Monday, January 4, 2010

From Humble Poverty to Proud Prosperity: Lessons from Alma 4

While I was reading Alma 4, I noticed something interesting. Alma 4 starts out with the people of Nephi “greatly afflicted for the loss of their brethren, and also for the loss of their flocks and herds, and also for the loss of their fields of grain, which were trodden under foot and destroyed by the Lamanites” (Alma 4:2). This is in the sixth year of the reign of the judges.

The result of this affliction was that every one had reason to be sad, and amazingly, they all believed that their afflictions were a judgment of God sent because of their wickedness, so they began to remember their duty.

A mere two years later, we find the people of the church in this state:
And it came to pass in the eighth year of the reign of the judges, that the people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches, and their fine silks, and their fine-twined linen, and because of their many flocks and herds, and their gold and their silver, and all manner of precious things, which they had obtained by their industry; and in all these things were they lifted up in the pride of their eyes, for they began to wear very costly apparel. (Alma 4:6)
It is amazing to me that in only two years, the people go from a state of poverty and loss to a state of such abundance. I think that can give us some hope in this difficult economic climate.

It is also amazing to me that they could go from a state of such humility to a state of such pride and scorn in which they began “to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure” (Alma 4:8).

The problem of their pride unfortunately stems from the specific cause of their humility. Because they believed that their loss was punishment from God for their sins, after two years of hard work and righteousness, they believed that their prosperity was reward from God for their righteousness. But Mormon is very clear that they had obtained these things because of their industry. Certainly industry is a part of righteousness and it shows that there is a strong work ethic, but it is not the only part of righteousness. Further, the motives for work ethic can be all over the board, from self-aggrandizement to desires to help others.

Unless we can get out of the cycle of remembering our duty to God only when we are afflicted with temporal losses, we will not escape from the pride cycle. Do we remember our duty after our gains? We remember our duty when our to-do lists are overflowing. Do we remember our duty to God on vacations? Do we remember our duty after our victories and successes? Gratitude can help us remember.

It is my conviction that if we cultivate gratitude in our lives to a greater degree, it will enable us to maintain humility and thus keep us in the way of our duty to God even when things are going well for us.

I think one of my New Year’s Resolutions is going to be to take some time every day to consider what Heavenly Father has done for me.


Anonymous said...

I love this post. I agree with the importance of Gratitude.

Sometimes, when I think of the problems we face today (economically, etc), I feel like a lot of our problems could have been avoided if we were feeling grateful rather that entitled.

Of course, it is easy to slip into the proud/entitled mode, so, I feel that it is important to take time to be grateful - sometimes it requires deliberate action.

I liked when Elder Eyring gave a talk a while ago - where he gave the example that he would daily write in his journal how he felt the Lord in his life. Taking such time to reflect does make us more grateful.

anyways - thanks for the post. :)

Michaela Stephens said...

I too like Elder Eyring's talk. It seems to come back to me every so often.

And yes, gratitude really does require deliberate decision. I totally agree with you there.

Thanks for your comments!