29 September 2016

"God, Wilt Thou Make Thyself Known unto Me[?]," Alma 22:17-18

Alma 22: 17-18

The king believes the words of Aaron, and immediately "the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees." (vs. 17)  Prostrated upon the ground, crying mightily unto the Lord, the king then offers this beautifully simple prayer:
O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. (vs. 18)
 The end of verse 18 then explains that the king "was struck as if he were dead." This passing of state from consciousness to unconsciousness is reported at least three times in the Book of Mormon as part of miraculous conversion processes. It happened previously with this man's own son, King Lamoni, (see Alma 18:42-43) and then to his entire household (See Alma 19:13-16). It also happened to Alma the Younger (See Mosiah 27:19-20 and Alma 36:10-11). Alma the Younger's final account is the most vivid in explaining the purpose of this type of conversion event.

In reviewing Alma's account, I was also brought to consider vs. 24 for Alma 36. This seems to be something of a mission statement for Alma and I love the focus that this gives on his priorities after his conversion. It reads:
Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
Saul/Paul is one other example from the New Testament of a similar conversion experience. Perhaps what we see in common with all these men is the need for a quick turn around to protect and advance the work of the Lord. Their conversions were not for their benefit alone. Rather, we have in all four cases men who were in key positions of influence who needed a more powerful heavenly manifestation to adjust their course in an abbreviated time span.

This understanding is phenomenal! Typically, the conversion process of becoming a true Christian disciple is a process of years. (Take Peter, for example.) Elongated conversion processes are the norm. So understanding that the Lord has conversion tools in place to facilitate His work, when needed, makes a great deal of sense to me this morning.

22 September 2016

"What Shall I Do?" Alma 22:15-16

Alma 22:15-16


After the king had the plan of redemption explained to him by Aaron, the missionary, the king had only one question on his mind: "What shall I do...?" There is actually more to his question than this, but this is so profoundly similar to Peter's interactions with those at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. (See Acts 2:37)

What the king said in its entirety was this:
...What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? (vs. 15, emphasis added)
The verse continues with the king making one final statement, which emphasizes the urgency of his inquiry, "Behold... I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom..." Is the grass really greener on the other side? By that, I mean, is having all of this world's goods, wealth, and power; is it really better, happier, more joyful, more (~fill in the blank~), than the peace, joy, and happiness that the Gospel of Christ affords? Here is a man who had all that this would could give him. It would seem that the king felt it was not "greener" on the other side. So here is a king, longing for eternal joy and asking how to find it.

It's even more important that the king was asking questions. I'd venture to add that these are inspired questions at that. By that I mean the Spirit of the Lord was probably responsible for planting these questions in his heart. The king acted on these questions and in the asking of questions, he is at the same time expressing the pure desires of his heart.

Aaron's response in the next verse is pivotal. Allowing the king to confirm his motives, Aaron states: "If thou desirest this thing..." and then he goes on to give detailed instruction on what the king needed to do:
  1. "Bow down before God"
  2. "Repent of all thy sins" 
  3. "Call on his name in faith" 
  4. "[Believe] that ye shall receive"
Four simple steps to explain in word; yet, how hard to embrace. In fact, the king's ability to readily act on these simple instructions seems to be entirely proportional to the urgency of his desire. By that I mean, our ability to act on the plan of happiness (or the plan of redemption that brings lasting peace and happiness) is completely predicated upon how important we feel this to be  It's utterly dependent upon the desires of our heart as to whether or not we are able to accomplish the requirements of happiness. Happiness does have a price, and its name is Faith on the Lord Jesus Christ and Repentance.

Then, after Aaron's succinct explanation, there was one final statement of assurance: "then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest." Aaron speaks from testimony in this statement when he promises the king that it will work. These are the same steps that he had already experienced for himself. They are the same steps that anyone who honestly seeks for a better life must pass through. So it's not just  a vain, empty wish. No, the promise is sure.

He (or she) who humbles himself before God, walks the thorny road of repentance, and calls out to the name of Jesus Christ in faith, believing it will happen, the hope of joy will come! I know this as well as Aaron did when he declared it to the king. It's been good to be reminded of this again.

19 September 2016

"Believest thou that there is a God?," Alma 22:1-14

Alma 22:1-14

The start of this chapter takes pains again (see previous chapter) to explain that the Spirit of the Lord did lead Aaron and his brethren to the house of the king over all the land of Nephi, except that part which the king had recently separated and given to his son, Lamoni. The geo-political details are not nearly as important here as the fact that it was the Spirit of the Lord that led them there. They didn't go because they were directed to go by Ammon, though Ammon was the one who relayed the referral. They didn't go because there was nothing else for them to do, and they felt like shooting for the stars. They went because the Spirit of the Lord led them there. (see vs. 1)

They may not even have known that this was where they were headed, like Nephi trying to get the brass plates, taking one step at a time. On the other hand, maybe they did fully know exactly where they were going and in what context they were coming. Because after all, Ammon had just rescued them because of his interactions with the king. Either way, it requires courage to follow a prompting of the Spirit that would cause you walk straight into the palace of the king over all the lands of the Lamanites, and request audience with the king, but that's exactly what Aaron did. (see vs. 2)

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At the initial contact with the king, Aaron and his brethren attempt the same approach (as did Ammon) to offer their services as servants to the king. However, the king would not permit them to be his servants. He had questions to be answered. The generosity of Ammon and "the greatness of his words" had left the king troubled in mind. There was no need to dig up the soil of the soul here, for the king had already been primed for learning.

The king had also inquired as to why Ammon didn't come with them. In a matter of fact declaration, Aaron states: "Behold, the Spirit of the Lord has called him another way;" and then explains that he had returned to the land of Ismael with Lamoni. (see vs. 5) These direct statements of doctrinal truth, because they were unfamiliar to the king, became the catalyst for his inquiry.

The king also inquires of them as to what Ammon meant when he said, "If ye will repent ye shall be saved, and if ye will not repent, ye shall be cast off at the last day." (vs. 6) This is possibly what the king was referring to when he said earlier that he was troubled because of the greatness of the words of Ammon.(see vs. 3)

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With the foundation of inquiry laid before them (what is the Spirit of the Lord and what is repentance?), Aaron's approach at this point is very similar to Ammon's. And he starts by asking a question. In fact, Aaron asks the same question that Ammon had asked the king's son: "Believest thou that there is a God?" (vs. 7Alma 18:24)

Aaron's approach, like Ammon's, builds on common ground. The king himself doesn't believe in a "God," but he did acknowledge that some of his subjects did, and he was sympathetic to their requests to build synagogues.(vs. 7) In a spirit of edification, Aaron doesn't attempt to debunk the Amalekites' false form of worship towards God. He is focused on establishing a common foundation.

As Aaron reassures the king of the reality of a God, the king then begins to explore this idea. He asks: "Is God that Great Spirit that brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem?" Again, not being negative or focusing on the false parts of the king's concept of God as a Great Spirit, Aaron confirms the king's connection that God guided their forefathers to the promised land. He used what the king was familiar with to build on the common ground that was already there.

Doing so, Aaron is then able to establish God as a creator. The king acknowledges the same, and then asks Aaron to give him more detail about these things. It is curious that Aaron never explained the details of the two specific questions that were on the king's mind. Rather, Aaron first established the reality of God's existence, then "[beginning] from the creation of Adam," he laid out the plan of redemption -- that beautiful, glorious plan that gives life purpose and meaning.

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There is one final thought that impresses me as I contemplate the plan of redemption described in the verses at the end of this part of the chapter. Verse 13 states that the plan was "prepared from the foundation of the world, through Christ, for all whosoever would believe on his name." Or in other words, Christ the Lord is to be directly credited for the preparations of the plan of redemption, which preparations where made on behalf of any and all who would believe on His name, the name of Christ Jesus.

Then next verse goes further to detail Christ's intimate, unique, and absolute role in the plan, and man's utter dependence upon Christ. Because of his fallen state, man of himself could merit nothing. The verse goes on to explain that the sufferings and death of Christ atones for the sins of man. The same verse also goes on to explain how Christ broke the bands of death so that the grave could have no victory and that the sting of death would be completely consumed (or swallowed up) through the hope of glory.

Given the enormity of the Savior's part in the execution of the plan, all that man can do in reply is to have faith and repent and so forth. It seems like such a small and disproportionate requirement that God asks of us for our total participation in His plan.