An Age of Wisdom, an Age of Foolishness

In the 6th year of the reign of the judges, there were no contentions or wars in the land of Zarahemla. Just looking back over the years of the judges, it seems like they are having about equal good and hard. The first year was bad, second year rough, third and fourth peaceful, fifth was war filled and it looks like year six is turning out well. Three good and three bad.

Peaceful Afflictions

Despite there not being any contentions or wars in the land, the people are afflicted. For many reasons. They’ve lost their brethren, flocks, herds and fields of grain. In short, they are afflicted because they are now beginning to recover from a civil war. The people, meaning every soul (see verse 3), have cause to mourn. They believe the judgments of God had come upon them.

How can they think this? They won the war! Not to mention they have Alma as their leader and high priest. Ok, ok I know why. They were thinking that had they been more righteous in the beginning, it could have saved all those 10,000 plus lives from being killed. Although they pulled through and shaped up at the end, the things they did at the beginning caused them much loss. That’s why they were sad. Another thought that came to me just now is just because you have a righteous leader, doesn’t automatically mean you have a righteous people. The example that popped into my head was Zion’s camp. The prophet Joseph Smith himself was leading them. Yet, they still murmured and complained. Although they came through, the murmurings and mumblings coupled with the disbelief cost them.

This reminds me of a quote in the Book of Mormon institute manual. I have already copied it in my journal but this seems to be a fitting place to add it in. I looked in the new, updated institute manual. This quote is actually not in there. Good thing I have the old one. Here it is:

“Now we are assured that the church will remain on Earth until the Lord comes again—but at what price? The saints in the early days were assured that Zion would be established in Jackson county, but look at what their unfaithfulness cost them in bloodshed and delay.

President J. Reuben Clark Jr. warned us that, ‘We stand in danger of losing our liberties, and that once lost, only blood will bring them back; and once lost, we of this church will, in order to keep the church going forward, will have more sacrifices to make and more persecutions to endure than we have yet known.’ [Conference April 1944]

In later years he said that, If the conspiracy comes here, it will probably come in its full vigor and there will be a lot of vacant places among those who guide and direct, not only this government, but also this church of ours.” [Conference 1952]

Are You Awake? 

Because of all this grief that had come upon them, the people became awakened to a remembrance of their duty and established the church more fully and many people were baptized. The word, “awakened” reminds me of a talk given in April 2014 general conference entitled, “Are you sleeping through the Restoration?” I think a lot of time we “fall asleep” in our duty, just as the Nephites did. They get into a rut of doing things until someone or something comes along and SHAKES THEM UP! I’ve had it happen to me. I know it’s been done at general conference. What is the result of being “awake”? Verse four lets us know. The church is more fully established and people are baptized. When you are “awake,” you fulfill your duty. When you aren’t “awake,” you don’t. I guess the introspective question naturally comes, “Am I awake? Am I building the kingdom of God by doing my full duty?” If I’m not, what more can I do? What more can I give? What more can I consecrate?

This ends the sixth year of the reign of the judges. To sum it all up, this is what happened: The Nephites have peace after the war. They recover and turn to God, resulting in many baptisms and the church being established more fully.

Many are Added to the Church

Only one thing is mentioned about the seventh year of the reign of the judges. Thirty-five hundred souls were added to the church and were baptized! That’s a lot! I know back in the day in this mission (the Singapore mission) they were baptizing over 1000 people. I thought that was a lot! Can you imagine baptizing 3500 souls in one year?! To do the math, let’s see, we have the Kota Kinabalu zone, Miri, Bintulu, Sibu, Kuching, Singapore South, Singapore North, Johor Bahru-Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, and Ipoh. That’s 10 zones. That means each zone would be baptizing 350 people in one year! That’s nearly as many people as we baptized last year as a mission alone!

This begins the 8th year of the reign of the judges. In this year, the members of the church start to become prideful because of

  • Exceeding riches
  • Fine silks
  • Many flocks
  • Many herds
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • All manner of precious things
  • Wearing of costly apparel

Brigham Young once said that he could make the Latter-Day Saints the richest people but it would be no use because they’d become prideful. That’s not a direct quote and I can’t find the exact quote. The point is though, God can and will prosper us if we obey His commandments. The only thing that gets in our way usually, well all the time, is our pride. There would be no end to our prosperity if we didn’t become prideful. But as soon as pride gets the best of us, we begin to sin and the prosperity goes down. The pride cycle. I feel like talking about it is cliché.  I feel like it’s been talked bout so many times, not just in Sunday School but in seminary as well. But as I think about it more, the more useful it becomes. It is a map of how to change your circumstances. It will show you what you are doing wrong and how to fix it!

The Impact on Alma

The wickedness of the people became a source of much affliction for Alma and many that he consecrated teachers, priests and elders over the people of the church. Put yourself in Alma’s shoes, or sandals for a second. Alma’s has been through a lot. He rebelled as a child, shaped up, the people loved him and chose him to be the first judge in addition to his high priest over the church duties. He took care of Nehor, labored hard to help the saints be faithful, and led an army against the Lamanites and Amlicites to defend his people. He has done a lot. Even after all these recent happenings, they are still beginning to rebel and become lifted up in the pride of their hearts. You bet it would hard on him. I have some thoughts on this as well. It’s something I have put a lot of thought into. I’ve been to meetings where we were instructed, edified, knew what to and then afterward, did nothing about it. The thought comes to me, “How can you do nothing different after what you just experienced?” That penetrating question has bothered me a lot and I try to change my behavior based on what I learn. It’s so hard. I don’t believe any of us intend to not change at all. I think a majority of us aren’t attempting to rebel against what we’ve learned. It’s just that we forget so fast. Even forgetting by the time we have left the room. I think that is why so often in the church the same principles are taught, over and over again. It’s like that helicopter game on the computer. When you click and hold the mouse button, the helicopter goes up, when you let go, the helicopter drops. When we aren’t taught the gospel, our spirituality drops. We need leaders, teachers, and ourselves to click the spiritual mouse button of teaching and learning so our testimony and actions go up. I think God knows for sure we aren’t going to get things on the first try, maybe not even, the second, third or fourth try. But he is eternally patient with us and will continue working with us as long as it takes. I think in the short run he is sad with us when we become prideful or do other stupid things but I think his love and patience allows him to keep working with us.

As a result of the pride of the people, they began to be scornful one towards another and persecute those who did not believe according to their same will and pleasure. I think this was especially sad for Alma. Maybe this time reminded him of a time when he was younger and rebelling against the church. Persecuting the people that didn’t believe as he did ( I don’t know if he did that. It does say that he spoke flattering words to people, though.) Alma already has a testimony of what happens to people who act in this way. I think he may also be thinking back just a few years previous to when Nehor visited the land and was promoting a similar thought.

Pride of the People was a Great Stumbling Block

As a result of these prideful doings, there was a great contention among the people of the church, envyings, strife, malice, persecutions and pride. Even to the point that the pride of the members exceeded that of the non-members. That’s sad because the members of the church are supposed to be an example to the people around them.

This ends the eighth year and as a closing remark, it is recorded that the wickedness of the church members was a great stumbling block for the non-members and thus the church began to fail in its progress. The Collins English Dictionary and Thesaurus defines a stumbling block  as an obstacle or difficulty. Why do you think their wickedness would be a problem for non-members? I think it’s because being a member of the church  was a big part of Nephite identity. That’s the reason they were called Nephites in the first place, they wanted to follow God. When you have the member doing bad things and being prideful, the nonmembers see that and think that being a part of the church isn’t a god thing. I think stumbling block in the sense that potential members were turned away because of the examples they saw around them. That’s why it is important to be on your best behavior. That way, your example does not become a stumbling block for the people. That way, when missionaries or someone else talks to them about the church they can say, “Yeah, I had a friend who was a member of your church. He was upright, honest and a good guy. Of course, I would like to know more.”

The Church Begins to Fail in its Progress

Why did the church begin to fail in its progress? Let’s examine this for a moment. We’ll start with new members. Were there any new members being baptized? Can’t say for sure but based on the conduct of the members, I would say not many, if at all. So no one or very few are adding to the numbers. What about the current status of numbers? It says that they began to be prideful. Moreso than non-members. We know that wickedness never was happiness. If you are being wicked, you aren’t following the commandments. This is the church of Jesus Christ, a church of righteousness. It cannot go forward except it be in righteousness. It cannot go forward except it be in righteousness. Because no new members or few were joining, the church wasn’t growing and because of wickedness, people probably apostatized. They may have started to lose people faster than gaining them. I can’t prove that it’s just a thought.

This continues on into the ninth year of the judges. Alma notes that the wickedness of the members was leading the non-members from one sin to another. Thus, as Alma writes, bringing on the destruction of the people. Here we have a microcosm of the Nephite and Lamanites. but instead, it’s members and non-members. The non-members can be likened unto the Lamanites. They aren’t members just because of ignorance or whatever reason. They don’t have the same knowledge as the members, so they aren’t held AS accountable. The wicked members can be likened to the apostate Nephites. The apostate Nephites come down and stir up the Lamanites to anger and to go to battle against the Nephites. Thus, attempting to bring about the destruction of the righteous Nephites. The non-members weren’t doing bad till the members that were wicked led them in the crusade of sinfulness. I actually don’t know if that’s true so don’t quote me on it.

Others Suffer for our Sins 

Cross reference 2 Samuel 12:14. This is Nathan the prophet telling David that because of what he did (kill Uriah and take Bathsheba to wife) others are going to suffer for his sin. In this case, the baby of Bathsheba. Relating that back to what is going on here, the wicked Nephite members are causing others, who may not have otherwise sinned, to sin by leading them to do wicked things. You can also tie this into the story of Corianton, son of Alma. When he joined his father on a mission, instead of attending to his duties as a missionary, he ran off with a Zoramite harlot. As a result of that, many people did not listen to his father, Alma on account of his son’s wickedness. In conclusion, when you are a bad example to those around you, it does more harm than good, not only to you personally but to the church as well.

How was the destruction of the people coming about? Well, it’s one thing to have wicked non-members. That will bring about destruction if there is no repentance. But when the members themselves begin to be wicked and then lead non-members to be wicked, that will really bring about the destruction fast. That is, if something doesn’t change.

There Were Still Faithful Members

Despite all this, there will still members that remained faithful. It lists a bunch of qualities that they did. Before that though, in verse 12, it lists what the wicked people did, more specific than pride. They turned their back on those that were needy, naked, hungry, thirsty, sick and afflicted. Ever since the general conference on taking care of the poor, I feel like it has popped up more and made more of an impact on me when it does come up. Taking care of the poor is something the Lord considers very important. If you want to improve society  as a whole, you have to do this. Consider the law of consecration, a system which if followed correctly, makes all the poor people become independent and prosperous.

The qualities of those that maintained their faithfulness experienced the following:

  • Succoring those that stood in need of succor
  • Imparting of their substance to the poor and needy
  • Feeding the hungry
  • Suffering all manner of affliction for Christ’s sake

In short, I would say that these members remained faithful because they obeyed their baptismal covenant. To mourn with those that mourned, to help comfort those that stood in need of comfort. This even ties back to fasting and fast offerings. It seems to me that a major part of this religion, a message that has been emphasized time and time again, is to love those around you. To take care of and help out your neighbors, others, teaching others about the gospel, and service in general. It has a powerful effect on you. Not only do you aid those in need, but it has a cleansing effect on you as well. In the process of saving others, you save yourself. Because instead of turning inward, you are turning outward and reaching out to others. It’s tangible evidence that you want to follow God and repent of your sins.

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