Don't be afraid. I am not going to preach to you. But I have been thinking. Really thinking.
I am reading the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.
The Book of Mormon can be explained by some much wiser than me (they are called missionaries and they would be happy to stop by and have a visit with you...just leave your number...:)) But it does have some really great stories in it.
I have been thinking a lot about one recently. About a fella named Amulek.
Amulek was quite the guy. Gold, silver, precious things, women, kids, and knew a lot of folks. He sounds pretty bright. "I am also a man of no small reputation among all those who know me." He is confident. And quite honest. He begins to share his story of his total coolness and then leads into his conversion to religion. I especially liked this one piece: 'I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know."
I like how he owns his rebellion. How many things will I not "know?"
He goes on rebelling "even until the fourth day of the seventh month of the 10th year of the judges...". He even remembers the day he made a change. When he began to "know."
His story is out there for the non-believer. He has an angel tell him to turn his journey around and go home so he can host a prophet of God who could use some help. Needs a snack. Place to crash. It doesn't say why Amulek. It just says it is.
And in Amulek's own words, he is blessed. His family is blessed. His father is blessed and things were going his way....I imagine they do when you are hanging out with a prophet of God.
Amulek converts and joins with Alma to preach the gospel of Christ to others. And frankly, it doesn't go so well.
They end up really offending the wicked-doing locals and they get thrown in jail. They watched fellow believers burned alive (some speculate some could have been his family). They were beat for days. His hometown is destroyed. Amulek ends up "forsaking all his gold, and silver, and his precious things...and for the word of God he was being rejected by those who were once his friends and also by his father, and his kindred."
In a nutshell, he loses everything for the precious truth he gained.
This is the part of the story that I like the best. After Alma gets the other new converts settled, it says "Alma having seen all these things, therefore he took Amulek and came over to the land of Zarahemla, and took him to his own house, and did administer unto him in his tribulations, and strengthened him..."
Alma's house, in Zarahemla, was Amulek's safe place to land. For some reason, it makes me like Alma all the more.
It was ironic that the reason this story touched me so deeply is that I happen to be in that section of the book when I took some time to read aloud to Tom, who was laying in the ICU from his cancer surgery the other day, too sick to read it for himself.
The LDS people have a name for these "coincidences." We call them "tender mercies" from God. It feels like a little love note from God saying to me, "Valsy, this is your time to administer unto him in tribulations..."
I know a thing or two about bringing people home to my version of Zarahemla. And, of course, others have taken me home to theirs.
My hometown of Zarahemla has been a house with a circle driveway on the Spur Highway. A basement apartment with a too-small of kitchen. A big furnitureless duplex on Lincoln. A guest room with a koi pond view.
I learned how to bring people home from my parents. Perhaps they didn't administer the way I do, but they set the example for me. My example Almas...if you will. (I am pretty sure my dad swears a little more than Alma).
The Zarahemlas that have made the most difference to me haven't been places at all. They are people. There is a list so long I would never dare to make it. Certain voices, a short email note from a Iphone, a photograph, or even memories takes me to that safe place...in good and bad times.
Another piece that I love is that Alma SAW Amulek struggling and did something. He didn't just say "Man, that stinks. Sorry dude." He did more than say words. He did something about it. Was Alma tired? Probably. He had shared those same expriences.
My Zarahemla is a pretty simple place. No gold, silver, or precious things here. Just plain old love. Wanna come over? :)