My objective in this message is to stimulate the reader to obey the charge and emulate the personal commitment of Joshua when he said to the children of Israel:
“Fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.
“… choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh. 24:14–15.)
It is impossible to overemphasize the significance of the two points Joshua stressed in this masterful statement: One, serve the Lord; and two, do it now, “this day.” Thinking of Joshua’s charge and commitment brings to mind Amulek’s great declaration:
“Behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
“… I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
“Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.
“For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.” (Alma 34:32–35.)
As recorded in his twelfth chapter, Alma reveals the basis for Amulek’s statement that “this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God.” He points out that mortal life was given to our first mortal parents, Adam and Eve, and has been given to us as “a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state … which is after the resurrection of the dead” (Alma 12:24).
He explains that the plan of redemption taught to Adam, and which has also been taught to us, permitted Adam and permits us, through repenting and living the gospel, to be readmitted into the presence of the Lord.
Speaking of men, “God,” said Alma, “gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption, that they should not do evil, the penalty thereof being a second death, which was an everlasting death as to things pertaining unto righteousness; for on such the plan of redemption could have no power, for the works of justice could not be destroyed, according to the supreme goodness of God.
“But God did call on men, in the name of his Son, (this being the plan of redemption which was laid) saying: If ye will repent, and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you, through mine Only Begotten Son;
“Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest.
“And whosoever will harden his heart and will do iniquity, behold, I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest.” (Alma 12:32–35.)
Regardless of our age, it is vital that each of us act today and every day.
Alma charged his son Helaman to make up his mind in his youth.
“O, remember, my son,” said he, “and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.
“Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.
“Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.” (Alma 37:35–37.)
Alma spoke a great truth when he said to his son, Corianton:
“Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10).
Years ago, I clipped the following poem from the Baltimore Sun. Its message still rings true.
You’ve got to be straight to be happy,
You’ve got to be square as a die.
Through wrong may come infinite pleasures,
But they fade, and they fly.
You’ve got to take life at its noblest
If you want to have gladness that counts,
Want the verve and the zeal of the spirit
That lifts you along as it mounts.
And oh! how it pays out of goodness
To draw for each day as we strive
Some measures of clean, healthy gladness,
In our work and for being alive!
You’ve got to be true to be happy,
Be true to yourself over all,
And be blind to the lure of evil,
And deaf to its powerful call.
To set up high standards and keep them,
With the records so straight and so true,
For nothing can ever condemn them,
If that is your creed, it will do.
You’ve got to be clean to be happy.
You’ve got to be steadfast and pure
If you want what life gives that is earnest,
That will help, and will hold, and endure.
The sure way to peace and happiness in this life and life hereafter is to serve the Lord today and every day.