Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Alma 4

I've read about the righteous/pride/humility cycle in the Book of Mormon many times (you know, everyone is righteous, then they start to get prideful, they fall away from the church, and then they have to be humbled so they can be righteous again). I believe today is the first time I caught reference that SOME of the people were prideful. It wasn't the whole church going down the bad path - some grew prideful and fell away, but there were others still there faithfully doing the things they should.

I don't know why that strikes me so strongly this morning, but it just feels wonderful to think that even in the midst of the pridefulness and humbling that occurred, there were still those who just quietly went along with living their lives according to the commandments of God. We should remember that even when all around you seem to be doing wrong, you can still continue to do right.

Also - example of separation of church and state when Alma gives the judgement seat to Nephihah so that he (Alma) can be just the spiritual leader instead of both spiritual and secular leader.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Alma 3

26 And in one year were thousands and tens of thousands of souls sent to the eternal world, that they might reap their rewards according to their works, whether they were good or whether they were bad, to reap eternal happiness or eternal misery, according to the spirit which they listed to obey, whether it be a good spirit or a bad one.
27 For every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey, and this according to the words of the spirit of prophecy; therefore let it be according to the truth.

A nice reminder that we each have our free agency. We choose our path in life and reap the consequences, whether good or bad, based on our choices.

That part is pretty easy for me to accept and understand. The harder part is remembering that everyone else has their free agency as well. When you see someone headed down a bad path, you wish that you could force them to turn around. But their free agency means that they have to make their own choices and face their own consequences.

When you see someone harmed by bad choices someone else makes, you want to ask: "Why does God allow this to happen?" And it's because EVERYONE has the ability to choose for themselves. And when they make bad choices, sometimes the consequences affect innocent bystanders. And that's so hard to accept sometimes. But free agency for me and for you also means free agency for the guy who hits his wife, or the mother who neglects her children, or the teenager who wants to get high.They have to be able to make choices, too.

Yes, a loving God could intervene and take away their ability to make bad choices. But because he is a loving God, he has chosen NOT to take away anyone's ability to choose for themselves. Only through choosing and making mistakes can you grow and improve. Free agency is God's plan for us, and following God's plan sometimes means accepting the difficulties as well as the blessings.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An another topic...

I was listening to a podcast today (http://www.theculturalhallpodcast.com/) and heard a wonderful thing from one of the podcast participants:

"The atonement of Jesus Christ is not just something you read about… It’s not just about a man on a cross… But when you feel it, when it touches you… [you know that] there is no one that’s gone too far."

Alma 2

Alma 2 starts off as a political campaign and ends in a horrible war. When Amlici wanted to be king, he had "drawn away much people after him." If you equate this to the current day, we have a presidential campaign going on where people aspire to be "king." They strategize and campaign and try very hard to draw the voters after them. And when the campaigning is done, we'll do as they did in verses 5 and 6:

 5 And it came to pass that the people assembled themselves together throughout all the land, every man according to his mind...

 6 And thus they did assemble themselves together to cast in their voices concerning the matter; and they were laid before the judges.

I find it interesting to read this because I think we don't often think about democracy in the ancient world. But this seems like a clear example of democracy to me. Amlici sought to be king, but was rejected by the voice of the people.

Thankfully, today our political battles end may not always end with a gracious loser (or a gracious winner, for that matter), but at least they end without a bloody battle and tens of thousands of deaths.

As sick of the election season as I am already, it's good to find something to be grateful for when it comes to politics!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Back Again - Alma 1

Wow... the last post was in May 2010. I really fell off the bandwagon there. I'll do my best to climb back up.

The first chapter of Alma talks about priestcraft and how those who preached priestcraft thought that the priest should be supported by the church and esteemed above others in the church. And reading that, I could see that priestcraft is alive and well in today's society.

There are many churches where there is a paid clergy; the priest (or pastor or whatever s/he is called in that particular denomination) is supported by the members of the church. Being the priest is their job and they don't have to support themselves otherwise. Now in some cases, I can see where this is not such a bad thing. In a small congregation where the priest is supported modestly by tithes and offerings of the members, s/he then has the ability to focus completely on the needs of the members and the church.

But what really struck me was verses 5-6:

5 And it came to pass that he did teach these things so much that many did believe on his words, even so many that they began to support him and give him money.

6 And he began to be lifted up in the pride of his heart, and to wear very costly apparel, yea, and even began to establish a church after the manner of his preaching.

It made me think of megachurches and televangelists and other instances where the preacher seems less concerned for the good of the church members and more about the size, income, and power of the church.

The lay-clergy in our church have to work at a separate job to support themselves and their families. And while you could argue that this splits their focus so that they can't do as much for the church, I think the more important part is that it helps them to stay humble and to remember that it's the church that's important, not the leaders.

I think that right there also explains a lot about some of the controversy swirling around the whole Mitt Romney for President situation. So many people seem to worry that Mitt Romney would be taking orders directly from Salt Lake and be some kind of puppet allowing the church to take control of his presidency. Supposedly this is because Mitt Romney is a "high-level church leader." I've seen a lot of articles that focus on that... and it's true, he has at times been a church leader. Stake president, bishop I think...

But what those who don't know the church have a hard time grasping is that this lay-clergy of ours functions differently. The man who is stake president today may be a teaching the 3-year-olds in Sunbeams tomorrow. And no one would see it as a demotion or loss of prestige of any kind. Somehow I doubt that some of these famous televangelists would be just as willing to teach a children's Sunday School class as to pontificate grandly from the pulpit.