Day 65: No cause for unbelief

Helaman 14:12, 28, 31

I want to connect three separate ideas I came across in Helaman 14. This chapter continues the record of Samuel the Lamanite’s preaching and prophecies to the Nephites. Samuel doesn’t mince words and there are several important truths he proclaims in simple, clarifying terms that come to bear on every person on earth.

The first eternal truth identifies Jesus’ role in the universe. Samuel’s description of the coming Savior as “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of earth, the Creator of all things” makes His sacrifice that much more compelling (Helaman 14:12). Our Creator sacrificed HIMSELF for us. He chose to come to earth, live through mortality in extremely humble circumstances, suffer excruciating pain, and endure an ignominious, painful death all for US. I stand all amazed.

A few verses later Samuel reifies this prophetic information by explaining that God will provide sensate proof of its reality and truth. No one has an excuse to not believe because “these signs and these wonders should come to pass upon all the face of this land, to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men” (Helaman 14:28).

Finally, Samuel the Lamanite concludes his testimony of the Savior and the need to believe in Jesus Christ by reminding the people that they have the power to choose (Helaman 14:31). Even after the testimonies and the signs are given, each person must choose for him-/herself whether or not to believe and act on that belief. If they choose to believe in Christ, they choose life, eternal life through faith, good works, repentance, and consistent effort to follow Jesus Christ.

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 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 51: Building Your Spiritual Defenses

Alma 50:1-6

Yesterday I was reading another blogger’s reflections on putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:14-17, NT). Putting on the armor of God isn’t a new concept to Christians and the need to take defensive spiritual measures is increasingly important in today’s world. It reminded me of a direct corollary in Alma 50, where Captain Moroni carefully fortifies not just the Nephites’ weakest or most strategically prone cities but “every city in all the land” (Alma 50:6).

Moroni’s vision for city defenses expanded well beyond increasing the size of a city guard or building taller walls. First, the army built earth works around every city upon which they constructed “works of timbers built up to the height of a man” (v. 2). Then they built “a frame of pickets” that was “strong and high” (v. 3). Finally, they built secure towers that could serve as protection as well as provide strategic positioning for armed response (v. 4-5). In several instances, the Lamanites were so taken aback by the fortitude of Moroni’s defenses that they ran away rather than risk sure defeat (Alma 49:4-11).

Just as we can put on “the breastplate of righteousness,” gird our loins about with truth, dress our feet with the Gospel, shield ourselves with faith, wear the helmet of salvation, and wield “the sword of the Spirit,” we can build significant spiritual defenses for ourselves and our families. If we (and our families) are the city, what initial activities build our spiritual life and foundation? What daily, weekly, and monthly practices can act like the earthworks, timbers, and pickets to strengthen our testimonies and conversion to Christ? Who can provide additional defense and act as resources to help us on our journey through life?

In one area on my mission we found and used a handy visual aid for teaching the principle of personal spiritual defenses. (NB. I can’t take credit for this visual aid; another missionary had left it behind.)

Alma 50 Visual Aid

Our initial spiritual defenses include Baptism by Immersion by proper authority, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, temple ordinances, and access to priesthood. We fortify ourselves with daily prayer, scripture study, repentance, and the exercise of faith. Consistent obedience to the commandments, regular fasting, participation in missionary work, and service to others increase spiritual strength and resistance to temptation. The support of parents (family), teachers, Bishops (local Church leaders), and the guidance of living prophets and apostles provide additional critical defense in the form of warnings, counsel, and encouragement.

To parody Alma 50:6, “Thus [we can] prepare strongholds against the coming of [our] enemies.” Whether we’re shoring up against a known personal weakness or fortifying ourselves against Satan’s standard but relentless attacks, we can apply Moroni’s example of thorough defense to ourselves and our families.

 

Day 48: Peace in this life

Alma 38:8

Peace is often connected in the scriptures to promises associated with eternal life and exaltation. In Alma 38, the prophet Alma the younger helps us understand how to receive peace in this life, a peace that prefigures the permanent and eternal peace of the next life.

Alma recounts his conversion story for his middle son, Shiblon, in this father-son interview of counsel and Gospel teaching. Alma hasn’t made any secret of his wild and wicked youth, and uses his experience as a launch pad to help others understand the importance of the Gospel and the reality of Jesus Christ. Alma is a powerful witness of the mercy of God and the saving power of Jesus Christ. He tells Shiblon that after the angel warned him and the sons of Mosiah, Alma “was three days and three nights in the most bitter pain and anguish of soul” (Alma 38:8). Have you ever felt “bitter pain” or “anguish of soul”? Can you imagine feeling that constantly for three days?! But when Alma, remembering something his father had preached, called upon Jesus Christ to have mercy on him, he received “a remission of [his] sins” and found “peace to [his] soul” (ibid.)

In Alma’s experience, receiving a remission of his sins resulted in peace. There’s the obvious explanation that a person feeling tormented by his/her sins will be at peace once s/he has repented and received forgiveness from God. But I see additional insight here into the nature of peace and what Alma is really getting at. We experience peace in this life when our conscience is clear and we are in good standing with God. If we are keeping the commandments and following God’s counsel and laws, we will have peace. In my own experience, I can have this kind of peace even in the midst of stressful situations, life challenges, or other problems that typically cause pain and distress.

True peace comes through Jesus Christ as we repent regularly, keep God’s commandments, and live up to our covenants.

Day 47: Live in Thanksgiving Daily

Alma 34

Celebrating Thanksgiving today put me in mind of gratitude and its supreme importance to this life. When a person is grateful, s/he humbly acknowledges the contributions others make and genuinely appreciates them. King Benjamin taught his people that gratitude constitutes one of the most important ways we can try to repay God for everything He does for us. As I read through verse 38 in Alma 34, I realized that Amulek shaped much of this sermon to the Zoramites around being thankful––why we should be grateful to God and ways we can appropriately show our gratitude.

First, why should we be grateful to God? King Benjamin instilled in his people a sense of their indebtedness to God. At the heart of our debt to God is the willing sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son to “atone for the sins of the world” (Alma 34:8). Jesus’ earthly ministry and “great and last sacrifice” give our lives meaning and preserve the purpose for which we were created: we cannot reach our divine potential and inherit God’s kingdom without access to repentance and forgiveness (v. 16). The Great Plan of Redemption comes as a gift from Christ, for “he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name” (v. 15). Jesus encircles us “in the arms of safety” through His Atonement, saving us from the harsh demands of justice by satisfying them Himself (v. 16). God pours out “mercies and blessings” upon us (v. 38).

We are truly indebted to our Heavenly Father and Jesus for everything they do for us! Our existence is only made possible through them. Rightly did Amulek counsel the Zoramites to “live in thanksgiving daily.” He provides specific instructions for how we can appropriately show our gratitude. We need to believe in Jesus Christ for starters and “exercise [our] faith unto repentance” (v. 15, 17). We need to call on God in prayer everywhere, all the time, every day for mercy, for protection, for strength (v. 17-26). We need to pray for others and deliberately and compassionately serve the poor and needy (v. 27-28). We need to soften our hearts and “prepare to meet God” (v. 31-32). We need to repent, cleanse our souls, and fear God (v. 35-37). We need to be patient and develop “a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions” (v. 41).

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in a 2000 Brigham Young University devotional, “Gratitude turns a meal into a feast and drudgery into delight. It softens our grief and heightens our pleasure. It turns the simple and common into the memorable and transcendent. It forges bonds of love and fosters loyalty and admiration” (Wirthlin, “Live in Thanksgiving Daily,” BYU Speeches [Oct 2000]). As we follow Amulek’s counsel to continually demonstrate our gratitude to God, the quality of our lives will improve, our spirits will be strengthened, and our love for God and His children will grow immeasurably.

 

Day 43: Journeying Back to Our Heavenly Home

Alma 26:35-37

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.