In the Book of Mormon, a prophet named Helaman shares some insight about his experience building on the rock and his words are later quoted by his sons. If you’re familiar with the Book of Mormon, you know that Helaman comes from a long line of people who had solid experiences with rebuilding relationships with Christ. If you’re not familiar with these folks, no worries. I want to share a few beautiful stories of people who had misunderstood the Savior or people who had rejected Him altogether, and were reminded of the opportunity that we all have to change and rebuild.
A man named Alma (the great-great-grandfather of Helaman) served as a priest for a rather selfish and misguided king named Noah. Alma heard the testimony of a believer named Abinadi and something inside him felt the truth in Abinadi’s words. Maybe he couldn’t exactly articulate it but he realized he had quite a bit to learn about the Savior and he decided to seek Him. Alma left the service of the king and sought to know the Savior in the ways this man Abinadi had described Him. Unfortunately, by this time, Abinadi had been killed so Alma had to seek inspiration from heaven as he thought about Abinadi’s words. One of Abinadi’s chief complaints about these priests in particular was that they had been giving the people a very wrong impression of the Savior’s teachings and compassion (sound familiar?). As Alma begins to glean understanding and share some of his new thoughts and impressions about the Savior with other people, he gets varying responses but there are quite a few people who are interested in the doctrine Alma is learning. When he teaches the people, his focus is on repentance (changing and learning about obedience firsthand from our choices) and redemption (belief in our ability to merge with the Savior’s proffered grace), and faith (belief that He can and wants to help) on the Lord (Mosiah 18:7). When Alma begins to create a culture of goodness about him using the Savior’s principles his focus is on compassion. Alma’s ability to convey his thoughts and feelings about the Savior is profound to me because once he tore down so many of his preconceived ideas, he started teaching people one of the most simple and powerful principles by which Heaven operates:
“And it came to pass that he said unto them; Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life-
Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his spirit more abundantly upon you? (Mosiah 18:8-10)
The principle is loving each other, the action is baptism which is choosing to make a commitment with God to honor that heavenly principle of compassion and work on obeying it. As a blessing for those who want to serve as witnesses of Him (walking reminders that He and His love are real), God offers an extra measure of His presence in their lives. In this instance, it was His spirit. No one forced them there. There was no compulsion, there was no strong-arming. It was simply an invitation. Alma had realized that by loving others, He was blessed with an added measure of the Spirit. God is no respecter of persons, so Alma was offering that opportunity to anyone else who wanted to approach Heaven. There were inevitably doctrinal questions, as people began this new life with curiosity, about how compassion is extended to so many people and how to cultivate it. And there were answers that came but at the core of a disciple’s life, then or now, I believe that compassion is what one will find. And I imagine Alma had to accept the Savior’s compassion for himself in order to articulate it for those around him. Alma simply taught the people to love each other the best that they could and they found joy in doing so. Amidst all the doctrine he was picking up and all the revelation he was receiving, I think he was able to focus himself and others on this most important aspect of the Savior’s teachings (Matt 22:40) because he had painstakingly rebuilt every bit of his knowledge about Jesus Christ as he thought about Abinadi’s words and received personal revelation from God through the Spirit to help him understand how to move closer to heaven.
The reasons we may have to rebuild are varied. Choices, either our own or other people’s, may reveal to us some weakness in our foundation. Circumstances beyond our control may bring a need to rebuild to our awareness. Ultimately, I’m not even so sure it matters why we need to rebuild because in the end, I think the only important thing is that we make the attempt because along the way, all the things we feel and learn about compassion and understanding as a result of our efforts to rebuild on the Rock bear divine similarity.