The reign of the judges among the Nephites was fraught with dissension and war. In Alma 43 the wicked Zoramites have joined ranks with the Lamanites in anger over the sheltering of converted Zoramites among the people of Ammon. Moroni leads the Nephites in battle, with spiritual guidance from Alma the younger. The scriptures make a point of comparing the Nephites with the Lamanites to demonstrate how and why God blesses and helps one group over the other, and to explain how the Nephites could triumph over an opposing army twice its size.
Both armies expended a great deal of time, energy, and resources to fighting. The Lamanites were especially fierce (v. 44). So how could a smaller army possibly match and defeat them? Alma comes down firmly on the explanation: “Nevertheless, the Nephites were inspired by a better cause…they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church” (Alma 43:45). The “better cause” that imbued the Nephites with greater strength and success in the war centered on God, family, freedom, and religion. Described as a “better cause,” these priorities have eternal significance.
How often do we expend time, energy, and resources on things of little value that don’t matter in the eternal long-run? Sometimes I arrive at the end of a busy day and wonder what I did with my time that really matters. I got lots done according to my to do list but the details fade quickly in the absence of eternally significant work. What would be my “better cause” on which to spend time and energy? Could I have a good conversation with one of my kids? Could I minister to someone in need? Could I grow my testimony during more consistent religious study? What would be your “better cause”? What busy work could you drop from your schedule or what daily tasks could you spend less time on to make space for eternally significant work?
I wanted to give you a little food for thought today. I was reading about Amlici in Alma 2 and came across this note in verse 4: “for it was his intent to destroy the church of God.” On the surface, Amlici wanted to be king and was willing to do anything to overturn the new system of government to get what we wanted. But with the piercing insight common to prophets, Alma pinpoints (or Mormon summarizes from Alma’s writings) that Amlici’s secret objective was to destroy the Church.
I couldn’t help but reflect on our modern society. There are a lot of forces at work in our society today that I don’t think come from God. Though these “forces” may not realize it nor acknowledge it, their end result is to bring people into bondage and destroy God’s work. Bondage takes many forms but its core effect is to limit our agency. Agency is a precious gift from God, one that is essential to our salvation because we have to choose salvation and work for it to actually achieve it. Satan wants to limit our agency in any way possible to prevent us from qualifying for and achieving eternal life.
I’ve been giving more thought lately to these societal forces and examining what effect they have on me. Some of these forces are universally acknowledged to have a terrible effect on people (like drugs), and some have varying effects on people. For me, I have noticed that media (all forms) impact me deeply. I have to regulate myself and be extremely picky about what I watch, listen to, and read. Two years ago I eliminated all live television programming from my life. I was in bondage to the television schedule. My viewing habits impacted how I treated my children and they ate up time I wanted to spend on church and personal projects. Not to mention how I obsessed over the content for days and my thoughts became absorbed by my media consumption.
I invite you examine the “hidden” forces in your life that are limiting your agency, prayerfully consider what you can do to free yourself, and take action. No matter how scary those changes may seem at the outset, you will be so much happier once you eliminate those influences from your life and free yourself.