Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Earth Should Pass Away

After Alma was led to Amulek, and after a space of time where Alma spent blessing Amulek's home, they "went forth and began to preach and to prophesy unto the people" (Alma 8:32).  Mormon includes five whole chapters of their preaching to the people, specifically of Ammonihah.  This is aprox. the same size of the book of Jacob.  It is longer than the book of Moroni.  The sermons last about 18 pages long.  

Two verses into their preaching, we learn of the first objections of the people of Ammonihah.  What were Alma and Amulek teaching that was so contrary to their beliefs?  In as soon as verse 2 of Alma 9, we find out: 

"Who art thou?  Suppose ye that we shall believe the testimony of one man, although he should preach unto us that the earth should pass away?"

Who are you, Alma?  You think we should believe your single, solitary word?  Why should we believe you?  Where's your authority?  You're not coming through the proper "chain".  You look awfully weak, don't you?  Why should we listen to what you say.  We can pretty much count on knowing that you're a wack-job who is going to suggest we drink some kool-aid.

And you're preaching that the earth should pass away?  Whoa, whoa!  Next you're probably going to say your god will destroy this city.  Let's laugh at you.

So the folks did not believe Alma, and objected at his simple nature, but also thought his concept of the earth being destroyed was mock-worthy.

Question: if someone came to you and told you the earth should pass away, in all seriousness, would you believe them?  Do you believe the earth will pass away?  That it will die?  What does that even mean?

"We believe ... that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory." - Articles of Faith 10 
What does that mean?  We have little to no concept, really, of what Alma was talking about.  It was a big enough of a deal that Alma taught it to these stiff-necked, hardened people.  And he taught enough about it that they objected to it, and it is the first of their objections.

To be honest I know very little about what particulars will happen when the earth dies and is renewed.  Does this only refer to it being burned at the Lord's coming?  Later in this chapter we receive quite a warning about the Lord's coming, although frequently when I have read it, I presumed it was about his First Coming.  But when looking closer, Alma points out when he comes, it will be in great glory.

"And not many days hence the Son of God shall come in his glory; and his glory shall be the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, equity, and truth, full of patience, mercy, and long-suffering, quick to hear the cries of his people and to answer their prayers.  And behold, he cometh to redeem those who will be baptized unto repentance, through faith on his name." - Alma 9:26-27 
He is referring to his Second Coming.  The whole of this chapter is a warning to us, not just the people of Ammonihah.  We frequently say that Mormon and Moroni saw our day.  That Nephi warns us in our day too.  Right here we have evidence that Alma, too, saw our day.  It's pretty phenomenal.

Despite the fact that the passing of the earth appears to be a largely lost doctrine, really the bottom line is that Christ comes to redeem those who will be baptized unto repentance.  We must have faith on HIS name.  I believe this is different than simply being baptized to join a church.  While that might be important to fit into a community or social structure, being baptized to repentance has much greater weight.  When we place the focus on baptism solely to join a group, that is mal-placed; there it is ill-defined.  If God knows the intents of our hearts, and our heart simply intends to show gratitude for people who accept us into their social circles, that is different, I believe.

If you have been baptized, was the intent of your heart to give it to God, to have a complete change of heart?  Or was it to show your teachers that you appreciate them?  Currently I have a nephew serving a mission, and he bears testimony with great power.  There is electricity in the room.  Then the question becomes if the person will accept marriage, chastity, abstinence or some other prohibition as well.  This is all well and good, but will not the change in behavior be a natural result of true repentance?  Must we act as gate-keeper to the kingdom?

I love that Alma simply taught truth.  He had a LOT of it.  But like other prophets who see our day, they repeat that the bottom lines are very, very simple.  Faith on his name.  Baptism unto repentance.  And if we're lucky, we learn some of the mysteries of the kingdom along the way. 

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