And now behold I say unto you, my brethren, the things which I have been prompted to write as I have marched forth in this challenge. I have received much strength from day to day to accomplish this thing. The Lord hath supported me, yea, and hath kept me from falling exceedingly far behind.
Behold, I desire to share the thoughts of mine heart. For these things I do not out of pride but of gratitude. I have not been commanded to do so, but have been compelled by my righteous sister to share with you these things.
The account of Cortney's sister as she journeyed through the account of Alma and his sons, according to her own words, written in the language of her fathers. Comprising thoughts 1-13:
My dad once told me that he knew he had been fully submersed in the work (as a missionary) when he started dreaming in Dutch (he served in Belgium). While the scale in this case is much smaller, I have felt a little bit of what he described as I continue to press on in this challenge. I've recently found myself having random thoughts "in the language of our fathers". This is not to say I understand the language, or could write/speak (you saw my brief attempt above, which needs much tweaking) in such a manner. It is only to say that I subconsciously understand more than I think and that reading the scriptures in this way has made a huge difference in my understanding. The language is more plain and I stumble less in trying to follow the storyline. How grateful I am to have been able to increase my understanding and become more familiar with the language of the scriptures. Even if this is the only blessing I receive as a result of completing this challenge, it is enough.
Thought 2: It would seem that our Father in Heaven has a plan (unlike the men of the scriptures, yours truly has yet to learn how to remove sarcasm from my ways of communication, you must excuse me). The thought that the order of God can be seen as a chain of events is a basic one, but profound in my eyes. For some one that sees life in mathematical equations or "if, then statements," this thought simplifies things for me. Whether you work the equation forward or backward, the sequence is the same. Do you want determination? Have courage. Want courage? Have hope. Trouble having hope? Try faith and peace. Not something you're having an easy time drudging up? Try prayer. Prayer is the catalyst for those blessings to follow. If we "pour out our souls in prayer to God" it will surly come to pass that He will "visit us with assurance that he would deliver us; yea in so much that he did (will) speak peace to our souls, and [did] grant unto us great faith, and [did] cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him." That we may "take courage" and be "fixed with a determination" to do that which we desire or require. (Alma 58:10-12)
I've heard many missionaries declare great blessings as a result of following EVERY rule, with EXACTNESS. Though I've not doubted this principle, I often wonder what it actually means and what the difference between 'perfection' and "nearly perfect' is. Are the blessings really that much more significant? How exact are we expected to be, seeing that we are not, after all, perfect? Well, has anyone else noticed words like "strict," "exactness" and other various synonyms as they've been reading? Should I have high lighted each time I saw words like that I would surely have at least a dozen, most likely many, many more. I'm beginning to realize how taking little liberties here and there with commandments is a lot worse than we lead ourselves to believe. The men we hear of in Alma 58 were so extraordinarily righteous Helaman called them his sons (56:10) and the Lord gives them strength, strength enough to defeat even the strongest army under terrible circumstances. These, the stripling warriors, were blessed so much by the Lord that "even one soul hath not been slain." We later hear of them having severe wounds and suffering much, yet still they all survive. Is it wrong of me to think the covenants they and their parents made, mixed with the EXACTNESS of their righteousness is what compelled the Lord to spare them? It may very well be the difference between 'perfection' and 'nearly perfect'. (Alma 38:39-40)
Bad things HAVE to happen to good people. A professor of mine once said that bad things happen to you for one of three reasons. First, you directly made a choice that got you there. Second, someone else made a choice that affected you. Or lastly, the Lord is having a teaching moment. Though I realize this fits under the second category, the fact that bad things HAVE to happen to GOOD people jumped out at me reading chapter 60. Those with evil in their hearts must be allowed to DO EVIL. The Lord's plan was to allow people the freedom to choose good vs. evil, right vs. wrong. If God stepped in and prevented the bad choices of the evil to have affect on the good he wouldn't be able to hold them accountable. We absolutely will be judged and held accountable for our works, we know this. So if the evil are to be judged accordingly, bad things MUST happen to GOOD people. This is such a plain principle taught by Moroni (Alma 60:12-13). How grateful I am for this message and for such a clear response to the question "If there is a God, why does he let bad things happen to good people?"
We are blessed. Most of us are blessed with a talent, some with many talents. There's monetary wealth, spiritual wealth, mental wealth, and physical wealth and we all have at least one of them to offer. Then we have scriptures preserved for us in these last days, modern day revelation/prophets, information at our finger tips with unlimited resources, etc. Can we really expect to possess these things and be content not to use them for our spiritual progression? Can we sit back in comfort with whatever semblance of a testimony we have and just wait for the second coming, expecting we'll recognize His face? "Could ye suppose that ye could sit upon your thrones, and because of the exceeding goodness of God ye could do nothing and he would deliver you? If ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain...Or do you suppose that the Lord will still deliver us, while we sit upon our thrones and do not make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us? I have been given countless blessing to use for my good; to aid in the growth of my testimony; to guide me in each battle of the war we call life. How silly for me to ever sit back and rely on the Lord to save me without doing everything in my power to know Him, to hear His voice, and to follow His lead. There is much the we can DO. ACTING is very key part of the plan. (Alma 60:11, 14, 21)
Unity, the power of being united, is far too underestimated. We must realize that sometimes our greatest challenge is ourselves. How many times has a ward experience hardship as a result of members dukin' it out over silly things? I can't tell you the havoc caused for the group/ward/church when just one member chooses to do something they know is wrong and the 'little ones', consequently, follow their lead. And what about a family torn apart by one teenager or unfaithful parent? In order to fortify the walls of our homes, wards, and stakes we need to ensure the steadfastness of each member. For if one of them rejects the Lord's council, the damage could potentially be greater than just about anything else we face. (Alma 60:16)
Though our intentions are good (unlike those of the Pahoran's counter parts), it's easy to get lost in ourselves and forget about those we could be helping. When we lead relatively cushy lives and are not continually plagued with troubles it's easy to forget that many people are troubled and are waiting for our help. (Alma 60:19)
"Behold, I am Moroni, your chief captain. I seek not for power, but to pull it down. I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country." How different, how better off would this country be if it's leaders could honestly declare these very words?
We all know how easy it is to misinterpret written letters and emails. It's even easier to take an ill word spoken in anger and make even worse than intended. How great, how forgiving, of Pahoran to overlook Moroni's assumptions and instead "rejoice in the greatness of your [Moroni's] heart"? What a great example of overlooking an assumption or comment that, though made with good intent, could have been taken offensively! Instead of becoming angry and turning against Moroni, Pahoran turned it into a good experience, so much so that they came together and were able to accomplish great things. (Alma 61: 9)
"A true friend to freedom" is what I hope can be said about all of us at the ends of our lives. (Alma 62:37)
Thought 11: I am, by nature, someone who loves (and hates) politics. Though many don't see it, politics affect our daily lives and will affect our children's lives long after we are gone. Like it or not, politics are what keep us free. With that said, it comes to no surprise that I have had politics on the brain while reading these last 21 days. Consequently, it has become very obvious to me that politics were just as important to the valiant men we are reading about as they are to me. Much of what we have read touches on things of a political nature that we face this very day. While I read many verses defending my personal political positions, I also read things that allowed me to see the other side. I can understand where people who oppose my ideas are coming from. Admittedly, I still believe them to be a little off base, but now I understand how they reach their conclusions and why they feel the way they do (at least when they use church doctrine to back up their beliefs). This can only be a blessing as I attempt to have compassion and move forward with others in political discourse, which again, I feel is very important. While this may only have significance to me, you might find it interesting and helpful in your own life. Should you ever have a question of who should earn your vote or what a vote for a particular law might mean, turn to the scriptures. You'll be surprised what you find. But remember, look at the big picture and don't take things out of context.
Though we see the wicked captured and slain by the righteous time and time again, it is only AFTER given the choice to repent and follow the righteous. Not once do you read of someone being killed that is not actively pursuing the righteous (the Nephites as of late) unto death. Once captured, the deaths of the wicked are what my dad would say is an extreme case of "cutting off your nose to spite your face." In my mind, they knew who was righteous and who was wicked, they just chose to be wicked. And by so doing, the Lord authorized their deaths.
It's interesting that the very same people that fought valiantly nearly their whole lives were those who delighted in spending their last days doing missionary work. Helaman and Moroni were what we'd called 'beasts' on the battlefield, yet they were in tune with the spirit, solid in the gospel, and desired to spread it as far and as wide as they could. In my opinion, they fought (literally) their whole lives to do what they only got to accomplish the last moments (couple of years) of their lives. Finally, finally, they were able to preach that very same gospel that gave them faith, hope and a determination throughout all those years of pain. And, I bet they'd say it was worth every scar.
And thus ended the very lengthy epistle of Cortney's sister.