Summary: After fleeing from King Noah, Alma became converted to Jesus Christ and began secretly preaching to his people in the wilderness by the waters of Mormon. In the 18th chapter of the book of Mosiah, Alma gave a detailed explanation of the importance of baptism and what it should mean to every Christian. This article closely examines what Alma had to say on this subject and how it relates to us today.
In the 18th chapter Mosiah, we read of a sermon that Alma gave to the people of King Noah explaining what they must do in order to become saved. Then, after making them aware of how they can have their sins remitted and their souls redeemed, “it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life— Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?” (verse 8-10).
There are a number of profound truths in this statement, therefore, let’s look at them individually.
The first is that we must be “desirous to come into the fold of God and to be called his people.” The key word here is desirous. To desire something is not a passive wish or is something nice to have but that doesn’t bother us if we don’t have. To desire something means we have a strong passion for or an intense longing to have that something. Therefore, it’s not enough for us to wish we could belong to the flock of God and to be numbered among his people. Rather, Alma says we want that with all of our heart. In other words, it has to be something that is extremely important to us. This is what it means to be “desirous to come into the fold of God and to be called his people.”
To illustrate this, there are many people who live in poverty, under cruel and harsh government rules and they dream of being able to immigrate to America where they are free to make a better life for themselves. These people will sacrifice whatever they have to and go through whatever process is required of them in order to legally immigrate to America. And once here, they work hard for the opportunity to proudly become an American citizen. On the other hand, there are those who would like to come visit America, just to see what it’s like, but once their visit is over, they are glad to be back home in their own country.
This same principle applies to wanting to belong to and associate with the people of God. Unless they have a strong, burning desire to do this, and are willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to make it happen, then they are just visitors who are temporarily mingling with the saints but whose heart is really longing to be in the world.
But when someone becomes a citizen of the United States, they don’t just enjoy certain rights and privileges, but they also take upon themselves certain duties, obligations, and responsibilities. America is a land of freedom but it is also a land governed by the rule of law, and all citizens of this country are required to obey those laws. When they fail to do so, they must suffer the penalties of the law.
The kingdom of God is no different. God promises us great and marvelous blessings that we, in our mortal condition, cannot even fathom how magnificent they are. Yet, at the same time, there are laws that must be obeyed, and when those laws are violated, we are required to suffer the penalties that are attached to them.
When we are admitted into the fold of God, there are certain things that are required of us, and we take an oath before God that we will live up to those requirements. One of them is that we “are willing to mourn with those that mourn, yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.”
Alma states that we should be “willing” to do these things. God not only wants us to care for others but he expects us to do so willingly, gladly, and enthusiastically. There is no point to belonging to the church of Christ if we find living its laws a burden, therefore we not only need to desire to be part of God’s kingdom but we also need to have the desire to keep its laws. If we are not readily and eagerly willing to do that then it’s pointless to belong to the fold of God.
There are several reasons why it’s important that we care for others, however, many people only see one reaso. It’s been said that when we are kind and helpful to others. it gives us a feeling of joy and satisfaction and whereas this is true, it entirely misses the eternal reason behind this commandment.
We deliberately choose to come to earth to experience the vicissitudes of mortality as part of our training to learn how to become more like our Father in heaven, which means all of us are striving to reach the same goal. But this journey is not easy. If left to ourselves, none of us would come close to making it. Therefore, we depend on each other. We’re all sitting in the same boat, with each of us given our own oar to row, but we don’t row independent of everyone else. It’s when we all pull together that we are all able to get to our mutual destination.
When speaking about the importance of doing work for the dead, Joseph Smith declared, “And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers—that they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect” (D&C 128:15).
In the same way, I cannot be saved without you and you cannot be saved without me, and none of us can be saved without Christ. Salvation is a team effort. Why should we take care of the poor, the sick, the lonely, the downtrodden, and the weary? As King Benjamin said, “For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?” (Mosiah 4:19).
If we want to learn how to become like God, and he cares for us, then learning how to care for one another and helping one another is learning how to do the very kind of work that God does. But there is a more profound, and unrecognized reason why we are required to care for one another.
The Lord has revealed, “All kingdoms have a law given; And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom. And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions. All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified” (D&C 88:36-39).
When we talk about the celestial “kingdom” we are acknowledging that it has laws that those who live there are required to obey. The commandments God gives us here on earth are the very laws that are required of those who live in the celestial kingdom. And if someone cannot abide by those laws then they are not justified in living there. In that case, they must, of necessity, live in some other kingdom where they are able to live according to its laws.
At the time we are baptized we made a covenant, (an oath, a solemn, sacred promise) to care for others. The reason why it is so important for us to keep this covenant is because when we get to the celestial kingdom, this is what we will be doing for the rest of eternity.
In section 76th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord revealed that those who inherit the telestial kingdom, which is the lowest degree of glory, are those “who [have been] thrust down to hell.” (verse 84), That is to say that those who inherit the telestial kingdom are those who were murders, whoremongers, idolaters, along with all those who dwelt in wickedness during their time here on earth.
But in verse 86 we are told that these people will be ministered to (cared for, attended to, supported) by those who are in the terrestrial world, under the direction of the Holy Ghost, while those who live in the terrestrial world will be ministered to by those in the celestial world (verse 87). In section 132:16 we learn that there will be those living the celestial kingdom who will “minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.”
The scriptures also tell us that angels minister to us here on the earth, and that God Himself ministers to us in various ways. Since God is our Father who lives in heaven, like every good father, his responsibility is to care for the needs of his children. If we someday expect to inherit all that our heavenly Father has, then clearly, that would also include becoming heavenly parents ourselves, and when that happens, we will spend eternity ministering to the needs. of our spirit children.
What we see then is that those who live in the celestial kingdom will be spending eternity ministering to the needs of others, in one way or another. Therefore, the purpose of us committing ourselves to helping others who are less fortunate than us, is to prepare us to do the same kind of work when we get to heaven, only there it will be on a much grander scale
However, Alma doesn’t stop his explanation there. He went on to say that at our baptism we pledge “to stand as a witness of God at all times and in things, and in places,” and that we will serve hm and keep his commandments,” and we do this by entering “into a covenant with him.” But why is it important for us to make such a covenant with God?
The two greatest commandments are to love God with all of our heart and to love our neighbor as our self. We have just seen why it’s so eternally significant to love our neighbor, and the way we show that love is by ministering to their needs. This is also the same way we show our love to God.
We usually don’t think of God needing any help from us because we look at him as being all powerful and nothing is impossible for him to do, but in reality, there are things where he does need our help.
We know that Jesus died a horribly painful death in order to pay the full penalty for the sins of each and every person who has obtained a mortal body, and the cost of that payment is beyond our human ability to comprehend. But imagine, if after going through such tremendous suffering, that no one believed on him. If that were to happen then his infinite agony would have been for nothing. Christ didn’t die just to take away our sins. He died so that we could gain eternal life, but to do that we have to not only accept him as our Savior but we have to desire to be part of his fold, and be willing to do whatever he asks of us, and part of what he asks us to do is to be a witness of him to others.
The reason why Christ wants us “to stand as a witness of [him] at all times and in all things, and in all places” is to help persuade others to desire to come unto Christ and willingly serve him. Thus, those who accept Christ as their Savior are not only require to serve one another, but we’re also required to serve him as well.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we talk about committing ourselves to helping the Lord build up his kingdom here upon the earth, and one of the ways we do that is by sharing the gospel of Christ with others in an effort to persuade people to voluntarily desire to belong to the fold of God, and then serve him by keeping the commandments he gives us.
But what happens once we are resurrected and gain eternal life? Have we reached the end of our need for Christ? Do we then become equal with Christ where we have just as much authority to do what we want as he does? If the commandments God gives us are the eternal laws that govern the kingdom of heaven, then the commandment to serve God and keep his commandments is also an eternal law.
We are not serving Christ will all of our heart, mind, and soul here on earth only to set him aside when we get to heaven. Just like serving one another here on earth is preparing us to eternally serve others as immortal, gloried, heavenly beings, so also, loving, serving, and obeying Christ now is preparing us to love, serve, and obey him to a much greater degree once we enter into his presence after the resurrection.
The Lord told Moses, “there is no end to my works, neither to my words” (Moses 1:38), and Isaiah prophesied concerning the coming Messiah saying, “Of the increase of government and peace there is no end” (Isaiah9:7). The kingdom or government of Christ will not end once we become resurrected but will also continue to increase forever.
What that tells us is that the work of Christ doesn’t end when this earth passes away. The work of the Lord that he is doing now among the children of mortal men will continue throughout all of eternity, except it will expand in scope and in purpose. Christ is not going through all of this effort to save us and help us gain eternal life only to retire from his labors after the resurrection has been completed. Christ will rule as king forever, and those who belong to his kingdom will continue to serve and obey him for an infinite period of time.
When we covenant with Christ at our baptism to stand as a witness for him, to serve him, and keep his commandments, that promise doesn’t just pertain to this life. That covenant is eternal in nature. At our baptism, we are pledging our loyalty, our fidelity, our love, devotion, and faithfulness to serving Christ for now and forever.
God wants to know that he can depend on us, and that he can rely on us to help him do what he seeks to accomplish. But Christ is a kind and generous Master. Alma tells us that if we will keep this covenant “even unto death,” God will redeem us from our sins, we will “be numbered with those of the first resurrection,” and he will “pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon [us].”
This is the commitment we are agreeing to and the blessings that are in store for us when we are baptized.
Related articles are found at The Nature of Covenants and Teachings of the Book of Mormon