Alma 29 begins with Alma wishing to be an angel. He says, “O 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!” (Alma 29:1)
He later says that he “ought not to harrow up in (his) desires, the firm decree of a just God, for (he) know(s) that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea… he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees with are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction” (Alma 29:4).
Alma seems to be teaching us that our lives are largely what we make of them. If we want to be miserable, we are free to make that choice. If we want happiness, it really is in our hands – God will give us what we truly desire. What we really want out of our lives is, by and large, measured by the choices that we make.
We see this idea taught in other places in the Book of Mormon. In Alma 41:3-5 we read that we are “raised to happiness” according to our desires and that our choices will bring us the results that are the fruit of our decisions. We will be “restored” to whatever the “desires of our hearts” choose!
Alma’s teaching reminds me of Lehi’s teaching that there are essentially two types of beings, those who act and those that are acted upon (2 Nephi 2:14,16,26). God is happy because he is a being that acts. This is our mission while in this life, to choose to act, rather than wait for life to happen.
This is a great principle to illustrate with young people. How many young people know of individuals who “sit and wait” for good things to happen “to” them? We all had a good time illustrating different scenarios where we have seen this. The sad thing is when people choose the victim mentality, blaming everyone but themselves on their problems.
For example, imagine a young person spends all of their high school life not making friends, not learning the names of this in his or her classes, never being involved in opportunities to work in clubs or service organizations. When high school is over, perhaps they will feel that those in their school were “unfriendly”. Or maybe they will blame their parents, “If only my mom and dad bought me a car, or nice clothes, or provided more means for me to have friends,” never thinking for a moment that perhaps they have the power within themselves to choose happiness, to choose to serve others and become connected with those around them.
It is my conviction that the Book of Mormon teaches powerful principles that can be applied in multiple situations in our lives over a variety of circumstances. Alma’s teaching that God will give you what you choose is a powerful reminder of the power of agency and the responsibility that we have to make the right choice! It is not enough to have freedom, but we must do something with that freedom.