Prepare your minds
After Alma spoke to the people, Amulek stood and began to preach to them. One of the first things he noted was that the gospel of Christ was "bountifully" taught to this people before they dissented from the Nephites. (Alma 34:2) Even after they had rejected the gospel, the Lord was still trying to reach out to these people through Alma and Amulek and the others who went there.
This goes back to the point that we are not given just one opportunity to accept Christ as our savior. Rather we are given multiple chances throughout our lives. Perhaps many of these people were not adequately prepared to heed the gospel teachings when they decided to dissent. But now with the preaching of Alma, Amulek notes that Alma has spoken to them to prepare their minds. (Alma 34:3)
Some teachings of the gospel (and perhaps some church history) may be difficult at first for some to accept. But with learning and understanding, hearts and minds are prepared. I am reminded of a song my mother taught me that is based on a scripture, "precept upon precept; line upon line; here a little, and there a little." (Isaiah 28:10)
Nephi also teaches this same counsel, "For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have." (2 Nephi 28:30)
The Workings of the Atonement
For the longest time I wondered how the atonement was accomplished. By what law was it brought to pass? Last year sometime (1997), while I was in shift training at the MTC with Darin our shift supervisor, we did a GSR (Gospel Study Review). I came across this one scripture in Alma 34 that actually answered my long-sought-after question. In verse 15, Amulek explained plainly and perfectly that the intent of this last sacrifice was to "bring about the bowls of mercy which overpowereth justice." This is the fruit of the ultimate love of Christ for all. His love was so deep and all-reaching for every individual that it actually overpowered justice. Mercy was greater. It was more powerful than justice. I can see mercy and justice personified and as justice observes mercy and what it does, justice has no choice but to let mercy pass. It is almost as if justice was bewildered at the work mercy performed and he had to accept the price. "And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice." Faith is brought into the picture. Only the person who exercises his faith to repentance is allowed mercy, while he who does not exercise his faith must be "exposed to the whole law." This makes a smooth transition to how you can really begin to exercise your faith. Amulek continues by listing ways to pray and what to pray for.
Amulek also teaches the people about prayer. He teaches them that in order to begin to exercise faith, they must "call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you." (Alma 34:17)
Before I read this chapter today (June 12, 2007), I had been thinking about some of the worries on my mind … mainly about how to raise my family in today's world and some career decisions and other smaller issues going on in my life. As I thought about these issues, I felt a need to pray. Then the thought dawned on me as to why have not felt a pressing need to pray lately. In my mind, I had been thinking that everything is fine in my life or at least I have been burying my worries and trying to forget about them instead of confronting them. Because I had "no concerns", I felt that all was and is well in Zion. Since all was well, I felt that I was in control and did not need any help and consequently I have not sought the Lord. But today I realized that my perspective is dangerously out of synch with what I have been taught. I cannot do this (face all my challenges) without the help of the Lord. As King Benjamin taught, "I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them." (Mosiah 4:29) I would also add there are divers ways in which our lives can take a turn for the worse whether by the nature of life or by our lack of seeking the guidance of the Lord in the decisions we make.
The bottom line is that I realized that I NEED to depend on the Lord for help. I need to humble myself and seek Him in prayer. I don't want to sound too pessimistic, but there are so many things that can go wrong in life and therefore that gives us all the more reason to seek the Lord in prayer … that he would either help us avoid those things that would go wrong or guide us through the trials we must face.
There are so many things on my mind that I feel the need to pray about that I tend to forget what is on my mind! So I've decided to begin to write down all my worries and concerns and then review that list as I pray each night. For my morning prayers, I usually spend all my time thanking the Lord for my many blessings. I don't use a list for this because I can easily think of so many blessings the Lord has given me and my family. To sum up what I realized, I need to follow Amulek's counsel, "humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him" "that he would have mercy upon you." (Alma 34:19, 18)
Amulek understood the many aspects of life where we can and should request the Lord's help. We should pray that our careers will prosper and that our homes and families be protected and blessed. We should pray that we may conquer our enemies including the devil. We must pray all the time … in our homes, by ourselves, in our minds and in our churches. We should also pray for the welfare of others and those who surround us.
Charity and Service
In many cases, we are an answer to somebody's prayer. If we fail to serve and bless the lives of others, then our prayers will be in vain. "Therefore, if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under the foot of men." (Alma 34:29)
Do Not Procrastinate Repentance
Aristotle has stated, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." He has also said, "We become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions." Indeed we are what we do.
Amulek taught that "this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God." (Alma 34:32) Implied in that teaching is that this life is a test and we will be judged by God after we exit this life. He continues his counsel, "do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end. If we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness where in there can be no labor performed." (Alma 34:33) If we delay our repentance until it is too late, we will not be able to change our character in the afterlife, for "that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world." (Alma 34:34)
Therefore going back to Aristotle's quote, we must make a habit of repenting and praying and serving others. By forming these righteous habits, we will be prepared to meet God.
Amulek reiterates what he has taught the Zoramites with a few heart felt pleas.
"Work out your salvation with fear before God." (Alma 34:37)
"Humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which de doth bestow upon you." (Alma 34:38)
"Be watchful unto prayer continually." (Alma 34:39)
"Have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions." (Alma 34:41)