In the past, America had been a predominately Christian nation with the majority of its people going to church regularly, but starting about 1960 things began to change. Church attendance began to decline and people became less religious. This was the age of the hippies and the flower children and Satan was able to get a great hold upon the hearts of the people of America, especially the young as their hearts became more set on the things of the world than on the things of God.
And as they did they began corrupting the culture. What once used to be called good they gradually became to say was bad and what was once considered bad behavior they began calling good. For example, it used to be a good thing when people practiced their religion in their daily life but, over time, even professing to be a Christian in public was said to be a bad thing because it offended some people. At one time having an abortion or a baby out of wedlock used to be highly frowned upon but now it is viewed as being something perfectly normal and acceptable.
When Alma saw the spiritual condition of those who lived in Ammonihah, he prayed mightily and labored hard to get them to listen to him but, "Nevertheless, they hardened their hearts, saying unto him:…. we are not of thy church, and we do not believe in such foolish traditions. And now we know that because we are not of thy church we know that thou hast no power over us." (verse 10)
Today in America more and more people are saying to those who believe in God, "Stop trying to force your religion on us." To our legislatures, they say, "You can't legislate your morality onto us." When Christians stand up for their faith, there is a growing number of Americans who say, "We don't believe in your old fashion, out-of-date ideas of morality so you have no right to condemn us for what we do or think. You don't have any power over us."
In verse 13 we learn that "when the people had said this, and withstood all [of Alma's] words, and reviled him, and spit upon him, and caused that he should be cast out of their city, he departed thence and… it came to pass that while he was journeying thither, [he was] weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people who were in the city of Ammonihah."
Today we see more and more people who are not merely content to withstand the words of those preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ but they also feel the need to revile against them, spitting out hatred as they try to cast the righteous out from among them. For this reason, Christians especially feel weighed down with sorrow as they see their cherished beliefs being attacked and feel an anguish of soul as they see even their government violating their God-given rights.
But as Alma journeyed away from the city of Ammonihah, he was stopped by an angel who said, "I am sent to command thee that thou return to the city of Ammonihah, and … preach unto them … except they repent the Lord God will destroy them. For behold, they do study at this time that they may destroy the liberty of thy people, (for thus saith the Lord) which is contrary to the statutes, and judgments, and commandments which he has given unto his people…. for thus saith the Lord, except ye repent I will visit this people in mine anger; yea, and I will not turn my fierce anger away" (verse 16).
There are Americans today who not only want to prevent Christians from expressing their religious beliefs but they also want to rid the land of any Christian influence. Since this is contrary to the statues and judgments of our laws, what they must then do is pass laws that take away the liberty of Christians to freely worship as they want. They ban the saying of prayers in schools, they ban the display of Christmas nativity scenes in public, they ban posting the Ten Commandments in courthouses, they ban the wearing of Christian symbols in schools and even in some work places. And every day new regulations are passed that makes it harder for Christians to freely worship as they choose.
In chapter 9 we read how Alma and Amulek went forth among the people of Ammonihah and said "Behold, O ye wicked and perverse generation, how have ye forgotten the tradition of your fathers; yea, how soon ye have forgotten the commandments of God. Do ye not remember that our father, Lehi, was brought out of Jerusalem by the hand of God? Do ye not remember that they were all led by him through the wilderness? And have ye forgotten so soon how many times he delivered our fathers out of the hands of their enemies, and preserved them from being destroyed?... Behold do ye not remember the words which he spake unto Lehi, saying that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land? And again it is said that: Inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord." (verses 9,10, 13)
In the Declaration of Independence, the founders of our country expressed their reliance on the protection of divine providence and in the dark days of the Revolutionary War the Continental Congress issued several resolutions calling on all Americans to fast and pray for God's help. After we had won our independence and crafted a new Constitution, our Founding Fathers acknowledged God's hand in preserving this land and granting unto us the privilege of living in felicity.
But today, the traditions of faith in God that once were the hallmark of our forefathers have been forgotten and our history books no longer give God the credit for delivering our fathers out of the hands of their enemies. Nor do many of today's Americans remember the words of the Bible that teach that if they will keep God's commandments they will prosper and if they fail to keep God's commandment they will be cursed (Deuteronomy 26-28).
Compared to the rest of the world, America is a highly favored land. Our standard of living is the highest of any industrialized country and we have had the most prolonged period of freedom of any nation since 1776. We have waxed strong in every battle from the Revolutionary War to the Korean War and our people have never known bondage to a foreign power.
We have prospered like no other nation in history and yet, after having received so many great and marvelous blessings from the hand of the Lord, we have forgotten the traditions that have honored God. There is a push to remake Christmas into a Winter Holiday in order to eliminate all mention of Jesus. There are those who want to remove the original meaning of Thanksgiving and replace the holiday as a time to remember how white Europeans not only took possession of lands belonging to the native American Indians but introduced them to new sickness and diseases. There are those who want to change Easter from commemorating the resurrection of Christ to celebrating the beginning of Spring with the Easter Bunny as their symbol.
Sunday worship used to mean that all places of business were closed in compliance with the scriptural decree to keep that day holy unto the Lord. From the very founding of America Sunday was always considered to be a special day set apart for worshiping God and even Congress used to hold church services in the capital building on Sundays. Sunday's used to be a time when the family spent most of the day in church and then spent the rest of the day together at home reading the Bible.
But today, even among many Christians, there is nothing special about Sunday. In fact, a new tradition has developed where, right after the one hour church service ends at noon, many of the congregation goes out to eat their Sunday lunch at a nearby restaurant. In addition to that, the busiest day for football games is on Sunday and many Christians hurry home from church to watch sports for the rest of the day.
However, it's not just that the old traditions are being corrupted but there are new traditions that have sprung up and are growing in popularity such as gay pride day, Kwanzaa, LGBT, and other secular celebrations. While these groups certainly have the right to create and participate in their own traditions, what they all have in common is a lack of focus on Christian beliefs.
If Christian celebrations were allowed the same right to be practiced along with the non-religious traditions, that would be one thing, but what is happening is that Christian oriented traditions are being belittled, ridiculed, and maligned while secular traditions are being promoted, encouraged, and praised.
Alma explained to the people of Ammonihah in clear language, "And now behold I say unto you, that if this people, who have received so many blessings from the hand of the Lord, should transgress contrary to the light and knowledge which they do have, I say unto you that if this be the case, that if they should fall into transgression, it would be far more tolerable for the Lamanites than for them" (verse 23).
God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance (Alma 45:16) nor will He allow those who have received so many blessings from His hand to continue to transgress His laws for very long. When this country declared itself free from the rule of England, the signers of that declaration placed their "reliance on the protection of divine providence." The phrase "divine providence" means "God's interposition" or "God's intervention" in the affairs of men.
A river will always move along the channel in which it is flowing unless someone or something comes along to change the channel, thereby causing the river to flow in a different direction. It was the belief of those who founded this country that God could and would intervene to change the natural course of events in their favor if they called upon Him to do so. But they also understood that God would only do so for those who honored Him, not just with their lips but with their hearts and their actions.
The word "providence" can also be described as "coincidence, chance, luck, fluke, happenstance or a twist of fate." But when any of these things happen we very rarely, if ever, see the hand of God in them. Instead, they seem to happen so naturally that we tend to dismiss them as nothing more than interesting or perhaps strange occurrences.
But with God there is no such thing as "coincidence" because He is in full control of His creations, including man himself. The founders of our country believed this and that's why they not only prayed to Him for His intervention on their behalf but periodically issued proclamations of "humility, fasting, and prayer" calling on all Americans to seek God's providence to aid them in their troubles.
The basis for a civilized society can be found in the Ten Commandments - thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not covet, thou shalt not lie, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt honor thy father and mother, and thou shalt honor God. In every society there will always be thieves, liars, cheats, murderers, disobedient children, and atheists but a nation can still prosper and be blessed by God as long as the great majority of its people honor God and act righteously.
But, as more and more people within a nation begin to violate these standards of behavior, there comes a time when that nation changes from being righteous to one that is unrighteous and when that happens that society has reached a tipping point or a point of no return where it inevitably begins an unstoppable slide into more and more wickedness.
The scriptures tell us when God's Spirit is grieved it withdraws itself (Helaman 4:24). Despite all of her faults, since the founding of this nation, the great majority of Americans have been God-fearing people and for this reason God's providence has continually been over our country.
Because God's hand in the affairs of men is not clearly noticeable, it is easy to mistake His protective providence for good luck, or worse yet, as the result of our own wisdom and strength. In this state of ignorance as to the real reason for our peace and prosperity, Americans have taken these and other blessing from God for granted.
But God is a very patient and merciful God who is anxious to forgive our sins if we will repent. And because of this, He will not punish sin without first doing two things. The first is, He will warn of any impending punishment and second, He will give us time to repent in order to avert the punishment.
And, even when we don't repent, after being warned and given sufficient time to correct our ways, His Spirit is slow to withdraw itself. However, if we don't heed the warnings and continue on in our unrighteous ways, God's patience, mercy, and love have their limits and when we exceed those limits, God's wrath can be terrible and His punishments can be harsh and extremely painful.
Helaman explained, "And they saw…. that the Spirit of the Lord did no more preserve them; yea, it had withdrawn from them because the Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples. Therefore the Lord did cease to preserve them by his miraculous and matchless power, for they had fallen into a state of unbelief and awful wickedness;… and except they should cleave unto the Lord their God they must unavoidably perish" (Helaman 4:24, 25).
Even so, God is always fair and just in everything He does. For that reason He will not punish anyone beyond that which is necessary. Just as a judge will not sentence someone to life in prison for stealing a candy bar, so likewise, God will not inflict a punishment that is more than the crime requires.
However, our natural tendency is to be selfish and greedy. To be kind, loving, and caring about others takes a conscious effort and it is the Spirit of the Lord that helps us in that effort. Therefore, when God sees that we are not willing to follow the promptings of His Spirit and withdraws it from us, then we are left to follow our own inclinations.
From its very beginnings, America has been blessed with God's provident Spirit to guide us, even during those times when our nation was not as righteous as it should have been, but starting around 1960 a generation of Americans began to turn their back on God. Because of His patience, God has been slow to remove His Spirit but recent events seem to indicate that we have reached a tipping point where the Spirit of the Lord has been sufficiently grieved that God's divine providence no longer seems to be effectively working in our behalf.
Although politics has always been a contentious game of power, when God's Spirit is present, He will eventually intervene to help resolve the country's problems to our good, but when God's Spirit is no longer present, then man is left to his own natural desires. With greed, jealously, and self-interest as their motivating influence upon their decisions, the harder politicians try to solve the problems vexing our nation they only succeed in making bad situations become increasingly worse.
The problems facing our country today are more serious and more numerous than what any one President or even Congress alone can solve. It will take divine providence to get us out of the enormous troubles we are facing but in the absence of divine help our country will slide further and sink deeper into even greater difficulties.
When America has reached a point where its people will no longer listen to the promptings of the Spirit there will be no more warnings of impeding punishment. Instead, God will let our nation continue on its natural course of self destruction. When that happens, whatever misery, pain, and suffering our country will experience will not be the fault of God but will be what we have brought upon ourselves.
For this reason, the salvation of America is not to be found in the halls of Congress or in its institutions of power but in the hearts of its people because the solution to America's problems is not political but spiritual. If America's prosperity is a result of God's blessings rather than because of man's hard work and ingenuity, then our prosperity can only be maintained when we have found favor with God.
When Jesus walked the earth, His disciples asked Him one day when the end of the world would come. He answered saying, "Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled for all these things must come to pass but the end is not yet." (Matthew 24:6, emphasis added).
If there "must" be wars and rumors of wars then that clearly implies they are necessary, in which case it's essential that they happen because if they don't then wickedness will continue unabated. Therefore wars are one way God cleanses the land of iniquity. If America is becoming wicked then God must punish her for her own good unless Americans, as a whole, repent of their sins and turns back to God.
However, the way things are going and the way America has ignored all the warnings God has given so far, it seems highly unlikely that America is prepared to forsake her sins. Therefore, God is left with no other choice than to cleanse America of her wickedness and the greater the wickedness, the greater the cleansing must be.
However, the punishment will more likely come from ourselves than it will come from God's intervention because evil tends to destroy itself. Whereas God seeks to build up and create beauty, Satan seeks to destroy and make things repulsive. That's why nothing good ever comes from being wicked. Righteous living always leads to happiness while wickedness always leads to misery therefore when people engage in unrighteous behavior eventually it will destroy them spiritually, financially, emotionally, and even physically.
Unrighteous behavior breeds anger and when anger is not controlled it often causes people to commit acts of violence. Since it is God's Spirit that helps people control their anger, when that Spirit is withdrawn then there is little reason left for people to constrain their emotions. When a majority of people in a nation prefer to act in an unrighteous manner and the Spirit of the Lord is removed, then conditions are ripe for that nation to experience more and greater acts of violence which can take the form of destruction of property, riots, and even senseless murders.
And as governments seek to solve these problems, they will only make them worse without divine providence. But instead of God intervening to save America from such self-inflicted punishment, it is more likely that He will allow the consequences of our unrighteous behavior to follow its natural course which will eventually result in the nation as a whole suffering untold misery, pain, and destruction.
But no matter how unrighteous America may become, there will always be millions of people who will continue to follow Christ no matter what happens. Although such people may become the minority of America's citizens, and even though they may suffer much at the hands of the unrighteous, God Spirit and His divine providence will be with them. While they may be surrounded with hatred, threats, and physical violence, God's blessings will be upon them and they will be strengthened to endure all manner of hardships.
When Jesus had eaten His last meal in mortality and knowing that His time had come to offer Himself up as a sacrifice for our sins He told His disciples. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27). Those who remain faithful to Christ, no matter what is happening around them, will find peace, protection, and happiness that can only come from God.
There is a particular hymn that summarizes how we can have God's divine providence in our life, especially during times of serious trials and hardships. It reads, "Israel, Israel, God is calling, calling thee from lands of woe. Come to Zion, come to Zion, [before] his floods of anger flow. Israel, Israel God is speaking. Hear your great Deliver's voice. Now a glorious morn is breaking [but only] for the people of his choice" (LDS hymnbook, hymn #7).
As the wicked go about destroying everything and everyone around them, and turning their environment into a wasteland, the righteous need not fear because God will build up His people and turn them into beautiful beacons of light in the midst of a raging storm of spiritual darkness. And after America has been cleansed of its unrighteousness, it will be the remaining faithful followers of Christ who will rebuild this country and restore it to its former glory with the help of God's divine providence.
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