Lately, I’ve been pondering on the passage of scripture that comes from Alma 29. Here, one of the great missionary examples that we have from the Book of Mormon, is earnestly desiring to share the gospel with those around him. He says:
Oh that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.
But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me…
To me, this passage has always been a funny one. Not in a “haha” sense, but in a “that’s weird–what could possibly be wrong with Alma wanting to do more?” sense. After all, if we truly love the gospel and our fellow men, shouldn’t we want to share this with every one around us–nay, with all the earth? Of course! So what does Alma mean by “[I] do sin in my wish”? The more I think about this, the more I realize that this is not a chastisement of Alma for wanting to do something good, but rather a reminder that Alma, and we as missionaries ourselves, should not forget the many something goods that we already do have.
If we continue reading, Alma rationalizes through the knowledge and power of God. And, in doing so, he is reminded of the wisdom of the eternal perspective that God has as our Heavenly Father. He then comes to this conclusion (verses 6 through 8):
Now, seeing that I know these things, why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?
Why should I desire that I were an angel, that I could speak unto all the ends of the earth?
For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true.
Immediately as I read this, I thought about receiving my mission call to Ohio, about my brother receiving his mission call to Japan. And about the many other missionaries I have watched over time be called exactly where they needed to go, to teach in the nations and tongues of those who need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true.” I just love that, don’t you?
The next thing, I thought about, though, was that first verse: why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?
Future missionaries, I think he is talking to us. Actually, I think he’s talking to future missionaries, and current missionaries, and returned missionaries, and even those who are not missionaries. And I don’t think that he’s telling us that we shouldn’t have these righteous desires to be able to go out and serve those around us; rather, I think that he’s reminding us that we already HAVE that ability. We have the ability to go out and serve–whether as full-time missionaries, as brothers and sisters and neighbors, as friends, as children of our Heavenly Father. We don’t need to wait for a call to serve in whatever capacity life has us in. And because we have this blessing, what more could we ask for. The last verse I’d like to share (verse 9):
I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.
I love the use of the word “instruments.” As a music major, it is particularly impressive to me to think of being an instrument. My horn, without me, looks very pretty. When I play (I would hope) it sounds pretty, too. But in the hands of a master player–the instrument will reach a new level of musical potential. Likewise, once we remove our own desires from the equations–however righteous or nobel they may seem–we will truly be able to act as instruments in the Lord’s hands. Our Heavenly Father, with his wisdom, love, and perspective, is that master player. When we surrender our will to doing what he calls us to do, we will be able to bring about the greatest love, spirit, and change in our own lives and the lives of those we teach and touch as missionaries of his gospel. May we have the faith and foresight to be able to do just that.
“This is my joy.”