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In Alma 15, I want to take a very specific look at two characters and their interesting parallels. Up until this point, Alma and Amulek have watched many people suffer horrendously because of their beliefs, and they have suffered tremendously as well. Alma and Amulek have found their way to Sidom where Zeezrom is burning with a fever.
Alma 15:3 And also Zeezrom lay sick at Sidom, with a burning fever, which was caused by the great tribulations of his mind on account of his wickedness, for he supposed that Alma and Amulek were no more; and he supposed that they had been slain because of his iniquity. And this great sin, and his many other sins, did harrow up his mind until it did become exceedingly sore, having no deliverance; therefore he began to be scorched with a burning heat.
Now I want to remind you of a certain someone who laid upon his bed for two days and two nights, helpless and weak. When Alma the Younger woke up after his experience with the angel, he shared the following.
Mosiah 27:29 My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more.
Look at the missionary that God sent to Zeezrom. As a matter of fact, look at Alma the Younger’s father. Alma the Elder was a wicked priest of King Noah. He repented and became a leader in the church. Later, he had his son, Alma the Younger. Alma the Younger went about trying to destroy the church. He was stopped by an angel and suffered for two days and nights, repented, and also became a great missionary. Zeezrom was a lawyer in Ammonihah who was lying to the people and blinding them against the church. Alma and Amulek preached, Zeezrom started to burn with a scorching heat from the guilt he felt, was healed by Alma and Amulek, and then he went on to be a missionary.
Alma 15:12 And Alma baptized Zeezrom unto the Lord; and he began from that time forth to preach unto the people.
The point I am trying to pull out of these examples in the scriptures is that you are not useless or ruined if you’ve made mistakes. We see plenty of examples in the scriptures of people who were once very wicked and went on to do a great amount of good, but none so poignant as this chain of events. Alma was right where Zeezrom was. I wonder if Alma felt a little deja vu as he walked in and saw a helpless Zeezrom laying on the table. I wonder if he pondered and felt gratitude as he experienced what his father had felt.
Now, I’ve made up a completely imaginary scenario in my head with Alma and Zeezrom, but I think it teaches a good point.
Zeezrom no doubt heard what happened to the converts that were burned by the wicked people in Ammonihah. I wonder if he felt an immense guilt over the fact that they died, and he didn’t. I don’t believe it was an easy thing to jump over, but he had Alma. Alma’s past actions had destroyed souls as well. I imagine Zeezrom feeling lost and incapable one evening, and I imagine Alma placing his arm around Zeezrom and saying, “You can still do good.”
In my mind, Alma did not harp on Zeezrom’s past over and over. In my mind, Alma felt an exceedingly deep humility and joy that he was able to show Zeezrom the potential of a past sinner.
If you have found yourself with a past full of mistakes (and I think you’d be surprised at how many of us there are), your contribution can still be as powerful as Alma’s (either one!). If you’ve had an addiction, if you’ve deeply hurt a loved one, if you’ve struggled with immorality or smoking or inactivity. If you are currently struggling with any of these things. If you struggle with aspects of church history or with women not holding the keys of the priesthood. Your voice is still important because there are a million and one people exactly like you who need you. Rise up like Alma and show them that they can rise up too.
This goes for trials and suffering too. If you find yourself divorced or never married or painfully alone in a broken marriage. If you struggle with same sex attraction or if you’ve been deeply hurt by a supposed loved one. If you struggle with self-image or mental illness. I don’t know why these things have happened to you. I have lots of answers as to why there is suffering in the world and maybe one of those answers apply to you, or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe God placed this trial or temptation in your path for a reason, or maybe we live in a fallen world and bad things just happen. The why does not matter nearly as much as how you respond.
What will you do with your experiences? Alma taught Zeezrom from his personal experience; I can almost guarantee it.
God can do beautiful things with broken people.
If you find yourself in a situation where someone you love is struggling with something deep, believe in them and their potential for good. Mind you, I’m not talking about certain circumstances like abusive marriages. BUT. There are circumstances where you can be in a healthy and safe place and do a tremendous amount of good by believing in your loved one who is struggling. Even if they don’t see it yet, even if going back to church isn’t on their radar, you can hold it in your mind and believe in it. Even if they don’t come back to church, it will be painful but they still have a tremendous potential for good. Believe in their potential for good and they are much more likely to live up to it.