God Gave Power unto One Man – Helaman 8:11-12

11 Therefore he was constrained to speak more unto them saying: Behold, my brethren, have ye not read that God gave power unto one man, even Moses, to smite upon the waters of the Red Sea, and they parted hither and thither, insomuch that the Israelites, who were our fathers, came through upon dry ground, and the waters closed upon the armies of the Egyptians and swallowed them up?
12 And now behold, if God gave unto this man such power, then why should ye dispute among yourselves, and say that he hath given unto me no power whereby I may know concerning the judgments that shall come upon you except ye repent?
(Helaman 8:11-12)

After Nephi called his neighbors to repentance, some of them became angry with him. They fundamentally disagreed with his assertions. He said their laws had become corrupt; they believed their laws were pure. He said they would be destroyed if they did not repent; they claimed to “know that this is impossible, for behold, we are powerful, and our cities great, therefore our enemies can have no power over us” (Helaman 8:6).

In the passage above, Nephi responds to these criticisms. If God could give power to Moses to part the Red Sea, he argues, then why can’t he give me power to know what will happen to you if you don’t repent? The argument sounds similar to one given nearly 600 years earlier by another prophet named Nephi:

Now ye know that Moses was commanded of the Lord to do that great work; and ye know that by his word the waters of the Red Sea were divided hither and thither, and they passed through on dry ground….
And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship? (1 Nephi 17:26, 51)

A fundamental principle of the gospel is that God can empower us to do things and to know things that we could not know or do on our own. Both the earlier Nephi and his subsequent namesake saw Moses’s miracles as evidence that God can grant great power to mortal men, and that therefore he could grant great power to them.

Today, I will remember that God can empower me to accomplish great things if I have faith in Him. I will remember that God gave power to Moses, and I will use this awareness to strengthen my faith that He can give me power and knowledge which will enable me to be successful.

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How Could You Have Forgotten? – Helaman 7:20-22

20 O, how could you have forgotten your God in the very day that he has delivered you?
21 But behold, it is to get gain, to be praised of men, yea, and that ye might get gold and silver. And ye have set your hearts upon the riches and the vain things of this world, for the which ye do murder, and plunder, and steal, and bear false witness against your neighbor, and do all manner of iniquity.
22 And for this cause wo shall come unto you except ye shall repent….
(Helaman 7:20-22)

What causes us to forget important things? I would say that distractions are most often the culprit for me. When my schedule is excessively cluttered, when I have signed up for more than I can reasonably do, my brain and my calendar become saturated, and I begin to neglect important priorities.

The passage above comes from an impromptu speech delivered by Nephi to a crowd that had gathered to observe him praying in his garden. These people were perplexed and intrigued by his emotional prayer on their behalf. Nephi was appalled by their obliviousness to their own precarious state. He had recently returned from a mission in “the land northward,” and he was shocked at the institutionalized corruption which he observed. Criminals had been elected as their judges, and they made a mockery of their responsibilities: condemning people who were innocent and letting the guilty bribe their way to freedom. Mormon tells us that “this great iniquity had come upon the Nephites, in the space of not many years” (Helaman 7:6).

How did this happen so quickly? As Nephi explains in the passage above, it was because they had forgotten their God. But how could they forget Him when He had recently delivered them from their enemies? They were distracted by the pursuit of wealth. Their desire to “get gain” was rooted in their ambition “to be praised of men.” They had fallen into the trap the Savior called “the deceitfulness of riches” (Matthew 13:22): accumulating more and more money in the mistaken belief that it can provide intangible benefits such as respect, acceptance, and love.

As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has taught:

I think most of us intuitively understand how important the fundamentals are. It is just that we sometimes get distracted by so many things that seem more enticing.
Printed material, wide-ranging media sources, electronic tools and gadgets—all helpful if used properly—can become hurtful diversions or heartless chambers of isolation.
Yet amidst the multitude of voices and choices, the humble Man of Galilee stands with hands outstretched, waiting. His is a simple message: “Come, follow me.”
(“Of Things That Matter Most,” General Conference, October 2010).

Today, I will take care not to forget the things that matter most, including the gospel of Jesus Christ and my family. I will remember the great blessings I have received from God, and I will avoid being caught up in distractions which might cause me to forget Him.

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The Lord Our God Did Visit Us with Assurances – Alma 58:10-11

10 Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, yea, and also give us strength that we might retain our cities, and our lands, and our possessions, for the support of our people.
11 Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him.
(Alma 58:10-11)

God always fulfills His promises. When we know that, then a promise from Him can be  as reassuring as the ultimate fulfillment of that promise. A couple of examples:

  • When Sariah was worried about the safety of her sons and about the wisdom of their journey in the wilderness, Lehi comforted her by sharing the promises he had received from God. He spoke about promised blessings as though he had already received them, even though they were only at the beginning of their journey: “I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness” (1 Nephi 5:5).
  • After Enos prayed all day and into the night for forgiveness of his sins, he heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.” Enos said, “I…knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away” (Enos 1:6). The relief from his guilt came as a result of his belief in the message he had just received.
  • Later in the same chapter, after receiving a promise from God that the Nephite record would be preserved, he said, “I, Enos, knew it would be according to the covenant which he had made; wherefore my soul did rest” (Enos 1:17).

One of the purposes of the Book of Mormon is “that [we] may know the covenants of the Lord, that [we] are not cast off forever” (Title Page of the Book of Mormon). For the Book of Mormon to accomplish this purpose, the reader needs to be able to trust the promises of God before they have been fulfilled.

As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has reminded us, all of us can benefit from increased faith in God’s promises:

I think of newly called missionaries leaving family and friends to face, on occasion, some rejection and some discouragement and, at least in the beginning, a moment or two of homesickness and perhaps a little fear.
I think of young mothers and fathers who are faithfully having their families while still in school—or just newly out—trying to make ends meet even as they hope for a brighter financial future someday. At the same time, I think of other parents who would give any earthly possession they own to have a wayward child return.
I think of single parents who face all of this but face it alone, having confronted death or divorce, alienation or abandonment, or some other misfortune they had not foreseen in happier days and certainly had not wanted.
I think of those who want to be married and aren’t, those who desire to have children and cannot, those who have acquaintances but very few friends, those who are grieving over the death of a loved one or are themselves ill with disease. I think of those who suffer from sin—their own or someone else’s—who need to know there is a way back and that happiness can be restored. I think of the disconsolate and downtrodden who feel life has passed them by, or now wish that it would pass them by. To all of these and so many more, I say: Cling to your faith. Hold on to your hope. “Pray always, and be believing.” Indeed, as Paul wrote of Abraham, he “against [all] hope believed in hope” and “staggered not … through unbelief.” He was “strong in faith” and was “fully persuaded that, what [God] had promised, he was able … to perform” (“An High Priest of Good Things to Come,” General Conference, October 1999).

Today, I will trust the promises of God. When I need God’s help, I will “pour out my [soul] in prayer” as Helaman and his army did in the passage above. Like Helaman, Lehi, and Enos, I will trust the promises I receive and find peace and rest in those assurances, even before I begin to see tangible evidence that God’s promises have been fulfilled.

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Firm and Undaunted – Alma 57:20

20 And as the remainder of our army were about to give way before the Lamanites, behold, those two thousand and sixty were firm and undaunted.
(Alma 57:20)

It is one thing to keep your composure in the midst of adversity and danger; it is another to do so when the people around you are falling apart and giving up. Rudyard Kipling opens his poem “If—” by describing such a scenario:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too…
(Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943), as quoted on the website of The Poetry Foundation)

These young men whom Helaman had the privilege to lead were unwilling to back down, even in the heat of an overwhelming battle, and even when soldiers more experienced than they were beginning to crack. Helaman refers to them as “firm and undaunted” and attributes their persistence to “their exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe—that there was a just God, and whosoever did not doubt, that they should be preserved by his marvelous power” (Alma 57:26).

As President Dieter F. Uchdtorf has taught:

We are…not ignorant of the challenges of the world, nor are we unaware of the difficulties of our times. But this does not mean that we should burden ourselves or others with constant fear. Rather than dwelling on the immensity of our challenges, would it not be better to focus on the infinite greatness, goodness, and absolute power of our God, trusting Him and preparing with a joyful heart for the return of Jesus the Christ?
As His covenant people, we need not be paralyzed by fear because bad things might happen. Instead, we can move forward with faith, courage, determination, and trust in God as we approach the challenges and opportunities ahead (“Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear,” General Conference, April 2017).

Today, I will move forward with faith in God and will avoid dwelling on the challenges I face. I will follow the example of the army of Helaman, remaining “firm and undaunted” in the face of difficulties, even when the people around me become fearful or discouraged.

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They Did Think More… – Alma 56:47

47 Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.
(Alma 56:47)

The people of Ammon had made a solemn oath never to use a weapon against another human being. When they saw the sacrifices the Nephite army was making to defend them, they considered breaking their oath. Their spiritual leader, Helaman, persuaded them not to. But they had many sons who had not made the same oath, and those young men asked Helaman to lead them into battle.

In the passage above, Helaman describes the courage of these young warriors. After being pursued for several days by a large Lamanite army, they found themselves in a quandary. In the middle of the morning, the Lamanite army inexplicably stopped. Helaman and his army couldn’t tell what was happening. It was possible that the Lamanites had stopped because another Nephite army, led by Antipus, had overtaken them. But it was also possible that this was a trap, to trick Helaman into attacking an army much larger than his own.

As he relates above, his young men “did not fear death.” Why not? Because “they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives.” This is an affirmation of their priorities, but it is also an observation about how they spent their time. They didn’t waste a lot of energy worrying about their survival. Instead, they were focused on accomplishing their mission–preserving freedom for their families–and they didn’t have time to worry about lesser things.

Today, I will focus my thoughts on my highest priorities and will avoid wasting precious time and energy worrying about less important matters. I will seek to achieve goals of eternal value, and I will avoid being distracted by less important priorities.

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I Am Not Angry – Alma 61:9

9 And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart. I, Pahoran, do not seek for power, save only to retain my judgment-seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free.
(Alma 61:9)

Pahoran had reason to be irritated by Captain Moroni’s letter. In the letter, Moroni had accused him of slothfulness and negligence of duty, which he blamed for the deaths of numerous soldiers. He had even speculated that Pahoran and his associates might be guilty of treason. Meanwhile, Pahoran was dealing with an insurrection, which was the reason he had not been able to send supplies and new recruits to Moroni. Pahoran could easily have become angry at Moroni’s accusations, but he had the discipline to overcome his natural reaction and respond wisely. How did he avoid becoming angry under those circumstances?

  • He maintained his perspective. The epistle might have stung, but how important was it really? As Pahoran says in the passage above, “It mattereth not.” He was able to avoid anger by keeping the source of irritation in context and remembering the big picture.
  • He set aside his ego. As he says in the passage above, “I, Pahoran, do not seek for power, save only to retain my judgment-seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people.” He avoided anger by focusing on his responsibilities instead of his public image.
  • He recognized the importance of maintaining stability. Volatility in a leader is dangerous and can have a ripple effect, disrupting the organization he or she leads. Recognizing this, Pahoran reaffirmed his commitment to “[stand] fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free” and thus be an anchor for the people he led.

President Thomas S. Monson has taught:

We are all susceptible to those feelings which, if left unchecked, can lead to anger. We experience displeasure or irritation or antagonism, and if we so choose, we lose our temper and become angry with others…. May we make a conscious decision, each time such a decision must be made, to refrain from anger and to leave unsaid the harsh and hurtful things we may be tempted to say (“School Thy Feelings, O My Brother,” General Conference, October 2009).

Today, I will refrain from anger. When I am irritated or bothered by something, I will follow Pahoran’s example. I will put the incident into perspective. I will focus on my responsibilities over my reputation. And I will strive to maintain emotional stability, knowing that I will influence other people more effectively if I keep my composure.

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Ye Ought to Have Stirred Yourselves More Diligently – Alma 60:8-10

8 Yea, even they who have looked up to you for protection, yea, have placed you in a situation that ye might have succored them, yea, ye might have sent armies unto them, to have strengthened them, and have saved thousands of them from falling by the sword.
9 But behold, this is not all—ye have withheld your provisions from them, insomuch that many have fought and bled out their lives because of their great desires which they had for the welfare of this people; yea, and this they have done when they were about to perish with hunger, because of your exceedingly great neglect towards them.
10 And now, my beloved brethren—for ye ought to be beloved; yea, and ye ought to have stirred yourselves more diligently for the welfare and the freedom of this people; but behold, ye have neglected them insomuch that the blood of thousands shall come upon your heads for vengeance; yea, for known unto God were all their cries, and all their sufferings—
(Alma 60:8-10)

Laziness is always a vice but particularly for those who hold positions of responsibility. When other people “[look] up to you for protection,” then negligence is a serious sin. As Captain Moroni tells Pahoran in the passage above, the failure of the government to send adequate provisions and support to the army in a time of war has directly resulted in unnecessary deaths. Those deaths hang over the heads of the people who might have prevented them by doing their duty with more diligence.

There is more to the story, as we learn in the following chapter. But even before learning the circumstances (and the self-doubt) which held Pahoran back from fulfilling his duty, we learn a true principle from the bold rebuke of Moroni. Here are some other examples of prophets teaching the same principle:

  • “If you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those whom you might have saved had you done your duty” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, “Chapter 18: Service in the Church“).
  • “We did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence” (Jacob 1:19).
  • “Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World“).

Today, I will take seriously the responsibilities I have in each of my leadership roles. I will remember that the people I lead depend upon me to take action on their behalf. If I am negligent in those responsibilities, I betray the trust they have placed in me and I may cause them to suffer in ways that only I could have prevented. Remembering this, I will work diligently and with integrity in my leadership roles, including my role as a father.

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