Throw a pebble into the water, and you’ll see ripples expanding in concentric circles around the point of impact. Our actions are like that. We may only be aware of the first-order consequences of our decisions, but they surely have additional consequences that we cannot see.
Alma pointed out to his son Corianton one of the second-order consequences of his immorality. Corianton had been part of a team of missionaries who traveled to the land of Antionum to preach to the Zoramites (Alma 31:5-7). When he forsook the ministry and broke the law of chastity, he not only harmed himself, he damaged the credibility of the entire mission:
O my son, how great iniquity ye brought upon the Zoramites; for when they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words (Alma 39:11).
Alma was painfully aware of the impact of his own decisions on other people. After seeing an angel and becoming convinced of the truthfulness of the gospel years earlier, he had agonized over the fate of the people he had led astray:
I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror (Alma 36:14).
“Murder” might seem like an excessive term for leading people away from the gospel, but Alma had an eternal perspective. He had persuaded others to turn away from God, which reduced their chances of receiving eternal life. The potential impact of his decisions on others was severe.
Today, I will consider the impact of my decisions on the people around me. I will remember that my actions may have consequences not only for me, but also for others who may be influenced by my decisions.