Friday, October 31, 2014

Alma 58

How good is the Lord to us?  I don’t think we could measure His goodness, but the scriptures are full of snippets that help us to understand it to a degree.  In Helaman’s letter to Moroni, he described a situation that was desperate with the odds really stacked against his soldiers.  The government had delayed in sending further provisions to the struggling men.  As they waited, the army “did pour out [their] souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen [them] and deliver [them] out of the hands of their enemies” (v. 10).  And now, observe the Lord’s goodness in verse 11: “the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him.” 

Peace during war!  The Lord is very good to us!  Many times in our lives it is necessary for us to wait.  Helaman’s example shows us that, for the asking, the Lord is willing to help us through those waiting periods.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Alma 57

This chapter shows the astonishing preservation of Helaman’s young warriors.  In a battle where thousands of Nephite soldiers are killed, none of Helaman’s 2,060 novice fighters are.  Helaman tells Moroni it is because of their faith.  What had they been taught by their mothers (who are the ones credited with teaching them)?  They had been taught to believe that there is a “just God, and whosoever [does] not doubt…should be preserved by his marvelous power” (see v. 26).  Helaman said it was their faith in that belief that caused God to preserve them.  In this chapter we are shown a lot about that faith and how these young men exercised it.
  1. They fought most desperately
  2. They were firm and undaunted
  3. They obeyed and performed every word of command with exactness.  (See verses 9 -21).

How were these young men able to express their faith in this way?  Verse 27 indicates that
  1. They were young – generally speaking, it’s during our youth that we take the greatest risks (daredevil attempts, and not so conservative when investing savings are two examples of young risk-taking)
  2. Their minds were firm – that is, they had a clear and confident understanding of the gospel, and
  3. They put their trust in God continually – this is the most important in the list.

Just imagine the miracles the Lord could work through us if we were confident of His will for us, were courageous enough to do that will, and completely trusted that the Lord would uphold His end of the bargain!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alma 56

Back a couple of chapters when Moroni tried to negotiate a prisoner exchange that include the captured family of a soldier, I assumed these civilians had been captured from their homes.  In reading this chapter, I’m not so sure.  In Helaman’s letter to Moroni he explains that Zarahemla sent 2000 soldiers to be added to Antipus’ force, and that they brought provisions with them for the soldiers, “their wives and their children” (v. 28).  This would indicate that these Nephite families accompanied their fighting men.  What an interesting concept to have civilians so close to the battle!  In our armies, when a soldier is stationed at a particular base, his or her family can be housed on that base.  It appears the Nephites may have used a similar system.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Alma 55

The thought of the Nephites on the offensive makes me a little nervous, because of the danger of that turning into a lust for power and goods.  But never fear!  Moroni is here!  Though he says in verse 3 “I will seek death among them…” he qualifies the threat with “…until they shall sue for peace.”  That he puts the peoples’ safety above his own ego is shown in a couple of places in this chapter.  First, he doesn't charge right out to attack the Lamanites, but spends a year using clever strategies to strengthen his army first.  Then, when it would have been really easy to kill the Lamanite guards when they were down and out drunk, he wouldn't, for “Moroni…did not delight in murder or bloodshed, but delighted in the saving of his people from destruction, and for this cause he might not bring upon them injustice, he would not fall upon the Lamanites and destroy them in their drunkenness” (v. 10).

Monday, October 27, 2014

Alma 54

There are some very interesting departures from the norm in this chapter. 
  1. Moroni and the leader of the Lamanites negotiate the exchange of prisoners.
  2. Moroni brings religion into the conversation, which is odd, until you remember that Ammon isn't a Lamanite by birth, but a Nephite dissenter.  As a matter of fact, in verse 24 Ammon declares that despite his ancestry, “behold now, I am a bold Lamanite.”
  3. Moroni has always trusted the Lamanites when they make an oath to him to stop fighting.  He would stop fighting them and let them go in peace.  Not this time.  In this chapter Moroni basically tells Ammon to stop fighting, or be annihilated.  Why?  It’s explained in verse 8 where Moroni states: “as ye have once rejected these things, and have fought against the people of the Lord, even so I may expect you will do it again.”
  4. For the first time, we see the Nephites preparing to go on the offensive.
These are all adjustments in policy that were necessary due to it being a very dangerous time for the Nephite army.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Alma 53

After the Nephites’ great victory in ejecting their enemies completely from their lands, we see Moroni redoubling efforts to strengthen their cities in preparation for future battles.  Do we do those daily things required to fortify ourselves against the constant attacks of the adversary?  Later, the Lamanites again gained some ground over the Nephites because of another round of internal intrigues and dissensions among them.  Let us watch ourselves internally, and see to those daily strengthenings we need such as prayer and scripture study.  Such simple things, but so very, very important.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Alma 52

This chapter sees the Nephites attached by the Lamanites on several fronts.  In verse 9 Moroni, leading the fight in one sector, asked Teancum, the leader of another sector, to fortify the city of Bountiful and secure an important narrow pass so the Lamanites wouldn't be able to “harass them on every side.”  In our own personal struggles, we can learn good strategy in this.  Each of us has some area of our lives in which we do better than in other areas.  Let us not forget to “fortify” that area as we battle in others.  It’s not a bad idea, when we’re feeling close to defeat, to look at the things we’re doing right.  Taking note of our successes is one step in overcoming discouragement, thus preventing our enemy, whatever that is, from being able to “harass [us] on every side.”

Friday, October 24, 2014

Alma 51

It’s very tough to balance all the things we need to do so that each gets the proper amount of attention.  In this chapter we see Moroni’s struggle to correctly balance, with success.  When a rebellion broke out among his own people, Moroni had to pull resources being used to fortify cities and redirect them to countering the rebellion.  No sooner had his army succeeded in stopping the rebellion, than Amalikiah’s forces attacked and overtook some of the necessarily weakened Nephite cities.  But righteous Moroni had been wise in what he chose to attend to.  Had he not squelched the rebellion when he did, the Lamanites still would have attacked and he’d have been fighting two battles at once.  Those dissenters from the rebellion that were not killed or captured were compelled to take up arms to defend their country.  Verse 21 tells us they fought “valiantly for their freedom from bondage.”  Moroni didn't have the advantage of hindsight that we who read the Book of Mormon do.  He didn't know at the time how his shift in focus would turn out.

So when the struggle to juggle starts to get to us, let’s take heart.  It’s an age-old dilemma that people great and small have had to tackle.  Fortunately for us we have the faith-filled example of Moroni.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Alma 50

After winning another big battle, Moroni didn't let his armies rest.  He diligently fortified his cities during the lull, while at the same time conducting smaller battles to eradicate all Lamanites from within Nephite borders.  How often do we, while feeling secure, allow ourselves to let down our guard?  Perhaps the best time to strengthen our spiritual fortifications is when we feel most spiritual.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Alma 49

Alma 49

When the Lamanites, because of an oath they’d taken, were forced to attack the heavily fortified city of Noah, the slaughter among them was huge.  In verse 22 we read that the Lamanites began tearing down the banks of the earth to try and open a pass “that they might have an equal chance to fight.”  When we’re following God’s commandments we’re fortifying ourselves against attack by our adversary.  He tries to wear us down because he knows what will happen if he can get us on our own without the Lord’s protection.  Trust me when I say that we do not want to be on an equal footing with him!  Let us keep up our defenses and fortify ourselves in righteousness.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Alma 48

While Amalickiah was stirring the Lamanites up to severe anger against the Nephites, Moroni was also preparing his people.  Not only did he fortify the Nephite cities, he prepared “the minds of the people to be faithful to the Lord their God” (v. 7).  As a matter of fact, under Moroni’s leadership and Helaman’s preaching, the Nephites had so humbled themselves that we read that they were “highly favored of the Lord” (v. 20).  In verses 11 – 16 we find a recipe for preparing our minds and those of our loved ones to be faithful to the Lord.  We need a perfect understanding, a joy in liberty and freedom, a firm faith in Christ and a trust in His powers of delivery.  This is how hearts are fortified against evil (v. 17).

Monday, October 20, 2014

Alma 47

This chapter contains one of the most incredible stories of fraud imaginable.  It stars Amalikiah, a Nephite who knew all the teachings of Helaman and his brethren.  He knew about Christ and he knew the concept of freedom.  Being rich, he was also greedy for power.  First he thought he could destroy the free government of the Nephites to get his power.  Failing at that, he joined the Lamanites and deceived his way into becoming their King.  Amalikiah then incited the Lamanites to go to war against the Nephites.  With disaffected Nephites at their head, the Lamanites finally had a good chance to defeat their enemies.  They were being led by leaders more hardened and impenitent, more wild, wicked and ferocious than they’d ever known.  These Nephite dissenters were cut off from the Lord.  That means they were fighting and leading entirely on their own power.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Alma 46

Amalikiah, a very charismatic leader, wanted to destroy free government.  Captain Moroni realized that it was liberty that was at stake, and he raised the Title of Liberty and people flocked to the cause.  It is interesting to me that Moroni was considered to be a very righteous man (see Alma 48:17) even though he sought the death of Amalikiah.  Liberty, it seems, is that important to God’s Plan of Salvation.  Let us, as Moroni encouraged his people (v. 27), stand fast in the faith of Christ to preserve our own important liberty from the ultimate captor, sin.

Click here to see an artist's rendition of Captain Moroni raising the Title of Liberty.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Alma 45

As much as we would like to intervene on behalf of a wayward family member to bring them around, it just doesn't work that way.  The Lord has to intervene to affect that kind of change.  Alma the Younger is a spectacular example of this.  Here is a young man, brought around through divine intervention itself (which came as a result of parental and congregational prayer on his behalf).  The young man turns himself around and is forever faithful afterward.  So faithful, in fact, that it appears he may have been translated instead of buried (see verse 19).   Hang onto hope and never give up on a wayward loved one.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Alma 44

A few chapters back we learned that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10).  In this chapter, Captain Moroni defines for us what happiness is, using the fascinating phrase, “the maintenance of the sacred word of God.”  Or in other words, keeping God’s commandments.

When we purchase an automobile, it usually comes with an owner’s manual.   Inside the owner’s manual we can find a maintenance schedule that tells when we should have certain components of vehicle checked, serviced or replaced to keep it running at its best.  Sacred writings are the owner’s manual for life.  They tell us how to work on ourselves to keep our spiritual engines running smoothly.  If we perform for ourselves “the maintenance of the sacred word of God” it will bring us the happiness that the gospel promises us.  Let us refer regularly to our “owner’s manual” so we can perform the necessary scheduled maintenance for ourselves.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Alma 43

We see that the Nephites had “a better cause” in their fight with the Lamanites.  Freedom of religious worship and protection of property figured heavily in this cause.  But I think the more emotional part of this cause was the Nephites’ desire to support and preserve their wives and their children.  Have you ever noticed that, willing as we are to defend ideals such as liberty and justice, it’s the threat to our families that most quickly gets us on our feet!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Alma 42

Corianton took the teaching “God is love” to mean that God loves us too much to punish us, and thereby he justified his sins of pride and fornication.  This chapter explains very well that justice and mercy both seek to claim us, but cannot do so together.  Because of the Fall of Adam, justice has the say and demands the price of that action.  God is just.  God is also merciful.  This is only possible through the atonement of Jesus Christ, who paid the price of Adam’s action with His own redeeming blood.   The atonement made it possible for God to be merciful to the penitent while being just to the unpenitent.  Or as Alma explained: “For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also claimeth all which is his own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved” (v. 24). As Alma said to Corianton, “let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering…bring you down to the dust in humility” (v. 30).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Alma 41

Nephi taught that because of the Savior’s atonement, our spirit and our body will be restored in the resurrection (2 Nephi 9:12).  Corianton and others twisted that teaching to mean that in the resurrection our spirit and our body will be restored to good and dwell in the presence of God – so committing a little sin was no big deal.  In this chapter, Alma the Younger clarifies Nephi’s teachings.  “That which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored.  Therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all” (v. 15).  Fortunately “the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved” (v. 8).  This way is the atonement and teachings of Jesus Christ.  Specifically:  “see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall you…have mercy…justice…a righteous judgment restored unto you again” (v. 14).

Monday, October 13, 2014

Alma 40

This chapter describes wickedness in very plain language.  Alma taught Corianton that the wicked are evil because they chose evil over good.  The devil has taken possession of their house and led them to captivity (v. 13).  They will be taken home to God at death (v. 11) where they will be cast out and suffer because of their own iniquity (v. 13), not because of any judgment rendered by God.  Their choosing evil over good will have removed all influence of the Holy Ghost from them.  Then, after they are resurrected, being unclean, they die again, as it were, being cast out to partake of the fruits of their labors.”  This is an awful death (v. 26).

Contrast that with the words Alma uses to describe the righteous at death.  Like the wicked, they return to God upon death, but “they are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace,, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care and sorrow” (v. 12).  Then upon their resurrection they shall “shine forth in the kingdom of God” (v. 25).  Hmmm.  It really makes you want to choose to do good, doesn't it?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Alma 39

Alma’s son, Corianton, had struggled as a missionary, so Alma recorded more of his teachings to this son than to the other two.  We usually remember Alma’s reprimand of Corianton’s acts of fornication during his mission, which takes up a good portion of the text.  But look again.  That is not the sin that Alma addresses first.  He first reprimanded Corianton for “boasting in [his] own strength and…wisdom” (v. 2).   With sexual sin being such a heinous offense, why did Alma start with pride?  Corianton was serving as a missionary, and for a missionary to be effective in bringing people to Christ, he needs to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands, which missionary can do so much more than a missionary can do by himself.  Boasting in one’s own strength and wisdom renders one less pliable.  This pride in one’s own abilities led to disaster for the entire house of Israel when Moses claimed it was he who had provided water from the rock instead of correctly giving the Lord credit.  (See Numbers 20:7 -12.)  Corianton’s pride had undoubtedly contributed to his being led to fornication on his mission.  May we learn from the example in this chapter to humble ourselves and remember on whom we rely, so the Lord can do His work today through us.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Alma 38

Alma taught his son, Shiblon, about the benefits of trusting God, also.  To Shiblon, Alma shared a brief account of his great life-changing experience.  He testified, “I did cry unto [the Lord] and I did find peace to my soul.”  That feeling of peace that is so readily available for the asking helps us to cope.  It’s like a breath of fresh air that allows us the gathering of new strength.  Trust in God and prayer are important partners in our attempts to cope with life’s zingers. 
Trust in God is developed by
  1. Prayer
  2. Obedience
  3. Acting on promptings of the Spirit, which increases your trust in your own ability to recognize them.

Once you’re confident that you can recognize the Lord’s will, give Him a try.  The blessings that will come from that kind of obedience will bolster your confidence in the Lord until trust in Him develops.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Alma 37

Alma says that “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.”  This is the way the Lord works among the children of men.  The Liahona, the scriptures, 18-year-old boys on missions – all are small and simple ways the Lord works to effect His great plan of salvation.  Likewise, by small and simple means are great relationships brought to pass – making lunches, taking time to listen, a touch, a flower.  Little things add glue to a relationship.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Alma 36

From personal experience, Alma the Younger can testify of the blessings that come when we put our trust in God.  It isn't that life goes better when we trust God.  For you see, without trials, mankind wouldn't grow.  They’re going to come at their own pace whether we trust God or not.  Alma explains the blessing of trials by teaching his son, Helaman, that those who put their trust in God will be “supported in their trials and troubles and in their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.”  Let us learn to trust in God so that we can enjoy the beautiful blessing of His support, with or without trials.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Alma 35

Alma and Amulek had asked the Zoramites to think very differently from what they were accustomed to thinking.  They asked them to believe in the Son of God, which they had done in the past before turning away from this beautiful doctrine.  In this chapter we find that those who listened to Alma and Amulek and admitted their faith in Christ were expelled from their homeland.  Homeless and destitute they sought admittance among the recent converts living in Jershon. We read in verse 9 that the people of Jershon “did receive all…the Zoramites that came over to them; and they did…administer to them according to their wants.”   Do we, as the established of our faith, do the same for new converts that come among us?  Often they've had to change their thinking a lot.  And sometimes they've had to, in some degree, leave their former associates to live according to their new found religion.  And when they come to us, what do they find?  Do we receive them?  Do we administer to them according to their wants?  Let us make a special point to do so.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Alma 34

The strength of personal testimony is greater than, perhaps, we realize.  Take Alma chapter 34 as an example.  Here Amulek begins his teaching by briefly recapping what Alma has just taught the people.  Then in verse 8 he simply testifies of Christ.  It is at this point that the Spirit floods into this chapter.  How would our work in the Lord’s kingdom change if we were to more often share simple, short Spirit-filled testimony of the Savior?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Alma 33

Alma defines worship here as prayer (v. 3).  When we pray we are worshipping the Lord in a very real way.  Alma also taught us to pray to be heard of God and not of men (v. 8).  May we consider our personal prayers as part of our daily worship.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Alma 32

Even in the best relationships come times when one is disappointed, hurt or even angered by another.  When we are the injured party, let us follow the Lord’s example and be merciful to the other.  Alma taught the poor among the Zoramites that “whosoever repenteth shall find mercy” (v. 13).  But I ask you, has the Lord ever turned His back on you?  Or rather, has He always been ready to show you mercy, even when you haven’t fully repented?  In the same way that we find mercy with the Lord, let us be merciful to those who injure us.  Life is simply too short to put love on hold.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Alma 31

In one of the great prayers recorded in the Book of Mormon, Alma in this chapter utters this important request: “Wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ.”  I can think of few things more valuable to learn than the fact that in Christ we can find comfort to our souls.  He knows our joys as well as our sorrows.  He understands them completely from first-hand experience.  He is the Prince of Peace.  He is fully able to comfort us.  Why, it’s one of the things He does best.  Let us learn this as we plow through all of life’s experiences.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Alma 30

Here’s a good argument in support of the first amendment of the US Constitution.  Korihor was able to freely preach against Christ among the Nephites, because their laws allowed religious freedom (see verses 7 – 11).  They felt that anything less would make the people unequal, and they were right.  A State which dictates how its people should worship God, or even if they should worship God, makes unequal a person whose conscience tells him to worship a different way.  Such a person would surely feel oppressed and less worthy in the State’s eyes – making them unequal.  Protecting the rights of all to exercise their own conscience in matters of religion is vital to a free people.  We should all be free to express our faith, not only in what we think, but also in how we practice without fear of oppression from anyone.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Alma 29

Alma shows his unselfishness when he rejoices in the success of his brethren (see verses 14 – 16).  He hesitated to pray for his own desires earlier in the chapter, but unhesitatingly prays on behalf of his brethren in verse 17.  This shows a depth of character to which we would all do well to strive.  The Lord would have us be more selfless.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Alma 28

Using the difference in mourning as a background, Alma makes an interesting point about inequality.  Even though the US Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal, it is clear when we look around us that all men aren’t treated equally.  What is it that makes us unequal?  According to the prophet Alma, it is sin and transgression (v. 13).  The people of Enoch’s Zion were the most equal of all people “and there was no poor among them” (see Moses 7:18).  We tend to measure the wickedness of our society by the amount of crime enacted, and that’s a valid measure.  Would a better measure of the wickedness of a society be the treatment of its poor?  Enoch’s people were “of one heart and one mind” (again Moses 7:18).  How do we achieve a similar equality?  According to Alma: “And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord.”  (Alma 28:14)  How many of us understand that by serving in the Lord’s work, we have the potential to also improve our society?