All Men Shall Reap a Reward of Their Works

Alma teaches the principle that we reap what we sow with our actions.

“…All men shall reap a reward of their works, according to that which they have been—if they have been righteous they shall reap the salvation of their souls, according to the power and deliverance of Jesus Christ; and if they have been evil they shall reap the damnation of their souls, according to the power and captivation of the devil.” (Alma 9:28)

Questions:

-If works can increase grace and grace can increase works. Does it make sense to denigrate the role of one or the other? Does it make more sense to emphasize their mutually reinforcing and “symbiotic” relationship?

-Since Christ has made works meaningful through His Atonement (opening up the way for the Father to treasure up all the good a person does and magnify it through all eternity), how vital is it to show appreciation for this unrivaled opportunity and move forward with good works?

If a Man Bringeth Forth Good Works He Hearkeneth unto the Voice of the Good Shepherd

Alma teaches that there are two primary voices calling out to the human soul.

“…I say unto you that whatsoever is good cometh of God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil. Therefore, if a man bringeth forth good works he hearkeneth unto the voice of the good shepherd, and he doth follow him; but whosoever bringeth forth evil works, the same becometh a child of the devil, for he hearkenth unto his voice, and doth follow him. And whosoever doeth this must receive his wages of him; therefore, for his wages he receiveth death, as to things pertaining to righteousness, being dead unto all good works.” (Alma 5:40-42)

Questions:

-Does someone have to be “saved” in order to do good works? Does Christ only reach out to those who call themselves Christian with His voice? Or, does He call out to all men and women?

-Can a person follow the light and spirit of Christ without even knowing His name?

-How many Christians, who consider themselves saved or claim to be saved, are actually earning the wages of death as described in the verses above?

-How many non-Christians are making the most of the light they have and are truly bringing forth good works?

There Can No Man Be Saved Except His Garments Are Washed White

Alma compares the purification of the soul, necessary to meet God with a clear conscience, with the wearing of white clothes that have been washed perfectly clean. Only the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible to stand before God without stain. Those who have not drawn on the cleansing power of Christ’s Atonement will stand before God with the spiritual equivalent of filthy clothes due to the stain of sin. Alma asks a series of questions showing, when answered honestly, that one’s current status before God can be assessed now. It is not necessary, or wise, to wait for the final assessment that will occur at the Last Judgment.

“Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and 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? I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?” (Alma 5:15-16)

“Or do you imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say—Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth—and that he will save you? Or, otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with you souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?” (Alma 5:17-18)

“I say unto you, can you look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances? I say unto you, can ye think of being saved when you have yielded yourselves to become subjects to the devil? I say unto you, ye will know at that day that ye cannot  be saved; for there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins.” (Alma 5:19-21)

Questions:

-How do you feel about the eight or so questions Alma asks above?

-Is there any limit to Christ’s power to remove the stains of sin when a person is in the sincere habit of repenting immediately for mistakes and then striving to not repeat them?

-What is the difference between Christ saving people from their sins and Christ saving people in their sins? (see Alma 11:32-37)

This is My Church

Alma, the Nephite prophet, was troubled by members of the Lord’s church who were committing sin and not repenting. He was hesitant to take action because he didn’t want to judge them wrongly in the Lord’s eyes, but felt that action needed to be taken. As he prayed, the Lord revealed the following to him:

“…He that will hear my voice shall be my sheep; and him shall ye receive into the church, and him will I also receive. For behold, this is my church; whosoever is baptized shall be baptized unto repentance. And whomever ye receive shall believe in my name; and him will I freely forgive. For it is I that taketh upon me the sins of the world; for it is I that hath created them; and it is I that granteth unto him that believeth unto the end a place at my right hand. For behold, in my name are they called; and if they know me they shall come forth, and shall have a place eternally at my right hand.” (Mosiah 26:21-24)

“And it shall come to pass that when the second trump shall sound then shall they that never knew me come forth and shall stand before me. And then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, that I am their Redeemer; but they would not be redeemed. And then I will confess unto them that I never knew them; and they shall depart into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Therefore I say unto you, that he that will not hear my voice, the same shall ye not receive into my church, for him I will not receive at the last day.” (Mosiah 26:25-28)

Questions:

-Is the Book of Mormon the Lord’s voice?

-Is the Bible the Lord’s voice?

-Is it possible to heed some of the Lord’s words but ignore others?

-Does the phrase “never knew me” in the passage above suggest that only those who never listened to the Lord’s voice will “depart into everlasting fire?” How rare is it to find a person who never listened to the voice of the Lord?

-How important is it to strive to listen to all that the Lord speaks versus listening selectively?

The Arms of Mercy Were Extended Towards Them and They Would Not

In teaching (and warning) King Noah and his priests, the prophet Abinadi reemphasizes what other prophets had taught before him: The Resurrection and the Judgment are closely tied and, together, define the eternal state of each soul.

“…This mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruption shall put on incorruption, and shall be brought to stand before the bar of God, to be judged of him according to their works whether they be good or whether they be evil—If they be good, to the resurrection of endless life and happiness; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of endless damnation, being delivered up to the devil, who hath subjected them, which is damnation—Having gone according to their own carnal wills and desires; having never called upon the Lord while the arms of mercy were extended towards them; for the arms of mercy were extended towards them, and they would not; they being warned of their iniquities and yet they would not depart from them; and they were commanded to repent and yet they would not repent.” (Mosiah 16:10-12)

Questions:

-Does God make sure that we are given every chance in mortality (and even in the spirit world) to turn to Him?

-By the time of the Resurrection will everyone’s true desires be expressed through the actions they took leading to that culminating event?

He That Persists in His Own Carnal Nature Remaineth in His Fallen State

Salvation comes to individuals who choose God rather than their carnal nature.

“…All mankind were lost and behold they would have been endlessly lost were it not that God redeemed his people from their lost and fallen state. But remember that he that persists in his own carnal nature, and goes on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God, remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him. Therefore he is as though there was no redemption made, being an enemy to God and also is the devil an enemy to God.” (Mosiah 16:4-5)

Questions:

-Is there anyone that doesn’t need to overcome their carnal nature?

-How many in our times celebrate their carnal nature rather than seeking to overcome it?

-Under whose power do those who persist in their carnal fall under?

Ye Will Not Have a Mind to Injure One Another, But to Live Peaceably

King Benjamin teaches how those who have the love of God in their hearts will treat one another.

“And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due. And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness. But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another. And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.” (Mosiah 4:13-16)

Questions:

-Is it possible to truly love God without the help of the Holy Spirit? Is it possible to comprehend who God is without the witness of the Holy Spirit?

Wo Be unto Him That Is at Ease in Zion

The prophet Nephi describes some of the methods the devil will use in the last days to lull souls into a state of spiritually destructive complacency.

“…Others will he pacify and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance. Yea, they are grasped with death, and hell; and death and hell, and the devil, and all that have been seized therewith must stand before the throne of God and be judged according to their works, from whence they must go into the place prepared for them, even a lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment. Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion.” (2 Nephi 28:21-24)

Questions:

-Why is spiritual complacency equivalent to spiritual death?

-What forces make it next to impossible to stand still in terms of spiritual growth versus spiritual atrophy?

Messages of the Presiding Bishopric:

“Every act, good or bad, has a consequence. Every good act improves our ability to do good and more firmly stand against sin or failure. Every transgression, regardless of how minor, makes us more susceptible to Satan’s influence the next time he tempts us. Satan takes us an inch at a time, deceiving us as to the consequences of so-called minor sins until he captures us in major transgressions. Nephi describes this technique as one of pacifying, lulling, and flattering us away until Satan ‘grasps [us] with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance’ (2 Ne. 28:22; see also v. 21)” (Richard C. Edgley, “That Thy Confidence Wax Strong,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 40).

The Gentiles Preach up unto Themselves Their Own Wisdom and Their Own Learning

Seeing our time, the prophet Nephi touches on some of the spiritual and organizational characteristics troubling the people (Gentiles) who would largely displace the remnants of his and his father Lehi’s descendants.

“…The Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that they have built up many churches; nevertheless, they put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor. And there are many churches built up which cause envyings, and strifes, and malice. And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things…” (2 Nephi 26:20-22)

Questions:

-When seeing the weaknesses of the Gentiles, is Nephi focused more on the people of the United States and Canada? Does his critique also refer to the Latin American countries south of the United States? Is there also some reference to all nations throughout this fallen world?

-Are the churches Nephi is referring to Christian places of worship? Or, is his meaning more generalized to refer to all organizations that developed from the Christian churches and the related Enlightenment culture of Europe?

-What stumbling block is Nephi referring to in this passage? And, why does he refer to it as a great stumbling block? Is this a reference to the absence of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ (because of apostasy) as these organizations formed?

-What are the organizations that have been “built up” to have the most power and influence in the United States in our time? Have similar organizations been built up in other countries in the Americas and throughout the world?

-Do these organizations focus on the power and miracles of God? Or, do they put greater emphasis on — and give greater credit to — what they perceive to be human power and human wisdom? Do many of these organizations take advantage of the poor?

-Are their many institutions and organizations that (inadvertently or intentionally) cause envying and strife?

-What are secret combinations? What are the consequences of having oath-bound groups in our society that do evil for their own worldly gain?

The Spirit of the Lord Will Not Always Strive with Man

Nephi sees (through a prophetic vision given to him from the Lord) that, after falling into deep wickedness, many of his people in the Americas would be destroyed at the time of Christ’s death and resurrection (around A.D. 33-34). After being visited by Christ in person, three generations would pass away in peace and righteousness before wickedness and destruction would again afflict his people. Nephi identifies the loss of the Spirit as the reason for his people’s fall.

“…The Son of Righteousness shall appear unto them; and he shall heal them, and they shall have peace with him, until three generations shall have passed away, and many of the fourth generation shall have passed away in righteousness. And when these things have passed away a speedy destruction cometh unto my people; for, notwithstanding the pains of my soul, I have seen it; wherefore, I know that it shall come to pass; and they sell themselves for naught; for, for the reward of their pride and their foolishness they shall reap destruction; for because they yield unto the devil and choose works of darkness rather than light, therefore they must go down to hell. For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction…” (2 Nephi 26:9-11)

Questions:

-Why do individuals choose darkness rather than light? Why do whole societies, such as the Nephites did, fall into a general pattern of prideful behavior and sin?

-How and when do things get to the point where the Spirit completely withdraws from a distinct group of people?

-Is it possible for a group or society that hasn’t received the fullness of God’s law to reach such a state where they reap destruction based on their rejection of God’s Spirit?

-Is it ever too late to turn back to God as an individual (even within a society that is headed the opposite direction)?