There is a story in the Book of Mormon about a man named Alma. He his friends (sons of a prophet-king named Mosiah) went around trying to dissuade people from believing in God.
They were not unlike Saul in the New Testament, both in terms of what their life’s work was for quite a while (working against the work of God), and also in terms of external events that helped them turn their lives around.
But it wasn’t the heavenly visitation of the Lord or an angel that really helped Paul become a disciple of Christ, or helped Alma and the sons of Mosiah become ambassadors for God. It was a change of heart brought about because of the acceptance of the grace of Jesus Christ and choosing a changed life.
One way we know this is because there were plenty of people in the New Testament who interacted face-to-face with Jesus Himself and were not converted to Him. There are many in the Bible who professed to believe in God but did not follow His ways. Likewise, in the Book of Mormon, there is a story of an angel appearing and not making a difference in people’s lives (two other sons of a prophet, Laman and Lemuel, who never fully got their hearts into following God and ended up at war with those who did…a war that lasted for generations).
We don’t need heavenly messengers to invite us to change. We can invite Jesus into our lives and hearts. “Angels” extending such an invitation (or reminding us of the invitation we’ve already sought to accept) can be people in our lives, or words in scripture coming alive through God’s Spirit, or missionaries sharing the message of mercy available to us all through Jesus Christ, or music touching our heart, or a show like The Chosen giving us a live-action view of what it could have been like to walk with Jesus when He was on earth.
Here is an example of such a story of a simple invitation. The story was shared by a sister missionary serving in the southeast area of the United States. (The man in the story gave permission for the missionary to share his story, but here we will keep his name confidential.)
This missionary and her companion visited with a man who is awaiting trial for a crime. His mind was very weighed down with everything going on and he expressed a desire to make better decisions in his life.
One of the sister missionaries shared Alma’s story in Alma 36. This story helped him feel hope that because of Jesus Christ, he can change. (See also the words in vs. 19 not circled here.)
This story stood out to me all the more so because I recently had two young men about to start their missions (angels in my own life) invite me to read these same verses on a weekend when my mind was weighed down with worry and weariness. I was raised reading the Book of Mormon, but I still felt like God was reaching out to me through this invitation to re-read these verses.
Alma went from a harrowed-up mind to a mind filled with joy. What was the difference? Turning his mind and heart to Jesus Christ. Remembering what his father Alma had taught about Jesus Christ. Allowing the love of Jesus Christ to enter into his mind and heart.
And once he had tasted of this joy, Alma “labored without ceasing” to share that joy in Jesus with others.
24 Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto arepentance; that I might bring them to btaste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be cborn of God, and be dfilled with the Holy Ghost.
There are myriad stories like this in the scriptures. The woman at the well from John 4 in the New Testament is another that comes to mind. She sat with Jesus while He told her about the sins in her life. As He did, she opened her mind and heart to the reality that He was the long-awaited Messiah. And then she left her pot and went to share the glad news with those in her circles.
I’ve been raised on the teachings of Jesus, but I need reminders to keep turning my mind and heart to Him. My mind is all-too-easily weighed down.
Writing is one way I seek to remember.
Pondering all of this also reminds me of a video that was made a few years ago for Easter. It talks about second chances, clean slates, new beginnings. Here’s the link to that video, or it is embedded below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGCbMEmpY4g
There’s a saying that the past is a good predictor of the future. But when a person involves Jesus Christ in his or her or their life, this little saying goes out the window. Those who understand how humans can change (practicing a different focus on the present as a way to be released from the bondage of the past) understand this principle, even when they don’t fully understand (or at least don’t openly teach) that Jesus Christ is the One who makes such change possible. (I’m thinking, for example, of a saying from Eckhardt Tolle written on my mirror: “The past cannot prevail against the power of the now.” (from his book, The Power of Now.) The truth that change is possible is everywhere, in leadership trainings and spiritual movements.
The reason it is possible is because of what Jesus Christ did for us and because of the divinity within us as children of God.
Here’s to new beginnings each day because of the reality of God and Jesus Christ.