Maintaining Faith Amidst Trials

A Quick Review 
This all take place in the second year of the reign of the judges. Whoa, hang on, we didn’t review what happened in the first year of the reign of the judges! I know we are know we are right in the middle of a good story but please bear with me as I do this review for my own sake.

The first year of the reign of the judges was Nehor. That whole event. From this year you can see that as soon as the Nephites set up a righteous form of government, Satan tried to tear it down with Nehor. Although he didn’t, he converted a lot of people to his way of thinking and thereby caused trouble for the Nephites for many years.

The second year was with all the troubles with the remnant  of the Nehorites and non-members teasing and persecuting church members. Alma says that this time period was very difficult for the church and its members. Peoples’ names were blotted out (see footnote. It means excommunication) and also many withdrew themselves from among them (see footnote again, apostasy of individuals, become less active/ inactive).

The end of this chapter takes place all in the second year of the reign of the judges so everything I write about hereafter till the end of the chapter 1 is the second year of the judges.

We Always Have a Choice

Verse 25 says that despite everything that was going on, all the persecution, people becoming less active, inactive, and excommunicated, there were still people that remained faithful. The footnote for 25a says they were committed to living the gospel and keeping the commandments of God. It says they were steadfast and immoveable. They bore with patience the persecution heaped upon them. This is something I’ve thought about a bit. How can people remain strong during time of intense opposition or trial? I think they realize that no matter how hard things get, no matter how bleak and dreary the horizon seems, no matter how many problems they have, they still have one choice. Will they follow God? Satan tries his absolute best to make us not realize that we have a choice. He tries to make it seem that because things are so unpleasant and the world so unsympathetic, that we have no choice but to give up, and commit sin. I’ve been in situations like this and that’s what I learned. No matter how hard things get, no matter how much pressure you receive to act in the incorrect manner, you always have a choice. You can always choose to act in accordance with God’s will. Perhaps an example to illustrate. On my mission, during a preparation day, a missionary was tempted to break one of the rules. The zone leaders told him not. I also told him not to. He continued to be at war with himself. I told him he always had a choice. That no matter how much he felt the pressure to do, he could still walk away and say no. After many long minutes, he rationalized it. No matter how hard I tried to convince him not to. And I tried. He didn’t didn’t listen. You always have a choice.

The Persecuted are Prosperous

Going back to the Nephites, despite all the persecution that was heaped upon them, they still chose to follow the correct path. Unfortunately it was hard, but another thing I learned on my mission is that the Lord expects us to give up everything if he sees fit to heap persecution upon us. Does he expect us to bear it with patience? Yes. Why? Because its good for us. Everything that happen life is calculated to make us perfect. That’s why everyone’s lives are so different. Every life is tailored to the individual’s perfecting. When we submit and give everything to the Lord, that perfecting process can happen a lot quicker. When we pout and act in rebellion or follow our own path, we don’t learn as much or as quickly as we could had we listened to God and submitted to his will.

As a result, those that are steadfast and immoveable, become wealthy. Not only wealthy, but they imparted of their substance to the poor. The footnote for 27a brings up consecration. Those saints consecrated themselves. They gave everything. In the process of giving, they received more. I usually have heard consecration in connection with being a missionary. I had forgotten about the law of consecration. Where you give everything—property, time, money—to the moving forward of the kingdom of God. It still applies as a missionary but I want to talk about it in a non-missionary setting.

Fast Offerings

God asks us to give everything….I don’t remember where I was going with that but how about this? Why does God ask us to impart of our substance to the poor? I had this question answered as I was just reading verses 27-31. Here is the answer I got. Because in doing so, no only is the receiver blessed, but also, and perhaps more importantly, the giver. When you help someone out financially, something changes in you. I’m not sure what, and oftentimes I believe you don’t notice it, but something changes for the better inside. I think it’s easier to love people. I think the more you are willing to help people who need it, the more God blesses you with the means to help people. So really, tithing and fast offerings are blessings of the same types. I think people often exclusively look at tithing as the thing that brings the financial security. I have no doubt it does but I believe that fast offerings add an extra level of support.

I just had a thought. The blessings of fast offerings are easy to understand when you realize that we are all beggars before God. That every day we need “fast offering money” to get through the day. And He gives it to us when we give of our substance to help others, even though may not realize or feel it, we are becoming saviors to people who otherwise would not be able to make it through the day. My other thought it that when we help the poor, through the use of fast offerings, we increase the prosperity of society as a whole. You have people who can go from being dependent to independent because in the church, fast offering money is not a free handout. You often have to do something to help others or to help yourself before you can get the money. The more independent people you have in society, the more prosperous we become as a town, city, state, nation.

You know, for the past few months I have been wanting to gain testimony of fast offerings (the time of this writing was end of 2014). I always thought it would come through paying it. But come fast Sunday I have always forgotten. But I think it’s safe to say that I have been taught about fast offerings today from the Lord, and based off what I have read in the scriptures, I know it works. I have gained a testimony today. I know that the testimony will deepen as I start to pay it. And although I may not see the results of what I paid and how it helps people, I know it will. I guess that’s enough. I don’t need to know how it’s specifically helping people if I know it is.

I guess that’s how it’s been with my mission. Maybe the Lord wants me to learn that I am still helping people even though I don’t see the results. That’s hard a lot of times. Especially when you grow up wanting and thinking about baptisms. Baptisms have always been evidence that you have done your job. But not the only evidence.

More Prosperous Than the Wicked

Verse 31 says that people who helped out the poor and who were members of the church, prospered far more than the people who did not belong to their church. When the world around us is validating shortcuts to get money quickly and to work with shady people, this verse alone tells us that no matter how rich you get through unrighteousness, you’ll never be as rich as if you had been righteous. This verse not only applies to material wealth but also spiritual. There is peace of mind knowing you put in an honest day’s work. You did your part to support your family, now you have the right to ask Heavenly Father to sustain you. The Lord helps those who help themselves.

I think the Lord will allow us, if we are willing and righteous about it, to reach the level of prosperity we desire. But I don’t think that level of prosperity always comes as fast as you want it. But I think the prosperity we do obtain will be solid. It won’t be pseudo. When the whirlwinds of economic troubles blow, the Lord will ensure you are able to withstand them.

The Extent of the Wickedness

Verse 32 lists everything that the people who weren’t members of the church did. I’ll list them:

  1. Sorcery
  2. Idolatry
  3. Babblings (gossip)
  4. Envyings
  5. Strife
  6. Wearing costly apparel
  7. Lifted up in pride
  8. Persecuting
  9. Lying
  10. Thieving
  11. Robbing
  12. Committing whores
  13. Murdering

How would you like to have that list as charges against you in a court of law? No thank you! The Book of Mormon exposes the tactics of Satan. You wan to know how civilizations and people fall? Here is a pretty good list to start from. Any of these things, if done, undermine society. How? Because they weaken the character of people. If you weaken the character of someone, you weaken their capacity to influence people for good. Meaning that person can’t achieve as much as is needed for them to achieve, or they begin regressing completely. That lowers the level of society as a whole.

The end of verse 32 says that as much as was possible, the law was brought down upon the people. By doing so it says of the people, “They became more still, and durst not commit any wickedness if it were known.”  What this is saying to me is that by justice being administered, a majority of the wickedness was taken care of. But the stuff that stayed, went underground. If this was to continue, these sins I mean, they had to be done in a way that no one knew about. In short, secret combinations. But I think because these combinations were so new, they were not terribly active for fear of being caught. But they still did things. That’s why it says there was much peace but not complete peace in the land until the 5th years of the reign of the judges.

Final Review

Verse 32 marks the end of what happens in the 2nd year of the reign of the judges. Verse 33 tells us what happens in the next three years. To wrap up this chapter, I’ll review once again what happened in the years of the reign of the judges according to what I’ve read.

1st: Nehor

2nd: Much persecution of the saints. Many leave the church, many remain steadfast and prosper. Those who are wicked have the law brought upon them as much as is possible.

3rd-5th: Much peace in the land, thought not complete peace. Not any record of what happens during this time in the Book of Mormon.

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2 thoughts on “Maintaining Faith Amidst Trials

  1. Great insights. I think in some ways fast offerings are a higher law than tithing. There’s no commandment to pay fast offerings (and also only a suggestion of what a fast offering consists of) and unlike tithing, you aren’t asked about it in a temple recommend interview.

    Similarly, I’ve been thinking a lot about the vow or commitment that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies made to bury their weapons of war. They were not asked to do so by God or even a prophet (at least not that we are aware of). They did it as a sign to themselves and also God as to what they were willing to place on the “alter”. In their case it was not only their identity as a people but also their very lives as they became unable to defend themselves. Because of this commitment and their devotion to teaching their children of this commitment, their sons were spared later on.

    I think fast offerings are similar and if we want to see real blessings pouring out of the windows of heaven, we might want to think about committing to doing things at a greater level than even God asks us to do. (One way is to pay a very generous fast offering.) Then we are beginning to really living at a consecrated level.

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    • Serena,

      I had never realized that about fast offerings before. That’s neat. Im gonna remember that.

      I also liked what you said about the Anti-Nephi-Lehis. I never thought of it in terms of a higher law. But it makes sense. While I was in Jerusalem we talked about personal commandments in my Old Testament class. We are given commandments by God generally but once we gain the revelation to know what God would have us do and commit to, that’s when real power and progression kick in. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t progression and power in doing the basics. God works with us in whatever way is best. But when we have that revelation in our lives, we move forward at an increased, as an instrument in the hands of the Lord. And by keeping those personal covenants, we can secure blessings for our children and future posterity. That’s what the people of Ammon did. Because they kept those commitments, their sons were kept safe during war time. Abraham is another example. He kept covenants and his entire posterity was promised blessings. Its by personal commandments that we learn what we need to sacrifice in order to become more consecrated.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Like

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