A remarkable phrase shows up a number of times in the Book of Mormon. It involves “looking forward” with an “eye of faith” to a desired result in the future. The idea is that if there is something that you sincerely desire, you should use your inner “eye,” or your imagination, and picture yourself as already being there or having what you want. Through your faith that it is possible, you can begin to see yourself as having already reached your goal.
In the book of Alma 5:15-16, Alma preaches to the people about the goal of being received into heaven when their life on Earth is over. In order to direct them toward that goal, he asks them if they can imagine how things will be at that future time when they finally get there. As they “look forward with an eye of faith,” what kind of outcome do they see? He asks:
15 Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality … to stand before God …?
16 I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?
What Alma is trying to have his audience do is to visualize their own future in minute detail. They are to imagine being resurrected and raised to stand before God. They are to imagine themselves hearing the approving voice of the Lord accepting them into heaven — reaching their ultimate goal. He suggests that if they try to visualize this scene and what they envision is only negative, then perhaps they need to find that balance in their lives so that the way they are living is in alignment with a positive outcome and then exercise their faith so that they are now headed in this more desirable direction.
In a later discourse, Alma brings up this concept again in a similar way. He essentially teaches that when we accept a new teaching (“the word”) and apply it in our lives, we need to use our “eye of faith” in order to follow it through to the end where we can see the result of how that teaching has improved our life. He compares this process to planting a seed (the word/teaching) in our hearts and helping it to grow until it grows into a beautiful tree from which we can pluck delicious fruit. He states in Alma 32:40-41:
40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.
41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
Alma warns that we need to be constantly visualizing the end goal — that figurative fruit that we desire to receive. If we do not continue looking forward to and working towards that fruit, we can never “pluck” it.
I want to share one more passage on this idea. This one is from the book of Ether and describes people who have already achieved their desired goal and declares that it is because they had used that “eye of faith” to visualize the outcome that they were able to achieve what they did. The goal of these people was to see their Lord, their Savior, even before He came into this world. Ether 12:19 says:
19 And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.
I think what we should understand from this is the idea that these people had envisioned seeing Christ in their mind in such vivid detail and with such great faith that someday they would see Him that what they hoped for soon became a reality for them. They had seen it in their mind first and then it actually happened.
I like to relate these ideas to a concept known as creative visualization. In the most basic sense, creative visualization is a process of using your imagination to picture a desired outcome — to conceptualize in your mind something that you want to have happen to you in the near or distant future. If we can picture our goal, our desired result, in our mind so vividly that we can see ourselves there in that situation as if it were already real, then we are well on our way to achieving that goal. (Read more about creative visualization here.)
Beyond merely being able to imagine achieving the goal, we need to make this visualization a regular practice. If you regularly take time to sit down and let yourself picture the achievement of the goal — imagining the process, how it will happen, who you are with, how you will feel when you achieve it — in the most minute details, you are, in a sense, creating your own future.
We are told that God created all things in two phases — spiritually (we could, perhaps, say mentally) and then physically. The physical things that we see and feel around us are based on an original mental blueprint. The exercise of faith causes the mental to become a physical reality.
I want to share here a story of how I was able to use visualization to overcome a foot injury in order to participate in championship track meets during my senior year of high school. As it was my last year of high school, I naturally wanted my senior Track and Field season to be my best ever — I had many goals that I wanted to achieve, including winning both the United Kingdom and Central European championships (I went to high school in England) for the 800 meter race. Unfortunately, after having an excellent, undefeated season, I injured a bone in my foot a couple of weeks before the first of the championship races. I was devastated! My hopes were dashed! The doctors told me that I would not be able to run for the rest of the season. I didn’t know what to do and assumed that I would have to give up on my goals.
That is when my dad taught me how to visualize. In combination with prayer and great care, my dad suggested that every day, at least a couple of times per day, I should sit in my bed, close my eyes, and imagine that my foot was getting better. He had me imagine that there were little workmen inside my body that could go down to the injured bone in my foot and work on it until it was completely healed. And so I did that — every day I would vividly imagine these little workers zooming down en masse and fixing my foot. And honestly, my foot really did heal! Before the championship race, I was up and running again. I went on to win the UK championship, and then the Central European championship. My foot never gave me a problem throughout the rest of that season. I was truly amazed at how well this had worked.
Beyond that, I feel that my championship victories were also partially the result of additional visualizations that I did at that time. Again, according to my dad’s instructions, I would regularly imagine myself winning the championship race. I would close my eyes and see myself at the starting line. I would imagine exactly how I wanted the race to go — how close I would be to the front of the pack, where I would be after the first lap, and how powerful my kick would be in the final stretch. I imagine who I would be running against and how I would react if someone tried to pass me up. I would imagine every detail of the race from the beginning to the end and, of course, imagine myself victorious when the race was done. The incredible thing is that the races would almost always work out just as I had imagine them! I would get that burst of energy right at the end just as I had envisioned it and felt it in my visualization sessions.
To me, this is one way in which we can exercise our faith. We can practice “seeing” what we hope to happen in the future that we desire. To the degree that we truly believe it can happen to us and visualize it actually happening, we can achieve what we desire from life. I believe this works for both religious and “secular” goals. I always make sure to accompany these visualizations with prayer because I believe that we don’t achieve these things on our own, but that God gives us according to our desires. He recognizes our sincere desires and helps us obtain them when we look forward with that eye of faith.