Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Alma - Chapter 8

I'm struggling to understand the notion of wrestling with the Lord in mighty prayer.  Wrestling seems to imply an adversarial relationship and I don't quite see Alma as having a such a relationship with Heavenly Father.

I remember a time when I prayed for nearly an hour, telling God I didn't want to do what He wished.  I could call that a wrestle and fortunately I stuck around long enough for the Father to persuade me to do His will and not my own.  I was too frightened to do His will and told Him so.  Fortunately He was patient and persistent and helped me past my stubbornness.

I don't see Alma as reluctant in anyway.  I don't think he was in a situation like mine, where he was unwilling to do as God desired.  I don't see God as reluctant to bless the willing.  I have a hard time imagining that God would make Alma beg for that which he was commanded to do.  I don't see Him as being capricious like that.

I hope some of you in your wisdom and obvious spirituality can shed some light on this for me.


D1Warbler said...
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D1Warbler said...

This reminds me of Abraham's situation in Genesis 18:16-33 in which he pleads with the Lord to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if he (Abraham) can first find fifty righteous people. That number finally goes down to ten before only Lot and his daughters are spared.

I would say that in this instance, Abraham "wrestled" with the Lord, even if the scriptures don't call his pleading by that term.

Abraham was asking for something that -- to him -- with his limited knowledge -- seemed to be a perfectly righteous request.

Alma, in this chapter, may be in the same boat. He may have been "wrestling" with the Lord because he was determined to try to teach the people of Ammonihah the gospel even when the Lord knew that in that particular case -- just as with Abraham -- his efforts would be for naught.

Then there is the account in Enos 1:2 in which Enos "wrestled: with the Lord in mighty prayer all through the night to receive a remission of his sins.

I would say that neither of these two accounts (Alma or Enos) uses the word "wrestling" in a negative connotation. Both men desired a righteous outcome, but one "wrestle" (Alma's) was answered negatively by the Lord -- for his own purposes -- and the other (Enos') had a positive outcome.

Also, some LDS scholars believe that when Jacob "wrestled" with a "man" (either the Lord or an angel) at Bethel in Genesis 32:24, that the term may have had a Temple connotation in that case, especially since it was directly after that "wrestle" that Jacob received his new name of Israel.

Candleman said...

Still troubles me some. The fact is God did finally let Alma teach in Ammonihah and good number of folks repented and accepted the message. Of course they were consequently murdered for their faith. Which of course is far better than being destroyed for their wickedness.

I can't quite see why Alma had to fight for the chance to help redeem them.

Sodom and Gomorrah seems different as there were no converts and eventually God showed Abraham that He was right and that he and Lot and their families might as well leave.

I'm not trying to be contrary here, just trying to understand...

D1Warbler said...

Perhaps The Lord wrestled with Alma (or allowed Alma to wrestle with Him) to teach Alma just how badly he really wanted to save the souls of the people of Ammonihah.

Perhaps he wanted to teach Alma to value what he had (his blessings and his understanding of the gospel) even more than he might otherwise have. (I know that is what has happened to me as I have pleaded with the Lord to help me keep my own children from throwing their "Born in the Covenant" blessings out the window with both hands.)

The pleading and the wrestling and the watching of the eventual outcome -- whether positive or negative -- has taught me (and perhaps taught Alma) as much or more about myself and what I value than it has taught me about those whose wellbeing I have pleaded for.

Candleman said...

I like that notion. Maybe the Lord doesn't need to know us as much as we need to know ourselves.