Ask any young person in the church to explain the principle of faith and odds are they will recite Alma 32:21 to you and leave it at that.
“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.”
This is a wonderful scripture, and it is a good one to have memorized, but I feel that if you depend on this verse alone for your understanding of the principle of faith you will find that your ability to understand and apply it in your life will be somewhat lacking.
I find that the apostle Paul provides another description of faith which at first sounds similar to the one which Alma gave, but upon closer examination you will see that Paul is teaching us much more deeply about the nature and uses of faith.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
When all you have is Alma’s definition of faith as rendered in Alma 32:21, you might think that faith is a rather passive principle in which one holds a vague hope in unseen forces which seem largely beyond your control. Faith in this scenario seems to be an ill-defined hope, based on vague and even insubstantial evidence, in something that happens to be true.
If this is how you understand faith as a principle, it is no wonder that enemies of religion accuse Christians of blind faith, and enemies of the LDS church accuse its members of blindly following the prophet and their leaders.
Paul’s description of faith which he gave to the Hebrews shows us that faith does not need to be, nor should it be, blind or passive. His teachings help us to understand that faith, rather than being a vague hope in an unseen truth, is in itself the concrete evidence and the substance upon which we can rely for the foundation of our belief in said truth. With the assurance provided by such reliable evidence we can make decisions with confidence and take concrete action.