Alma 31 needs a little more attention before I treat some later chapters. Verse five has stuck with me the last few days and I finally realized why. Verse five reads in part:
And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead 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….
The preaching of the word led people to do good and had a powerful effect on them. In other words, learning the Gospel of Jesus Christ more consistently resulted in righteous behavior than any other event or practice. Reading between the lines, the teaching and learning of the Gospel impacted not just individual behavior but its effects extended to the community as well.
So often in our modern society when something goes wrong, we blame ineffective laws and law makers, schools and curriculums, government and law enforcement. What if there was something we were completely missing, something that could actually solve all of society’s man-made problems, inequalities, tragedies, and more? Alma knew that the Gospel of Jesus Christ would have a more powerful effect on the behavior of the Zoramites and the peace of the Nephite nation than anything else he or the chief judge could throw at their problems. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer.
What national headlines have troubled you this year? There are plenty to choose from. How about gun violence? The number of shootings in public locations seems to have increased dramatically this year. Whatever the specific motivation for the gunman’s behavior, a knowledge of and appreciation for the sanctity of human life, a deep-seated commitment to personal worth and potential, and a covenant relationship with God to keep His commandments could have kept that gunman from ever walking down the path toward murder. What about corruption at the highest levels of business administration? Jesus Christ teaches us to value the needs of others above our own needs or wants, to humble ourselves and control our desires, to give freely rather than be greedy. What about bullying or the macro version community disagreements running along cultural divides? Jesus Christ teaches us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (remember that even mortal enemies are our neighbors), to do good to all people (even the ones who “despitefully use you,” see Matthew 5:44, NT), to serve others and forgive freely (see Mark 11:25, NT; D&C 64:10). The effects of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are real and can have tremendous influence for good.
Now, natural disasters are going to happen and people have their agency; someone who knows the Gospel can still make a choice to go against its teachings. Until Christ returns to the earth and Satan is bound, tragedies and abuse and war and social unrest and crime are just going to be part of life. But the Gospel also provides the balm for every spiritual/mental/emotional wound: Peace and healing through Jesus Christ.