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After Alma so powerfully instructs us in the empirical process of exercising faith, employing both serial “believing and skeptical” protocols, he identifies what is perhaps the most difficult condition upon which our divine relationship depends; patience.

“Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.” Alma 32:43

Like any good scientist, we act on our theory by temporarily believing it to be reality.  Then we skeptically check our results, analyzing to see if that belief passes the test, by measuring the results of our willingness to act as if it were valid.

But what if those measurable results require patience that necessitate continuing to act as if our tested theory is valid all-the-while anxiously desiring to enter the skeptical phase of results analysis so that we can insure against self-deception?

It is interesting that Alma’s protocols and measurements at first encourage us to validate for goodness rather than truth. Concluding that something is true, or in “science-speak,” that something is absolute, or can be elevated to the status of law rather than just theory, requires more than is often available to our conditions, data-set, or observations.  But measuring results in terms of “goodness” can allow us to increment our test and reassures the value of patience.

Alma used an agricultural metaphor that helps us identify with the natural laws of the harvest and their counterfeits;

An agricultural metaphor may not be comfortable in this “have it now,” “solve any life-crisis in less than sixty minutes between commercials” culture.  Trees take time to bear fruit with regular watering and feeding required. Convenience may serve to invite a “give me patience right now” mentality so that the “belief protocol” of moral experiments is met with short-cut expectations that lead to loss of moral faith.

Today’s culture not only seems to foster impatience, but the volume of interesting distractions makes it easy to procrastinate the nurturing “have-to” routines, the simple things, [1]required to nourish the “belief protocol” behaviors, until we become “slothful because of the easiness of the way.”

Fortunately, Alma and then Amulek follows Alma’s instruction with some very powerful encouragement that reframes our troublesome paradigms by linking patience and procrastination into a structure that combines chapters thirty-three (Alma) and thirty-four (Amulek) into a chiastic self-contained commentary.

After noting the necessity of patience in 32:43 with the inclusion of diligence, the chiastic structure points us to 34:30-41 where Amulek enumerates the kind of diligence that will nourish the budding faith tree.  These routine simple actions are as necessary and nourishing as watering and fertilizing. It isn’t just the quantity of water and fertilizer but the regularity that are key agricultural requirements for success.  He lists repentance and a soft or receptive heart as the diligent actions that are key to the “belief protocol.”  Repentance means to change.  Understanding the syntax[2]of sin and repentance helps us grasp why this “diligence” is so nourishing in leading us to think, feel, and do “more good.”

But Almulek adds an interesting perspective here that should not be overlooked.  From verses 34:32-35 he calls each of our individual life-spans; our “day of repentance.” He adds, “this life is THE TIME…” Alma will later call this life, “a probationary” or “preparatory” TIME.[3]  This language about the relationship between time and repentance is first found in Lehi’s final discourses.  He says that Adam and Eve’s days were prolonged.  At first blush that sounds like they expected to die from eating the fruit but didn’t because they were given more days.  But then he notes in the same verse that their “time was lengthened.”[4] This might not be significant were it not for Alma’s earlier comment that “time is measured only unto man.”[5] Or from Abraham, that time measurement is dependent on the planet upon which we reside,[6] with a comparative ratio of one day to one-thousand years between Kolob and earth.[7]

This “skewing” of time perception makes our two hours on earth seem like eighty years.  It was always fun to watch the faces of my young adult students who were just home from missions, feeling like they were now reaching experiential maturity, when they did the math to discover they were just about thirty minutes old. This is more than just a math game though when we read that God’s purpose for doing this, was a gift so “that they might repent.”  In other words, we can learn from our mistakes before the mistake becomes part of eternal nature.  We can, in essence, touch the hot stove, learn, remove the burning finger and heal it before becoming eternally handicapped.

Father knew that our appetite driven choices would bring bitter consequences which would help us clarify our values until we “prize the good.”[8]  But the limited period wherein “work can be performed” or repentance can take effect is “this life” which includes our spirit-world time as well.[9]  But he is clear that assuming that we can procrastinate or “do tomorrow what we should be doing today” is crippling.  Living life focused on telestial life-styles only prepares us for a telestial eternity. Living as a gymnast does not prepare us to swim successfully.

Time is a gift about which Jacob would plead, “Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy.”  Do not spend TIME for that which is of no worth!!  Time is the currency we spend to purchase the kind of life we will have in eternity!!  It is no wonder that the Savior would counsel us in His great Sermon to learn to prioritize and manage our TIME! [10]

Notes: 

[1]Alma 37:6 …”by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.”

[2]https://meridianmag.wpengine.com/understanding-why-we-sin/  and  https://meridianmag.wpengine.com/understanding-how-we-repent/

[3]Alma 42:4 And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God.

10…this probationary state became a state for them to prepare; it became a preparatory state.

[4] 2 Nephi 2:21And the daysof the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their timewas lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.

[5]Alma 40:8

[6]Abraham 3:4-9

[7]2 Peter 3:8; Abraham Facsimile 2: fig 1 One day in Kolob is equal to a thousand years according to the measurement of this earth

[8]Moses 6:55 And the Lord spake unto Adam, saying: Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin, even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good.

[9]Elder Bruce R. McConkie “The Seven Deadly Heresies,” in Speeches of the Year, 1980 [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1981], pp. 77–78.

[10]3 Nephi 13:33-34