As members of the church we can follow the Savior at a distance, or up close, the choice is ours.
The scriptures provide examples of those who are close to the Lord, as well as those who follow Him, but at a distance. Those who follow at a distance can draw nearer to the Lord, maintain their distance, or fall away altogether. And of course, those who are close to the Lord can move even nearer to the Lord or sadly, move away, and follow at a distance, or even fall away.
The Book of Mormon provides examples of various kinds of followers.
Following—at a Distance
Amulek understood enough about the Lord to recognize His hand in the preservation of the Nephites. He also testified that he had been “called many times” but would not hear. He had other things to do, and chose to resist the Spirit’s invitation to draw closer to the Lord. This is a form of rebellion against God, also known as a hardened heart (Alma 10:5-6).
Laman and Lemuel
Laman and Lemuel followed the Lord at a distance much of the time, however, they did have occasions when they appeared to be moving closer to the Lord. They were given many powerful witnesses that the Lord was with their father Lehi and their brother Nephi. They certainly didn’t lack testimonies. They were hot and cold followers.
The Rest of the Story
In the end, Amulek drew close to the Savior and he became a great missionary. Alma and Amulek’s faithful endurance in dealing with the inhabitants of Ammonihah is an incredible example of courage and dedication.
Laman and Lemuel offer a counter example to Alma and Amulek. They were given every opportunity to draw near to the Lord, but would not remain steadfast. In the end, they rejected the Lord and left a legacy of lies to the generations that followed them.
The Brother of Jared
The brother of Jared was described as a man “highly favored of the Lord”. Those who traveled with him understood this, and learned to rely on him to obtain blessings from the Lord that benefited them all (Ether 1:34-35). The brother of Jared drew closer to the Lord and because of his great faith and knowledge “could not be kept from within the veil”, he saw the pre-mortal Jesus (Ether 3:20). Was this an isolated experience? No, we learn, “There were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad” (Ether 12:19). Glad?—that seems like an understatement.
Church Members About 83 BC
Alma gave up the judgment seat with the hope of reclaiming those who were falling away from the church. In the ninth year of the reign of the judges the members of the church were caught up in the ways of the world. The church was failing in its progress. The members began to be scornful one to another, and there were great contentions among the people of the church.
Alma spoke to them in the energy of his soul and called them to repentance, asking them if they had experienced a change of heart, and felt to sing the song of redeeming love. Then he asked them “can ye feel so now”?
Apparently these church members were once close to God but had moved away from Him when they prospered, and enjoyed opportunities for learning (Alma 4:8, 3 Nephi 6:12).
The purpose of this post is to show from the scriptures the various ways church members can choose to follow Christ. I hope each reader will liken this post to themselves, and will search their heart to determine what kind of follower they currently are, and what kind they would like to be in the days, months, and years ahead. It’s a choice we make each day when we rise from our sleep—are we going to use this day to draw nearer to the Lord, or not.
If you will here stop, and ask yourself, why you’re not as close to the Lord as you’d like to be, as evidenced in part by the ineffectiveness of your prayers for (fill in the blank), your own heart will tell you, that it is neither through ignorance nor inability, but purely because you never thoroughly intended it. (A cut and splice of a thought from C.S. Lewis’s, The Problem of Pain, P. 66.)