Saturday, June 19, 2010
Alma 13: 28
"But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering;"
Alma's formula is quite direct and clear:
"Humble yourselves:" Without humility you are not teachable. Humility and the capacity to accept new truth are directly related. This is the character flaw that prevents the Lord from teaching the Nephites when He appeared to them. They THOUGHT they already knew things. Therefore nothing that contradicted their false notions would be accepted. Christ advised the Nephites who saw Him descend from heaven to go prepare themselves for His teaching. "Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again." (3 Ne. 17: 3.) This was the Lord telling these witnesses that they were not humble enought to be taught--even by Him! So the first requirement is no small matter. Are you really humble? Can you accept truth if it is taught to you? Even if it contradicts your traditions? Even if it alienates you from family, friends, comfortable social associations, your neighbors? (Matt. 19: 29.) See, humbling yourself is not just some droop-faced, hang-dog expression to wear on your countenance. Rather it is opening your heart up to higher things.
"Call upon God:" Not just prayer. Call upon Him. To call is to invite Him to come. How do you call Him? By devoting yourself, in humility, to living every principle He has taught to you through His messengers and in His scriptures. It's not a laundry list of "to-do's." It is meekness and prayerful watching; humbling yourself and accepting what His spirit will advise you to do. When He testifies to you that you are hearing a true principle, accept it. No matter the effect it may have upon your life. Change your life, but never abandon His truths. Call, listen, and obey what you are told. Never close that line of communication. Don't trust a message which does not come from Him.
"Watch and pray:" Answers may come in many ways. Be watchful so you don't miss them when they are given to you. Pray that you might be seeking, preparing your mind to behold what He sends. Stay tuned, and stay attuned. Without such diligence you will miss His messages, that come sometimes frequently, but from unexpected sources.
"That ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear:" Implicit in this is that you may be tempted beyond what you can bear. So how do you avoid falling? Does humility and calling upon God and watching and praying insure that you can avoid an excess of temptation? How would they all go together? In particular, how would being "humble" be a protection against this kind of temptation?
Alma connects all this together with the word: "thus." Meaning as a consequence of the foregoing. As a result of what he's just told you. As a product of this approach, you will then "be led by the Holy Spirit." You can't do what comes next without being so led. It isn't in you. Not without help from within through the Holy Spirit.
So, if you do all the above, and then acquire the Holy Spirit to be your guide, then it follows that you will "become humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering." You won't be imitating humility, but you will be humble with the Holy Spirit's assistance. You won't feign meekness, but you will acquire the power to be meek (in the sense it is explained in Beloved Enos). You won't pretend to submission, patience, love and long suffering, but you will be these things as a result of the Spirit within you. This will be your character. Not as the world understands such things, but through the power of the Spirit to lay hold upon such things.
Formulas like this one are inspired statements, providing a road map to the Lord's methods of changing lives. Alma is making such a declaration and invitation in this sermon. It is amazing, really. How succinctly he cuts to the core of the matter.