Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Power of the Word

                Alma, an ancient American prophet, had recently dealt with an Anti-Christ by the name of Korihor who was teaching false doctrines to the people, and Alma convinced him of his errors.  Shortly thereafter Alma departed on a missionary journey in company with some of his friends and two of his sons.  The missionaries went to observe the religious practices of the Zoramites and found that they had corrupted the doctrines of the gospel also.  The Zoramites believed that God was only a spirit; they did not believe in Jesus Christ; they worshipped God on only one day each week and never mentioned Him again until the next week; they considered themselves to be the only people acceptable to God; they dressed in costly apparel and cast the poor among them out of their churches.

                After watching the Zoramites on their day of worship, Alma was concerned about how to reach them with the truth.  The Nephites were anxious to reclaim the Zoramites in order to bring them to the truth as well as to keep them from joining with the enemy, the Lamanites.  As Alma had previously had good results from preaching the word of God to other people, he decided to do the same with the Zoramites.  He knew that the Zoramites had already had the truth and rejected it, but he decided to give them another chance to hear it.

                I have always been intrigued by the following statement in the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ:  “And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just – yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them – therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God” (Alma 31:5).

                I find this statement to be very interesting, and I assume it does not make sense to many people.  How can words be more powerful than swords?  What makes the preaching of the word of God so powerful?  In order to answer these questions, we must have an understanding about the word of God and how it is communicated to us.  With this understanding, we can know that the word of God is powerful because it is the truth.  We can know God’s word is truth because God would cease to be God if He spoke anything but the truth.  We can also come to the understanding that the word of God is carried into our hearts by the power of the Holy Ghost because bearing witness of the truth is one of the missions of the Holy Spirit.

                I found more understanding by these words stated by Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in a discourse about the innocence of children and our need to teach them properly.  “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.  The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.  … That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel” (“Little Children,” Ensign, November 1986, 17).  

                This statement implies that people behave badly because they do not know any better.  We can teach our children, grandchildren, and others correct principles – the doctrines and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As they gain understanding of those teachings, they will slowly bring their behavior in line with the doctrines and principles.

                Just as we begin by teaching the basics of the gospel to our families, Alma started at the beginning to teach the poor among the Zoramites.  In Alma 32 Alma asks his listeners to experiment on his words.  “But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

                “Now, we will compare the word unto a seed.  Now, if ye give place, that  seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves – It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me “ (Alma 32:27-28).

                Alma continues to teach the people the importance of having faith in the word of God.  He taught them to plant the seed of faith in their heart, nurture it with care until it gains roots and grows into a tree.  Then they can enjoy the fruits of their faith.

                I once thought of the Zoramites as some people who went off the straight and narrow path a long time ago.  This time as I studied these chapters, I realized there are “Zoramites” among us.  There are people who attempt to corrupt the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and any of us can fall for their line of thinking if we are not vigilant.  I can now see that I must follow the same advice that Alma gave to the poor Zoramites.  I must be diligent in my scripture study and prayer in order to stay in tune with the Holy Ghost.

                Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles called Alma’s discourse in Alma 32 “brilliant.”  “In [the] brilliant discourse [of Alma 32], Alma moves the reader from a general commentary on faith in the seedlike word of God to a focused discourse on faith in Christ as the Word of God, grown to a fruit-bearing tree, a tree whose fruit is exactly that of Lehi’s earlier perception of Christ’s love.  … Christ is the bread of life, the living water, the true vine.  Christ is the seed, the tree, and the fruit of eternal life.
                “But the profound and central Tree of Life imagery in this discourse is lost, or at least greatly diminished, if the reader does not follow it on into the next two chapters of the Book of Mormon” (Christ and the New Covenant [1997], 169).

                Faith in Jesus Christ and in His words is the first principle of His gospel.  We can develop and strengthen this faith by studying the scriptures and being obedient to His commandments.  We can then be witnesses of the power of the word of God.  I know there is power in knowing the word of God, understanding the doctrines and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and bringing our behavior in line with our knowledge.  I know that the word of God can change lives for the better.

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