Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book of Mormon Study - Alma 4

Today’s reading of Alma 4 reminds me of this story I’ve shared in seminary before:

Once a king had a great highway built for the members of his kingdom. After it was completed, but before it was opened to the public, the king decided to have a contest. He invited as many as desired to participate. Their challenge was to see who could travel the highway the best. On the day of the contest the people came. Some of them had fine chariots; some had fine clothing, fine hairdos, or great food. Some young men cam in their track clothes and ran along the highway. People traveled the highway all day, but each one, when he arrived at the end, complained to the king that there was a large pile of rocks and debris left on the road at one spot and this got in their way and hindered their travel. At the end of the day, a lone traveler crossed the finish line warily and walked over to the king. He was tired and dirty, but he addressed the king with great respect and handed him a bag of gold. He explained, “I stopped along the way to clear a pile of rocks and debris that was blocking the road. This bag of gold was under it all. I want you to return it to its rightful owner.” The king replied, “You are the rightful owner.” The traveler replied, “Oh no, this is not mine. I’ve never known such money.” “Oh yes,” said the king, “you’ve earned this gold, for you won my contest. He who travels the road best is he who makes the road smoother for those who will follow.”

Oh the Nephite cycle!! Maybe I should just say, Oh the people cycle!

In verse 10 it says:... the wickedness of the church was a great stumbling block to those who did not belong to the church; and thus the church began to fall in its progress.

I have written next to this verse: Are you a stumbling block?

Well? Am I? I sure hope not.

People watch us. They watch to see if we live what we claim to believe. When we don't live we what claim to believe, it leaves others confused… and in some case angry and bitter. If we as members of the church are negative, angry, and not living the gospel, what incentive does that give; what example does that give to those who aren't members of the church? Does our behavior- the lives that we lead- draw people closer to the Savior or not?

Elder Robert D. Hales: “No matter our circumstances, we can be an example to others, we can lift them, we can inspire them to seek righteousness, and we can bear testimony to all of the power of Jesus Christ” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1997, 113; or Ensign, May 1997, 82).

A few things that I really loved:

Verse 14:...for Christ's sake... The things that the humble followers did, they did for Christ's sake. I pondered what that meant. My interpretation is that everything good that we do, we do because the Atonement has allowed us to. They say that he suffered for our sins, so I know that some of the blood and tears that he shed were for me. Conversely, I'd like to think that the good things that I do can ease his burden, further his cause and bring my Savior joy- that maybe I can lighten his load by choosing the right. I love that.

Verse 15: ...nevertheless the Spirit of the Lord did not fail them... They were humble, and the Spirit didn't let them down. Love it!

I love the humility of Alma. Not that prestige was important to him- but he gave up a prestigious position for the sake of helping rebuild the kingdom. That inspires me to ask myself: How much would I be willing to give up to further the Kingdom? I've covenanted to dedicate all that I have to do so. I hope I do.

Pride was their issue and pride is ours issue too. Pride – that universal sin – led “church” members to be snobs; to think they were better than others; to be intolerant and to be mean. Pride caused these Church member Nephites to be more wicked than the non-member Nephites. Sadly, we are in serious jeopardy of making the same mistakes.

Honestly ask yourself: Do I give what is needed (time, courtesy, or talent) to those who need my help? Do I seek for costly clothes and that which is vain? Is my heart set on riches? Do I set the right kind of example with respect to cheating, swearing, gossiping, being kind, and forgiving? Do I have respect for and tolerance toward those both in and out of the Church, who do not believe as I do? And thus, am I a stepping stone? or a stumbling block?

In Alma 4, there is no external enemy, no wars or contentions, but in a very real way the situation was more desperate than when the Lamanites were invading. What was the source of that danger?

There are interesting similarities and important differences between the descriptions of the Church in Alma 1 and Alma 4. In the second year of the reign of the judges, the Church and its members prospered (see Alma 1:31), while just six years later the Church “began to fail in its progress” (Alma 4:9–10).

President George Q. Cannon, who was a counselor in the First Presidency, taught: “We are to be tried in all things, and sooner or later we must be tested by prosperity and plenty. Many people who remained faithful Latter-day Saints while they were poor may be unable to stand when they are rich. Riches [have] a very corrupting effect upon the human heart, and it requires a very pure people to be as honest, virtuous, humble and upright when surrounded by luxury and wealth as when they are in poor and destitute circumstances” (Gospel Truth, ed. Jerreld L. Newquist, 2 vols. [1957, 1974], 2:319).

Verse 19 teaches that Alma preached the gospel, taught the scriptures, and stirred the hearts of the people to a remembrance of their duty and to the Savior. He used the word off God to “pull down… all pride and craftiness, and all contentions. He bore testimony. He had experience with this. He should know.

We just had General conference. Our prophets, seers and revelators taught us many great things.

Will I step up, listen, do, and change? I hope so. I’d like to see the “cycle” broken.

What did you think/learn today?

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