It is deep into the reign of the Empire, and the republic has all but been squashed out. Leia Organa is leading Rebel forces, but their situation is dire. With the recently acquired Death Star plans, she sends two droids, R2-D2 and C3P0 to the desert planet of Tatooine with an urgent message for Obi-Wan Kenobi:
“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”
As anyone who has watched this epic classic knows, Leia’s message sparked a “New Hope” throughout the galaxy and, with Luke Skywalker on her side, they were able to start the process to defeating the Emperor once and for all.
While there are many commonalities between Star Wars and Latter-day Saints, today I want to talk about the concept of Hope, and not just in the sense of a galaxy far, far away.
Hope in the Gospel
Preach My Gospel defines hope as “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. When you have hope, you work through trials and difficulties with the confidence and assurance that all things will work together for your good.”
Trusting in the Lord’s promise though sounds a lot like faith. And this is where a lot of us misunderstand hope vs faith.
Hope vs Faith
One of the reasons why this misunderstanding exists is because hope is used in the definition of faith given in the famous Alma 32:
“And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.”
Faith is hoping in things! But wait, what then is hope?
To understand hope, we first have to truly understand faith.
Faith is an action. Believing in God is, believe it or not, an action. You are making a conscious choice to believe in Him. And when we act on that belief, we are increasing our faith. We call these actions acts of faith. Joseph Smith’s prayer to Heavenly Father was an act of faith. Praying to know if the scriptures are true is an act of faith. Going to church even when it is difficult is an act of faith. Paying our tithing even if money is tight is an act of faith. The list goes on and on.
Neil L. Anderson of the Quorum of the Twelve said about faith: “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is not something ethereal, floating loosely in the air. Faith does not fall upon us by chance or stay with us by birthright. It is, as the scriptures say, “substance …, the evidence of things not seen.’ Faith emits a spiritual light, and that light is discernible.Faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from heaven that comes as we choose to believe and as we seek it and hold on to it.”
Faith grows line upon line and is given to us by the grace of God. It grows as we choose to follow Jesus Christ. I love the song lyrics to the Primary song “Faith”
“Faith is like a little seed:
If planted it will grow.
Faith is a swelling within my heart.
When I do right, I know.”
As our faith grows, we come closer to our Father in Heaven.
So, to sum up, faith stems from our belief in Christ and grows as we choose to follow Him.
So, if faith is that action, choosing to follow Christ, what then is hope?
If we jump back to the Star Wars universe, to the time of A New Hope, we can learn something about the power of hope. The Empire has completely taken over all of the Old Republic. All that remains is the rebellion that’s lit by a spark of hope. Leia puts all of her faith into this hope that they will conquer the Empire. That’s why she calls it her “only hope.” That is the hope she clings to as she’s tortured by Vader, and watches her precious home planet blow up.
Notice how, no matter how bleak it becomes, she continues to hold on to the hope that things will become better. They acquire victory after victory because the whole rebellion clung to the hope that they could overcome the evil Empire and change things.
That hope was the spark that the Empire, and later the First Order, tried to extinguish. But they can’t. Hope is so precious to the rebellion because that’s what keeps it alive. It’s the promise of a new start, a new life, a new world, free from the corruption of the evils that plagued the galaxy.
Do you see how hope is truly the spark that lights the action of faith? That’s true in the gospel too.
Going back to the Preach My Gospel definition of hope, “Hope is an abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promises to you.” It’s that spark that, knowing no matter how tough times will get, God will be there. And He will always keep His promises. Always! He’s bound to do what He says (See D&C 82:10), and when He promises us He will see us through anything, He will. We just have to hold on to that hope.
Perfect Brightness of Hope
Nephi tells us this too at the end of his record:
“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” –2 Nephi 31:20
I absolutely love this scripture. I like to think of it as the survival scripture to life. When life gets hard, press forward believing in Christ (that’s the faith part of it) having a perfect brightness of hope (holding on to that hope that Christ will see you through.) As you do so, reading the scriptures and patiently enduring whatever trials you are called to endure, you shall receive the gift of eternal life from Heavenly Father.
Wow. What a wonderful promise! When we act, holding on to that hope, truly our only hope, things are going to be okay. Challenges will come. They come to all of us. We lose someone we love. People we love make wrong choices. Family crises arise. But we can hold on to that hope that Christ will see us through.
Jesus Christ, Our Only Hope
We are all in the fight of our lives for our eternal salvation. Satan and his minions want to squash that out and oppress our lives, much like the Emperor and his followers did. Despite the constant onslaught, we cannot let the devil extinguish our only hope: our faith in our Savior Jesus Christ.
We all need mercy. We all need grace. Because of Christ’s Atonement, we know that He understands us. And we can put our faith in that hope, our only hope, that He will enable us to conquer our own demons. We cannot do this without Him.
That’s why I think we are asked to develop this Christ-like attribute of hope. We need that hope to make it through this life.
I love to think of Christ being our lighthouse upon the shore. He’s a beacon of light, shining into the darkness for us poor sailors tossed upon the stormy sea. We have to hold on to the hope that the light is there. He is our only hope in this storm. Even if we cannot see it, He is there. And He will lead us safely to shore where we can rest from the storms of life. We just have to hold on to that spark of hope.