Thursday, August 22, 2013

How the Nephites Prosper While Avoiding Pride, Alma 62:48-51

48 And the people of Nephi began to prosper again in the land, and began to multiply and to wax exceedingly strong again in the land. And they began to grow exceedingly rich.
49 But notwithstanding their riches, or their strength, or their prosperity, they were not lifted up in the pride of their eyes; neither were they slow to remember the Lord their God; but they did humble themselves exceedingly before him.
50 Yea, they did remember how great things the Lord had done for them, that he had delivered them from death, and from bonds, and from prisons, and from all manner of afflictions, and he had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies.
51 And they did pray unto the Lord their God continually, insomuch that the Lord did bless them, according to his word, so that they did wax strong and prosper in the land. (Alma 62:48-51)

This block of verses is one of the happiest in the Book of Mormon (excluding the bliss of 4 Nephi) because the Nephites manage to wax strong, prosper, and grow rich without being lifted up in pride.  How is this extraordinary state achieved?!  This is like the holy grail of Mormondom, next to Zion itself, yes?

We get a clue in two things that are mentioned.

First, they were not slow to remember the Lord.  They remembered all the great things God had done for them in preserving their lives, and they remembered He had delivered them out of their afflictions—from death, from imprisonment, from their enemies, etc.

Consider that this comes at the end of a long period of war with the Lamanites in which a good portion of the population was captured, imprisoned, perhaps enslaved, and subjected by Lamanite armies.  Whole cities were captive and during this difficult period it seems that they mustered great faith they would be delivered.  (They wouldn’t remember the Lord’s deliverance if they hadn’t first given Him credit for it, and they wouldn’t have given credit for it if they hadn’t pleaded for it in prayer many times during captivity.)  In the war chapters the perspective we read of most often is that of the Nephite liberators, but these verses above speak of another perspective—that of the captives and how they bore with the occupation of their lands by the enemy.  (Perhaps they kept their hope alive by remembering the deliverance of Limhi and Alma the Elder from two generations ago?)

Think of how the Nephite victories that set them free would have strengthened their faith in God.  Can you imagine them saying to each other, “At last!  Freedom!  We prayed for this day and it has come!  The Lord hears us and knows us!”  Can you imagine the celebrations?

When a large percentage of the population has direct experience with divine deliverance from affliction and danger and persists in remembering the Lord, think how that plays out across all the millions of relationships and interactions.  (I’m sure that this careful remembering is what the Lord wants for all of us today.. we see it in the purpose of the sacrament.)

Second, we are told that they did pray unto the Lord continually.  I suppose that this was not a practice they picked up when everything straightened out again; rather it was the way they coped during their afflictions and they refused to abandon it.  What a neat thing that so many people kept up a constant conversation with the Lord throughout the day. 

Once again, this reminds me that I need to pray much more often.  I think one of the main ideas that pulls me away from prayer is that I think I have to learn to be more self-reliant and try to do things myself..  But that’s so silly!  Here we are on earth to be tested and I know that I can’t escape sin on my own or become like Christ without being changed (which requires His help), so I NEED to pray!  

I love the example that the Nephites set here with their careful memory of divine deliverance and their constant prayer.  Just think what our wards could be like if we followed it.  Or our society.  (Sigh)

Today let’s try to pray continually over all our afflictions and even joys.  Let’s see how many days we can keep it up.