Be Sober

Alma teaches his son about how a missionary for Christ should conduct him- or herself.

“…Now, as ye have begun to teach the word even so I would that ye should continue to teach; and I would that ye would be diligent and temperate in all things. See that ye are not lifted up unto pride; yea, see that ye do not boast in your own wisdom, nor of your much strength. Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love; see that ye refrain from idleness. Do not pray as the Zoramites do, for ye have seen they pray to be heard of men, and to be praised for their wisdom. Do no say: O God, I thank thee that we are better than our brethren, but rather say: O Lord, forgive my unworthiness, and remember my brethren in mercy—yea acknowledge your unworthiness before God at all times. And may the Lord bless your soul, and receive you at the last day into his kingdom, to sit down in peace. Now go, my son, and teach the word unto this people. Be sober. My son, farewell.” (Alma 38:10-15)

Questions:

-How does bridling one’s passions open the way for a person to be filled with love?

-What does it mean to be sober (in the more general sense of the word)?

Every Seed Bringeth Forth unto Its Own Likeness

Alma continues to teach about the beginnings of faith and how to obtain spiritual knowledge.

“…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; 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 enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me. Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge. 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. 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.” (Alma 32:28-31)

“Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it growth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away. 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. 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 has swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doeth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doeth begin to expand.” (Alma 32:32-34)

“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? 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. 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. 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.” (Alma 32:35-38)

“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. 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. 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, yea, 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. 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.” (Alma 32:40-43)

Questions:

-Will you conduct the experiment Alma describes in the verses above?

He That Will Not Harden His Heart, to Him is Given the Greater Portion of the Word

Alma teaches about the potential for spiritual growth versus the consequences of spiritual atrophy.

“It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.” (Alma 12:9-11)

Questions:

-Based on the above verses, how important is it soften one’s heart in relation to God and His Spirit?

-Why do some harden their hearts against God and reject His word and His Spirit?

Every Knee Shall Bow and Every Tongue Confess

Alma testifies that all will recognize Christ for who He is as our Lord and Redeemer.

“…Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God; then shall they confess, who live without God in the world, that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them; and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his all-searching eye.” (Mosiah 27:31)

Questions:

-What does it mean to live without God?

-It is a choice whether you live with or without Him?

-What choices can you make to draw closer to God?

-Do those who sincerely and diligently seek God, find God?

-Will those who never drew closer to the light of God during this life shake, tremble, and quake (i.e. be overwhelmed spiritually) when His full glory is revealed to them at the Judgment Day?

All Things Must Be Done in Order

King Benjamin teaches the importance of service to others but cautions against trying to do more than one is capable of. Ordering one’s life, in accordance with God’s commandments, will allow one to provide greater service.

“…For the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants. And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.” (Mosiah 4:26-27)

Questions:

-How is serving others related to retaining a remission of sins?

-Can we stay close to Christ and His atoning power if we are not following His example in how we treat others?

There is None Other Salvation Save This

King Benjamin declares the conditions for salvation for those who have received knowledge of the gospel and God’s goodness:

“If the knowledge of the goodness of God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state—I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children of men; and also, the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life, I mean the life of the mortal body—I say, that this is the man [or woman] who receiveth salvation, through the atonement which was prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind, which ever were since the fall of Adam, or who are, or who ever shall be, even unto the end of the world. And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you.” (Mosiah 4:5-8)

Questions:

-Is there anyway to know the goodness of God and the power of Christ’s Atonement without a witness from the Holy Ghost?

How Blessed Are They Who Have Labored Diligently in His Vineyard

The Earth is the Lord’s vineyard and souls that have yielded to the enticing of the Holy Spirit and become true followers of His Son, Jesus Christ, are the desired fruit. One last harvest will occur in the last days before Christ’s return.

“…The day that he shall set his hand again the second time to recover his people, is the day, yea, even the last time, that the servants of the Lord shall go forth in his power, to nourish and prune his vineyard; and after that the end soon cometh. And how blessed are they who have labored diligently in his vineyard; and how cursed are they who shall be cast out into their own place! And the world shall be burned with fire.” (Jacob 6:2-3)

Questions:

-Do you see this last harvest occurring in our world today?

-Is the wheat being separated from the tares as described in Christ’s parable? (see Matthew 13:25-30)

-Will the world be burned by literal fire according to this prophecy?

-Is the unveiled presence of God like a burning fire to all that is corrupt?

Have Ye Obtained A Bible Save It Were by the Jews?

Through the writings of the prophet Nephi (in about 559-545 B.C.), the Lord addresses those who would fight against the additional scripture He would bring forth in the last days. He addresses the Gentiles hardened view of what He would or wouldn’t do in terms of additional scripture and contrasts their sense of possession towards the Bible against their lack of appreciation towards, and general mistreatment of, the Jewish people whose ancestors brought it to them.

“…My words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth, for a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel; And, because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible. But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles?” (2 Nephi 29:2-4)

“O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people. Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?” (2 Nephi 29:5-6)

Questions:

-Is much of the full meaning and message of the Bible lost if there is not a deep appreciation and love for the people through which the Lord brought the Bible into being and an understanding of the eternal covenants He made with them regarding their descendants?

-Is a religion that does not give proper attention and nourishment to its roots truly living and viable? Is it fully alive if the same power of continuing revelation that created the roots does not animate the branches?

-Do you believe the words above are the Lord’s and that a large portion of Christianity needed a strong wakeup call, through the Book of Mormon and other Restoration scriptures, regarding their relationship with — and actions towards — the Jews and the house of Israel more generally? Is the Lord’s use of the word “fool” indicative of the depth of the folly He was addressing?

-How much of the tragedy that unfolded during the first half of the 20th Century in Europe could have been avoided if the Lord’s voice would have been respected and heard when these verses were published as part of the Book of Mormon in the early part of the 19th Century?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“We, the members of the Church, and particularly the missionaries, have to be the ‘hissers,’ or the tellers and testifiers, of the Book of Mormon unto the ends of the earth” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God,” Ensign, May 1975, 65).

Ask Me in Faith

After receiving revelation regarding his father’s dream and many future events, Nephi returns to his father’s camp and finds his brothers arguing about what their father had taught the family. Another powerful and clear message of the Book of Mormon unfolds as Nephi reminds his brothers that they should seek out the ultimate source of truth and knowledge (rather than simply relying on their own understandings) to obtain clarity about the matters they are disputing about:

Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.” (1 Nephi 15:11)

Questions:

-What are the essential elements of receiving guidance from God as described in the verse above?

-Is it always easy to maintain a soft heart when seeking answers from God?

-Do we sometimes ask in doubt (rather than in faith) and still expect an answer?

-Why is diligent keeping of the commandments an important aspect of receiving revelation from God? Is the strength of the Spirit in our lives tied to our ability to receive divine instruction? And, is the strength of the Spirit in our lives a constant? Or, does it wax and wane depending on a person’s actions in relation to God’s commandments?

-Is it easy to have preconceptions about how God will give us answers and how quickly the answers will come? Does having true faith that you will receive an answer part of having the patience necessary to help overcome these preconceptions?

The Gift of God unto All Those Who Diligently Seek Him

After hearing all God had shown to his father, through prophetic revelation, Nephi desired to obtain a deeper knowledge of what he had heard. As he states in the following passage, he knew there was only one reliable way to obtain that deeper knowledge.

I Nephi was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him.” (1 Nephi 10:17)

Questions:

How can a person diligently seek God?

Do you believe you have diligently sought a greater understanding of who God is and what His will is for you?  If not, would it be worthwhile to make the effort?

How do you expect the Holy Ghost to work with you as you earnestly seek greater knowledge from God?

Do you believe He will work with you?

Why would God require a certain amount of diligence and effort before extending the gift of the Holy Ghost?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“[The spirit of revelation] is not restricted to the presiding authorities of the Church; rather, it belongs to and should be operative in the life of every man, woman, and child who reaches the age of accountability and enters into sacred covenants. Sincere desire and worthiness invite the spirit of revelation into our lives” (David A. Bednar, “The Spirit of Revelation,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 87).