Friday, June 25, 2010

Alma 34

This is another great doctrinal chapter. Amulek states that the great question for all of us is whether there is a Son of God, "or whether there shall be no Christ." Amulek is looking forward. For us, it's whether there was a Christ. That is the most important question we can ponder on. Amulek testifies of the coming of Christ and then teaches the people that there had to be a Savior. Because of the fall, we are all naturally prone to everything mortal. We have bodies that cannot live beyond a certain age. We have dispositions that make it impossible to avoid any sin. Some sin less and others sin more, but we all sin to one degree or another. As Elder McConkie stated, "We know the effects of [Adam's] fall passed upon all his posterity; all inherited a fallen state, a state of mortality, a state in which spiritual and temporal death prevail. In this state all men sin. All are lost. All are fallen. All are cut off from the presence of God." As a result of our sins, justice requires that there be a punishment for our sins. We all want to see the very wicked receive what they deserve, but justice requires a price must be paid for each of our own sins. So without a resurrection and without an atonement, every person that has ever lived, continues in this fallen state and dies without hope for any redemption.

Amulek teaches that since it is impossible for a mortal to overcome his own fallen state, an infinite and eternal sacrifice is necessary and only a God could provide this. Christ inherited mortality, or the capacity to die from his mother Mary. He also inherited from his Father, immortality and the power of God to live forever. His God-given powers also enabled him to suffer the demands of justice for sins and the power to rise as a resurrected being. Having overcome death, he makes it possible for every person to be resurrected or receive an immortal body. Nothing is required on our part for that to happen. But to avoid the demands that justice requires for our sins and receive the benefits of the atonement, repentance is required. If we are willing to accept the Savior and his sacrifice in our behalf, we will not have to pay a price for our transgressions. And it makes sense that anyone who denies him and his sacrifice has to pay their own price that justice demands. Those who do accept him then avoid the suffering of divine justice and receive celestial life, which is an eternal life lived in the presence of God and with our families. The atonement links family members together and this is why when a man and woman kneel across the alter from each other in the temple to be sealed for all mortal time and for all eternity, the symbol for the atonement is shared between the two.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Alma 33

This chapter contains Alma's testimony concerning prayer. He testifies to the people that God will hear and answer all prayers no matter where or when the prayer is given. The interesting bit of information is that God hears and answers our prayers because of his Son. Because the Savior has done so much for us, our Father in Heaven does not want his Son's sacrifice for all people to go unnoticed and unappreciated. Alma teaches the people of Zarahemla that if they will read the scriptures consistently, they will understand this. At the basis of this is a question of why the people of Zarahemla would believe the false teachings of people who do not know, when the true teachings are easily available in the scriptures.

In chapter 32, he told the people what happens when a seed of belief is planted in the heart and nourished, how it grows into a tree that yields fruit of great joy. In chapter 33, the tells the people that seed is belief in Christ, his atonement and resurrection. This seed he says will not only grow in them and lead to everlasting life, but it will ease their burdens now and bring great joy. He says it is not a hard thing to do, but is easy if they have the will to do it. God stands ready to bless us immediately if we turn consistently to him. And in spite of all our daily frustrations, discouragements, and challenges, if we hold fast to Him, he will make our burdens light, our pains less, and grant us more peace and happiness.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Alma 32

This is Alma's great sermon on faith, but in giving it, he really gives us a pattern for gaining knowledge. If a person wants to know how to gain a knowledge of truth, any truth, this is a fool proof pattern that is especially true for gaining a knowledge of spiritual. Alma commends the people who have to him because they are in a state of humility, which he says is the first thing necessary to gain a knowledge of spiritual truth. Since spiritual truth is given through the Spirit, humility is essential. I found a definition of humility and wrote it in the margin of in my scriptures. It says humility is the willingness to acknowledge one's sins and shortcomings and repent of them.

Alma compares the spiritual knowledge to a seed and gives the following steps:

1. Plant the seed - Be willing to listen and to learn. Desire often accompanies humility.
2. Observe the seed's growth - With spiritual truth, you will have a feeling of growth. Your mind will be stimulated and what you read or hear will make sense. It will feel right. Joseph Smith said the truth tastes good.
3. Accept the evidence of growth - If the seed is growing and you can feel the virtue of its nature, this is real evidence that should bolster your faith. Alma asks the question "O then, is not this real?"
4. Nourish the tree - Like any good plant, you have to nourish it continually or it withers and dies. It doesn't wither and die because it was a bad plant. It's because you failed to water and do what was necessary to foster its growth. Undoubtedly, the nourishing is one the most important keys to what Alma is saying and he says the way we nourish its growth is with faith, great diligence, and patience.
5. Be willing to wait - We must be willing to wait. You can't plant a seed and expect a flower the next day. If we patiently wait, he says that what we will experience will exceed not only our expectations, but will exceed everything else possible. Waiting requires faith.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Alma 31

Taking two of his sons and three other brethren, Alma goes among the Zoramites who were formally righteous but have now turned to a false worship that justifies their unrighteousness. In telling us what brought this about, Mormon's words are a good warning to all of us. He says that Zoramites did not keep the commandments, participate in the activities of the church, and continue in prayer. Because of this, they were not protected from temptation. Once a wrong behavior is acceptable, our religious beliefs are affected and it becomes natural to live in inappropriate ways. Living a natural rather than religious life is the opposite to living in faith where the reasons for keeping commandments isn't always obvious.

One of the things that impresses me as Mormon recounts the prayers of Alma as he begins the mission to Zoramites is how much Alma cares for the Zoramites, and especially how personal the Lord is to Alma. To the Zoramites, the Lord is an abstract idea. But to Alma, he is a personal God to whom Alma can personally converse with. It's obvious that Alma has no doubt that the Lord is listening, understanding, andactively involved in what Alma is doing. Alma is not attempting to do something on his own. He knows that any hope for success depends entirely on his being in partnership with the Lord. Without the Lord, Alma could still accomplish much good. But with the Lord, he as the possibility of accomplishing much beyond his own capabilities. That's a lesson I too often forget. I can accomplish much good on my own. But I could accomplish much beyond that if I bring the Lord into all I'm doing. And knowing I'm not alone brings a comfort and confidence that can help me make it through both the mundane and the difficult things of life.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Alma 30

Korihor symbolizes those in the world who would deny that Jesus is the Christ and teach others to believe the same. This denial comes in many forms, that he was just a man, that he was a great teacher and the miracles, atonement and resurrection are myths. The Korihors of the world teach that to believe in Christ, to believe in the scriptures and the prophets is naive and foolish. Korihors are not always people who are obviously evil; they often appear to be important, influential, and the type of people others would want to emulate. Here are some of Korihor's arguments put in our time frame since he lived before Christ and we live after:

1. There is no evidence there is a God or that Christ performed miracles, atoned for people's sins and was resurrected and no one can know these things because there is no evidence. Therefore, no one can know there is a God because no one has seen God.
2. Religion is a tradition. People believe what they believe because that is what they were taught by their parents.
3. Anything we accomplish is based on our strength only. There is no such thing as divine help or intervention.
4. What a person chooses to do is his own business and since it's his own business, it is no sin unless he feels it is a sin.
5. Immorality is acceptable and desirable if it is acceptable to those committing it.
6. There is no life after death, therefore life should be lived to the fullest, fullest being defined as anything goes.
7. Religious belief causes a person to lose his personal freedom and puts church leaders in control of the people.
8. Church leaders use their control to get rich off of the people.

Alma skillfully retorts Korihor's claims and makes some important points. He teaches that everyone not only has the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets as evidence there is a God, but everything in all of creation is evidence there is a God. He points out that immoral freedom does not bring happiness, but those who find deep religious belief are those who experience the deep happiness and joy possible in life. And rather than religion being something that restricts a person, it gives a person more freedom. Finally, and I think this is one of the more important lessons in the chapter, those who are critical of religion like Korihor, know deep down that what they are teaching is not true. Korihor has the purpose of accomplishing exactly what he is accusing the religious leaders of. He wants to get gain, to have control and power, and to establish traditions that are not true and damaging to the people. That is what is so dangerous about Korihors. It is a wise thing to be able to recognize them for what they are when we confronted with them.

Korihor asks for a sign and receives one. He then pleads for it to be taken away and promises that he has changed and will no longer do what he was doing. Alma recognizes that he is like many who are trapped in their sins, once removed from their situation, they return to doing the same things.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Alma 29

There is a great moment in the movie "The Legend of Baggar Vance" where Baggar Vance tells the struggling golfer Randolph Junuh that he has to stop trying so hard and relax and let the game come to him, instead of trying to force the game to go the way he wants it to. He tells him stop thinking with his head and start feeling the game with his hands. In this chapter of Alma, Alma essentially says the same thing. He wishes he was an angel and could do mighty works. H wishes that he had a voice that was like thunder and would shake the earth. I wonder how much of our lives we spend wishing things were different, that there was more to it, or that we had more. Alma tells himself to be content with what he has, to not "harrow up in my desires" which means distress himself over what he wants. He asks himself, "Why should I desire more... ?" If we live our lives righteously, make our decisions as best we can, and let life come to us instead of continually trying to make more of it than need be, if we could be a little less anxious about what we don't have or who we haven't become, we might be able to feel and enjoy more of life's wonderful moments. We would feel a little less guilty and certainly be more at peace with ourselves. The scriptures say, "Men are that they might have joy." I think it says "might" have joy because it's up to us to let ourselves feel it. But it isn't something that we can force on ourselves. We have to let it come to us. Not that life isn't going to give us plenty of stress and distress. But like Alma asked himself, why should we distress over what we think things should be, when what might be isn't even what would make us more happy?

Alma also says his joy comes when he sees others experiencing the joy the gospel brings. In the 15th section of the D&C it says that "the thing which will be of the most worth unto [us is to] declare repentance unto the people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father." Whenever we can bless someone else's life, help make it a little better, we help people be closer to the Lord. There isn't much else that can be more meaningful and lasting in our lives than that. When we focus on that, then who we are, how much we have, or how we compare, doesn't matter.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Alma 28

There are tremendous wars between the Lamanites and Nephites leaving tens of thousands dead. The contrasts Mormon makes are interesting. For instance, among the Lamanites there is mourning for the dead but great fear of what happens after death. While among the Nephites, there is mourning for their dead but rejoicing and hope because they know of what lies beyond death and know because of their righteousness, their dead will be alive in a state of peace and happiness.

The other contrast is the inequality among the people. Sin brings great inequality and suffering. If all men would live the commandments, there would be great equality, more prosperity, fewer poor, and equal opportunities for all.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Alma 27

The Lamanites come to war against the Nephites, but finally realize it is impossible to to win. The promise of the Lord is that when people live upon a promised land and covenant to believe and follow the Lord, he will always protect that land and people. I wonder how often we think of how fortunate we are to live in this land that is consecrated by the Lord and as a result it has never been invaded by another country. Acts of terrorism will occur just as acts of war were attempted by the Lamanites against the Nephites. But as long as our nation remains God-fearing, we will continue to enjoy his protection.

Since the Lamanites, who are motivated to war by the hatred of the Amalakites for anyone who is righteous, can't defeat the Nephites, they begin slaying the Anti-Nephi-Lehi people. This is easy since those people refuse to take up arms. Ammon eventually leads them to the land of Zarahemla where the Nephites grant them an area of their land and promise to protect them if they will help support the armies financially. The Anti-Nephi-Lehi people become known as the people of Ammon, or Ammonites, which is a far better name in my opinion.

In a way, Ammon is symbolic of the Savior in that he brings spiritual salvation to the people and leads them to temporal salvation also. He is appointed the high priest and presides over the Ammonites who think of him as an angel sent from God. In the New Testament, Paul was referred to as an angel in the same way. It's interesting that the Ammonites, who were deep in sin and wickedness and have converted, are now led by a high priest who once was deep in sin and wickedness and converted also.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Alma 26

Among many, there are three things that stand out to me in this chapter at this time. One is, the importance of realizing how much the Lord can make of us and help us accomplish. Ammon says "I know I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak." The he says, "... for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold many might miracles we have wrought in this land." We should keep in mind that miracles are often easily explained away when we don't recognize their source.

The second thing is the question Ammon asks his brethren, "What natural man is there that knoweth these things? I say unto you none that knoweth these things save it be the penitent." A penitent person is one who sorrows for his wrong doing and changes. If we don't know something spiritual, that may be a key.

The third things is evidence to me of how the Lord loves and cares for every single person, and is especially aware of those who choose to follow him.. Ammon says the Lord is concerned for everyone, but he numbers those who choose to be his disciples, "We see 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." I think it is wrong to assume that God loves someone more because they are a member of his church. God loves all people perfectly and equally. I think what Ammon is saying is that God is aware of those who repent, who understand the sacrifice he made for them, and therefore chooses to bless them with blessings that are natural consequences for their actions.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Alma 25

More and more of the Lamanites are converting, especially after the Amulonites attack them and destroy many of them. The Lamanites turn on the Amulonites and drive them out of the land, killing a large numbers of them. All of the prophecies of Abinadi considering the priests of Noah are fulfilled. I remember reading an article on the prophecies of Joseph Smith and all of them, except those concerning the second coming, have been fulfilled. I wonder how much have we been taught about the future with our current prophets? It would be interesting to make a list and see what has been fulfilled. As a missionary, President Kimball spoke to us when he was president of the Quorum of 12 and said, you will see the time come when the church will be using satellites to broadcast the gospel all over the world. This was at a time when the church only used the radio and television in a very limited and local way. Priesthood sessions of conference were broadcast over phone lines to stake centers where we would listen. Now the church uses satellites to broadcast all over the world. One thing is for sure, all that the prophets have prophesied will be fulfilled and I think it's important to remember that knowledge is power.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Alma 24

The Amalekites and Amulonites are people who believed in the gospel at one time, but now have become the most hardened and most wicked of all the Lamanites. The armies of these three groups come to war against the Lamanites who have converted to gospel, the Anti-Nephi-Lehies. The Anti-Nephi-Lehies enter into a covenant with each other and with the Lord that they will never take up their swords again. They do this because they have murdered with those swords and they fear they will sin again. In a way, this is similar to me to a reformed alcoholic who has recovered and will never drink again for fear of returning to the same state he was in before. Once someone realizes the extent of their sins and repents, they do not want to come anywhere near anything similar to those sins again.

It is in this chapter that we see that murder can be repented of and is a forgivable sin. In verse 10, Lamoni thanks God that "he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he has forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son." This whole chapter deals with these Lamanites repenting of their sins, including murder, and being willing to die rather than giving the appearance that they have not repented.

As the Amalekites, Amulonites, and other Lamanites attack the Anti-Nephi-Lehies all of whom have buried their swords, they find them lying on the ground praying and they being to slay them. Finally, they stop the slaughter after killing over a thousand of them. But of these three groups attacking the Anit-Nephi-Lehies, it's only those who aren't Amalekites and Amulonites that are moved to compassion and stop and end up being converted, and the number of the converted is more than the number that was slain.

Mormon makes this sobering observation about the Amalekites and Amulonites, "And thus we can plainly discern that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things." There were people who were living normal lives who joined the church and accepted Joseph Smith as a prophet. They later left the church and ended up being people who were willing to murder Joseph and others that followed him. Apostates are similar in that they are usually people who once believed and having committed sin, and rather than repent, leave the church and fight against those who believe in it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Alma 23

The King of the Lamanites makes it possible for the sons of Mosiah to go throughout all of the land and protected them by law from any persecution. It appears that all but the Amalekites and the Amulonites were converted. The curse is removed from those who are converted meaning to me that they are no longer separated from God. You wonder if their skin color was affected also. The missionaries obviously taught in a manner that was not superficial, but substantial and powerful, "according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy, and [with] the power of God working miracles in them. The conversions of the people were deep and lasting because Mormon tells us that they did never fall away. You have to wonder why they chose to all themselves Anti-Nephi-Lehies. Anti means against, but the definition of anti in dictionaries in the 1820's is like or similar to. It would make sense, if that were the definition of Joseph Smith's time, for him to choose that word when translating.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Alma 22

King Lamoni's father, who is king of all the Lamanites, asks Aaron to teach him. After he has been taught, the king offers a prayer that is amazing to me because it is so similar in part to the prayer that I offered up before I left for school in Chicago. What he says that is similar is, "... if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me." The king then makes this promise, "and I will give away all my sins to know thee." There is the great key to knowing if God exists and to knowing that he is very much involved in our lives and loves us with a perfect love. It asks that we give something of ourselves, and in giving we receive in return is far greater than the price we pay. The king realized this and told Aaron that he was willing to give up all he possessed just to receive the joy of this knowledge.

What has brought King Lamoni and his father to this point is the realization of the most important thing that we can learn in this life, that we are in a fallen and mortal existence. When we understand this this, then we can know understand we are here and what the purpose of our life is. When we truly understand what our fallen nature means, then we realize how much we need a Savior. In verse 14, Aaron says, "And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself." No amount of good works, good thoughts and good intentions can help us to live again after death, let alone live in the Celestial Kingdom. There is nothing we can do to remove the eternal consequences of our sins. This can only come through a Savior. As Aaron states in the same verse, "the sufferings and death of Christ atone for [our] sins, through faith and repentance, and he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory." That is the only way our fallen state can be overcome. It is also the only way that we can find the happiness and peace that surpasses all understanding. It is a small price we have to pay compared to what we receive in return.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Alma 21

One of the evidences that the gospel is based on true principles is how it changes the lives of people and nations. Here, the sons of Mosiah go throughout the different lands of the Lamanites. In most of these lands, the people are hardened, live lives of wickedness, and are not free as a people to do as they wish, and more importantly, they do not have the freedom to believe what they desire to believe, and to worship in whatever manner they might want. In the land of Ishmael where King Lamoni reigns, he introduces the gospel to his people, and as naturally follows, he also grants them the freedoms and liberty that they previously have not had, including the freedom to worship as they desire. Undoubtedly there are many who choose not to accept the gospel, but there is no coercion that would force them to accept it as there is in the other lands of the Lamanites. Finally, we see one of the evidences of those who live in a government of wickedness and forced belief, the people are taught to hate that which is true and hate those who believe that way.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Alma 20

King Lamoni wants Ammon to go with him to meet with Lamoni's father, but Ammon has had a revelation that he is to go to Middoni because three of his brethren are in prison there. Here is a little consistency in the Book of Mormon that I don't think Joseph Smith would have thought of on his own. The Lord commands Ammon to go but gives him no instructions as to how he is to get his brethren out of prison. A similar command was given to Nephi and his brothers to get the brass plates from Laban and they were sent without any directions as to how they were to get them. The Lord expects us to think and act for ourselves. As we move forward in the commandments, he will help us and guide us, but usually that help and guidance only comes as we move forward in faith. Ammon undoubtedly had the same thoughts as Nephi when Nephi said, "I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do."

I think it was the power of the love that had developed between Lamoni and Ammon that caused Lamoni's father to have the change of heart he did. Obviously he was afraid for his life. But once that fear passed, he saw something and maybe felt something he hadn't expected and this completely changed his perception of Ammon and eventually of the Nephites. Mormon says "when he also saw the great love he (Ammon) had for his son Lamoni, he was astonished exceedingly." One of the things this means to me is that Lamoni's father realized that Ammon wasn't what he thought he was. Before he said that Ammon was one of the Nephites "who are sons of a liar. Behold he robbed our fathers and now his children are also come amongst us that they may, by their cunning and their lyings, deceive us, that they again may rob us of our property." The liar he is referring to is Nephi and the tradition has continued down for hundreds of years that Nephi robbed Laman and Lemuel of their land and rights to rule. Prejudice is always based on a false conception and/or a lie. What this also shows is that Nephite's perception of the Lamanites is wrong. Many of them are very good people, but they just haven't learned what the Nephites know concerning the truth about the gospel and about their history.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Alma 19

First King Lamoni, then his wife, then Ammon and then the servants all fall into a type of trance where they are carried away in the spirit. King Lamoni describes what happened when they were in the trance saying he beheld the Savior and saw visions of his birth and redemption. This type of experience is described in a number of places in the Old and New Testaments. Paul describes being in carried away to the seventh heaven. Samuel and Saul and other Old Testament prophets had similar experiences. What is interesting to me is that there are some of the people who believe King Lamoni and Ammon and others who do not and walk away. The essence of the this chapter to me is how important it is to have a believing heart and not let the mind completely rule our thoughts and conclusions. Human logic and spiritual experience do not coincide in mortality. There is no human logic to a spiritual experience because it cannot be completely explained. Only when you have a similar experience does it make sense. When a person has a spiritual experience, it then makes sense and falls into such logic as to be undeniable both mentally and spiritually. This will be true for everyone of regarding all knowledge and experience after this life when we will see and know all things as they really are. In the meantime, it is important that we have believing hearts regarding spiritual things. Those things we don't understand, we need to have faith about, just like Lamoni's wife who didn't understand all that was happening, but still had a believing heart and faith to believe Ammon's words. Her faith was so strong it led Ammon to explain he had never seen such faith among the Nephites who had the gospel, prophets, and scriptures.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Alma 18

King Lamoni has no conception of God or religion other than he thinks there is a great spirit that rules the universe. To me, this is much like some people today who say they think there must be some ruling power in the universe but no one knows what it is. Now Ammon has to teach a king who probably thinks he knows everything but in reality knows nothing. So where do you begin with someone like that? We don't have all that Ammon said, but seems he begins at the beginning explaining who God is and what he is like. Even though it's not included here, Ammon surely would have included the concept of pre-mortal life. Then he teaches the king about the creation and continues teaching about each of the prophets and down to the time of Lehi. This included the fall and redemption of man. Lamoni, who is a king who has murdered many people and probably committed many other terrible crimes, now gains an overwhelming sense of his guilt and fallen state. Realizing the stat of his spiritual destruction, he is completely overcome, pleas to the Lord for mercy and then collapses.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Alma 17

We've seen in the last chapters how much Alma has repented and in this chapter we learn how much the sons of Mosiah have repented. For fourteen years they have been doing missionary work among the Lamanites who must be divided into many factions, some large and some small. Mormon describes the Lamanites as a wild, hardened and ferocious people who love to murder, rob and plunder so this isn't your everyday missionary work. Mormon says that the sons of Mosiah had fasted and prayed for the Spirit, that they had searched the scriptures diligently to understand and know the word of God. As a result, they had the spirit of prophecy and revelation and could teach with power and authority. To know and understand requires a solid effort on our parts and what worked for the sons of Mosiah can work for us. The Lord wants us to understand and know because of the great blessings that come from knowing what is true. But he isn't going to give it away without a price. In a way, it's like the temple. Because of its sacredness, we have to be worthy to enter and when we attend on a regular basis we understand more and more what happens there and gain the spiritual knowledge it offers. The first times we go can be confusing and even strange. I think that's because we're looking for things before we're ready to receive them. Sometimes it's better to sit back and feel and let the Holy Ghost do his work in his own time. Even if we don't know at first, we can still feel the peace which is a testimony and knowledge all of its own.

Ammon slays some of the men who scatter the sheep and cuts off the arms of others who attack him. Obviously the Lamanites aren't too bright. They have clubs, he has a sword. That would cause me to hesitate but they are angry because of Ammon has killed some of them with his sling. What makes the difference is their numbers and he's only one. Ammon has allowed himself to adapt to the traditions of the Lamanites by living among them and living with them. He follows their traditions by taking the severed arms to the king as evidence of what he's done. First he impresses them by doing something their way, a lower way, then he will impress them by doing things the Lord's way. Sometimes when in Rome, we have to do what the Romans do in order to gain the trust and love of the people. The key is that what we do never lowers our standards or betrays our religious beliefs so that the people can see a difference. Then they have a choice. If we lower ourselves to their level morally and religiously, we become just like them and their are no differences and no choice to make.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Alma 16

In verse thirteen, we learn that the Nephites had many temples, sanctuaries, and synagogues. Commentaries suggest that the normal day to day worship and instruction was in the synagogue and the larger meetings were held in the temples and sanctuaries. Verse eighteen talks about how the priests taught the people to overcome all sin. When we eliminate impurities from our lives, the Holy Ghost can provide us with pure intelligence and revelation if we seek it. Joseph Smith said that when he had a problem to solve, he would think and pray on it and eventually thoughts would come into his mind that were so clear that there was no doubt that he was being influenced by the Holy Ghost. There are times when we know, without explanation, that something is right. It might be something spiritual; it might be something to do with our daily life. Providing us with that kind of guidance is one of the roles the Holy Ghost.

The great city of Ammonihah, whose people said could never be destroyed, was destroyed in one day. The city is a symbol for us of what happens when total wickedness is accepted. The Savior had warned the many cities around the Sea of Galilee of their impending destruction and and Tiberius is the only one to have survived. The Nephites cities are also symbolic of what happens when people live a righteous life and care for each other. It says that they had continual peace. The same promise is available to us as individuals. When we live our life in the right way, we can also experience a continual peace even when in the midst of difficult things.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Alma 15

In this chapter we learn that Amulek has left everything to accompany Alma in his ministry. He was a wealthy man and verse 16 tells us that he forsook all his gold, silver and precious things. On top of that, all of his friends rejected him as well as his own father and family. The Savior taught that there would be men and women who would have to leave family to follow him. It is a sad thing that some people will distance themselves completely from someone who accepts the gospel and becomes a member of the church. The Lord said his gospel is like a two edged sword that divides truth from error. No one wants families to be united more than the Savior but he knew a price would be paid at times. This was especially true during his ministry where the division between a Jew and a Christian was extreme. But it holds true during our times as well. In Matthew he said, "Think not that I cam come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. I come to set a man at variance with his father and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me... and he that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Alma 14

It is hard to imagine the state of mind of a people so wicked they would cast women and children into a fire to be burned to death. Then they try to make Alma and Amulek feel like they are to blame because these martyrs believed what they preached. This to me is one of the three most tragic incidents in the Book of Mormon. The other two are the destruction that takes place at the time of the Savior's death and the complete destruction of the Nephite nation at the end of the Book of Mormon. The wickedness of these people has reached a level where the suffering of the women and children does not bother them in the least. It reminds of the Nazis exterminating millions and treating others without the least bit of feeling or concern for the suffering they are inflicting. I also can't imagine the guilt Zeezrom must have felt for undoubtedly he knew he contributed to there state of unbelief. We learn more about that in the next chapter. The interesting thing is that among all of their accusations of Alma and Amulek is the taunt of "How shall we look when we are damned?" These are words that will come back with exquisite remembrance when justice requires it's full weight in facing the consequences of their actions. I cannot imagine either the realization they would have felt in coming to a recognition of the Savior's love in comparison to their total lack of feeling. In this chapter, Alma and Amulek are beaten seven times before the Lord destroys the prison and the leaders.