Turning the Hearts of the Fathers to the Children
The counsel between Father and Son in this week’s reading reminds us of just how much power is afforded to parents in the affairs of those children they hold most dear.
As families throughout the world have turned to bring gospel study and discussion to the center of their homes, we have come to appreciate just how important seeking and receiving revelation for our children can be.
If you have not seen it, there is a wonderful series of articles here on Meridian by the Eyres about family revelation which expounds on this theme beautifully.
Alma’s discussion with Corianton gives hope to any parent who has tried to counsel with a teen whose emotions have far outstripped their ability to communicate what is in their hearts.
We often hear Alma referring to those things which he perceives are worrying his son’s heart.
When our children are young, questions seem to flow freely. As they mature, those or similar questions are still there even if not spoken outright.
The love and devotion of a parent, paired with prayer and pondering, can bring to light the deepest feelings and needs of our children.
Such inspired counsel and mentoring become some of the most important guideposts our children will ever have as they seek to find their way and discover the truths of God’s plan of Happiness for themselves.
Chastity – God’s Perfect Law of Love
In Alma’s case it is particularly moving how he treats this particular discussion concerning God’s law of chastity with his son.
Alma teaches the truth in inspired plainness. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything or try to excuse the mistake that has been made, but neither does he resort to venting his frustration at his son’s expense.
Yes he is sorry and hurt as a father whose previous counsel has been ignored, but he senses that greater shame will not turn his son to truth and light, only God’s love and the atonement can teach and ultimately transform his son’s heart.
This exchange caused us to reflect on how we are doing as a family in discussing and helping our own children to understand and appreciate chastity and sexuality as God intended.
It’s not too hard to help our youth understand the negative impacts of sex outside of marriage as they see examples of broken families and unhappy souls scarred by disregard for this commandment.
Alongside the hope of living a life free of shame and major regret though, we wondered about how we might teach the positive aspects of working at and seeking the Lord’s help to live a chaste life.
One where they can learn to recognize and appreciate God’s hand in this gift which, in proper timing and within a relationship of perfect trust between husband, wife and the Lord, will bring a fulness of joy.
In our discussion three points particularly seemed to stand out in terms of waiting and keeping ourselves pure
1) While the world becomes increasingly desensitized, chaste living bestows upon those who exercise its power, an enhanced sensitivity and capacity to find and feel joy.
2) When the pressure of passion is tempered with patience, it acts like a forge, shaping and refining our character and increasing our power to make right decisions in every aspect of our lives
3) In marriage our happiness as a couple comes through living fully and completely for one another. Exercising agency in delaying gratification builds loyalty of the soul. Moreover you learn to trust the Lord, that He is capable of bringing us every happiness and of fulfilling our deepest desires as we seek to become one and receive all that the Father hath together.
Restoration According to Our Desires
Interestingly much of Alma’s own counsel revolves around the doctrine of the resurrection and restoration of soul and body. This that his son might know that, contrary to the teachings of Korihor, and other like minded deceivers, when we die that is not the end thereof. This is the very same doctrine that helped open Zeezrom’s eyes in Ammoniah, the idea that we get to bring our thoughts and memories, our understanding and relationships, our desires and the mortal tabernacle we now enjoy into eternity with us.
In Alma 41:5 we are further taught that, in our final state, we will receive according to our desires in this life.
I don’t know how much thought we give to that, but our desires seem to be foundational to every Gospel principle we seek to emulate and every covenant we make.
Given the fact that our desires are something we can work at shaping, honing, enhancing and developing, it seems as though we would want to spend some effort in kindling great desires for virtue and valor, fealty and forgiveness, holiness and happiness with the promise that what we ultimately want the most is what we will receive.
Putting Lipstick on the Swine of Sin
Alma makes clear that there is one desire which God’s justice cannot fulfill and that is the hope of finding happiness in sin.
Given that the adversary decorates sin with the facade of happiness, it is often the case that those who partake find themselves surprised at just how bitter its fruit is compared to the advertisement that came with temptation.
When this happens the Light of Christ begins to do its work, shining through the darkness and making it uncomfortable.
If anyone you know is unsure of whether this is the case just ask them to look at the way the world treats and relates to those who try to live and keep the commandments.
If those in the great and spacious building were having such a good time living it up, then why are they spending so much of their time and efforts mocking, with such ferocity, those who remind them of the path they have left.
This is the result of God’s laws and God’s justice. All the thrashing of popular culture, media campaigns, public shaming and efforts to alter the moral standards of society at large, have no effect whatsoever on these pillars of creation set from the foundation of the earth. The voice of Godly sorrow will continue to whisper in the hollow haunts of the wandering with promises or healing great hurts and stilling the insatiable sea.
Tennis and the Plan of Mercy
This past week we had the opportunity to play quite a bit of tennis at a family reunion.
While there are some great plays and shots made in the course of a game, there are a lot of mistakes and indeed without mistakes made by someone no one would ever score.
Yet with all these mistakes being made point after point, there is still an excitement and joy and hope of doing better on the next play.
In doubles particularly, when you start to feel like you just did the dumbest thing possible with your racket, you have someone by your side encouraging, calming and reminding you that you will get it and to keep at it.
Observing those games I started to find many parallels to life. We are doing some great things at times, but more often than not we are out here making mistakes, falling short of the ideal life we had in mind for ourselves.
Yet we keep working at it. We get up after every miss and take another swing. We have friends and family who are there to help us make up for our own shortcomings and to remind us of our potential and then we get to turn around and do the same for them.
And we have this one perfect teacher who we watch and try our best to follow. He comes to us and shows us not only how to follow through on our hopes for happiness, but also how to transform our hearts and desires, increasing our capacities and turning our mistakes into opportunities for eternal growth.
He comes to us and says, you keep trying, you keep watching me, keep listening to what I am trying to teach you, and little by little you are becoming what I Am. Keep at it over the course of this life and I promise you that some day you will play the perfect game, one which never ends and the score is simply love.
Look to Christ and Keep Living
For parents particularly, who want to save their children from sorrow, it is important to recognize that simply “instilling the Fear of God” teaches only the justice side of the equation.
To receive the promises of the Lord in fulness they are going to need to understand how to access mercy and the transformative power of the atonement in their lives.
That means that we recognize that they are here to experience mortality and that when they fall we are there to catch them with the Gospel net.
When someone has made a wrong choice, shame and casting down your head comes naturally (just watch Corianton’s reaction in the Book of Mormon videos of this week’s segment).
While parenting in such situations requires a lot of inspiration and the guidance of the spirit, I wonder If perhaps our focus should be on helping our children learn to lift their heads and look up to Christ.
Even if we might feel mortified, there is only so much we can do to rectify things.
On the other hand, as we teach our children to find for themselves the light and joy that accompanies forgiveness and as we model this pattern in our own lives, we help them gain a living testimony of God’s power and of what it means to be born again as a new person in Christ, filled with desire and the knowledge of relief.
This seems to be what Alma had in mind as he closed his counsel with these words:
“And now my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance. O my son, I desire that you should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do let his mercy and his long suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility. And now, O my son, ye are called of God to preach the word unto this people. And now my son, go thy way, declare the word with truth and soberness, that thou mayest bring souls unto repentance, that the great plan of mercy may have claim upon them.” (Alma 42:29-31)
God loves you.
I love you.
You’re not lost to Him.
In fact, you have a great work to do.
Learn from your mistakes.
Let Christ’s mercy and love change and heal your soul,
And once you’ve tasted of that fruit of joy and peace which defies all description, go and share it so that others may experience what you have.
Isn’t the Gospel amazing, and how awesome is it that God’s inspired counsel can flow through us to bless the lives of those we love most dearly.