Cassia’s Sunday musings 08-24-08

(Taken from Alma 53, 56-58. See also Alma 24 for background on the people of Ammon.)

In the past, whenever I have studied the story of the stripling warriors, I have focused on two themes: (1) the role of their mothers and the effect the mothers’ teaching had on their sons and (2) their miraculous preservation.

Today, though, I was especially impressed by their faith. I have always grouped the story of their faith with their preservation, and for good reason: they say that God “will not suffer that we should fall” and that they knew “God would deliver them” (see 56:46-47). Then, as the miracle of all 2060 being spared is later recorded, we read, “And we do justly ascribe it to the miraculous power of God, because of their exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe: that there was a just God, and whosoever did not doubt, that they should be preserved by his marvelous power” (Alma 57:26).

But in reading like this, I have always overlooked the first part of verse 47: “…they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives…”

Did these young men go into battle with the expectation that they wouldn’t die? Perhaps. But their faith wasn’t dependent on this miracle coming to pass. Reading this today, I was impressed with the idea that these young men had the same caliber of faith that those of their fathers’ generation had – the kind of faith that led that generation to keep their covenant to never kill even when faced with death themselves. And not all of those fathers were spared. In Alma 24:22 we learn that at least 1005 of them were killed. Yet, as we learn in the next five verses, their example ultimately softened the hearts of others and brought even more souls to repentance.

These young men, too, had that faith shown by their fathers. They knew that God would not suffer the cause to fail; they knew that God would deliver. But perhaps they did not know that each individual would be spared. And it wouldn’t have mattered to their faith. Theirs was a steadfast faith – a pure trust in God. Faith that, whatever may happen to each person, God would guide them; and a willingness to go forward, even if it meant an outcome that they would not have chosen themselves.

This thought brings to mind two other scriptural examples of such faith. In Daniel 3 we read these words of faith from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego:

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace . . . But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve they gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (vs 17-18).

Again, they had faith that God could deliver them, but they did not base their faith only on deliverance. They were ultimately spared, but they would have been faithful to God, no matter what – even if they knew they would not have been spared.

The other, and greatest example, comes from our Savior. As he began His great sacrifice in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39) Unlike the stripling warriors or the three faithful Israelites, Christ was not spared in the flesh. He drank of the bitter cup. His faith in our Father allowed Him to relinquish His own will and submit to the task He faced. And because of this – and only through this – we have hope for ourselves.

Through these scriptures and through my own experiences, I am learning that true faith goes beyond seeking deliverance, though there is certainly nothing wrong with doing so.  But true faith is rooted in an unwavering trust in God. For reasons we may not know or understand at this time, not every person is delivered from untimely death or deep sorrow. Not every trial goes away in this life. But we can trust that God knows the end from the beginning; we can trust that He will guide us in His purposes, and that He is in control – even when the short term outcome is not desirable. And this is true faith.

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