There is so much in Helaman that explains clearly why people become wicked, and why God doesn't support them in their wickedness. I'll cite here just one example.
Helaman 12:2-3 "Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One--yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity. And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him." And again, he wants us to remember him and worship him 1- so he can bless us, and 2- so that we don't become corrupt and wicked and set our hearts upon worldly things. i've never seen any citation that would lead me to believe that he wants to be worshiped merely for the sake of being worshiped and adored. it is ALL for our benefit.
Another scripture I want to cite here that is everything to do with my conversion is Helaman 10:6, just the first line: "Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God." The first time i read this i remember a very strong sensation in my heart. A physical sensation, not just an emotional one, that testified to me that God is God, and as such he knows my name. He knows my needs and how to succor and support me. He knows the trials I need to reach my potential, and he knows how to give me comfort in those trials so that I will not become discouraged. As I can call Him by name, so he can call me by name. And he wants to know me and to have that personal relationship with me because I am his daughter. If I love my daughter with everything I am and all I have in me, I can't imagine how much capacity an infinite, omnipotent and perfect person has to love me.
Even though Alma ends, the wars do not. We are seeing in these pages a continued cycle of righteousness bringing prosperity, then pride, then a loss of prosperity, then humility. We see a shift now in the conversion of the Nephites and the Lamanites and as we continue, we know, as Nephi knew, that the Nephites will become extinct but this is due exclusively to their unwillingness to adhere to God's commands.
A verse that i really stuck out to me is this one in Alma 61 verse 15: "...give unto [Lehi and Teancum] power to conduct the war in that part of the land, according to the Spirit of God, which is also the spirit of freedom which is in them." To me this is an incredibly deep idea, and one that rings piercingly true: The Spirit of God can be likened unto the spirit of freedom. God wants us to be free. His commands to us are given exclusively that we may obtain this freedom. This picture is from the FHE manual in one of the first lessons. It depicts how God's plan may initially seem restrictive and satan's may seem like the free-er option, but in the end it shows what those choices we make ultimately may lead to.
And the fighting continues. Lamanites attack, Nephites defend, cities are conquered and reconquered. The 2,000 stripling warriors go forth. A lot of action in these chapters, but as this is another testament of Jesus Christ, we do see the hand of God in this action, still. Alma 50 explains, "And thus we see how merciful and just are the dealings of the Lord, to the fulfilling of all his words unto the children of men... inasmuch as they shall keep my commandments they shall prosper in the land. But remember, inasmuch as they will not keep my commandments they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord... And those who were faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord were delivered at all times, whilst thousands of their wicked brethren have been consigned to bondage, or to perish by the sword, or to dwindle in unbelief, and mingle with the Lamanites."
Lately i have been drawn to the argument that the Lord is unjust in giving us commandments. How does he have the right to tell us what to do? Who is he that we should worship him? To that argument i respond: is there any commandment given that will not eventually do us good? don't kill, don't steal, don't commit adultery, keep the sabbath day holy... are any of these commandments really going to make our lives miserable? love God, love your neighbor... if God is the father of us all and created all things, or bodies, our families, the earth, our sustenance, the plan of salvation, and he has done all that he can to prepare a way by which we may be saved, even unto sacrificing his most beloved son, what in these actions suggests that he has not merited our love, devotion, and yes, even our worship? He is our father in many senses. For these reasons he out to be loved by us and respected. Beyond being our father he is our God. as such he is of a nature to be worshiped. all-seeing, all-knowing, all-encompassing, he surpasses any earthly being we know of. i can think of no argument to the contrary which would persuade me that God should not be worshiped, loved, and respected.
Returning to the book of mormon. The stripling warriors nearly brought me to tears last night. i've never had an emotional reading of the book of mormon until now! These boys, and i say boys because Helaman informs us that they were very young, show a bravery and a faith far beyond many other characters i have seen. in Alma 56 verse 46 we read, "For as I had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth; we would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone; therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of Antipus." And in verse 56 their faith is rewarded: "...there had not one soul of them fallen to the earth; yea, and they had fought as if with the strength of God; yea, never were men known to have fought with such miraculous strength..." We also know that these boys were taught by their mothers that "if they did not doubt, God would deliver them." (47) and so he did. And we have a shining example of faith and courage that is to be both admired and followed. I must resolve to always stand up for what is right and I may also have faith that God will support me in His causes.
Had to play a lot of catch-up last night due to an extremely busy weekend. In Alma chapter 48 we get to hear a lot about Moroni, and we encounter my favorite verse in the BOM. First, Moroni, he pleads with the Lord that he might know whether or not his people should take up arms against their enemies and is key in inspiring faith in his people. We know he has a strong heart, strong faith, and a strong relationship with our heavenly father. There have been times when i have been concerned about my relationship with my heavenly father. i often feel that i'm not doing enough. that i should be better; that i should be "like unto Moroni" (17) but one time while reading the book of mormon i was absolutely floored by verse 19: "Now behold, Helaman and his brethren were no less serviceable unto the people than was Moroni; for they did preach the word of god, and they did baptize unto repentance all men whosoever would hearken unto their words." So i'm not Moroni. I just have to be me. As i strive to live the gospel and abide by the precepts i am taught, i am no less serviceable to the Lord than Moroni. :)
As alma begins to teach his sons some deep doctrine of the gospel, reading becomes heavy, but at the pace i am reading it has been such an amazing feeling to really feel like my soul understands more about the nature of God. who he is and what his plan really is all about. i would do better to comment on my reading as i go because of the many many times i have been inspired with new realizations. we are so blessed to have the scriptures so easily accessible to us. may i propose one very important thing that i have come to believe: whether or not you choose to read the book of mormon, you are responsible for its contents if you have had the opportunity to study them and have forsaken it.
Besides more specific doctrines, i would like to reiterate here the ongoing themes that i have seen in the book of mormon: obey God's commandments and you shall have eternal life. the righteous will prosper in the land while the wicked shall perish. Christ's coming was prophesied of hundreds and thousands of years before he came, and all that was prophesied came to pass. Christ's mission is to atone for our sins that we may have eternal life should we choose to take advantage of that sacrifice. the scriptures are kept for a wise purpose in the Lord and prophets have been commanded to write the things of God throughout all history.
If you only ever read one chapter in the book of mormon, make it Alma 32.
Okay yesterday's post didn't really count. But, it is what it is. I think i'm doing tolerably well with my goal, so far. I have made it past the half-way point in my first run of a two-month reading of the book of mormon. Alma doesn't seem nearly so formidable at 9 pages a day. He is a wonderful prophet. He is so overcome with the salvation of souls at all times. "O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!" (29:1) Repentance. It is seen on nearly every page of the Book of Mormon. Why did I shy away from the word as a missionary ? For truly repentance is the good news. Because of Christ we can have the burden of sin relieved from our shoulders. We never have to carry it around and as we repent, we are purified and perfected so our desire to do evil is washed away until we grow to feel as Alma does - with a desire to tell everyone that repentance is the key not only to our eternal salvation, but our present happiness, joy, and well-being. In verse 4 of the same chapter we learn that, "...I know that [God] granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction." We are free to choose. We have always been free to choose. God has offered us the greatest of gifts, but we are free to decide whether or not we are going to receive it.
Alma 30:44 - "...and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." I know this to be true. I can see it. God is manifested to me more and more each day as I learn and see the good and the evil (for I know the opposition that exists is more proof that there is a God and an eternal scheme of things) and as i see the beauty and love and wonders of this world.
In Alma chapter 30 we learn about Korihor who goes around telling everyone that there is no Christ so they should be able to do whatever they want without eternal consequence. Alma gives him a sign showing him that he's way off the mark and in the end Korihor is struck dumb and has no means to provide for himself and is trampled to death. Verse 60 teaches a valuable lesson: "And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell."
I am loving my trip through the book of mormon. it's so wonderful to read so quickly and actually be able to remember what happened before by the time you get on to what's next.
People who don't understand God really need to try to understand Alma 14. In this chapter Alma and Amulek are preaching, but their words anger the people so they are made to watch as the wicked people burn innocent women and children. Amulek can hardly stand the sight and asks Alma why they can't use the power of the Lord to stop the cruelty. Alma responds, "The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day." (11) Another example of this is when Ammon is talking to King Lamoni's father after he has threatened to slay Lamoni, "...if thou shouldst slay thy son, he being an innocent man, his blood would cry from the ground to the Lord his God, for vengeance to come upon thee; and perhaps thou wouldst lose thy soul." (20:18) So God rarely interferes with a person's decision to commit sin, in these cases murder, because the commitment of the act shall put the individual under the condemnation of Godly law. If God stays the person's hand, they cannot be condemned, and have little cause to repent. The Lord does however stay the hand of any who try to take the lives of the sons of Mosiah, because Mosiah was promised they would be protected. I, for one, believe that the Lord has his reasons for doing or not doing whatever he does. I don't even begin to think I am wise enough to discern or understand all of God's reasons for doing what He does, but I trust that he knows the best way to act because of his omnipotence and his eternal perspective, neither attribute of which i am privy to.
In Alma 22 Aaron is teaching the King about the atonement and the plan of salvation. The king in verse 7 says "if thou sayest there is a God, behold I will believe." it got me thinking about all the crime committed in the name of God and how many use this as an excuse to believe that God isn't real, or he is not a just God. I believe there exists a great division between the believers and non believers as well as the believers who trust in his plan, and those who don't. I don't really know how to explain this, but the reason people contend against one another in the name of God is because each party wants to be right, and it is with respect to their eternal salvation. I don't think i've made any sense. i can't explain it better than this without some more thought. it's a pretty controversial topic.
At the end of chapter 24 the Anti-Nephi-Lehis have just lost over a thousand souls to the lamanites because they have repented of their sins and would not take up arms against them, but because of this the hearts of the lamanites are softened and the stop slaying them and many are converted. in verse 7, "...thus we see that the Lord worketh in many ways to the salvation of his people." The Lord is all-seeing and all-knowing and knows who needs what to be converted unto him. Thus, he is capable of tailoring our trials and experiences to help us grow. We still choose how to respond to those experiences.
Do you know what happens when your baby takes no naps during the day? your brain turns to mush. So i'm just going to write about the only scripture i starred in last night's reading. Alma 12:10 - "And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full." Basically, we will learn as much as we are prepared to know until we gain a perfect knowledge (should we strive to attain it).
Actually i'm going to go a little further. in chapter 13 we learn something interesting concerning those who are called as prophets as compared to those who aren't. in verse 5 we learn that "...in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren." prophets were "called and prepared from the foundation of the world according tot he foreknowledge of God on account of their exceeding faith and good works..." (3) aaaand my baby is driving me nuts so that's all i'm going to say about that. :)