Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Alma 7

Joy after Affliction and Sorrow

Alma shares with the people in Gideon how his joy for the people in Zarahemla came after "wading through much affliction and sorrow." (Alma 7:5) Alma did not simply preach to the people of Zarahemla. He prayed and fasted many days before he taught them. I'm sure he spend many days with them and among them and helping them. I'm sure he saw all the wickedness in which they were laboring. Alma worked hard to help them correct themselves. This work dragged him through much affliction and sorrow.

There will be times when we will have to work with people in our home and visiting teaching. It will take time and lots of patience, but our joy will be full when those whom we teach finally repent.

The Hope of Christ

Alma 7:7 says, "For behold, I say unto you there be many things to come; and behold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all - for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people."

At this time in the Nephite history, the people did not know that many, many wars and tribulations would come to them before Christ would visit them. They would have to endure a lot of suffering and dark times before Christ would come. I don't know if this is what Alma meant, but he seems to say that of all the things to come, that they should remember that Christ indeed would come. His coming was the most important future event and that they should remember it when the dark times come.

Christ will come again to the earth. But just as the Nephites and Lamanites had to pass through much darkness, so too will we pass through much darkness before the Christ comes again. But we must remember that he will come and that we ought to always have hope in Him no matter how dark it will become.

Christ's Sufferings

While on this earth in his mortal life, Christ suffered many things. He suffered pain and afflictions and temptations of every kind. He suffered sickness and death. He suffered every pain and suffering (both physical and emotional) that every human has ever experienced … only Christ suffered it in a much greater magnitude.

He suffered all these things "that his bowels may be filled with mercy according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." (Alma 7:12)

Why is it important to know that Christ suffered for your sins and that Christ has suffered every pain and hurt you have felt? There is something about us humans that when we know someone else has suffered as we have … that we were and are not alone in our suffering, our own suffering is alleviated. Also, to know that Christ has suffered everything we have suffered helps us have a greater love and appreciation for Him.

I have been sick many times in my life. But perhaps the one sickness that stands out foremost in my mind was the time I contracted a form of chicken pox while serving in Guatemala. I could not lay down and rest during this time because of the many duties I had to perform. One particular day required that my companion and I visit a remote area in order for me to perform a few baptismal interviews. The ride we took to get to this area was full and so I had to hang on to the side of a truck for about an hour. When we arrived, I had to hike for an hour, perform the interview and then hike back … all in the cold rain. We stayed the night in the area with the other missionaries. I remember crawling into bed and passing out … the pain in my head was unbearable. Eventually the fever broke and I was able to see a doctor who gave me medication. But the suffering I endured that week was the greatest I've endured in my life. After that week-long experience, I gained significant appreciation and love for the Savior. My mind cannot fathom the smallest portion of what the Savior had to endure in his life, let alone in Gethsemane.

Attributes of a True Disciple

Alma 7:23-24 is a doctrinally dense passage.

Humility/meekness - Elder Maxwell greatly expanded on the definition of humility and meekness.

"The meek are filled with awe and wonder with regard to God and His purposes in the universe. At the same time, the meek are not awestruck by the many frustrations of life; they are more easily mobilized for eternal causes and less easily immobilized by the disappointments of the day.

"Because they make fewer demands of life, the meek are less easily disappointed. They are less concerned with their entitlements than with their assignments.

"When we are truly meek, we are not concerned with being pushed around, but are grateful to be pushed along. When we are truly meek, we do not engage in shoulder-shrugging acceptance but in shoulder-squaring, in order that we might better bear the burdens of life and of our fellow beings.

"Meekness can also help us in coping with the injustices of life—of which there are quite a few. By the way, will not these experiences with mortal injustices generate within us even more adoration of the perfect justice of God—another of His attributes?

"Besides, there can be dignity even in silence, as was the case when Jesus meekly stood, unjustly accused, before Pilate. Silence can be an expression of strength. Holding back can be the sign of great personal discipline, especially when everyone else is letting go.

"Furthermore, not only are the meek less easily offended, but they are less likely to give offense to others. In contrast, there are some in life who seem, perpetually, to be waiting to be offended. Their pride covers them like boils which will inevitably be bumped.

"Meekness also cultivates in us a generosity in viewing the mistakes and imperfections of others: “Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, … but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.” (Morm. 9:31.)

"And for those of us who are too concerned about status or being last in line or losing our place, we need to reread those words about how the “last shall be first” and the “first shall be last.” (Matt. 19:30.) Assertiveness is not automatically bad, of course, but if we fully understand the motives which underlie some of our acts of assertion, we would be embarrassed. Frankly, when others perceive such motivations, they are sometimes embarrassed for us.

"Granted, the meek go on fewer ego trips, but they have far greater adventures. Ego trips, those “travel now and pay later” indulgences, are always detours. The straight and narrow path is, after all, the only path which takes us to new and breathtaking places.

"Meekness means less concern over being taken for granted, and more concern over being taken by the hand. Less concern over revising our own plans for us and more concern about adopting His plans for us is another sure sign of meekness.

"You and I sing that Church hymn with the words “More used would I be.” One condition which keeps us from being “more used” is our lack of meekness. Sometimes, too, brothers and sisters, in our prayers we ask for the Lord to take the lead of our minds and hearts, but, as soon as we say “amen,” we go unmeekly in our predetermined directions.

"Meekness does not mean tentativeness. But thoughtfulness. Meekness makes room for others: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Philip. 2:3.)

"There are, brothers and sisters, ever so many human situations in which the only additional time and recognition and space to be made available must come from the meek who will yield—in order to make time and recognition and space available for others. There could be no magnanimity without humility. Meekness is not display humility; it is the real thing. True meekness is never proud of itself, never conscious of itself.

"Among the meek there is usually more listening and less talking. It was said of one able but comparatively meek nineteenth-century British Cabinet minister serving in Parliament: “If it was his duty to speak, he spoke, but he did not want to speak when it was not his duty—silence was no pain and oratory no pleasure to him.” (Forrest Morgan, ed., The Works of Walter Bagehot, Hartford, Conn: Traveler’s Insurance, 1889, 2:257.)

"The meek think of more clever things to say than are said. And it’s just as well, for there is so much more cleverness in the world than wisdom, so much more sarcasm than idealism." (Neal A. Maxwell, “Meekness—A Dimension of True Discipleship,” Ensign, Mar 1983, 70)

Submissive - To be submissive means that we are to submit our wills to God. The ultimate example of submissiveness is when Christ submitted to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Elder Maxwell eloquently explained how Christ willfully submitted to the Father.

"When the unimaginable burden began to weigh upon Christ, it confirmed His long-held and intellectually clear understanding as to what He must now do. His working through began, and Jesus declared: “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour.” Then, whether in spiritual soliloquy or by way of instruction to those about Him, He observed, “But for this cause came I unto this hour.” (John 12:27.)

"Later, in Gethsemane, the suffering Jesus began to be “sore amazed” (Mark 14:33), or, in the Greek, “awestruck” and “astonished.”

"Imagine, Jehovah, the Creator of this and other worlds, “astonished”! Jesus knew cognitively what He must do, but not experientially. He had never personally known the exquisite and exacting process of an atonement before. Thus, when the agony came in its fulness, it was so much, much worse than even He with his unique intellect had ever imagined! No wonder an angel appeared to strengthen him! (See Luke 22:43.)

"The cumulative weight of all mortal sins—past, present, and future—pressed upon that perfect, sinless, and sensitive Soul! All our infirmities and sicknesses were somehow, too, a part of the awful arithmetic of the Atonement. (See Alma 7:11–12; Isa. 53:3–5; Matt. 8:17.) The anguished Jesus not only pled with the Father that the hour and cup might pass from Him, but with this relevant citation. “And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me.” (Mark 14:35–36.)

"Had not Jesus, as Jehovah, said to Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14.) Had not His angel told a perplexed Mary, “For with God nothing shall be impossible”? (Luke 1:37; see also Matt. 19:28; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27.)

"Jesus’ request was not theater!

"In this extremity, did He, perchance, hope for a rescuing ram in the thicket? I do not know. His suffering—as it were, enormity multiplied by infinity—evoked His later soul-cry on the cross, and it was a cry of forsakenness. (See Matt. 27:46.)

"Even so, Jesus maintained this sublime submissiveness, as He had in Gethsemane: “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matt. 26:39)." (Neal A. Maxwell, “‘Willing to Submit’,” Ensign, May 1985, 70)

Gentle - The website has several words defining gentle: kindly, amiable, not severe, rough or violent; mild, moderate, soft, low, tame, calm, pacify, soothe, polite, refined.

So much of the world today is not gentle. When I think of examples of gentleness in the scriptures, I think of Christ clearing the temple. In Jesus the Christ, Talmage states, "With tender regard for the imprisoned and helpless birds He refrained from assaulting their cages; but to their owners He said: "Take these things hence"; and to all the greedy traders He thundered forth a command that made them quail: "Make not my Father's house an house of merchandise."

Easy to be entreated - Honestly, I've never stopped and "inspected" what the phrase "easy to be entreated" means. I looked up the definition of entreat and it means "to ask earnestly or beseech." Therefore, "easy to be entreated" means that you are approachable and willing to give to the petitioner. If a beggar were to entreat you, you would give to him easily and not rationalize the his circumstances.

Are we easily entreated when the Spirit prompts us to do something … to serve someone … to say something?

Full of patience and long-suffering - I may have patience some of the time, but long-suffering I do not have. Having patience is having the ability to see outside of the moment … seeing things in the grand scheme of things. So when my MTC companion was always late, I learned to hold my tongue and wait patiently. His tardiness is very insignificant compared to the eternities. When my two-year old smeared Vaseline all over his body and our new carpet, I had to remember that this little event was nothing and even laughable when looked back upon.

Long-suffering means having patience with my two-year old who repeatedly smears soap all over himself and bathroom not once, not twice, but several times a month. To me, patience is more local and short-term while long-suffering means we are able to patiently endure long-term suffering, trials and nuisances.

Long-suffering means we are willing to submit to our Father's time-table, not our own. An anchor is long-suffering. No matter what the waves and currents do, the anchor will steadfastly keep the ship in place until it is time to leave.

Temperate in all things - being temperate in all things means doing everything in wisdom and order. It means we do not devote all our time to our work or our school or to the church or our family. It means we have balance in life … that we obey the spirit of the law.

Diligent in keeping the commandments - daily, persistent obedience to the commandments will get us to heaven. As Hebrews 12:1 says, "let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Sprinting out of the gates and then failing later on will not let us finish the race. We cannot brush our teeth 14 times Monday morning and then expect them to be clean Sunday night. We must steadily run the race and brush our teeth daily.

Asking and giving thanks - In our daily prayers, we must always give thanks for what our Father has given us and we must not hold back in our asking of blessings.

Faith, Hope, Charity - these are the three pillars of Christianity.

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