Lengthened and Stretched All the Day Long
"For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." (2 Nephi 19:17)
"Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts! For notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Hosts." (2 Nephi 28:32)
"But what could I have done more in my vineyard? Have I slackened mine hand, that I have not nourished it? Nay, I have nourished it, and I have digged about it, and I have pruned it, and I have stretched forth mine hand almost all the day long." (Jacob 5:47)
"O ye people of these great cities which have fallen, who are descendants of Jacob, yea, who are of the house of Israel, how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and have nourished you.
"And again, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O aye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen; yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, ye that dwell at Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen; yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.
"O ye house of Israel whom I have spared, how oft will I gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if ye will repent and return unto me with full purpose of heart.
"But if not, O house of Israel, the places of your dwellings shall become desolate until the time of the fulfilling of the covenant to your fathers.
"And now it came to pass that after the people had heard these words, behold, they began to weep and howl again because of the loss of their kindred and friends. (3 Nephi 10:4-8)
These three passages of scripture give us a very significant insight into the nature of our Heavenly Father. He will ALWAYS be there to help us and welcome us back into his fold. His patience is perfect. It is we who make the choice to either return or persist in our sins.
A Life-long Reentry Window
An older brother of mine fell away from the Church after serving a mission. For a long time, we never even heard from him. It was a sad time for my family. Then one night during the World Series, we received a call from him. My parents were understandably exuberant. A couple of months later, my brother came home for Thanksgiving. I was just a teenager at the time and had a chance to talk to him alone. He described to me how he felt that just as space ships have certain reentry windows to land, that he too felt that he had a limited reentry window and that if he didn't make adjustments in his life, he'd lose opportunities.
I understand the point he was trying to make. However, although we may feel we have limited opportunities to repent, we should know that our Father in Heaven is ALWAYS there with open arms ready to receive us again. We should not procrastinate the day of our repentance, but neither do we have to wait for a window to open up … the window to reenter the Gospel is always available and open.
It is we who put limits on opportunities to repent. We may be called many times, but fail to listen. Perhaps after being called to repentance many times and not acting on those calls we indeed begin to feel that our opportunities to turn around are becoming shorter.
Amulek was "called many times … and would not hear." (Alma 10:6) Despite being called, he went on rebelling against God. But the faith of Alma prompted the angel to visit Amulek and when Amulek was called yet again and was greeted by Alma, he made the correct choice.
The footnote in verse 6 notes D&C 39:9. "Nevertheless, thou hast seen great sorrow, for thou hast rejected me many times because of pride and the cares of the world." This verse refers to a man by the name of James Covill who was a Baptist minister for 40 years. Apparently he was called many times, but chose not to listen. This last time would be no different. Despite his heart being right before God, "Satan tempted him; and the fear of persecution and the cares of the world caused him to reject the word." (D&C 40) We do not know the rest of the story of James Covill.
We do know the rest of the story for Amulek, however. Unlike James Covill, Amulek did not fade into history. He boldly testified to the people of Ammoniah and suffered dearly for his commitment to the Lord. We cannot expect our life to be full of sunshine and rainbows if we follow the Lord … we will have to sacrifice and at times it will be tough and we will want to go back. But we must stand firm as Amulek did.
Amulek's guest brought with him many blessings. Amulek may have given Alma food to eat for his body, but Alma gave Amulek food for his spirit. While Alma stayed with Amulek, he blessed Amulek, Amulek's house and women and children and father and kinsfolk.
During this time of nourishment and preparation, Amulek was again visited by an angel of the Lord. I'm sure the angel gave further instruction to Amulek as he prepared to preach with Alma.
The Prayers of the Righteous
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the salt of the earth; but if the salt shall lose its savor wherewith shall the earth be salted? The salt shall be thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men." (3 Nephi 12:13)
"Yea, and I say unto you that if it were not for the prayers of the righteous, who are now in the land, that ye would even now be visited with utter destruction." (Alma 10:22)
Do you still think that your sincere prayers are useless? We must ALWAYS pray … if not for ourselves and our family, then for the people with whom we live in this great land.
Ammonihah eventually lost its savor when the wicked burned the women and children and cast out the remainder of the righteous. Shortly after the wicked inhabitants were slaughtered.