Thursday, June 13, 2013

Helping Those Who Have Lost Their Way

This week I have spent a bit of time studying about Alma the younger. For those of you who are not familiar with the story in the Book of Mormon, Alma the younger was the son of a prophet. He rebelled against his father and sought to destroy the church of God. After much prayer from his father, the Lord sent an angel to speak with Alma the younger. He became converted to the Gospel. He then dedicated his life to preaching the word of God. (That is a very brief overview. I would recommend you read it if you don't know the story.)

I learned so much from studying this story. I seriously LOVE the scriptures. They are full of answers and knowledge that we are all seeking for. I think most of us have someone we know that is choosing to not live up to their potential. Most parents probably go through times like Alma's father, where they are worried and heartbroken over their children and they don't know what to do. This story taught me a lot about this subject. 

I will start at the beginning of what I learned. In Mosiah 27:8-10 it says:

 Now the sons of Mosiah were numbered among theaunbelievers; and also one of the sons of Alma was numbered among them, he being called Alma, after his father; nevertheless, he became a very wicked and an bidolatrous man. And he was a man of many words, and did speak much cflattery to the people; therefore he dled many of the people to do after the manner of hiseiniquities.
 And he became a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church of God; astealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his bpower over them.
 10 And now it came to pass that while he was going about toadestroy the church of God, for he did go about secretly with the sons of Mosiah seeking to destroy the church, and to lead astray the people of the Lord, contrary to the commandments of God, or even the king—
I read through these verses looking for signs that someone is off the path. Here are a few of the things I found:
  • Idolatrous
  • persuading/tricking people to do after the manner of their iniquities
  • secretive
  • doing things contrary to the commandments
  • using flattery to get what they want

In the following verses (Mosiah 27:11-13) it says:

11 And as I said unto you, as they were going about arebelling against God, behold, the bangel of the Lord cappeared unto them; and he descended as it were in a dcloud; and he spake as it were with a voice of thunder, which caused the earth to shake upon which they stood;
 12 And so great was their astonishment, that they fell to the earth, and understood not the words which he spake unto them.
 13 Nevertheless he cried again, saying: Alma, arise and stand forth, for why persecutest thou the church of God? For the Lord hath said: aThis is my church, and I will establish it; and nothing shall boverthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people.
When the angel appears to Alma he fell to the earth. He tells him to "Arise and stand forth." I believe this was literal but could also be understood figuratively. I thought of it as the angel saying "Stand up, open your eyes, face reality and acknowledge your sins." He wanted Alma to see where he stood before the Lord at that moment. He was telling Alma that he knew better. He was asking him to take accountability for actions. He was showing him the wrong in the choices he was making. 

The next verse is the one that really hit home with me. 

 14 And again, the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath aheard the prayers of his people, and also the bprayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has cprayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the dknowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to econvince thee of the power and authority of God, that the fprayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.

Heavenly Father heard the prayers of the people and the prayers of his father Alma. His father prayed with "much faith" that his son would brought to the knowledge of the truth. The angel came to convince Alma the younger of the error of his ways so that the prayers of the people who loved him would be answered. 

For those of you who have had a loved one go through anything like this, you understand the pain and the uncertainty. You understand how Alma (the father) must have felt. When you go through things like this, it is easy to doubt and lose hope. You don't see the end. You wonder if they will ever come around. You spend days and nights pleading to God for reassurance. You plead with Him to tell you what to do to help this person. You feel helpless. It is easy to doubt if doing the right things (scriptures, prayer, fasting, service, temple/church attendance...) will be enough to bring your loved one back. It can be so hard when you are dealing with others agency. That is why I believe this story brings SOO much comfort to those that are going through this. 

I'm sure Alma's father spent many nights pleading with God. I am sure this did not happen over night. He had to put his faith in God and trust that everything would work out. He did not know how it would happen, but he had faith that it would. He continued to pray for his son. I loved that the angel told Alma the younger that he came to see him so that the prayers on his behalf would be answered. Heavenly Father was aware of every prayer that was offered. He was aware of their faith in Him. He sent an angel to Alma because of the people that loved him. How powerful then is putting our faith in our prayers?! It is HUGE!! 

In verse 16 the angel gives counsel to Alma the younger saying:

16 Now I say unto thee: Go, and remember the captivity of thy fathers in the land of aHelam, and in the land of Nephi; and remember how great things he has done for them; for they were in bbondage, and he has cdelivered them. And now I say unto thee, Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, that their prayers may be answered, and this even if thou wilt ofdthyself be ecast off.

He tells Alma to "Go and remember..." I believe he is referring to remembering the great things the Lord has done for him. To remember so that he can go and change his very character. He needed to change so that the prayers could be answered. 

 19 And now the astonishment of Alma was so great that he became adumb, that he could not open his mouth; yea, and he became weak, even that he could not move his hands; therefore he was taken by those that were with him, and carried helpless, even until he was laid before his father.
 20 And they rehearsed unto his father all that had happened unto them; and his father rejoiced, for he knew that it was the power of God.
 21 And he caused that a multitude should be gathered together that they might witness what the Lord had done for his son, and also for those that were with him.
 22 And he caused that the priests should assemble themselves together; and they began to fast, and to pray to the Lord their God that he would open the mouth of Alma, that he might speak, and also that his limbs might receive their strength—that the eyes of the people might be opened to see and know of the goodness and glory of God.

When Alma's father heard what happened he rejoiced. I am sure he waited a long time to hear what he was hearing. I can only imagine how happy he must have felt and the gratitude he had for the Lord. He gathered people together so that they could also see the miracle that occurred because of their faith. Once again they turned to fasting and prayer! 

When Alma the younger wakes up, he talks about how he was born again. He talks of how he repented and was redeemed of God. In verse 25 it says:

25 And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be aborn again; yea, bborn of Godcchanged from their carnal anddfallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his esons and daughters;

After he says this, he goes on to describe his conversion process. Mosiah 27:28-29:

 28 Nevertheless, after awading through much btribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an ceverlasting burning, and I am born of God.
 29 My soul hath been aredeemed from the gall of bitterness andbbonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was cracked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is dpained no more.
From there Alma went and became an instrument in the hands of the Lord. He brought many people to the knowledge of the truth and to the knowledge of their Redeemer. He was very blessed! 
What have I learned from the story of Alma the Younger?
  • We need to take accountability for our own actions
  • The Lord hears and answers prayers that are backed by faith
  • miracles DO happen!
  • power in prayer and fasting
  • we need to ALWAYS remember what Heavenly Father and the Savior have done for us. We need to keep that always in our minds so that we don't revert back to those sins again
  • we must constantly be repenting and changing
  • faith + repentance= change of character
  • there is a sorrow, bitterness, and pain that comes from sin
  • as we repent we will see the marvelous light of God
  • when we experience the mercy of God and the power of the Atonement in our lives, we have a desire to share it
  • we become better missionaries
  • when we truly repent we have a desire to fix the wrongs we did
  • when we truly repent we want to make things right with the people we hurt
  • when we repent and increase our faith we become closer to God
  • when we repent and increase our faith we are BLESSED!!
I know the Lord hears my prayers. I have seen that over and over again. I know without a doubt that the Lord is aware of each one of us and our needs. He knows our hearts and our desires. I know that as I put my faith in Him, answers I am seeking for will be given to me. I know that things will work out even if I cannot see how that is possible. As we increase in faith and patience we will receive answers. We need to trust in those answers. I KNOW we have a loving, understanding, merciful Heavenly Father who desires to bless us. He knows all and he knows better than we do. There is much strength that comes as we put our faith and trust in Him and the answers He gives us. 

If you know someone that is struggling then please don't give up on them. Continue to turn to Heavenly Father. Put your faith in Him that it will work out on his timetable. Believe in miracles! I have been blessed enough to witness them in my own life and in the lives of the people closest to me. I have seen people struggle and I remember days where I thought my heart was literally going to break. There were times when I was so upset that things weren't happening the way I thought they should. There were times when I felt helpless and hopeless and I didn't see how it would ever get better. Sometimes you just have to take things a day at a time. It is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I can assure you with absolute certainty that it is there. We cannot see it, but the Lord can. He will guide us if we allow Him to. I have been extremely blessed from living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have felt peace and hope during times of uncertainty. I have seen the Lord guiding my life. I have received answers to prayers. I have felt the love of God carrying me through. I KNOW that our Savior lives. I know that He loves us. He will never leave us alone. Turn to Him because He is the only one who will ever truly understand you!