It Shall Be More Tolerable for Them – Alma 9:14-16

14 Now I would that ye should remember, that inasmuch as the Lamanites have not kept the commandments of God, they have been cut off from the presence of the Lord. Now we see that the word of the Lord has been verified in this thing, and the Lamanites have been cut off from his presence, from the beginning of their transgressions in the land.
15 Nevertheless I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for them in the day of judgment than for you, if ye remain in your sins, yea, and even more tolerable for them in this life than for you, except ye repent.
16 For there are many promises which are extended to the Lamanites; for it is because of the traditions of their fathers that caused them to remain in their state of ignorance; therefore the Lord will be merciful unto them and prolong their existence in the land.

God would not be a “perfect, just God” (Alma 42:15) if He didn’t account for all of the influences and constraints in our lives. We make our decisions within a context, and those decisions are heavily influenced by our upbringing, by the people we come in contact with, and by numerous other constraints which are as unique to us as our fingerprints or the retinas of our eyes. Nephi urged his complaining brothers, “if ye have choice, go up to the land” (1 Nephi 7:15). They didn’t. Sometimes, we grumble about our circumstances, but when push comes to shove we have no intention of actually changing them.
I can think of two ways to apply this insight in our daily lives:
  1. Be forgiving of others when they are making poor choices. We shouldn’t condone bad behavior, but we ought to be humble enough to recognize that we only see the tip of the iceberg when we observe the behavior of those around us, and that only God knows the full breadth and depth of the circumstances that have led them to behave as they do. In Proverbs we read, “Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry” (Proverbs 6:30). If we could see everything that motivates the actions of others, we would likely be far more understanding and merciful than we are.
  2. We ought to hold ourselves to a very high standard, recognizing how blessed we are.  Later in this chapter, Alma enumerates the blessings the Nephites have received from God: spiritual knowledge, healings, rescue from bondage, prosperity (Alma 9:19-22). His point is that God will judge their actions in light of the opportunities they have been given.  “Of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation” (D&C 82:3).
Today, I will be kind and forgiving when I see others doing wrong.  I will recognize that only God knows enough to accurately judge the actions of others, and that of me “it is required to forgive all men” (D&C 64:10).
I will also count my blessings today and recognize that I deserve only limited credit for my good decisions and for my accomplishments. I stand on the shoulders of good people who have paved the way before me, and I have been “blessed of the Lord” (1 Nephi 3:8), not only for my own sake but for the benefit of those around me (see D&C 88:75-76). There is no room for self-righteousness in my life.
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