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.

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Charitable Thoughts

It can take some mental climbing to slide our understanding of charity from something Heaven is demanding from us to something Heaven is offering to us.  I sincerely believe that during the moments we are experiencing the pure love of Christ, no one has to tell us what to do with it.  The act of offering it to others comes naturally and it’s quite a remarkable trail marker.

However, like I mentioned the other day, we all experience life uniquely and there’s an infinitely broad spectrum when it comes to even having a context for experiencing unconditional, Christ-like love.  Some of us have been or are in situations where receiving that kind of love is an idea shrouded by so much real-life awfulness that it seems almost impossible and yet we do our best to offer what we imagine it is to others.  Some of us have known the goodness of love and perhaps still struggle to accept the idea that the Savior could be as merciful and accepting as our families.  And then there are some of us who choose to disavow charity altogether and reject her very existence.  To be fair, most of us are just trying to improve at whatever place we’re at right?  We’re all somewhere on the spectrum of learning to love as He did and our collective goal is to move toward the Savior instead of away.  The personal implementations of those goals will be unique and I’m really interested in experiences other than my own.

So it seems prudent for us to find a beginning apart from ourselves.  A starting place to begin to grapple with charity and her virtues.   Paul, the roadside convert, filled letter after letter with life-altering thoughts about charity and I can’t help but think there were only a few people in scripture who knew charity as well as he did.  Like John in the New Testament, Isaiah in the Old, and Alma and Moroni, good men from a book of scripture I believe in called the Book of Mormon,  Paul speaks of charity with such surety and such vivid description and I know he had profound experiences with it.  He spent the rest of his life trying to use slippery words and sincere actions to convey it to others.  And I believe because all those men felt the grace-full influence of the Son of God, they explored every avenue for helping us understand it and feel it.

As Paul defines it, “Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  Charity never faileth…”

To be clear, I am a fellow traveler, fighting the good fight right alongside you.  I claim no authority on this or any other topic and I have far from figured out the intricate details of that which I speak.  So my triumphs and failures in this endeavor look a lot like yours but my intent is to recognize the small morsels of charity that I am offered or that I am privy to so that I can better understand the love Christ is offering me.