Sunday, November 23, 2008

Alma 32 - How To Know Whether the Book of Mormon Is Revealed Scripture

Listen now!About nine years after his preaching to the people of Zarahemla as recorded in Alma 5, Alma the Younger went to teach the wicked and apostate Zoramites. This branch of Nephi and Lehi's people had descended from Zoram, whom they brought with them to the promised land. They had built a tower upon which they sanctimoniously proclaimed their chosen status and gave hypocritical and ostentatious prayers to God, thanking Him that they were better. more chosen of God than other individuals within their neighboring faith communities.

While Alma taught them, a small group had also gathered there to listen. They were the poor in substance and spirit and sought truth, but had been turned out of these places of worship because of their poverty. Alma, seeing that these individuals were humble and, unlike their counterparts, were prepared and eager to receive more truth and wisdom, turned his focus completely to them and taught them to experiment upon the word as if it were a seed, inviting them to test what they have heard and to righteously judge whether it was of God or of man.

Anyone can use this same test to determine whether the Book of Mormon is truly scripture revealed of God.

In Alma 32, we read (my emphasis and [notes] added):

26 Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was 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.
27 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 place for a portion of my words.
28 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 [archaic "chest"] ; 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.
29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.
30 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.
31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.
32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.
34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.
35 O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?
36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.
37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.
38 But if ye 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.
39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.
40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.
41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit
thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
42 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 above 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.
43 Then, my brethren, 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.
So, as you can see, knowing the truth of something is not simply hearing it, finding it agreeable, and moving on. If you do only that, you will have neglected to grow that truth by nourishing it as you would a tree seedling. To make it grow within you, you have the responsibility--the imperative--to be humble, and to keep wanting more and learning more to get perfect knowledge of God's truth.

Similarly, if you neglect to even try the experiment, you can't possibly expect any fruit to come of it. That doesn't at all mean that the seed is bad, just that you didn't try the experiment.

It's one of the simplest laws of the harvest: From that which we sow and tend to and provide favorable conditions for, we can expect to reap something beneficial if the seed is good. If it is not, it simply won't grow no matter how much we nourish it. Conversely, from that which we do not sow, or that which we sow and then neglect, we cannot expect to reap anything at all.

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.