Continued from part seven.
The Zoramites understood the message, sort of…
After expounding the doctrine of faith to the Zoramites, including breaking it down into its component ingredients (the word of God, belief on that word and the Holy Spirit), the Zoramites were eager to start the process and get themselves saved. Yet, their next question to Alma indicated they still didn’t quite get it.
Now after Alma had spoken these words, they sent forth unto him desiring to know whether they should believe in one God, that they might obtain this fruit of which he had spoken, or how they should plant the seed, or the word of which he had spoken, which he said must be planted in their hearts; or in what manner they should begin to exercise their faith. (Alma 33: 1)
Essentially, they wanted to know what the word was that they should believe in order to have it planted in their hearts so that the Holy Spirit could generate faith unto salvation in them. Alma then proceeded to appeal to the scriptures to show that the word is in Christ. He completed his sermon with these words:
Cast about your eyes and begin to believe in the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and that he shall rise again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works. And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen. (Alma 33: 22-23)
It is the Atonement of Christ that we plant
The great, grand secret to exceedingly great faith is that we plant this word in our hearts through belief and allow it to grow via the action of the Holy Ghost, with no resistance on our part and no doubts concerning it. It is this word that brings all of the manifestations of the Holy Ghost to us. It is this word that overcomes the world and makes our calling and election sure. It is this word that generates eternal life (exaltation) and immortality in us. Christ is the Word and the more centered on Him and his atonement, the greater and faster our faith will grow.
For this reason, after Alma sat down, Amulek got up (recorded in Alma 34) and started expounding the doctrine of the Atonement of Christ to the Zoramites, that they might have the seed of faith they needed to plant in their hearts.
My brethren, I think that it is impossible that ye should be ignorant of the things which have been spoken concerning the coming of Christ, who is taught by us to be the Son of God; yea, I know that these things were taught unto you bountifully before your dissension from among us. And as ye have desired of my beloved brother that he should make known unto you what ye should do, because of your afflictions; and he hath spoken somewhat unto you to prepare your minds; yea, and he hath exhorted you unto faith and to patience—yea, even that ye would have so much faith as even to plant the word in your hearts, that ye may try the experiment of its goodness. And we have beheld that the great question which is in your minds is whether the word be in the Son of God, or whether there shall be no Christ. And ye also beheld that my brother has proved unto you, in many instances, that the word is in Christ unto salvation. (Alma 34: 2-6)
As the word is in Christ unto salvation, true saints of God center their whole lives on him. This is why Nephi stated:
And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. (2 Nephi 25: 26)
Jesus and his atonement is the seed of faith that needs to be planted in the hearts of man. By keeping this seed, and this seed only, planted by our belief in our hearts, which is our soil, with no resistance towards the Spirit, the seed grows exceedingly fast, tall and strong by the action of the Spirit. By focusing our mind, hearts, words and actions on the atonement of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit remains with us. This is why the ordinance of the sacrament was instituted, to remind us of the atonement, to point our minds to it and teach us that it is the atonement that is the key to faith, which faith is necessary for our salvation. Jesus, when he visited the Nephites and instituted the sacrament among them, emphasized this point:
And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.…And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you. (3 Nephi 18: 7, 11)
It is the atonement that allows people to have faith unto salvation and it is faith that allows people to be able to repent and receive forgiveness. Remember the words of the Lord to Enos, when he asked how it was done that his sins were forgiven. He did not receive as a response that the atonement caused him to be forgiven, in other words, he wasn’t told that it was Christ that caused it to happen. Instead he received the response that it was his faith that caused him to receive forgiveness!
And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away. And I said: Lord, how is it done? And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole. (Enos 1: 5-8 )
So, it wasn’t Christ that made him whole, but Enos’ faith. Faith in Christ accomplishes all things. Amulek also taught this doctrine that we are saved by our faith in Christ, and the atonement is what allows us to have faith unto salvation:
And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance. And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption. (Alma 34: 15-16)
So, it is faith that saves mankind, which is why it is imperative that we understand the doctrine of faith, both what it is, how to get it and how to increase it to the salvation point, which is the point of justification, purification and sanctification and of miracles (manifestations of the powers and gifts of the Holy Ghost.)
The meaning of “hard hearts”
The comparison of the word to a seed and our hearts to the soil into which that seed needs to be planted brings up more farmer terms: the type of soil (heart). Although not all of us are farmers, pretty much everyone has come across, at one time or another, hard ground that won’t budge when you try to dig into it. Nothing can be planted in hard soil. The dirt needs to be broken up and prepared to receive a seed. All the talk, therefore, in the scriptures concerning hard hearts refers to hearts that will not plant the seed of faith (the word of God that is in Christ and his atonement) through belief on that word. A hard-hearted person, then, is a person who will not believe the word of God when presented with it, nor even do they desire to believe it. If you will not believe, you cannot obtain faith. If you never obtain faith, you cannot be saved.
I mention this because the scriptures emphasize belief, not knowledge, whereas modern LDS emphasize knowledge, not belief. “I know the Church is true,” is a common statement made by many modern LDS. The scriptures also emphasize Christ and his atonement, not the Church, whereas modern LDS emphasize the Church, not Christ. To a great extent, we have missed the message and meaning of the Book of Mormon and Bible, as well as other scriptures, despite the words being written in clarity and plainness. Just as Amulek says “the whole meaning of the law [of Moses]” points to the atonement of Jesus Christ, so does the more excellent law of Christ. (See Alma 34: 14.)
Saints are centered on the atonement
Every saint I have ever met was fixated on the atonement. They spoke constantly of Christ and his atonement. They viewed everything through the lens of Christ and his gospel. And they had the gifts and powers of the Holy Ghost attending them. They were true saints, meaning, they were sanctified people who had received the second baptism, even that of fire and of the Holy Ghost. In almost every aspect, these true saints were similar to professed saints. They went to their church meetings, they attended the temple, they paid their tithing, they obeyed the law of chastity and kept the word of wisdom, etc., like other members. The only difference that I could see between these sanctified people and other members of the church was their fixation on Christ and his atonement. They didn’t talk of the Church or programs or peripherals, they talked of the core doctrine, the atonement, upon which everything else hangs. They tied everything to Christ and viewed everything through him. As a result, they spoke often of visions and dreams and angels and prophecies and revelations that they had had, not some ancient or distant prophet. The difference between the true saint and the saint in name only was that the true saint had the Spirit’s powers, gifts, fruits and signs in attendance, whereas the others claimed to have the Spirit without manifesting these powers, gifts, fruits and signs. Again, the only reason why one group possessed more than the other group was that the empowered or endowed group understood that the Atonement was the word that must be planted in their hearts and they grew that seed carefully, by their belief and faith, until it manifested the blessings of heaven in their lives.
Next Faith of God article: The faith of God, part nine: The ingredients of faith
Previous Faith of God article: The faith of God, part seven: prayer and fasting