. As I studied these two attributes which Christ so perfectly exhibited, two sections stood out to me.
From the section on faith: "When you have faith in Jesus Christ, you...are able to do miracles according to the Lord's will. Your faith will be manifest through diligence and work."
And from the first paragraph on hope: "Hope is an abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promises to you. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance. It is believing and expecting that something will occur."
For whatever reason, as I read those sections that day it hit me: Faith is a principle of action, Hope is a principle of attitude.
With this additional insight, it all made so much more sense to me. Faith and hope are very closely related. As we have a positive attitude about the events and circumstances surrounding us, our actions tend to be more positive, more self-less, and more focused on the Savior. And when we perform such actions, our mindset changes and our attitude improves as we gain a great hope in the things around us.
In a letter to his son Moroni, Mormon teaches us just how connected faith and hope are. "And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope? . . . Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope."
There are many different uses of hope in our world. Just searching "hope" on Dictionary.com pulls up nine different definitions for this word. The one that stands out the most to me and seems to be the right one for a religious setting--especially in such a discussion about Christlike attributes--is this: "a person or thing in which expectations are centered".
In our world today there any many areas where we can place our hope, each yielding different results. Continuing with the writings of Mormon we learn that in order for the gospel of Christ to truly bless our lives and help us become who God knows we can become, our hope--like our faith--must be centered in Jesus Christ.
"And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise."
Why is hope important?
In our world today it is so easy to get discouraged and to lose hope in the world, in humanity, and especially in Jesus Christ. So many people see bad things happening in the world and use that to spur their already diminishing faith and hope in the Lord. As the world around us moves more and more towards atheistic views, those who hold on to God--who hold on to Jesus Christ--are fewer and further between than ever before. Yet those relative few have become a great beacon to the rest of the world.
On example that I love was shared by President Deiter F. Uchtdorf, one of the main leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In a general conference talk, he shared a story of his mother and the impact that hope had in a moment when despair and discouragement would have consumed anyone with a lesser conviction in the Lord Jesus Christ.
"Finally, during the cold winter of 1944, my mother decided to flee to Germany, where her parents were living. She bundled us up and somehow managed to get us on one of the last refugee trains heading west. Traveling during that time was dangerous. Everywhere we went, the sound of explosions, the stressed faces, and ever-present hunger reminded us that we were in a war zone.
"Along the way the train stopped occasionally to get supplies. One night during one of these stops, my mother hurried out of the train to search for some food for her four children. When she returned, to her great horror, the train and her children were gone!
"She was weighed down with worry; desperate prayers filled her heart. She frantically searched the large and dark train station, urgently crisscrossing the numerous tracks while hoping against hope that the train had not already departed.
"Perhaps I will never know all that went through my mother’s heart and mind on that black night as she searched through a grim railroad station for her lost children. That she was terrified, I have no doubt. I am certain it crossed her mind that if she did not find this train, she might never see her children again. I know with certainty: her faith overcame her fear, and her hope overcame her despair. She was not a woman who would sit and bemoan tragedy. She moved. She put her faith and hope into action."
In a time of desperation, this young mother was able to rely upon her trust in the Lord and use her attitude of optimism to prompt her to act. That is why faith and hope are so closely intertwined. When we truly have a hope in the Savior, when we are truly optimistic and courageous in the face of difficulties, we will not sit and wait. We will move, we will act, we will exercise our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And only then will we receive the blessings that He has in store for us.
Maybe that is why the prophet Ether taught, "Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God."
I have seen in my own life the power that comes from having hope. Hope chases out any despair. It drives away the darkness of pessimism and replaces it with the light of Jesus Christ. Hope can turn any life from one of misery and gloom to one of joy and courage. Trust me, I have been there. Through my own process of developing and strengthening my hope in the redeeming power of Jesus Christ, my life has been changed. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said, "When life is seen as good, a bad day can be easily absorbed." I testify that that is precisely what the power of hope can do for you and me.