Several years ago we lived in Kathmandu, Nepal with our four young children. Experts believed that Nepal was decades overdue for a big quake and we should be prepared for it to hit at any point. In an effort to keep us safe and aware, we were briefed periodically on earthquake safety. This potential threat weighed on my mind and I found myself ultra aware of my surroundings at all times. I thought through many scenarios and how we might react. Because of slow-moving traffic, the distance we lived from school, and varied schedules of our busy family, it was likely that we would be in different locations around town if a quake struck. I aimed to be as prepared as possible.

One night for Family Home Evening we had an earthquake drill. We pretended our earthquake alarm sounded, giving us a few extra seconds to find safety. We practiced taking cover in appropriate places depending on where we were in the house. We talked through possibilities if we weren’t at home. I remember the kids going to bed a little jittery that night and I wondered if it was too much for them. As it turns out, just a week later the Sikkim quake struck with a magnitude of 6.9. It was early Sunday evening and we were thankfully all home. It was scary and rattled us and the house, but we were glad we had practiced and knew what to do. 

Along with the rest of the world, we watched in horror when the 7.8 Gorkha earthquake hit Nepal in 2015, a year after we left. It killed nearly 9,000 people, injured about 22,000, destroyed homes and many historic sites, and flattened entire villages. I had visited Gorkha a few times on outreach projects and knew students and teachers there. They all miraculously survived, but their village was gone. It struck just after our small Kathmandu branch finished church, which is where we also would have been. Our member friends were safe, but the building was severely damaged. The Nepali Saints met for over a year in a rented hotel conference room until a suitable replacement was found. They, along with thousands of others, proved resilient as their homes and country were rebuilt. 

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Gorhkha, Nepal 2011, photos courtesy of author

Especially timely now, Mosiah 29 – Alma 4 shows what “humble followers of God” (Alma 4:15) can do to remain “steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God” (Alma 1:25), despite whatever shakes around them. As Elder Gary E. Stevenson recently taught, the Salt Lake Temple foundation is undergoing developments that will provide “a robust defense against damage from an earthquake” and will strengthen “the temple to stand steadfast, even as the earth and environment around it undergo an earthshaking seismic event” (A Good Foundation against the Time to Come, April 2020). Similarly, we can and must strengthen our personal and family foundations.

DISCUSS and PONDER:

Have you ever been in an earthquake or similar rattling event? Discuss what it felt like. What are some ways your family is building its spiritual foundation? How are you building the kind of home that is a refuge from the storms that shake around you?

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I can be a positive influence in my community

Mosiah 29:11–27; Alma 2:1–7

At times I’ve wondered if some people were born with an added ‘civic responsibility gene’ that moves them to support and lead all sorts of worthwhile causes. I have several such friends who do tremendous outreach and provide local service, even at great personal sacrifice. It’s easy for the rest of us to sometimes sit back and let them tackle the problems, but these verses encourage all of us to take a more active part for good in our communities. We can “appoint wise men to be judges” (Mosiah 29:11) by staying informed on issues and (depending on where we live) exercising our right to vote for good men and women leaders. This 1976 Ensign article is still relevant today, and the author concludes by saying, “If men and women of character fail to participate in the political decisions that shape their lives, others with more selfish motives will inevitably rush in to fill the void.”

Mosiah reminds his people “how much iniquity doth one wicked king [e.g. King Noah] cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction!” (Mosiah 29:17). He encourages them to “choose…by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord” and points out that “it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right” (Mosiah 29:25-26). Their religious freedom and common voice for good is soon tested with the cunning of Amlici (CFM pg. 83). The Nephites respond by using their combined voice as a people against Amlici’s efforts to “deprive them of their rights and privileges of the church…[and] to destroy the church of God” (Alma 2:4). He is not appointed king but breaks off and becomes his own king (Alma 2:9) and later causes much destruction as they join forces with the Lamanites against the Nephites (Alma 2:24).

DISCUSS and PONDER:

How can you and your family be a solid voice for good in your community and in your online interactions? Why is religious freedom important?

ACTIVITY:

  • As a family, brainstorm some important issues you care about and related needs facing your community. See Justserve.org for ideas in your area and choose a need to support (or research local organizations and choose one to support by donating time or resources.)
  • Watch any of these religious freedom videos and discuss what you learn as a family
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I can recognize and reject false doctrine

Alma 1

False doctrine surrounds us online, in the media, and nearly everywhere we turn. Often it’s enticing and paired with truth, making it difficult to recognize. Many of us have been saddened when someone we love is deceived by untruths or when we are persecuted for our beliefs. The Nephites faced this as well with the popular Nehor. He manipulated the word of God, claiming that people shouldn’t labor with their hands, and that all will be saved at the last day because Christ had redeemed all people (Alma 1:2-4). Many believed Nehor, supporting him with money as he wore costly apparel and formed his own church and practiced priestcraft (Alma 1:7,12). Gideon “withstood him, admonishing him with the words of God” (Alma 1:7,9). While Gideon withstood Nehor verbally, he was not able to withstand Nehor’s physical blows and was slain by the sword. Those who did not believe Nehor did “stand fast in the faith…[and] were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God, and they bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them” (Alma 1:25).

I love trees and roots. They represent to me what it means to be steadfast and immovable. Sinking deep into the earth and strengthened by the wind, roots nourish and protect the tree. No matter what might come our way, we can be rooted in Christ, trust in the word of God, and not be shaken. Sometimes it is the storms of life we fear most that help us develop the very strength we seek. If we embrace God’s divine tutoring sessions rather than resist them, we will develop confidence, strength, and spiritual resilience that will help us withstand whatever comes our way.

CFM suggests looking at some specific scriptures that refute Nehor’s falsehoods. I am reminded of Elder Rasband’s address he gave at an Evening with a General Authority last year. He encouraged seminary teachers to “help students identify a ‘protection scripture,’ one they can call to mind when they are in a perilous situation or need the strength to step away.” I like to keep a running list of scriptures that give me quick and added strength in times of need.

DISCUSS and PONDER: What does it mean to be steadfast and immovable? What spiritual strength and resilience have you developed because of a trial or hardship?

ACTIVITY: Encourage each family member to identify a few “protection scriptures” that can be recalled in times of temptation, persecution, or discouragement. Make a list and add to it as more are discovered.

Learn more about Spiritual Resilience

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True disciples of Jesus Christ do not set their hearts upon riches.

Alma 1:27–31; 4:6–15

Shortly after getting married, we moved into a small apartment complex. Like many starting out in life, money was tight. We learned that our ward boundary, with the exception of our complex, was made up of a highly exclusive and wealthy neighborhood. Several well-known athletes, business owners, and philanthropists lived in our ward. It was a little intimidating for us at first, but everyone welcomed us so kindly. They became examples to me of using money for good and being “humble followers of God” (Alma 4:15). Though they were “exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things,” they “did not set their hearts upon riches… [and] were liberal to all” (Alma 1:29). 

I was called as a third counselor in Primary and almost laughed. A third counselor? I didn’t have any children yet and felt I wouldn’t be able to add much to what these very capable women were already doing. Still, I appreciated serving alongside them as they mentored me. Through their actions they taught me about loving individual children, serving with their whole hearts, and relying on the Lord in any calling. That divine tutoring unknowingly prepared me very specifically for my future service in the church.

Several years later, we lived in Djibouti for two years. There was no formal church congregation and we met in our home with our two young children. In subsequent years, I was called to lead in Primary in Sydney, Kathmandu, and Mumbai. Our small ward and branches had a variety of needs and challenges, and I often drew on the strength of the women I had served with as third counselor years before. The Lord knew they didn’t really need me, but I would need to draw on that experience and he prepared me. Over two decades later, I’m still grateful for humble followers of the Lord that had their hearts set on service rather than riches.

DISCUSS and PONDER:

What are some examples of divine tutoring in your family or family’s heritage? What experiences in your life have prepared you for specific callings or assignments? How can preparation, both spiritual and temporal, ease fear of an uncertain future?

The “word of God” and “pure testimony” can change hearts

Alma 4

It is difficult to watch those we care about suffer. Alma felt “very sorrowful” because of the persecutions and afflictions that were heaped upon his people (Alma 4:15). Many were lifted up in pride and set their hearts upon riches (Alma 4:8). There began to be great contentions and the “wickedness of the church was a great stumbling-block to those who did not belong to the church, and thus the church began to fail in its progress” (Alma 4: 10). In response, Alma appointed Nephihah as chief judge (Alma 4:17) so Alma could go among his people. He wants to “preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them” (Alma 4:19). That’s the love of a true leader. 

DISCUSS and PONDER:

Share a time you have been “awakened” (Alma 4:3) and inspired to change. How have you been lifted or inspired by hearing the “pure testimony” of someone who cared about you? Discuss, as CFM p. 84 suggests, why testimony is such an effective method to persuade others to change. Who might you strengthen by sharing your testimony with them of a gospel principle?

ACTIVITY:

What is a testimony?

CONCLUSION:

Like pending earthquakes in Nepal, figurative earthquakes can strike at any time and we must be ready. There is much we can learn in these chapters about building solid foundations so that we can be steadfast and immovable no matter what happens around us. The Lord provides us with many opportunities, even when unpleasant and painful, to be tutored and be “awakened to our duty” (Alma 4:3). If we are willing to suffer “all manner of afflictions for Christ’s sake” (Alma 4:13), we will be “filled with great joy” (Alma 4:14).