Alma 32

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Alma and the other missionaries began their preaching (verse 1).  Many of the poor listened to their message because their struggles had already softened their hearts and made them humble (verse 2).  This was a true gift of mercy to them, a reconciling them to their God, as the wealthy Zoramites had kicked the poor people out of the synagogues (verse 3).  So these poor people were hungry to worship their God, and flocked to the hills where Alma was teaching (verse 4).  The people asked Alma what they should do because “we have no place to worship our God” (verse 5).

This made Alma rejoice, because such a question meant that the people were hungry to worship God (verse 6).  They would not be worried about it, or even thinking of such questions, if they were not ready and wanting to worship.  So he knew “that their afflictions had truly humbled them, and that they were in a preparation to hear the word” (verse 6).

So he turned to those “who were truly penitent” (verse 7), and said that they were blessed (verse 8).  He acknowledged their grief for being cast out of the synagogues because they were poor (verse 9), but challenged them to realize they do need to worship ONLY in a synagogue, or ONLY once a week at church (verses 10-11).

Alma begins his sermon with “I say unto you, it is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues…”, and we know that our “synagogue” may be anything that was important to us, that we “built” with our own hands (so to speak), or what we held on to as necessary for worship (as in constraints, not as in Order).  We may need to be “cast out” of our careers, or our jobs, or our routines, or our whatever-keeps-us-asleep, or our whatever-keeps-us-cold, or our whatever-keeps-us-away-from-true-worship.  It is a sermon he gives to them, that really he gives to us.

He says, “I say unto you, it is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues, that ye may be humble, and that ye may learn wisdom; for it is necessary that ye should learn wisdom…” (verse 12).  What wisdom?  The kind of wisdom that only comes once we have been stripped raw of all we knew, claimed, and held familiar.  The kind of wisdom that comes from realizing who we are, and who we are not.  The kind of wisdom that comes from being humbled to the core, humbled to our knees.

“And now, because ye are compelled to be humble, blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved” (verse 13).

This is how Alma points out that it is a blessing to be humbled, because we truly find ourselves – which leads us to truly find God (verse 14).

But, he says, those who humble themselves to find God are more blessed than those who are compelled to be humble (verse 15).  Those who are compelled (forced by circumstances) to be humble are stubborn (verse 16).  Those who are humble without being compelled will believe more quickly because their hearts are already softened and they will be “baptized without stubbornness of heart” (verse 16).

Many, Alma says, will not be humble, and demand to have evidence and signs from heaven before believing (verse 17).  But this is not faith (verse 18), “for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe”, then that is just knowledge and not faith.  But if we first have faith, then we will be given the evidence that grows our faith into knowledge (testimony).

“And now as I said concerning faith – faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith, ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (verse 21).

This is how our “testmonies” – what we know to be true about who God is and who we are in relation to God – this is how our testimonies grow.  We first have faith in something, in some principle, and part of having faith is acting in response to what we believe.  But there are three things we must have to even have faith:

1.  A belief that God exists;
2.  An accurate understanding of who God is; and
3.  A knowledge that our own life is aligned with God’s will.

So, as I gain as testimony of one piece of truth or principle, I try it out to see how true it is.  The more I practice that principle, the more aligned my life becomes (in that one tiny way for that specific principle).  The more aligned I get, the more evidence I see of that truth or principle; the more evidence I see, the more faith becomes knowledge.  The deeper the knowledge, the greater my testimony becomes.

This is how our faith is built, one principle at a time, by practicing it.

This is how our testimonies grow, line upon line.

So God wants us to believe Him (verse 22) because it is so good for us, because it changes us.

Because He knows this, he sends us His teachings through angels, and scriptures, and prophets.  Even little children, Alma says, “have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned” (verse 23).

So what to do with being humbled, with being cast out?

Do the work before you: sort out who you are, and turn to the God who is revealing Himself to you.  Figure out what is true (verse 24).   You are ready to pay attention, Alma says, because “there are some among you who would humble themselves, let them be in whatsoever circumstances they might” (verse 25).

So remember that faith is not all the answers at once.  It is one answer at a time, and those answers are to small questions, once small principle at a time.  Faith is not “a perfect knowledge – even so it is with my words.  Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge” (verse 26).

“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give a place for a portion of my words” (verse 27).

You don’t have to believe it all at once, he says.

Take a piece, any piece, that rings true in some distant way, or burns true in your gut.

Take any piece, and try it out.  Just to see.

And even if it is a tiny bit of believing, let it it be what it is, and let it grow on its own.

Let it grow until it is full-fledged believing that becomes understanding, that becomes knowledge.

“Now, we will compare the word unto a seed.  Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves – It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me” (verse 28).

This is the way to increase faith into perfect knowledge (verse 29).

“But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow.  And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith?  Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold, it sprouteth and beginneth to grow” (verse 30).

And what is the evidence that this is a good “seed”?

The evidence is that what grows from it is good, “for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness” (verse 31).

And if it is a bad seed, the evidence is in the person, the behavior, the interaction, the consequences (verse 32).

But if we try it out, if we dare to experiment, just to see for ourselves, whether it is true or not, then we will begin to have faith – one sprout at a time, one seed at a time, one principle at a time (verse 33).  Our faith will not be perfect in the beginning, because our faith is “dormant” (verse 34) until it sprouts up, and then “your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand” (verse 34).

“O then, is not this real?” (verse 35).  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  So very real.

But you have to try it to taste it (verse 36).

And as the seed begins to grow, “ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up… And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care, it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth much fruit” (verse 37).

But, faith, like any relationship, if you “neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root, it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out” (verse 38).

And this, he says, is not because the seed was bad, but because “your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof” (verse 39).

So if you are going to try it out, you really have to do the work of it.

You can’t not try hard, you can’t neglect your “seed” (whatever it is you want to be planting), and expect it still to grow.  Neglect will kill it off, always, whether it is something you are learning or a relationship, or your petri dish principle.

If you will not nourish it, nothing can grow (verse 40).

But if you do nourish it, “by your faith with great diligence, and with patience”, then it will grow (verse 41).

“And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white about all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst” (verse 42).

Then, and only then, “ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you” (verse 43).

That’s when something will grow.

 

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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