In the last part of this chapter, Alma tells his son Helaman what not to teach their people (the dark arts that have destroyed civilizations in the past) and what to teach them (faith in Jesus Christ and repentance). (33) The first principles of the gospel. That’s not too surprising. We can never over-teach these principles to our family, friends, and others we come into contact with.
Faith in Christ leads one to want to repent, which brings us closer to Christ, so He can heal us.
Alma continues with the next principles to teach the people.
…teach them to humble themselves and to be meek and lowly in heart;”Alma 37:33
Humility is the opposite of pride. Lowly in heart doesn’t mean to be mean to ourselves and think we are scum. Anything that depresses us so much that we don’t repent or turn to God is evil. So, self-recrimination and dwelling on our faults is not constructive. That is NOT what lowly of heart means.
To me, it means we honestly search our souls, checking our thoughts and actions and desires to see if they align with God’s. This requires getting on our knees, and for now, that’s what I’m going to equate lowly of heart to mean—a physical lowering of our bodies in prayer to show our spiritual lowering before God, demonstrating that we are willing to give Him our heart.
Lowly of heart leads us to willingly give God ALL of ourselves—in actions, thoughts, and desires.
Alma finishes telling Helaman what to teach.
…teach them to withstand every temptation of the devil, with their faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.”Alma 37:33
Faith is powerful, when linked to our Savior. Christ is the One who makes us stronger than the Adversary.
Teach them to never be weary of good works, but to be meek and lowly in heart; for such shall find rest to their souls.”Alma 37:34
Good works stem from a humble heart.
O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.”Alma 37:35
Obedience builds our relationship with God…and our trust in Him.
Alma wraps up his talk with his son by reinforcing how important prayer is in our lives.
Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.”Alma 37:37
Prayer is how we connect with God and make Him a part of our life. When we counsel with the Lord in all our doings, we will be in good Hands. Dedicate our lives to Him in the morning, and check back in with Him at night to discuss with Him how we did and to ask for help to do better the next day. Repent. Ask Him what He would like us to do. Think of what a difference sincere, intent prayer would make in our lives…and the lives of others.
Guide for our Lives
Alma tells his son he has somewhat more to say about the Liahona, which “was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness.” (39)
And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day.”Alma 37:40
If we open our eyes, we, too, can see miracles from God “day by day.” They might be as simple as a beautiful sunrise that brings warmth to our soul in the midst of chaos, or a whispering to help someone in need. They might be as simple as a thought that comes to us as we read from God’s words, a thought that helps us make a better choice in our lives. These miracles might be as simple as running into an influential friend at just the right moment, or recalling a task we need to do. It might be as simple as hearing our prophet speak to us, or as simple as something our child says that teaches us a profound truth.
God’s Hand is working in our lives in miraculous ways. We just have to open our eyes to see and acknowledge Him.
Lehi’s family had the Liahona prepared to guide them to the promised land. We have the Holy Ghost to help us find our way back to God’s presence. He can guide us in all the small and simple things we do “day by day,” so that we don’t find ourselves enslaved by the devil.
But we must beware. Alma tells his son how easy it is to overlook or ignore small and simple miracles in our lives.
Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey.”Alma 37:41
It is human nature to discount small steps, to think they don’t matter. But small things over time have great power to do good or evil. Think of a tree root growing slowly under a sidewalk. Over the years, that small root gains enough upward thrust to break that hard cement, causing a crack that widens with time.
Our daily choices have that same power. Taken day by day, our scripture reading, prayers, and other spiritual activities might not be able to be measured in what they do for us.
Though each of these practices may seem to be small and simple, over time they result in powerful spiritual uplift and growth. This occurs because each of these small and simple things invites the companionship of the Holy Ghost, the Testifier who enlightens us and guides us into truth…”Dallin H. Oaks – Small and Simple Things (2018)
Small and simple decisions and actions make a profound difference in who we become in this life.
The only preparation for that one profound decision which can change a lift, or even a nation, is those hundreds and thousands of half-conscious, self-defining, seemingly insignificant decisions made in private.”Dan Coats (former Senator of Indiana) “America’s Youth: A Crisis of Character” (1991)
Elder Oaks points out that small and simple acts have power both ways—not only for good, but for evil.
…even small acts of disobedience or minor failures to follow righteous practices can draw us down toward an outcome we have been warned to avoid. The Word of Wisdom provides an example of this. Likely the effect on the body of one cigarette or one drink or alcohol or one dose of another drug cannot be measured. But over time, the effect is powerful and may be irreversible. Remember the cracking of the sidewalk by the gradual small expansions of the root of the tree. One thing is certain, the terrible consequences of partaking of anything that can become addictive, like drugs that attack our bodies or pornographic material that degrades our thoughts, is totally avoidable if we never partake for the first time—even once.”Dallin H. Oaks – Small and Simple Things (2018)
Let’s return to the Liahona analogy.
This was a small and simple thing given to Lehi’s family to help them do great things. The Holy Ghost can do the same for us—guide, lead, warn, comfort. When we start taking this gift for granted, faith stops working in our life…and our forward progress halts.
We’re always going to have trials. That’s why we came to earth to prove ourselves. When we don’t exercise faith, we bring afflictions upon ourselves that we wouldn’t otherwise have had to deal with. Lehi’s family discovered this truth when some members of their family slipped into rebellion.
Therefore [because of their slothfulness] they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions.”Alma 37:42
Alma likens the temporal Liahona and how it led them to the promised land to us in a spiritual type.
For just as surely as this director did bring our father, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.”Alma 37:45
In the last post, it talked about how Alma showed how vital God’s words are to us. Now, he shows that they can lead us into a far better land of promise, if we value them for the treasure they are.
O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so it was with our fathers; for so it was prepared for them, that if they should look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.”Alma 37:46
Give priority to the small and simple things that bring us closer to God. Shun the small and simple things that can take us off this path.
God has given us the way, the truth, and the light. His path is simple. Repentance and faith on Jesus Christ. That’s it!
I’ll end where Alma does, because it’s so beautiful. May we do as he encouraged Helaman to do:
And now, my son, see that ye take care of these sacred things; yea, see that ye look to God and live. Go unto this people and declare the word, and be sober. My son, farewell.”Alma 37:47