Let the Affections of Thy Heart Be Placed upon the Lord Forever

Alma teaches his son about the type of relationship one should have with God.

…Keep the commandments of God. Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and withersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever. (Alma 37:35-36)

Questions:

-How does a person reach a state where all they do, think, and feel is directed to the Lord?

-Is it possible to reach such a state without God’s help?

-Is it possible to always have God’s Holy Spirit with you?

Humble Yourselves before the Lord

How one approaches his or her relationship with God matters if one desires to enter His rest.

“…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering; Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest.” (Alma 13:28-29)

Questions:

-How is humility towards God tied to overcoming temptation?

-How does the Holy Spirit lead a person to become humble, meek, submissive to God, patient, full of love, and long-suffering?

If Our Hearts Have Been Hardened Against the Word of God, Then Will Our State Be Awful

Alma provides a grave warning about the consequences of hardening one’s heart towards God’s word and Spirit.

“…If our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for we shall be condemned. For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence. But this cannot be; we must come forth and stand before him in his glory, and in his power, and in his might, majesty, and dominion, and acknowledge to our everlasting shame that all his judgments are just; that he is just in all his works, and that he is merciful unto the children of men, and that he has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance.” (Alma 12:13-15)

“And now behold, I say unto you then cometh a death, even a second death, which is a spiritual death; then is a time that whosoever dieth in his sins, as to a temporal death, shall also die as to things pertaining unto righteousness. This is the time when their torments shall be as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever; and then is the time that they shall be chained down to an everlasting destruction, according to the power and captivity of Satan, he having subjected them according to his will. Then, I say unto you, they shall be as though there had been no redemption made; for they cannot be redeemed according to God’s justice; and they cannot die, seeing there is no more corruption.” (Alma 12:16-18)

Questions:

-Do you believe life is a proving ground and what we sow we will reap in perfect clarity before God at the Last Judgment?

-How does God’s word help one to sow in righteousness?

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?

The Spirit and the Body Shall be Reunited Again in Its Perfect Form

Amulek teaches about the meaning and reality of the Resurrection made possible through Jesus Christ.

Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death. The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt. Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil….[T]his mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption. (Alma 11:42-45)

Questions:

-Do you believe that, because of Christ’s Resurrection, He has cleared the way for all of us to be resurrected as described in these verses?

-Will those who have repented and sought shelter in Christ’s power have any sense of guilt at the time of the Judgment?

The Ax Is Laid at the Root of the Tree

Alma testifies that the Lord is always prepared to clear away wickedness from the Earth.

“…The Spirit saith: Behold the ax is laid at the root of the tree; therefore every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire, yea a fire which cannot be consumed, even an unquenchable fire. Behold, and remember, the Holy One hath spoken it.” (Alma 5:52)

“…All ye that will persist in your wickedness, I say unto you that these are they who shall be hewn down and cast into the fire except they speedily repent.” (Alma 5:56)

Questions:

-Will the death of each individual, who has not brought forth good fruit, be the equivalent the tree being cut down and cast into the fire?

-Is the orchard analogy also a reference to groups of people (nations, cultures, etc.)?

-Could the purifying fire (influence) that emanates from God be anything but unquenchable? Could it ever be consumed?

-How intensely will that fire burn if it was never lit in the heart of a person prior to the Final Judgment?

-How is repentance tied to allowing God to purify our hearts now, during this time of probation, prior to the Last Judgment?

I the Lord Am a Jealous God

The Book of Mormon record reemphasizes the importance of the Ten Commandments given by God to the Israelite people. The Nephite prophets who taught their people and recorded scripture drew on a record called the Brass Plates (which were brought from Jerusalem) that contained most of writings of the prophets found in the Old Testament up to 600 B.C., including the book of Exodus containing the Ten Commandments.

Posts for the next several weeks will focus on a section of Mosiah chapter 13 that presents the Ten Commandments in wording very similar to the King James Translation (but with some interesting variations). Words and punctuation in italic show instances where the wording and punctuation is different from the King James version.

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of things which are in heaven above, or which are in the earth beneath, or which are in the water under the earth. And again: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.” (Mosiah 13:12-14 – Compare with Exodus 20:4-6)

Questions:

-Why does God care if the people who have covenanted to follow Him choose to follow other gods?

-What does the word — that the translators of the King James version of the Bible decided to translate as “jealous” – say about God’s concern and emotions towards those who have proclaimed themselves as His? Would a God without body, parts, or passions be capable of this kind of feeling?

-When the Lord speaks of those who hate Him in these verses, is He referring to those who have received His covenants and the Holy Spirit and then still rejected Him as their God. Or, is he referring to those who hate him merely as an idea or as someone else’s God?

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?

The Natural Man is an Enemy to God

King Benjamin teaches that the default path of least resistance in life (e.g. letting genetics and the weight of a materialistic worldview have full sway in one’s life) sets a soul in opposition to God. But, there is a remedy…

“…The natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Jesus Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19)

Questions:

-How easy is it to yield to the enticement of the Holy Spirit and overcome the natural man?

-Does overcoming the natural man occur suddenly? Or, is it usually a gradual process?

O Be Wise: What More Can I Say?

Jacob teaches what it means to be spiritually wise.

“Behold, will ye reject these words? Will ye reject all the words which have been spoken concerning Christ, after so many have spoken concerning him; and deny the good word of Christ, and the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and quench the Holy Spirit, and make a mock of the great plan of redemption, which hath been laid for you? Know you not that if you will do these things, that the power the redemption and the resurrection, which is in Christ, will bring you to stand with shame and awful guilt before the bar of God? And according to the power of justice, for justice cannot be denied, ye must go away into that lake of fire and brimstone, whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever, which lake of fire and brimstone is endless torment. O then, my beloved brethren, repent ye, and enter in at the strait gate, and continue in the way which is narrow, until ye shall obtain eternal life. O be wise: what can I say more?” (Jacob 6:8-12)
Questions:

-Do you believe the Spirit testifies of the reality of Christ’s redemptive power to every person’s heart that hears of Him and His Father’s plan of salvation?

-How serious are the consequences when the testimony of the Spirit is quenched?

-Was Jacob speaking to a group of people who were saturated in opportunities to receive the Spirit (a social environment where the testimony of Christ was a constant presence)?

-Would someone who had far less exposure to the testimony of the Spirit be open to the same depth of consequence as those to whom Jacob was speaking?

-As you read the scriptural message above, what thought processes lead you to quench the Spirit? What thoughts lead you to receive the Spirit? Can you feel the ebb and flow of the Spirit in proportion to your openness to the message versus the thoughts that close your heart to the message?

-Did Jacob believe in a literal lake of fire and brimstone? Or, is he using a metaphor for representing eternal spiritual loss?