#LDSConf – Alma 34: Choosing Holiness

CLICK HERE to read Alma 34.

Amulek was the next speaker after Alma finished his sermon talk (verse 1).  He told the people that he didn’t think the people could not know about Christ coming soon or being the Son of God because he knows the people were taught these things before they left the Nephites (verse 2).  He summarizes what Alma just taught them about how to practice their faith (verse 3) by trying it out, by experimenting “of its goodness” (verse 4).  In these ways, Amulek states that their question about whether there is a Christ or not (verse 5) has been answered (verse 6).  He reminds them that Alma taught them the words of the prophets “to prove that these things are true” (verse 7), and he adds his own testimony that what Alma has taught is true (verse 8):

I say unto you, that I do know that Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it.

Part of believing in Christ is actually believing Him.

Most believe that Christ was a real person, and taught real lessons like other prophets.

Many believe that Christ was more, that He really did die for our sins and conquer physical death.

But few actually believe Him.  Few believe He can do what He said he would do.

All that Christ has promised is part of the plan that has always been, long before we ever came to Earth.  Amulek teaches the people this, that Christ would soon be born on Earth, live amongst the people, “take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world” (verse 8).  This is part of the plan, he says, because it is necessary.  An atonement has to be made (verse 9).

We are separated from God, barely remembering Him and unable to be as He is.  Our most meager efforts leave us far from Him, and reeling in our own consequences.  Without the atonement, “all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement” (verse 9).  It is the atonement that gives us hope, because it is the atonement that bridges the gap of the discrepancy between who He created us to be and who we have only been thus far.

Repentance allows us to humbly acknowledge both: first, who He calls us to be, and secondly, who we have only been thus far.  We cannot approach God until we have admitted this discrepancy.  We cannot have a mediator unless we first declare the opposing issues that need to be mediated.  So then we do call upon Christ, the Son, who paid the price of that difference.  This is what meets the demands of justice, and this is how we find mercy.   But there is more than mercy: there is grace.  And in this grace, because mercy has been met, we are given what we need to be changed to become His children again, to begin the process of becoming at-one with Him, to begin the process of becoming like Him someday.

That’s the pattern of how the atonement enables us to approach our Father.

That’s the pattern of how repentance meets the atonement.

That’s the pattern of the Temple.

The temple pattern of the Old Testament pointed to it, through sacrifices of animals that were a type (foreshadowing) of the sacrifice Christ would one day make for us.  But what He did was bigger, and beyond, “an infinite and eternal sacrifice” (verse 10).   We cannot sacrifice our own blood to atone for the sins of our own selves, much less atone for the sins of someone else (verse 11).  But the law, justice, still must be met (verse 12).  Someone who was more than us, who was the Son of God, had to pay the price we could not pay: “therefore, it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice…” that meets the call of justice, while also providing mercy to the people (verse 13-14).

And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about a means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance” (verse 15).

The atonement of Christ provided mercy, and it is through faith (believing He did what He said He would do) and repentance that we claim that mercy.  This is how “mercy can satisfy the demands of justice” for those who believe, but those who do not have faith are “exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice” (verse 16).  So we must exercise our faith, through repentance, to find that mercy (verse 17).

Amulek explains this to the people, telling them to call upon Christ for mercy “for he is mighty to save” (verse 18).  He teaches them to humble themselves, and to pray (verse 19).  He repeats the Hebrew poetry of the prophet Zenos from Alma’s sermon, telling them to pray always in all things for He is our Father: “in your fields” (at work and for daily provision) (verse 20), “in your houses” (at home and for your families) (verse 21), “against the power of your enemies” (verse 22), against “the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness” (verse 23), “over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them” (verse 24), “over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase” (verse 25), “in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness” (privately, internally, for what matters most to you) (verse 26), and for “your welfare, and also for the welfare of those around you” (verse 27).

This kind of prayer-life is what develops the relationship between you and God.

It’s meant to be a conversation, not a litany.

It’s meant to be sincere, and to include listening for a response, and to include watching for answers and noticing them and acknowledging them.

But as we get to know Him, as we develop that relationship, it should change us, which means we should do the things the Savior did because it is good and right and who we are:

And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need – I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who deny the faith (verse 28).

We are to call upon the God for His mercy, and as we become at-one with Him, we more and more develop that relationship through the constant conversation of prayer.  But as it changes us, we must “go and do“, which is to do charity, which is to have charity, which is “the pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47).

Amulek tells the people they have received witnesses and testimonies of the ancient prophets and the modern prophets, and that they have been taught that the scriptures reveal these teachings.  So they must choose.  They must turn to Christ, “and bring fruit unto repentance”, which is to so deeply and completely change (be converted, continue in the process of becoming converted), that there is evidence of it (verse 30).

Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you (verse 31).

Why now?  Why is the prophet’s call so urgent?

Because “this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God” (verse 32).  The whole reason we were born, besides to obtain our physical bodies, was to demonstrate obedience to God.  We earned, through our choices before we came to Earth, the privilege of the opportunity of mortality, to prove whom we would follow.  Now is the time to demonstrate that choice; this life is the time to do that followingSo we must not “procrastinate the day” of repentance, and it is now that we have the chance to do the work of improving our lives (of immortality, of choosing what kind of life we will have in the eternities) (verse 33).  We must do the choosing (and the living that demonstrates that choice) now:

Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis (judgment after death), that I will repent, that I will return to my God.  Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at that time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world (verse 34).

Not choosing to follow the Savior is still a choice, even if by default.

The choices are the same as they were premortally: to follow Jehovah, who promised to atone for us so that we would have the choice (agency) to prove our love for God by choosing to be obedient to Him, or to follow Lucifer, who wanted to remove agency and force us to be obedient – which is not love, and so steals the glory for himself instead of giving it to God.

Not choosing to follow the Savior is surrendering the option of agency.

Surrendering the option of agency is Lucifer’s plan, not Jehovah’s.

Not choosing to follow the Savior is choosing to follow Lucifer, and “behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked” (verse 35).   The Spirit cannot stay with you, once you know the truth, because not choosing the Savior is choosing Lucifer – “and the Lord hath said he dwelleth not in unholy temples, but in the hearts of the righteous” (verse 36).  And those who are righteous, or in process of becoming righteous, are themselves holy temples, and as the beings living in those holy temples, their garments are “white as snow” (Daniel 7:9), and they are white because the people are worthy (made worthy by the atonement) (Revelation 3:4-5) (See also Exodus 31:10 and Psalm 51:7 and Isaiah 1:18), and that worthiness is evidenced by continued service as a holy people doing righteous and holy things.

Amulek pleads with the people to “remember these things, and that ye should work out your salvation with fear before God, and that ye should no more deny the coming of Christ” (verse 37).  He pleads with them to “contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ (including the new name of Revelation 2:17, in which He declares who He created us to be); that ye 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 he doth bestow upon you” (verse 38).

But then, he says, we must continue steadfastly, for Lucifer – Satan – is waiting for the chance to get us to surrender our agency, to trap us in some way, to corner us in our own consequences until we no longer have a choice because we have surrendered our ability to choose.  This is one of the reasons that we, as LDS, have things like “the Word of Wisdom“, that forbids addictive substances and behaviors – because when one is addicted to, or dependent upon some substance or behavior, to feel good or well or happy, then that person has surrendered their agency and is trapped – they cannot feel as good or well or happy without that substance or behavior.   It’s not that the substance or behavior in and of itself is bad (sometimes), but it is the surrendering of agency to it that is the problem.  We must “be watchful unto prayer continually, that ye may not be led away by the temptations of the devil, that he may not overpower you, that ye may not become his subjects at the last day; for behold, he rewardeth you no good thing” (verse 39).

Finally, Amulek also has compassion on these people who first ran away from what they knew to be true, and then were cast out by those who led them astray: “… have patience… and bear with all manner of afflictions; that ye do not revile against those who do cast you out… lest ye become sinners like unto them… have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions” (verses 40-41).

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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