Trouble and Passions, Alma 38
And now my son, Shiblon, I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day.Alma 38:5
I think it is significant to note that Alma doesn’t tell his son that he will be protected from trials, troubles, or afflictions, but that he will be delivered out of them and lifted up at the last day.
The righteous are not shielded from all trouble in this world. We are still living in this world even though our minds and hearts might not be of it. Our exemplar, the Savior, was horribly tortured to death and many good people have been persecuted and even burned alive.
It is important to know this about God’s plan. While trouble can befall any of us, we can always trust in God to deliver us from that trouble when it comes.
…bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love;Alma 38:12
There are a lot of doctrinal implications built into this simple phrase.
The first is that we can and should bridle our passions. Note the use of the word bridle. Alma isn’t saying that we should be passion-less, but instead restrain, guide or govern; to check, curb or control our passions.
When you bridle a horse, you control it. There are times for it to run and times when it shouldn’t. You would never direct the horse to jump over a cliff or put itself in danger.
The next part of the phrase reveals the reason why we need to bridle our passions, it is so we can be filled with love. Perhaps the opposite is true as well, if we do not bridle our passions, maybe we cannot be filled with love.
Why would that be?
When we understand love as not a feeling but as the result of sacrifice and deliberate intent, we can understand how being driven to and fro by our passions can cause us to become creatures of reaction rather than of action.
For example, attraction can be considered a passion. We can be attracted to all kinds of things, good or sinful, productive or wasteful.
When attraction is bridled, when our passions are kept within the Lord’s bounds, they can be good and productive. When we allow them to creep outside of the Lord’s bounds, we find ourself in sin or waste.
How can we be filled with love in that state? We cannot.
Be sober.Alma 38:15
Alma’s final words of teaching to his son, Shiblon, was this short sentence, “be sober.” Seeing it there alone drew my interest.
One of the definitions Noah Webster gave to the word sober is: “Regular; calm; not under the influence of passion.”
This goes very well with the earlier teaching. We should be the ones bridling and influencing our passions, not the other way around. When we are under the influence of our passions, we are out of control and can be led astray to whatever strange road (1 Nephi 8:32) draws us from the right way.
Unfortunately, modern society champions the teaching “be who you really are” which is a message of disaster if not framed within divine principles.
Today, people are not only under the influence of passions, some will even build identities around their passions.
When our identity is framed first and foremost as a child of God, and his doctrine and principles become our foundation, we then invoke the principle of sacrifice to bridle our passions so that they are within God’s bounds.
It takes sacrifice to be sober and to bridle passions. We manifest our love to God by keeping his commandments which requires sacrifice on our part.
This all is part of his plan and the reason for our mortality. If we value temporary earthly passions more than the prospect of eternal life, we should deeply reconsider our priorities.