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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Alma 5 - Alma the Younger and Salvation by Grace...and Works

Listen now!I felt impressed tonight to post about Alma Chapter 5 in the Book of Mormon. I realize I'm skipping ahead in my long neglected, chronological, chapter-by-chapter posting regimen, but this particular chapter has been on my mind.

Lately, there have been some interesting individuals with whom I've had conversations about whether we're saved by works or by grace--the very topics leading up to and culminating in Alma 5.

This chapter is one of the most classically Christian parts of the Book of Mormon and supports the Bible's teachings 100%, yet I am told by various traditional / protestant / fundamentalist / evangelical Christians (the vast majority of whom have never read beyond the Book of Mormon introduction page) that my belief in the Book of Mormon as Christian scripture is unfounded. I find this attitude both troubling and puzzling. I often want to ask them to try a little experiment--come to an LDS Sacrament meeting and ask any random member this question: "How are you saved?" The answer they get will be very much the opposite of what they've read in anti-Mormon literature.

Yet they continue to fail to explain adequately the provenance of the Book of Mormon, simply preferring as the basis for their arguments the regurgitation of anti-Mormon statements about (debunked) Spaulding manuscripts, (inconsequential) seer stones, and other (irrelevant) tangential topics. Quite often, when they don't have an answer to counter reasonable replies, they change the subject in an attempt to put the balance of the conversation back in their favor. They are ever learning, but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. In doing so, they habitually refuse to ever read the book, or even accept the minutest possibility that God might be lovingly offering additional wisdom from on high tailored to the complex times in which we live.

Alma the Younger was, obviously, the namesake son of another man--a prophet, actually--named Alma. Unlike his righteous father, Alma the Younger was once a very rebellious person, given to fighting with all his might against the Church over which his father was a high priest at the time.

Alma the Elder had prayed mightily that his son would stop destroying the Church from within with his exceedingly wicked behaviors and false teachings. His righteous prayer was answered one day when an angel appeared suddenly to Alma and his apostate companions, who were sons of the also righteous King Mosiah, and commanded them to stop persecuting the Church or be destroyed. Alma was in a catatonic or "near death" state for two days while he suffered the most excruciating spiritual experience of being shown all of his sins, their consequences, and all of his inadequacies. At "rock bottom" during this experience, he called on Christ and was saved--by grace, and not by any merit of his own--from his evil works.

A beautiful hebraic poetry form called "chiasmus" was later written by Alma the Younger in order to describe to one of his sons his experience with salvation through and by the grace of Christ alone, conditional upon his work of calling upon Jesus and by sincere repentance.

After his full repentance and restoration to good standing within the Church, Alma's repentant companions left to serve a mission among their enemies, the Lamanites. Alma went to a city called Zarahemla to teach the introspective that we find in Alma 5.

Read that chapter, then ask yourself the following questions as if Alma were speaking directly to you.

Fifty Questions to Ask Yourself After Reading Alma 5
  1. Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers?
  2. Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance God's mercy and long-suffering towards your fathers?
  3. Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance that He has delivered their souls from hell?
  4. Were your fathers destroyed?
  5. Were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled your fathers about, were they loosed?
  6. On what conditions were your fathers saved?
  7. On what grounds had they hope for salvation?
  8. What is the cause of your fathers' being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell?
  9. Did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi?
  10. Was Abinadi not a holy prophet?
  11. Did Abinadi not speak the words of God?
  12. Did my father Alma believe them?
  13. Have you spiritually been born of God?
  14. Have you received His image in your countenance?
  15. Have you experienced this mighty change in your heart?
  16. Do you exercise faith in the redemption of Him who created you?
  17. Do you look forward with an eye of faith?
  18. Do you view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?
  19. Can you imagine yourself that you hear the voice of the Lord, saying to you, in that day: "Come unto me you blessed, for behold your works have been works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?"
  20. Or do you imagine to yourself that you can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say--"Lord, my works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth"--and He will save you?
  21. Or otherwise, can you imagine yourself brought before the tribunal of God with your soul filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that you have set at defiance the commandments of God?
  22. Can you look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands?
  23. Can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenance?
  24. Can you think of being saved when you have yielded yourself to become subject to the devil?
  25. How will you feel if you shall stand before the bar of God, having your garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness?
  26. What will these things testify against you?
  27. Will they not testify that you are a murderer?
  28. Will they not also testify that you are guilty of all manner of wickedness?
  29. Do you suppose that such an one can have a place to sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and also all the holy prophets, whose garments are cleansed and are spotless, pure and white?
  30. If you have experienced a change of heart, and if you have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, can you feel so now?
  31. Have you walked, keeping yourself blameless before God?
  32. Could you say, if you were called to die at this time, within yourself, that you have been sufficiently humble?
  33. Could you say that your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ?
  34. Are you stripped of pride?
  35. Is there one among you who is not stripped of envy?
  36. Is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions?
  37. If you are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are you?
  38. The devil is your shepherd, and you are of his fold: and now who can deny this?
  39. Do you not suppose that I know of these things myself?
  40. How do you supose that I know of their surety?
  41. Can you withstand these sayings?
  42. Can you lay aside these things and trample the Holy One under your feet?
  43. Can you be puffed up in the pride of your heart?
  44. Will you still persist in the wearing of costly apparel and setting your heart upon the vain things of the world, upon your riches?
  45. Will you persist in supposing that you are better than another?
  46. Will you persist in the persecution of your brethren, who humble themselves and do walk after the Holy Order of God, wherewith they have been brought into this Church having been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and they do bring forth works which are meet for repentance?
  47. Will you persist in turning your back upon the poor and the needy, and in withholding your substance from them?
  48. The names of the righteous shall be written in the Book of Life, and unto them will I grant an inheritance at my right hand. What have you to say against this?
  49. What shepherd is there having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock?
  50. If a wolf enter his flock doth the shepherd not drive him out?

If you want a quick check of where you stand before God with respect to salvation and exaltation, answer these questions for yourself, whether you're LDS or not. These are universal truths that apply to all men and women. And, that is exactly why the Book of Mormon is considered by members of the LDS Church to be an additional witness of Christ.