After baptizing hundreds of people at the waters of Mormon, Alma gave them some instructions about how to fulfill the covenants they had made. He told the priests to teach the words of the prophets and to preach repentance. He told the people to avoid contention and to strive for unity. He told them to keep the sabbath day holy. And he commanded them to spend time with each other:
There was one day in every week that was set apart that they should gather themselves together to teach the people, and to worship the Lord their God, and also, as often as it was in their power, to assemble themselves together.
The phrase “as often as was in their power” stands out to me today. These people had joined the church under adverse circumstances. The king had recently executed a prophet, and Alma had gone into hiding to avoid the same fate. Soon, they would be forced to leave their homes and establish a new city to avoid being destroyed by the king. These were not ideal circumstances for gathering. Alma’s guidance was to remember the importance of spending time together and to gather as often as they could.
In our most recent general conference, Douglas D. Holmes reminded us that relationships with others are an important part of “our ongoing journey to Christ.” He said:
We are not expected to find or walk the covenant path alone. We need love and support from parents, other family members, friends, and leaders who are also walking the path.
These kinds of relationships take time. Time to be together. Time to laugh, play, learn, and serve together. Time to appreciate each other’s interests and challenges. Time to be open and honest with each other as we strive to be better together. These relationships are one of the primary purposes of gathering as families, quorums, classes, and congregations. They are the foundation for effective ministering.
(“Deep in Our Heart,” General Conference, April 2020)
A church manual provides suggestions for building strong relationships with the people we are called to serve:
- Pray that you will be able to see [them] as God sees them….
- Become familiar with their talents, interests, and challenges….
- Shared spiritual experiences strengthen relationships and promote personal spiritual experiences….
- Think one by one about the [people] you serve. Is there one who stands out who you can help this week?
Like the people of Alma, we sometimes experience circumstances which make it difficult to meet together as often as we would like. In such times, I see the phrase “as often as was in their power” as a call to action. We can think creatively about ways to reach out to one another. We can find new ways to strengthen one another even when we are unable to meet in person.
Today, I will remember the importance of building relationships with other members of the Church. I will strive to get to know the members of my congregation better and will pray for opportunities to serve them and to share spiritual experiences with them. I will remember that building strong relationships with others is a critical part of my journey back to Heavenly Father.