I came across this quote recently, and I couldn’t help but think of Alma…
Before relating this to Alma, I want to just talk about the quote. Plutarch was smart enough to “get stuff.” I mean, a lot of us are that way, right? I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read about health and fitness. I logically “get” many of the concepts I’ve read about.
Yet – even though we “get something” and may even have knowledge, without application what do we really know?
Not only was Plutarch smart enough to “get something” from the words he read, he was smart enough to realize that the words and knowledge he gained was through experiences.
As for me – even though I had read a few books on the damage and problems that sugar causes the body, I never really got it until I had experimented for myself and saw how eating a diet without much sugar affected me. I really needed this experience in order to give meaning to the concepts that I had learned.
Alma the younger understood the power of experiential knowledge. In fact, he extended an invitation to the poor Zoramites that he taught:
“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.” – Alma 32:27
Alma taught the people the word of God. And he didn’t expect them to believe him just on face value – just because he said to believe. Instead, Alma asked them to experiment on his words. Alma wanted them to try it out for themselves. Alma invited them to have their own experiences so they could gain their own knowledge and faith.
It is interesting to me that we approach nearly every subject this way – except faith. Do we expect to learn a language just by reading about it? No, we go on a foreign exchange program, we take an immersion class, we go to that country, we start studying on a language learning website, we practice saying words in another language.
If we desire to learn Calculus, do we just buy a textbook and peruse it? Probably not. We go through the exercises. We get a calculator, paper, and pencil, and then try to solve the equations.
Yet, for some reason, so many people think that in order to obtain spiritual knowledge, they will sit in church one time and listen to a sermon and get it. Or maybe they think that in order to gain a testimony, they must read through the Bible once without meditating, pondering, and applying the words.
Then, because they haven’t put any thought or effort into their acquisition of spiritual knowledge, they don’t get any spiritual knowledge. Some may even proclaim faith, spirituality, or the scriptures as a fraud because of their own lack of experience.
I haven’t studied Calculus, but I’m not going to claim that Calculus is a farce.
Yes – going to church and studying the scriptures are important parts of obtaining spiritual knowledge, but the crucial key is to experiment and experience the gospel. Then those experiences will give you the knowledge of the word. They will make the scriptures and church even more meaningful.
How have you “experimented” on the word? How have your experiences helped to shape your testimony? If you haven’t experimented on the word of God, what is holding you back?
Lately, I’ve been studying a bit about baptism. I came across the following verse, and am astounded by how much we can learn about the ordinance of baptism from one little verse.
“And they began to establish the achurch more fully; yea, and many were baptized in the waters of Sidon and were joined to the church of God; yea, they were baptized by the hand of Alma, who had been consecrated the high priest over the people of the church, by the hand of his father Alma.” – Alma 4:4
Three Points on Baptism
Baptism by Immersion – In this verse, we learn that many people were baptized in the waters of Sidon. Alma baptized these people according to the pattern which had been set by his father. He “buried” the people in the water. (See Mosiah 18:14-15.) The person being baptized is fully immersed in the water. This symbolizes the burial of the natural man and the birth of the disciple of Christ. Baptism is a token of our commitment to the Savior as we strive to put off the natural man.
Baptism is connected to the establishment of the Church and our Official Membership of it – In some ways “organized religion” doesn’t seem super cool these days. But, we know that God’s house is a “house of order.” If we believe in Him, then we quickly learn that His religion has always been organized. Throughout the scriptures, we read about a book of life. In fact, the Bible Dictionary has a great, succinct explanation:
“Spoken of in Philip. 4:4; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12; 21:27; 22:19; see also Dan. 12:1–4; Luke 10:20. In one sense the book of life is the sum total of one’s thoughts and actions—the record of his life. However, the scriptures indicate that a heavenly record is kept of the faithful, whose names are recorded, as well as an account of their righteous deeds (D&C 88:2; 128:7)." – Bible Dictionary: Book of Life
In order to have our names written in His book of life, in order to “enter into the Gate” that leads to the Kingdom of Heaven, we must be baptized. We are then counted as members of His church, and we enjoy both the blessings and responsibilities of such membership.
Baptism Must Be Performed by One with Authority – Again, God’s house is a house of order. Alma the younger is the one who baptized the people. He was the high priest, and, according to this verse, he was consecrated to be the high priest by the hand of his father – who was the high priest before him. Alma the elder received authority directly from God. (See Mosiah 18.)
Overall, what impresses me about baptism is the reminder that it is truly an ordinance. It is a token of our commitment and covenant. It isn’t just a “nice thing” that we do. It isn’t a thoughtless ritual. It isn’t a cultural custom. The Savior was baptized. The Nephites, anciently, were baptized. And we have been commanded to be baptized.
The Savior taught:
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot denter into the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3-5
Nephi poignantly teaches:
“And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!” – 2 Nephi 31:5
We need baptism. We aren’t holy. Baptism is a gift.
I was eight years old when I was baptized, and I still remember the events of the day. I had a brand new, white dress. My grandma was there. I was baptized by a family friend – Elton Cribbs. And afterward, I was confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and given the gift of the Holy Ghost by Gordon Rose. I felt so much purity and joy that day. I didn’t want to leave, I just wanted to continue to feel the simple joy of the gospel.
It has been nearly 30 years since my baptism, and it still means so much to me. I’m grateful for the covenant I made when I was a child. Though my knowledge has matured, my faith is still very similar as the faith I had when I was a young child. I knew then that I was a daughter of God. I know I am a daughter of God. I knew then that the Savior gave us an example – to be baptized. I know now that the Savior gave us an example – to be baptized. I knew then that in order to grow in the Spirit, I needed to be baptized. And I know now that in order to continue to grow spiritually, I need to continually renew and review the covenant I made when I was eight.
Have you been baptized? If not, what do you suppose is holding you back from making this covenant and receiving such a blessing in your life? If you have been baptized, how has it shaped and blessed your life?
In my ward, we are doing a Book of Mormon Summer reading challenge. This will help the young women to complete their value project for virtue: to read the Book of Mormon. The challenge is to read the Book of Mormon in 70 days – during the summer. (It is roughly 7.5 pages a day).
I’m going to start my summer reading challenge tomorrow. Today, I wanted to figure out what to study as I read the Book of Mormon. So…I’m thinking about the Virtue value project. I’m struck by the following question:
And I think that’s what I want to study/learn about
Personally, I feel like we have a pretty limited understanding of virtue. I think that many of us feel like virtue means chastity. If so, then why not simply call it chastity? Maybe then we’ll elaborate and say, “Purity.” Still. Virtue is not really interchangeable for either chastity or purity. Sure, virtue includes chastity and purity, but I really think that it is that and more.
Here is a quick scripture chain that might help to shed a little light on virtue.
“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” – Proverbs 31:1
This is the “virtue” scripture that usually comes to mind. It seems nice. I don’t know. We might have some stereotypes or even wrong impressions about this scripture. This isn’t a scripture that describes a woman who is quiet and appeased by a bunch of gems. This isn’t a scripture that describes a woman who is property that can be bought.
The rest of 31 describes the many “virtues” of this virtuous woman. They include:
She is trustworthy.
She does good – especially within the context of her marriage.
She works with her hands.
She brings food. She physically nourishes her family.
She wakes up early and takes care of her stewardship.
She is a wise investor.
She is a gardener – or creator.
She is a hard worker.
She knows that her merchandise is good. She is confident.
She has many skills – she is knowledgable.
She is charitable to the poor.
She is not afraid or helpless.
She provides well for her household.
She is elegant.
She causes her household to be elegant as well.
She brings fame and honor to her husband because of her many strengths.
She is strong.
She is honorable.
She is wise.
She is kind.
She is not idle.
She is a mother.
She is prolific in good works (of all kinds).
She fears the Lord.
She is praised.
All of these items in this list are ways that this woman is virtuous. You could say it another way – she is powerful. Her purity and chastity are part of what makes her virtuous, but she is more than that, too. She gets stuff done. I want to be like her, you know?!
Really look through this list with an open heart and mind. Today, we’d call the virtuous woman a “super-woman,” perhaps. She has a lot going on, for sure, but these things are all achievable – not all at once, but over time. (That’s nearly always the way). We can become wise, elegant, chaste, charitable, honorable, and strong. We don’t have to throw all of the balls in the air and do them at once. We have a lifetime to develop these qualities. And, while we’re striving, I believe we can consider ourselves to be virtuous women.
“Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:45
Now, lest you think that the charge to be virtuous only applies to women, here is an example where men are told to be virtuous, too.
Throughout verses 41-46, the Lord instructs Joseph Smith on the use of the Priesthood. In verse 39, the Lord warns Joseph of the nature of most men in regards to the Priesthood and to power, in general:
“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:39
So – the Lord then tutors Joseph Smith on how to be a man who righteously bears the Priesthood of God. Since we made a list for the ladies, we’ll make a list for the men.
Not power hungry
loving to others – unconditionally
exhibiting pure knowledge
reproving – which means GENTLE CORRECTION
sharp – exact and quick – so the dude who reproves with sharpness will correct gently with exactness. He won’t do a “hack job” of it. “Reproving at times with sharpness” doesn’t mean being a bully. Quite the opposite.
guided by the Holy Ghost
loving, especially to those whom he has gently corrected
knows that “faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.”
bowels are full of charity
virtue garnishes his thoughts at all times – his mind is pure and chaste which makes it poweful
confident in God
gains an understanding of the doctrine of the Priesthood
has the Holy Ghost as a constant companion
So – men also have high standards. Both men and women are expected to be not only virtuous, but to strive to be the best people that they can be. We are all expected to be not only pure and chaste, but also motivated by faith and filled with charity. This enables us to be empowered by God.
Virtue figures into this greatly. I think that virtue is not only a commitment to be righteous (pure and chaste), but it becomes a well of power within us.
“And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.” – Luke 6:19
This scripture is about Christ – when He healed some people “vexed with unclean Spirits.” I find this use of the word “virtue” particularly interesting because it challenges our modern notion of virtue.
Here, we wouldn’t describe Christ’s virtue as “chastity.” It is something else. It is a power to heal others.
His healing power is described as virtue also when the woman touches His hem and is healed:
“And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.” – Luke 8:46
Christ was traveling in a throng of people. Undoubtedly many were touching Him. But only one was healed, and when that healing took place, He could feel his power being physically transferred to this woman.
“And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.” – Alma 31:5, emphasis added.
God’s word, as Alma knew, was virtuous. Not only does virtue, in this context, mean pure, righteous or chaste, we learn that virtue is a power that is stronger than the sword.
Now that we have studied these verses, I think that we can make better sense of virtue. Virtue is power that is rooted in righteousness and purity. It’s power comes from our decision to be righteous, chaste, and made pure through the Atonement of Christ. So, virtue is definitely related to chastity and purity, but it is a little bit more than that!!! Virtue is a source of power.
Virtue is not a power of force. It is not a power of material wealth. It is a power that surpasses the understanding of this world. Virtue is a power that can enable us to heal, to nourish, to strengthen, and to provide. Virtue is a power that is rooted in our Savior and can only be accessed when we are doing what we can to be like Him.
Really, virtue is pretty awesome. So I will agree with the proverb. The price of a virtuous woman is far above rubies. The price of a virtuous man is far above titanium.
I want to develop this quality.
Okay, I’ll end with one last scripture – because it is applicable and might give us a hint on how to develop virtue for ourselves.
“And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.
All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified.
For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things. – Doctrine and Covenants 88:38-40
So – if we want to have virtue, then we have to identify that it is built upon laws and principles. Virtue is only built upon the very highest principles of righteousness.
Additionally, if we want to be virtuous, then we must learn to love virtue. I have a feeling it is one of those qualities that continues to add to itself as we continue to progress and apply the Atonement in our lives.
What are your thoughts on virtue? Do you think it is an outdated stereotype or a source of strength and power? How can you work to develop virtue in your life?
I have recently gotten a new calling in my ward*. I’m in the Young Women’s presidency. For those of you who don’t know what that is, the Young Women’s is a group of young women ages 12-18. I have served in the Young Women’s in the past. It is such a fun calling. The youth are so vibrant. They are intelligent, happy, and want to do well.
However, it can be a little daunting to serve with the youth. Fortunately, in the Book of Mormon, we can find a great example of someone who was a steward over the youth: Helaman.
A Little Background Information
Helaman was a general in the Nephite army in the Book of Mormon. Specifically, Helaman commanded a group of 2,000 young men (boys, really). You can read more about the circumstances of this army in Alma chapters 56-58. He was a steward of the youth.
Even though we might not be leading young men into battle, many of the principles that Helaman exemplifies in his stewardship over the youth can be applied in our lives. We will study them today! 🙂
15 Ways Helaman teaches us to Be a Better Steward over the Youth
Helaman knew those he served. He knew their circumstances – See Alma 56:3-6. Helaman knew the circumstances of these young men. He knew that their fathers had buried their weapons of war – with a covenant never to go to battle again. He knew that their families had been converted to the gospel and were true to their faith.
We can also gather that, because they were the sons of those who buried their weapons of war, then some of these boys were most likely fatherless. Helaman knew these boys. If we want to effectively serve our youth, then we need to know them. We need to know their circumstances, their families, their cultures.
Helaman honored their families and supported them – See Alma 56:8. Helaman knew the covenant that these boys’ fathers had made. Because the kingdom was at war, and because their liberty was in jeopardy, the fathers were thinking of taking up arms again to fight and defend their country. However, Helaman insisted that they didn’t break their covenant.
Helaman supported these families, and, as leaders of the youth, we need to do the same thing. We need to be mindful of the families of those whom we serve. These families aren’t here to serve us or “support us” in our calling, we are called to serve and support them.
Helaman loved the boys he served. – See Alma 58:10. Helaman addresses these boys as his sons. He explains that they were worthy to be called sons. What does this mean? I suppose it means that he deeply loves and cares for these young men. He feels responsible for them. This all stems from his love for them.
We need to also love the youth we serve. It may not always be easy, but if we don’t love them, then being a good steward is pretty much impossible.
Helaman protected them. – See Alma 56:39 Helaman took his charge over these youth very seriously and he protected them. Sure, they had signed up for war, but he wanted them to stay as safe as possible and devised strategies where they would be used as a decoy without ever having to fight.
We need to protect our youth. They face a spiritual enemy that wants to destroy them. We need to protect them just as Helaman protected his warriors.
Helaman trusted the boys and he trusted their families. – See Alma 56:46-48. When you read this exchange between Helaman and his sons, it is fairly obvious that he trusts them. Even though they are young and inexperienced, he trusts their testimony and strength.
The young warriors also explained that their mothers knew that God would deliver them, and they do not doubt their mothers.
Helaman reacts with support and relative awe. He doesn’t say, “You haven’t been in a war. You know nothing.” He doesn’t respond, “What does your mother know about this situation.” Instead, he trusts the young men and he trusts their families.
It is so important for us to trust the youth and their families. Of course, the Spirit can help us to discern between right and wrong. But we have to be sure that our own opinions aren’t blocking the Spirit. We can trust that the youth we serve do have testimonies and do desire to serve God. When we trust the youth, they will rise to the occasion just as these 2,000 stripling warriors did.
Helaman followed the Spirit – See Helaman 56:44, 50. I know that I just made the point that Helaman protected his sons; however, of utmost importance is that he followed the Spirit.
The plan was for the 2,000 warriors to be a decoy. However, the Lamanite army stopped marching after them. Helaman thought that they figured out what was going on, and then decided to attack Antipus’s army. But he couldn’t be sure. Maybe they were just waiting so they could trick this small group and then lure them into a trap. In any case, action needed to be taken. The Lamanites were no longer taking the bait. After consideration, Helaman knew that they needed to fight the Lamanites and save the other army. He turns to his young army and says, “Therefore what say ye, my sons, will ye go against them to battle?”
Even though it was Helaman’s desire to keep these boys out of battle, he followed the Spirit – knowing that they needed to fight without knowing what the outcome would be. He trusted in God and followed the Spirit.
Like Helaman, we need to stay close to the Lord and follow His Spirit.
Helaman rejoiced in the victories of his “sons.” – See Alma 56:54-56. After their victory against the Lamanite Army and helping to rescue Antipus’s army, Helaman checked on his sons. Not only did they rejoice in their victory, but Helaman was overjoyed to find that not a single one of these boys had fallen to the earth. They were all alive, and Helaman was happy.
When we are stewards over the youth, we, too, need to rejoice in the victories of our youth. This can happen in a variety of ways. I think that, as we come to love the youth we serve, rejoicing in their victories comes very naturally because we love them.
Helaman allowed his young warriors to be exposed to danger. – See Alma 57:18-19, 23. This can be so difficult. I think that it would have been difficult for Helaman, too. He spent so much time protecting his sons from battle, he still had to allow them to be exposed to the dangers of war. They were, after all, soldiers.
After one especially difficult battle, there were many people who had fallen and died. Thankfully, again, all of the stripling warriors were spared of death, but about 200 of them had fainted with a loss of blood. Helaman needed to allow his sons to be exposed to this danger in order for them to do what they were sent there to do.
Likewise, we leaders must be wise, and we must allow our youth to be exposed to danger. This doesn’t mean that we’ll take them to a place we know to be evil. It just means that we need to accept our circumstances, our purpose, and that our youth are strong just like these young warriors were.
Helaman cared for his sons and saw that they were healed. See Alma 57:24-25. Immediately after a battle, Helaman ordered that the wounded should be brought out from among the dead, and that their wounds should be dressed. He found the 200 or so of his sons that had fallen from a loss of blood. Helaman made sure that they received the medical attention they needed.
Just as Helaman saw to their healing, we need to see that the spiritual and emotional wounds of those whom we serve (or perhaps the physical, you never know, I guess!) are also healed. We can do this by investigating the scene and doing what is necessary to “dress” the wounds that are suffered by those whom we serve.
Helaman was a spiritual example of faith. See – Alma 58:10-12. There was a point, after these battles, where Helaman and those he commanded were waiting for provisions and supplies. But nothing. They waited. Nothing.
Instead of Helaman murmuring against his superiors, he simply led his group of stripling warriors in prayer. Helaman was an example of faith and loyalty. That being said, he still brought up the issue to his superiors. It was appropriate for him to report what was happening with them. In fact, had Helaman not reported this shortage, then they wouldn’t have discovered the insurrection that happened in Zarahemla.
Helaman handled this difficult situation with poise. He was a spiritual leader to his youth without being a doormat.
We can do the same. We need to be spiritual leaders to our youth. They need to hear us pray. And we ned to support those who are over us. Even if things aren’t going well, we don’t need to murmur. We can responsibly report, and find the source of the problem in a humble but effective way.
Helaman was wise. He only did that which was absolutely needful. See Alma 58:16-28. Helaman was a commander in a war. He understood the need to be efficient and wise. He didn’t send his troops out without thinking about their strategy. He didn’t have them do anything more than that which was absolutely needful. What’s the purpose? How effective would a tired and overworked army be?!?
Because Helaman was a good steward, he wisely chose to do only that which he, and his young army, needed to do. Because of his wisdom, he was able to overtake an enemy city purely by strategy – without any blood shed (on either side).
We need to be wise, too. Often, I think that it is the American (and Mormon) way to just do everything we can. We want to start our race sprinting. We overcommit and then find ourselves tired or even sick. This is not what we, wise stewards of the youth, can afford to do. We need to do only the needful thing. Sometimes, this might mean saying no – even to good things. We don’t want to waste precious time and effort on something, even if it seems like good. We must be wise enough to prioritize. We are at a war, of sorts, and we have to be good stewards over these youth!
Helaman put his trust in God. – See Alma 58:33. Despite the troubles that Helaman’s army was facing (in not receiving needed provisions from his own country), he still put His trust in God. He didn’t fret. He didn’t worry. He trusted God.
It could be easy to fret and worry – Helaman was responsible for 2,000 young men. Wouldn’t his responsibility justify worry and perhaps even a little bit of “ark steadying?”
But Helaman simply trusted God.
As stewards of youth, we also need to trust God. Yes, this world we live in can be dangerous. It can be easy to think that we need to go above and beyond to protect this group of children we have stewardship over. However, I’ve found that worry usually leads to a frantic pace or frenzied stress. And a frantic pace/frenzied stress is not trusting in God! It’s a waste of our energy, and it will often yield very poor results.
Helaman was aware and thoughtful of his circumstances. He questioned without murmuring. See Alma 58:35-36. I have alluded to this point already, but it is worth an extra mention. While at war, Helaman and his forces were not receiving reinforcements. Instead of saying, “Oh well, I’ll just wait,” he still acted. He wrote a letter to his superior and informed him of the situation.
Now, it’s important to note that we can question and we can inform – without laying blame on someone. This is exactly what Helaman did. He wasn’t a doormat, neither was he bullish. He was simply direct and honest.
Because of Helaman’s honesty, Captain Moroni was made aware of a bad situation happening in the country – a coup. The armies weren’t receiving any help because their own country was under siege. Had Helaman not alerted Moroni of his problems, then they wouldn’t have been able to learn about this problem.
As wise stewards, when we run into issues “from above,” then we will not be afraid to open an honest dialogue with our “superior.” We also won’t murmur or complain. Instead, when we are fair and measured like Helaman, we’ll be able to make real progress and, perhaps, even discover another issue that truly needs attention.
Helaman was blessed by God in his stewardship. – See Alma 58:39-40. Because of Helaman’s faithful service, he was blessed in his stewardship. Throughout his tenure as the general of this small army, throughout all of their battles and other hardships, not a single soul was lost.
I can’t say that if we are faithful, then none of the souls we have stewardship will be lost. Everyone has their own choice to make. That being said, if we faithfully serve, then the Lord will bless us in our stewardship. He will bless us with peace. And we will be able to have a positive impact on the young ones we work with – no matter what they choose to do with their lives.
Helaman was always focused on the Savior. See Alma 58:40-41. I think that this is probably the most important point. Always, at the center of his motives and service, was the redemption and Atonement of Christ. Helaman was empowered by Christ and sought to protect and stand fast in the liberty that had made him free. Because of Helaman’s focus on Christ, he was able to accomplish the above 14 points. This is truly what made him an exceptional leader.
If we want to be the best leaders we can be, then we will focus on Christ, as well. What does this mean? I think that it means we will teach the principles of the gospel.
But it also means so much more than that.
I think that it also means we teach the youth that the focus needs to be on the Savior. I think that it means we act as a conduit – or a pathway for their own relationship with the Savior. It can be tempting to want to be the person who is so cool and fun – it is easy to try to use our own charm, personality, money, gifts to convince the youth we serve to love us. But that’s not the point. We need to use our own experience with Christ to convince the youth to also love Him. It’s not about us at all, really…and Helaman knew that.
What stands out to you about Helaman’s leadership over the youth? Do you serve young men or women? What do you do to be a better steward?
Currently, for my scripture reading, I’m still working my way through the Book of Mormon and studying about the Atonement (you can see the Atonement Study Project here).
Let me start by saying, If you believe in Christ; if you believe that God so loved the world that He sent his only Begotten Son so we wouldn’t perish; then you will love the Book of Mormon. I love the Bible and I love the Book of Mormon. As I’ve taken the time to study the Book of Mormon and the Atonement, I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned about it.
I’ve been studying three main points about the Atonement:
All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
There is power in the Atonement to enable us to overcome the natural man or woman and become true disciples of Jesus Christ.
The Atonement is the greates evidence we have of the Father’s love for His children.
All of these points are important, but today, the second point, in particular, stood out to me as I studied Alma 50.
For the most part, Alma 50 is about wars between two groups of people: the Nephites and the Lamanites. At this point in the history of these two groups, the Nephites were a little more righteous, while the Lamanites were apostate. The Lamanites (and some dissenting Nephites) were trying to overthrow the Nephite government (which, by the way, was a democratic system). They wanted to kill all of the people who professed to believe in God, and they wanted to instill an oppressive government. (This sounds familiar…it’s a lot like what is happening over in Iraq and Syria).
The Nephites, however, had a very powerful and brave leader: Captain Moroni. He championed the cause of freedom, including and especially religious freedom, and he rallied others to help him protect their inalienable rights.
Okay…so, Captain Moroni was a good guy. And the thing is, he was such a good because Captain Moroni believed in Christ. Because of the power of the Atonement, and because of Captain Moroni was committed to his covenants, he overcame the natural man and became a disciple of Christ. Captain Moroni’s example shows us that discipleship doesn’t mean we are weak-minded fools. Discipleship will refine us and make us powerful.
(The only kind of power that matters)
I realize that power is a loaded word. Captain Moroni wasn’t powerful over other people (that kind of “power” really doesn’t mean much, does it?). Instead, he had the most difficult kind of power to obtain: self-mastery. (See Alma 48:17.)
We also learn in Alma 50:
“Thus Moroni, with his armies, which did increase daily because of the assurance of protection which his works did bring forth unto them, did seek to cut off the strength and the power of the Lamanites from off the lands of their possessions, that they should have no power upon the lands of their possession.” – Alma 50:12
Not only was Moroni a master over himself, but he was able to use his resources to protect his people. Because of Moroni’s strength, vision, and organization, he fortified the cities of his lands, and the Lamanites had no power over them.
What this Means for You and Me
Okay. So what. I don’t really have anyone actively trying take away my possessions or lands. However, I feel like there is a daily battle I’m engaged in. The enemy is the devil, and he is very real.
When I choose to honor the covenants I have made, when I allow the Atonement to be a power in my life, then the enemy I fight against will have no power over me.
There are so many battles people are facing. Some of the battles we face are physical and obvious. The people in Iraq and Syria, for example, are experiencing excruciating stress and oppression. And, while I don’t intend to compare myself to them (because my life is super great), the fact remains that I have my own battles. People in the U.S. or other developed countries don’t seem to fare any better than others around the world. Just last week, a famous, rich, beloved celebrity took his own life.
We are all in a battle.
And, if we want to render our enemy powerless, then we simply need to come unto Christ and allow the power of His Atonement to enable us.
It’s been a while, I know. These past few months, I’ve been consumed with teaching for BYU-Idaho and also prepping for homeschool (for the first time ever). Recently, my husband has also made some big life decisions, which are very exciting.
So, even though I don’t feel particularly “stressed out,” I know that my life is stressful. In fact, I know this is true because of this crazy eczema rash I’ve gotten all over my hands and arms.
I’ll spare you a picture.
When the crazy rash started getting bad, I asked Homey for a blessing. In this blessing, it was indicated that the rash was caused by stress, and I needed to learn how to manage it. (Getting rid of stressors isn’t really an option right now).
The rash got worse.
Well, I was getting pretty desperate, and one of my friends gave me a topical prescription cortisone product for my rash. It would clear up for a few days, I’d stop with the prescription, and it would get worse. This went on for a few months (!) Over time, the rash got much, much worse. What started as a small rash under my wedding ring became a rash on 8 of my fingers, up both hands and arms…yikes.
I’ve asked Homey for two more blessings. The same basic info was related: Heavenly Father Loves me, Christ has suffered the Atonement and has perfect empathy, this is caused by stress, and I needed to find natural ways to alleviate the issue.
As I write this now, I realize what a blessing that Priesthood blessings are. However, I will admit that during the final blessing, I wondered why I could just be healed. I know that God has the power to do it, so why can’t I be healed?
Of course, as this thought went through my brain, the words of the blessing rang out: this trial is to help you build faith in your Father in Heaven.
Today, I read about Captain Moroni in my scriptures.
“Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.” – Alma 48:17
In the past, I’ve read this scripture with complete awe for Mornoi. What a cool dude. Untouchable. Untouchable by Satan, and also – by me. I want to be like Moroni, but he is so good…too good. I can’t come close.
However, I’ve been studying the Atonement in the Book of Mormon. I know that There is power in the Atonement to enable us to overcome the natural man or woman and become true disciples of Christ. With this in mind, I have come to the realization that Moroni wasn’t just born cool and faithful. His faith and example come through his discipleship, which came as a result of his >firm faith in Christ. (See Alma 48:13. This means that becoming like Moroni, who could shake the very powers of hell, is possible–through Christ.
So..if I want to be like Moroni, then I need to develop stronger faith.
I’m not sure if I’m a super faithful person or not. When I was younger, like most young people, I had faith. I was innocent and closer with nature. Then, I got older, more disconnected with what probably matters, and logic became important to me. I have always had a testimony because I’ve been able to logically understand the gospel. It makes sense to me, and discovering the mysteries of God is important to me as it galvanizes my testimony (logically).
Yet, I need to have faith. I need to be willing to suspend my so-called logic, and just develop a purer faith in the Savior. I suppose that is what this skin rash is designed to do in my life because my faith is wavering.
Now, I want to say that carefully. My faith isn’t wavering in a “I wonder if the gospel is true” kind of way. I will not and cannot deny the truthfulness of the gospel and my testimony. Instead, I think my faith is wavering in the same way as the man who uttered to Christ, “Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief.”
How I relate to this man!
I believe. I believe that Christ created the world, that He came, lived, suffered, died, and was resurrected. I know that He answers prayers. I know that He loves me. I know that He will speak to my soul when I search and am willing to listen. However, I have this rash that is spreading and getting worse despite my pleas.
And, as I plea for help, I feel the doubt creeping in my head, “He can help, but I doubt he’ll help me. I’m not strong or special like some people. (ie – Captain Moroni)” Stuff like that. Not helpful, and ultimately self-fulfilling.
So…as I read the story of Captain Moroni, I am both humbled and comforted. I don’t have to be a Captain Moroni to become like Captain Moroni. Instead, I only need to humbly go to the Lord, ask Him to help my unbelief, and let Him work a miracle in me through the Atonement.
His Atonement will help me to be the faithful woman and disciple that I want to be – rash or not.
What do you do to strengthen your faith during times of trial?
For 35 years, my life has been marked by consistent activity in the church and, for the most part, a thriving testimony.
There are many people like me. Who are born and raised in the church and who live lives of faith.
But the thing is, even with such faith and devotion to the church, there are no sure things, or at least it seems that way. Even if we’ve lived faithful lives, we still have to keep pushing forward. We can’t coast or become complacent. Not only that, but our faith is continually tested, and we can find that even after a lifetime of faith, we’re giving up.
Now, this is not me saying that I’m giving up. I’m just thinking about how it happens.
Several years ago, I had a discussion with a friend. It went something like this:
Friend: I have a such a strong testimony of the church, I love it so much. I can’t imagine my life without it.
Me: I know what you mean. I feel the same way.
Friend: But sometimes I get afraid. What if I don’t keep the faith? What if something happens, and I stop going to church or forget my testimony?
Me: [I thought for a moment] You know, I’m not afraid of that.
Friend: Really? [I could tell that she thought I was being a little too self-assured.
Me: I think that I’m more afraid that there will be a time when I’m not working as hard. When I’m not praying like I should be praying. When I’m not feasting on the words of Christ. When I’m not attending the temple with clean hands and a pure heart. When I’m not serving in the church diligently and cheerfully. I’m afraid that there will be a time that these things start to “go”, and then I’ll be afraid that I leave the church.
We both agreed that the way to stay strong in the gospel is by doing the small things. But this conversation I had with my friend haunts me when I hear things like A general authority doubting the church. Or how I’ve recently had friends who, after decades of devotion to the church, decide to leave it. Somewhere along the line, for various reasons, people lose their faith, their commitment, or both.
Alma asks this question to disaffected church members:
“And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” – Alma 5:26
It seems like this is a relatively common phenomenon, people have a change of heart, they feel the love of the redemption offered through the Atonement of the Savior. But the feeling fades away. This can lead to something as simple as inactivity in the church or perhaps even something more serious like apostasy and leaving the church altogether. In any case, the result is the same, we forget the witness we’ve had in the past, and fail to live up to the covenants we’ve made. This has serious consequences. And…above all…it defeats the purpose of everything we’re doing right now.
I’m not living faithfully now so I can give up later. I’m not spending countless hours serving at church, Driving hundreds of miles to attend the temple, donating thousands of dollars for tithing, attending 3 hour church services weekly, etc., etc., etc. –I’m not doing all of these things now to simply give up on them later!
I know that the decision to leave the church, or at least stop attending, isn’t made that way. No one thinks, Okay, I’ve dedicated my life to the Savior, but now I’m done. I understand that other things happen. We face hardship in our lives that test our faith. We may be hurt or offended by another in the church. For various reasons, commitment can be hard to maintain. Our faith is tested, and fear and doubt creep into the tiniest corners of our hearts.
My question..and, up to this point, my crappy answer
And it makes me wonder, how do we do it? how do we endure to the end? How do I make sure that I remain faithful? This seems like a hard thing to predict because I don’t know what the future holds for me. I don’t know the trials of my faith that I’ll face in the future. I don’t know how I’ll react when I’m facing the trials that I can’t predict. I find myself asking, Will I remain faithful?…gee, I sure hope so. This answer is unsatisfactory. It seems so powerless. It’s as if I’m leaving my eternal salvation up to chance.
The thing is, I know that my salvation isn’t up to chance. It is up to me. We were sent to this earth to be agents to act, and not to be acted upon. We are free to choose our destiny: liberty and eternal life or captivity and death. Our salvation (or damnation) isn’t something that will just happen to us.
Developing an Eye of Faith to Ensure Continued Commitment
It seems that the key is to develop an eye of faith. Alma is a great example of this. When he is in his “comatose” state (after seeing an angel), he is in excruciating pain: caused by his many sins. He cries to God for mercy, and Jesus snatches him out of his agony. After this, but before regaining consciousness Alma has the following experience:
“Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there.” – Alma 36:22
Immediately after Alma sees this snapshot of Heaven, he awakens. And, I believe, that this vision pushes him forward in faith. Of course the harrowing and hallowing experience of redemption of sins is a major reason for His faithful service to God. But think about Alma, he did more than just remain a kind of faithful guy. He served missions, was hated and persecuted, was put in jail. He was tested – and probably in more ways than we can understand. It had to be more than feeling the joy of redeeming love that motivated him to stay faithful. I think that the joy of redemption coupled with his faithful goal: he longed to be in the presence of the Lord. He could see what he wanted.
I don’t think that Alma said, “Gee, I hope that one day I’ll be able to experience Heaven…Gee, I wonder if this will happen to me…I sure hope so.” This is, obviously, speculation. But I’m inclined to believe that Alma said to himself, “I will be with the Lord one day…It will happen to me…I will remain faithful.”
There are other examples, too. Imagine Nephi or Lehi after witnessing the vision of the fruit of the tree of life. Do you think that after this vision, they woke up and said, “Gee, I sure hope that I really do partake of the fruit of the tree of life one day? or did they say, “I will partake of that fruit. I will remain faithful to the end.”
Making A Declaration or A Choice
While I’ve been supposing that these prophets made declarations of faith and commitment to themselves, there is an instance of a prophet declaring his intentions of sustained faith and endurance.
“…till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.” – Job 27:5
Often, I’ve thought about this scripture as being about integrity or the strength of Job. But perhaps it was more than that, and I think it is the answer to my aforementioned question. Job’s declaration is an expression of his eye of faith.
Job refused to remove his integrity. Job refused to give up his faith. Job would receive the blessings of salvation. This isn’t a brazen or proud statement. Job is confident in his own ability and in the Lord’s mercy. Job refuses to see anything else happen. He will not deviate.
I know that this seems simplified, but I really think that is the key. If I make the decision right now to always remain faithful, then I will. If I choose right now to refuse to remove my integrity, then I will do exactly that.
I have a testimony of the gospel. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer. I know that He loves me. I know that I’m a daughter of God, and that He loves me, too. I know that God wants us to be happy, and that He has given us a way to accomplish this–through the Savior. I don’t want to forget what I know. I don’t want to let doubt or fear creep into my heart and dash my testimony to pieces. I want these first 35 years of my life to be relevant and worthwhile, not a waste of time. I want to experience the blessings and happiness that the Lord has in store for me. I also want to please Him through my own actions and choices. I want, like Alma, to be in the presence of the Lord, one day.
And so, I’m committing not to remove my integrity from me. I will not lose faith. I will stay true to the gospel and to the covenants that I’ve made. I know that there will be more trials that I face in my life–until the day that I die. But I will not let them get in the way of my ultimate goal.
Have you developed an eye of faith? What is it that you “see” for yourself? Have you made any declarations concerning your intentions for this life? What is it? If you have made covenants with the Lord, how will you remain faithful to them–even when they are severely tried?