Tag Archives: angel

#BOMTC Alma 26-29: My Brother’s Keeper–Caring for God’s “Peeps”

There are at least two questions that you and I should NEVER ask:

  • And Adam and Eve, his wife, ceased not to call upon God. And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bare Cain, and said: I have gotten a man from the Lord; wherefore he may not reject his words. But behold, Cain hearkened not, saying: Who is the Lord that I should know him? (Moses 5:16, emphsasis added)
  • And the Lord said unto Cain: Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said: I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper? (Moses 5:34, emphasis added)

First of all, consider the source and cynicism of these questions.

Secondly, consider the contrast that these questions pose to the Savior’s answer in Matthew 22 when He was asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” It is interesting to me that the two questions presented by Cain are answered by the Savior in His response:

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Another interesting contrast to Cain’s questions comes from the answer that the Lord gave when the prophet Enoch saw the sadness of the Lord in Moses 7:

28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?

29 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?

30 And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever;

31 And thou hast taken Zion to thine own bosom, from all thy creations, from all eternity to all eternity; and naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?

32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;

33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;

 

Unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father.” WOW!

So how does this relate to today’s reading? Well, think about the situation that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies were in. After the Anti-Nephi-Lehies made a covenant with God to never again take up weapons of war, the Amalekites and the Lamanites began to make preparations to go to battle against them. They had no one to turn to. They needed help. They were desperate. The only people that they could ask for help were the people that they had mistreated their whole lives–the Nephites.

Ammon led the Anti-Nephi-Lehies to Zarahemla, where they received protection from the Nephites and became known as the people of Ammon. They were given the land of Jershon for their new home and promised protection by the Nephite armies.

Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah each exhibited the same kind of enthusiasm to become their “brother’s keeper” as they set off for their long and eventful missions to bring everyone to the gospel (see Alma 26 and 29).

Remember when the Savior taught an important principle of the gospel in Matthew 25:31-46?

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

In the April, 2016 General Conference of the Church we were invited to be our “brother’s keeper” as part of the #IWasAStranger efforts of the Church.

Here is a playlist that I created of the Church’s invitations and efforts to help us to help others.

Relevant links for #IWasAStranger efforts:

We usually will not have to look very hard for opportunities to provide “refuge from the storm”

I believe it was around this time of year, when we commemorate the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, that I went on a “Father and Son” campout that taught me a difficult, but important lesson.

I am the oldest of six children, so one-on-one time with a parent was a precious commodity. I was excited to be able to spend some time away from the rest of the family with just my dad. Luckily, I had a pretty good relationship with my dad. It was during a time that our family was also struggling financially. There wasn’t much money to go around and I was old enough to know what was going on (~12 years old).

My mom had put together some food for us to enjoy. Nothing really special, but under the circumstances it was a little more special than “the usual”. To my surprise, my dad had invited another boy to come with us on this “Father and Son” outing. I didn’t ask why; I was a little too annoyed by it to want to bring it up and make a bigger deal about it. The boy was older and I can’t remember that I had ever met him before.

He worked at the same place as my dad. When we got to the camp site, we got everything ready and started to break into the food. I noticed the other boy had a few boxes of “Peeps” that he had gotten out. I am not a fan of Peeps, so I thought that was a strange thing to bring for a night of fun. Then, I noticed that my dad kept giving him “our” food (He has always been a VERY generous person–even when lacking.).

I tried to let it go, but I was a pretty immature and selfish kid. I don’t remember if I said something to my dad in front of the boy or if I waited for a more private and opportune moment, but when I had the chance I kinda gave it to my dad and asked why he was giving away all of “our” good food.

He didn’t get upset, but he was probably pretty disappointed–if he was disappointed he didn’t let me know it. Instead he calmly explained to me that he was sharing with the boy because all the boy had to eat for the entire campout was those couple boxes of Peeps. I think the next thing I did was say something to my dad about how the boy should have known better and that he needed to face the consequences of his lack of preparation (that is the oldest of six speaking).

Now here is where it got painful. Not because my dad hauled-off and hit me or something, but because of what he said next. He told me that the boy’s dad had recently died and that he didn’t have anything else in his home that he could have brought to eat during the campout. Oh boy… oh, boy… I don’t know if I have ever felt such guilt in my life. My heart sank. My conscience began to show me what a jerk I had been. I wanted to cry, not just because I realized how bad I had been, but because I felt a great deal of sympathy at that moment. I honestly didn’t want to eat anything else all weekend (although I am sure I did).

I learned a LOT of valuable lessons that day. One was about making a conscious effort to be “my brother’s keeper”. I obviously didn’t think about it in those terms at that age, but that was the message that sank into my heart. From that point on, it seemed like God would superimpose that boys face on the people in my life that needed a little extra help. I am sorry to say that I was not always as willing to jump in and help like I should have been. But I tried a lot harder, and I tried to withhold judgment a lot more often. #BOMTC Day 44, May 20~Alma 26-29 or Pages 273-279 (1)

Anytime that I think of that experience (like right now) I feel such regret for myself, and sorrow for that boy. I can’t remember his name, but I can’t seem to forget the face as he holds that box of Peeps before my mind’s eye. It was a tough lesson to learn, and perhaps God knew that it could never be taught–it had to be caught. I don’t know. But what I do know is that the lesson was learned and it is still being applied today. It is one of many lessons that the Lord has taught me about being my brother’s keeper.

On another occasion God let me be the brother who needed to be “kept” by another. It was about two years after the “Peeps experience”, when a young ninth-grade boy showed me what it meant to be, “my brother’s keeper”. To him it was no big deal, but it was a BIG deal to me. His name is Deran Coe, and what he did made all the difference in the world for me.

I had just moved from the coast of L.A. to a suburb of Pittsburgh (specifically, Center Township, in the middle of winter). Having been a “beach bum” from the west coast for the previous eight years, I dressed and spoke differently from everyone else at Center high school. My first morning at school was not too bad because the teachers would just assign me a seat, introduce me quickly to the class, and move on to teach their lesson.

Then lunch time arrived… The worst thing about lunch for this “new kid on the block” (special reference for my wife), is that there were no assigned seats, and I didn’t want to take someone else’s “usual seat”, so I awkwardly searched for a seat that looked like it wouldn’t make my bad situation even worse.

Well, it was a small high school (less than 150 students in my graduating class) and the ninth-graders ate in a separate room from the rest of the upper-class students. The best way for me to describe it is to say that it was a lot like a typical LDS cultural hall. It had a stage and a large multipurpose floor. If I remember it correctly, it was filled at lunchtime with about 35 picnic-type tables that could sit about 8 students each. I think it was 5 rows of 7 tables.

It just so happened that I was one of the first students to the ninth-grade lunch room on my first day, so no one had really started sitting down yet. I always took my “sack lunch” from home, so I couldn’t just stand in the lunch line and wait for things to fill in. I decided to take the far corner of the lunch room and hoped that my strategy would work out…

FAIL!

There were only enough students to fill in the first 2-3 rows of tables. That meant that there was at least 1 entire row of tables between me and my new classmates. I just hung my head and tried to drown my embarrassment in my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I hadn’t gotten too far into my lonely meal, when I heard a boy’s voice. I looked around a saw a smiling student. He introduced himself as Deran, and asked if I wanted to come and join him and his friends for lunch.

SAVED!

The ironic thing is that there was no room at Deran’s table, so I ended up at the table next to his. That is when I first met the great guys that I would spend most of my high schools days with: Steve, Brett, Jeff, Ryan, Chris, and Aaron.

Deran and I never really became the kind of friends that “hang out” together; we liked each other as friends, but we had different interests. However, because of that ONE little simple act of reaching out to me I had some amazing years of high school–the effects of which continue to this day. I have thanked him a couple of times, but he never really felt like what he did deserved any thanks. Sure it was simple, but it has had simply amazing results in my life.

My sister Seana with Deran Coe at our Senior Prom (1995)

My sister Seana with Deran Coe at our Senior Prom (1995)

 

I am grateful for the painful lesson learned so many years ago. I am grateful to have a father who took the time to be slow to anger so that the Spirit could be quick to teach. I am grateful for “Peeps” each Easter season, because even though I can’t stand the taste they stand as a reminder of what God expects from me when dealing with His “peeps”–He expects me to be “my brother’s keeper”. “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him.”(Psalm 41:1–3)

We ARE our “brother’s keeper”!

Dayton’s Legs

Out of love, a 13-year-old boy in Arizona pushed himself to the limit so that his friend, who has cerebral palsy, could participate with him in a triathlon.

My Brother’s Keeper

Thomas S. Monson – April 1990

Parable of the Good Samaritan

A depiction of the Savior’s parable of the good Samaritan, in which a man is robbed and beaten by thieves, and a Samaritan shows mercy on him.

Lord, I Would Follow Thee

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings “Lord, I Would Follow Thee.”

Lyrics

1. Savior, may I learn to love thee,
Walk the path that thou hast shown,
Pause to help and lift another,
Finding strength beyond my own.
Savior, may I learn to love thee–
Lord, I would follow thee.
2. Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can’t see.
Who am I to judge another?
Lord, I would follow thee.
3. I would be my brother’s keeper;
I would learn the healer’s art.
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother’s keeper–
Lord, I would follow thee.
4. Savior, may I love my brother
As I know thou lovest me,
Find in thee my strength, my beacon,
For thy servant I would be.
Savior, may I love my brother–
Lord, I would follow thee.

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#BOMTC Alma 10-11: A TESTimony from A[mulek] to Z[eezrom]

A TESTimony from A[mulek] to Z[eezrom]

A TESTimony from A[mulek] to Z[eezrom]

After Alma taught in the cities of Zarahemla, Gideon, and Melek and had many people accept his message, the people in Ammonihah rejected his teaching and cast him out of their city. However, obedient to the Lord’s command, Alma returned to Ammonihah.

The Lord prepared Amulek, a native of Ammonihah, to receive Alma and join him in testifying to the people. Alma and Amulek warned the people of Ammonihah that if they did not repent, they would be destroyed. Amulek faithfully obeyed God and used his reputation, good name, and influence to support the prophet Alma and testify of Jesus Christ.

Alma and Amulek had little success preaching to the people of Ammonihah because Satan had a, “great hold upon the hearts of the people” (see Alma 8:9). Many of them had hardened their hearts against the gospel, and they resisted Alma and Amulek’s invitation to repent. Nevertheless, Alma and Amulek faithfully called them to repentance, testifying that because they had been taught the truth and had experienced the power of God, the Lord expected them to be more righteous than the Lamanites, who had not been taught the truth. Alma and Amulek taught that if the people of Ammonihah would not repent, they would face destruction. They also taught the people that redemption was possible only through Jesus Christ.

After Alma addressed the people, they were angry and wanted to cast him into prison. Amulek bravely addressed the people and added his witness to Alma’s (see Alma 9:31–34). Amulek was a descendant of Nephi. He was a hardworking man who had built substantial wealth. He was also well known and was “of no small reputation” among his many family members and friends (see Alma 10:4).

As Alma and Amulek continued to teach the people of Ammonihah, a lawyer named Zeezrom offered Amulek money to deny the existence of the true and living God. As he defended his faith against Zeezrom’s attempts to ensnare him, Amulek testified that salvation from sin comes only through Jesus Christ. Amulek bore strong testimony that all mankind will be resurrected and judged by God. Amulek also testified that all mankind will be resurrected and will be brought to “be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit” on the Day of Judgment (Alma 11:44).

I found the following illustration from the More Good Foundation very relevant and applicable to today’s reading:

Some people want to learn about the Church, but not from the Church. It’s not hard to believe. When shopping on Amazon.com, do you pay more attention to the publisher’s review or the users’ reviews? Do you shop for the best-in-class car by researching Ford.com or a user forum that discusses all makes and models?

In the book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath call this concept an appeal to “antiauthorities” (or non-authorities): “A citizen of the modern world, constantly inundated with messages, learns to develop skepticism about the sources of those messages. Who’s behind these messages? Should I trust them? What do they have to gain if I believe them? A commercial claiming that a new shampoo makes your hair bouncier has less credibility than hearing your best friend rave about how a new shampoo made her own hair bouncier. Well, duh. The company wants to sell you shampoo. Your friend doesn’t, so she gets more trust points. The takeaway is that it can be the honesty and trustworthiness of our sources, not their status, that allows them to act as authorities. Sometimes antiauthorities are even better than authorities.” (Made to Stick, pp. 136-37)

Church members can bring credibility to the Church by raising this “antiauthority” (or “non-authoritative”) voice.

Amulek was a non-authority for the prophet Alma. Because Amulek was well known in his community, when he added his testimony to the words of the prophet, the people believed: “I am also a man of no small reputation among all those who know me; yea, and behold, I have many kindreds and friends, and I have also acquired much riches by the hand of my industryI know that the things whereof [Alma] hath testified are true… And now, when Amulek had spoken these words the people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness who testified…” (Alma 10:4,10,12)

The following is a great article by Elder Dean L. Larsen, that goes well with this account, in the book, Heroes from the Book of Mormon. 

Zeezrom does not rank among the great prophet leaders in the Book of Mormon, but his story is one of the fascinating sidebars to the lives of the principal characters in the Nephite record. He appears on the historical scene during a time of great challenge to the Church and to the stability of the government among the Nephite people.

During the closing years of King Mosiah’s life, a significant alteration occurs in the government. Frustrated in his attempts to install one of his sons as his successor, Mosiah implements a system of judges to govern the people. These judges are elected by popular vote. A chief judge is appointed as the presiding figure in this new system. Alma the Younger is chosen to fill this role, in addition to his responsibilities as the head of the Church.

Alma is soon faced with troubles in the Church, as the people begin “to wax proud” (Alma 4:6). As a result of this pride, the unity of the Nephite people begins to dissolve. In this crisis Alma is faced with a critical decision. He resigns as the chief judge of the land and determines to focus his full energies upon bringing about a spiritual renewal among the people.

Launching into his committed course with full energy and faith, Alma visits the cities and villages of the land, counseling the people and calling them to repentance. In due time his mission takes him to the city of Ammonihah, where he finds the people in almost total rebellion.

After experiencing ridicule and total rejection, Alma is finallycast out of the city. The Lord, however, directs Alma to return to Ammonihah and guides him to Amulek, a prominent citizen, who accepts Alma as a prophet. Together, the two go among the people, preaching repentance and warning of the direful consequences that will come to the inhabitants if they persist in their willful disobedience.

It is in this scenario that Zeezrom appears. While the description of conditions in Ammonihah is not given in great detail, it is not difficult to fill in the pieces of the political, moral, and social mosaic from the recorded account. Corruption and dishonesty in official circles have become endemic. Grasping for material riches, the people have clamored to gain advantage one over another. Judges have become corrupt, susceptible to bribes and yielding advantage to those who can show favors.

This litigious environment has spawned the need for many of those who can plead cases successfully before the courts. Numerous lawyers have emerged, skilled not only in the law but also in exploiting the devious legal system for the potential benefit of themselves and their clients.

It is a group of these lawyers that confront Alma and Amulek. Undoubtedly they hold some hope of profiting from feeding the controversy that has developed from the preaching of the two men. Additionally, lawyers, nimble of speech, are thought to have the best prospect of confounding the Lord’s servants.

It is significant that Zeezrom presents himself as the chief spokesman for these legalists. “Now he was the foremost to accuse Amulek and Alma, he being one of the most expert among them, having much business to do among the people” (Alma 10:31).

We learn much about Zeezrom from this capsule profile. Not only is he acknowledged by his peers as one of the leaders in his craft, he is well known among the people generally, and apparently is one of the foremost to whom they look for legal assistance. This would indicate that he also has a comfortable relationship with the judges in the city.

The account of the dialogue between Zeezrom and Alma and Amulek in the eleventh chapter of the book of Alma provides additional insight into Zeezrom’s worldly self-assurance. He has an audience to play to, and he intends, with his practiced sophistry and cunning, to make a game of his denegration of the two missionaries. After all, the audience is completely prejudiced in his favor, and he relishes the opportunity to add to his reputation among his peers. His questions to Alma and Amulek reflect his courtroom skills. They are designed for entrapment.

Zeezrom, however, is completely unaccustomed to dealing with those who have the spirit of inspiration and revelation working in their favor. His motives are transparent to Alma and Amulek.

Zeezrom’s offer to pay the missionaries six onties of silver if they will deny that there is a Supreme Being exposes his conviction that everyone is as corruptible as himself. It is a revealing demonstration of the debauched condition into which the people have fallen. Zeezrom obviously expects no disapproval from his fellow lawyers or the people for his proffered bribe. It is a practice to which they are accustomed.

It is when Zeezrom’s scheming is powerfully rebuffed by Amulek, and Amulek begins to testify of basic gospel truths, that Zeezrom senses something different about these two men. His arrogant self-confidence begins to falter. “Now, when Amulek had finished these words the people began again to be astonished, and also Zeezrom began to tremble” (Alma 11:46).

Alma, sensing that the power of the Spirit has begun to work upon the heart of Zeezrom and upon some of his listeners, takes up the attack that Amulek has begun:

Now the words that Alma spake unto Zeezrom were heard by the people round about; for the multitude was great, and he spake on this wise:

Now Zeezrom, seeing that thou hast been taken in thy lying and craftiness, for thou hast not lied unto men only but thou hast lied unto God; for behold, he knows all thy thoughts, and thou seest that thy thoughts are made known unto us by his Spirit;

And thou seest that we know that thy plan was a very subtle plan, as to the subtlety of the devil, for to lie and to deceive this people that thou mightest set them against us, to revile us and to cast us out-

Now this was a plan of thine adversary, and he hath exercised his power in thee. (Alma 12:2-5.)

The effect of Alma’s rebuke upon Zeezrom is dramatic:

Now when Alma had spoken these words, Zeezrom began to tremble more exceedingly, for he was convinced more and more of the power of God; and he was also convinced that Alma and Amulek had a knowledge of him, for he was convinced that they knew the thoughts and intents of his heart (Alma 12:7).

It is at this point that a remarkable change begins to take place in the demeanor of Zeezrom. He becomes the earnest inquirer-the learner. The change is the more remarkable because it occurs in the presence and full view of the people to whom he has been appealing with his inquisition. “And Zeezrom began to inquire of them diligently, that he might know more concerning the kingdom of God” (Alma 12:8).

We must pause at this point in our consideration of Zeezrom’s situation to ask ourselves the question, why was this arrogant, sophisticated demagogue so susceptible to the influence of the Spirit? Other rebels in the Book of Mormon record were similarly confronted by spiritual leaders but persisted in their debauchery. Nehor, although rebuked by Alma, had no change of heart (see Alma 1), nor did Amlici (see Alma 2) or Sherem (see Jacob 7). Korihor stubbornly refused to repent (see Alma 30). What was there in the soul of Zeezrom that pressed him toward such a remarkable change?

The answers to some of these questions must be left to speculation.

It is interesting, however, to contemplate the abrupt changes that occurred in the lives of others who had initially been enemies to the Lord’s work and his people, and who reversed their life’s course to become champions of the gospel plan. Alma himself, along with the sons of King Mosiah, underwent such a redirection. Ammon, Mosiah’s son, when reflecting upon the remarkable missionary successes that he, Aaron, Omner, Himni, and their brethren had enjoyed among the Lamanite people over a fourteen-year period of unusual hardship and sacrifice, recalls the days of their rebellion: “Behold, we went forth even in wrath, with mighty threatenings to destroy his [the Lord’s] church” (Alma 26:18). He then wonders, “Oh then, why did he not consign us to an awful destruction, yea, why did he not let the sword of his justice fall upon us, and doom us to eternal despair?” (Alma 26:19.)

Why, indeed?

Anti-Nephi-Lehi, the converted Lamanite king, acknowledges his dark past when he persuades his people to willingly lay down their lives rather than resist the threatened onslaught by their unconverted brethren: “And behold, I also thank my God, that we have been convinced of our sins, and of the many murders which we have committed” (Alma 24:9).

It appears that the “light that shineth in a dark place” to which Peter referred (2 Pet. 1:19) is difficult to extinguish completely in the souls of men. For those who have basked in that light and then have willfully turned against it, the regeneration process appears to be more difficult and unlikely. Such seems to have been the case with Sherem, who confessed before he died, “I fear lest I have committed the unpardonable sin, for I have lied unto God; for I denied the Christ, and said that I believed the scriptures; and they truly testify of him” (Jacob 7:19).

An important lesson seems to emerge from the experiences of Zeezrom and the other repentant transgressors who have been mentioned. It is never safe for us to judge a person to be beyond the reach of the Lord’s merciful hand. Even those whose lives have been tainted by corruption and apparent rebellion against the things of God can, through sincere repentance, become forces for great good in the accomplishment of the Lord’s purposes.

We do know that Zeezrom’s life was dramatically redirected. It appears that in spite of his having yielded to the influence of the environment in which he had gained notoriety, a spark of spiritual light must have endured in his soul. While some of those who listen to the exchange between Zeezrom and the missionaries react in a positive way, the majority are angry and are determined to destroy Alma and Amulek. A mob spirit inflames them. They bind the two men with strong cords and take them before the chief judge, where the men are accused of reviling against the law and against the people of the land.

In the midst of this turmoil, Zeezrom attempts to come to the defense of Alma and Amulek:

And it came to pass that Zeezrom was astonished at the words which had been spoken; and he also knew concerning the blindness of the minds, which he had caused among the people by his lying words; and his soul began to be harrowed up under aconsciousness of his own guilt; yea, he began to be encircled about by the pains of hell.

And it came to pass that he began to cry unto the people, saying: Behold, I am guilty, and these men are spotless before God. And he began to plead for them from that time forth; but they reviled him, saying: Art thou also possessed with the devil? And they spit upon him, and cast him out from among them. (Alma 14:6-7.)

It is apparent that in attempting to stop the destruction of Alma and Amulek, Zeezrom risks his own life. The fury of the mob turns in some measure upon him. They cast him out from among them, casting out as well all those who believe in the words of Alma and Amulek. They then gather together the wives and children of the believers and cause them to be burned, along with their sacred records. It is not difficult to imagine the agony that fills Zeezrom’s soul as he witnesses the holocaust that his taunting has precipitated.

Along with the other believers who have been cast out of Ammonihah, Zeezrom finds refuge among the people of Sidom. He is found there by Alma and Amulek, who barely escaped from the city with their lives after the Lord miraculously delivered them from the hands of their tormentors. Undoubtedly the two missionaries had witnessed the futile attempt of their former antagonist to quell the wrath of the mob. They find him in dire circumstances:

Zeezrom lay sick at Sidom, with a burning fever, which was caused by the great tribulations of his mind on account of his wickedness, for he supposed that Alma and Amulek were no more; and he supposed that they had been slain because of his iniquity. And this great sin, and his many other sins, did harrow up his mind until it did become exceedingly sore, having no deliverance; therefore he began to be scorched with a burning heat. (Alma 15:3.)

When Zeezrom learns that Alma and Amulek have made their escape and are in Sidom, he pleads for them to come to him. The two companions respond immediately. With a profoundly repentant spirit, Zeezrom begs Alma and Amulek to heal him. This request in itself is reflective of the faith that has begun to take root in Zeezrom’s heart.

And it came to pass that Alma said unto him, taking him by the hand: Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation?

And he answered and said: Yea, I believe all the words that thou hast taught.

And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord our God, have mercy on this man, and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ. (Alma 15:6-7, 10.)

Alma’s administration is instantly effective. Zeezrom leaps to his feet, healed not only physically but spiritually as well. The report of this incident is spread throughout Sidom.

One cannot reflect upon this episode without recalling the conversion of Saul of Tarsus in New Testament times. Saul, who had been a tormentor of the Christians and had condoned Stephen’s martyrdom (see Acts 8:1), requires a similarly dramatic conversion experience. His sightlessness is healed under the hands of Ananias. He is brought to a recognition and acknowledgement of his folly in attempting to thwart the Lord’s work. In a flood of repentant anguish he makes a dramatic reversal in the course of his life. His fervor and energy are redirected to promulgate and sustain the work he has previously sought to destroy.

So it is with Zeezrom. He is baptized by Alma, and, just as was the case with Paul, he immediately begins to preach among the people, later becoming a trusted companion of Alma and Amulek. It is perhaps not adding too much to reality to suppose that Zeezrom’s healing, his conversion, and his testifying of Christ contribute much to the missionary success enjoyed by these three servants of the Lord. The record tells us that the people “did flock in from all the region round about Sidom, and were baptized” (Alma 15:14).

That Zeezrom proves himself in the eyes of his mentor, Alma, is confirmed by the fact that he regularly appears in the accounts of Alma’s ministry as one of his most trusted and reliable companions and fellow servants. Years after the events in Ammonihah and Sidom, when Alma undertakes one of the most difficult challenges of his life’s ministry-the conversion of the Zoramites-Zeezrom is chosen along with Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Amulek, and two of Alma’s sons to be a part of this seasoned missionary force (see Alma 31:6).

That some of Zeezrom’s testimony and teachings find their way into the permanent Nephite record is confirmed in the book of Helaman. Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, are engaged in a missionary effort among the Lamanites. They are captured and imprisoned by those they have sought to convert. In a miraculous manifestation of the Lord’s power, Nephi and Lehi are encircled by a fire that preserves rather than consumes them. The Lamanites are frozen in wonderment at this spectacle. They become overshadowed by a cloud of darkness, and a voice commands them to repent. They then see Nephi and Lehi conversing with angels. Aminadab, a Nephite dissenter who had once been a believer, seizes this moment to confirm that these miracles are occurring through the Lord’s power. He cries to those who are witnessing this event, “You must repent, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom” (Hel. 5:41).

Perhaps the most convincing evidence we have of the love and esteem that Zeezrom comes to enjoy among his fellow Christians is that one of the principal Nephite cities is given his name (see Alma 56:14).

Much can be learned from the story of Zeezrom: the tragedy of corruption among a people who reject Christ and sacrifice moral principle to pride and self-interest; the anguish and torment that sin produces in an individual life.

Perhaps the most significant lesson to be learned from Zeezrom’s experience is that the redeeming power of Christ’s love can bring about the miracle of spiritual regeneration in the vilest of sinners when they fully turn to the Savior and give themselves to the accomplishment of His purposes. In Zeezrom’s story, all of us who are imperfect find hope for forgiveness, and hope in reaffirmation of the Savior’s infinite love for those who reject evil and give their hearts to Him. (Heroes from the Book of Mormon, p.112-120.)

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#BOMTC Mosiah 26-27: “O Who Will Exchange Old Lamps for New?”

These chapters always make me think of the first time I found out the REAL story of Aladdin. My mother had been talking about how Disney movies always create their own versions of the classic tales and it seemed to make everyone believe that the Disney versions were the correct versions (she is very well read, so this is somewhat disappointing to her). I was not aware of what she was referring to (since I am not as well read as my mother…), so I asked her to name a couple of examples. When she mentioned Aladdin I remembered that I had the original story as part of the Harvard Collection at my home. I was determined to discover the REAL story of Aladdin (FYI: It really is better than the Disney one!).

However, Mosiah 26-27 is even better than both versions of Aladdin! As recorded in Mosiah 26, some unbelieving Nephites of the rising generation influenced members of the Church with flattering words and led them to sin. Mosiah 27 recounts the conversion of Alma (the son of Alma) and the sons of King Mosiah. It tells of their rebellious attempts to destroy the Church of God, the visitation of an angel, Alma’s miraculous change, and the efforts of these young men to repair the harm they had done. As you read the accompanying quotes I hope you will start to see the parallels between the original story of Aladdin and these chapters in Mosiah.

Elder John A. Widtsoe, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1921 until his death in 1952, used the story of Aladdin to warn the youth about giving up the “old lamp” filled with the gospel when the world offers “new lamps” that are empty:

The youth of our day, in their approach to knowledge, are thinking for themselves. For that let us be grateful. And may they think straight, so that truth may not pass them by unrecognized!

Aladdin of Arabian Nights fame secured an old battered copper lamp of magical powers. By its aid he built himself a magnificent palace, acquired great wealth and became the son-in-law of the King. A wicked magician determined to secure possession of the wonderful lamp. With a supply of ordinary but new, highly polished lamps, he approached the palace, offering “new lamps for old.” Aladdin’s wife, who knew nothing of the uncommon properties of the old lamp, gladly exchanged it for a new one. Then Aladdin’s troubles began. Palace, wealth, and station vanished overnight. This ancient tale is being retold in our modern times. Almost every day someone, usually honest enough, offers a new belief or thought, burnished and bright with newness, to replace convictions that we have long held and which have well maintained us. … A careless exchange may result in loss or fearful consequences. (In Search of Truth: Comments on the Gospel and Modern Thought)

#BOMTC Day 33, May 9~Mosiah 26-27 or Pages 196-202 (3)

Elder Marion D. Hanks, Of the Presidency of the First Council of the Seventy, shared similar cautions:

Most young people know the story of Aladdin, how his precious lamp was traded for a more glittery, shiny one which seemed at the moment very desirable and attractive but which turned out to be worthless and useless. The villain of the story was a scheming man who knew the value of the old lamp, and who with evil purpose acquired it by sounding the enticing cry: “New lamps for old.” The tragic figure of the account was Mrs. Aladdin, who had not learned the worth of the priceless light and who traded it for something which appeared desirable but was actually cheap and shoddy and unsatisfying.

If I were in my teens I would want to understand the relevance of the principle of the story of Aladdin to me and my life. I would want to understand the tremendous importance to my personal happiness of appreciating and honoring the precious light I have been blessed with. I would hope to be made aware of the great worth of the light of the gospel in my life and of the light of liberty which is my heritage in this great free land. I would observe, too, that immoral and deluded and dishonest people still walk the streets of my neighborhood and my town and the corridors of my school trying to get me to trade the lamps my fathers made possible for me for their shiny “new lamps” of corruption and unbelief and indolence and disloyalty.

I would seek and pray for teachers who could help me to understand which are lasting values and which are not, and for companions with whom I could freely and happily find and enjoy that which is of persisting worth. I would hope never to be unwise enough to trade a lifetime and an eternity of peace and self-respect for a few minutes of illicit and questionable “pleasure.” (Improvement Era 1954)

LIKENING his own teaching on another occasion, Elder Hanks taught:

“For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8.)

…We hear most clearly those voices that are nearest to us, and we are inclined to be responsive to those voices.

Do you remember what Paul wrote to the Corinthians after his allusion to the uncertain trumpet? These words: “There are . . . so many kinds of voices in the world, . . .” (1 Cor. 14:10.)

What are the voices to which our young people are listening? What do they hear in their homes, in the streets of their towns and communities? What do they hear over television and radio? What is communicated to them in books and magazines and photographs? What do they hear when they mingle with groups of their associates?

Well, for some the answer will be very good because there are many wonderful parents whose hearts are truly moved toward a love for their young people. There are good teachers and fine, interested human beings all over the face of the earth who honestly try to be helpful to youth and to speak truly and honorably. But for many young people the answers won’t be so affirmative. What voices are they hearing?

• Very frequently, commercial voices. They may be honest voices from honest commerce seeking the trade of youth. They may be voices of conspiring and deceitful men who seek profit at the expense of the future well-being of youth.

• There are pagan voices, iconoclastic voices attacking old traditions and fundamentals, arrogantly assuring that the old ideals, the old standards, the old viewpoints of nobility and honest effort, all of these are outmoded, no longer applicable, and may be abandoned with old faith, old ways, old accepted patterns of moral behavior.

• Entertaining voices come from illuminated screens, often in company with actions which are designed to emphasize that part of our nature that needs no emphasis.

• False voices issue from parked cars or darkened rooms, sometimes tainted with alcohol or inflamed with drugs, treacherously asking, always asking, for self-gratification. “Don’t you love me?” they say. “You know I love you.” Love they call it, but love it is not, and love they do not. True love “seeketh not her own.” But these voices constantly sing their song of counterfeit love, always seeking satisfaction of their own lusts, never really giving or intending to give, or perhaps knowing how to give, not knowing how to truly love.

• Misguided voices urging rebellion for rebellion’s sake.

• Beguiling voices inviting young eyes to filth or foulness, young ears to that which young ears should not hear.

• Foolish voices which suggest that since most people seem to be doing it, it therefore becomes all right to do.

• Cynical voices that propound moral relativism, saying that there are no virtues or principles that you can really count on anymore, none that are always applicable everywhere. You make your own rules in this time and generation.

• Sophisticated voices that skirt the edge of truth, telling youth, “It’s your life, you live it. Never mind what parents, honest teachers, earnest adults, persons who care, have to say about it or how they feel about it. You decide; it’s your life.”

• Peer voices, voices that are inexperienced, something imitating what someone called the “imitation men” they have seen on the street corners.

• Aladdin voices singing the same old strain, “New lamps for old.”

• Loud voices, persistent voices, persuasive, confusing.

In the midst of all this, where can young people turn to hear a voice that will move them in the direction of their dreams, their noblest and highest and most honorable dreams?

Do you remember the words of the Lord through Isaiah: “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left”? (Isa. 30:21.)

Where can young people hear this voice?

The Church offers to its youth answers to some of their serious, sacred spiritual questions. It offers them a guide of conduct that will help them to live with meaningfulness and joy in this world, and it offers them this sacred personal commitment we call testimony that allows them to say “I know God lives.” (Conference Report, October 1965, Third Day, Morning Meeting, p.118-121)

Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, used the story of the Prodigal Son to illustrate the same principle:

“[The prodigal son] had exchanged the priceless inheritance of great lasting value for a temporary satisfaction of physical desire, the future for the present, eternity for time, spiritual blessings for physical meat” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 311; see Luke 15:11–32).

THE REAL STORY: The Story Of ‘Ala-Ed-Din And The Wonderful Lamp. Part 22 – 23

Thus ‘Ala-ed-Din daily increased in fair fame and renown, and the love of him grew stronger in the hearts of all the subjects, and he was magnified in the eyes of the people. At this time, moreover, certain of the Sultan’s enemies rode down against him, and the Sultan equipped the troops to resist them, and made ‘Ala-ed-Din leader of the army. So ‘Ala-ed-Din went with the troops, till he drew near to the enemy, whose armies were very strong.

And he drew his sword, and rushed upon the enemy, and the battle and slaughter began, and the conflict was sturdy.

But ‘Ala-ed-Din broke them and dispersed them, killing the greater part, and looting their goods and provisions and cattle beyond number. Then he returned triumphant after a glorious victory, and made his entry into his city, who had adorned herself for him in her rejoicing over him. And the Sultan went forth to meet him and congratulated him and embraced and kissed him, and there was a magnificent fete and great rejoicings. And the Sultan and ‘Ala-ed-Din entered the palace, where there met him his bride, the Lady Bedr-el-Budur, who was rejoicing over him, and kissed him between the eyes. And they went into her palace, and presently the Sultan and all sat down, and the damsels brought sherbets. So they drank; and the Sultan ordered throughout the kingdom that they should illuminate for the victory of ‘Ala-ed-Din over the enemy. And the chiefs and the soldiers and the crowd turned [their prayers] only to God in Heaven and ‘Ala-ed-Din on earth, for they loved him exceedingly, because of the excess of his bounty and generosity and his fighting for his country, and his charge, and his rout of the foe. And thus was it with ‘Ala-ed-Din.

But as to the Moorish sorcerer, when he had returned to his country, he spent all this time in lamenting the labour and trouble he had taken in his quest of the Lamp, and the more because his labour was fruitless; and the morsel had fallen from his hand just as it was touching his lips. And he fell to thinking over all this, and lamented, and cursed ‘Ala-ed-Din in his exceeding rage, and at times he would mutter: “That this misbegotten boy is dead below ground I am satisfied, and I hope yet to get the Lamp, since it is still safe”.

One day of the days he drew a table in sand and put the figures down and examined them carefully and verified them, that he might perceive and be certified of the death of ‘Ala-ed-Din and the preservation of the Lamp, beneath the ground; and he looked into the figures, both “mothers” and “daughters,” intently, but he saw not the Lamp. At this, anger overcame him, and he drew the figure again, to be certain of ‘Ala-ed-Din’s death; but he saw him not in the Treasury. So his rage increased and the more so when he ascertained that the boy was alive on the surface of the earth. And when he knew that he had come forth from underground and was possessed of the Lamp for which he himself had endured privations and labour such as man can hardly bear, then he said within himself: ” I have borne many pains and suffered torments which no one else would have endured for the sake of the Lamp, and this cursed boy has taken it without an effort; and if this accursed knoweth the virtues of the Lamp, no one in the world should be richer than he.” And he added: “There is nothing for it but that I compass his destruction.” So he drew a second table, and inspecting the figures, discovered that ‘Ala-ed-Din had acquired immense wealth and had married the daughter of the Sultan. So he was consumed with the flame of anger begotten of envy.

He arose that very hour, and equipped himself, and journeyed to the land of China, and when he arrived at the metropolis wherein dwelt ‘Ala-ed-Din, he entered and alighted at one of the Khans. And he heard the people talking of nothing but the splendour of ‘Ala-ed-Din’s palace. After he had rested from his journey, he dressed himself and went down to perambulate the streets of the city. And he never met any people but they were admiring this palace and its splendour, and talking together of the beauty of ‘Ala-ed-Din and his grace and dignity and generosity and the charm of his manners. And the Moor approached one of those who were depicting ‘Ala-ed-Din with these encomiums, and said to him: ” O gentle youth, who may this be whom ye praise and commend ? ” And the other replied: ” It is evident that thou, O man, art a stranger and comest from distant parts; but be thou from ever so distant a land, how hast thou not heard of the Emir ‘Ala-ed-Din whose fame, methinks, hath filled the world and whose palace one of the Wonders of the World hath been heard of far and near? And how hast thou not heard anything of this or of the name of ‘Ala-ed-Din, our Lord increase his glory and give him joy?” But the Moor answered: “Verily it is the height of my desire to see the palace, and if thou wilt do me the favour, direct me to it, since I am a stranger.” Then the man said, ” I hear and obey,” and proceeded before him and guided him to the palace of ‘Ala-ed-Din. And the Moor began to examine it, and knew that it was all the doing of the Lamp, and cried: ” Ah! There is nothing for it but that I dig a pit for this cursed son of a tailor, who could not even earn a supper. And if the fates aid me I will undoubtedly send his mother back to her spinning, as she was before; and as for him, I will take his life”.

He returned to the Khan in this state of grief and regret and sadness for envy of ‘Ala-ed-Din. When he arrived at the Khan he took his instruments of divination and drew a table to discover where the Lamp was; and he found it was in the palace, and not on ‘Ala-ed-Din himself. Whereat he rejoiced mightily, and said: ” The task remaineth easy, to destroy the life of this accursed; and I have a way to obtain the Lamp.” Then he went to a coppersmith and said: ” Make me a number of lamps, and take their price, and more; only I wish thee to hasten to finish them.” And the coppersmith answered, “I hear and obey.” And he set to work at them and completed them; and when they were done the Moor paid him the price he asked for them, and took them and departed and went to the Khan, where he put them in a basket. Then he went about the streets and bazars of the city, crying: “O who will exchange old lamps for new?” And when the people heard him crying thus, they laughed at him, saying: “No doubt this man is mad, since he goeth about to exchange old lamps for new.” And all the world followed him, and the street boys pursued him from place to place and mocked at him; but he gainsaid them not nor cared for that, but did not cease perambulating the city till he came under ‘Ala-ed-Din’s palace, when he began to cry in a louder voice, while the boys shouted at him, ” Madman! Madman!” Now by the decrees of destiny the Lady Bedr-el-Budur was in the kiosk, and hearing some one crying and the boys shouting at him, and not understanding what it was all about, she ordered one of her handmaids, saying: “Go and find out who it is that crieth and what he is crying.” So the damsel went to look, and perceived a man crying: “O who will exchange old lamps for new?” and the boys around him making sport of him. And she returned and told her mistress Bedr-el-Budur, saying: “O my lady, this man is crying: ‘O who will exchange old lamps for new?’ and the urchins are following him and laughing at him.” So the Lady Bedr-el-Budur laughed too at this oddity. Now *Ala-ed-Din had left the Lamp in his apartment, instead of replacing it in the Treasury and locking it up, and one of the maids had seen it. So she said: “O my mistress, methinks I have seen in my master’s room an old lamp; let us exchange it with this man for a new one, to find out if his cry be true or false.” And the Lady Bedr-el-Budur said to her: “Bring the Lamp which thou sayest thou didst see in thy master’s room.” For the Lady Bedr-el-Budur had no knowledge of the Lamp and its qualities, and that it was this which had brought ‘Ala-ed-Din her husband to his present high station; and her chief desire was to try and discover the object of this man who exchanged new lamps for old. So the damsel went and ascended to the apartment of ‘Ala-ed-Din and brought the Lamp to her mistress, and none of them suspected the guile of the Moorish wizard and his cunning. Then the Lady Bedr-el-Budur ordered an agha of the eunuchs to go down and exchange the Lamp for a new one. So he took the Lamp and gave it to the Moor and received from him a new lamp, and returned to the Princess and gave her the exchange; and she, after examining it, saw it was really new, and fell a-laughing at the folly of the Moor.

But he, when he got the Lamp and knew it was the Lamp of the Treasure, instantly put it in his bosom and abandoned the rest of the lamps to the people who were chaffering with him, and went running till he came to the outskirts of the city, when he walked on over the plains and waited patiently till night had fallen, and he saw that be was alone in the desert, and none there but he* Then he took forth the Lamp from his bosom and rubbed it, and immediately the Marid appeared to him, and said: “At thy service, I am thy slave in thy hands; ask of me what thou desirest.” So the Moor replied: “I require thee to remove the palace of ‘Ala-ed-Din from its site, with its inmates and all that is in it, and myself also, and set it in my country, the land of Africa. Thou knowest my town, and I wish this palace to be in my town, among the gardens.” And the Marid slave replied, “I hear and obey. Shut thine eye and open it, and thou wilt find thyself in thy country along with the palace.” And in a moment this was done, and the Moor and the palace of ‘Ala-ed-Din and all in it were removed to the land of Africa. Thus it was with the Moorish sorcerer.

To return to the Sultan and ‘Ala-ed-Din. When the Sultan arose in the morning from his sleep, in his affection and love for his daughter the Lady Bedr-el-Budur, he was wont every day when he was aroused from sleep to open the window and look out towards her. So he arose that day, as usual, and opened the window to look upon his daughter. But when he approached the window and looked towards the palace of ‘Ala-ed-Din, he beheld nothing-nay, the place was as bare as it was of yore, and he saw neither palace nor any other building. And he was wrapped in amazement and distraught in mind; and he rubbed his eyes, in case they were dimmed or darkened, and returned to his observation, till at last he was sure that no trace or vestige of the palace remained; and he knew not how or why it had disappeared. So his wonder increased, and he smote his hands together, and the tears trickled down over his beard, because he knew not what had become of his daughter.

Then he sent at once and had the Wezir fetched. And he stood before him, and as soon as he came in he noticed the sorrowful state of his sovereign, and said to him: “Pardon, O King of the Age. God defend thee from calamity. Wherefore dost thou grieve?” The Sultan replied: “Perhaps thou dost not know my trouble?” And the Wezir said: “Not a whit, O my lord. By Allah, I have no knowledge of it whatever.” Then said the Sultan: “It is evident thou hast not looked towards the palace of ‘Ala-ed-Din.” “True, O my master,” replied the Wezir, “it must now be still closed.” Then said the King: “Since thou hast no knowledge of anything, arise and look out of the window and see where ‘Ala-ed-Din’s palace is which thou sayest is shut up.” So the Wezir arose and looked out of the window towards the palace of ‘Ala-ed-Din, and could espy nothing, neither palace nor anything else. So his reason was amazed and he was astounded, and returned to the Sultan, who said: “Dost thou know now the reason of my grief, and hast thou observed the palace of ‘Ala-ed-Din which thou saidst was shut?” The Wezir answered: “O King of the Age, I informed thy Felicity before that this palace and all these doings were magic” Then the Sultan was inflamed with wrath, and cried out: “Where is ‘Ala-ed-Din?” He answered: “Gone to the chase.” Thereupon the Sultan instantly ordered some of his aghas and soldiers to go and fetch ‘Ala-ed-Din, pinioned and shackled. So the aghas and soldiers proceeded till they came upon ‘Ala-ed-Din, whom they thus addressed: “Chastise us not, O our master ‘Ala-ed-Din, for the Sultan hath commanded us to take thee chained and pinioned. So we beg thy pardon, for we are acting under the royal mandate, which we cannot oppose.” When ‘Ala-ed-Din heard the words of the aghas and soldiers, wonder took hold of him, and his tongue became tied, for he understood not the cause of this. Then turning to them, he said: “O company, have ye no knowledge of the cause of this order of the Sultan ? I know myself to be innocent, and to have committed no sin against the Sultan or against the kingdom.” They answered: “O our master, we know no cause at all.” Then ‘Ala-ed-Din dismounted and said to them: “Do with me what the Sultan ordered, for the command of the Sultan must be on the head and the eye.” Then the aghas chained ‘Ala-ed-Din and manacled him and bound him with irons and led him to the city. And when the citizens saw him bound and chained with iron, they knew that the Sultan would cut off his head; and since he was exceedingly beloved of them all, the lieges assembled together and brought their weapons and went forth from their houses and followed the soldiers to see what would be the event.

When the troops with ‘Ala-ed-Din reached the palace, they entered and told the Sultan; whereupon he straightway commanded the executioner to come and cut off his head.

But when the citizens knew this, they barred the gates and shut the doors of the palace, and sent a message to the Sultan, saying: “We will instantly pull down thy house over thy head and all others in it, if any mischief or harm come to ‘Ala-ed-Din.” So the Wezir went in and informed the Sultan, saying: “O King of the Age, thy command is about to seal the book of our lives. It were better to pardon ‘Ala-ed-Din lest there come upon us the calamity of calamities; for the lieges love him more than us.” Now the executioner had already spread the carpet of death, and seated ‘Ala-ed-Din thereon, and bandaged his eyes, and had walked round him thrice, waiting for the King’s command, when the Sultan looking out of the window, beheld his subjects attacking him and scaling the walls with intent to pull them down. So he immediately ordered the executioner to stay his hand, and bade the herald go out to the crowd and proclaim that he had pardoned ‘Ala-ed-Din and granted him grace. When ‘Ala-ed-Din saw he was free, and espied the Sultan seated on his throne, he drew near and said to him: “O my lord, since thy Felicity hath been gracious to me all my life, vouchsafe to tell me what is my offence.” Then the Sultan said: “O traitor, hitherto I knew of no offence in thee.” And turning to the Wezir, he said: “Take him and shew him from the windows where his palace is.” And when the Wezir had led him and he had looked out of the window in the direction of his palace, he found the site bare as it was before he built his palace thereon; and he saw never a vestige of the palace at all. (The Story Of ‘Ala-Ed-Din And The Wonderful Lamp. Part 22 & 23)

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#BOMTC Mosiah 3-4: Glad Tidings of Great JOY

One of the best things about today’s reading is that half of it was delivered by an “angel from God” (Mosiah 3:2), making King Benjamin’s message one of “glad tidings of great joy”! (v.3. You will notice “joy” come up also in verses 4 and 13.) What exactly are his “glad tidings of great joy”? Well, verses 5-18 are a non-stop “tidings” (news, information, intelligence) of “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning” (v. 8). And, indeed, just as the angel had declared (Mosiah 3:4), the people were filled with joy, but it was not until after they were filled with the “fear of the Lord” (Mosiah 4:1). You will have to examine verses 2-3 to figure out how they went from the “fear of the Lord” to being “filled with joy” (Joy comes up another four times in this chapter!).

Once they realize their dependence on the Lord for “a remission of their sins” (4:3,11,20) in verses 1-4, King Benjamin helps the people to understand how to “retain” a remission of their sins (vv.12,20,26) in verses 5-30, with a final admonition to “remember, and perish not” (v.30).

I have included a short story, two songs, and a modern-day Apostle’s Facebook post that really help me understand these chapters better. I hope they will be beneficial to you as well!

The Great Divorce

The Great Divorce is a work of theological fantasy by C. S. Lewis, in which he reflects on the traditional Christian conception of Heaven and Hell (for more on this book see Wikipedia‘s summary).

#BOMTC Day 26, May 2~Mosiah 3-4 or Pages 151-155 (6)

“I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder…What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. ‘Shut up, I tell you!’ he said. It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile. Then he turned and started to limp westward, away from the mountains. ‘Off so soon?’ said a voice. The speaker was more or less human in shape but larger than a man, and so bright that I could hardly look at him. His presence smote on my eyes and on my body too (for there was heat coming from him as well as light) like the morning sun at the beginning of A [blazing] summer day. ‘Yes. I’m off,’ said the Ghost. ‘Thanks for all your hospitality, But it’s no good, you see. I told this little chap’ (here he indicated the Lizard) ‘that he’d have to be quiet if he came—which he insisted on doing. Of course his stuff won’t do here: I realize that. But he won’t stop. I shall just have to go home.’ #BOMTC Day 26, May 2~Mosiah 3-4 or Pages 151-155 (7)‘Would you like me to make him quiet?’ said the flaming Spirit—an angel, as I now understood. ‘Of course I would,’ said the Ghost. ‘Then I will kill him,’ said the Angel, taking a step forward. ‘Oh—ah—look out! You’re burning me. Keep away,’ said the Ghost, retreating. ‘Don’t you want him killed?’ ‘You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.’ ‘It’s the only way,’ said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the Lizard. ‘Shall I kill it?’ ‘Well, that’s a further question. I’m quite open to consider it, but it’s a new point, isn’t it? I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it because up here—well, it’s so…embarrassing.’ ‘May I kill it?’ ‘Well, there’s time to discuss that later.’ ‘There is no time. May I kill it?’ ‘Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please—really—don’t bother. Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.’ ‘May I kill it?’ ‘Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.’ ‘The gradual process is of no use at all.’ ‘Don’t you think so? Well, I’ll think over what you’ve said very carefully. I honestly will. In fact I’d let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I’m not feeling frightfully well today. It would be most silly to do it now. I’d need to be in good health for the operation. Some other day, perhaps.’ ‘There is no other day. All days are present now.’ ‘Get back! You’re burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You’d kill me if you did.’ ‘It is not so.’ ‘Why, you’re hurting me now.’ ‘I never said it wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you.’ ‘Oh, I know. You think I’m a coward. But it isn’t that. Really it isn’t. I say! Let me run back by tonight’s bus and get an opinion from my own doctor. I’ll come again the first moment I can.’

#BOMTC Day 26, May 2~Mosiah 3-4 or Pages 151-155 (3)

‘This moment contains all moments.’ ‘Why are you torturing me? You are jeering at me. How can I let you tear me in pieces? If you wanted to help me, why didn’t you kill the [darn] thing without asking me—before I knew? It would be all over by now if you had.’ ‘I cannot kill it against your will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?’ The Angel’s hands were almost closed on the Lizard, but not quite. Then the Lizard began chattering to the Ghost so loud that even I could hear what it was saying. ‘Be careful,’ it said. ‘He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you’ll be without me for ever and ever. It’s not natural. How could you live? You’d be only a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now. He doesn’t understand. He’s only a cold, bloodless abstract thing. It may be natural for him, but it isn’t for us…And I’ll be so good. I admit I’ve sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won’t do it again. I’ll give you nothing but really nice dreams—all sweet and fresh and almost innocent. You might say, quite innocent…’ ‘Have I your permission?’ said the Angel to the Ghost. ‘I know it will kill me.’ ‘It won’t. But supposing it did?’ ‘You’re right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.’ ‘Then I may?’ ‘…blast you! Go on, can’t you? Get it over. Do what you like,’ bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, ‘God help me. God help me.’ Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and then flung it, broken-backed, on the turf. ‘Ow! That’s done for me,’ gasped the Ghost, reeling backwards.

“For a moment I could make out nothing distinctly. Then I saw, between me and the nearest bush, unmistakably solid but growing every moment solider, the upper arm and the shoulder of a man. Then, brighter still and stronger, the legs and hands. The neck and golden head materialized while I watched, and if my attention had not wavered I should have seen the actual completing of a man—an immense man…not much smaller than the Angel. What distracted me was the fact that at the same moment something seemed to be happening to the Lizard. At first I thought the operation had failed. So far from dying, the creature was still struggling and even growing bigger as it struggled. And as it grew it changed. Its hinder parts grew rounder. The tail, still flickering, became a tail of hair that flickered between huge and glossy buttocks. Suddenly I started back, rubbing my eyes. What stood before me was the greatest stallion I have ever seen, silvery white but with mane and tail of gold. It was smooth and shining, rippled with swells of flesh and muscle, whinneying and stamping with its hoofs. At each stamp the land shook and the trees dindled. The new-made man turned and clapped the new horse’s neck. It nosed his bright body. Horse and master breathed each into the other’s nostrils. The man turned from it, flung himself at the feet of the Burning One, and embraced them. When he rose I thought his face shone with tears, but it may have been only the liquid love and brightness (one cannot distinguish them in that country) which flowed from him. I had not long to think about it. In joyous haste the young man leaped upon the horse’s back. Turning in his seat he waved a farewell, then nudged the stallion with his heels. They were off before I knew well what was happening. There was riding if you like! I came out as quickly as I could from among the bushes to follow them with my eyes; but already they were only like a shooting star far off on the green plain, and soon among the foothills of the mountains. Then, still like a star, I saw them winding up, scaling what seemed impossible steeps, and quicker every moment, till near the dim brow of the landscape, so high that I must strain my neck to see them, they vanished, bright themselves, into the rose-brightness of that everlasting morning…

“‘Do ye understand all this, my Son?’ said the Teacher. ‘I don’t know about all, Sir,’ said I. ‘Am I right in thinking the Lizard really turned into the Horse?’ ‘Aye. But it was killed first. Ye’ll not forget that part of the story?’ ‘I’ll try not to, Sir. But does it mean that everything—everything—that is in us can go on to the Mountains?’ ‘Nothing, not even the best and noblest, can go on as it now is. Nothing, not even what is lowest and most bestial, will not be raised again if it submits to death. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. Flesh and blood cannot come to the Mountains. Not because they are too rank, but because they are too weak. What is a lizard compared with a stallion? Lust is a poor, weak, whimpering, whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed'” (C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, Ch. 11, p. 98-105).

An elegant statement in Benjamin’s speech is his admonition of belief in Mosiah 4:8-10. Notice the reinforcing rhythms found in the pairs of word and redoubled echoes of Benjamin’s eight-part elegy:

1  And this is the means whereby salvation cometh,
And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of.

2 Neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved
Except the conditions which I have told you.

3 Believe in God, believe that he is
And that he created all things both in heaven and in earth.

4 Believe that he has all wisdom
And all power both in heaven and in earth.

5 Believe that man doth not comprehend all the things
Which the Lord can comprehend.

6 And again believe that ye must repent of your sins
And forsake them.

7 And humble yourselves before God
And ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you.

8 And now if you believe all these things
See that ye do them.

Source: Why Did King Benjamin Use Poetic Parallels So Extensively?

The following songs seem to me to fit well with Mosiah 4. What do you think?

“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

“O Divine Redeemer”

Elder Dale G. Renlund share the following Facebook post that goes right along with Mosiah 4:

Ruth and I enjoyed being with so many faithful sisters at the BYU Women’s Conference on Friday.

As part of that talk we shared an important lesson that we learned from our daughter, Ashley. When Ashley was just four years old she had developed a highly evolved, go-to-bed avoidance behavior. She simply did not want to go to bed and miss out on any family discussion. One evening, after about five times of getting up, she got up yet another time and said she wanted a snack. Ruth said, “Ashley, you’re just playing with us!” and tucked her in with some firmness. I was actually surprised when, no more than 30 seconds later, she was up again. But this time it was different. She held a paperback Book of Mormon in her hand, her lower jaw was quivering, and with some indignation she said, “But Mom, Mosiah 4:14!”

Where it says, “And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry.”

Of course, Ashley got her snack. Who can resist a child quoting scripture about parental responsibilities?

After Ashley got her snack and went to bed, we looked at the context of this scripture that she had used so cunningly. We learned that it is not a commandment to give our children snacks at bedtime. It is actually a consequence or a fruit of something else mentioned earlier in the masterful address by King Benjamin.

In Mosiah chapter 4, beginning in verse 12, we read: “And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins. … And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably. … And ye will [give your children snacks at bedtime, or you will] not suffer your children that they go hungry.”

These fruits, or consequences, rest on the meaning of “this.” It is certainly desirable because if we do this, we will always rejoice, be filled with the love of God, always retain a remission of our sins, not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and will not suffer our children that they go hungry.

We discovered that King Benjamin was teaching that this is to be absolutely converted to Jesus Christ, to remember God’s greatness, to humble ourselves, to pray to God daily, and to stand steadfastly in faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement. If we do this, then all those fruits or consequences flow naturally.

The underlying, fundamental principle we shared is that conversion to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement is the key to developing charity, the pure love of Christ. The development of charity then leads to the development of other Christlike attributes. (https://www.facebook.com/DaleGRenlund/posts/1710837285859780?pnref=story)

Want to know more? Check this out:

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#BOMTC Day 47, May 23~Alma 34-36 or Pages 294-300: YOMO Not YOLO

#BOMTC Day 47, May 23~Alma 34-36 or Pages 294-300 (2)

Click on graphic to read Alma 34-36

Have you ever heard someone use the term YOLO to justify doing what they want? YOLO is an acronym for You Only Live Once. Similar to carpe diem or memento mori, it implies that one should enjoy life, even if that entails taking risks.

The gospel however teaches a different motto. The gospel motto is more like YOMOYou’re Only Mortal Once! Alma 34 explains the concept of YOMO this way:

32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses  therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis  that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.

In Alma 36, Alma shares with his son, Helaman, an important life-lesson: YOLO will make you say, “OH NO!!!” and YOMO is the “WAY TO GO!”

You’re Only Mortal Once, BUT… You Will Live Forever! (YWLF), so don’t let YOLO blow “yo” eternity!

Here are a few video clips to help you YOMO a little “mo” ;o)

What Matters Most

President Thomas S. Monson counsels us to spend time with, cherish, and express love to the people we hold dear.

Moments That Matter Most

We would do well to slow down a little, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most. Read President Uchtdorf’s entire address “Of Things That Matter Most” at http://bit.ly/momentsmatter

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#BOMTC Day 44, May 20~Alma 26-29 or Pages 273-279: My Brother’s Keeper–Caring for God’s “Peeps”

#BOMTC Day 44, May 20~Alma 26-29 or Pages 273-279 (2)

Click graphic to read Alma 26-29

Before we get going today, I have two quick questions for you. The first one is multiple choice, the other is open comment. Once you answer the multiple choice question below, you will be able to leave your comment on the results page after you press the “vote” button (There will be a “comments” link at the bottom of the results). The question that I would like to get your comment about is this:

What have you noticed about the Book of Mormon by studying it at this pace?

Thank you!

Now, there are at least two quick questions that I should NEVER ask you:

  • And Adam and Eve, his wife, ceased not to call upon God. And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bare Cain, and said: I have gotten a man from the Lord; wherefore he may not reject his words. But behold, Cain hearkened not, saying: Who is the Lord that I should know him? (Moses 5:16, emphsasis added)
  • And the Lord said unto Cain: Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said: I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper? (Moses 5:34, emphasis added)

First of all, consider the source and cynicism of these questions.

Secondly, consider the contrast that these questions pose to the Savior’s answer in Matthew 22 when He was asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” It is interesting to me that the two questions presented by Cain are answered by the Savior in His response:

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Another interesting contrast to Cain’s questions comes from the answer that the Lord gave when the prophet Enoch saw the sadness of the Lord in Moses 7:

28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?

29 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?

30 And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever;

31 And thou hast taken Zion to thine own bosom, from all thy creations, from all eternity to all eternity; and naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?

32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;

33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;

 

Unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father.” WOW!

So how does this relate to today’s reading? Well, think about the situation that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies were in. After the Anti-Nephi-Lehies made a covenant with God to never again take up weapons of war, the Amalekites and the Lamanites began to make preparations to go to battle against them. They had no one to turn to. They needed help. They were desperate. The only people that they could ask for help were the people that they had mistreated their whole lives–the Nephites.

Ammon led the Anti-Nephi-Lehies to Zarahemla, where they received protection from the Nephites and became known as the people of Ammon. They were given the land of Jershon for their new home and promised protection by the Nephite armies.

Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah each exhibited the same kind of enthusiasm to become their “brother’s keeper” as they set off for their long and eventful missions to bring everyone to the gospel (see Alma 26 and 29).

Remember when the Savior taught an important principle of the gospel in Matthew 25:31-46?

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

In the most recent General Conference of the Church we were invited to be our “brother’s keeper” as part of the #IWasAStranger efforts of the Church.

Here is a playlist that I created of the Church’s invitations and efforts to help us to help others.

Relevant links for #IWasAStranger efforts:

We usually will not have to look very hard for opportunities to provide “refuge from the storm”

I believe it was around this time of year, when we commemorate the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, that I went on a “Father and Son” campout that taught me a difficult, but important lesson.

I am the oldest of six children, so one-on-one time with a parent was a precious commodity. I was excited to be able to spend some time away from the rest of the family with just my dad. Luckily, I had a pretty good relationship with my dad. It was during a time that our family was also struggling financially. There wasn’t much money to go around and I was old enough to know what was going on (~12 years old).

My mom had put together some food for us to enjoy. Nothing really special, but under the circumstances it was a little more special than “the usual”. To my surprise, my dad had invited another boy to come with us on this “Father and Son” outing. I didn’t ask why; I was a little too annoyed by it to want to bring it up and make a bigger deal about it. The boy was older and I can’t remember that I had ever met him before.

He worked at the same place as my dad. When we got to the camp site, we got everything ready and started to break into the food. I noticed the other boy had a few boxes of “Peeps” that he had gotten out. I am not a fan of Peeps, so I thought that was a strange thing to bring for a night of fun. Then, I noticed that my dad kept giving him “our” food (He has always been a VERY generous person–even when lacking.).

I tried to let it go, but I was a pretty immature and selfish kid. I don’t remember if I said something to my dad in front of the boy or if I waited for a more private and opportune moment, but when I had the chance I kinda gave it to my dad and asked why he was giving away all of “our” good food.

He didn’t get upset, but he was probably pretty disappointed–if he was disappointed he didn’t let me know it. Instead he calmly explained to me that he was sharing with the boy because all the boy had to eat for the entire campout was those couple boxes of Peeps. I think the next thing I did was say something to my dad about how the boy should have known better and that he needed to face the consequences of his lack of preparation (that is the oldest of six speaking).

Now here is where it got painful. Not because my dad hauled-off and hit me or something, but because of what he said next. He told me that the boy’s dad had recently died and that he didn’t have anything else in his home that he could have brought to eat during the campout. Oh boy… oh, boy… I don’t know if I have ever felt such guilt in my life. My heart sank. My conscience began to show me what a jerk I had been. I wanted to cry, not just because I realized how bad I had been, but because I felt a great deal of sympathy at that moment. I honestly didn’t want to eat anything else all weekend (although I am sure I did).

I learned a LOT of valuable lessons that day. One was about making a conscious effort to be “my brother’s keeper”. I obviously didn’t think about it in those terms at that age, but that was the message that sank into my heart. From that point on, it seemed like God would superimpose that boys face on the people in my life that needed a little extra help. I am sorry to say that I was not always as willing to jump in and help like I should have been. But I tried a lot harder, and I tried to withhold judgment a lot more often. #BOMTC Day 44, May 20~Alma 26-29 or Pages 273-279 (1)

Anytime that I think of that experience (like right now) I feel such regret for myself, and sorrow for that boy. I can’t remember his name, but I can’t seem to forget the face as he holds that box of Peeps before my mind’s eye. It was a tough lesson to learn, and perhaps God knew that it could never be taught–it had to be caught. I don’t know. But what I do know is that the lesson was learned and it is still being applied today. It is one of many lessons that the Lord has taught me about being my brother’s keeper.

On another occasion God let me be the brother who needed to be “kept” by another. It was about two years after the “Peeps experience”, when a young ninth-grade boy showed me what it meant to be, “my brother’s keeper”. To him it was no big deal, but it was a BIG deal to me. His name is Deran Coe, and what he did made all the difference in the world for me.

I had just moved from the coast of L.A. to a suburb of Pittsburgh (specifically, Center Township, in the middle of winter). Having been a “beach bum” from the west coast for the previous eight years, I dressed and spoke differently from everyone else at Center high school. My first morning at school was not too bad because the teachers would just assign me a seat, introduce me quickly to the class, and move on to teach their lesson.

Then lunch time arrived… The worst thing about lunch for this “new kid on the block” (special reference for my wife), is that there were no assigned seats, and I didn’t want to take someone else’s “usual seat”, so I awkwardly searched for a seat that looked like it wouldn’t make my bad situation even worse.

Well, it was a small high school (less than 150 students in my graduating class) and the ninth-graders ate in a separate room from the rest of the upper-class students. The best way for me to describe it is to say that it was a lot like a typical LDS cultural hall. It had a stage and a large multipurpose floor. If I remember it correctly, it was filled at lunchtime with about 35 picnic-type tables that could sit about 8 students each. I think it was 5 rows of 7 tables.

It just so happened that I was one of the first students to the ninth-grade lunch room on my first day, so no one had really started sitting down yet. I always took my “sack lunch” from home, so I couldn’t just stand in the lunch line and wait for things to fill in. I decided to take the far corner of the lunch room and hoped that my strategy would work out…

FAIL!

There were only enough students to fill in the first 2-3 rows of tables. That meant that there was at least 1 entire row of tables between me and my new classmates. I just hung my head and tried to drown my embarrassment in my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I hadn’t gotten too far into my lonely meal, when I heard a boy’s voice. I looked around a saw a smiling student. He introduced himself as Deran, and asked if I wanted to come and join him and his friends for lunch.

SAVED!

The ironic thing is that there was no room at Deran’s table, so I ended up at the table next to his. That is when I first met the great guys that I would spend most of my high schools days with: Steve, Brett, Jeff, Ryan, Chris, and Aaron.

Deran and I never really became the kind of friends that “hang out” together; we liked each other as friends, but we had different interests. However, because of that ONE little simple act of reaching out to me I had some amazing years of high school–the effects of which continue to this day. I have thanked him a couple of times, but he never really felt like what he did deserved any thanks. Sure it was simple, but it has had simply amazing results in my life.

My sister Seana with Deran Coe at our Senior Prom (1995)

My sister Seana with Deran Coe at our Senior Prom (1995)

 

I am grateful for the painful lesson learned so many years ago. I am grateful to have a father who took the time to be slow to anger so that the Spirit could be quick to teach. I am grateful for “Peeps” each Easter season, because even though I can’t stand the taste they stand as a reminder of what God expects from me when dealing with His “peeps”–He expects me to be “my brother’s keeper”. “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him.”(Psalm 41:1–3)

We ARE our “brother’s keeper”!

Dayton’s Legs

Out of love, a 13-year-old boy in Arizona pushed himself to the limit so that his friend, who has cerebral palsy, could participate with him in a triathlon.

My Brother’s Keeper

Thomas S. Monson – April 1990

Parable of the Good Samaritan

A depiction of the Savior’s parable of the good Samaritan, in which a man is robbed and beaten by thieves, and a Samaritan shows mercy on him.

Lord, I Would Follow Thee

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings “Lord, I Would Follow Thee.”

Lyrics

1. Savior, may I learn to love thee,
Walk the path that thou hast shown,
Pause to help and lift another,
Finding strength beyond my own.
Savior, may I learn to love thee–
Lord, I would follow thee.
2. Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can’t see.
Who am I to judge another?
Lord, I would follow thee.
3. I would be my brother’s keeper;
I would learn the healer’s art.
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother’s keeper–
Lord, I would follow thee.
4. Savior, may I love my brother
As I know thou lovest me,
Find in thee my strength, my beacon,
For thy servant I would be.
Savior, may I love my brother–
Lord, I would follow thee.

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#BOMTC Day 38, May 14~Alma 10-11 or Pages 231-237: A TESTimony from A[mulek] to Z[eezrom]

Click on graphic to read Alma 10-11

Click on graphic to read Alma 10-11

After Alma taught in the cities of Zarahemla, Gideon, and Melek and had many people accept his message, the people in Ammonihah rejected his teaching and cast him out of their city. However, obedient to the Lord’s command, Alma returned to Ammonihah.

The Lord prepared Amulek, a native of Ammonihah, to receive Alma and join him in testifying to the people. Alma and Amulek warned the people of Ammonihah that if they did not repent, they would be destroyed. Amulek faithfully obeyed God and used his reputation, good name, and influence to support the prophet Alma and testify of Jesus Christ.

Alma and Amulek had little success preaching to the people of Ammonihah because Satan had a, “great hold upon the hearts of the people” (see Alma 8:9). Many of them had hardened their hearts against the gospel, and they resisted Alma and Amulek’s invitation to repent. Nevertheless, Alma and Amulek faithfully called them to repentance, testifying that because they had been taught the truth and had experienced the power of God, the Lord expected them to be more righteous than the Lamanites, who had not been taught the truth. Alma and Amulek taught that if the people of Ammonihah would not repent, they would face destruction. They also taught the people that redemption was possible only through Jesus Christ.

After Alma addressed the people, they were angry and wanted to cast him into prison. Amulek bravely addressed the people and added his witness to Alma’s (see Alma 9:31–34). Amulek was a descendant of Nephi. He was a hardworking man who had built substantial wealth. He was also well known and was “of no small reputation” among his many family members and friends (see Alma 10:4).

As Alma and Amulek continued to teach the people of Ammonihah, a lawyer named Zeezrom offered Amulek money to deny the existence of the true and living God. As he defended his faith against Zeezrom’s attempts to ensnare him, Amulek testified that salvation from sin comes only through Jesus Christ. Amulek bore strong testimony that all mankind will be resurrected and judged by God. Amulek also testified that all mankind will be resurrected and will be brought to “be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit” on the Day of Judgment (Alma 11:44).

I found the following illustration from the More Good Foundation very relevant and applicable to today’s reading:

Some people want to learn about the Church, but not from the Church. It’s not hard to believe. When shopping on Amazon.com, do you pay more attention to the publisher’s review or the users’ reviews? Do you shop for the best-in-class car by researching Ford.com or a user forum that discusses all makes and models?

In the book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath call this concept an appeal to “antiauthorities” (or non-authorities): “A citizen of the modern world, constantly inundated with messages, learns to develop skepticism about the sources of those messages. Who’s behind these messages? Should I trust them? What do they have to gain if I believe them? A commercial claiming that a new shampoo makes your hair bouncier has less credibility than hearing your best friend rave about how a new shampoo made her own hair bouncier. Well, duh. The company wants to sell you shampoo. Your friend doesn’t, so she gets more trust points. The takeaway is that it can be the honesty and trustworthiness of our sources, not their status, that allows them to act as authorities. Sometimes antiauthorities are even better than authorities.” (Made to Stick, pp. 136-37)

Church members can bring credibility to the Church by raising this “antiauthority” (or “non-authoritative”) voice.

Amulek was a non-authority for the prophet Alma. Because Amulek was well known in his community, when he added his testimony to the words of the prophet, the people believed: “I am also a man of no small reputation among all those who know me; yea, and behold, I have many kindreds and friends, and I have also acquired much riches by the hand of my industryI know that the things whereof [Alma] hath testified are true… And now, when Amulek had spoken these words the people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness who testified…” (Alma 10:4,10,12)

The following is a great article from Elder Dean L. Larsen from the book, Heroes from the Book of Mormon. 

Zeezrom does not rank among the great prophet leaders in the Book of Mormon, but his story is one of the fascinating sidebars to the lives of the principal characters in the Nephite record. He appears on the historical scene during a time of great challenge to the Church and to the stability of the government among the Nephite people.

During the closing years of King Mosiah’s life, a significant alteration occurs in the government. Frustrated in his attempts to install one of his sons as his successor, Mosiah implements a system of judges to govern the people. These judges are elected by popular vote. A chief judge is appointed as the presiding figure in this new system. Alma the Younger is chosen to fill this role, in addition to his responsibilities as the head of the Church.

Alma is soon faced with troubles in the Church, as the people begin “to wax proud” (Alma 4:6). As a result of this pride, the unity of the Nephite people begins to dissolve. In this crisis Alma is faced with a critical decision. He resigns as the chief judge of the land and determines to focus his full energies upon bringing about a spiritual renewal among the people.

Launching into his committed course with full energy and faith, Alma visits the cities and villages of the land, counseling the people and calling them to repentance. In due time his mission takes him to the city of Ammonihah, where he finds the people in almost total rebellion.

After experiencing ridicule and total rejection, Alma is finallycast out of the city. The Lord, however, directs Alma to return to Ammonihah and guides him to Amulek, a prominent citizen, who accepts Alma as a prophet. Together, the two go among the people, preaching repentance and warning of the direful consequences that will come to the inhabitants if they persist in their willful disobedience.

It is in this scenario that Zeezrom appears. While the description of conditions in Ammonihah is not given in great detail, it is not difficult to fill in the pieces of the political, moral, and social mosaic from the recorded account. Corruption and dishonesty in official circles have become endemic. Grasping for material riches, the people have clamored to gain advantage one over another. Judges have become corrupt, susceptible to bribes and yielding advantage to those who can show favors.

This litigious environment has spawned the need for many of those who can plead cases successfully before the courts. Numerous lawyers have emerged, skilled not only in the law but also in exploiting the devious legal system for the potential benefit of themselves and their clients.

It is a group of these lawyers that confront Alma and Amulek. Undoubtedly they hold some hope of profiting from feeding the controversy that has developed from the preaching of the two men. Additionally, lawyers, nimble of speech, are thought to have the best prospect of confounding the Lord’s servants.

It is significant that Zeezrom presents himself as the chief spokesman for these legalists. “Now he was the foremost to accuse Amulek and Alma, he being one of the most expert among them, having much business to do among the people” (Alma 10:31).

We learn much about Zeezrom from this capsule profile. Not only is he acknowledged by his peers as one of the leaders in his craft, he is well known among the people generally, and apparently is one of the foremost to whom they look for legal assistance. This would indicate that he also has a comfortable relationship with the judges in the city.

The account of the dialogue between Zeezrom and Alma and Amulek in the eleventh chapter of the book of Alma provides additional insight into Zeezrom’s worldly self-assurance. He has an audience to play to, and he intends, with his practiced sophistry and cunning, to make a game of his denegration of the two missionaries. After all, the audience is completely prejudiced in his favor, and he relishes the opportunity to add to his reputation among his peers. His questions to Alma and Amulek reflect his courtroom skills. They are designed for entrapment.

Zeezrom, however, is completely unaccustomed to dealing with those who have the spirit of inspiration and revelation working in their favor. His motives are transparent to Alma and Amulek.

Zeezrom’s offer to pay the missionaries six onties of silver if they will deny that there is a Supreme Being exposes his conviction that everyone is as corruptible as himself. It is a revealing demonstration of the debauched condition into which the people have fallen. Zeezrom obviously expects no disapproval from his fellow lawyers or the people for his proffered bribe. It is a practice to which they are accustomed.

It is when Zeezrom’s scheming is powerfully rebuffed by Amulek, and Amulek begins to testify of basic gospel truths, that Zeezrom senses something different about these two men. His arrogant self-confidence begins to falter. “Now, when Amulek had finished these words the people began again to be astonished, and also Zeezrom began to tremble” (Alma 11:46).

Alma, sensing that the power of the Spirit has begun to work upon the heart of Zeezrom and upon some of his listeners, takes up the attack that Amulek has begun:

Now the words that Alma spake unto Zeezrom were heard by the people round about; for the multitude was great, and he spake on this wise:

Now Zeezrom, seeing that thou hast been taken in thy lying and craftiness, for thou hast not lied unto men only but thou hast lied unto God; for behold, he knows all thy thoughts, and thou seest that thy thoughts are made known unto us by his Spirit;

And thou seest that we know that thy plan was a very subtle plan, as to the subtlety of the devil, for to lie and to deceive this people that thou mightest set them against us, to revile us and to cast us out-

Now this was a plan of thine adversary, and he hath exercised his power in thee. (Alma 12:2-5.)

The effect of Alma’s rebuke upon Zeezrom is dramatic:

Now when Alma had spoken these words, Zeezrom began to tremble more exceedingly, for he was convinced more and more of the power of God; and he was also convinced that Alma and Amulek had a knowledge of him, for he was convinced that they knew the thoughts and intents of his heart (Alma 12:7).

It is at this point that a remarkable change begins to take place in the demeanor of Zeezrom. He becomes the earnest inquirer-the learner. The change is the more remarkable because it occurs in the presence and full view of the people to whom he has been appealing with his inquisition. “And Zeezrom began to inquire of them diligently, that he might know more concerning the kingdom of God” (Alma 12:8).

We must pause at this point in our consideration of Zeezrom’s situation to ask ourselves the question, why was this arrogant, sophisticated demagogue so susceptible to the influence of the Spirit? Other rebels in the Book of Mormon record were similarly confronted by spiritual leaders but persisted in their debauchery. Nehor, although rebuked by Alma, had no change of heart (see Alma 1), nor did Amlici (see Alma 2) or Sherem (see Jacob 7). Korihor stubbornly refused to repent (see Alma 30). What was there in the soul of Zeezrom that pressed him toward such a remarkable change?

The answers to some of these questions must be left to speculation.

It is interesting, however, to contemplate the abrupt changes that occurred in the lives of others who had initially been enemies to the Lord’s work and his people, and who reversed their life’s course to become champions of the gospel plan. Alma himself, along with the sons of King Mosiah, underwent such a redirection. Ammon, Mosiah’s son, when reflecting upon the remarkable missionary successes that he, Aaron, Omner, Himni, and their brethren had enjoyed among the Lamanite people over a fourteen-year period of unusual hardship and sacrifice, recalls the days of their rebellion: “Behold, we went forth even in wrath, with mighty threatenings to destroy his [the Lord’s] church” (Alma 26:18). He then wonders, “Oh then, why did he not consign us to an awful destruction, yea, why did he not let the sword of his justice fall upon us, and doom us to eternal despair?” (Alma 26:19.)

Why, indeed?

Anti-Nephi-Lehi, the converted Lamanite king, acknowledges his dark past when he persuades his people to willingly lay down their lives rather than resist the threatened onslaught by their unconverted brethren: “And behold, I also thank my God, that we have been convinced of our sins, and of the many murders which we have committed” (Alma 24:9).

It appears that the “light that shineth in a dark place” to which Peter referred (2 Pet. 1:19) is difficult to extinguish completely in the souls of men. For those who have basked in that light and then have willfully turned against it, the regeneration process appears to be more difficult and unlikely. Such seems to have been the case with Sherem, who confessed before he died, “I fear lest I have committed the unpardonable sin, for I have lied unto God; for I denied the Christ, and said that I believed the scriptures; and they truly testify of him” (Jacob 7:19).

An important lesson seems to emerge from the experiences of Zeezrom and the other repentant transgressors who have been mentioned. It is never safe for us to judge a person to be beyond the reach of the Lord’s merciful hand. Even those whose lives have been tainted by corruption and apparent rebellion against the things of God can, through sincere repentance, become forces for great good in the accomplishment of the Lord’s purposes.

We do know that Zeezrom’s life was dramatically redirected. It appears that in spite of his having yielded to the influence of the environment in which he had gained notoriety, a spark of spiritual light must have endured in his soul. While some of those who listen to the exchange between Zeezrom and the missionaries react in a positive way, the majority are angry and are determined to destroy Alma and Amulek. A mob spirit inflames them. They bind the two men with strong cords and take them before the chief judge, where the men are accused of reviling against the law and against the people of the land.

In the midst of this turmoil, Zeezrom attempts to come to the defense of Alma and Amulek:

And it came to pass that Zeezrom was astonished at the words which had been spoken; and he also knew concerning the blindness of the minds, which he had caused among the people by his lying words; and his soul began to be harrowed up under aconsciousness of his own guilt; yea, he began to be encircled about by the pains of hell.

And it came to pass that he began to cry unto the people, saying: Behold, I am guilty, and these men are spotless before God. And he began to plead for them from that time forth; but they reviled him, saying: Art thou also possessed with the devil? And they spit upon him, and cast him out from among them. (Alma 14:6-7.)

It is apparent that in attempting to stop the destruction of Alma and Amulek, Zeezrom risks his own life. The fury of the mob turns in some measure upon him. They cast him out from among them, casting out as well all those who believe in the words of Alma and Amulek. They then gather together the wives and children of the believers and cause them to be burned, along with their sacred records. It is not difficult to imagine the agony that fills Zeezrom’s soul as he witnesses the holocaust that his taunting has precipitated.

Along with the other believers who have been cast out of Ammonihah, Zeezrom finds refuge among the people of Sidom. He is found there by Alma and Amulek, who barely escaped from the city with their lives after the Lord miraculously delivered them from the hands of their tormentors. Undoubtedly the two missionaries had witnessed the futile attempt of their former antagonist to quell the wrath of the mob. They find him in dire circumstances:

Zeezrom lay sick at Sidom, with a burning fever, which was caused by the great tribulations of his mind on account of his wickedness, for he supposed that Alma and Amulek were no more; and he supposed that they had been slain because of his iniquity. And this great sin, and his many other sins, did harrow up his mind until it did become exceedingly sore, having no deliverance; therefore he began to be scorched with a burning heat. (Alma 15:3.)

When Zeezrom learns that Alma and Amulek have made their escape and are in Sidom, he pleads for them to come to him. The two companions respond immediately. With a profoundly repentant spirit, Zeezrom begs Alma and Amulek to heal him. This request in itself is reflective of the faith that has begun to take root in Zeezrom’s heart.

And it came to pass that Alma said unto him, taking him by the hand: Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation?

And he answered and said: Yea, I believe all the words that thou hast taught.

And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord our God, have mercy on this man, and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ. (Alma 15:6-7, 10.)

Alma’s administration is instantly effective. Zeezrom leaps to his feet, healed not only physically but spiritually as well. The report of this incident is spread throughout Sidom.

One cannot reflect upon this episode without recalling the conversion of Saul of Tarsus in New Testament times. Saul, who had been a tormentor of the Christians and had condoned Stephen’s martyrdom (see Acts 8:1), requires a similarly dramatic conversion experience. His sightlessness is healed under the hands of Ananias. He is brought to a recognition and acknowledgement of his folly in attempting to thwart the Lord’s work. In a flood of repentant anguish he makes a dramatic reversal in the course of his life. His fervor and energy are redirected to promulgate and sustain the work he has previously sought to destroy.

So it is with Zeezrom. He is baptized by Alma, and, just as was the case with Paul, he immediately begins to preach among the people, later becoming a trusted companion of Alma and Amulek. It is perhaps not adding too much to reality to suppose that Zeezrom’s healing, his conversion, and his testifying of Christ contribute much to the missionary success enjoyed by these three servants of the Lord. The record tells us that the people “did flock in from all the region round about Sidom, and were baptized” (Alma 15:14).

That Zeezrom proves himself in the eyes of his mentor, Alma, is confirmed by the fact that he regularly appears in the accounts of Alma’s ministry as one of his most trusted and reliable companions and fellow servants. Years after the events in Ammonihah and Sidom, when Alma undertakes one of the most difficult challenges of his life’s ministry-the conversion of the Zoramites-Zeezrom is chosen along with Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Amulek, and two of Alma’s sons to be a part of this seasoned missionary force (see Alma 31:6).

That some of Zeezrom’s testimony and teachings find their way into the permanent Nephite record is confirmed in the book of Helaman. Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, are engaged in a missionary effort among the Lamanites. They are captured and imprisoned by those they have sought to convert. In a miraculous manifestation of the Lord’s power, Nephi and Lehi are encircled by a fire that preserves rather than consumes them. The Lamanites are frozen in wonderment at this spectacle. They become overshadowed by a cloud of darkness, and a voice commands them to repent. They then see Nephi and Lehi conversing with angels. Aminadab, a Nephite dissenter who had once been a believer, seizes this moment to confirm that these miracles are occurring through the Lord’s power. He cries to those who are witnessing this event, “You must repent, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom” (Hel. 5:41).

Perhaps the most convincing evidence we have of the love and esteem that Zeezrom comes to enjoy among his fellow Christians is that one of the principal Nephite cities is given his name (see Alma 56:14).

Much can be learned from the story of Zeezrom: the tragedy of corruption among a people who reject Christ and sacrifice moral principle to pride and self-interest; the anguish and torment that sin produces in an individual life.

Perhaps the most significant lesson to be learned from Zeezrom’s experience is that the redeeming power of Christ’s love can bring about the miracle of spiritual regeneration in the vilest of sinners when they fully turn to the Savior and give themselves to the accomplishment of His purposes. In Zeezrom’s story, all of us who are imperfect find hope for forgiveness, and hope in reaffirmation of the Savior’s infinite love for those who reject evil and give their hearts to Him. (Heroes from the Book of Mormon, p.112-120.)

ON THIS DAY IN 1829: Harmony, Pennsylvania. Joseph Smith translated the account of the appearance of the resurrected Savior in 3 Nephi 11 in the Book of Mormon.

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