Saturday, October 27, 2007

Learning from the Anti-Nephi-Lehis

I am struck by something about the Anti-Nephi-Lehis - something that usually gets overlooked as we focus on the "obvious" moral of the story - a secondary one, in my opinion.

All of us are familiar with the highlights of the story of these people and their sons - the Sons of Helaman - the 2000 Stripling Warriors. We know of how wicked they were, of how they buried their weapons of war, of how many of them were killed by their brethren, of how they vowed to kill no more, of how the Nephites sheltered them so they could keep that vow, of how their sons honored them by fighting for them, of how their sons' dedication and diligence preserved them in war as others died around them. What we rarely understand fully is *why* the original group (the parents of the Stripling Warriors) were so blessed.

We know they chose to die rather than to kill, but we often overlook the fact that it wasn't their pacifism toward their fellow man that saved them. That pacifism actually killed many of them - while their sons' lack of pacifism did not result in their deaths. The mortal results differed between the generations, but the spiritual result was the same.

Alma 23:7 says, "For they became a righteous people; they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more, neither against any of their brethren."

I believe that the key to this story is not their eventual pacifism toward their fellow man, but rather their initial, fundamental pacifism toward God. In other words, they were blessed because they stopped fighting God - they laid down "the weapons of their rebellion" and were saved spiritually because of that submission, no matter their physical fate when they then laid down their weapons of war.

How often do we think of repentance as "laying down the weapons of our own rebellion"? How often do we think of the process of repentance as a substitution of those weapons we use to protect our own "natural (wo)man"? How often do we think of repentance as a proactive, positive process of progress and character acquisition, rather than a process centered on shame? How often do we see it as an opportunity to obtain a blessed state, rather than of being compelled to go through a refiner's fire?

I believe the glory of the Atonement is that Jesus, the Redeemer, has paid for our sins and transgressions and weaknesses and shortcomings already - He has bought us already - if we simply are willing to lay down the weapons of our own individual rebellions and join Him in His yoked journey. I believe He has "forgotten" the life we leave behind when we "lay down our lives for our friends" - and I believe it is only by forgetting about the natural tendency to focus on our own lives (and focusing instead on trying to grow and help improve others' lives) that we are able to bury and walk away from our former weapons of rebellion.

In summary, if you feel tired of fighting (yourself and others), stop. Just stop. Accept your weakness, even as you strive to improve and become strong; accept your inadequacy, even as you strive to become an instrument in His hands; accept that the Atonement has paid for you, even as you strive to show your appreciation for that purchase; accept the grace that so fully He offers you, even as you use that grace to be free to pursue becoming like He is; focus on growing and changing and serving others.

He fought your fundamental fight already, so quit fighting and simply endure to the end just like the Anti-Nephi-Lehis did - whether that end is pacifist or battle-tested or somewhere in between. Feel whatever you believe God wants YOU to do, then do it.


Mama D said...

Wow! This is profound. And I really need this reminder right now. I'm grateful for your insight and perspective. Thanks!

ANTSYLLI said...

Wow is right! I observed a family member who did this very thing...of course I didn't make the connection. His life is totally transformed and about doing good for others now. The change was miraculous and it pleased me to see it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. They are so uplifting.

chelle said...

I was running along those same line of thoughts morning. But I couldn't figure out how to write it....
Well I started to write abotu it here and it was turnign into a book lol.. I have a post.
Thanks for shairng Ray! You've inspired me. But, don't get overly excited. It won't be anythign as profound as this!! haha