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. :)
Alma 8:10 - "Nevertheless Alma labored much in spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer..." How often do I 'wrestle' with God in 'mighty' prayer? Not often. I'll be honest. and when i do pray like that, it's usually because i really want something or some crisis has happened. as a bit of a justification to this, alma really wanted something too. continuing in that verse, "...that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who weer in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance." I would call that a worthy thing to pray for. I should have prayed like that every day on my mission for my investigators. Now I probably should pray every day like that for my family, or my loved ones, or people I actually hope to see in the Celestial Kingdom who aren't quite on the path that will take them there.
Guilt aside, I have indeed wrestled with God a time or two in mighty prayer, and I can testify that wrestling is never in vain. I've always received the answers I needed. One time i received one of the clearest answers i've ever had and no wrestling was involved. Twice, actually. Once when I learned I was supposed to serve a mission, the other time when I learned I was supposed to marry Nick.
So Alma meets Amulek and they go testify to the people and preach repentance unto them. Alma makes the point that, "...If this people, who have received so many blessings from the hand of the Lord, should transgress contrary to the light and knowledge which they do have, I say unto you that if this be the case, that if they should fall into transgression, it would be far more tolerable for the Lamanites than for them." The point being that the Lamanites are wicked because they don't know any better. Those he is preaching to have received knowledge and should know how to behave and that they need to repent. comparing the two, he basically is saying the higher you go, the further you fall.
Is there anything not good about Alma 5-7? When Alma steps up to preach, sit up and listen because you're gonna hear some good stuff. Since he says it all, I will say very little. Alma 5:21 - "I say unto you, ye will know at that day that ye cannot e saved; for there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins." The word I noticed here was 'purified.' The reason I take such notice of that word is because it caused me to remember a class I took once from David A. Christiansen. He admonished us to remember that when we depart from this life we won't be perfect, but we should be pure. Thus repentance is so necessary to cleanse our inner vessels. No one, save Jesus Christ, has reached perfection in this life, but purity is possible as we strive to obey God's commandments and repent continually of our mistakes and always try to be better today than we were yesterday.
Alma 7:14 - "Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness." Here I see the word 'cleanse' and again get that idea of purity. I reiterate: perfection is an eternal goal, but purity should be a daily goal.
Now we enter the book of Alma. While the basic themes of the Book of Mormon continue with admonishments to obey the Lord's commandments and examples of the cycle of righteous and wickedness that was previously mentioned, Alma so far is a factual book of more historical context of wars and dissensions. The Lord did spend much time strengthening Alma and his people as they went to war as He has promised to preserve them as long as they are righteous.
The curse that fell upon the Lamanites is mentioned in Alma chapter 3. The purposes of that curse are reiterated as the Lord explained it is so that the seed of the righteous do not intermingle with the seed of the unrighteous. A point is made in verse 19: "Now I would that ye should see that they brought upon themselves the curse; and even so doth every man that is cursed bring upon himself his own condemnation." Many think that God sends curses upon us, and perhaps he does, but if it is a legitimate curse and not just the natural order of things, I think it is very clear that we are recipients of curses according to our actions. With this in mind I think we should be better able to distinguish between a curse and a trial. If one has done nothing to merit God's wrath, I believe one can safely assume that the trials he or she suffers may be for his or her good. And we would be very prudent to remember whom we should call upon to help us through these times of trial.
If there's one thing the book of mormon teaches us continually it is this: when we are righteous, we will prosper in the land. usually that prosperity brings pride and then wickedness, so we fail to prosper. poor conditions humble us and we remember God, so we become righteous, and then again we prosper in the land as it says in Mosiah 27:7 "And the Lord did visit them and prosper them, and they became a large and wealthy people."
In 27:14 we are told why an angel of the Lord has been sent to Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah: "...the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant alma, who... has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith." I know first hand about these prayers made on a child's behalf. While I didn't receive a visit from an angel, I may as well have. Many people have acted as angels in my life to draw me to repentance at long last. The prayers of my mother were indeed answered according to her faith.
Yes. I was neglectful and i skipped writing for a day. i did still read, though.
Mosiah 21:15 - "And now the Lord was slow to hear their cry because of their iniquities; nevertheless, the Lord did hear their cries, and began to soften the hearts of the Lamanites that they began to ease their burdens; yet the Lord did not see fit to deliver them out of bondage." Now, I am not one to question the Lord's motives, so if "the Lord sees fit" to something or other, I really don't think much of it. I find it miraculous (and rightly so, i think) that the Lord has the power to soften the hearts of anyone. A Lamenite's heart. My heart. It's this miracle that makes it so easy for me to believe that he is God. Why doesn't the Lord soften more hearts more frequently? Maybe no one's asking him to, or perhaps he doesn't "see fit" to do so.
Mosiah 23:21-22 - "Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith. Nevertheless--whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day. Yea, and thus it was with this people." In these verses we see again things that the Lord sees fit to do. There are also a couple of important virtues listed: Patience and Trust. I find that any virtues that need to be developed most often must be helped along by the hand of the Lord through our experiences. These experiences need not always be pleasant, but they are the best things for us to help us develop the virtues needed. thus the Lord "seeth fit" to try our patience to develop our trust.
So much good stuff in these chapters. Abinidi is on fire! (pardon the pun, but i really mean the spiritual fire). "...all those who have hearkened unto [the prophets'] words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God. For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions..." (Mos 15:11-12) So, Christ has atoned for all sins, but here it seems there is a stipulation that he has only atoned for the sins that get repented of. Perhaps this is not the meaning, though. Maybe this means that he makes the atonement for all sins so that those who repent may take advantage and be saved. Since Christ hopes that all may take advantage, then he indeed took upon him all sins, those repented of, and those which were not. This to me makes it triply important that I repent of mine that his suffering for me not be in vain.
Verses 22-23: "And now, the resurrection of all the prophets, and all those that have believed in their words, or all those that have kept the commandments of God, shall come forth in the first resurrection; therefore they are the first resurrection. They are raised to dwell with God who has redeemed them; thus they have eternal live through Christ, who has broken the bands of death." So even though everyone eventually will be resurrected, the initial and most glorious resurrection is reserved for the faithful.
Verses 26-27: "...the Lord redeemeth none such that rebel against him and die in their sins...that have known the commandments of God, and would not keep them; these are they that have no part in the first resurrection... salvation cometh to none such; for the Lord hath redeemed none such; yea, neither can the Lord redeem such; for he cannot deny himself; for he cannot deny justice when it has its claim." Many people think that having limitations is proof that God is not God. For me, though, these so-called "limitations" are what make him perfect: He is subject to his own laws and cannot change them willy-nilly. To me that is more permanent, eternal, and God-like.
A bit of history here. Ammon is awesome. I love how the prophets of the Book of Mormon always seem to know the right thing to say. I wonder how that could be? :) Then we get into Abinadi's prophesying. Isn't it funny how the truth hurts those who are unwilling to abide by it? I think it hurts the most because sinners know the truth inherently, but if they can ignore it, they have no need to feel guilty for anything they do. Anyway the prophesies of Abinidi sure do anger King Noah.
Continuing on with his speech, King Benjamin brings up several other points, one using the same logic as the thought about service: "And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another." (4:21) Again, God gives us everything, why can't we share what we have?
One scripture discussed often by my mission president was Mosiah 5:2 - "...we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually." One essential element of conversion is that literal "mighty change" of heart. It was fruitless to baptize without it. People could believe all of the doctrine, but without the change of heart, their conviction to follow it was weak at best and they often fell away soon after baptism. This change of heart will inspire life-changing behavior. It can free us from vice and anger. It can purify even the blackest of hearts. This is possible because of the cleansing power of the Spirit.