Beginning to Build part V

Alma the younger had several sons, one of whom, Helaman would eventually lead the people.  Helaman’s life seems fairly well put-together.  As far as we know, he was pretty obedient and sincerely desired to seek goodness.   I find it interesting that Alma chooses, of his 3 sons, to give Helaman the most detailed description of the moments of the visit with that angel and his subsequent understanding and conversion.  It’s almost as if he’s telling him, “I am grateful you haven’t experienced a need quite as intense as mine, but please understand what the Savior is really offering each of us.  See His mercy and love and know how remarkably I have changed as a result of my encounter with the grace of Jesus Christ.  Share that.”

Helaman would have a son named Helaman Jr. who would courageously struggle though some ugly years with a people who were giving up their belief in the Savior.  Helman the younger spent his life seeking to remind the people and trying to teach his children about Him.   This Helaman’s sons, Nephi and Lehi lived amidst a people who had deteriorated to the point that they refused or struggled to identify and choose goodness.   The world they lived in was characterized by fear, violence and, at times, overwhelming evil.  As they fought to draw near to Christ in the midst of such a contrary environment, they looked to the teachings of their father.  In my daily struggles as well as my darkest and hardest moments, I can relate to the sincere need for these words Helaman wisely imparted to them:

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock on which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.  (Helaman 5:12).

He says cannot.  Cannot fall.  As in, no matter how slipshod our structures may seem to us, no matter how long it takes us to build them or how massive the storm that assaults them, if they are on that rock, they will not fall.   Do you believe that?  I have found myself, at times, desperately clinging to those words with every trace of strength I can muster.  The hope that promise offers is very real.

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Beginning to Build part IV

A few weeks back I wrote about the parable of the wise man and the foolish man and the idea that we can do some recreating if we realize that our relationship with the Savior needs some shoring up.  We visited the lives of a few individuals who made changes in the way they viewed heaven and themselves.  There are a few more stories that I want to follow that share this theme.

We left off with Alma,  who would go on to have a son, also named Alma, who would stray from the teachings of His father and the Savior.  This man Alma the Younger, actively sought to destroy the beliefs of others.  As his father, and I’m sure countless others, pray for this soul, an angel visits him and tells him that it’s ok if he wants to destroy himself but the damage he is doing to others must stop.  At this point, after being made fully aware of the effect his misguided teachings on himself and others, Alma the Younger has to come to terms with mercy in a serious way.   In just a few moments, he realizes he has positioned himself quite far from Heaven.  One of the consequences of that is forgetting what the love of God feels like.  In those moments, Alma the younger realizes his own connection to God and in the same moment he realizes how far he has been from perpetuating love and goodness.  He knows he has hurt people.  He knows he has divided souls from heaven and the reality of that thought, as he is in the presence of a heavenly messenger, is almost more than he can bear.   He describes being wracked with torment as these realizations settle around him.  I imagine they’ve been swimming around somewhere in his consciousness but when the angel comes to him, truth breaks the surface with incredible force.   In the midst of this agony, a complete understanding of all his wrongdoing, all his failures, all of his shortcomings, he remembers his father teaching him that there is hope, always hope.  At that point he sincerely realizes his need and desire for grace and then comes a crucial choice.  He would later testify that a simple desire to believe in Jesus Christ is enough to invite the balm of grace into our lives.  I think it’s a relatively easy concept to grasp on a conceptual level.  He offers grace, we believe it, we receive it.  However, it’s so very hard to believe when one is in the throes of anguish or pain or sin.   In that moment, Alma could’ve said “No, not me.  My weaknesses, my sins, they are too great.  He doesn’t want me anymore.”  I think that’s really where we need faith to come to bat for us.  Our faith is what reminds us “Yes, even me, He even loves me” in the moments when it’s almost impossible to believe.   I think especially in our culture right now, it is Herculean to admit defeat, to show weakness, to bring anything less than perfect to the table and believe that Christ will accept it, just glad to see us.  But I believe He does and I am quite sure that He is glad to see us.  We have the testimonies of people like Alma and Paul to remind us of the poignancy of that thought.  I believe they are so intent on sharing His goodness because they don’t want anyone left in that awful, miserable place of believing they’re beyond grace.  But the very nature of that place is that it is lonely and when we’re there, we do believe He’s disappointed, angry and has gladly forgotten us.  We feel buried in our wrongdoings to the point that we sincerely believe there is no longer a way out.  But Alma the younger, who could relate to all of those feelings, came to that moment in the presence of an angel and he says once he grasped onto that thought, even just the thought, of the Savior and feebly reached out for His grace, there could be nothing so great as his joy at the mercy and forgiveness he was offered.   Can you imagine that contrast?

We can all relate to that on some level right?  Honestly finding ourselves in a moment, day, year or lifetime when we have been less than what we’d want or like to be?  Sometimes the realization of this is dramatic and pronounced like Alma or Paul.  Sometimes it’s more subtle and comes over time.  Regardless, can you relate to coming to terms with an overwhelming need for help?  And then receiving help in a personal and poignant way?  This man, Alma the younger, would go on to rebuild a life full of compassion, mercy and beautiful teachings about Jesus Christ.  He spent the rest of his life sharing his glimpse of heaven with people.  He offered his experience, testimony and understanding to anyone who would benefit from it.  I wonder if one of the primary tenets of his message was forgiveness and repentance because he understood the power inherent in that kind of change and he also understood the mountain of challenges that come when one undertakes such a change of heart, mind and life.  At the foundation of his words, he held dear his own intimate understanding of just how much the Savior loves us.   And he knew, past any glimmer of doubt, that that love extends to all of us, not just those who are currently seeking Him.