A More Powerful Effect (Alma 31:5)

Alma the younger had been elected by the voice of the people to serve as Chief Judge of the people of Nephi.   Alma had also been given the office of High Priest over the Church by his father. (Mosiah 29:42)  Alma served faithfully in both positions  for eight years, but in the beginning of the ninth year of the reign of the judges, Alma had a decision to make.

During his eighth year of reigning as Chief Judge, "there began to be great contentions among the people of the Church; yea, there were envyings, and strife, and malice, and persecutions, and pride, even to exceed the pride of those who did not belong to the Church of God. . . . and the wickedness of the church was a great stumbling-block to those who did not belong to the church; and thus the church began to fail in its progress" (Alma 4:9-10).  Inequality increased among the people, and pride caused them to break their covenant of baptism, turning their backs upon those in need.  Those living righteously were persecuted for living the gospel and trying to live the way the Lord had asked them to be.  Alma's own family, his wife and children, had probably personally experienced harassment for the gospel's sake.

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The weight of leadership must have been heavy as Alma continued to serve in both positions.  The scriptures record that he "began to be very sorrowful; nevertheless the Spirit of the Lord did not fail him" (Alma 4:15).  Under the influence of the Spirit, the answer of what to do, came to him.  He realized he could not do it all, he was not a god, but only a man.  Alma understood that "as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just-yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else . . . Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God" (Alma 31:5).  

President Ezra Taft Benson taught, "The Lord works from the inside out.  The world works from the outside in. . . . The world would mold men by changing their environment.  Christ changes men, who then change their environment.  The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.  Human nature can be changed, here and now. . . . No man who has felt in him the Spirit of Christ even for half a minute can deny this truth" (Conference Report, October 1985, p. 5).  

Elder Boyd K. Packer stated it this way, "True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior" (Ensign, November 1986, p. 17).  Alma's calling as the prophet leader was more powerful and important than his worldly calling as Chief Judge.  

After eight years as the political leader of his people, Alma resigned.  He selected a righteous man, Nephihah, as his successor, and with the vote of the people confirming their support of the new leader, Alma turned his attention to the spiritual needs of his people.  He went among the people of Nephi to "preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people . . . [by] bearing down in pure testimony against them" (Alma 4:19).  His first address was to the people of Zarahemla, the great testimony recorded in Alma 5.

As we stop and ponder our own busy life, perhaps it is time to follow Alma's example and realize we cannot do it all.  We too are only human and must make choices based on gospel principles, and under the influence of the Spirit, decide what is most important from an eternal perspective.  While we may not be a chief judge over a nation, we have influence in our own homes, among family and friends, and in our work arenas.  While, like Alma, we cannot do it all, as Elder Neal A. Maxwell so eloquently taught, "nevertheless, we are to do what we can within our allotted 'acreage'" (Ensign, May 2000, p. 72).

Elder Maxwell taught, "We need not be situated in prime time with prime visibility in order to work out our own salvation!  In contrast, however, as to improving our behavior, there are no borders that we cannot cross and no shortage of visas for those willing to venture!  Incremental improvement is, therefore, the order of the day, and it clearly requires the accompaniment of the Lord's long-suffering as we struggle to learn the necessary lessons" (Ensign, May 2000, p. 73).

Elder Maxwell continues, "Some have trials to pass through, while still others have allotments they are to live with.  Paul lived with his 'thorn in the flesh' [2 Cor. 12:7].  Suffice it to say, such mortal allotments will be changed in the world to come.  The exception is unrepented sin that shapes our status in the next world" (Ensign, May 2000, p. 72).

Elder Maxwell added, "We can draw upon that glorious Atonement by repenting.  We can learn to serve and to forgive within our sample of humanity, including settings no larger than the family or friendships . . . The Lord knows our circumstances and the intents of our hearts, and surely the talents and gifts He has given us.  He is able to gauge perfectly how we have performed within what is allotted to us, including by lifting up some of the many surrounding hands that hang down.  Thus, yearning for expanded opportunities while failing to use those at hand is bad form spiritually.  What we could and have done within our allotted acreage, therefore, is known perfectly by the Master of the vineyard" (Ensign, May 2000, p. 74).

Our allotted acreage is more often those we live with, those we work with, those we serve with, or those we come in contact with.  A simple gesture to lift the spirits of another can make all the difference in the world.   The Prophet Joseph stated, "Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness.  When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind" (History of the Church, 5:23-24).

President Nelson taught in April 2018 Conference, "A hallmark of the Lord’s true and living Church will always be an organized, directed effort to minister to individual children of God and their families.6 Because it is His Church, we as His servants will minister to the one, just as He did.7 We will minister in His name, with His power and authority, and with His loving-kindness" ("Ministering with the Power and Authority of God," Ensign, May 2018).

Through the Spirit of the Lord, Alma knew what he must do.  Through the Spirit of the Lord, we too can identify those areas the Lord has for us to work.  We can come to understand that we are doing those things and serving those people around us as the Lord needs us to.  We can't do it all, but we can do what the Lord needs us to do.  

May we, with the help of the Spirit, identify "our allotted acreage" and not seek to "do it all."  May we live our lives as Alma taught his people to live (Alma 7:23-24), and "may the peace of God rest upon you, and upon your houses and lands . . . and all that you possess, your women and your children, according to your faith and good works, from this time forth and forever" (Alma 7:27).