Thursday, January 26, 2012

Alma’s people model how to deal with fears

25 For behold, it came to pass that while they were in the land of Helam, yea, in the city of Helam, while tilling the land round about, behold an army of the Lamanites was in the borders of the land.

26 Now it came to pass that the brethren of Alma fled from their fields, and gathered themselves together in the city of Helam; and they were much frightened because of the appearance of the Lamanites.

27 But Alma went forth and stood among them, and exhorted them that they should not be frightened, but that they should remember the Lord their God and he would deliver them.

28 Therefore they hushed their fears, and began to cry unto the Lord that he would soften the hearts of the Lamanites, that they would spare them, and their wives, and their children.

29 And it came to pass that the Lord did soften the hearts of the Lamanites. And Alma and his brethren went forth and delivered themselves up into their hands; and the Lamanites took possession of the land of Helam. (Mosiah 23:25-29)

When I was reading this recently, I noticed there was a very nice pattern here about how to deal with fears and scary situations that arise.

When the Lamanites show up, the Nephites are understandably very alarmed. I love that Alma goes among them and tells them they should not be frightened. (It is as if he tutors them on emotional response here.) Why should they not be frightened? They should not be frightened because they have a much better alternative—remembering their God and trusting He would deliver them. To me, this seems very effective because it is a change of focus from the thing feared and the anticipation of bad things that might happen…to a focus on God who cares for us and the prospect of eventual escape from the thing feared. It is a change from fear to hope and trust.

Then there is a verse I really love. “Therefore they hushed their fears, and began to cry unto the Lord that he would soften the hearts of the Lamanites” (v28). I love that it says “they hushed their fears. It shows me that it is possible for me to turn on my fears and hush them and suppress them. I’ve found that when I do that, I really do almost say “Hush” to myself. I also like that it says that they began to cry to the Lord. Prayer is a great outlet for concern and worry. It is very cathartic. The more heart you put into it, the more comforting it is. That is the Spirit fulfilling its role as the comforter to soothe our souls. And Heavenly Father can actually do something about the problem.

In verse 29, it says that ultimately Alma’s people delivered themselves up into the hands of the Lamanites. That, I think, took a lot of braver to go out and face their fears like that. I think it was good too to not delay, but to resolve the situation quickly because that would also give less scope for fear to arise. Sometimes anticipation of something we fear is more terrible than the thing itself.

There’s another place in the Book of Mormon where a group is filled with fear. The prophet Helaman and his army, including the stripling warriors, found themselves in a very difficult predicament—they had to guard the Nephite border from an innumerable Lamanite army and do it on a shoestring budget while nearly starving to death. Notice their progression from fear to indomitable faith:

7 And it came to pass that we did wait in these difficult circumstances for the space of many months, even until we were about to perish for the want of food.

8 But it came to pass that we did receive food, which was guarded to us by an army of two thousand men to our assistance; and this is all the assistance which we did receive, to defend ourselves and our country from falling into the hands of our enemies, yea, to contend with an enemy which was innumerable.

9 And now the cause of these our embarrassments, or the cause why they did not send more strength unto us, we knew not; therefore we were grieved and also filled with fear, lest by any means the judgments of God should come upon our land, to our overthrow and utter destruction.

10 Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, yea, and also give us strength that we might retain our cities, and our lands, and our possessions, for the support of our people.

11 Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him.

12 And we did take courage with our small force which we had received, and were fixed with a determination to conquer our enemies, and to maintain our lands, and our possessions, and our wives, and our children, and the cause of our liberty.

13 And thus we did go forth with all our might against the Lamanites, who were in the city of Manti; and we did pitch our tents by the wilderness side, which was near to the city. (Alma 58:7-13)

Helaman and his armies also poured out their souls in prayer for strength and deliverance. The Lord blessed them with:

  • Assurances
  • Great faith
  • Hope for deliverance
  • Courage with their small force
  • A fixed determination to conquer
  • And they went forth with all their might.

Ultimately, the assurances of the Lord move Helaman and his army to courage, determination, and action.

I think both these stories are valuable because they show us a pattern of what to do when we fear, for whatever reason. We see that in one case, the people of Alma were strengthened to go and submit. In another case, the armies of Helaman were strengthened to go and cook up a strategy to fight the Lamanites. But both of them were strengthened to go and DO something.

Will you tell me about a time when you were afraid and turned to the Lord? How did the Lord help you?


Becca said...

Probably ever moment of fear in my life has to do with my children - I am usually consumed by fear during my pregnancies (that something might go wrong with me or the baby) and nearly ever day I am afraid that either my children will get hurt/sick/etc or that I will mess them up terribly!

When I give myself to much prayer over my children and my abilities as a mother I can see the Lord's hand in my life, giving me courage and strength, even when I feel sometimes like I am running low on provisions.

I am reading in Mormon now at the end of he Book of Mormon and it is such a stark contrast to the stories in Alma. The people in Mormon's time fought out of fear and anger, and never turned to the Lord (which leads to their eventual destruction). I am grateful for all the examples in the Book of Mormon (both the good ones and the bad ones).