My wife and I had the opportunity to attend the sealing ceremony of my cousin and her husband in the Mount Timpanogous temple. I didn’t want to miss it and planned on getting there early. My wife thought that she would take the time that I told her and add another half hour, as a factor of safety, so that we wouldn’t miss it. We ended up getting there an hour and a half early, and the bride and groom were another 45 minutes late. That left us lots of time to read the scriptures together. We went over Alma 32, and that is what the blog is about today.
This chapter is known by most missionaries as the “faith” chapter. It is also mistakenly referred to as “faith is like a little seed.” I’d like to give a brief overview of the chapter, and then make a few points.
- Alma is out teaching “the Word” in the synagogues (churches)/ streets/ and homes
- He notices that he has more success among the poor people because they were kicked out of the churches (synagogues)
- Alma was atop a hill called Onidah, and a bunch of poor people came up to him complaining that they had no place to worship, having been kicked out of the churches because they were poor
- Alma stops preaching to the people he was initially talking to, and focuses all his attention on this new group of people.
- Alma tells them that it doesn’t matter where you worship, …and it doesn’t matter what day you worship either (…not just once a week).
- He then differentiates between those who are compelled to be humble, and those who humble themselves.
- Alma tells of the word as a seed that produces an amazing fruit that anyone who plants can receive, and partake of as often as they want.
This is where I want to begin the blog, those who are compelled to be humble and those who humble themselves. There is one thing that differentiates those who are humble and those who are compelled to be humble, and that is wether or not they study the words of Christ. You can skip the compulsory humility by aligning with the words of Christ in all things. However, if you choose to wait until you are compelled to be humble, you still must align with the words of Christ in all things. One is easier than the other.
Those who were compelled to be humble was not frowned upon. There was hope for them. Alma says that “sometimes,” if a man is compelled to be humble, he’ll seek repentance; and whosoever repent shall find mercy. Christ is the only person who can give mercy. This is very clear language that when men are compelled to be humble there is a chance (sometimes) that they’ll seek repentance. But even more clearer, anyone who repents will find mercy. How you come to humility is up to you, but repentance is dependent upon the mind and will of God.
How does one repent? Repentance has taken a twist, in our traditions, to put the power of forgiveness in a person, or a figure head. We incorrectly associate the position of Judge as the one who gives mercy. Only one man can offer mercy, and that is Christ, and Him alone. We have repentance recipe’s that we perpetuate this idea, but repentance is much simpler than that. The way that Christ provides repentance is by way of substitution.To obtain repentance by substitution, you must:
- Desire to remove the sinner within yourself
- Seek God’s substitution (the new creature)
That is what repentance is in a nut-shell, let go of the sinner, and seek God’s mind and will as a replacement. The substitution is what I refer to as knowledge. That is why Joseph Smith said that a man can be saved no faster than he can obtain knowledge. He also said that no man can be saved in ignorance. The traditional recipe says nothing concerning the obtaining of knowledge to obtain repentance. It only teaches one how to hold their breath. The traditional idea is to sing a hymn/ read scriptures/ etc. so that you can hold your breath longer than the temptation lasts. While such methods might help to avoid the sin, it does little to substitute the sinner, and to becoming a new creature with the mind and will of God as your own. When we get the right idea about the knowledge, we abhor the sin, we despise the sin, and we desire to do good continually (because we “know” why- that is the knowledge being offered).
The first half of the formula requires that a person recognize the portion within them that must be uprooted. This part is scary because, tied to that part of you that you so badly want to get rid of, …may be other things that you might not want to part with just yet! We want to stop using compulsory means, but we don’t necessarily want to learn patience. It cannot be rooted out of you until you desire to let go of it all.
“27. And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
Here it is again, men are given weakness that they may be humble. Compelled or not, all men can only come unto Christ through humility, which is through the words of Christ. Those who humble themselves do so by the study of the word. That is how you avoid the compulsion. But those of us who have experienced tough circumstances that caused us to turn to God (compulsion), turning to God must come by the study of the word as well. No matter what created the humility, turning to God by the study of the word is the only method for complete repentance. That is what creates the foundation for the substitution method. That is how we obtain the mind and will of God. There is no other way.
No matter if you started out with compulsion, all men must humble themselves. But all those who humble themselves can have their weak things become strong unto them.
The second half of the repentance process is the replacement of the sinner with the mind and will of God (substitution). This replacement begins with the words of Christ. The completion of repentance can only occur when the mind and will of God fills the void left by “the sinner” that has just been uprooted. That is the purpose of the word!
That’s the whole repentance process: Compelled> humble yourself by the seeking of the word> allow the Lord to substitute the sinner with the mind and will of God. The only step we can by-pass is wether or not we are going to be compelled to be humble. The rest, all must go through in order to become new creatures in Christ.
Now lets look at the symbolism of the soil, the seed, etc. It’s how you receive the word that identifies the condition of your soil, spoken of in the parable of the sower of the seed (some cast the seed by the way-side/ others have rocky ground/ others choke-out their seeds with thorns of the world/ and some have good ground). It’s the word alone that is the seed that Alma 32 suggests we plant. It’s the continual nourishing of the seed that is referred to as faith. Faith is the caretaker of the seed, feeding it, weeding around it, fertilizing it, and allowing its roots to grow deep, and its branches to be strong. Only then can we obtain the fruit of that seed, which is Christ.
- Heart= the condition of the soil (how the seed is received)
- The Words of Christ= the seed that is planted in the soil (this is not faith, it’s the mind and will of God)
- Faith= the caretaker of the seed (nourishing/ fertilizing/ weeding)
- Christ= the fruit that this particular seed produces (that is what Alma is offering)
Get the seed mixed up and you’ll be sorely disappointed when you have spent all that time, expecting a fruit from a seed, that was never planted. What a disappointment that would be to learn that the tree you planted was not a fruit tree at all. That is the bone that I have to pick with the primary song “Faith is like a little seed, if planted it will grow…” I know that the song was written with good intention and that the only enemy is Satan, and definitely not my fellow saints. However, it is mistakes like this that justify our planting of the wrong seed. We can bear testimony of the words being true, without reading them, or understanding them. We think that testifying that they are true, is what will give us the knowledge that provides life unto salvation. To those who share this “unbelief” the Lord says, “Wo unto you.”
We saints must recognize that we cannot plant “the caretaker of the seed.” If we plant the caretaker of the seed, who will care for the seed? We cannot plant the water, the fertilizer, and the weeding. Those are things we, the caretakers, are supposed to do for the seed, on a regular basis. The care-taking of the seed is the expression of our faith. When we don’t take care of the seed with constant nourishing, fertilizing and weeding, then our seed is cast by the wayside, planted in stony ground, or choked out by the thorns of the world. Nourishing is the daily, constant, serious effort to understand the words of Christ. If we nourish it properly, that will be a reflection of true faith. The kind of faith that produces life unto salvation. Any other idea of faith is an impostor, is considered “UNBELIEF.” That is what the whole church is under condemnation for:
- We cast the word aside and consider it as naught (2 Nephi 33:2)
- We forget the new and everlasting covenant, even the Book of Mormon (D&C 84:56-57)
- We cast our seed out by our unbelief (Alma 32:28)
- Our ground is barren, we do not nourish the tree, therefore we cannot have the fruit thereof (Alma 32:39)
When we plant the seed, instructed by Alma, which is the word of God, and we nourish it by seriously studying the word of God, then we can look forward to the fruit that Alma describes at the end of the process (Alma 32:42). It is “the fruit” that is promised that gives us the motivation to seek, to hunger and thirst, and to feast. If we don’t like the fruit, or if we don’t even know that there is a fruit, why would we care to nourish the seed? It is the fruit that makes all the sacrifice of nourishing the seed worth while. It is the image of the color, the texture, the taste, the sweetness of the fruit that drives the nourishing of such a seed. Those without this understanding cannot have sufficient faith to continually sacrifice nourishing such a seed. They will not have faith sufficient to lay hold upon life unto salvation (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, lecture 6).
Christ is the fruit. He is the reason that we nourish the seed. That is what is worth sacrificing all things for. That is what is offered to all of us “in this life.” Those who believe that such blessings are only offered to a few in this life, or to all in the next life, can choose to wait, and experience the sadness when they learn that it was attainable here and now, but they chose not to seek the words of Christ. They may have not known better. But those who read the words of Christ will have the opportunity to have that here, no matter how old you are when you come to such a knowledge (the parable of the laborer of the vineyard).
The fruit is being offered. It’s up to you to plant the seed and to nourish it. However, together (as a family), we can set up a vineyard, with watchmen, like in the allegory of the olive tree (Jacob 5). God will hedge up the enemy for us. He’ll see our sacrifice and find it acceptable as an expression of faith in Christ, as he did Able’s sacrifice and Abraham’s sacrifice. That is what families are for.
Our solutions to our world problems aren’t found in our modern technology, education in the world, financial solutions, or anything else that the world offers. All our solutions are found in the words of Christ, because through the word comes the fruit (Christ).
A vineyard awaits a family, who is willing to let go of their trust in the world, to replace it with trust in God. That is only done through the word being planted, the soil of our hearts being weeded and cultivated, the nourishing of the word through study and lengthy conversations of the attributes, perfections, and characteristics of Christ. That vineyard will be hedged up by angels (also referred to as servants of the vineyard). No man or animal will have access because God will hedge them up (or He’ll hedge them out). And the Lord of the vineyard will come in and choose us, where many others were called, but only a few were chosen.
That is the two-edged sword of the words of Christ. It will either divide asunder our enemy, because we wield that sword properly. Or, it will crack our skulls with regret because we failed to lay hold upon the words of Christ! So… let’s get down do business… before the Hun’s… arrive (Mulan). Let’s get back to the sword training… like the shoaling monks of the black belt theatre. Now, is our training scene for the come-back-fight against Drago (Rocky 4). It’s now that we must unveil our true identities of the real creatures of Christ that we really are. Seven… is complete!