Friday, January 29, 2010

a time to fortify & protect...

As I have participated in the challenge our ward issued to the youth to read the Book of Mormon this year, I have renewed a love-affair with the scriptures. I struggle with the scriptures at times, with the language and understanding symbolism, etc., so this year-long challenge has proved to be such a blessing! To read the book in 12 months, you read an average of 20 verses, or 1 1/2 pages per day. For those seeking to know the "time commitment", that's basically about 5 minutes of study. FIVE MINUTES. Since I try to get up an hour before the kids (reading with zero-distractions is a requirement for my processing-brain), that gives me more than enough time to read over several times the daily reading assignment or look up footnote references, etc. in an effort to better understand just what it is the scriptures are trying to tell me. The last time I read the Word of God with this much attentive detail and zeal was probably back in my high school seminary days. I didn't realize how I'd missed it, or what it did for my everyday life. I find myself...more grateful. There will come a day when I will leave this mortal life behind, and pass on thru the veil. When I do, there will be many people I seek out to meet, but I can tell you this--some of the first that I will be looking for will be these ancient scripture prophets, both of the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon. I will fall to my feet and weep tears of gratitude, thanking them for writing down these precious words. What a painstaking process it must have been for them, scribing into plates of metal so that we future generations might have the wisdom of their experiences and faith!
The entire book of Alma may prove to be my favorite. Such gems are written in those chapters! Recently my thoughts have been with our current reading assignments, which have been the late 40's and early 50's chapters. Every morning before I read, I've prayed, asking Heavenly Father for three things:
  1. help to remain focused (assistance for my wandering mind),
  2. an increased understanding,
  3. and lastly, for the ability to extract from those ancient words something I can apply to my own life today.
Rare has been the day when the Lord has not granted these desires, and I'm sure on the days "He" hasn't, it has most likely been "ME" who was probably not focused or paying attention.
This is what I've gotten out of this week's reading:
Chapter 51
After a few years of peace, the wicked Lamanite leader Amalickiah once again through his own greedy and evil ambitions disregards the lives of his soldiers and followers and is determined to come into war with the Nephites, this time for personal reasons as he is obsessed with destroying Captain Moroni, who had humiliated and defeated him about five years earlier. During the years since the Nephites first victory against Amalickiah, Moroni and his armies worked tirelessly to prepare their people for another battle. They fortified their cities with watchtowers, and walls or heaps of earth to protect them from the arrows and stones their enemies might use against them. Preparations to keep the evil out had become their first priority. However around 67 B.C. peace and prosperity had been in the land long enough that the people began to let down their guard, becoming too comfortable and less aware. They began to have political disputes among them, so much so that Captain Moroni and his armies had to turn their attentions away from their preparations for the dangerous Lamanites and instead use their energies to resolve the contentions among their own people. It was during this time that the cunning Amalickiah chose to attack in one of the weaker Nephite cities, which he succesfully overcame and held hostage. This "small" victory allowed him to then do the same thing with several other Nephite cities.
In verse 9 it states: "But behold, this was a critical time for such contentions to be among the people of Nephi; for behold, Amalickiah had again stirred up the hearts of the people of the Lamanites against the people of the Nephites and he was gathering together soldiers from all parts of his land, and arming them, and preparing for war with all diligence..."
And in verse 27: "And thus the Lamanites obtained, by the cunning of Amalickiah, so many cities, by their numberless hosts, all of which were strongly fortified after the manner of the fortifications of Moroni; all of which afforded strongholds for the Lamanites."
I couldn't help but think that our homes are as the lands of the Nephites. Just as it was then, it is again a "critical time"--a time in which Satan is anxiously waiting to weasel his way into our lives, our homes, our very hearts. How vital it is for us to fortify our homes against the evils of this world! How vital it is that we must constantly check ourselves, not only in our own behaviors, but also in our relations with those we treasure most. We can fortify our homes, through studying the scriptures, prayer, Family Home Evening, attending our church meetings so that we can learn and progress, and through serving each other, but all of that goes out the window if we allow contention to occur within our sacred walls. Or if we watch one bad movie, read one less-than-virtuous book, view one repulsive & inappropriate website. Satan is cunning and he is watching for these moments when we might become distracted, just as the Nephite armies had become distracted by the wrong choices of their own people. It is these moments when the Evil One will creep his way into our homes, when we become too comfortable and lose our guard. It made me realize that as a parent in my home, I have a responsibility to remain focused and not allow myself to be distracted by things in the world that are not worthy of my attention.
Do I allow myself to be "stirred up in anger" with the people in my home?
Am I willing to admit my weaknesses in order to make them stronger?
Moroni in his wisdom knew that to really fortify his people and protect them from the adversary, he not only had to know their strengths, but also their weaknesses.
And do I focus too much on the weaknesses of my family members?
Once he knew the weaknesses of the people, he didn't dwell on them, but instead worked to overcome them.
Are there things in my life that could distract me that I tend to justify? Are there things in my life that I need to let go of so that I can place my focus upon things of greater worth? What I can do to better contribute in creating a secure fortress for my family?

I want to live in my life in a way that my choices fortify instead of distract. I would love to be as Captain Moroni, a man firm in the faith of Christ and who believed there are certain things in life worth fighting for. I love how he is described in Alma 48:17. "Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea the devil would never have power of the hearts of the children of men."

President Howard W. Hunter said:

"Not all of us are going to be like Moroni, catching the acclaim of our colleagues all day every day. Most of us will be quiet, relatively unknown folks who come and go and do our work without fanfare. To those of you who may find that...unspectacular, I say, you are 'no less servicable' than the most spectacular of your associates.

You, too, are part of God's army."

Hope Sig1

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