I hope if you live in the northern hemisphere, you are having a lovely summer. For those of you in the southern hemisphere, I hope it’s a mild winter. Here it’s been hot and humid non-stop for this week. It cools off next week, but the humidity rises as it rains every day.
So, summer in the south. I don’t actually think of Tennessee as the south most of the time. Knoxville is pretty cosmopolitan and most people here are from somewhere else, so the dialect and accent are not pronounced. You do hear it, but not all that often. Nevertheless, it is the south, and the weather shows it.
I’ve continued thinking about parenting skills this week. Most of my friends have above-average children on the behavior scale, yet there are still problems from time to time. I watch how they solve those problems, and consider my own parenting skills. Comparing mine to Alma’s, he gets an A and I get a C. He had two of three sons who grew up to be righteous, and a third who became righteous, but who had his period of young adult rebellion and serious misdeeds.
Alma taught by example. His sons went on missions with him and preached the gospel, as well. Corianton was the rebellious son. The things Alma re-taught this wayward son are in chapters 39-42 of the book of Alma. None of it was new to Corianton, I’m sure. His older brothers got it the first time through, but he needed a little extra. How do we know this? Because Alma mentions the serious sins Corianton committed on his mission with his father and brothers, and what the consequences of those sins were for the people they were teaching the gospel.
In Alma 39, verses 1-2, Alma said, And now, my son, I have somewhat more to say unto thee than what I said unto thy brother; for behold, have ye not observed the steadiness of thy brother, his faithfulness, and his diligence in keeping the commandments of God? Behold, has he not set a good example for thee?
For thou didst not give so much heed unto my words as did thy brother, among the people of the Zoramites. Now this is what I have against thee; thou didst go on unto boasting in thy strength and wisdom. And this is not all, my son. Thou didst do that which was grievous unto me; for thou didst forsake the ministry, and did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlot Isabel.
Uh-oh. Not only boastful, but sexual sin. Not a good example of what his father and brothers were teaching as the commandments of God! Alma further tells Corianton, in verses 5-6: Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?
For behold, if ye deny the Holy Ghost when it once has had place in you, and ye know that ye deny it, behold, this is a sin which is unpardonable; yea, and whosoever murdereth against the light and knowledge of God, it is not easy for him to obtain forgiveness; yea, I say unto you, my son, that it is not easy for him to obtain a forgiveness.
Did you ever think about why sexual sins are so serious? Or even that they were so serious? The power to create life is divine power that our Heavenly Father shares with us. That makes the misuse of this power, even when no life is created, a very serious sin against God himself. This is the thing that Alma’s son had done, and something very prevalent in our world today. It can be forgiven, upon conditions of repentance, but it is very serious.
Alma continued in verses 8-9 But behold, you cannot hide your crimes from God; and except ye repent they will stand as a testimony against you at the last day. Now my son, I would that ye should repent and forsake your sins and go no more after the lusts of your eyes, but cross yourself in all these things; for except ye do this ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Oh, remember and take it upon you, and cross yourself in these things.
Good advice, which we know Corianton took to heart, because later in Alma it talks about further missions that he did with his father and brothers, and that he was a strong missionary.
Then in verse 11 , what Alma told him must have stabbed him to the heart as he repented. Suffer not yourself to be led away by any fain or foolish thing; suffer not the devil to lead away your heart again after those wicked harlots. Behold, O my son, how great iniquity ye brought upon the Zoramites; for when they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words.
Alma himself, you may remember, had a great wrestle with the angel of the Lord over doing that very thing, and has recounted that event again to each of his older sons. He knew what he was talking about. He experienced the repentance, the anguish of having led people away from God instead of toward him. Alma had firsthand knowledge of this process of repentance, and so he could urge his son fervently to repent and walk with God.
Alma continued through the next three chapters recorded to teach his son of the coming of Christ, the atonement and the resurrection. He speaks of things he does not know, such as the timing of the resurrection, and the things he does know. I really like these verses, 8-10, and 12-13, 15, in chapter 41.
Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will, may walk therein and be saved. And now behold, my son, do not risk one more offense against your God upon those points of doctrine, which ye have hitherto risked to commit sin.
Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.
And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature?
O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish — good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.
For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner and justifieth him not at all.
I love the teachings of Alma. I wish I could have sat at his feet and heard him talk of Christ, repentance, resurrection and restoration, as he did to his sons. I know the world believes that the atonement saves all sinners. It’s true that the atonement is the power to save us from our sins. It is not going to save us in our sins.
Repentance is not a one time thing, it’s a constant thing. We don’t get through a day, an hour, without some level of sin. It’s who we are, the natural man and woman. To develop a nature that is in alignment with God, to develop into a person who can feel comfortable in God’s presence, takes time and effort, and masses of repentance and prayer. The Lord gives us this life to hone us and polish us into the people he made us to be. He loves us so much, He gave His son so that we might have a way back to Him. He loves us so much, he made a plan that included repentance and multiple chances to return to Him!
If I want to go to New York City, I can’t hope to arrive there by taking the road to Los Angeles. The same is true with the path to God. If we want to arrive on our Heavenly Father’s doorstep, we can’t stay on the easy road that leads away from him and think that somehow we will arrive where we want to spend eternity. One gift from God is eternal life. Resurrection to an eternal perfected body is another gift of the atonement. Grace is ours, every single one of us ever born on this earth, and there’s no way we can earn what grace will give us. It is still required of us to repent continually, to have faith in Jesus Christ and in our Heavenly Father, to keep the Lord’s commandments, to strive to be Christlike in all things.
From one of my living heroes, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
Christ said, “Come, follow me.” He said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Let us go forward in faith, following those two great invitations, trusting in the Lord’s love for us, and showing our love for him through our obedience to His laws, as Alma counseled Corianton, his son.