Monday, June 3, 2013

009. He Trieth Their Patience & Their Faith

Chapters 23 and 24 in the Book of Mosiah contain a richness of insight into the trials we experience in this life. They describe the account of the people of the Lord, lead by Alma, who flee the lands of King Noah, establish their own city, are then oppressed by the Lamanites, are subsequently delivered, and then join the people of King Mosiah in the land of Zarahelma. 
Alma and His People Departed into the Wilderness by Minerva Tichert
Upon reaching safety in the wilderness, the people desired that Alma should become their king. Alma agrees that having a king would be a good method of governance, but only if kings were always righteous. Having just escaped the oppressive and unrighteous dominion of King Noah, these righteous people, and most accutelty Alma himself, knew of the trechery and dangers posed by an unrighteous king. Wicked kings are very hard to remove and lead many people to do wickedly as they follow their example and leadershipAlma thus declined their nomination, offering these words of wisdom:
"...for thus saith the Lord: Ye shall not esteem one flesh above another, or one man shall not think himself above another." Mosiah 27:3
As this statement suggests, we ought to treat one other equally in the sense that no one is better than anyone else in the sight of the Lord. Alma then teaches "that every man should love his neighbor as himself, that there should be no contention among them" (verse 15). They are to treat others as they themselves would like to be treated. They are to love and not be angry nor harm one another, and they are to treat everyone in a similar way, regardless of physical appearance, background, connections, education, former social status, or position. They are the Lord's people, they have dedicated themselves to Him. They have consecrated their lives to His service and worship. This should resonnate with those endowed in the holy temples. This teaching is similar to something that was received in the Doctrine & Covenants, section 38, verses 24-27:

24 And let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practice virtue and holiness before me.
 25 And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself.
 26 For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?
 27 Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.
Perhaps these people were also striving to live the law of consecration. In any case, because of their righteousness, they were greatly blessed and prospered. They build up a city called Helam. They were hard-working and industrious. They were likely very happy to have a place of their own, free from the wickedness and idolatry of King Laban's kingdom, where they could worship the Lord and live in peace and beauty (..."they came to a land, yea, even a very beautiful and pleasant land, a land of pure water" verse 4). However, it wasn't long until the Lamanites caught wind of this prosperous city, came upon it, and occupied it. The people of Helam were placed under heavy burdens and their freedoms were constrained. 

It seems so unfair, they were a righteous people who had just recently followed the Lord into the wilderness to escape wickedness. They were not doing anything wrong. Did they forget the Lord? Were they being punished? There is no indication that these people had fallen into sinful behavior. What happened? The following verses provide an answer:

 21 Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.
 22 Nevertheless—whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day. Yea, and thus it was with this people.
 23 For behold, I will show unto you that they were brought into bondage, and none could deliver them but the Lord their God, yea, even the God of Abraham and Isaac and of Jacob.
 24 And it came to pass that he did deliver them, and he did show forth his mighty power unto them, and great were their rejoicings.
The Lord permitted this to happen. He allowed His people to be taken into bondage to try their faith and their patience. So that they would know that only He can deliver them and save them, no matter how prosperous or independent they were. Of course, this was greatly alarming to these followers of Christ. Why hadn't God warned them to flee like he had done before, or do something to prepare them for the siege that was about to occur? Why hadn't He protected them? 
27 But Alma went forth and stood among them, and exhorted them that they should not be frightened, but that they should remember the Lord their God and he would deliver them.
 28 Therefore they hushed their fears, and began to cry unto the Lord that he would soften the hearts of the Lamanites, that they would spare them, and their wives, and their children.
 29 And it came to pass that the Lord did soften the hearts of the Lamanites. And Alma and his brethren went forth and delivered themselves up into their hands; and the Lamanites took possession of the land of Helam.
This is an amazing example of faith, humility, and perspective. These people were afraid, but they did not murmur nor curse their maker. Their fears, which come from the adversary, were "hushed" as Alma reminded them of the larger perspective of what was unfolding. As they trusted in the Lord and cried unto Him, they gained peace that everything would be in the Lord's hands and that He would deliver them. It did not mean that it would be easy, however. As described in Mosiah chapter 24, the people of Helam were subjected to great afflictions and harsh treatment. They were overseen by a former colleague of Alma's, a wicked High Priest named Amulon, who, because of his former connection with Alma, was especially cruel to these people. They were even threatened with death for praying for relief vocally:
 10 And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God.
 11 And Amulon commanded them that they should stop their cries; and he put guards over them to watch them, that whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death.
 12 And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.
But the Lord did not forget His people, nor the covenants that they had made with Him. He heard their prayers:
 13 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
 14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
 15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.
He promises to deliver them out of bondage and also make their burdens light. He will visit them in their afllictions, at their time of greatest need. However, through their afflictions, these people were transformed into 1) witnesses of the power of God unto deliverance and 2) individuals who cheerfully submitted with patience to the will of God. 

First, deliverance. There are certain trying experiences that all of us who choose to follow the Lord will have in this mortal experience. They will be gut-wrenching, difficult, and even unexplainable situations. They will be individually designed to test the very things that might be blocking us from progressing. We may fall. We may be unjustly accused or misunderstood. It will seem so unfair or unexplainable. The only way out will be to maintain a focused faith on the power of the Savior to deliver us from whatever trial we may have. We will come to realize, and likely again and again as these people of Helam demonstrate, that the ONLY way to survive is to have faith on the Lord and call upon His name. I have had a few of these sorts of experiences in my life and I testify that having faith on the Savior was the ONLY way I got through them. His power is real. He is real. He will not forget those who have covenanted with Him. He keeps His part of the bargain. He does not give less than he promises, he delivers us, literally. He visits us in our afflications and will save, He is truly the Savior of the world.
 16 And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.
Second, submitting to the will of the Lord. The peoples' will's became wrapped up in the Lord's will. Eric Liddell, the Scottish missionary who refused to run in the Olympics on a Sunday (story made famous by the film Chariots of Fire), died at the young age of 43. His last words were "It's complete surrender", in reference to how he had given his life to God. That is what the Lord wants from us, the surrender of our will to His. These mortal experiences are designed to teach us just that. The righteous also have trials to push them further to have total dependence on the Lord. Why? That is the pattern. Christ performed the Father's will perfectly. We must perform the Lord's will. That is the only way we can be saved. He will show us the way back to the Father, but we must surrender. The voice of the Lord came to comfort these people, twice. He loves all His children, and He comes to deliver those who submit to His will in meekness and humility. These people were then delivered through miraculous means:
 23...for they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it were the Lord their God.
 22 And they gave thanks to God, yea, all their men and all their women and all their children that could speak lifted their voices in the praises of their God.
When you face a trial, know that it is an opportunity for you to deepen your faith in the Lord, to develop patience, and to become a witness of the power of the Lord to deliver you. He will.

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