Let’s talk today about America. America!
We believe in the Church that God provided this land for us as a land of safety and liberty. I just visited Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, so forgive me for this topic being fresh on my mind. Let’s not forget that we are a nation of immigrants and that, really, that was the point of America, even from Book of Mormon times. Refugees welcome! But really.
In 2 Nephi 1, Lehi talks about this land. It says in verses 5-7,
5 But, said he, notwithstanding our afflictions, we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord.
7 Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever.
Before you start saying, “see! The righteous! Only the righteous get the land!” let’s also remember not to be self righteous. Often I think about the people Alma saw with their rameumptom and trite prayers. Do you remember? In Alma 31 it gives the words of the prayer, and they said in part,
18 And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen.
22 Now, from this stand they did offer up, every man, the selfsame prayer unto God, thanking their God that they were chosen of him, and that he did not lead them away after the tradition of their brethren, and that their hearts were not stolen away to believe in things to come, which they knew nothing about.
23 Now, after the people had all offered up thanks after this manner, they returned to their homes, never speaking of their God again until they had assembled themselves together again to the holy stand, to offer up thanks after their manner.
24 Now when Alma saw this his heart was grieved; for he saw that they were a wicked and a perverse people; yea, he saw that their hearts were set upon gold, and upon silver, and upon all manner of fine goods.
26 And he lifted up his voice to heaven, and cried, saying: O, how long, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that thy servants shall dwell here below in the flesh, to behold such gross wickedness among the children of men?
Some of us may feel like Alma here in verse 26. So then what? What did Alma do? Did he go away and get depressed and say that there wasn’t anything he could do? No. He taught. He prayed. He tried to make a difference to whoever it was who listened to him.
But what about us? What does any of this have to do with what is going on now?
I thought recently about the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s in the book of Alma. They were Lamanites (aka Nephite enemies) who decided to give up fighting in a major way, literally burying their weapons and covenanting with God to not shed blood anymore. So in Alma 27 we find old friends Alma, Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni meeting up after the missions (these Anti Nephi Lehi’s being converts of Ammon). So Alma decides to bring everyone back to the land of Zarahemla, and they give their mission reports to the chief judge. Then what happens? Well, the chief judge sends “a proclamation throughout all the land, desiring the voice of the people concerning the admitting their brethren, who were the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi.” (Alma 27:21).
Like what? They were previously enemies and now the chief judge is calling them their brethren? And the chief judge is basically asking for a vote on whether or not to let them into the “country.” And what do these people do? We read in Alma 27 that they give up an entire chunk of land for these people, and not only that, they send armies to protect them since they have made a covenant not to go to war.
Now this is Christlike love and trust. These converted Lamanites heard what the Nephites were going to do and, as it says in verses 26-27 of Alma 27:
“And it came to pass that it did cause great joy among them. And they went down into the land of Jershon, and took possession of the land of Jershon; […] And they were among the people of Nephi, and also numbered among the people who were of the church of God. And they were distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end.”
Maybe it’s weird to say, but this land is meant to be a place for positive change, for inclusion, for repentance and forgiveness and love. Right now a lot of people aren’t feeling like those characteristics or qualities are being met. So what do we do?
Well, for future pondering, I have two points that I think are important to discuss:
- What is actually most important to us? What matters? How can we try and solve these issues and work towards our goals? (society-wise, I mean. Mental health. Religious liberty. Human rights. Racism. Sexism. Financial problems. Care for the elderly. Taxes. Trade. Whatever)
- Is it possible to be polar opposites and still be unified?