Alma 31 is one of my favorite “how-to” chapters in the Book of Mormon. Probably because it details how Alma collided with “superior,” difficult egos and then rose above the challenge they presented.
Regrettably, we all face unreasonable, selfish people at some point or another. In this chapter, Alma guides us through the encounter.
The Zoramites were a community of privileged, narcissistic apostates. The underlying theme of their devotion was “Thank God, I am special-er than those other losers.” As Alma hears them pray for the first time, he is shocked by lines like, “and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell…” (Alma 31:17)
Stage 1 – Shock
I love this verse…it literally translates to “their jaws hit the floor.”
“Now it came to pass that after Alma and his brethren and his sons had heard these prayers, they were astonished beyond all measure.” (Alma 31:19)
No matter what awkward, difficult circumstances you have passed through already with people in your life, there is always someone who can (and will) top it. Sometimes we are blindsided by how people treat us and occasionally it even sets us back for a while as we think our way through it.
Stage 2 – Pain
Alma feels deep regret over how the Zoramites are acting. He prays:
“…O, how long, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that thy servants shall dwell here below in the flesh, to behold such gross wickedness among the children of men?” (Alma 31:26)
Have you ever looked at the events of the world and even the people right around you and wondered the same thing? My version of Alma’s prayer: “Again? Are you serious? Heavenly Father, why do I have to go through this? When are you going to zap _______ (fill in the blank) with lightening and end this unjustifiable nonsense?”
We Make a Choice
Life isn’t so much what happens to us, as much as it is how we respond to what happens. We can choose resentment, anger, disdain, discouragement, damaged self-esteem, vindictiveness, gossip, enmity, aggression, rudeness…and more. Unfortunately, we’re the ones who suffer most from such responses.
Or we can choose what Alma chose – love, patience, kindness, civility, and non-retaliation. However, he doesn’t just draw on himself for those higher reactions; he enlists the heavens. His go-to is our go-to as well.
Stage 3 – Prayer
Alma’s prayer spans several verses but I think the core of it is captured in verse 31.
31 O Lord, my heart is exceedingly sorrowful [irritated, put out, angry, depressed, weak, discouraged, anxious, disappointed, or concerned]; wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ. O Lord, wilt thou grant unto me that I may have strength, that I may suffer [endure and interact] with patience [peace, confidence, well-being] these afflictions [poor behaviors] which shall come upon me , because of the iniquity [egos, selfishness] of this people. (Alma 31:31)
Extraordinary outcomes start with sincere, heartfelt prayer.
Stage 4 – Resolve and the Spirit
Even after this setback and discouragement, Alma pulls himself together and reminds himself of his purpose and path. He brings the Spirit back into his life and those around him.
We can benefit from Alma’s technique on a regular basis. When we bring the Spirit into our day (with scriptures, conference talks, sincere prayer, church attendance, or good music) – it changes the quality and outcome of our responses.
Armed with the influence of the Spirit, Alma and his brethren aren’t about to allow anyone to yank them off their chosen track. They review their objectives, remember who they are and move forward.
37 And after that they did separate themselves one from another, taking no thought for themselves what they should eat, or what they should drink, or what they should put on, [or what disapproval others might give them].
38 And the Lord …also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions [including difficult people], save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ [it all rolled off their backs because they were in a place of peace, confidence and well-being]. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith. (Alma 31:37-38)
Prayer changes things.Favorite Quote ~ Divine Code
The Book of Mormon is written for us and our time. The story about Alma applies to you and the modern situations you face. May you rise above the disappointments imposed by people and repeatedly find strength in Christ and also through humble prayer.
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