Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Understanding Consequences

image The emotional pain had to be intense, more intense than Alma and Amulek could have possibly imagined. There they stood on the edge of the fiery pit in Ammonihah watching their recent converts - women and children they dearly loved - being tossed into the biting flames where all these victims could do was pray for a rapid death.


Why did God require Alma to watch this when clearly Alma had the power to make stop? That was Amulek’s question. It was Alma’s question as well. Alma did not clearly understand the purpose. His best guess was that God allowed the wicked people to cause so much unnecessary pain to justify the awful destruction that awaited the perpetrators.

Alma may have been right. Ammonihah was destroyed and all its inhabitants were eventually killed.But I think there was a much deeper purpose to this senseless slaughter. A purpose that Alma was not comfortable expressing, nor did he likely understand at the time of the massacre.

image Let’s go back several years to a time when Alma was one of those who would have gladly thrown these women in children into that fiery pit. Mormon, looking backwards, labeled Alma and his cohorts as the vilest of sinners. They were young men who caused more harm, more pain to more people over a longer period of time than the torturers at Ammonihah.

As we know, even after being such vile sinners, Alma and his friends were all completely forgiven. So much so that they all became mighty men of God - even prophets. Yet even while they were freed from the burden of their past sins, I am convinced that God needed them to bear the consequences of those sins for years to come.

To be sure, the days, weeks, and months after their miraculous conversions, Alma and his friends had to face the family, friends, indeed the whole church, they had hurt during their rebellious years.That had to be difficult. In fact, I feel it was so hard to overcome the mistrust and emotional drain of having to face the victims and their families, that the Sons of Mosiah felt it would be better to live among the Lamanites.

image But some sins, even when we are completely freed from them, still require us to go through consequences. Sometimes those consequences may be delayed by years. This, I feel, is why Alma was constrained by the spirit to stop the killing at Ammonihah.

For the first time in his life, as he watch those whom he loved suffer in those awful flames, Alma finally understood the pain he had caused so many during his season of sin. As he looked at the suffering faces of each woman and child who died in those flames, Alma could finally truly empathize with victims and their families.

image This is a vital lesson for each us. We are all sinners. We all fall short of the glory of God. Yet we need never fear that our sins are so serious that there is no path back. We can all be cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God. Never doubt the enabling and healing power of the atonement.

However, we must be willing to accept that consequences are separate from being healed. Alma and his friends were all cleansed from their vile sins. But they still had to bear consequences. For each of them, the brunt of these consequences were delayed.

image I encourage each of you to never allow the consequences to cloud the healing power of the atonement. Consequences have nothing to do with cleanliness. They are just consequences. Also, never fear allowing God to lift your burden even if the consequences of the repentance process frighten you.

You can be clean. You will be clean. You must trust God. He loves you and will succor, or run towards you, when you need Him the most.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate the distinction you make between becoming clean and suffering the consequences of our actions. After we sin, we can be forgiven, but we will at least remember our actions and the hurt they may have caused to ourselves and others. We will be worthy to partake of the sacrament, enter and participate in temple ordinances, and receive eternal life.

    However, take for example a person who drank for many years of his life. As he eventually accepts the Atonement into his life, the Lord will forgive him for his destructive behavior. He can participate on all levels in the sacred ordinances of the Gospel. But, he may still develop serious and life threatening liver failure from all of the alcohol consumption. His poor is not a reflection of his worthiness nor a perceived lack of love from God, but the consequences of his actions.

    Experiences and watching others face such consequences can be heart wrenching. For all the desire we can muster for those consequences to go away, they may not. Perhaps this is why we are instructed to learn the Gospel and continue studying it: so we can know which behaviors will lead to unfavorable consequences. Perhaps this is why we are instructed to "follow the prophet." The Lord counsel's him so that he will know which paths to avoid and then He instructs him to pass that counsel along to the world. We thank Thee o God for a prophet!