Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Alma, the Seed, Humility, and Tevye

Now, we will compare the word unto a seed.

Thus begins one of the most recognizable sermons delivered in the Book of Mormon.
Alma finds he has a receptive audience in those who built the synagogues but were thrown out of them due to their poverty.

He begins to persuade.

And as great persuaders do, Alma identifies a chief concern. From Alma Chapter 32, verse 9:

Behold thy brother hath said, What shall we do? – for we are cast out of our synagogues, that we cannot worship our God.

He continues in verses 10:

Behold I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God save it be in your synagogues only?

Alma’s sermon fascinates me. Because he could have spent more time talking about how we can communicated with God no matter where we are, kind of like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, who was always talking with God: While talking with his family, while walking with his milk cart, while celebrating, while fleeing:

But Alma doesn’t deliver that kind of sermon.

He talks about faith, comparing it to a seed.

I’ve often wondered why.

Maybe he sensed, in some of his audience, still a little pride. They wanted to worship in the synagogue they’d built, point out to their neighbors, their children, the other congregants, “I built this for us to worship in!” Maybe that’s why he talks about those who are compelled to be humble by circumstance, contrasted with those who are humble because that’s how they are.

So he compares the word of God to a seed.

“The word of God, as found in the scriptures, in the words of living prophets, and in personal revelation, has the power to fortify the Saints and arm them with the spirit so they can resist evil, hold fast to the good, and find joy in life,” says President Ezra Taft Benson. SO maybe Alma saw an opportunity to fortify a growing, humble faith, by talking about faith itself.

He saw, in other words, the long view.

It would have been quicker, perhaps, to persuade these people that they could worship God wherever they stood. But when they found their seed of faith sown in rocky ground, or when the drought or the east wind came and shriveled their growing faith to dust, they would not be any better off than those who worshipped inside the synagogue.

Alma saw the long view. If faith is strong, like that of Tevye, then when the horse is lame, when the daughter marries out of the faith, when the village of Anatevka is abolished, that faith that grew from a seed sown in good soil will still remain strong, even as it passes through adversity.

Even when they're forced to leave their home, they turn to their faith not for vengeance, but for a deep solace that consoles them at their nadir:

Perchik:Rabbi, we’ve been waiting for the Messiah all our lives. Wouldn’t this be a good time for him to come?

Rabbi: We’ll have to wait for him someplace else. Meanwhile, let’s start packing.

“[I]f ye will nourish the word,” Alma says in Chapter 38, verse 41, “yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.”

Alma has his seed. And Tevye, he has that fiddler on the roof, metaphorically traveling with them even in their despair.

That’s a promise, I’m persuaded, that will last long past the time any synagogue created by earthly hands crumbles to dust.

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