Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"To Him Is Given the Greater Portion of the Word"

The Book of Mormon tells the story of an ancient prophet named Alma who spent much of his time traveling from city to city preaching the gospel and setting the Church in order--much like Paul of the New Testament.

In the particularly trying city of Ammonihah, the people “reviled [Alma], and spit upon him, and caused that he should be cast out of their city” (Alma 8:13). As Alma leaves, an Angel appears and tells him to return to the city. Back in the city, Alma meets a man by the name of Amulek, teaches Amulek and his family, and all are converted to the gospel.

Alma and Amulek then go to try to preach the gospel to the people of Ammonihah. As they contend with some of the city’s top lawyers, the foremost of these lawyers has a change of heart and starts asking sincere questions about the purpose of life. Before answering these questions, Alma first outlines how we learn the things of God and gain spiritual knowledge. Alma teaches:

It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God . . . according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.

And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. (Alma 12:9-11.)

These verses stuck out to me recently as I was reading the accounts of Alma and his missionary work. Alma states that if we give heed to the commandments of God--if we live what we learn, wherever we are on our own pathway--we will receive more. As we go to church, study our scriptures, fulfill our callings and do our home and visiting teaching, live up to the covenants we made at baptism despite the increasing opposition we experience from outside influences, we receive more light and knowledge--it’s an upward spiral: We live according to our understanding, we receive more. We live according to that increased understanding, we receive more, etc. This is the only way we can learn and progress--through accepting and living the Savior’s teachings.

In contrast, if we fail to live according to the light and knowledge we have been given, we lose what we had. As we skip sacrament meeting, as we prioritize other things above studying the scriptures and serving our home teaching families, as we fail to live any of the commandments big or small, our understanding grows smaller and our light grows dimmer “until [we] know nothing concerning [God’s] mysteries, and [we] are taken captive by the devil.”

At least for me, I often don’t think of missing scripture study because I’m too tired as a pathway leading me to captivity by the devil. That’s a pretty big jump in my narrow mind. However, missing scripture study because I’m tired or halfheartedly praying before I go out the door because I’m in a hurry does not move me closer to God and increase my spiritual understanding. And if I’m not moving toward God, then I’m moving away and toward the adversary. There is no middle ground.

We have all sorts of reasons not to live the commandments. If we skip church one week, we probably fully intend on going the following week. If we get too tired to study the scriptures, we tell ourselves that we’ll just do it tomorrow, no problem. If we squirm in our seats as we hear repeated encouragement to go home teaching, we know that we’ll go next month when we’re not so busy.

But these actions--and others such as not living the word of wisdom, breaking the law of chastity, questioning the prophet’s judgement, etc.--put us on a slippery slope downward. And as our light diminishes, our knowledge and understanding we once had will begin to slip away and we will find that regaining that knowledge and understanding is increasingly difficult.

The only way to ensure that we are always progressing and increasing in light and knowledge is to actively live the Lord’s teachings--no excuses, no justifications. As we do so, we will be blessed and see the fruits of our actions, namely increased light, knowledge, and joy.