Guest Post by Haley W.
“And now it came to pass that all this was done in Mormon, yea by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon; how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer…”
Thus closes the story of the people that Alma converted after being converted himself by the prophet Abinadi. For many Latter Day Saints, the focus of this chapter is the actual experience of the people when they were baptized and the covenant they made with God. However, the other day I was reading this chapter and I got to thinking about the above verse. I started to ponder on why the forest of Mormon and the waters of Mormon were so beautiful to the people.
The verse tells us they came to know their Redeemer but what was involved in the experience of coming to know and developing that relationship? Is there a way for us to apply this process to our own lives that we may draw closer to Christ and like the people of this chapter, “come to know [our] Redeemer?”
Perhaps the best place to start is a brief summary of what occurred leading up to this chapter. Essentially, like many prophets of old, the Lord commanded Abinadi to preach among a people ruled by an evil king named Noah. After one failed attempt he returns many years later and once he is discovered he is arrested and brought before the king. Abinadi preaches the truth, claiming that if the king and the priests do not repent they shall suffer the same death that they will cause him to suffer. He preaches of faith and repentance, declares that they do not teach the Law of Moses, and above all “redemption cometh through Christ the Lord.” (Mosiah 16:15). After Abinadi does this he’s executed by fire; prophesying as he dies that the day will come when King Noah’s life will also be consumed in fire, which does in fact occur.
Just like many missionaries Abinadi did not witness the fruit of his efforts. Yet there was one man among the priests, named Alma, who was moved by the spirit and fled from the presence of the king. While in hiding he came to know God, in a sense he experienced his own “Waters of Mormon Moment”. He then preached to the people in private, all that would hear. After some time he lead them to the Waters of Mormon where he baptized them, having received authority from God to do so.
Here most Latter Days Saints focus on what we will refer to as the “requirements of baptism” but in this post we will look at five points that brought about these peoples’ “Waters of Mormon Moment” in which they came to know God.
5 Keys to their “Waters of Mormon Moment”
I. Desired to Follow God Regardless of Consequences
Growing up I was always reminded that it is easy to stand for God in a crowd. It is when we must stand alone that our faith is tested and our testimonies refined. The people that gathered at the Waters of Mormon knew perfectly well that the soldiers of King Noah were hunting down anyone who claimed to believe in the words of the now deceased Abinadi. They knew that it was possible that they would be martyred just like him for what they were choosing to do. It is something to be admired and emulated.
President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Thomas S. Monson has counseled Church members “an individual testimony is necessary to be strong enough to withstand all the forces pulling us in the wrong direction or all the voices encouraging us to take the wrong path.”
In order to be like the people of Mormon and have our own “Waters of Mormon Moment” we must develop our own testimonies strong enough to stand up for what we believe. As Alma teaches the people we must stand for God “at all times and in all things and in all places that ye may be in, even until death,” (Mosiah 18:9). I think the question to ask ourselves is “am I willing to stand for God not matter the cost to me?”
Recall what Christ said: “whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:25). Seek ye first the things of the Eternities my dear readers that when Christ returns to claim His people we shall know Him for we will be like Him.
II. Experienced a “Spiritual Rebirth”
It was Jesus who stated “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” It is through this rebirth both of water of the Holy Ghost that we are transformed from natural man to saint. King Benjamin taught “For the natural man is an enemy to God…” (Mosiah 3:19) Yet the rebirth that I am speaking of is neither of these. It is a rebirth that comes with our everyday choices, the kind of rebirth that occurs each time we pray or choose to study our scriptures. It helps us put off the desire for the things of the world and enables us to focus on the eternal. We no longer yearn for the temporal, pride causing, and materialistic whims of the flesh. Christ said “if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
I would like to draw your attention to another example of a “Waters of Mormon Moment “in the scriptures; specifically, the conversion experience of King Lamoni’s father.
Upon first meeting Ammon and his son Lamoni, the father of Lamoni declares “I will grant unto thee whatsoever thou wilt ask, even to half of the kingdom” (Alma 20:23). However later on after Aaron (Ammon’s brother) teaches Lamoni’s father of the Gospel of Jesus Christ Lamoni’s father prays to the Lord “I will give away all my sins to know thee” (Alma 22:18). This change is a product of the “spiritual rebirth” of turning one’s heart to God and through that transformation of the heart and coming to know Him in a way that one has not previously. It is like walking out of a dark room into the bright light of day. Everything becomes more beautiful, more enriching, and further understood.
My dear reader, choose the things of God, choose to follow Him, and one day you will look back and wonder how you ever lived any differently. Elder David A. Bednar has declared “Through faith in Christ, we can be spiritually prepared and cleansed from sin, immersed in and saturated with His gospel, and purified and sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.” Such is the spiritual rebirth that each of us can experience, I invite each of you to partake of His redemption and live.
III. Personified Their Faith By Their Actions
I have done quite a few posts on the need for works not to secure our salvation but to validate it. Our actions coupled with our faith act as a testament before God that our heart is truly turned to him. So I will not argue the necessity but rather the blessings of righteous works.
For the people at the Waters of Mormon they sealed their faith with a full immersion baptism, just as Christ was baptized in the New Testament. (See Matthew 3)
Think of many of the parables Christ gave including the ten virgins, the good Samaritan, the sheep and the goats, and even the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in which he “seeing the multitudes… went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him” (Matthew 5:1). Christ readies Himself and then the people come unto Him. He didn’t idly sit at the base of the mountain and teach. He wanted only those willing to navigate the slope to hear His words; only those which were prepared to work for it. Coming unto Him implies that we must do something. We as children of God plead for Christ to come unto us.
I cannot recall a time that He has not answered my desperate appeal. Is it not only fair that we return the favor?
In personifying their faith by their actions the people at the Waters of Mormon came to know God because they strove to DO what He wanted them to DO. Recall the verse in James 2:2 that says “faith without works is dead” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said “we are truly spirit children of God and therefore should act accordingly.” The word I would like to draw your attention to is the word act. It does not say “speak” or “think” or even “believe” it says act. To me that implies the need for more from us. As the hymn “More Holiness Give Me” pleads “more holiness give me; more strivings within; more faith, gratitude, and purity; more fit for the kingdom; more purpose in prayer; and more trust in the Lord” (Hymn #131).
These things cannot be obtained without action, without evidence of our devotion to God found in all that we do, not just what we say in front of a congregation at Church or upon our knees before God. He asks us to pick up our crosses and follow after Him, do it.
IV. Took Steps Forward on the Path of Discipleship
Though this concept somewhat ties into the previous in many ways, it deserves a brief discussion of its own. The people that gathered at the Waters of Mormon and that were then baptized by Alma took numerous steps on the path of discipleship before reaching this climactic moment. They believed on his words, they listened with open hearts, they learned with a desire to know.
Every little thing that we do that brings us closer to Christ propels us forward on the path of discipleship. Every day we make decisions that can cause us to move forward, backwards, and some decisions even result in a brief detour to enticing worldly pleasures. In another General Conference address President Dieter F. Uchtdorf assured us “the first step on the path of discipleship begins in the exact place where we stand! We do not have to prequalify to take that first step.” The step does not have to be huge either. It can simple be a conscious choice. A choice to pray every morning before you leave the house, a choice to read a little bit from the scriptures every night before bed, a choice to be kinder, more patient, or more humble.
Many of the steps we take will not be acknowledged or noticed by others. I submit to you that the most monumental (at least for me) have been the steps I have taken that only God has known. Praying for the desire to serve others more selflessly, to love God more deeply, and to find greater joy in my journey are just as a few. The smallest righteous act can be the first step you will take on the road to your eternity with a loving Heavenly Father who waits.
So what are you waiting for? The only person holding you back, is you.
V. Aligned Their Will With God’s
Perhaps one of the hardest things to do in my opinion is to understand the will of our Heavenly Father and then to faithfully trust in it. A well-known scripture reads: “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
Yet it is difficult to do. Many people find it testing to trust in something when it causes them to take a few steps into the dark. Yet that is what the people at the Waters of Mormon did and in order to have a similar experience as them we must do the same. They did not know if their actions would cost them their lives. They did not know if it would bring them into bondage to wicked people who roamed the land. Yet they faithfully trusted, knowing that what they were doing was right before God, heeding not to the worries of what man could do. Christ taught “fear not them who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28).
This life is not meant to be easy because it was not easy for Him. If we are to be disciples of the Lamb of God who was scourged and bruised for the sins of the world we take a slight sip from the bitter cup that He had to drink for our sakes. As I previously mentioned remember Christ promised “he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39).
One’s life has not been fully lived until that life is lost in a love for the Savior and for His fellow men.
The will of God won’t make us miserable. Though at times, when we must sacrifice, when we must walk away from what we deem is the “best” for us, it may seem that way. Yet God’s job is not to make His children agonize over lost opportunities. He loves us too much to do that. His goal is to “ bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
Seek God’s will, whatever it might be- in prayer, in fasting, in study, and in faith. Life as you know it will end, for yours will become a life for God- there can be no greater cause than this. Reach for it, it’s there, you just have to know where to look.
“We frequently may press forward hoping and praying—but without absolute assurance—that we are acting in accordance with God’s will. But as we honor our covenants and keep the commandments, as we strive ever more consistently to do good and to become better, we can walk with the confidence that God will guide our steps.”
-David A. Bednar
So as not to take away too much from He who is to be the center of this post I will keep many of the personal details as private as I can while still making my point.
There was a time not long ago when I desperately wanted something. I prayed earnestly for this desire of my heart. It was a righteous desire as far as I could tell (yet who am I to know the ways of God?) Up to that point God had not dissuaded me from my efforts to obtain what I longed for. In fact, at times, it felt like He strengthened me and gave me patience to do what I needed to obtain it. Then, one night, with a few harsh words, all that I had hoped and prayed for was ripped from me. I walked in the dark for a time and I suffered the growing pains of my affliction. I begged God for understanding, for mercy, and above all, for relief. Yet it didn’t come in the way I thought it would. No angel came from heaven to tell me why or to assure me that the light would shine again. No angels from heaven anyway. Rather, God sent them in the form of friends. People were there to help me realize that beyond this deep rooted desire there was life. That I was not the product of an individual’s words or insults but clay in the hands of God, being molded and refined into something beautiful. Though at the time I did not realize it I now know that the darkness that I wandered in was for me, a Waters of Mormon moment.
In the midst of that trial I came to know my Redeemer and how precious are those moments of tearful prayers and sob-wracked pleas. How beautiful are the lessons I learned and the understanding I gained. My challenge to you, my dear readers, is to come to recognize these “Waters of Mormon Moments” as they come. Recognize your trials as a furnace to fire you into a beautiful instrument for God’s use. I leave you now with the same words that Mormon left with his son ““Be faithful in Christ … [and] may [He] lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death … and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever. And may the grace of God the Father, whose throne is high in the heavens, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of his power, until all things shall become subject unto him, be, and abide with you forever” (Moroni 9:25-26) and as always, may God never cease to bless you until you read again.