Monday, April 27, 2015

Alma 5:11-14 -- On Change and Minds and Hearts.

"Behold, I can tell you—did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi? And was he not a holy prophet? Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them?
And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.
And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.
And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?"
Alma 5:11-14

When we talk and think about conversion, we often talk of feelings.  And in our society, we are often taught to discount feelings.  That they should be suppressed, that our logical mind should reign supreme, that emotions make us crazy.  And, of course all of that is partially true, which  makes the arguments more compelling. :)  But God doesn't teach us that emotions are bad or to do away with them.  He asks us to bridle our passions... to make sure that we are always in control.  Not unexpressive, but that we have the ability to calm ourselves and process what we are feeling, dealing with our emotions in a productive way, rather than allowing them to make us crazy. :)  As we read the scriptures, we read about God having emotions.  Christ, in his mortal ministry, expressed emotions.  Life requires logic and smart thinking so that we can understand so much of ourselves and our world, but all of that has to be balanced with emotional understanding and spirituality, which is part of what Alma talks about here.
Alma is recounting the conversion of his father (also named Alma), which started out intellectually.  Abinadi taught the gospel to the wicked priests of King Noah.  Alma listened and understood, and they made sense to him, and he believed.  That belief turned into something emotional and spiritual, and his heart was changed.  Where before he had been complicit in the King's evil plans, now he wanted to change his life, and become a priest in truth... bringing others to the true gospel.  A similar change is required for all of us as we grow in the gospel.  Although intellectual conversion is valuable, until we feel it and it matters to us, and until we also make a spiritual connection with God, then we are effectively bystanders, going through the motions, but never fully participating in the process.  By the same token, we can be emotionally converted, but if we never think about the gospel and ask questions about the things we don't understand, then we can as quickly fall away if we encounter something that seems negative emotionally.  As in all parts of life, we make ourselves vulnerable to bad decisions when we exclude parts of ourselves from our decisions and commitments.  Just like a marriage or a career could never thrive if we were only halfway dedicated to it, our commitment to God is imperiled if it involves little thought or little emotion.
Alma is speaking to the members of the church.  He knows that they wouldn't be there if they weren't already converted in mind, and so he asks them about their emotional and spiritual involvement.  And the same questions is good to ask ourselves.  Have we experienced this mighty change of heart?  It's okay if we haven't... it doesn't always come immediately, but it is something to work toward, and pray for.  And if we have, as Alma asks in verse 26, can we feel so now?  Today, let's make sure our whole selves are involved in our lives.  Let's be balanced, not letting our intellect or our emotions take over, but letting our minds keep our emotions in check, and allow our minds to be guided by the spirit so that we don't allow paranoid thoughts or incorrect interpretations of others' actions to drive us crazy either.  Let's look to God for his guidance and his help in finding a balance in our lives and committing our whole selves to the gospel.

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