If you’ve been following the Come Follow Me schedule, I’m sure you’ve noticed a shift in mood as the book transitions from Alma to Helaman. The political divisions are more complex, Nephite dissensions grow darker, and the Lamanite military victories become more threatening. Nephite society seems to be tilting on the precipice. The pace quickens considerably as well. In the very first chapter, after Pahoran’s death, three of his sons contend for the judgment seat. By the chapter’s end, all three of them are dead. Helaman’s son Helaman takes over only to survive an assassination attempt in chapter 2. By chapter 5 not only has leadership responsibilities passed onto Helaman’s son Nephi, Nephi has relinquished it and with his brother has determined to spend the remainder of his life preaching the gospel. In a moment, perhaps of quiet introspection, Nephi remembers the words of his father, from which I’m going to base my talk on, in Helaman 5:12.
“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the arock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your bfoundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty cstorm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”Helaman 5:12
Notice the promise. We won’t be free from storms. We won’t necessarily avoid pain, heartache, sorrow or sadness. But as we build upon the foundation of Christ, we are promised that we will endure.
And certainly, we are now facing a number of modern-day storms. We’re facing a pandemic keeping us sequestered from each other in our homes to avoid spreading this disease. We are experiencing a significant economic downturn that will likely take a long time to fully recover from. We’re seeing significant divisions in our country that feel unprecedented at least in modern history. I’m sure many of us have our own personal, internal storms raging, many of which may not even be noticeable to others close by. Perhaps we’re struggling from health difficulties, financial problems or trouble in our families or in other important relationships. Life is difficult. Storms are inevitable.
So how do we do it? How do we build our foundation upon the rock. Just a couple of chapters earlier, right after the Nephite society experienced incredible expansion and growth, internal divisions take root as they always seem to. Many faithful members in the church trying to cope as they struggle with the deep bite of internal persecution. Mormon describes what they do in Helaman 3:35:
“Nevertheless they did afast and bpray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their chumility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the dpurifying and the esanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their fyielding their hearts unto God.”Helaman 3:35
That last phrase is key here, to build a foundation on Christ requires us to yield our hearts to God. To build, we must yield. It’s a paradox. It’s not as simple thing to yield. It takes courage. It takes strong humility and a firm faith. Regular sincere fasting and prayer are prerequisites.
All the way back to the beginning of the Book of Mormon, Lehi gives counsel to his sons right before his death. In 2 Nephi 2 describes the counsel he gives to Jacob. I’m just going to highlight verse 6:
Grace and truth are essentially bound together. We experience grace to the degree we dedicate are lives to truth. Yielding our hearts to God means that we allow God into all parts of our inner life, even those parts we are most ashamed of, especially those parts we are most ashamed of. The Catholic theologian Richard Rohr describes this as “shadow work”. To the degree we open our whole hearts to God, in full honesty, we feel his redeeming love and the power of his redemptive grace. Our hearts can be purified and sanctified. When we feel God’s love in our hearts, we have greater capacity to love others.
And feeling love and compassion and a desire to serve and be there for others is a critical next step in building our foundation in Christ. We pray and fast individually, but we also do it together, as families and in our wards and for and with our community. We build our foundation on Christ, not just individually, but our foundation becomes much more powerful to the degree we do it collectively, with each other, as we pray together and serve one another. As we are drawn outward, allowing other’s concerns to become our concerns, we feel a greater desire to more fully live up to our baptismal covenants to mourn, comfort, heal and bless each other. And as we progress deeper into these covenants, we are drawn inevitably to the temple, where we can, through covenant, seal are most important relationship, for all eternity. And as we return, our hearts remember our fathers and mothers who have who have died before us. Our foundation on Christ grows stronger as we draw strength from our ancestors.
I wish I could tell you that I feel firmly rooted on a foundation of Christ. I struggle just like many of you with my own storms. Trying to build my foundation on the rock of Christ has been a lifelong struggle. This week has been especially difficult, as feelings of anxiety has been almost a constant presence. For much of my life, I’ve treated prayer, temple attendance, service and callings as ways to earn God’s love, to qualify for his redemptive grace but never feeling like I’ve done enough to earn it. I’m still trying to learn how to more fully yield my heart to God so I can allow God’s unconditional love more fully in. It’s something I’m still trying to do. May we all do so more effectively in Jesus’ name amen.