Thursday, June 23, 2011

Alma 58

Last Sunday we sang "When Faith Endures" in sacrament meeting, and while the hymn itself didn't resonate much (I think it's kind of a mediocre hymn, to be honest), but in scanning over the scriptures referenced at the bottom of the page, Icam across two verses that have, over the past few days, come to mean a lot to me.

In Alma 58:10-11, we read of how the people of Nephi responded to a serious threat form their enemies: "we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us."

We then learn what happened because of their faith: "the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him."

I'm impressed here with two things. First, the response to difficult experiences was based on hope, not despair. The people had learned to trust in God, and so they turned to Him.

And secondly, their hope came before their deliverance. their prayers were not answered with an immediate and miraculous event, but with the gift of increased faith.

As is often the case in our lives, the best response to challenges is to increase our faith, but that increased faith does not guarantee the end of the trial. but if our faith is sincere, we can find greater hope and assurance.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

On Affliction

This past Sunday we had two speakers who focused on talks from this past General Conference that focused on the role of affliction and chastening in our lives. Both talks forced my thoughts to the story of Alma and his people in bondage after their conversion and the establishment of the church in the wilderness.

This account has always impressed me, in part because it is the most powerful realization of the promise given in 1 Nephi 1:20. Here we have a people chosen by their faith and ultimately delivered by God's mercy.

But today I was struck by the pattern in verse 14-16. First, the people are told that they will be strengthened, and why this is happening--so that they will know that God is there for them in the midst of their afflictions.

The promise is then fulfilled in verse 15, as the burdens are made light and the people are made strong. In all of this they demonstrate their faith and patience, which is precisely the thing that makes us able to bear our burdens. The trials are not removed immediately, but we grow and can handle them more capably.

And then we find the fulfillment of the promise as the Lord delivers the people. As is repeated 120 years later, in 3 Nephi 1:13, the Lord tells the prophet to be of good cheer, that their patience and faith are rewarded and they are freed from their bondage.

The same process works for each of us, as we are in bondage to any number of weaknesses, addictions, sins, and fears. To be delivered, we must be patient, humble, and faithful, and in all of this we find strength, comfort, and ultimate freedom through the atonement of Christ.