Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Life Lessons

As I have been reading in Mosiah, I was really struck by the story of Alma's people. There are countless stories in the scriptures, not just the Book of Mormon, of peoples that were destroyed or brought into bondage due to broken covenants and iniquity. I think it is really easy to assume or trust that things will be honky-dorey, except the occasional small hiccup-this is mortality after all, as long as we are doing all that we should. WRONG!!

The story of Alma's people is a prime example of this assumption being untrue. Alma, as we know, was one of the wicked priests of evil King Noah. Upon hearing Abinadi preach, Alma tried to plea for Abinadi's life and was therefore threatened himself. He fled and hid himself in a lovely place called Mormon where he recorded Abinadi's words, repented, and started to preach the gospel. He collected quite the group of believers and baptized them. They were discovered by Noah and were forced to leave. This group of about 450 then settled in a place called Helam where they grew and prospered. In Mosiah chapter 23 we learn that the people pitched their tents, and began to till the ground, and began to build buildings; yea, they were industrious, and did labor exceedingly. The priests and teachers were properly ordained and did watch over their people, and did nourish them with things pertaining to righteousness. And the people did  multiply and prosper exceedingly in the land of Helam. They were doing great. They were righteous, following the teachings of Alma and his appointed teachers, working hard and, seemingly, doing all they should.

In the very next verse, you're given some fore-shadowing on this people's fate... Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith. What a bummer. We all know that chastening does not have a good connotation and trying our patience is always a growing experience, to say the least.

This people is wronged by the Lamanites and ultimately brought into bondage by them. As if that weren't bad enough, Amulon (another of King Noah's wicked priests, the one who stole Lamanites daughters, then used those very same daughters to gain favor with the Lamanites when they happened upon them in the wilderness) is put in charge of this righteous group of people as we learn in verse 39, And the king of the Lamanites had granted unto Amulon that he should be a king and a ruler over his people, who were in the land of Helam; nevertheless he should have no power to do anything contrary to the will of the king of the Lamanites.

Things go down hill for Alma's people pretty quickly as we read in chapter 24 And now it came to pass that Amulon began to exercise authority over Alma and his brethren, and began to persecute him, and cause that his children should persecute their children. For Amulon knew Alma, that he had been one of the king’s priests, and that it was he that believed the words of Abinadi and was driven out before the king, and therefore he was wroth with him; for he was subject to king Laman, yet he exercised authority over them, and put tasks upon them, and put task-masters over them.

The people, being righteous, cried mightily unto God (v10) and Ammulon put a quick stop to even that, upon penalty of death,  in verse 11. So the people prayed continuously in their hearts and their prayers were answered because of their faith. We read about this in verses 13-16 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage. 14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. 15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord. 16 And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage. And, of course, His promised was fulfilled the very next day as he caused the Lamanites to fall into a deep sleep so Alma and his people could flee to the land of Zarahemla.

I believe these promises are available to us today. I know that all of my trials will not be solely as a result of my poor choices. There are certainly the choices of others that have an effect on me, but there are also going to be times in my life that my loving Father in Heaven knows I am ready for growth. As a family, we encountered a very difficult situation through no fault of our own and I can not properly express the humility, patience, faith, and love that was required for us to overcome that trying time in our lives. BUT we did. I can now look back and see how much that situation helped my marriage by forcing us closer and to work as a team, by making me realize again what an amazing person I was blessed with for an eternal companion. I can look back and see how my faith was strengthened and how we both certainly learned some humility. I look at my life now and see how incredibly blessed my life is now because we were sent down a path that we never would have chosen on our own.

I am so grateful to our Father in Heaven for the blessing of this sojourn here on earth. Our actions in life make the world of difference in being able to make it back to Him. But let's not forget the importance of our reactions. We will all be faced with trials that we did not choose... how will we react? Will we react as Alma's people? With faith and patience and diligence, raising our voices mightily unto God? I hope so because I want to see you all lifted up at the last day as we are promised by Alma.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Spring Break is almost upon us!! I am so excited to have my kiddos all to myself for a whole week. A little over, actually, since they get tomorrow off too. The kids and I are headed back to KS to visit cousins and friends. John will live the bachelor life for the weekend until he heads to Chicago for work on Monday. I do wish we could afford a big fancy trip somewhere tropical, but I am so happy to see the people that we love.

Our middle child just turned 8 in February and we are gearing up for his baptism Easter weekend. I am so proud of his decision to get baptized but, as his mother, it also worries me a little bit. He is now at the age of accountability and is responsible for the choices he makes, keeping with him and listening to the Spirit, and repenting for his mistakes. I love this little boy with all my heart and I hope to spend eternity with him. This is where the scary part comes in…

What if his dad and I haven’t taught him the gospel well enough? What if he wasn’t listening? What if he decides it’s too hard? What if he forgets? Forgets how he felt when we went to the KC Temple open house, and the few other times I know he’s felt the Spirit? What if he forgets what he has been taught when he faces the peer pressure that is bound to come? What if he forgets why making the right choice is the best choice?

As I’ve been studying the Book of Mormon for my religion class, I have really been struck by the common chord of the wickedness that occurs. Laman and Lemuel were “slow to remember the Lord their God” and that they had seen angels and witnessed miracles. They were brought unto repentance countless times and still could not hold on to that feeling of peace and love and light. They, over and over again, gave into the anger and jealousy that they felt. Why could they not remember? Because of  their inability to remember all the Lord had done for them, their posterity became loathsome and wicked, with but a few exceptions, for generations.  

Later, in the book of Jacob, we learn that the Nephites start to forget. In chapter 3, verse 5,  Jacob says  Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten‍ the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father—that they should have save it were one‍ wife, and concubines‍ they should have none, and there should not be whoredoms‍ committed among them.

(I find this scripture really interesting along with the one that follows that tells them that the Lamanites are not destroyed because they are faithful to this commandment. Faithful to their wives. That’s a different discussion though.)

Again, that word: forgotten. He goes on to command them to do the opposite: remember.

9 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile‍ no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers. 10 Wherefore, ye shall remember your children, how that ye have grieved their hearts because of the example‍ that ye have set before them; and also, remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day.

We too must remember what we’ve been commanded to do and remember the confirmations we’ve had from the Spirit when we do them.

Laman and Lemuel had a prophet for a father that obviously taught them well. How could they be so “slow to remember the Lord (their God)”? How on earth do I have hope for my children if the prophet’s children went so far off the straight and narrow? That’s a scary thought.

We know that Laman and Lemuell were taught the gospel their entire lives.  I have hard time applying the word “forgot” like when I forget to get bananas when I go grocery shopping. I really think “stiffnecked” is really synonymous with the type of “forgetting” we’re talking about here. They were taught from when they were young. They didn’t just forget that they had seen an angel or were shaken when Nephi touched them. They were quick to give in to their feelings of anger and jealousy, and were slow to remember the feelings of peace and light that they surely felt witnessing the miracles they did. They slowly gave in to the temptations of Satan and, therefore, drowned out the feelings of love and light that come from God.

Laman and Lamuel, as we know, led their families astray by, eventually, not even acknowledging their need to repent and heed the prophet’s words. The Lamanites became a wild, violent and wicked people because they were not taught the gospel. This is in great contrast to the Nephites who had the records and prophets and still went astray. We already read how Jacob described the Nephites as more wicked than the Lamanites, and the Nephites knew better!! Just like Laman and Lemuel did.

Jacob spends a great deal of his writings telling us how he chastised the Nephites and pointing out their pride and lack of integrity…and how his heart hurt because of it.  I love how he is so straight forward and lays it all out for them ...”remember that ye may bring your children unto destruction.” What a sobering warning.

In the book of Enos we read 22 And there were exceedingly many prophets among us. And the people were a stiffnecked people, hard to understand. 23 And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things—stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction. And after this manner do I write concerning them.

The Nephites are acting like Laman and Lemuel acted! This verse pulls at my heart strings. The Nephites had been taught the truth like I try to teach my children. They had the records like I have the scriptures. They have prophets among them just as we do. The Nephites are prospering at this point and they are “slow to remember”. The prophets have to ‘continually remind’ them of the things that they are quickly forgetting: God’s hand in their lives.

I have often wondered if it’s unfair that the people of Nephi are destroyed. I mean it’s Nephi. Faithful , strong, obedient Nephi. But as I have been studying this time, it has hit me that the Nephites, as a people, were not the faithful, strong, obedient Nephites. Oh yes, there are groups of them, and the Lamanites for that matter, that were more righteous than I could ever hope for in this life. But as a whole, a lot of the time they were more like Laman than they were like Nephi. Having to constantly be reminded of utter destruction, and death in order for them to stay righteous. Am I that way? Do I have to be threatened in order to stay on the straight and narrow? Or do I hold to the rod with strength and faith to reach the ultimate goal? Am I capable of teaching my children properly and setting the right example so I don’t have posterity that “dwindles in unbelief”?

My son is only 8 and he is, sure as heck, going to make many mistakes in his life. I just want to make sure I teach him to REMEMBER. Remember that his dad and I love him, remember that he has a Savior that loves him and suffered his sins for him, that he is a child of God and, as such, has the potential for greatness and perfection. I want him to REMEMBER what it feels like to feel the Spirit touch his heart, and remember that that feeling is better than any temporary satisfaction. I want him to REMEMBER that he can repent and be made clean, and that, if he does so, we can be a family forever. I somehow have to teach him to REMEMBER God and the impact He has had in his life.

I have been told how by Nephi when he said 26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. 27 Wherefore, we speak concerning the law that our children may know the deadness of the law; and they, by knowing the deadness of the law, may look forward unto that life which is in Christ, and know for what end the law was given. And after the law is fulfilled in Christ, that they need not harden their hearts against him when the law ought to be done away.

I’m still working on how to exactly execute this excellent advice... I’ll keep you posted.