I am the father of five rambunctious, high-energy little boys, 9 years old and younger. Trying to get them to sit still, let alone listen, at Church is exhausting. During sacrament meeting, my wife and I sometimes feel like we are referees, calling penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct (throwing cereal and/or other objects, hitting, kicking, and pinching), offsides (one of the boys breaking through our tackles to escape down the aisle), and excessive celebration (screams, giggles, and laughs that echo throughout the cultural hall).
While struggling with these energy-containment challenges, I’ve often wondered how much my sons really absorb. Are they truly coming to know their Savior? Fortunately, though learning in sacrament meeting may sometimes be a struggle, the stories in the Book of Mormon show my boys, and all of us, how we come unto Jesus Christ, providing another way to develop love for and testimonies of Him. It really is that simple. We do not have to persuade our children or anyone else to love Him, we simply have to try to help them come to know Him.
So, in our efforts to help others come to know their Savior, here are three stories from the Book of Mormon that are designed to draw our hearts to Him and remind us that the more we know Jesus, the more we will love Him.
Alma the Younger and “the Great Pivot”
Most of us are familiar with the dramatic conversion of Alma the Younger. We recall the rebellion, the visit from the angel, and the miraculous change wrought in his heart. As his mind became focused on Christ, he cried within his heart, “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me” (Alma 36:18).
This heartfelt plea represents what Elder Maxwell calls “the great pivot.” Alma’s guilt and suffering finally led him to turn away from sin and toward the Lord. Once his mind caught hold of the thought that he could apply the atoning blood of Christ, he had a glimmer of hope and desperately pleaded for mercy and grace.
The story of Alma the Younger spans over 120 pages (or 23%) of the Book of Mormon. So, here is the question: If space on the abridged plates was so sparse, why would the Lord inspire Mormon to include so much of Alma’s story?
The self-stated purpose of the Book of Mormon is to convince us that Jesus is the Christ and that, because of Him, we “are not cast off forever.” Perhaps one reason Alma’s story is given so much space is because he serves as the ultimate object lesson. Sometimes we feel like we have sinned too many times or that we have committed sins that were too grievous to be forgiven. Alma the Younger’s story clearly teaches that no matter how far you think you have strayed, no matter how serious your sins may be, “you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines” (“Laborers in the Vineyard,” Jeffrey R. Holland).
Lesson #1: Trust that his grace is sufficient and that we are never beyond the scope of the Savior’s mercy.
Lehi’s Vision and Helping Others Partake of the Fruit
Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life provides a striking visual of the emancipating power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. While it shows us the reason to partake of the fruit for ourselves, this vision also provides insight into helping others desire the fruit.
In his dream, Lehi poured out his soul to his rebellious sons and counseled them with tenderness and love. The record then states that “after he had preached unto them, and also prophesied unto them of many things, he bade them to keep the commandments of the Lord; and he did cease speaking unto them” (1 Nephi 8:38; emphasis added). Note that Lehi continued to preach, prophesy, and invite, but when he had done all in his power to reach out to these boys, he applied the Lord’s counsel to, “be still, and know that I am God” (D&C 101:16). He understood that when it comes to rescuing others, this really is the Lord’s work and we are simply “called to assist” (D&C 14:11).
Sometimes our overanxious feelings for a struggling loved one can lead us to try to over-compensate. Such overcompensation often manifests itself in over-lecturing or over-managing. But from Lehi we learn that after teaching, warning, and inviting, it is often essential to provide struggling loved ones with some sacred space to absorb what we say and choose for themselves.
I say “sacred space” because it is often during these times when the Lord provides His own “evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Remember, the Lord knew and loved these individuals even before we did; He knows and loves them even more than we do now! The wounds engraved “upon the palms of [His] hands” (1 Nephi 21:16) are everlasting evidence that He will remember us and that He will remember those we care for.
His grace is sufficient, His hands are outstretched, and His commitment unmatched. When it comes to ministering to those loved ones who have wandered, we can, like Lehi, be still, and know that He is God!
Lesson #2: As we invite others to come unto Christ, we need to be still and rely on the merciful, watchful hand of the Master. After all, it is His work!
The People of Alma and the Power of Place
Elder Marlin K. Jensen taught that “there are places on this earth that have been made sacred by what happened there” (“Stand in the Sacred Grove”). As we have personal experiences with divinity, the very places in which these experiences occur become precious and special to us. As we revisit these places we are reminded of the love, mercy, and influence of the Almighty. Such was certainly the experience of Alma and his followers in the land of Mormon.
After having his heart pricked by the words of Abinadi, we read that Alma repented of his sins and fled from the fury of wicked king Noah. Having experienced the grace of the Savior for himself, his heart then turned outward as he helped others feel it for themselves. Their hearts became knit together in unity and in love. They observed the Sabbath day, gave thanks to God daily, gathered together in worship and fellowship, and imparted of their substance—both temporally and spiritually—that there might be no poor among them. In short, they were living the scriptural definition of a Zion lifestyle (Mosiah 18:21-27; Moses 7:18).
This story underscores the truth that there are some places which have become consecrated and sanctified by virtue of what transpired there. The record explains that these experiences took place by the Waters of Mormon and describes “how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever” (Mosiah 18:30). The waters of Mormon had become a spiritual refuge for these saints and allowed them to come to a knowledge of their Redeemer. We too can be reminded of the mercy of Jesus Christ and be infused with His loving grace as we spend time reflecting on our experiences in our own personal “Waters of Mormon.”
Lesson #3: When we remember and revisit the places that have become sacred to us, we can experience anew the Savior’s transforming love.
The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our testimony of and relationship with Jesus Christ. It is full of stories and experiences of those who learned for themselves the power of the Savior’s grace. As we study these stories, we can experience for ourselves the converting touch of the Master’s hand. But more than that, we can help our children and our loved ones come to know of Him. And, by doing that, they will be able to experience His grace and love in turn.
Read more on this topic from Ryan Sharp in his book, Meeting Christ in the Book of Mormon, available at deseretbook.com.