A Joyful Society (4 Nephi 1:15-17)

After Christ’s Visit to the Americas, the people were changed. They covenanted with Him. They kept their covenants and the commandments. And what followed is nothing short of amazing.

” And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.

And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.

There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.

And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings; yea, even they were blessed and prospered until an hundred and ten years had passed away; and the first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the land.” – 4 Nephi 1:15-18

This society – it was heaven on earth. It was Zion.

How was it possible? The love of God which dwelled in the hearts of the people.

So, I know that I could write at least 10 pages on this subject – the love of God that dwells in the hearts of people. For now, though, just understand that this isn’t some kind of amalgam concept of “love” that we seem to have now. They had the very specific love of God – the pure love of Christ – the love what doesn’t fail. This love comes as a result of discipline and covenant keeping.

Through covenant keeping and discipline, we develop God-like love, or charity, and then we can experience the following:

  • joy in the success of others – (lack of envy)
  • Peace – (no strife)
  • Virtue – (no whoredoms)
  • Sanctity of Life and safety – (no murder)
  • Healthy Family life – (no manner of lasciviousness)
  • Happiness
  • Safe Property – (No robbers)
  • Safe Life – (No murderers)
  • A United Class – (No Racism or class)
  • Blessings
  • Heir to the Kingdom of God
  • Prosperity
  • The Abundant Life

Often, I think that we have a backward approach on this. We think that if we will just work at joy, peace, safety then we’ll have it. Or we think we make laws to prevent murder, robbery, and rape, and then experience the kind of society described in 4 Nephi. We think that we can “eradicate” class through governmental control.

We often try to approach this ideal society backwards – looking at the corollaries, rather than the cause.

The way to be the kind of society like these Nephites after Christ’s visit is through humbly covenanting with God. It is through Righteousness and devotion to the commandments that will enable us to become the kind of people who have hearts filled with the love of God.

I find this message to be especially hopeful. It’s possible! Christ will make us perfect. He will complete us and enable us to live joy – even while in this mortal state. If we will just turn to Him. He will teach us how it is possible, and empower us by filling our hearts with His love.

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The Results of Faithlessness (Clue: They aren’t good!) (3 Nephi 2:19)

Yes, I know that we just read about the peace and joy that the people had as a result of covenanting with the Lord and being righteous. But then, they forgot…

“And thus ended the fifteenth year, and thus were the people in a state of many afflictions; and the sword of destruction did hang over them, insomuch that they were about to be smitten down by it, and this because of their iniquity.” – 3 Nephi 2:19

Silly people. Really, we are silly.

Wickedness and abomination increase. They consider faith in Christ to be “foolishness.” And here’s what happens:

  • They experience many afflictions
  • The sword of destruction hung over them
  • They were smitten down.

Yikes!

This sounds horrible! These are the results of wickedness. Wickedness never was happiness. Remember – that’s not just some trite saying. It is a universal law. No matter what we try to convince ourselves, it is as real as the law of gravity.

A Chilling Warning (Alma 45:8-10)

It’s time for more commentary from Mormon (who abridged this historical record of his people).

“Thus we see how quick the children of men do forget the Lord their God, yea, how quick to do iniquity, and to be led away by the evil one.

Yea, and we also see the great wickedness one very wicked man can cause to take place among the children of men.

Yea, we see that Amalickiah, because he was a man of cunning device and a man of many flattering words, that he led away the hearts of many people to do wickedly; yea, and to seek to destroy the church of God, and to destroy the foundation of liberty which God had granted unto them, or which blessing God had sent upon the face of the land for the righteous’ sake. – Alma 46:8-10

This is a chilling warning for our own day. It’s crazy to see how the people who were subjected to war – who fought and rejoiced for their liberty when they won the war – would quickly forget this blessing of liberty.

It is indicative of a very ignorant and naive people. However, this attitude is more than mere naïveté. It is also insidious at its most extreme. Okay. and depending on the person who rejoices in his/her liberty but then wants to limit it – this attitude is also hypocritical.

I feel pretty safe in saying that we all want liberty. We all want to be free. But then there are people who feel like liberty shouldn’t be extended to all. (Not that they want their liberty limited. They want the liberty of others to bear the limitation).

This is the same hypocrisy of the war in heaven. Satan wanted to have agency while simultaneously crushing ours. You can’t have it both ways, though.

Trusting those who have the desire to have liberty while limiting others’ liberty is pride, ignorance, and maybe even complete stupidity. We ought to fight for liberty the way that we fight for life. The loss of liberties and privileges always has a terrible, miserable, and painful outcome. Often, we can’t regain this loss without a serious and bloody revolution.

We are at a political crossroads right now – it is election year, and this year seems to be particularly depressing. I would never tell you how to vote, but I do think that we need pay attention to our liberties and how each candidate respects the liberty of every person in this country. Once we give up our liberties, the cost to get them back may seem too high.

Pride – A Block to Our Happiness (Alma 42:30)

In Alma 42, Alma is still teaching his son, Corianton. He says something very interesting to his son:

“O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.” – Alma 42:30

Pride so often stands in the way of happiness.

Instead of changing, so many people excuse their sins by denying the justice of God, instead. I can see why this is a common pattern, but it doesn’t work!

We can deny God and His justice all we want, but our denial of God doesn’t make God non-existent. We can deny God and His justice all we want, but we are still subject to it.

Think of it this way. We may “disagree” with gravity. We may even let our pride in the matter wrap and distort our minds so much that we then deny the law of gravity. Despite such denial, if we stood at the edge of a cliff and jumped, we’d soon find that we were still subject to it.

Instead of denying God’s justice as a way to “justify” ourselves, we ought to simply accept the justice of God. The beauty of accepting God’s justice is that we can also accept the companion blessing He has offered us through Christ: His mercy.

Through accepting God’s justice and Christ’s atonement, we then will humble ourselves to let Christ’s Atonement take place in our lives. We do this by submitting to Him – by being righteous. And the result…HAPPINESS!!!

Denial gets us nowhere. Accept. Be humble. Obey. Be happy!

Happiness and the Universal Laws Governing It (Alma 41:3-5, 10, 11)

In Alma chapter 41, Alma is speaking to his son about life after death. He teaches:

“And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.

And if their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame—mortality raised to immortality, corruption to incorruption—raised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil, the one on one hand, the other on the other—

The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.” – Alma 41:3-5

When we die, we will be restored in proper order.

If we do good work, then we will be restored to good; evil to evil.

What I find interesting here is when Alma says that we will be raised to happiness according to our desires of happiness.

Who doesn’t want to be happy??? I figure we all want to be happy, yet for some reason we have this idea that happiness can be achieved in any way our natures desire.

Instead, if we want to be happy, then we need to understand the universal laws that govern it. (***Universal laws = God’s laws. I just want to emphasize here that these God’s laws aren’t arbitrary rules of a power-hungry God. They are universal laws: intact whether or not we believe in them.)

The universal laws that govern happiness are righteousness and repentance. There are others, too (consecration, sacrifice, obedience, etc.) We can’t make up our own rules about happiness. We need to follow God’s laws. If we desire to be happy, then we will begin to shift our desires from worldly and natural pleasures to God’s laws and righteousness.

This isn’t to say that God is boring or pious. He wants us to experience beauty and happiness in this life. In fact, we learn later on in Alma about God’s nature – that it is the nature of happiness. (See Alma 41:11.)

Because God’s nature is the nature of happiness, we can expect that things that will bring us closer to Him will make us happier. Whereas things that distance us from Him will cause us pain. As Alma teaches his son, “Wickedness never was happiness. (Alma 41:10).

A lot of this stuff might seem repetitive, but it is so important to understand. God’s plan is the plan of happiness. We are here to have joy. We need to understand the distinction between lasting joy (the happiness God offers) and fleeting pleasure (Satan’s counterfeit).

An analogy.

A few days ago, I took a long walk. 14 miles in length. This walk also includes a bit of a mountain climb. I would guess about 4000 ft in elevation gain. It isn’t easy. The first 8 miles are an ascent up a giant mountain. The road is steep. It switches back and forth.

I could look at this walk like a chore; like something to be avoided. I could resent the sweat and pain in my lungs and then instead do something that is much more immediately pleasurable.

I could look at this walk like something I want to do, but struggle along the way. I could huff and pant, and keep up a very fast pace up the hill -without ever stopping to take a breath. I could choose to see this walk only in terms of the “goal” – arriving at my destination. I would experience joy when I arrive, but I think that I would also miss out on the joy along the way. In fact, if I have this mindset, there is a chance I might never finish – getting too exhausted and tired along the way.

Finally, I could look at this walk as something I want to do, and I could be patient. I could be committed to climbing the mountain and completing my walk, but resting assured that as long as I’m walking that I’ll make it. There will be points when I must push through fatigue and shortness of breath. Maybe I’ll take a break. If I do, instead of chiding myself for physical weakness, I’ll look out to the neighboring canyons and pine-covered mountains. or maybe I’ll notice a small red wildflower growing on the forest floor amongst aspen and hellebore and other alpine plants. Though moving slowly, I’ll be filled with joy even as I walk up the mountain – noticing the blessings along the way and imagining the blessing it will be to make it to the pass at the top of the mountain.

And then, when I make it to the top, I’ll see more than one valley beneath me. A 360 degree view. Though the walk up was hard, I’ll feel rejuvenated and invigorated by my accomplishment.

Life is a lot like a long walk up a mountain. It is hard. It requires effort. We might be tempted to think that we could experience the joy of the view at the top anywhere on the mountain. It is easy to misunderstand this experience and think that we need to climb up it as quickly as possible, passing all of the beauty and joy that God blesses us with along the way.

But there is only one way to the top of the mountain: up.

There is only one way to feel God’s joy and happiness. It is when we come unto Him. We do this through Christ and keeping the commandments. If we follow these universal laws, then we will experience in this life and in the life to come.

Wickedness Never Was Happiness Demonstrated (Alma 14:21)

In Alma 9-14, we read of the people of Ammonihah. They were wicked. So – what’s the problem with that? Why does it matter? Why can’t we just live and let live.

Well, those are nice questions, I guess. But it’s kind of like asking, “why do we have to be susceptible to gravity?”

The people of Ammonihah were breaking a law that is just as sure as the law of gravity, but without immediately obvious consequences.

The Universal Law

Wickedness never was happiness.

Even though the people of Ammonihah weren’t immediately destroyed, a quick analysis of these people will show that everything the wicked people of Ammonihah did demonstrated this principle.

A happy and joyful people won’t burn a group of faithful women and children to death – merely because of their beliefs. These people hadn’t committed any kind of slight against the society. The wicked people of Ammonihah simply didn’t like them.

I can’t imagine that it would be a very happy environment – knowing that one wrong word could get you killed.

A happy, joyful people is patient and open minded. The people of Ammonihah imprisoned innocent people, abused them, mocked them, spit on them, and gnashed their teeth. They don’t sound particularly happy.

Again, the people of Ammonihah don’t sound that happy! Though they were in power and felt that their worldly ideal was popular and therefore right – it wasn’t! We can tell by the results of their beliefs – sadness, misery, death, and destruction. They might say that they aren’t wicked, but a proclamation of righteousness doesn’t mean righteousness. And wickedness never was happiness.

The people of Ammonihah were filled with fear. This is another terrible and painful emotion that accompanies the wicked and faithless. They receive no peace or comfort.

We have seen wicked nations and governments. When I think of a nation that will burn people simply because of their beliefs, I can’t help but think of the Nazis. Though the Nazis bullied their way into power – didn’t make their behaviors or mindset right or true. They might have claimed to be righteous, but – as I mentioned earlier – a claim doesn’t make it so!!!

If we want to live in peace – in our personal lives, in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our cities, in our states, in our countries, in our world – then we need to adopt lifestyles of righteousness. Only then will we be peaceful and happy.

The Sons of Mosiah – Before and After (Mosiah 27:10, 37)

The sons of Mosiah lived varied lives. Like Alma, the younger, they sought to destroy the church. They persecuted and they didn’t believe.

We read:

“And now it came to pass that while he was going about to destroy the church of God, for he did go about secretly with the sons of Mosiah seeking to destroy the church, and to lead astray the people of the Lord, contrary to the commandments of God, or even the king—” – Mosiah 27:10

So, the sons of Mosiah and Alma the younger went about to destroy the church. When such persecutions were effectively outlawed, they sought to destroy the church in secret.

What do you suppose is the level of joy in those who destroy or seek to destroy? It’s an interesting thought. Really, if you are bent on destruction, how happy are you?

I recognize that there may be some pleasure in the spoil of destruction. It’s a rush, I guess. But I seriously doubt that these sons of Mosiah and Alma had truly happy and healthy lives. They probably had a hard time transitioning out of such a destructive and painful mindset. My guess is that they assumed others were bent on destruction, deception, and misery. Usually, when we get stuck in this kind of mindset ourselves, it is difficult to imagine any other possibility.

And I have to admit, I think that this life would be miserable. In some ways it is tempting to be that type of person – the type that persecutes condescendingly. Maybe such behavior will make us “feel better” about ourselves. But I think that we’ve all done it before with negative outcomes. It’s a boring life – making fun of other people all of the time. Persecuting and destruction requires no creativity or intelligence. Blah.

***

Now, fast forward to the time after the Sons of Mosiah and Alma had converted and their hearts were changed.

“And how blessed are they! For they did publish peace; they did publish good tidings of good; and they did declare unto the people that the Lord reigneth.” – Mosiah 27:37

This scripture describes the very same group of people. After repenting and covenanting with God, they declared glad tidings of joy to others. They published peace. They built up rather than tore down.

I know that preaching the gospel and publishing peace isn’t always the most exciting thing to do. They faced rejection and humiliation. But, we can’t discount the impact of the message that they shared. They published peace and the love of God. They were constantly thinking on these concepts and principles. Already, it sounds a lot happier than thinking so much about destruction.

Not only did their work cuase them to be blessed in the future, but I imagine it blessed them immediately. It isn’t difficult to imagine how publishing peace and joy increased their own peace and joy.