Day 77: Lonely, but Never Alone

Mormon 8:2-3, 23-24

Moroni, the final Book of Mormon prophet-historian, was to his knowledge the last Nephite living around 400 AD. An enormous army of Nephites had been decimated at a final, massive battle; of 24 known survivors (Mormon 6:11, 15) only Moroni escaped the Lamanites’ dogged determination to wipe out every last Nephite (Mormon 8:2-3). “[A]nd I even remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people” (Mormon 8:3). Moroni was truly alone. His father had been killed, his people were destroyed; he was left to wander the land in constant fear of his life: “And whether they will slay me, I know not” (ibid.).

Have you ever felt alone? In our day, it’s entirely possible to be surrounded by people and still feel isolated, lonely, unheard, unnoticed, uncared for. I have experienced this. After graduating from college and moving in with my grandma, I struggled to make friends in my single adult congregation. I still remember the pain and embarrassment of trying to make friends and singling out a man one Sunday who I didn’t know was engaged. When his fiancée showed up the next Sunday, I realized what I had done. I felt foolish, embarrassed, frustrated. But nothing could compare with the utter loneliness that descended on me. As a missionary, geographically and technologically cut off from my family and assigned to live with perfect strangers, I felt afraid and isolated for many months. Literally no one knew me. The people who should have been my friends didn’t seem to care about me.

Somehow Moroni pressed on. And somehow, I did, too. Moroni testified:

…and as the Lord liveth he will remember the covenant which he hath made with them. And he knoweth their prayers…. And he knoweth their faith, for in his name could they remove mountains; and in his name could they cause the earth to shake; and by the power of his word did they cause prisons to tumble to the earth; yea, even the fiery furnace could not harm them, neither wild beasts nor poisonous serpents, because of the power of his word. (Mormon 8:23-24)

Like Moroni, I discovered Christ in my extremities. As I walked my lonely paths, I found the Savior walking beside me. He heard my prayers; He organized small details of my life to speak comfort to me and bring great blessings; He provided me with opportunities to grow, to develop self-confidence, to hone talents, to learn how to minister to others, to get outside my comfort zone, to succeed against self-imposed limitations and stiff odds; He kept me safe when I was afraid; He provided for me in my hours of need.

It is tempting in the depths of despair and loneliness to conceitedly think that no one understands. But Jesus Christ truly does understand. He walked the loneliest path of all, through Gethsemane and on to Calvary where even His closest friends abandoned Him. He bore the weight of our sins, suffering, illness, and pain completely alone. On the cross, Jesus even lost the support of His Father’s presence, needing to fully comprehend spiritual death so as to fulfill His role as Savior. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so…. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are” (“None Were with Him,” General Conference [April 2009]).

Jesus Christ understands. He can help you carry your burden, whatever it is. He has felt your pain, loneliness, despair, disappointment. He stands ready to wrap you in the arms of His love and mercy. No matter who you are, what you have done, where you live, Jesus Christ knows and understands you. He loves you perfectly. He can heal you, just as He did Moroni anciently, and just as He has healed me.

Day 75: Peace on earth

3 Nephi 26:17-21

When I read the Christmas story from Luke 2, I prefer to use the translation of verse 14 that makes a slight change in verbiage from “peace on earth, good will toward men” to “on earth peace to men of good will” (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition). The more I study the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the more I am convinced that lasting peace on earth can only be achieved when every person lives the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is exemplified in The Book of Mormon.

Consider what happened in the Americas following Christ’s ministry among the Nephites and Lamanites. The apostles Jesus ordained traveled around, teaching the people, baptizing them and giving the Gift of the Holy Ghost (v. 17). The Church of Christ was organized (v. 21). The apostles and baptized members of the Church “did do all things even as Jesus had commanded them” (v. 20). The people taught and ministered to each other (v. 19). As a result of the spread of the Gospel, the rise of the Church, the people keeping the commandments and ministering to each other, “they had all things common among them, every man dealing justly, one with another” (v. 19).

This sounds like peace to me! People living in harmony, sharing generously with each other, loving each other, being just to each other. Jesus teaches people to love, to give freely, to be kind, to think the best of others, to work on personal imperfections and be generous with the imperfections of others, to care for the needs of others, to be just and merciful, to tell the truth, to have good will. If everyone lived this way all the time, we would have peace on earth.

So, rather than wish for peace on earth this Christmas, I’m going to try a little harder to live after the manner of peace and teach my children to do the same.

Day 68: The Arm of Mercy

3 Nephi 9:3-14

While the death and destruction of 3 Nephi 9 are pretty devastating, I was struck by the Savior’s words as he speaks from heaven to the Nephites and Lamanites. In verses 3-11, Christ names specific cities, describes their destruction and the reasons for it. The Savior was intimately aware of even the minute details of people’s lives, behavior, actions, geographic location, and more. And despite all of the wickedness, despite the ways in which the people rejected Christ and His prophets, He invites them “we ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you? … Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you” (3 Nephi 9:13-14).

Have you ever carried an emotional, spiritual, or other weight around with you for a while, long enough that you have forgotten what it’s like to live without that weight on your shoulders? I have. I also know the relief and freedom of finally having that burden lifted, realizing what I have lost while carrying it around, and rejoicing in my new freedom. This is what it’s like when the Savior heals you. Sins weigh us down, whether or not we recognize it in the moment. When we repent and seek forgiveness through Jesus Christ, those spiritual burdens will be removed; the difference will be stark.

No matter what you’ve done, the Savior is eager to help you repent and heal you. He has satisfied the demands of justice and, if you turn to Him for help, He can apply mercy. And He will heal you.

Day 59: Belief and Action

Helaman 3:27-30

I felt so moved this morning as I read the Book of Mormon writer’s (I think it’s Mormon here) reflections on the miracle of the Savior’s saving power.

Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name.

Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.

Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked–

And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.

I’m not going to try to embellish these verses but I do want to point out a few of the phrases that struck me so forcefully.

  • “The Lord is merciful unto ALL” and “the gate of heaven is open to AlL”
  • We must be sincere as we lay claim on God’s mercy
  • Being saved requires that we believe in Jesus Christ and “lay hold upon the word of God,” act on our belief
  • The word of God cuts through the distractions and temptations of this life
  • Our goal in this life should be to become women and men of Christ
  • Laying hold upon the word of God, acting on our belief/faith, will “land our immortal souls” in the kingdom of heaven
  • If we follow the strait and narrow course to the kingdom of God, we will have the peace of dwelling “in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23)

I am so grateful for the Savior Jesus Christ, for His mercy, His love for ALL God’s children, His Atonement, His saving power, and His invitation to follow Him and receive the gift of eternal life.

Day 58: Remembering

Alma 62:49-50

Memory is a really important concept in the scriptures. We are meant to “remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8, OT), to “always remember” Jesus Christ (Mormon 4-5, BoM), “and to remember his holy covenant” (Luke 1:72, NT). Remembering should impel us to action such as doing sabbath appropriate activities; fostering thoughts of Christ to influence our day-to-day choices and behavior; making choices in keeping with our covenants.

Following Captain Moroni’s successful conclusion of the war, Nephite society began again to flourish. Many people became wealthy and the society as a whole prospered. Usually this spells disaster for the Nephites “[but] notwithstanding their riches, or their strength, or their prosperity, they were not lifted up in the pride of their eyes…” (Alma 62:49). The crucial difference between pride and humility? Remembering.

The Nephites were not “slow to remember the Lord their God; but they did humble themselves exceedingly before him” (ibid.). Part of remembering God seems to include a present awareness of His existence and one’s relationship to Him. Keeping God present in our thoughts helps us keep an accurate perspective on mortality. Also, the Nephites

“did remember how great things the Lord had done for them, that he had delivered them from death, and from bonds, and from prisons, and from all manner of afflictions, and he had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies” (Alma 62:50).

By maintaining a present and active awareness of God through memory, the Nephites stayed humble, they prospered temporally, their society expanded, and they received many blessings from God.

One additional thought I’ve been mulling over is how I experience joy every time I remember something specific God has done for me. That feeling of joy improves my life in the moment but also motivates me to active gratitude through obedience and careful covenant keeping.

What experiences have you had that bring you joy in the process of remembering them? How could more intentional “remembering” make God more present in your life?

Further Reading

Henry B. Eyring, “O Remember Remember,” General Conference (Oct 2007).

Day 57: And I Will Remember It No More

Alma 59-62

I’ve been struggling the last few weeks with some bitterness over a dispute. We feel like we’re being taken advantage of, but it feels unChristian to pursue legal action. And so, every day, I get caught up in a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings that range from regret to disbelief that they could be so unkind to anger over their unjust treatment of us to bitterness that justice will only be served if we do them an unkindness in return.

It’s tough to admit but I’ve been caught in this cycle before. I hold on to wrongs done me until they canker on my soul. I know I need to resolve in myself to forgive and forget, but what about justice?!

Captain Moroni and I seem to be on the same page these days. Alma 59 and 60 comprise the culmination of Captain Moroni’s history. Throughout the war chapters we get little notes that Moroni wrote to the government for supplies, reinforcements, etc., but the government has stopped answering his letters. Moroni reaches a point of anger and desperation in which he threatens to use his military forces to overthrow the government. He feels like the government is being unjust, he feels like he isn’t receiving the support he needs to reach the objectives of the campaign, he feels like he’s letting the army down and putting them at terrible risk.

When the chief governor finally writes back to reveal that he has had to escape from Zarahemla due to local divisions and rebellions, Moroni forgets his anger and rushes to aid Pahoran.

I was touched by the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at a friend’s service of lessons and carols tonight: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6; Luke 11, NT). When we petition the Lord for forgiveness, He requires that we must forgive others. The Lord also promises that if we repent of our sins/trespasses, He will remember them no more (D&C 58:42; Hebrews 10:17, NT; Jeremiah 31:34, OT). As I have learned in the past, the greater sin lies with me when I refuse to forgive. It drains my emotional and spiritual strength, the issue becomes distracting and all-consuming, and it makes me very unhappy.

Captain Moroni could have sought for justice but instead he quickly forgave and rushed to the aid of the chief governor. Rather than becoming bitter over Pahoran’s lack of communication and the cost to the army, Moroni focuses on fulfilling his objective and role as captain of the army.

Perhaps it’s time for me to focus on my objectives rather than let anger and bitterness overtake me. My objectives to raise my children well, who become steadfast and firm in the faith, don’t rely on our rental dispute being resolved. But my children could benefit from our example of forgiveness. And they will benefit from me being less distracted and angry! It’s probably time to let go, forgive those who trespassed against us, and move on.

Day 49: Precious Souls and Redemption

Alma 39:17 and Alma 40-42

“[I]s not a soul at this time as precious unto God as a soul will be at the time of his coming?” Alma asks his younger son, Corianton. God provides the Plan of Salvation because we are each precious to Him. Each and every person who has lived, currently lives, and will live on earth is a beloved son or daughter of God. So loved in fact, that our brother Jesus Christ volunteered to suffer and die on our behalf and our Father in Heaven agreed to sacrifice His Only Begotten Son for the purpose of redeeming the entire human race.

The Plan of Salvation, as explained by Alma to his son, provides the opportunity for mankind to overcome the effects of Adam and Eve’s “fall” and become worthy to enter God’s presence after this life on earth is complete. The two debilitating effects of the Fall include: 1. Spiritual death (separation from God by sin); and 2. Temporal death (separation of body and spirit)––both of which prevent us from entering God’s presence and receiving eternal life (Alma 42:6-7, 9).

The Plan of Salvation hinges on the infinite and eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God Himself coming to earth to experience mortality just like the rest of us but with a clear and heavy purpose (Alma 42:15). Jesus used His mortal ministry to re-establish the essential practices/ordinances of baptism by immersion and bestowing the Gift of the Holy Ghost. He provided the perfect example of how we should live on earth to qualify for eternal life (Alma 42:4, 13). Then He performed the Atonement by which in a miraculous way He accepted the punishment for all our sins. He suffered, bled, and died to complete this crucial transaction, allowing Him to judge and forgive sin (condition 1; Alma 42:22-23). It also provides the gift of Resurrection for every single member of the human race (condition 2; see Alma 40:23).

I love the clear and detailed explanations Alma provides in these chapters about what happens after this life. I love the Savior Jesus Christ for making a glorious life after death possible. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, NT).