God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent; hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Numbers 23:19
Does God really mean for us to pursue the blessings that he has promised? Do we risk tempting God if we approach the scriptures by looking for promises? There are many questions that commonly arise as we begin considering the promises in the scriptures. If you have already tried at least one promise and are convinced that the promises will all be fulfilled, or if you have gotten excited about the prospects of finding and proving promises, then you probably do not need to read this section. The scriptures of this section are mainly for those who are still testing the waters.
But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6
If we wish to come to God, we must believe that He is. James 2:19 informs us that even the devils believe and tremble, and the Inspired Version adds, "thou hast made thyself like unto one of them." So if all we do is believe in God, then we have come up to the devil level! But there is more. We must also believe that God rewards those who diligently seek him. I believe that the process of seeking him is a matter of keeping the conditions of the promises He has made, and that He rewards us according to the blessings he has promised. The faith spoken of in Hebrews is not that we have a perfect knowledge that the words are true. Indeed, it is impossible to have such a perfect knowledge until we actually try it out. I appreciate very much the approach to faith outlined by Alma.
Now as I said concerning faith–that it was not a perfect knowledge, even so it is with my words. Ye can not know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge. 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. Alma 16:149-152
The thing that Alma says is required is the willingness to try out a portion of the words. I would paraphrase crudely as "pick a promise, any promise, and try it out." We are not asked to swallow the whole thing at one time. Rather, the word is compared to a seed, and when we try one, and it begins to grow and bear fruit, then our faith turns to knowledge in that thing, and we can try other promises as well.
Some of the most fantastic promises that we find in the scriptures, to be sure, deal with blessings on which it is difficult to experiment. But there are many promises which do not require waiting till we die to fulfill, and which are intended to help build our faith. Jacob assures us that these promises will be fulfilled while we are alive.
For I will fulfill my promises which I have made unto the children of men, that I will do unto them while they are in the flesh. II Nephi 7:26
Another assurance of the certain fulfillment of promises was given by King Benjamin, and it applies to us today as much as it ever did to his people.
And behold, all that he requires of you, is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments, ye should prosper in the land; And he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments, he doth bless you, and prosper you. And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him. And secondly: he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you, for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore, he hath paid you. Mosiah 1:55-58
All that is required is that we keep the commandments, or the conditions of the promises. When we meet those conditions, we are blessed immediately with the blessing of the promise. But sometimes we miss out on God's promised blessings. How can this be?
Who am I that made man, saith the Lord, that will hold him guiltless that obeys not my commandments? Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled? I command and a man obeys not, I revoke and they receive not the blessing; then they say in their hearts, This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But woe unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above. DC 58:6g-i
One of the difficulties that we often encounter is that our understanding of the promises is not sharp in the sense of knowing which blessings result from what conditions. When we only have a vague understanding, we may be expecting blessings whose conditions have not been fulfilled. When we do not see those things happening, we may decide that the promise was faulty. Nevertheless, we still have this assurance given to the early restoration saints:
Verily, verily I say unto you, Ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father has in his own hands, and prepared for you; and ye can not bear all things now; nevertheless be of good cheer, for I will lead you along; the kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours; and the riches of eternity are yours; and he who receiveth all things, with thankfulness, shall be made glorious, and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundredfold, yea, more; wherefore do the things which I have commanded you, saith your Redeemer... DC 77:4a-d
Another key passage describing our response to the promises is also found in modern day revelation:
I give unto you a new commandment, that you may understand my will concerning you, or in other words, I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation. I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise. DC 81:3
What is it that God is bound to do when we keep his commandments? He is bound to keep his promise! Now it is important to notice that this passage does not say that if we do not keep the conditions, that God will not bless us. This is hardly the case. God often does bless us in spite of our actions. But what happens when we do not keep the conditions, is that we lose the promise of the blessings.
Also note that we can be certain of God's will for us. If we understand the promises that He has made and we fulfill the conditions, we can be certain that the blessings we ask for will be in accordance with His will, and that it will be done.
Alma offered his son Helaman the following assurance that God's promises would be fulfilled.
For he will fulfill all his promises which he shall make unto you, for he has fulfilled his promises which he has made unto our fathers. Alma 17:48
In our day, the Lord has given us this specific counsel regarding His promises:
My word shall not fail, neither will my promises, for the foundation of the Lord standeth sure. DC 140:5d