My Life in Zion

The life and views of a Latter-day Saint in the 21st Century…

Look to God and Live

I’m a simple man.

And I love simple lessons from the scriptures which can help me to draw closer to God. Alma’s counseling words to his son Helaman are a wonderful example of that. Said he,

38 And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it.

39 And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness.

40 And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day.

41 Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey;

42 Therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions.

43 And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual.

44 For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.

45 And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.

46 O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.

47 And now, my son, see that ye take care of these sacred things, yea, see that ye look to God and live. Go unto this people and declare the word, and be sober. My son, farewell.

Alma 37:38-47

The beautiful simplicity of the lesson in Alma’s words is so easy to miss. So easy in fact, that there in the last verse Alma even reminded his son to not “be slothful because of the easiness of the way”.

It really does seem too easy doesn’t it? To look to God and live? All that Nephi and his family had to do to receive guidance was have simple faith that it would work, and it worked. The scriptures are replete with countless examples of the Lord’s covenant people just not looking or acting in simple faith, but perhaps the simplest and most profound of these is the story of the brass serpent.

After the prophet Moses led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt, they journeyed in the wilderness for 40 years. During this time the Lord blessed the Israelites in many ways, including taking care of their physical needs on a daily basis with manna from Heaven.

The Israelites were nearing the end of their travels and were close to the borders of Canaan – the “promised land”. But when they asked the king of Edom if they could pass through his land, which would have been a short journey into Canaan, he told them no. As a result, they had to travel a long way to find a different route into the country.

The Israelites became discouraged during this journey and “spake against God, and against Moses.” They complained about the very things they should have been thankful for: God’s help in freeing them from bondage and the manna He had provided for them in the wilderness.

Because of the ingratitude of the Israelites, “the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died”.

When the children of Israel saw family members and friends dying, they realized they had sinned in complaining against God. They asked Moses to pray to the Lord to take away the serpents.

Moses prayed, and in response the Lord told him to make a brass serpent, put it on a pole, and place it where the people could see it. The Lord promised that everyone who had been bitten would live if they looked at the serpent. (See Numbers 20-21 for the full story.)

It was so very simple.

Alma, who was teaching his son in the first verses I shared, explained earlier in his records that while many Israelites did look at the serpent and live, “but few understood the meaning of those things, and this because of the hardness of their hearts. But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would heal them” (see Alma 33:19-20; see also 1 Nephi 17:41).

Part of what the Israelites did not understand, because of the hardness of their hearts, was that the brass serpent was a symbol of Jesus Christ being lifted up on the cross and bringing eternal life:

Yea, did [Moses] not bear record that the Son of God should come? And as he lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, even so shall he be lifted up who should come.

And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal.”

Helaman 8:14-15

Jesus Christ Himself taught that the account of the brass serpent is a lesson for us about the importance of looking to the Savior and His atoning sacrifice:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

John 3:14-15

It is so very simple.

I confess that I often forget to just look for the Savior and His sacrifice in my daily actions. It’s easy to forget my prayers when my bladder is so full first thing in the morning. At night it’s easy to hop on the computer and lose myself to the news of the day, and forget the Good News of the Gospel and to read my scriptures. It’s easy in our sinful society to watch the programs, listen to the music, and enjoy the over-all media of the world. In 2012 we no longer have to seek out sin. It finds us. It creeps in via that titillating episode of Two and a Half Men and pops up on our computer screens before we even know it’s there. We can choose to look, or we can choose to look away, but it is a choice that must be made.

I love the words of the psalmist who wrote,

2 I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.

3 I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes…”

Psalm 101:2-3

After singing to the Lord that he would walk in a perfect way, the psalmist boldly asks the Lord, “When wilt thou come unto me?” – Could we make such an invitation? Could the Lord come and sit at our computer or browse through our DVR recordings without bowing His head in sorrow? – Yet the psalmist continues with this truly awesome statement that literally rocks my world: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes.”

It is so very simple.

As Latter-day Saints we have already covenanted to set no wicked things before our eyes. But so had King David. He wasn’t looking for trouble. He had a simple case of insomnia and rose from bed one night. And as he walked upon the roof of his house “he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.” He hadn’t meant to set anything wicked before his eyes, but something wicked came. And instead of turning his head and walking away he ended up committing adultery, getting the woman pregnant, and even having her husband killed. (See 2 Samuel 11 for full story.) – It only took one look.

It is so very simple.

And because it is so simple, and I am a simple man, I try to choose each day to look to God and live in simple ways. I’ve set my own little reminders to always help me. One example is my computer’s desktop:

My computer’s desktop for the past two years. – Photo from LDSChurchTemples.com

To many it looks like nothing special, but to me it is a continual reminder to always be worthy to enter into the House of the Lord. I love the temple workers in white, just beyond the door, conversing happily and freely with one another. I love the glow that emanates from the columns near the bottom. It’s a beautiful glow. And I love seeing those simple words, “HOLINESS TO THE LORD. THE HOUSE OF THE LORD.” It’s a simple reminder, but it’s there to remind me to always look to God and live.

Another reminder is a picture of Elder Dallin H. Oaks which I keep in my room. Ever since his famous talk on pornography I’ve been scared to death to even say the word pornography, let alone look at it. The smoldering in his eyes as a Special Witness of Jesus Christ as he addressed that hot-button issue let me know how the Lord felt about it. And although pornography is not one of my weaknesses (because I’ve been blessed with a plentiful amount of others), I like having Elder Oaks watching me. It’s simple, and some might even say it is silly, but when I see him looking at me I cannot help but think of the Savior looking into my eyes, and I want to look to Him and live.

In closing let me repeat Alma’s words of counsel to his son Helaman,

47 And now, my son, see that ye take care of these sacred things, yea, see that ye look to God and live. Go unto this people and declare the word, and be sober. My son, farewell.

Alma 37:47

I’m not some super spiritual dude because I have a churchy desktop background. And I’m not more righteous than anyone else because I keep an Apostle peering over my shoulder 24/7. I am among the weakest of the weak of Latter-day Saints. But I keep those things around because I do know how easy it is to look away from the Gospel and lose our paths, and I don’t want anyone to have to go through that. Even if you’re reading this and I don’t know you, I want you to be there in celestial glory with me, your family, and everyone else. The Gospel we have been given is indeed sacred. It is holy. And we are so blessed to have it in our possession. I would invite you to examine your life and daily practices and see where you can look to God and live more fully as Latter-day Saints. As you’ve read this, what has the Holy Spirit brought into your mind that you could change that would help you to live more closely to Him? I invite you, whatever it was, to make that change and live a more abundant life as President Monson has urged.

Just look to God and live. It really is so very simple.

Your pal,

Stan Way

If you’ve stumbled upon this website and you have no idea who Alma is, chances are you’re not a Mormon. So go ahead and click here to learn more about my Church and how its teachings can help you to draw closer to Jesus Christ.

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2 thoughts on “Look to God and Live

  1. Wendell Stewart on said:

    Great site! Fantastic article on Moses and the serpent on a pole.

  2. Great message! I was reading the same scriptures this morning and was looking for images of the brazen serpent and the liahona and came to your post. It was really inspiring. My family needs this.

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