If This Be the Desire of Your Hearts – Mosiah 18:8-10

8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
11 And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts.
(Mosiah 18:8-11)

I’ve been thinking today about the importance of extending invitations as part of sharing the gospel. It’s one thing to share what we have experienced, and that is important. But it is another thing to invite other people to take actions which will enable them to experience spiritual growth in their own lives.

In the passage above, Alma invites a group of people he has been teaching to be baptized. I’ve learned a few things about effective invitations as I’ve pondered his words today:

  • He begins by acknowledging and reinforcing their noble desires. He knows that they want to come into the fold of God and bear one another’s burdens. They would like to organize themselves into a more formal relationship with one another, with responsibility for looking after each other. They would also like to declare themselves to be followers of God.
  • He confidently promises specific blessings which they will receive if they accept and act upon his invitation: they will be redeemed of God, be numbered with those of the first resurrection, have eternal life, and receive His Spirit “more abundantly.”
  • He invites them with a question: “What have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord…?”
  • His tone is confident and optimistic, and they respond in kind. Clapping their hands, they exclaim, “This is the desire of our hearts.”

 

Today, I will invite others, including my own children, to do things which will strengthen their faith and bring them closer to Christ. I will extend invitations with confidence and with enthusiasm, knowing that the people I interact with have righteous desires and will receive blessings from God as they respond favorably to invitations to do good.

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They Laughed Us to Scorn – Alma 26:23-26

23 Now do ye remember, my brethren, that we said unto our brethren in the land of Zarahemla, we go up to the land of Nephi, to preach unto our brethren, the Lamanites, and they laughed us to scorn?
24 For they said unto us: Do ye suppose that ye can bring the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth? Do ye suppose that ye can convince the Lamanites of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers, as stiffnecked a people as they are; whose hearts delight in the shedding of blood; whose days have been spent in the grossest iniquity; whose ways have been the ways of a transgressor from the beginning? Now my brethren, ye remember that this was their language.
25 And moreover they did say: Let us take up arms against them, that we destroy them and their iniquity out of the land, lest they overrun us and destroy us.
26 But behold, my beloved brethren, we came into the wilderness not with the intent to destroy our brethren, but with the intent that perhaps we might save some few of their souls.
(Alma 26:23-26)

Near the end of his missionary service among the Lamanites, Ammon spoke to his brothers and their associates about what they had learned from the experience.

First, he reminded them of the love Heavenly Father had shown for them when they were fighting against Him years before: “We went forth even in wrath, with mighty threatenings to destroy his church,” he said. “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 26:18-19)

After recognizing the error of their ways and repenting of their sins, they had developed a deep desire to preach the gospel to their enemies, the Lamanites. In the passage above, Ammon relates the reaction of their friends and neighbors when they shared this desire. “What good would that do?” they asked. “Don’t you know anything about the Lamanites? They’re beyond redemption. They are so evil that nothing you can do will change them.” Ammon even recalls being mocked by these other Nephites: “They laughed us to scorn.”

But the sons of Mosiah knew something that their friends didn’t know: people can change. They had seen this in their own lives, and they were confident that the Lamanites could also be reclaimed.

In our efforts to share the gospel, we must overcome our human tendency to judge other people.

Clayton and Christine Christensen discovered this many years ago, when the full-time missionaries invited them to list friends who might be interested in learning more about the gospel. “We dutifully made this list, placing those we thought most likely to be interested in the gospel at the top. They looked like ‘ideal Mormons’—people whose values, such as clean living and commitment to family, mirrored our own.” But none of those people were interested in learning more about the Church. Then, a new set of missionaries came into the ward and made the same request. Clayton and Christine had exhausted their list of ideal candidates, and they referred the missionaries to some other friends who seemed much less likely to accept the message. To their surprise, these friends invited the missionaries into their home and began to study the gospel. Clayton and Christine learned an important lesson from this experience:

We simply cannot know in advance who will and will not be interested in learning about the Church. We thought we could judge and therefore excluded from our list many people whose lifestyle, habits, or appearance made them seem unlikely candidates. As we reflect upon those who have joined the Church, however, it is clear that few of them would have been on our list of “likely members” when they first encountered the Church.
Many who accept the gospel are troubled or needy (see Alma 32:2–3). Living the gospel transforms them. The only way all people can have the opportunity to choose or reject the gospel of Jesus Christ is for us, without judgment, to invite them to follow the Savior (“Seven Lessons on Sharing the Gospel,” Ensign, February 2005).

As President Thomas S. Monson taught:

We need to bear in mind that people can change. They can put behind them bad habits. They can repent from transgressions. They can bear the priesthood worthily. And they can serve the Lord diligently….
We have the responsibility to look at our friends, our associates, our neighbors this way. Again, we have the responsibility to see individuals not as they are but rather as they can become. I would plead with you to think of them in this way (“See Others as They May Become,” General Conference, October 2012).

Today, I will remember that people can change. In my efforts to share the gospel with others, I will strive to see them as they can become. I will resist the temptation to predict who is likely to be receptive to the message. Instead, I will share and invite with optimism and without judgment.

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The King Stood Forth, and Began to Minister unto Them – Alma 22:22-23

22 Now when Aaron saw the determination of the queen, he, also knowing the hardness of the hearts of the people, feared lest that a multitude should assemble themselves together, and there should be a great contention and a disturbance among them; therefore he put forth his hand and raised the king from the earth, and said unto him: Stand. And he stood upon his feet, receiving his strength.
23 Now this was done in the presence of the queen and many of the servants. And when they saw it they greatly marveled, and began to fear. And the king stood forth, and began to minister unto them. And he did minister unto them, insomuch that his whole household were converted unto the Lord.
(Alma 22:22-23)

Lamoni’s father, who was “king over all the land” (Alma 20:8), responded favorably to the preaching of Aaron. After praying for his sins to be forgiven, “he was struck as if he were dead” (Alma 22:18), which alarmed his servants. They shared with the queen what had happened. When she commanded them to kill Aaron and his associates, they refused to obey. “Why commandest thou that we should slay these men,” they asked, “when behold one of them is mightier than us all?” (Alma 22:20) They didn’t understand what had happened to their king, but they didn’t dare attack the men who were the cause of it. Unhappy with this answer, the queen asked them to “go and call the people” (Alma 22:21). She thought that a larger group might be more courageous and willing to take action. Trying to calm the situation, Aaron reached out his hand, commanded the king to stand, and raised him up.

There is an important lesson in what happened next. The king “began to minister” to his wife and to the servants. “And he did minister unto them, insomuch that his whole household were converted unto the Lord.” I think it’s noteworthy that he was the one who ministered to them, not Aaron, and not Aaron’s associates. After all, according to the Bible Dictionary, to minister is “to do the work of the Lord on the earth—to represent the Lord among the people, preach the gospel, and administer the ordinances thereof.” A minister “represents the Lord…and is the Lord’s agent.” Lamoni’s father didn’t administer any ordinances at this time. Nor could he, without the appropriate priesthood authority. Yet here we find him, as a brand new convert, preaching the gospel to his family with such power that they are all converted to the gospel. And he does it with a group of experienced missionaries standing in the same room.

Here’s the lesson: no matter how skilled and experienced you may be, you can’t reach every potential listener. They won’t all trust you. If someone they already trust is willing to teach them, they might be more receptive to the message. Aaron and his associates had great power and were effective teachers, but the king’s family and servants didn’t trust them. Only the king could open their hearts so that they would be willing to hear and believe the gospel. And so it was the king who taught them, and it was through the king’s ministering that they were converted.

Later, when an angry mob gathered, the king spoke to them and “pacified” them, so that they were willing to hear the words of Aaron (Alma 22:24-26). At that point, Aaron had the opportunity to teach again.

Today, I will take responsibility for sharing the gospel with others, particularly my own friends and family. I will be grateful for full-time missionaries who are trained to share the gospel and who have been set apart for this important responsibility. But I will remember that my testimony may be more impactful to some people because of the relationship I have with them. Like Lamoni’s father, I will not hesitate to minister to them, knowing that my ministry may play an important role in their conversion.

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I Will Give Away All My Sins – Alma 22:18

18 O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day….
(Alma 22:18)

When Lamoni’s father heard the gospel preached by Aaron, he immediately recognized its value. His first instinct was to offer to pay the necessary price to receive the blessings Aaron had described: a changed heart, the Spirit of the Lord, and ultimately eternal life. At first, he tried to do it his way, offering earthly possessions in exchange for these heavenly gifts: “Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy” (Alma 22:15).

But God wasn’t asking the king to give up his kingdom. He wanted Lamoni’s father to give up something much more difficult: his sins. Aaron said, “If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest” (Alma 22:16).

Then the king prayed and offered the needed sacrifice. “I will give away all my sins to know thee,” he said, “and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.”

Neal A. Maxwell taught:

The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar…. The many other things we give to God, however nice that may be of us, are actually things He has already given us…. But when we begin to submit ourselves by letting our wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him. And that hard doctrine lies at the center of discipleship. There is a part of us that is ultimately sovereign, the mind and heart, where we really do decide which way to go and what to do. And when we submit to His will, then we’ve really given Him the one thing He asks of us. And the other things are not very, very important. (“Sharing Insights from My Life,” BYU Devotional Address, 12 Jan 1999).

Today, I will follow the example of Lamoni’s father, choosing to abandon my sins and my will in order to draw closer to God. I will remember that the time, talents, and material possessions I sacrifice to Him are a very measly offering in the end. But when I choose to prioritize His will over my own, then as Elder Maxwell taught, I am really giving Him something meaningful.

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We Do Not Believe That Thou Knowest Any Such Thing – Alma 21:7-8

7 Now Aaron said unto him: Believest thou that the Son of God shall come to redeem mankind from their sins?
8 And the man said unto him: We do not believe that thou knowest any such thing. We do not believe in these foolish traditions. We do not believe that thou knowest of things to come, neither do we believe that thy fathers and also that our fathers did know concerning the things which they spake, of that which is to come.
(Alma 21:7-8)

When Aaron began to preach in the Lamanite city of Jerusalem, one man bombarded him with questions. These were not sincere and searching questions, but mocking and critical questions, such as:

  • “Why do not angels appear unto us?”
  • “Are not this people as good as thy people?”
  • “How knowest thou the thought and intent of our hearts?”
  • “How knowest thou that we have cause to repent?”
  • “How knowest thou that we are not a righteous people?” (Alma 21:5-6)

It’s safe to say that this man wasn’t interested in Aaron’s answer to any of these questions. The intent of the questions was to humiliate and discredit him.

As we read in the passage above, Aaron responded with a question: “Believest thou that the Son of God shall come to redeem mankind from their sins?” I think this man’s response is telling: “We do not believe that thou knowest any such thing.” Rather than respond to the question directly, this man tried to keep the focus on Aaron. He went on to say that he didn’t believe “in these foolish traditions.” Not only did he not believe that Aaron knew these things, but he didn’t believe that their ancestors knew these things either.

That’s a lot of not knowing and a lot of not believing! I would be interested to know what this man did believe. But, alas, when Aaron tried to carry on and deliver his message, “they were angry with him, and began to mock him; and they would not hear the words which he spake” (Alma 21:10).

How easy it is to be cynical, but how unrewarding! In the words of Dieter F. Uchtdorf:

Satan, our adversary, wants us to fail. He spreads lies as part of his effort to destroy our belief. He slyly suggests that the doubter, the skeptic, the cynic is sophisticated and intelligent, while those who have faith in God and His miracles are naive, blind, or brainwashed. Satan will advocate that it is cool to doubt spiritual gifts and the teachings of true prophets.
I wish I could help everyone to understand this one simple fact: we believe in God because of things we know with our heart and mind, not because of things we do not know. Our spiritual experiences are sometimes too sacred to explain in worldly terms, but that doesn’t mean they are not real.
Heavenly Father has prepared for His children a spiritual feast, offering every kind of exquisite food imaginable—and yet, instead of enjoying these spiritual gifts, the cynics content themselves with observing from a distance, sipping from their cups of skepticism, doubt, and disrespect….
Let me be clear: there is nothing noble or impressive about being cynical. Skepticism is easy—anyone can do it. It is the faithful life that requires moral strength, dedication, and courage. Those who hold fast to faith are far more impressive than those who give in to doubt when mysterious questions or concerns arise (“Be Not Afraid, Only Believe,” General Conference, October 2015).

Today, I will choose not to be intimidated by cynics. I will remember that my belief is built on knowledge–on spiritual experiences I have had which are not visible to other people, and which they may therefore doubt. I will remember that it takes courage to believe, and I will choose to hold fast to my faith, and not to be destabilized by critics.

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When He Also Saw the Great Love He Had for His Son… – Alma 20:26-27

26 And when he saw that Ammon had no desire to destroy him, and when he also saw the great love he had for his son Lamoni, he was astonished exceedingly, and said: Because this is all that thou hast desired, that I would release thy brethren, and suffer that my son Lamoni should retain his kingdom, behold, I will grant unto you that my son may retain his kingdom from this time and forever; and I will govern him no more—
27 And I will also grant unto thee that thy brethren may be cast out of prison, and thou and thy brethren may come unto me, in my kingdom; for I shall greatly desire to see thee. For the king was greatly astonished at the words which he had spoken, and also at the words which had been spoken by his son Lamoni, therefore he was desirous to learn them.
(Alma 20:26-27)

Lamoni’s father, who was “king over all the land,” (Alma 20:8) was angry with Lamoni for failing to attend a feast he had recently held for his sons. He became more angry when he saw Lamoni traveling with Ammon, a Nephite, and learned that Lamoni planned to help deliver Ammon’s brothers and friends from prison. Following a sword fight in which Ammon prevailed, Lamoni’s father offered Ammon anything he wanted, up to half of his kingdom. Ammon asked for only two things:

  1. That his fellow missionaries be released from prison.
  2. That Lamoni be granted independence from the rest of the kingdom.

The king was shocked at these two requests. Why had Ammon asked nothing for himself? Why had he showed such love toward Lamoni? He was so impressed that he not only agreed to grant both requests but also asked Ammon to come teach him. He recognized that there was something motivating Ammon’s actions, something which he didn’t understand but which he wanted to learn more about.

Many years ago, a friend of mine had an experience which changed her life. She had been meeting with the missionaries for a number of months. She liked their message but had many questions and doubts and couldn’t decide whether to join the church. One day, three missionaries came to her home. One of them was struggling and was not teaching very effectively. The other two missionaries showed no sign of impatience with him. She watched as they supported him and showed genuine love for him. They made it clear through their actions that helping him be successful was a priority for them, more important than teaching a “perfect” lesson. After they left her home, she said to her daughter, “I’m going to join that church.” Their example of Christlike love was more impactful than any of their words.

Today, I will remember that the way I teach is at least as important as what I say. I will be patient with the people around me, knowing that the love I show to others may be the most important lesson I teach.

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No One Hath Told Me, Save It Be God – Alma 20:2-5

2 And the voice of the Lord came to Ammon, saying: Thou shalt not go up to the land of Nephi, for behold, the king will seek thy life; but thou shalt go to the land of Middoni; for behold, thy brother Aaron, and also Muloki and Ammah are in prison.
3 Now it came to pass that when Ammon had heard this, he said unto Lamoni: Behold, my brother and brethren are in prison at Middoni, and I go that I may deliver them.
4 Now Lamoni said unto Ammon: I know, in the strength of the Lord thou canst do all things. But behold, I will go with thee to the land of Middoni; for the king of the land of Middoni, whose name is Antiomno, is a friend unto me; therefore I go to the land of Middoni, that I may flatter the king of the land, and he will cast thy brethren out of prison. Now Lamoni said unto him: Who told thee that thy brethren were in prison?
5 And Ammon said unto him: No one hath told me, save it be God; and he said unto me–Go and deliver thy brethren, for they are in prison in the land of Middoni.
(Alma 20:2-5)

The prophet Joseph Smith said he lived by the following rule: “When the Lord commands, do it” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Chapter 13)  President Thomas S. Monson frequently counseled us never to postpone a prompting. He said, “I believe that the more we act upon the inspiration and impressions which come to us, the more the Lord will entrust to us His errands” (“Consider the Blessings,” General Conference, October 2012).

Ammon’s father had set an example of asking God for guidance on important decisions and following the answers he received. When his sons asked permission to serve as missionaries among the Lamanites, he asked the Lord what he should do and received assurances that they would be protected (Mosiah 28:5-8). It’s not surprising to see Ammon following his father’s example in the passage above: acting with faith on knowledge he had received through the Spirit of the Lord. Some time later, when Lamoni’s people were being attacked by vicious enemies, Ammon suggested to the king that they seek help from the Nephites. Although Lamoni expressed skepticism that the Nephites would treat them kindly, Ammon said, “I will go and inquire of the Lord, and if he say unto us, go down unto our brethren, will ye go?” Following Ammon’s example of faithful obedience, the king responded, “Yea, if the Lord saith unto us go, we will go” (Alma 27:7-8).

Elder Ronald A. Rasband has taught that we need to learn to trust and act on the first promptings we receive from the Holy Ghost:

We must be confident in our first promptings. Sometimes we rationalize; we wonder if we are feeling a spiritual impression or if it is just our own thoughts. When we begin to second-guess, even third-guess, our feelings—and we all have—we are dismissing the Spirit; we are questioning divine counsel. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that if you will listen to the first promptings, you will get it right nine times out of ten (“Let the Holy Spirit Guide,” General Conference, April 2017).

Today, I will follow Ammon’s example by acting on the promptings I receive from the Holy Ghost in answer to my prayers. Rather than second-guess the inspiration I receive, I will recommit to follow the voice of the Spirit when I hear it trusting that God will bless me as I choose to act in faith.

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