23 July 2015

"Alma... Did Administer Unto Him in His Tribulations," Alma 15

Alma 15

This chapter addresses something that I feel that I am not very good at: ministering to the sick and the poor. The story of Zeezrom also concludes in this chapter, he (having been taken gravely ill) being the key player to whom Alma administered to. (Side note: In times past, my wife and I have also discussed this chapter as evidence of how sin and one's mental and emotional state can have a direct impact on the physical well being of an individual.)

After Alma and Amulek's miraculous deliverance from the prison at Ammonihah, they were commanded to leave that town. (vs. 1) At Sidom, many of those who believed the preaching of Alma and Amulek had resorted there, and at Alma's arrival they learned of the fate of the wives and children, and also their own miraculous deliverance.

The first case study in this chapter is Zeezrom. Zeezrom is fully convinced that Alma and Amulek were no more and that their destruction rested fully upon his own shoulders. The mental and spiritual anguish that Zeezrom was passing through caused him to be taken sick with a burning fever. "And they found him upon his bed, sick, being very low with a burning fever; and his mind also was exceedingly sore because of his iniquities;" (vs. 5)

When Zeezrom learns of Alma and Amulek's arrival at Sidom, suddenly redemption becomes an option, and he calls for them immediately. I love the conversation that follows:

And it came to pass that Alma said unto him, taking him by the hand: Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation?
And he answered and said: Yea, I believe all the words that thou hast taught.
And Alma said: If thou believest in the redemption of Christ thou canst be healed.
And he said: Yea, I believe according to thy words.
And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord our God, have mercy on this man, and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ. (vs. 6 -10)
 A healing miracle occurs in verse 11, where Zeezrom immediately is healed and he "leaped upon his feet, and began to walk." Such are the miracles of those who worthily act according to their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Alma asks Zeezrom if he believes in the power Christ unto salvation (speaking in the long term it seems to me), and then he affirms that if Zeezrom believes in the redemption of Christ he could be healed. Zeezrom acknowledges the truth of Alma's words, and then Alma heals him "according to his faith which is in Christ." Christ is the only name under heaven by which men can truly be saved and healed of their weakness and wickedness.

Subsequently, Zeezrom is baptized and becomes a minister to the people.

The second case study of ministering and succoring the poor and needed is that of Amulek. We learn in verse 16 that Amulek had literally "forsaken all... for the word of God." We learn that Amulek had also been rejected by his own friends, his father and kindred (other family members). The scriptures here say nothing about Amulek's wife or his children, but back in Alma 10:11, he said, "For behold, [Alma] hath blessed mine house, he hath blessed me, and my women, and my children, and my father and my kinsfolk; yea, even all my kindred hath he blessed." The scriptures are quiet on the point of what happened to his wife (or wives) and children. Perhaps we can reasonably assume that they were 1) among those that were cast into the flames, or 2) among the disbelievers. I tend to think that they were among the martyrs, but it is a mute point for speculation. I only address the question here to help illustrate the reality that Amulek was literally alone in his new faith, stripped of everything familiar to him: both his personal belongings and all friend and family relations.

In this context, what Alma does with Amulek is all the more touching. "therefore [Alma] took Amulek and came over to the land of Zarahemla, and took him to his own house, and did administer unto him in his tribulations, and strengthened him in the Lord." (vs. 18, emphasis added)



14 July 2015

"According to Our Faith Which Is in Christ," Alma 14

Alma 14

This is a most painful account of discipleship and the potential cost of such. Alma's ability to discern impression of the Spirit in the midst of such opposition is notable, because it instructed him when to act and how to act. It also gave him hope for those who were taken from this life prematurely.

There is also a great deal to learn here about justice and the judgments of God. How incredibly patient is God with his children! Slow to execute judgment unto destruction, even against his wicked children who would murder the innocent.

"...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," (vs. 11).

In my mind, it seems that sometimes mortal judgments are executed to prevent the wicked from sinning further. Sodom and Gomorah comes to mind when the Savior said "But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee." (Matthew 11:24)

Yet, on the other hand, for the wicked leadership of the people of Ammonihah, a double condemnation seems eminent. Verse 11 goes on to state: "...the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day."

----

Woven throughout these chapters is the conversion of Zeezrom, and here in chapter 14 we learn that he "was astonished at the words which had been spoken; and he also knew concerning the blindness of the minds, which he had caused among the people by his lying words;" (vs. 6).  The reality of his situation caused him to be "harrowed up under a consciousness of his own guilt; yea, he began to be encircled about by the pains of hell."

In the next verse, we learn that this was a turning point for Zeezrom, so much so that he became a vocal defender of Alma and Amulek.

----

I read yesterday elsewhere about the power that is extended to us according to our faith in Jesus Christ. The account of Alma and Amulek's miraculous deliverance at the end of this chapter is one such example of faith. As Alma and Amulek rise to their feet, after having suffered many days in prison and in verbal and physical assault from the chief rulers of the land, Alma cries out: "How long shall we suffer these great afflictions, O Lord? O Lord, give us strength according to our faith which is in Christ, even unto deliverance," (vs. 26, emphasis added).

05 July 2015

"By the Mouth of Angels," Alma 13:20-31

Alma 13:20-31

Alma now brings all this message home, by declaring repentance to the people of Ammonihah (vs. 20).

Vs. 22 - This verse is an interesting reminder of the work of angels in preparing the way for salvation to be ministered among all nations.

Vs. 23 - The Nephites had it different than the Jewish nation. Amongst the Nephites the terms of salvation were plain to be understood. This privilege was extended to them because of their being made wanderers in a strange land. Sacrifice frequently brings spiritual advantages.

Vs. 24 - All the land of the Nephites (and even the Lamanites, I would suppose) were being prepared through the ministering of angels for the time of Christ's coming, that the people would be prepared to receive his word.

I find it curious that Alma, the spiritual head of the Church during his time, was made aware of this ministering from beyond the veil -- as if efforts were being coordinated between heaven and earth. How much we don't know! I feel that in a sense the same is true in our time. How much must the angels be working during our time to prepare the hearts of men for the message of Christ.


21 June 2015

"The Prince of Peace... the King of Salem," Alma 13:14-19

Alma 13:14-19

I don't know, or I don't believe that we have anywhere in modern, available scripture a more accurate or accessible account of Melchizedek, who lived during the time of Abraham. I find it curious that the people of his land, the land of Salem, "had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination... full of all manner of wickedness." (vs. 17) The form and manner in which he choose to address this great difficulty was to become ordained to the priesthood and then preach repentance unto his people. To which his people responded by repenting. (see vs. 18)

I find in this hope that at any time, one can decide where he stands before God, and take action to change the course of his own life, and literally the direction of the community where he lives.

19 June 2015

"A Holy Calling... Without Beginning or End," Alma 13:1-13

Alma 13:1-13

Immediately following a discussion on the Plan of Redemption and a call to repentance at the end of chapter 12, Alma then begins to discuss the priesthood and the calling of high priests. Perhaps it's a little clearer in my mind this time as I read it, but the two topics are more closely related than I had previously supposed.

The difference between those called to the high priesthood and those who are not is distinguished solely by the individual's ability to exercise faith and perform good works. Alma explains that in all other regards men are equal (see vs. 4-5). The great divide among men is on whether men will repent of their sins and exercise faith in Christ, or not.

The purposes of this high priesthood is to point men to Christ (see vs. 9), even the residue of men, that they might see how it is that they can return to God by following the path that those who have been ordained high priests have had to follow in order to qualify for that ordination.

03 June 2015

"A Plan... Prepared from the Foundation of the World," Alma 12:25-37

Alma 12:25-37

In the corruption of Christianity through the means of the great Apostasy, one of the greatest cover-ups that Satan has tried to execute is the reality of a plan: a plan of redemption. No where in scripture is the reality of the plan of redemption (also called the plan of happiness, the plan of salvation, etc. -- it's all the same plan) more clearly explained. Repeatedly, Alma asserts that this plan was prepared from the foundation of the world, and that everything that has transpired since then has been according to plan. (There are 7 specific references to the "plan of redemption" in the end of this chapter.)

As discussed previously, there was a plan laid so that when Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit that they would still be allowed a period of probation, in order that they may prepare to return to God's presence. The verses then that follow explain how without the plan, there would have been no resurrection, no probationary state, and the word of God would have been made void.

I've always felt that planning was a good thing. Yet, what these scriptures are saying is that without a plan, eternal absolutes such as the resurrection, mortality (a period of preparation), and the holy scriptures (the word of God) would not exist. Planning now is a bit more essential than I has previously supposed.

---

Another term that is frequently repeated in these same verses that makes reference to this planning of our redemption is "appointed." In verse 27, "but it was appointed unto men that they must die... " Or in other words, it was planned that death must be come unto man. The verse continues, "... and after death, they must come to judgment, even that same judgment of which we have spoken, which is the end."

Then replacing the word "appointed" with the word "planned" verse 28 reads like this:
And after God had [planned] that these things should come unto man, behold, then he saw that it was expedient that man should know concerning the things whereof he had [planned for] them;
I'm not suggesting that "planned" is a better term here. It is just helping me to understand how thoroughly prepared and orchestrated this probationary state really is. "Appointed" is defined as "decided on beforehand; designated." 

Verse 29 reads "Therefore he sent angels to converse with them, who caused men to behold of his glory." What was his glory? If verse 28 is telling us that God saw that men should know about the plan that was prepared for them, then verse 29 says that in response he sent angels to cause them to behold of his glory, is not this saying that in this plan of redemption is that glory of God. (I don't even hardly understand this, only that the Spirit confirms that it is true!)

What am I to understand about the divine purposes associated with planning, and how to accomplish the greater good through strategic organization? I keep thinking of how satan's greatest deceptions are those that are well planned and organized. Yet, also there is that prevalent philosophy of chance -- that all this just happened by chance. Satan in some ways understands the power of planning, but in the beginning there was no opposing plan at all, simply an idea to try and rise above the glory of God.

On the contrary, God is an organizer of light. The planning, the preparation, the appointments, the organization exists in such exquisite fashion as to accomplish his divinely appointed objective to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.



18 May 2015

"A Probationary State; A Time to Prepare to Meet God;" Alma 12:20-24

Alma 12:20-24

The statement found in verse 24, which the prior verses lead up to, is a pivotal, defining doctrine of the purpose of life. "What is this that thou hast said, that man should rise from the dead and be changed from this mortal to an immortal state, that the soul can never die... there was no possible chance that they should live forever?" (vs. 20-21)

One of the rulers of the people of Ammonihah referenced "that God placed cherubim and a flaming sword on the east of the garden of Eden, lest our first parents should enter and partake of the fruit of the tree of life, and live forever." He was without a correct understanding of the events that took place in the garden of Eden, a serious defect that kept them from understanding the plan of redemption.

Alma in the following verses goes on to explain how this action had to be taken to prevent Adam from partaking of the tree of life. He had already partaken of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (the "forbidden" fruit as it is traditionally referred to). But now, to prevent Adam from partaking of immortality prematurely, he had to be kept from the tree of life by angelic guard so that he would in fact be able to die, as God said he would. (See vs. 23)

And we see that death comes upon mankind, yea, the death which has been spoken of by Amulek, which is the temporal death; nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead. (vs. 24)
The significance of this statement become more apparent when we begin to search for supporting verses throughout the scriptures. In reality, there only a few key references that point to this pivotal doctrine, most of which are found in the Book of Mormon or in the Doctrine and Covenants.