Monday, November 30, 2009

Alma 31

5 And now, as the apreaching of the bword had a great tendency to clead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.

“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.” – President Boyd K. Packer “Little Children,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17

Yesterday we attended church in Keller with Mimi and her family. A man who served as president of the Sydney Australia Mission spoke during a combined priesthood and Relief Society meeting regarding missionary work and sharing the gospel. He discussed principles (doctrine), and we all remarked afterward that we were inspired to go and do.

We have to feel that something is true, and that feeling works on us. Sometimes we reject feelings because we know that feeling leads to knowing and that knowing obligates us to do. If you can say that you don't know, then you are not obligated to do.

As I study the word of God and the doctrines of salvation, I feel the Spirit, and my heart is changed. That "mighty change of heart" described in Alma 5 leads me to do better. As Mormon notes and as Elder Packer said, the study of doctrine and the preaching of the word of God has the greater power to influence people to do what is right than anything else.

One more thought -- Alma and the other missionaries to the Zoramites discovered a peculiar form of worship had arisen. It's something that we should look for in our own lives. The Zoramites had abandoned the simple things that nurture your relationship with God.

10 Neither would they observe the aperformances of the church, to continue in prayer and supplication to God daily, that they might not enter into temptation.

Instead of daily prayer, scripture study, and obedience to the commandments, they gathered once a week for a show of piety.

23 Now, after the people had all offered up thanks after this manner, they returned to their homes, anever speaking of their God again until they had assembled themselves together again to the holy stand, to offer up thanks after their manner.

Being a Sunday Christian is an insidious form of hypocrisy. We can fool ourselves into believing that we are somehow righteous and acceptable to God because we go to church once a week. There is a difference between being active in the church and fully converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. That's not to say that we shouldn't attend church. Years of consistent church attendance and hearing the word of God preached and taught have changed my life. But it is in the consistent effort to apply the gospel in our daily lives that true change occurs.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Alma 30

This chapter is the account of Korihor, the Anti-Christ, and his interview with Alma. Korihor's arguments were all common tacks taken by those who are seeking to persuade people that belief in God is foolish:
  1. No man can know of things to come (v. 13)
  2. You just believe because you accept the "foolish traditions" of your fathers (v. 14)
  3. You can't know things that you can't see (v. 15)
  4. You're just worked up and emotional - the "effect of a frenzied mind" (v. 16)
  5. You've lost your senses altogether - "this derangement of your minds" (v. 16)
  6. Everyone fares in this life according to his own abilities - how he manages, uses his "genius," and uses his strength - what some people might term social Darwinism (v. 17)
  7. Whatever a person does in this life is "no crime" (v. 17)
  8. When a person is dead, that's the end of it (v. 18)
  9. Religion and morality are essentially slavery and are a way for those in authority to control us (v. 23)
I have to say that I have heard each of these arguments from someone at some time. I think I have even heard one of two of these from someone I love.

Alma's response teaches us how to respond to similar assaults on the truth.

40 And now what evidence have ye that there is no aGod, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only.

  41 But, behold, I have all things as a atestimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true; and will ye deny them? 

Korihor asked for some miracle to be performed as proof of Alma's position.

  44 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of aall these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the bearth, and call things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its dmotion, yea, and also all the eplanets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.

Everything testifies that there is a God. I know He lives.

Alma 29

  1 O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the atrump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!

  2 Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and acome unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.

It's not his wish that is remarkable to me, but why Alma wished it - "that there might not be sorrow upon all the face of the earth." That wish for the elimination of sorrow is the mark of true charity, the pure love of Christ. God is love, and peace, and joy.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Alma 28

12 While many thousands of others truly amourn for the loss of their kindred, yet they rejoice and exult in the hope, and even know, according to the bpromises of the Lord, that they are raised to dwell at the right hand of God, in a state of never-ending chappiness.

Having presided over a number of funerals, I have observed that mourning results from the separation and sense  of loss that we all have at parting from someone we love. But those who live without hope in the resurrection and in the redeeming power of the atonement of Jesus Christ suffer a different kind of loss. With faith it's possible to feel sad and mourn for the loss of our loved ones and at the same time look forward with hope. The Lord spoke to Joseph Smith and gave this direction (D&C 42):

45 Thou shalt alive together in blove, insomuch that thou shalt cweep for the loss of them that die, and more especially for those that have not dhope of a glorious resurrection.

46 And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not ataste of bdeath, for it shall be csweet unto them;

47 And they that die not in me, wo unto them, for their death is bitter.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Alma 27

18 Now was not this aexceeding joy? Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of bhappiness.

The keys to finding peace and true happiness lie in repentance and in humility. A 1980's country song talked about "looking for love in all the wrong places." When we are humble seekers of happiness, we can find and feel that peace which passes all understanding. We can have that in the midst of any storm in life. The connection to Jesus Christ conveys power to weather any difficulty with grace and happiness, whether the challenge is family trouble, employment problems, or the loss of a loved one.

Ammon's Lamanite converts suffered intense persecution at the hands of those who should have loved them and had no reason to hate them. But Mormon writes the following of them:

 27 And they were among the people of Nephi, and also numbered among the people who were of the church of God. And they were also distinguished for their azeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly bhonest and upright in all things; and they were cfirm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end.

I hope someone can say in a eulogy for me that I was perfectly honest and upright in all things and that I remained firm in the faith of Christ to the end.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Alma 26

This chapter is so rich in truth. Please read it for yourself. I will only highlight one idea.

12 Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things

Their friends in the city of Zarahemla derided them for thinking that the Lamanites might be reclaimed. Ammon even asks "could we have supposed when we started from the land of Zarahemla that God would have granted unto us such great blessings?" (v. 1) When we proceed in faith doing what we think is right, we often cannot see how things will possibly work out. That's what faith in the Lord is -- proceeding with hope and trusting in him that he has power to make us equal to the task. In his strength we truly can do all things.

Alma 25

16 Now they did not suppose that salvation came by the law of Moses; but the law of Moses did serve to strengthen their faith in Christ; and thus they did retain a hope through faith, unto eternal salvation

Obedience to God's commandments is essential, but never sufficient. As we learn to obey his commandments, receive sacred ordinances, and make and keep sacred covenants, our faith in Christ is strengthened so that we obtain and retain hope through faith sufficient for eternal salvation.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Alma 24

10 And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son.
11 And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do, (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain

Forgiveness and release from guilt are perhaps the greatest manifestations of the love of God in our lives. The Savior's atoning blood pays the price, and those things that plague our conscience and keep us awake at night can be taken away from our hearts. I'm grateful for that peace of mind.

Moroni inserts a comment at the end of chapter 24 that was his conclusion as he abridged more than a thousand years of history. Those who fall away, having once known the truth, just can't leave it alone.

30 And thus we can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Alma 23

6 . . . as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth, through the preaching of Ammon and his brethren, according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy, and the power of God working miracles in them—yea, I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away.

What results in conversion so strong that one never falls away? The word conversion comes from a Latin word that means "to turn around." If we find the narrow way, we have to turn around and leave the path we're on. The depth of our conversion then determines whether we stay on that new path or eventually stray. I pray that my conversion is deep enough that I can endure to the end in following Christ.

I noticed a statement in this chapter that intrigued me. Moroni tells of the great success these missionaries had among the Lamanites. He says that "thousands were brought to the knowledge of the Lord, yea, thousands were brought to believe." But then he says this about the Amalekites, who were Nephite dissenters living among the Lamanites.

14 And the Amalekites were not converted, save only one; neither were any of the Amulonites; but they did harden their hearts, and also the hearts of the Lamanites in that part of the land wheresoever they dwelt, yea, and all their villages and all their cities.

What I wonder about is that one Amalekite who was converted. Even in the most hardened people there is one that will soften his heart and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. It would have been miserable for him as the one convert among those who were hard-hearted and opposed to the truth, but that one person had the courage to accept the truth in spite of all kinds of opposition from family and friends.

Alma 22

When they were released from prison in Middoni, in spite of what they had suffered, Aaron and those who were with him continued their mission and were led by the Spirit to the land of Nephi where Lamoni's father, the king over all the Lamanites, lived. They had the opportunity to teach the king. They taught from the scriptures.

13 And Aaron did expound unto him the scriptures from the creation of Adam, laying the fall of man before him, and their carnal state and also the plan of redemption, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, through Christ, for all whosoever would believe on his name

The Holy Scriptures are powerful tools to teach and testify of the plan of redemption. If we want to help others know the truth about the plan of salvation and the role of Jesus Christ, we have to open the scriptures to their understanding. They teach this simple truth:

14 . . . since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, . . . ; and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory

The king's great desire to know these things for himself and to feel the promised joy and peace led to the following remarkable prayer:

18 O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.

You can't hold on to your sins and know God. We sometimes say to ourselves, "I will love God, but I can't quit doing this or that." The king was willing to submit to the Lord and forsake all of his sins in order to know God.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Alma 21

When Aaron and his brethren went to the city the Lamanites called Jerusalem, they tried to teach those who would listen, including the Amalekites and Amulonites. They taught faith and repentance, just like they had elsewhere. The people said the following:

6 Thou also sayest, except we repent we shall perish. How knowest thou the thought and intent of our hearts? How knowest thou that we have cause to repent? How knowest thou that we are not a righteous people? Behold, we have built sanctuaries, and we do assemble ourselves together to worship God. We do believe that God will save all men.

In our day, there are many who "build sanctuaries" and attend church, but their lives are for show. Jesus reserved his harshest condemnation for the hypocrites. Now, I know that I am sometimes a hypocrite, too. I hope that I can live a life of greater integrity.

Janet and I went to a Switchfoot concert with my brother last night. They didn't perform this particular song, but the lyrics express the contempt the Lord has for "the show."

Instead of a Show (by Jon Foreman)
I hate all your show and pretense
The hypocrisy of your praise
The hypocrisy of your festivals
I hate all your show
Away with your noisy worship
Away with your noisy hymns
I stomp on my ears when you're singing 'em
I hate all your show

Instead let there be a flood of justice
An endless procession of righteous living, living
Instead let there be a flood of justice
Instead of a show

Alma 20

When we follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we have the Lord's help to accomplish whatever we have been prompted to do. Ammon was directed to go and rescue his brothers and their friends from prison in Middoni, and he did it.

When Lamoni asked him how he knew that his brethren were in prison in Middoni, Ammon told him the following:

5 And Ammon said unto him: No one hath told me, save it be God; and he said unto me—Go and deliver thy brethren, for they are in prison in the land of Middoni.

"Spirituality yields two fruits. The first is inspiration to know what to do. The second is power, or the capacity to do it." Richard G. Scott, “To Acquire Spiritual Guidance,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 6–9

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Alma 19

The Book of Mormon describes a peculiar phenomenom repeatedly. At least, the thing seems peculiar to me. When people feel the Holy Spirit intensely, they swoon and become unconscious. This happens in Alma 18 to King Lamoni and then to Lamoni's wife, Ammon, and Lamoni's servants in Alma 19. The effect of the Holy Spirit on Lamoni is described this way:

6 Now, this was what Ammon desired, for he knew that king Lamoni was under the power of God; he knew that the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God

In spite of what appears peculiar to a 21st century American, I love the description of the effect of the truth on this one person, that "the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul." I have felt this inner light myself, and I have seen it in the faces of many new converts. They are nearly overcome with joy and happiness. There are two recent converts in our ward who are completely delighted with everything they experience. These two ladies have been an inspiration to me. They seem supremely happy in spite of some significant challenges in their lives.

There is a tenderness in this chapter, too, in the relationship of Lamoni and his wife. His wife stayed by his side through three days of what looked like death to her. I love what she says when she consults with Ammon on Lamoni's condition:

5 Therefore, if this is the case, I would that ye should go in and see my husband, for he has been laid upon his bed for the space of two days and two nights; and some say that he is not dead, but others say that he is dead and that he stinketh, and that he ought to be placed in the sepulchre; but as for myself, to me he doth not stink.

It's nice if your spouse can say about you "to me he doth not stink." She clearly loved Lamoni. In verse 11 we read that "she watched over the bed of her husband."

And then note what Lamoni said when he woke the third day:

12 And it came to pass that he arose, according to the words of Ammon; and as he arose, he stretched forth his hand unto the woman, and said: Blessed be the name of God, and blessed art thou.

I feel this way often when I think about the blessing it is to be married to Janet for almost 34 years. She is also a woman of great faith and integrity.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Alma 18

5 Now this was the tradition of Lamoni, which he had received from his father, that there was a Great Spirit. Notwithstanding they believed in a Great Spirit, they supposed that whatsoever they did was right; nevertheless, Lamoni began to fear exceedingly, with fear lest he had done wrong in slaying his servants;

Their tradition taught that there was a God, but that he didn't matter very much in their daily lives. He created all things, but had no role in their lives on a day to day basis. Most people live their lives that way now. If you ask someone on the street if they believe in God, most would say yes, but it is clear that generally speaking, God's laws and commandments do not inform their daily walk in life.

In spite of this tradition that Lamoni received from his father, he began to fear that he had done wrong in ordering the execution of his servants for their failures. His heart was prepared by the Holy Spirit to receive the truth. He was so eager to hear what Ammon knew that he offered to give Ammon anything he wanted if Ammon would teach him what Ammon knew. When Ammon taught the plan of redemption, King Lamoni "believed all his words."

I love Lamoni's prayer: "O Lord, have mercy; according to thy abundant mercy which thou hast had upon the people of Nephi, have upon me, and my people." His fear was that he had committed sin and what he wanted most was mercy which is available to all who believe and repent.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Alma 17

9 . . . they fasted much and prayed much that the Lord would grant unto them a portion of his Spirit to go with them, and abide with them, that they might be an instrument in the hands of God to bring, if it were possible, their brethren . . . to the knowledge of the truth . . .
11 And the Lord said unto them also: Go forth among the Lamanites, thy brethren, and establish my word; yet ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls.

Ammon and the other sons of Mosiah pled with the Lord for help in their ministry to the Lamanites, and they became his "instrument" in teaching many the truth. What does it mean to be an "instrument in the hands of God?" One definition of the word instrument is "a mechanical tool or implement, esp. one used for delicate or precision work." Instruments - whether they are fine measurement tools, surgical implements, or musical instruments - are used by skilled individuals. They have to be calibrated, sharpened, and tuned. We prepare ourselves to be used by the Lord by calibrating our minds and hearts through the study of his word and by receiving instruction from him. We sharpen our focus through prayer and meditation. And we tune our hearts through righteous living.

The sons of Mosiah did all of these things. Mormon writes of their meeting with Alma after serving 14 years among the Lamanites:

2 Now these sons of Mosiah were with Alma at the time the angel first appeared unto him; therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
3 But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Alma 16

The Lamanites invaded and took hostages. The Nephite general Zoram first did the following:

5 Therefore, he that had been appointed chief captain over the armies of the Nephites, (and his name was Zoram, and he had two sons, Lehi and Aha)—now Zoram and his two sons, knowing that Alma was high priest over the church, and having heard that he had the spirit of prophecy, therefore they went unto him and desired of him to know whither the Lord would that they should go into the wilderness in search of their brethren, who had been taken captive

Zoram received counsel from Alma, followed it, and succeeded to rescuing the captives and returning them. We should be guided by the prophet of God in our efforts to find and rescue those who have been taken captive by the adversary. If we follow his counsel and guidance, we can succeed in our missionary and ministry efforts.

Our prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, related the following (President Thomas S. Monson, “Sugar Beets and the Worth of a Soul,” Ensign, Jul 2009, 4–7):

Many years ago, Bishop Marvin O. Ashton (1883–1946), who served as a counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, gave an illustration I’d like to share with you. Picture with me, if you will, a farmer driving a large open-bed truck filled with sugar beets en route to the sugar refinery. As the farmer drives along a bumpy dirt road, some of the sugar beets bounce from the truck and are strewn along the roadside. When he realizes he has lost some of the beets, he instructs his helpers, “There’s just as much sugar in those which have slipped off. Let’s go back and get them!”

In my application of this illustration, the sugar beets represent the members of this Church for whom we who are called as leaders have responsibility; and those that have fallen out of the truck represent men and women, youth and children who, for whatever reason, have fallen from the path of activity. Paraphrasing the farmer’s comments concerning the sugar beets, I say of these souls, precious to our Father and our Master: “There’s just as much value in those who have slipped off. Let’s go back and get them!”

Right now, today, some of them are caught in the current of popular opinion. Others are torn by the tide of turbulent times. Yet others are drawn down and drowned in the whirlpool of sin.

This need not be. We have the doctrines of truth. We have the programs. We have the people. We have the power. Our mission is more than meetings. Our service is to save souls.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Alma 15

16 And it came to pass that Alma and Amulek, Amulek having forsaken all his gold, and silver, and his precious things, which were in the land of Ammonihah, for the word of God, he being rejected by those who were once his friends and also by his father and his kindred;
. . .

18 Now as I said, Alma having seen all these things, therefore he took Amulek and came over to the land of Zarahemla, and took him to his own house, and did administer unto him in his tribulations, and strengthened him in the Lord.

All missionaries have great love for those to whom they teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a particularly touching story of Alma's love for Amulek. They shared trials together. Amulek first ministered to Alma when he returned to Ammonihah after having been thrown out. Now Alma returns the service, takes Amulek into his own home, administers to his needs, and offers him love and support in his loss.

We need to love and minister to those we teach with this same level of compassion.

Alma 14

The fate of the believers in the city of Ammonihah may be a lesson for all who believe. People ask, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Books have been written in attempts to answer this question.

In this instance in the Book of Mormon, the good people who had the faith to believe the message of hope taught by Alma and Amulek were rounded up and burned alive. Amulek wanted to intervene and stop the carnage through the power of God. But Alma answered him in this way:

11 But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.

God can't immediately reward all good and punish all evil without affecting our agency. Freedom to choose is his most immutable law. A hymn written by an anonymous author and included in the first LDS hymnbook in 1835 is called "Know This, That Every Soul is Free."

1. Know this, that ev’ry soul is free
To choose his life and what he’ll be;
For this eternal truth is giv’n:
That God will force no man to heav’n.

2. He’ll call, persuade, direct aright,
And bless with wisdom, love, and light,
In nameless ways be good and kind,
But never force the human mind.

3. Freedom and reason make us men;
Take these away, what are we then?
Mere animals, and just as well
The beasts may think of heav’n or hell.

4. May we no more our pow’rs abuse,
But ways of truth and goodness choose;
Our God is pleased when we improve
His grace and seek his perfect love.

Alma 13

The gospel comes to us in "in plain terms, that we may understand, that we cannot err; and this because of our being wanderers in a strange land; therefore, we are thus highly favored, for we have these glad tidings declared unto us in all parts of our vineyard." (v.23) Sometimes the gospel doesn't seem plain, especially in the Bible. I'm so thankful for other witnesses for Jesus Christ that make the simple truths of the gospel clear and help me understand the teachings of ancient prophets and apostles recorded in the Old and New Testament.

One thing that is clear from all of our scriptures is that Jesus Christ will come again in glory. I read this wish expressed by Alma and felt the same way:

25 And now we only wait to hear the joyful news declared unto us by the mouth of angels, of his coming; for the time cometh, we know not how soon. Would to God that it might be in my day; but let it be sooner or later, in it I will rejoice.

Especially for my sweet family - those I love most, I feel what Alma expressed:

27 . . .  I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance;
28 But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering;
29 Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Alma 12

5 Now this was a plan of thine adversary, and he hath exercised his power in thee. Now I would that ye should remember that what I say unto thee I say unto all.

Alma told Zeezrom about "thine adversary." We all have a very personal adversary in Satan. His desire is for us to be miserable like himself. If he can persuade us to not believe or even to be casual about obedience, he can get between us and the love of God. Alma characterized Satan's plans as a "subtle plan, as to the subtlety of the devil." One thing Satan focuses on is trying to set us against the prophets of God. When we reject God's appointed messengers, we are rejecting him.
Alma taught in greater detail about the judgment. The Lord sees all of us -- not just what we do but also what we say and even what we think.
14 For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.
15 But this cannot be; we must come forth and stand before him in his glory, and in his power, and in his might, majesty, and dominion, and acknowledge to our everlasting shame that all his judgments are just; that he is just in all his works, and that he is merciful unto the children of men, and that he has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance.
Chapter 12 is one of the great doctrinal dissertations in all of the scripture. Alma described clearly the fall of man and the plan of redemption through the atonement of Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
The general outline of the plan of salvation in Alma 12 is as follows:
  1. Adam and Eve transgressed and fell becoming mortal so that all men and women will eventually die.
  2. God prevented them from circumventing mortality and left them to make choices according to their own free will.
  3. He sent heavenly messengers to teach them obedience to the commandments of God and the promise of a Savior (see v. 29-30).
  4. Men choose obedience or rebellion to the commandments of God. Those choices have consequences according to the justice of God (v. 31).
  5. Jesus Christ died and rose again, and in like manner all men will die and will be resurrected.
  6. In their resurrected state, all men will stand before God to be judged according to their works.
  7. Those who believe in Christ and do their best to live according to his teachings will be relieved of the consequences of sin on condition of repentance through the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God.
 34 Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Alma 11

There are a lot of interesting things in this chapter, but the following caught my imagination.

43 The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt

Someone asked Sunday as I was teaching Sunday School why the Second Coming of Christ is referred to as the "great and dreadful day of the Lord." I offered then that it would be great for those who repent and look forward to the coming of the Son of God in glory, but that it would be dreadful for those who are not prepared or who have spent their lives in rebellion against God. Then I read this verse the other day. Amulek testified of a literal resurrection when body and spirit will be reunited and face the Savior in his role as judge. At that day we will know as we know now and have a bright recollection of all our guilt. The memory of our sins will be terrifying as we stand before Jesus in his glorified state unless we repent and rely on his mercy. Then he will intercede with the Father on our behalf, and we will recall but no longer be burdened by that terrible guilt and pain.
And here is another sweet promise: "Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more." (D&C 58:42) We may have a bright recollection, but the Lord wipes them clean from his memory. He sees us in our forgiven state, clean and worthy of being in his presence.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Alma 10

Amulek was Alma's first convert in the city of Ammonihah and became his close friend. They taught together and endured persecution together. Amulek was a man of means and reputation, all of which he apparently sacrificed for the sake of the truth. His testimony begins with what I have observed in myself and others.

5 . . . I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power. I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people.
6 Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart

How many times has the Lord called to us, but we refused to hear? We have felt some gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit, but it was to do something hard, and we dismissed the inspiration or rationalized it away.
How many things have we really known but have pretended to ourselves not to know because admitting that we know means that we have to act or be a hypocrite? This subtle rebellion is a hard thing to acknowledge, and it is even more difficult to overcome. The cure is to open our hearts to God. As we face our own shortcomings honestly and admit them, we can ask for and receive his help to conquer them.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Alma 9

When Alma taught the people of Ammonihah, they reacted as follows:

4 And they said also: We will not believe thy words if thou shouldst prophesy that this great city should be destroyed in one day.
5 Now they knew not that God could do such marvelous works, for they were a hard-hearted and a stiffnecked people

A lot of people take this approach to God's servants - "I will believe unless the prophet says this." In the recent election in California, when proposition 8 caused such great division among the citizens, the first Presidency and the Quorum and of the Twelve Apostles told the saints that redefining marriage would harm our society and was contrary to the will of the Lord. They encouraged church members to be actively involved in campaigning for proposition 8 by joining groups supporting the proposition, by contributing money, and by voting for it. There were some members who said, "The Church has no business being involved in a political question or in telling members how to vote." They said, in effect, "We will not believe thy words if thou shouldst tell us to support proposition 8." Some seethed with anger and even left the church.

The Lord said of the Prophet of God (D&C 21),

4 Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
5 For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

We are on treacherous ground when we make ourselves the arbiters of truth and choose to ignore the teachings of the living prophets and apostles. If we have a question about some teaching or directions given by the brethren, we should ask the Lord in prayer to help us understand and know for ourselves that it is His will.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Alma 8

Alma's mission to Ammonihah is a lesson in patience and in following the direction of the Holy Spirit in the face of opposition. Sometimes it takes a rebel to teach a rebel. Alma was no stranger to rebellion. He may have been much like the people in the city of Ammonihah before his conversion, so I think he understood them well. He loved them in spite of their animosity toward him.

9 Now Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people of the city of Ammonihah; therefore they would not hearken unto the words of Alma.
10 Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city
Even so, he had given up on them when they threw him out. He said when teaching Amulek, "they cast me out and I was about to set my back towards this land forever." (v. 24) As he was on his way to another city, having written these people off, an angel appeared to him and directed him to return. What I like is Alma's reaction to the command to go back to the city where the people had spit on him and cast him out.
18 Now it came to pass that after Alma had received his message from the angel of the Lord he returned speedily to the land of Ammonihah.
That willingness to hearken and to follow the direction of the Lord is something I have been trying to cultivate for a long time. I'm more like Jonah who fled from the Lord's command to go to Nineveh than I am like Alma who returned speedily to Ammonihah. But I'm working on it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Alma 7

There is prophecy, and then there is prophecy. According to Alma,

7 . . .there be many things to come; and behold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all—for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people.

In our day, the prophecies of his second coming are just as important.
I'm grateful that the Savior has the power to heal and bless. His love for us is limitless, and his ability to aid those in need is boundless. Alma put it this way:
11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and aafflictions and btemptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will ctake upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

12 And he will take upon him adeath, that he may bloose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to csuccor his people according to their infirmities.

13 Now the Spirit aknoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the bflesh that he might ctake upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

Alma gives another admonition that intrigues me.
15 Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction
Beset means to attack from all sides, trouble persistently, harass, hem in, and surround. Some sins just seem to stay with us. Satan knows our weaknesses and seeks to hem us in so that we feel there is no escape. But the Savior has promised safety in him. Paul wrote to the saints at Corinth:
13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Alma 6

6 Nevertheless the children of God were commanded that they should gather themselves together oft, and join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God.

We come together to worship the Savior, but the good news of atonement of Jesus Christ has to be shared. We, without them, cannot be saved, to paraphrase Paul. My prayers and fasting are for my family, those I serve, and those who are seekers of truth.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Alma 5

The fifth chapter of Alma is a spiritual treasure. It could be a course of study in itself. I'm just sharing a few thoughts about each chapter in The Book of Mormon, but I plead with every reader to make their own study of the book and perhaps especially of Alma 5.

One interesting aspect of this long chapter (a sermon that Alma the Younger delivered to people throughout the land of Zarahemla) is that it is a sort of extended interview. If I counted right, Alma asks over 45 questions in this address. We could think of these questions as pertaining to ourselves. A few examples:
  • Have ye spiritually been born of God?
  • Have ye received his image in your countenances?
  • Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?
  • Can ye look up to God . . .with a pure heart and clean hands?
  • Can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?
  • If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, . . . can ye feel so now?
  • Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time . . . that ye have been sufficiently humble?
  • Are ye stripped of pride?
Alma knew through his own experience what it meant to be born again. He talked about their predecessors in the following way, but this certainly applied to him and applies to us:

7 Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word

9 And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love. And I say unto you that they are saved.

How beautiful it is to have your soul "illuminated by the light of the everlasting word," to have your soul expand, and to feel to sing redeeming love.
Now, on a different note, Alma's testimony in verses 44-62 touches my soul. He had seen an angel and heard the voice of the Lord, but his testimony did not come from those events. His testimony was the result of fasting and prayer and revelation by the Holy Spirit of God.
45 And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?
46 Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.
47 And moreover, I say unto you that it has thus been revealed unto me, that the words which have been spoken by our fathers are true, even so according to the spirit of prophecy which is in me, which is also by the manifestation of the Spirit of God.

I likewise testify that I know that God lives, that Jesus is my Savior, and that the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth. I know these things of myself because the Holy Ghost has spoken peace to my heart and brought light and truth to my mind. And my soul rejoices in that knowledge.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Alma 4

10 And thus ended the eighth year of the reign of the judges; and the wickedness of the church was a great stumbling-block to those who did not belong to the church; and thus the church began to fail in its progress.

The example we set as disciples of Christ is an invitation or a barrier to those who might seek the truth. There is an old saying: “What you do is so loud I can’t hear what you say.” Our walk in life has to be worthy of emulation or it becomes an obstacle to others who see what we do and then ignore what we say. This is especially true for our children.