One of the saddest phrases I have come across during my reading is “and they began to disbelieve” (Helaman 4:23). Speaking of the Nephites, the Book of Mormon writer summarizes their behavior in the lead up to their loss of faith and Gospel knowledge.
This phrase highlighted for me how critical it is to be actively engaged in your faith. Belief takes work. It is a choice we make to believe in the Gospel or not, to believe in Jesus Christ, to believe that there is life after death. Because many of the Nephites made choices to disobey the commandments, to murder, rob and steal, they, in effect, chose not to believe.
Keeping the commandments, serving others, participating in the Church all foster belief. That kind of action reflects a deliberate choice to believe; it is so important to actively growing faith in Jesus Christ.
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.
In my quest to become a better mother I have recognized a terrible weakness in myself that I need to deal with. I tend to obsess over things, including projects I take on, to the extent that I will doggedly pursue my objective regardless of what is going on around me. It’s a great trait for getting things done but it has some unexpected consequences for my children.
Alma 57 taught me a valuable lesson today about the importance of dropping a project to pursue a more pressing need of greater long term value. In Alma 57 the Nephite army sends out a prisoner transport under the direction of Gid to bring Lamanite prisoners from the recently acquired city Cumeni to Zarahemla. While the transport is underway, Nephite spies show up to warn Gid that the Lamanite army will imminently attack the city of Cumeni. The prisoners rebel upon overhearing the report and Gid’s transport is faced with a choice: fulfill their orders to take the prisoners to Zarahemla or act on the warning of the Nephite spies and fulfill the larger objective of maintaining the city Cumeni and keeping the army strong.
In many ways I face a similar choice almost every day with my kids. I will be working on a project or just doing something around the house that needs to be done and one of my kids will come tug on me with an urgent request. I usually keep working on what I’m doing and offer an appeasement, “I’ll come in just a minute,” “I’m almost done with this,” “can you give me a minute?” They usually continue pestering me until I come/listen, but my oldest daughter has started giving up if I don’t stop what I’m doing and pay attention right away. “Never mind,” she says dejectedly. Sometimes they don’t even ask me to look at things or to listen to a story anymore.
Gid’s small group of soldiers reacted to the prisoner rebellion as best they could but instead of doggedly pursuing the few that got away, the group of Nephite soldiers “took [their] march with speed towards the city Cumeni” (Alma 57:34). As a result, “we did arrive in time that we might assist our brethren in preserving the city” (ibid.). Rather than doggedly chase down escaping prisoners to fulfill their initial assignment, they heeded the warning of the spies and returned as quickly as possible to Cumeni where they saved the army and preserved the city.
If I want my children to talk to me (ever), if I want to be part of their daily play and investigation into the wonders of the world, I need to be like Gid’s group and drop what I’m doing. I need to stop letting my projects take priority over my children. They are my number one priority and I need to demonstrate that to them by listening, by playing, by being mentally, emotionally, and physically present. Yes there are going to be boundaries because sometimes an adult needs to not be interrupted but when I’m doing something that really could be put down for a few minutes, I need to walk away from the project and pay attention to my children. None of my projects are worth hurting my children’s feelings or damaging our relationship. It’s time for me to prioritize my children in everything I do because my relationship with them has eternal value and significance.
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).
Several years ago I accompanied a set of sister missionaries to a first teaching appointment. The man we were teaching had been referred by a friend of mine. He and his wife had moved from China, earned college degrees in the US, and recently purchased a home. As we made introductions, the man mentioned that he and his wife were still settling into life in America and often felt out of place. I remembered Ammon’s words from Alma 26:36 and felt a kinship with this man––are we not all “wanderers in a strange land?”
Earth is not our first home and it will not be our last. We were spiritual beings first, children of heavenly parents who sent us out from their heavenly home so that we could have the opportunity to become like them. They sent us to earth to provide us with a mortal experience necessary to prepare us for returning to our heavenly home. Earth is not the final destination on our journey: It is a stopping point where we learn how to use our agency, choose to follow Jesus Christ, make mistakes, repent, participate in the saving ordinances, serve others, and develop godly attributes. Only through the Atonement of Christ can we qualify to return to our first and real home.
The kinship I felt that day as a fellow wanderer in this “strange land” we call earth reinforced to me Ammon’s words “that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth” (Alma 26:37). God loves each of His children regardless of the distinctions so peculiar to mortality. Culture, creed, race, education, language, political affiliation, geographic location, nationality are mortal constructs, purely temporary and secondary to our shared eternal identity as children of God. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is available to all people, for we are each numbered and known to God; He wants each of us to qualify for and receive the greatest gift He can bestow––a place in His house to dwell forever.
The Book of Mormon is replete with the words of Christ and testimonies of Him from His prophets, angels, missionaries, and disciples. I find the dialogue of Mosiah 26 especially beautiful. The premortal Christ responds personally to Alma the elder’s concerned pleading for help on how best to administer the Church in Zarahemla and deal with apostasy and persecution. I don’t feel the need to embellish this section with too many of my own words so allow me to highlight and make brief comments on the passages that really stand out to me:
- God makes the all-important statement of existence: “I am the Lord their God” (v. 26)
- God clarifies His role as the Creator: “it is I that hath created them” (v. 23)
- He states one of His essential roles: “I am their Redeemer” (v. 26)
- God testifies of Himself and His supernal role: “it is I that taketh upon me the sins of the world” (v. 23)
- God confirms His power and the qualifications for salvation and exaltation: “it is I that granteth unto him that believeth unto the end a place at my right hand” (v. 23)
- God acknowledges the official organization over which Alma presides: “this is my church” (v. 22)
- He declares His mercy: “as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me” (v. 30)
Jesus Christ created our earth and mankind under the direction of His Father. He took upon Himself the conditions of mortality in order to understand what we, His children, experience so that He can best help us. He suffered, bled, and died to make repentance viable, forgiveness possible, and gift Resurrection to everyone who has lived, lives, or will live on the Earth.
2 Nephi 24:3
The promise for “rest” in the next life from specific conditions of mortality intrigues me, especially the conditions listed as hallmarks of the mortal experience. As I read this verse I wondered, “what is the “hard bondage” of mortality that we have been “made to serve?” Not everyone on earth has lived or will live in formal servitude but somehow mortality is defined by a type of bondage that all humans serve.
The word “made” could be interpreted literally as “God created us.” We were created to take on mortality and experience life in a physical body. In a way it’s a bondage of the spirit in a physical body, something divine and immortal tied to something mortal and dying. But other conditions of mortality create other scenarios of bondage. What about the human predilection for addiction or vices such as lying that ensnare our mortal bodies, compromise our agency and limit our freedom?
When we become attuned to the ways in which our spirits suffer from addiction, sin, interpersonal conflict, and more, God’s promise of rest in the next life becomes so much more poignant.