The Alma Proposition

March 14, 2013


The more you try, the more it grows. Good seeds grow. Good seeds bring good fruit.

by Peter van der Walt 

I don’t know you.

Peter van der Walt

Peter van der Walt

I don’t know your story, your background, or your experiences. I am not here to tell you that you must see as I do, think as I do, or believe as I do. I haven’t found the truth–I’m just another human looking for it, constantly. You may want to know how to grow your own faith in God. Something that works for you – not for me, or one of the million or so self-appointed experts all over the world.

Maybe you already believe in God but feel distant from Him. Maybe you feel that you are not worthy. Maybe someone told you that you are not worthy. Maybe you haven’t prayed in years. Maybe you are not sure whether God exists or not. Maybe someone taught you to hate God. Maybe you don’t believe at all, ever or anymore, but something in you wants to.

The good thing is this: it’s not about what others say, what others do, how millions or billions of adherents or followers or brethren live and conduct their words, deeds, and thoughts.

The traditional definition of a relationship with God is one (1) person and (1) God. Redefining THIS relationship is idolatry.

It’s not about the sins committed by religionists, the strictures and codes of religious legalism, or the foot-in-mouth tendency of the religious who meddle in secular politics. It’s not even about the judgment, abuse, discrimination, false teaching or even violence that may have been inflicted on you by the members of your own or another faith.

This is about you and God.

It is separate and distinct from any particular religious background. It is a relationship that exists, or could exist, between you and a Heavenly Father that is kind, just, decent and holy. He is a good guy, not a bad guy, like many of his ambassadors will pretend.

You can find strength in that relationship. It can nourish you and nurture you–give you strength to deal with the religious and the non-religious alike. You can feel God’s presence in your life.

For a long time, I disbelieved entirely and totally. Then, one day, I read what seemed to me to be an infinitely rational, reasonable proposition.

How do you grow faith if you don’t know how? Considering how negative the majority of religious inputs may be in your life, or how irrational a concept it seems.

In Alma 32, I read how a “despised, shunned, cast-out, afflicted, unacceptable, not-good-enough” group of people went to hear Alma preach. Alma preached about faith, and told them that they are those who say, “If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe” (v. 17).

Alma’s response to this ultimate challenge on faith is almost blunt; starting on verse 27, he asks them to AROUSE THEIR FACULTIES (not dumb it down, not oversimplify, not say just do it ‘cause I say so). He tells them in that statement to start thinking, to start observing, to be willing to “experiment upon his words.”

Start with a little trust –whatever you can muster– and give it a go. See what happens. If it doesn’t work, well–you lose very little. If it does work, try a little more.

The more you try, the more it grows. Good seeds grow. Good seeds bring good fruit.

“But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow” (verse 30).

It’s simple karma, really. What you focus on you get more of.

If all you know is condemnation, then faith equals condemnation. Don’t let them rob you; empower yourself. It does not have to be a choice between fanaticism and unbelief, reason and faith, love and justice.

A billion people negotiate this issue in a billion different ways. You may like reading your scriptures. Or singing hymns. Or meditating. Or praying. Or fasting. Or serving. Work with your strengths, do what works for you.

In his personal writings, Joseph Smith wrote: “Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive; and at the same time more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of His punishments, and more ready to detect in every false way, than we are apt to suppose Him to be.”

Quorum of Twelve and First Presidency member Hugh B. Brown added: “A sense of relationship and co-partnership with God involves the concept of universal brotherhood and that will help to develop intelligent tolerance, open-mindedness, and good-natured optimism. Life is really a battle between fear and faith, pessimism and optimism. Fear and pessimism paralyze men with skepticism and futility.”

Another of my favorite Hugh B. Brown quotes: “Now I have mentioned freedom to express your thoughts, but I caution you that your thoughts and expressions must meet competition in the market place of thought, and in that competition truth will emerge triumphant. Only error needs to fear freedom of expression. Seek truth in all fields, and in that search you will need at least three virtues; courage, zest, and modesty. The ancients put that thought in the form of a prayer. They said, ‘From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, from the laziness that is content with half-truth, from the arrogance that thinks it has all truth—O God of truth deliver us’.”

So don’t be afraid, and don’t let yourself be bullied. Develop your relationship with God, so that you stand in a position of strength. Go ahead. Shake things up. Try a little and see what you get.

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