Day 37: Being True to God

Alma 11:22

Alma and Amulek’s face-off with the citizens of Ammonihah contains powerful testimony about the Savior from two of the Book of Mormon’s great missionaries. As I read about their interactions with Zeezrom, their chief interlocutor and one of Ammonihah’s leading community figures, I saw a clear application to our day.

In verse 22 Zeezrom sets up what he thinks will be an easy way to destroy Alma and Amulek’s preaching and all “that which was good” (v. 21). He offers Amulek six onties of silver (an onti was the highest value coinage in their society) to “deny the existence of a Supreme Being” (v. 22). Amulek’s testimony of God had become an important part of his character since meeting Alma. He valued the knowledge imparted by the angel who visited him, and he valued the goodness and blessings that God’s prophet (Alma) had brought to him and his household. So, in this moment, what did Amulek value more? Money or his knowledge, testimony, and self-respect?

What do we value today? Do we value our character? Our good name or reputation? What about virtue, honesty, or serving our neighbor? We are faced with Zeezrom-like offers every day, but Satan has increased their subtlety to the point where I think many of us don’t even recognize that we have traded something of eternal value for something of only fleeting worth.

We trade purity for the sating of curiosity. We trade self-respect for something material we want now. We trade a day’s or week’s labor for a promise of “winning big.” We trade the peace of home and the strength marriage for impersonal, physical gratification. We trade our health for a moment of pleasure. We trade agency for something we want now but can’t have. We trade future health and potential prosperity for brief, out-of-body experiences. We trade spiritual sensitivity and bodily strength for a few hours of fun. We trade godly standards for popularity. We trade honesty and integrity for the promise of “getting ahead.” We trade time to have some impersonal fun or entertainment with no tangible benefit. We trade commitment to God’s laws in order to sate ego.

As I read Alma 11:22 I realized that Satan’s subtlety has deceived me many times and led me to trade things of eternal value and significance for things that have no value in the long run. And in so many cases, the thing we trade for is just a counterfeit of what God offers us if we keep His commandments and remain true to Him. It is never wise nor eternally profitable to trade testimony, knowledge, agency, health, or peace of mind for worldly, material, and temporary things.

Like Amulek, let’s be true to God and honor the many gifts He has given us, not least of which are our agency, peace, even the air we breathe, life itself, and the promise of eternal life (see Mosiah 2:21, BoM). Let’s be true to God by being true to our best selves, the divine part of us that endures into eternity.

Day 26: Timely Lessons for Election Season

Mosiah 11

I was really trying to avoid getting political but I can’t ignore the many chapters in this part of the Book of Mormon that provide timely counsel about choosing government leaders. Bear with me. I will not make any allusions to past or current leaders in any country of the world. I want to present the information contained in these chapters because I find it important and instructive. Maybe it will help you, too.

I never cease to be intrigued by how quickly the Nephite and Lamanite nations organized themselves with some form of law and government out of nothing. Remember, three families sailed across the ocean in about 600 BCE to an unknown, uncharted land and created whole civilizations from the ground up. Their initial means of political organization––kingship––lasted for hundreds of years.

Mosiah 11 continues the history of a splinter group that left the core Nephite population (then under the guidance of King Mosiah I) and founded its own community some distance away in the land originally inhabited by Nephi’s family. They appointed their community’s founder, Zeniff, as king. By Mosiah 11, the son of Zeniff has become king:

Noah began to reign…. [H]e did not keep the commandments of God, but he did walk after the desires of his own heart…. [H]e laid a tax of one fifth part of all [the people] possessed…. [H]e put down all the priests that had been consecrated by his father…such as were lifted up in the pride of their hearts…. [A]nd thus they were supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms. (Mosiah 11:1-3, 5)

It is bad enough that “the people labor[ed] exceedingly to support iniquity” (remember the heavy tax?) and that their king was really wicked, but what I find most instructive is how the attitude and behavior of the king impacted his subjects: “And he did cause his people to commit sin, and do that which was abominable in the sight of the Lord. Yea, and they did commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness” (Mosiah 11:2, emphasis added). In one generation, this brand new community founded and led at first by righteous leaders, turns to sin. “They also became idolatrous” (v. 7), “they were lifted up in the pride of their hearts…they did boast, and did delight in…the shedding of the blood of their brethren [the Lamanites]” (v. 19). The Book of Mormon writers make it abundantly clear where the blame lies for the degeneration of this community. The community became wicked “because of the wickedness of their king and priests” (v. 19, emphasis added).

This topic of the effect wicked rulers have on society surfaces again at the end of Mosiah and elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. It behooves us to pay attention. One lesson I take from this theme is a warning against wicked leaders and the damage they cause to society. Another lesson that has informed my application of the American political process is that the merits of a potential government leader can and should be judged by what s/he inspires his/her followers to do. In other words, look at how the supporters of a candidate behave and how they apply the candidate’s platform/rhetoric in their active support (e.g. stumping, at rallies, on social media). “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20, NT; 3 Nephi 14:20, BoM). A candidate who inspires his/her supporters to do anything contrary to God’s laws is a candidate who likely does not deserve my vote.

Day 25: Choose to Believe

Mosiah 8:20-21

O how marvelous are the works of the Lord, and how long doth he suffer with his people; yea, and how blind and impenetrable are the understandings of the children of men; for they will not seek wisdom, neither do they desire that she should rule over them!

Yea, they are as a wild flock which fleeth from the shepherd, and scattereth, and are driven, and are devoured by the beasts of the forest.

In my quest to become a disciple of Jesus Christ (to be serviceable and obedient), I have noticed my own predilection for contrariness. A big part of me fights against being obedient, following the promptings of the Spirit, and desiring godly things enough to act. For example, I knew I needed to serve a mission for a long time before I could bring myself to even fill out the paperwork. As I tried to bring myself around to this personal commandment, I began praying for a desire to serve. Like Ammon exclaimed to Limhi in Mosiah 8:20, the Lord suffered long with me: He was patient and kind and helped me prepare to serve well even as I “fled” from Him.

The Prophet Brigham Young taught that sometimes members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “live far beneath [their] privileges” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. by John A. Widtsoe [1954], 32; qtd in New Testament Teacher Manual, Lesson 30). Certainly Ammon thought so of humankind in general! And while God will suffer long with us because He loves us, if we want to learn the mysteries of God, gain wisdom, and achieve our greatest potential, we have to choose to believe, we have to act out of an inner desire to learn and achieve.

I know from experience that the path of discipleship is no cake walk. Maybe you, like me, “tremble inwardly at what may be required” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Consecrate Thy Performance”, General Conference [Apr. 2002]). But, whatever you do, don’t run away! Choose to believe, pray for a desire to believe if you need to. The Lord will suffer long with you and He will help you not only become your best self, but He will help you achieve marvelous good in this life and receive eternal life in the next.

Day 20: Love versus Fear

Jacob 3:2

A short thought for today as I have reflected on the true opposite of fear. In a previous post I identified the opposite of fear as “fearlessness” but in the scriptures I see a different opposite emerging. When you consider Paul’s teaching in 2 Timothy 1:7, that “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,” it seems pretty clear that the opposite of fear is power/Godly strength, love, and a sound mind (I think of stability, clarity in judgment).

Jacob’s preaching to the Nephites recorded in Jacob 3:2 bears this out in my mind. He writes: “receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever.” Jacob’s words struck me as a prophetic repetition (when multiple prophets teach the same principle in different times and places), inviting the people to enjoy the bounty of God’s love through His word (teachings, doctrine, repentance, etc.). The finally phrase suggested to me that we can enjoy God’s love forever if our “minds are firm,” but also that God’s love builds firmness of mind or a “sound mind.”

Fear can be so unsettling, especially to the human mind. Fear can cause doubt, anxiety, lapses in judgment, crises of faith, despair, and more. But if we feast on God’s love, we can have a firm mind, namely neither be fearful nor be subject to the effects of fear. In God’s love we can experience peace and hope, exercise sound judgment, be wise and calm, find optimism and rest.