I’ve been thinking a lot, lately about being committed to Christ – and serving Him to the end. I’ve always said that I wanted to do it, and a few weeks ago, I realized that desire wasn’t quite enough. Instead, I’ve realized that I need to say I will do it.
Because of this newfound committment, I’ve been noticing more of the ways that the people of the scriptures act – whether they remain steadfast or fall. I’ll discuss something in Alma for now.
At the beginning of the book of Alma, this dude named Nehor comes along. Nehor was an anti-Christ. He started a religion that introduced priestcraft to the people, and it caught on. Nehor ended up killing Gideon, and he was executed for his crime. Despite the death of Nehor, his new religion continued on.
The Book of Mormon tells,
“16 Nevertheless, this did not put an end to the spreading of priestcraft through the land; for there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor.” – Alma 1:16
This introduces us to heart problem number one – loving the vain things of the world. If we want to stay true to God, then we need to check our hearts often (like daily, at least), and make sure that it is God we love.
How is that really accomplished? I think it is done through repentance, prayer, studying the scriptures, and then serving others.
Is it really necessary? To check often? You know – I think it is absolutely necessary…
“4 O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world!” – Helaman 12:4
I used to kind of hate this scripture because it makes me realize how we, as humans, are so weak. Why would we keep making the same mistake over and over again? The last phrase says it all – we have our hearts set upon the vain things of the world.
I know that having my heart set upon the vain things of the world has led me to sin on more than one occasion. So, I need to check my heart – is it set upon God or on silly, worldly things?
Mormons are not immune to this problem. In fact, going back to Alma, we learn:
“24 For the hearts of many were hardened, and their names were blotted out, that they were remembered no more among the people of God. And also many withdrew themselves from among them.” – Alma 1:24
The members of the church, who had allowed themselves to set their hearts on the things of the world, experienced the heart problem number two – the hardening of the heart.
Because these members of the Church allowed their hearts to become hardened, the church underwent major trials, and we learn of three groups of people at the time:
- The members of the church who once had soft hearts, but their hearts were hardened through their own pride and focus on carnal things. This led to sin and then eventual ex-communication.
- A group of people who chose to withdraw themselves from the church – they apostatized. I’m not sure if their names were blotted out. I suppose this could be an example of someone who believes, and then notices the hypocrisy of some members of the church and stops coming because of it.
- A group of members of the church who remained steadfast despite persecution and problems. (See Alma 1:25.)
- These people were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God.
- The benefit of keeping the commandments is peace and added blessings. The Lord, when we keep the commandments – with full purpose of heart, blesses us to be strong and free. The testimonies of the people of this group of people were strengthened as they exercised faith in keeping the commandments – despite the persecutions heaped upon them. As their faith was stressed and exercised, it was repaired by God and strengthened. The process kind of reminds me of weight training.
- This scripture sheds more light on these faithful members:
“30 And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need.” – Alma 1:30
So – even though these people had enjoyed many material blessings, they weren’t confused by such riches. They didn’t set their hearts upon the blessings. They had their hearts set on God.
- Because their hearts were set on God, these people were full of charity, and gave freely to those in need.
So…I need to check the condition of my heart. Is it set upon the world? Is it hardened? Or is it set on God and being filled with His pure love?