21 January 2013

"It Was the Power of God," Mosiah 27:18-31

Mosiah 27:18-31

An interesting exercise in these verses is take the phrase "power of God" and substitute it with the word "priesthood." Not so much to change the meaning of the passage, but to give further understanding to the nature of the priesthood. I keep doing it, almost compulsively. Presently, I am left to consider how "nothing save the power of God that could... cause it to tremble." (verse 18) That thought that keeps impressing me is that the priesthood has the power to do this.

Then there is the question of signs and how it is an "adulterous generation" (Matt. 12:39) that seeks after signs. If we are not to seek after signs and miracles, then what part do these things play in the work of the Lord? That the priesthood has power over earthly elements has been illustrated time and time again in the scriptures, especially in the Old Testament. Their purpose is not to give signs to the wicked but rather to facilitate the work of the righteous.

In the case of Alma and his brethren, they were not seeking signs but rather were in complete rebellion against such things. The account of Alma and Paul are frequently compared with one another on this point and the miraculous intervention that turned them both about. Paul was different though, in that he thought he was doing God a service by destroying the Saints. Alma and his fellows were different in that they were intentionally rebelling against God and his servants.

These miracles were more the result of the prayers and the faith of the members of the Church than for the conversion of the individuals. In fact going back a few verses to verse 14, the angel even says as much:
Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.
Almost ironically though, the very thing that Alma was praying for was for the conversion of his son.

I find in these verses the other reason why this account is of worth to me as a reader. It is one account of the repentance process in action. Because of the dramatic and clear cut nature of Alma's repentance process here, it is easier to understand in concept certain key doctrines, such as being spiritually born of God. It is in his own words that there is a great amount of insight and testimony shared regarding the change that Alma had undergone (see verses 24-31).

There is much more to be extracted out of these verses, but I leave it as is for the time being. I will have opportunity to delve further into these verses in Spanish in the next couple of days. 

09 January 2013

"The Angel of the Lord Appeared unto Them," Mosiah 27:8-17

Mosiah 27:8-17

These verses contain the account of an angel that came to stop Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah on their course of destruction against the Church. The main question that I have as I read these verses is: what about this scenario merited the intervention of an angel? Angels are not the usual form of communication from heaven.

There are several reasons that I feel angelic intervention was merited in this instance. Verses 8 through 10 explain how they were rebelling against the church in secret. Given the family dynamics, that both parents of Alma and the son of Mosiah were the heads of the church and the state, it gave them all the more power to destroy what their fathers were trying to build and protect. 

Verse 14 offers another reason when the angel explains that Alma, the elder, had been praying for his son that he might "be brought to the knowledge of the truth." It wasn't just Alma that had been praying for this though, and just because Alma was his father. The angel starts the verse by explaining that the Lord had his people, and also of his servant Alma, who was also his father.

It seems to me as I read these verses that the purpose of the angelic visit was first as a protection to the church. The people of the church and the leaders of the Church had prayed for help from heaven. And God, who has both power and authority to do so, chose to send an angel to convince them of the error of their ways. Wickedness so gross, with such a direct and close impact on the church of God, from time to time does merit heavenly intervention.

08 January 2013

"There Should Be an Equality among All Men," Mosiah 27:1-7

Mosiah 27:1-7

These first verses of this chapter are given more as a setup to what follows. However, I've taken a moment to contemplate the law that was enacted and the purpose for which it was given. As a result of persecution by the unbelievers towards those that did believe, King Mosiah had been petitioned to take action.

Consequently, a command was enacted to dissolve persecutions and to protect the equality of all his people. The details of that command included that there was to be no pride or haughtiness that would disturb their peace, that every man should esteem his neighbor as himself, and that all should be industrious or labor with their own hands for their support. (see vs 2-4)

The result of this command or law was that there was increased peace and prosperity. I am amazed that it appears to have been so simple, that the king issued a command after consulting with his priests and then that the effects were that of general increased peace and prosperity.

Oh, how the times were different for these people. Still they were only one generation removed from King Benjamin's discourse and the powerful converting and unifying experience that that was for the people. There was a great deal of work prior to that, including wars and reform among the Nephites that came before this period. So that in this instance the challenge was resolved with a proclamation from the state perhaps doesn't seem so out there after all.

The other thing that strikes me as interesting is that a people, a nation as a whole, could be that pure and simple in a good way. That is not to say that they had lost their humanity in any way. Moreover, there was little or no skepticism, no general negativity towards the government, no abuse of authority, as we have it today.

03 January 2013

"To Prosper Exceedingly in the Affairs of the Church," Mosiah 26:34-39

Mosiah 26:34-39

Studying the previous verses in both English and Spanish, I was impressed with the truth that only a disciple of Christ could be asked to makes judgments on behave of others. That is, only someone who truly understands and sees that it is Christ that leads this great work and not themselves (that will walk circumspectly and humbly before God) has the perspective to deal with such weightier matters as judgment and mercy (see Matt 23:23). These verses don't directly state that such was the case with Alma, but it is absolutely impossible to conclude otherwise and the reminder is so very important on this topic in particular.

To be excommunicated or cut off from the Church and kingdom of God on the earth is not a trivial matter. I have always understood it to be a tool designed to aide in the repentance process. In these verses, it not only allowed those who would not repent to be separated from the Church, it created a distinction by which others could recognize that they had sinned.

The final verses explains an attitude that is important to be adopted by all true disciples. "Alma and his fellow laborers who were over the church... did admonish their brethren, and they were also admonished, every one by the word of God, according to his sins..." (vs 38 & 39, emphasis added) Among the leaders of the church, there were none that esteemed themselves as perfected, or better than, or above the word of God. Devoid of pride, every good leader realizes that there is always personal room for improvement. This is why verse 39 also concludes by explaining that these same leaders were "commanded of God to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things."

Side Thought: I am astounded at the reality of the doctrines of Christ and how it was that they were compiled in a day and age when there were no technological advances. How could such a perfected and true doctrine exist in ancient time except it be the word of God? This thought was impressed upon me as I went to conclude my study with prayer and then realized that there was a related doctrine that I had overlooked that was already woven in to the verse in question. Nothing is here by accident.