Wednesday, September 30, 2015 0 comments

The Sin of Boasting

When reading about the Zoramites, I happened to notice that one of their problems was that they “lifted up their hearts unto great boasting in their pride.” (Alma 31:25, emphasis added) 

My attention was caught by this and I felt like I needed to gain greater perspective and insight about what boasting is and why it is bad. I knew it was related to pride, but in what way I didn’t know. 

So I did research.  And what follows was very interesting to me because I got to find it and synthesize it and put it together, and discover things I needed to work on.  But I’m sharing it because I hope someone else might get a little benefit from it too.

Wikipedia was helpful.  It said boasting is attention-seeking by exaggerating accomplishments or their importance or one’s credit in a venture.  It may consist of one-upmanship.  It also said that boasting may also include exaggerating our obstacles and problems to bolster self-esteem.  Or it may consist of magnifying our injuries or discomforts in order to avoid responsibility and malinger.  There is usually some element of deception in boasting.

I was also interested in reading what the scriptures said about boasting.  I found principles, case studies, warnings, and results.  I found so much helpful stuff that I’m going to break it into several posts. 

To start off, here is what Christ said that relates to boasting:

9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:9-14)

Who is boasting in this parable?  Clearly it is the Pharisee.  Who is he boasting to?  Strangely enough, to God!  How weird is that?

Also, notice in verse 12 that the Pharisee is using his obedience to two particular commandments on which to base his trust in his own righteousness.  The problem is there aren’t just two commandments.  There’s a lot more than that.  Yes, the first and second great commandments encompass the rest, but those aren’t the one’s this Pharisee mentions. He just talks about fasting and tithing.  So we are led to conclude that the commandments the Pharisee doesn’t mention are the ones he’s bad at keeping because if he kept them, he would have mentioned them too.  

Another thing he does is he says, “I am not as other men are” and a list of other people’s sins follows. He thinks he is different from other sinful men, and yet.. doesn’t everyone have a few commandments they are good at keeping and certain sins they aren’t tempted by?  What then makes him so special?  The truth is he’s really no different than other men.

The lovely thing about this parable is that it illustrates the kind of boasting we may make to God, even in our prayers, and how this actually has the effect of keeping us from God.  If we find we imitate the Pharisee, we claim reconciliation that we actually do not have and can’t ever obtain until we see things how they really are--we are sinful and need mercy.

I also like that it shows in the publican a proper attitude of humility and the proper action of pleading for mercy for the sins and weakness he discerned in himself.

More on boasting to come later..
Friday, September 25, 2015 0 comments

Characteristics of the Zoramite errors

12 Now, when they had come into the land, behold, to their astonishment they found that the Zoramites had built synagogues, and that they did gather themselves together on one day of the week, which day they did call the day of the Lord; and they did worship after a manner which Alma and his brethren had never beheld;
13 For they had a place built up in the center of their synagogue, a place for standing, which was high above the head; and the top thereof would only admit one person.
14 Therefore, whosoever desired to worship must go forth and stand upon the top thereof, and stretch forth his hands towards heaven, and cry with a loud voice, saying:
15 Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou wast a spirit, and that thou art a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever.
16 Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ.
17 But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God.
18 And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen. . . .
20 For behold, every man did go forth and offer up these same prayers.
(Alma 31:12-18, 20)
Reading through what Alma and his posse observed about the Zoramites, it is interesting to note that he recorded what he saw and even recorded one of their prayers.  (Then, in contrast, we get one of Alma’s prayers too.)

I noticed that in the Zoramite prayer there were seven instances of the word holy or holiness. So the Zoramites were obsessed with holy status, but their manner of going about it was misguided.

The Zoramites believed God had separated them from their brethren. However, elsewhere it is noted that they had separated themselves (Alma 30:59), they had dissented from the Nephites (Alma 31:8), and they had gathered themselves together (Alma 31:3). They separated themselves. Just gathering together does make a people holy.

They believed they had been elected by God to be his holy children. Yet election does not make a people holy.

They took pride in not being led away after the foolish traditions of their fathers that, in their words, bound them down to a belief in Christ. It is possible that this began out of criticism of the many rules of the Law of Moses and they believed those things could be dispensed with, since it says elsewhere they would not keep the commandments in the Law of Moses (Alma 31:9).  It is particularly interesting that they saw the commandments they would not keep as instruments for building anticipation of Christ and they rejected that too. Even apostates had been taught these things were types of Christ.

They met at church and thanked God weekly for their favored status, but sadly, Sabbath observance and worship does not indicate holiness.

I have to call attention again to the fact that they did not believe in Christ and instead claimed some sort of revelation that there would be no Christ. The problem with not believing in Christ is that if no Christ, then there is no belief in redemption for sin, so one remains in one’s sins. To remain in one’s sins while claiming to be holy and denying the means of redemption from sins pretty much guarantees a person is spiritually stuck. Damned, if you will.  Further, if one does not believe in redemption, to claim one is elected and holy and all others would perish is contradictory.  All this causes us to wonder what they thought their favored status was based on, if not salvation from sin.

It is possible they had some sort of prosperity gospel, teaching that prosperity and riches meant they were favored of God. This would account for their preoccupation with their wealth, their pride, their boasting, and also the way the richer, popular part of the people despised the poor and cast them out of the synagogues. It would also explain why the priests participated in the expulsions too.

A prosperity gospel might explain why the Zoramites were so incensed when the anti-Nephi-Lehis took in the poor converted Zoramites. To them, all others besides themselves would perish and become destitute. Thus, when the poor converted Zoramites were helped, this flew directly in the face of their beliefs—poor Zoramites outside Antionah were finding prosperity!  Shocking! Horrible!   This could not be tolerated; it was open mockery of the Zoramite holy election, so it had to be stamped out. Thus the armies were called up.

I think it is important to know about Zoramite beliefs and practices because we may slip into them today. We may think our separateness is part of our holiness, but if it isn’t accompanied by belief in Christ as the Redeemer, obedience to the commandments, daily prayer to resist temptation, and charity to others, we are not holy at all. We’re just fooling ourselves. Without those things, our religion degenerates into a prosperity gospel in which we think we are favored if we are in prosperous circumstances and think others are condemned because they struggle financially.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015 2 comments

Cause of contention among the Corinthians?

10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor. 1:10-13)

We discussed this problem in Sunday school and the importance of unity, and it seemed to me that it is hard to understand this problem in the context of today. We might get hints of the problem now and again if we hear people mentioned who their favorite apostles are. But somehow this contention was started by something that was very important to the Corinthian members. Why was it almost a point of pride to them who they were of?

I suspect that it had something to do with the slow communication in those days and the rarity of higher church leaders coming through. It may be that their isolation made it very important to them to remember the gospel message as preached from the ones who converted them. They would cling to that tenaciously.

We get to hear from general authorities at stake and general conferences, but how often did they in that day? And each leader might have had a slightly different emphasis, even though the message of Christ was the same.

I can imagine arguments erupting about the importance of some doctrine based on what was emphasized or not by different missionaries.

“Well, Paul told me I needed to do this.”
“What? Apollos didn’t say anything to me about it. He was very concerned about this other thing.”
“You’re kidding! That’s just not right! This doctrine is very important!”
“Then why didn’t Apollos say much about it?”
“Because he’s not as righteous, I guess.”
“What? He’s just as good as Paul! And he’s a better speaker!”
(erupts into argument and mutual recriminations and insults)

I think that in many respects our improved communications make this less of a problem, but I also think the rise of social media expands the scope of contentions if they arise, enabling arguments across the church, rather than in just one ward. We can’t say that we don’t get enough direction from leaders to know what’s true doctrine, but it is just as true as it was in Paul’s day that our contentions mean we are carnal and need to go back to basic doctrines.
For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? (1 Cor. 3:3)

If we have to be told not to fight, the doctrine of unity has not been written on our hearts. If we have to be told to follow the brethren, the doctrine of revelation coming through proper channels has not been written on our souls. If we have to be reminded of our duty, our duties have not yet penetrated.

Monday, September 21, 2015 0 comments

Isaiah on spiritual battles for salvation

4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.
5 For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:4-6)

I had a brainwave recently about what v5 means. Previously I thought that bit about “with burning and fuel of fire” referred to the second coming of Christ and how Christ would fight for the righteous and burn the wicked.  And I still think that is a good way to look at it, but I started to see another interpretation for it that fit better with the context of Christ’s mortal life and ministry.

Verse 5 starts by pointing out how every battle they knew involved noise and blood. Then there is a “but” that tells us a contrast, something different is coming. So we are to think of a different kind of battle that doesn’t involve noise and blood. And I think we’re meant to immediately guess Isaiah means spiritual battles.

But how does “burning and fuel of fire” refer to spiritual battles? I suspect the burning part is talking about the fire of the Holy Ghost, and the fuel of fire refers to the people. The battle is a struggle to spark a fire of the Holy Ghost in people. All of this was definitely part of Christ’s mission, to convert with His teaching and testimony.

And the message, of course, is about the coming of the Messiah and His power to save from sin, to break the yoke of Satan’s burden of sin that is laid on each of us and save from the punishing rod of his oppressive guilt. (This is referred to with imagery in verse 4.)

This ties verse 4 and 5 together to the message of “unto us a child is born” in verse 6.

I love it when I discover these kinds of things!  Yaay Isaiah!
Friday, September 18, 2015 2 comments

Religious freedom or religious privilege among the Lamanites?

I was reading Alma 23 about the proclamation the king of the Lamanites gave to help Ammon and his fellow missionaries teach the gospel and to remove obstructions to the spreading of the word of God. 

1 Behold, now it came to pass that the king of the Lamanites sent a proclamation among all his people, that they should not lay their hands on Ammon, or Aaron, or Omner, or Himni, nor either of their brethren who should go forth preaching the word of God, in whatsoever place they should be, in any part of their land.
2 Yea, he sent a decree among them, that they should not lay their hands on them to bind them, or to cast them into prison; neither should they spit upon them, nor smite them, nor cast them out of their synagogues, nor scourge them; neither should they cast stones at them, but that they should have free access to their houses, and also their temples, and their sanctuaries.
3 And thus they might go forth and preach the word according to their desires, for the king had been converted unto the Lord, and all his household; therefore he sent his proclamation throughout the land unto his people, that the word of God might have no obstruction, but that it might go forth throughout all the land, that his people might be convinced concerning the wicked traditions of their fathers, and that they might be convinced that they were all brethren, and that they ought not to murder, nor to plunder, nor to steal, nor to commit adultery, nor to commit any manner of wickedness.
4 And now it came to pass that when the king had sent forth this proclamation, that Aaron and his brethren went forth from city to city, and from one house of worship to another, establishing churches, and consecrating priests and teachers throughout the land among the Lamanites, to preach and to teach the word of God among them; and thus they began to have great success. (Alma 23:1-4)

It is interesting to me that the chapter heading for Alma 23 calls this proclamation proclaiming religious freedom, but I can’t help but wonder if it really is.  I wonder if we would be comfortable if any other religion were given this permission, so I want to analyze it.

The missionaries were permitted to
--have free access to the people’s houses, temples, and sanctuaries
--to preach the word according to their desires

Those who heard them were not permitted to
--lay hands on them
--bind them
--cast them into prison
--spit upon them
--smite them
--cast them out of their synagogues
--stone them

So suppose another religion was given free access to our temples?  That would certainly be privilege for them, but it would infringe upon our freedom.

Suppose another religion was given access to our churches and we were not allowed to ask them to leave if they started preaching their doctrine to us. That would be privilege for them, but it would infringe upon our freedom.

Or suppose another religion was given free access to our homes to teach us, but we weren’t given the same access to their homes? That is not religious freedom; it is a religious privilege or sponsored religion.

So what we essentially have in this story is the church was given privilege over other religions. That sounds very nice to us because we believe those things, but if another religion gained that kind of “freedom,” we’d be very worried because those “freedoms” involve infringement upon assemblies and associations and desires to not listen. (It is possible the Amalekites and Amulonites may have reacted so violently because more peaceful methods of excluding and rejecting the message had been denied them by law.)

What this exercise shows me is that one of the best ways to test whether we enjoy a privilege or a freedom is to see if we’d be bothered if that freedom were given to others not of our faith or opinion.

I think this also shows that when our religion is in the majority it is very easy for religious privilege to masquerade as freedom. It is also very easy for people in power to think they are facilitating religious freedom when they are really just privileging a different religion than was privileged before.

This post was kind of hard to write. It is hard to go from seeing the king’s proclamation as a positive thing to realizing that it wasn’t as good as it looked.  The undeniable bright side was that so many conversions were facilitated because of it, but I think we can have the maturity to realize that there was a darker side to it.  I think awareness of between religious freedom and religious privilege can help us be smarter as we stand up for religious liberty.  It would be a shame if we lost freedoms because of not understanding the difference between freedom and privilege.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 1 comments

The victory over the devil

And now after the church had been established throughout all the land—having got the victory over the devil, and the word of God being preached in its purity in all the land, and the Lord pouring out his blessings upon the people—thus ended the fourteenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi. (Alma 16:21)
This verse is given at the end of a number of things that have happened among the Nephites. First, the destruction of the Nehors at Ammonihah by the Lamanites, then the rescue of the other captives taken, then the continued preaching of Alma and Amulek, and the general establishment of the church in the land.

I am particularly intrigued by how Mormon describes this state as “having got the victory over the devil.” 

It certainly looks like the Nephites had a national victory over the devil.
--the wicked were destroyed by the Lamanites
--the captives were restored
--the word of God on the plan of redemption was preached and accepted everywhere
--general interest in prophecies of the future coming of Christ 
--the Spirit was poured out on everyone

Of course, this was only a temporary victory for the Nephite nation. The problem is the devil comes back again and keeps trying. The story of the Book of Mormon is that the Nephites eventually yielded the victory back to the devil.

We will skip over the question of how our nation is doing in the war against the devil and come back to the question of how we’re doing as individuals.

Have we personally gotten the victory over the devil?
Are we repenting and feeling the Spirit?
Are we doing good and sharing the gospel?
Are we studying the words of the prophets and the scriptures of what is to come?

Let’s take moment to reflect on what we need to do to get the victory and keep it.  It’s a daily effort.  What’s the main victory you need to win today?  And how are you going to include the Lord in your battles?

Much of my work these days is self-directed. I don’t have people hanging over my shoulder pushing me to get things done, so I face impulses to procrastinate.  I fight against doubts that tell me what I do doesn’t matter so there is no point in doing it.  Or, I face a flood of inner voices that try to overwhelm me with a sense of my fallen nature in order to prevent me from feeling the inner strength needed to write, especially for this blog.   Every day is a battle to make progress.   When I call out to Heavenly Father for help, He gives me the strength to overcome. 

We need to keep fighting and we can’t win without the Lord’s help. 

Monday, September 14, 2015 0 comments

Thoughts on the varied Lamanite responses to prostrate individuals during Ammon’s mission

I was reading in the Book of Mormon about Ammon’s mission to the Lamanites and I got to the part where the king prayed and fell to the earth unconscious and Ammon prayed and fell unconscious with joy the servants prayed and fell unconscious and about how Abish went out to spread the news to everyone else about how the power of God was upon the king’s household.

17 Thus, having been converted to the Lord, and never having made it known, therefore, when she saw that all the servants of Lamoni had fallen to the earth, and also her mistress, the queen, and the king, and Ammon lay prostrate upon the earth, she knew that it was the power of God; and supposing that this opportunity, by making known unto the people what had happened among them, that by beholding this scene it would cause them to believe in the power of God, therefore she ran forth from house to house, making it known unto the people.
18 And they began to assemble themselves together unto the house of the king. And there came a multitude, and to their astonishment, they beheld the king, and the queen, and their servants prostrate upon the earth, and they all lay there as though they were dead; and they also saw Ammon, and behold, he was a Nephite. (Alma 19:17-18)

I thought it was very interesting to see the variety of responses from the Lamanite people and how they made meaning from it when they come in and see the Lamanite king, queen, and servants all lying around looking so dead, along with a Nephite. It think it shows that the Lamanites did not all believe the same thing, and sometimes they could be pretty critical of their own society.

The way they respond when they first get there, it almost seems as though they walk into the situation without any context whatever.  And yet the text says Abish went from house to house making known what had happened. Even though they were willing to go and observe, they didn’t see what Abish saw. Their first response was that it was a very bad thing that had happened. (This is rather humorous, because as readers we know it was a very good thing instead.)

19 And now the people began to murmur among themselves; some saying that it was a great evil that had come upon them, or upon the king and his house, because he had suffered that the Nephite should remain in the land.

Note the immediate prejudice. Blame the Nephite.

20 But others rebuked them, saying: The king hath brought this evil upon his house, because he slew his servants who had had their flocks scattered at the waters of Sebus.

Another group thinks the great evil—which I must assume refers to the prostrate, unconscious people—is because the king killed his servants who allowed the flocks to be scattered.  Very interesting—this segment is critical of the king’s justice and were ready to believe that whatever bad thing happened was deserved retribution.

Another interesting thing is that they all seem to see the mass unconsciousness as a bad thing.  Why would that be?  It is possible that it was their warlike culture of militarism that saw this mass of prostrate, inert people as great vulnerability.  (Just imagine how we might think if we heard that everyone in the capital building had inexplicably passed out from the power of God. We’d be concerned about their vulnerability too. “Anyone could sneak in there and mow them down and no one could stop them.”)

And then there’s the group angry at Ammon for the number of Lamanites he’d killed defending the king’s flocks, and the brother of their leader who was killed

21 And they were also rebuked by those men who had stood at the waters of Sebus and scattered the flocks which belonged to the king, for they were angry with Ammon because of the number which he had slain of their brethren at the waters of Sebus, while defending the flocks of the king.
22 Now, one of them, whose brother had been slain with the sword of Ammon, being exceedingly angry with Ammon, drew his sword and went forth that he might let it fall upon Ammon, to slay him; and as he lifted the sword to smite him, behold, he fell dead.

Angry brother decides to take advantage of Ammon’s defenselessness, but he’s struck dead right at the moment of lifting his sword to let it fall.

Up to this point, the Lamanites have been told that the power of God was responsible for what they saw, but they have not really seen it in action.  But when someone immediately dies for no apparent reason beyond his attempt to kill the Nephite, then all of a sudden they realize there is something supernatural going on, but they still have differences of opinion about what it all means.

Mormon (and the rest of us) know that it was a fulfillment of God’s promise to Mosiah that his sons would be spared, but the Lamanites don’t know that.  We’ve seen the story background, but if we didn’t know that, we might be just as puzzled as the Lamanites.

23 Now we see that Ammon could not be slain, for the Lord had said unto Mosiah, his father: I will spare him, and it shall be unto him according to thy faith—therefore, Mosiah trusted him unto the Lord.
24 And it came to pass that when the multitude beheld that the man had fallen dead, who lifted the sword to slay Ammon, fear came upon them all, and they durst not put forth their hands to touch him or any of those who had fallen; and they began to marvel again among themselves what could be the cause of this great power, or what all these things could mean.
25 And it came to pass that there were many among them who said that Ammon was the Great Spirit, and others said he was sent by the Great Spirit;
26 But others rebuked them all, saying that he was a monster, who had been sent from the Nephites to torment them.
27 And there were some who said that Ammon was sent by the Great Spirit to afflict them because of their iniquities; and that it was the Great Spirit that had always attended the Nephites, who had ever delivered them out of their hands; and they said that it was this Great Spirit who had destroyed so many of their brethren, the Lamanites.

So the arguments begin again, and again there are all varieties of opinion.

There are the people who thinks Ammon is the Great Spirit based on the failure to kill him.  (If the king’s servants were conscious, they could have rebutted that one, since they heard Ammon disclaim godhood. Too bad they couldn’t.)

Another group thinks Ammon was sent by the Great Spirit. Perhaps he looked too manlike and they don’t understand why he would be so asleep and unaware if he were a god.

A third group thinks Ammon was sent by the Great Spirit as an instrument of affliction because of Lamanite wickedness and the Great Spirit had always saved the Nephites in the past and allowed the Lamanites to be destroyed.  It is interesting this group is so spiritually perceptive as to realize that the Lamanite defeats and Nephite victories came because the Great Spirit favored the Nephites. These people also are highly critical of Lamanite society and don’t think they are worthy of protection. But they still see Ammon as an instrument of punishment and not a means of divine mercy and blessing.

And yet another group believes Ammon was a monster sent by the Nephites to torment them. These people think, “The Nephites must have known this guy was trouble, and that’s why they sent him here, to cause trouble, and now see he’s incapacitated our rulers and their household!”  They are so convinced the Nephites intend malice to do them harm.  I have to wonder whether this was the tradition of their fathers, or whether this was the work of Nephite dissenters spreading misinformation.  Probably both.

All these views, even after a show of God’s power, are inaccurate. I think it is a case study of how limited the reasoning of man can be, failing to comprehend the deeper purposes of God. Like the Lamanites, who could only see the people lying in front of them, so often our vision is limited to what is happening to us right now, and we fail to see it in the bigger context of God’s love for us and His efforts to save us.  Even when His power is right in front of us, we can still miss it!

How important it is then to have prophets who can help us know and see the larger picture.  How important it is to keep an open mind and simply wait and endure. How important it is to keep a record of what is happening in our lives so that we can have more of the story to look back and reflect on.   It also shows us how our reasoning can’t account for God’s miracles and how odd they may look when viewed with an unbelieving, unregenerate mind.

 I've had hard experiences in my life that disappointed me at the time and which seemed like a bad thing, but when I look back at them from the perspective of years, I see that they were necessary refining experiences.  I'm sure you can say the same.

Saturday, September 12, 2015 0 comments

Amulek worries about suffering martyrdom at Ammonihah

While Alma and Amulek are forced to watch the wicked people of Ammonihah burn the righteous women and children and scriptures, we can tell that Amulek worries that he’ll be thrown in the flames next. His observant and Alma’s answer are very helpful to anyone worrying they will suffer martyrdom or persecution.

12 Now Amulek said unto Alma: Behold, perhaps they will burn us also.
13 And Alma said: Be it according to the will of the Lord. But, behold, our work is not finished; therefore they burn us not. (Alma 14:12-13)

In the past, I have always focused on Alma’s spiritual impression that their work was not yet finished, but this time I noticed his previous statement, “Be it according to the will of the Lord.”

Alma recognized it was possible that the wicked people of Ammonihah could subsequently turn on him and Amulek, but rather than seeing it as the possibility of suffering at the will of the mob, he looked higher and saw it as possible that it might be the Lord’s will that they suffer.  He knew the Lord was more powerful than their persecutors.

Now, this is a painfully difficult, but ultimately more liberating view. 

Alma had faith that the Lord could and would protect them as long as that would bring about His righteous purposes, and that if it brought more righteous purposes about, the Lord would also allow them to suffer.  With this faith—and it took very strong faith—Alma would stick to his convictions and not abandon them just because others with similar convictions were being subjected to a horrifically painful death.

I think this is good to remember if we ever see others who hold our same beliefs subjected to persecution, suffering, and martyrdom. Yes, we may suffer too, but if so, even though it appears to be the will of the mob, it could be prevented easily by God. If the suffering is allowed to reach us, we can know that somehow God means it to bring about some righteous, yet mysterious purpose, whether it is to qualify the wicked for future punishment, or to refine us through suffering or other purposes.

I tremble as I write these things because it is one thing to comprehend it intellectually, and quite another to experience it. I only hope that if I were so subjected that I would be as faithful as Alma or those who were martyred at Ammonihah.

Thursday, September 10, 2015 0 comments

Ordinations to help us look to Christ

In these verses Alma the younger explains the priesthood or the need for the priesthood to the people of Ammonihah, who have denied he (as high priest) has authority over them, on the grounds they are not of his faith.

1 And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people.
2 And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption. (Alma 13:1-2)

That bit about ordination as way for the people to know how to look forward to the Son for redemption has always made me wonder.  How is ordination to the priesthood supposed to help build my faith in Christ?  It must be that there is a type of Christ in it that we haven’t recognized, but Alma did.

The only think I can think of is this—ordination takes one of the men among us in the church and gives him a holy office by which he is to serve the people, teach them, and bestow ordinances.  That process must be similar to how Christ was to be raised up among Israel.  The grace of God that attends the ordinances done by the priests we know is to help people believe that Christ could save them, once He was raised up.

What do you think?  Do you think that’s it, or do you have additional ideas?
Tuesday, September 8, 2015 0 comments

Zeezrom’s questioning of Amulek and Amulek’s responses

I want to make some observations on the interchange between Amulek and Zeezrom at Ammonihah in Alma 11, but I’m going to quote a lot verses from this chapter because I want you to get clear in your mind what happened first.

21 And this Zeezrom began to question Amulek, saying: Will ye answer me a few questions which I shall ask you? Now Zeezrom was a man who was expert in the devices of the devil, that he might destroy that which was good; therefore, he said unto Amulek: Will ye answer the questions which I shall put unto you?
22 And Amulek said unto him: Yea, if it be according to the Spirit of the Lord, which is in me; for I shall say nothing which is contrary to the Spirit of the Lord. And Zeezrom said unto him: Behold, here are six onties of silver, and all these will I give thee if thou wilt deny the existence of a Supreme Being.
23 Now Amulek said: O thou child of hell, why tempt ye me? Knowest thou that the righteous yieldeth to no such temptations?
24 Believest thou that there is no God? I say unto you, Nay, thou knowest that there is a God, but thou lovest that lucre more than him.
25 And now thou hast lied before God unto me. Thou saidst unto me—Behold these six onties, which are of great worth, I will give unto thee—when thou hadst it in thy heart to retain them from me; and it was only thy desire that I should deny the true and living God, that thou mightest have cause to destroy me. And now behold, for this great evil thou shalt have thy reward.
26 And Zeezrom said unto him: Thou sayest there is a true and living God?
27 And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God.
28 Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God?
29 And he answered, No.
30 Now Zeezrom said unto him again: How knowest thou these things?
31 And he said: An angel hath made them known unto me.
32 And Zeezrom said again: Who is he that shall come? Is it the Son of God?
33 And he said unto him, Yea.
34 And Zeezrom said again: Shall he save his people in their sins? And Amulek answered and said unto him: I say unto you he shall not, for it is impossible for him to deny his word.
35 Now Zeezrom said unto the people: See that ye remember these things; for he said there is but one God; yet he saith that the Son of God shall come, but he shall not save his people—as though he had authority to command God.
36 Now Amulek saith again unto him: Behold thou hast lied, for thou sayest that I spake as though I had authority to command God because I said he shall not save his people in their sins.
37 And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.
39 And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last;
40 And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else. (Alma 11:21-40)

Zeezrom’s first attempt to trap Amulek is, “Here are six ontis of silver that I will give you if you deny the existence of a Supreme Being.”

Now, our immediate assessment of Zeezrom would be, “This guy is an atheist, and he thinks Amulek is full of hooey. He thinks Amulek will drop it all if it is to Amulek’s financial advantage.”

However, Amulek, informed by the Spirit, knows otherwise: “Believest thou that there is no God? . . . Nay, thou knowest that there is a God, but thou lovest that lucre more than him.” (v24) Amulek pegs Zeezrom as a believer with a testimony who is masquerading as an atheist in order to get more money.

It is interesting to see how Amulek is inspired by the Spirit to give a spiritual assessment of Zeezrom’s condition so near the beginning of their exchange. There is no way that Amulek could have known all that about Zeezrom with just Zeezrom’s first attempt to trap him, bad as Zeezrom’s first attempt was.  So Amulek’s assessment of Zeezrom is shown to be true throughout the rest of their conversation, and I suppose that becomes a witness to all who knew Zeezrom that Alma and Amulek were speaking the truth about Ammonihah as well.

Before this, though, Amulek calls Zeezrom a child of hell, which is totally accurate, since only a child of hell would tempt someone as Zeezrom tries to tempt Amulek. Especially when Zeezrom knows the truth. 

The rest of Zeezrom’s plot, Amulek reveals, is that Zeezrom would have withheld the six ontis even if Amulek had fallen for the temptation. Zeezrom only wanted to get Amulek to deny God so that Zeezrom would have cause to destroy him.   The cause by which Zeezrom would destroy Amulek remains unspecified, but if we remember that the Law of Moses forbade blasphemy with a punishment of stoning for offenders, then we might speculate that Zeezrom meant to drop his atheist act and put on an offended believer act, and then accuse Amulek of blasphemy in order to have him stoned.

Now, would an atheist have tried to destroy another atheist?  Not very likely. So Zeezrom was definitely a believer who was trying to get Amulek to act like an unbeliever in order to destroy him.

If Zeezrom was a believer, then it was definitely true he had become more interested in money than in keeping the commandments, feigning unbelief in order to try to entrap a prophet.  And we can see by the quality of his other questions that he asks Amulek that he has specific knowledge of Amulek’s beliefs and doctrines.  It is knowledge at an unusually deep level for an unbeliever.

But eventually Amulek’s talk about the future judgment awakens Zeezrom to a consciousness of his guilt, and he begins to tremble and look for a way out of his sins.

Ultimately, Zeezrom’s problem was the problem of Ammonihah as well. They knew the truth, but they loved other things more.

I think there are several lessons from this exchange.
1)    Never flirt with denying the truth for money.
2)    If you believe, don’t ever start pretending you don’t just to gain material advantages. 

The world is getting more secular. It is tempting to hide who we are, but it may be that Zeezrom shows us the end of that road. If he hadn’t been brought to realize his errors, he would have been destroyed with the others in Ammonihah.