In this two-part series I will look at the myths behind the happiness of the wicked (losers) and the misery of the righteous (winners). This is a very real issue that challenges the faith of everyone who initially bumps up against it. It just doesn’t seem to be fair. But that is the whole point — it only SEEMS unfair.
I’m going to let the Book of Mormon do most of the talking for the four points in this article. Each of the verses listed here are pretty self-explanatory, but I will make some comments along the way.
1 – The Truth About Life
We live in the middle of a war of ideologies every minute of every day we are alive in mortality. The Lord is entreating us to choose him because happiness is only available through living His laws, the commandments. Satan seeks to make us as miserable as he is because we had a hand in his expulsion from heaven. He will go to any length to deceive us, lure us away from God, or subdue us so we cannot experience the joy God promises us.
We choose one side or the other with every action and decision we make. Satan uses our veil of forgetfulness and the natural desires of the body to his advantage to lure us into preferring the pleasures of the flesh, causing us to either ignore or reject God’s messages to us in favor of the immediate gratification of power, indulgence, and vanity. He appeals to those who are willing to live in the world of the shallow and superficial, the world of the selfish and prideful.
In the following verses Alma paints a pretty accurate picture of the wicked and the lives they lead. This is a description of Alma’s mission to the Zoramites in Alma 31:23-28.
23 Now, after the people had all offered up thanks after this manner, they returned to their homes, never speaking of their God again until they had assembled themselves together again to the holy stand, to offer up thanks after their manner.
24 Now when Alma saw this his heart was grieved; for he saw that they were a wicked and a perverse people; yea, he saw that their hearts were set upon gold, and upon silver, and upon all manner of fine goods.
25 Yea, and he also saw that their hearts were lifted up unto great boasting, in their pride.
26 And he lifted up his voice to heaven, and cried, saying: O, how long, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that thy servants shall dwell here below in the flesh, to behold such gross wickedness among the children of men?
27 Behold, O God, they cry unto thee, and yet their hearts are swallowed up in their pride. Behold, O God, they cry unto thee with their mouths, while they are puffed up, even to greatness, with the vain things of the world.
28 Behold, O my God, their costly apparel, and their ringlets, and their bracelets, and their ornaments of gold, and all their precious things which they are ornamented with; and behold, their hearts are set upon them, and yet they cry unto thee and say—We thank thee, O God, for we are a chosen people unto thee, while others shall perish.
The poor and humble, who had built their churches for them, had been cast out because their clothing was not good enough; they were too poor. Isn’t this what we run into all the time? We try to do good, but those with money, power, and influence seem to have all the advantages in life. It can make their lifestyle very appealing to someone who tries to do right, but never seems to gain the advantage.
2 – Temporary Advantage
Despite His noticeable physical absence in mortality, the Lord is still in charge of what goes on. The Savior is still the lawgiver and our judge. Those who appear to be the winners in this life are only living a fleeting victory. The happiness their wealth buys them cannot go beyond the grave, and there is a whole lot of eternity out there beyond our 80 or so years in mortality. The Lord tells us in these next verses that we may not see the advantage of serving the Lord now, but the day will come when He will make it clear to all who really has the advantage, those who serve Satan or those who follow Him.
3 Nephi 24:13-18
13 Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say: What have we spoken against thee?
14 Ye have said: It is vain to serve God, and what doth it profit that we have kept his ordinances and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of Hosts.
15 And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.
16 Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard; and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.
17 And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
18 Then shall ye return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
3 – Physical Results of Being Wicked
The wicked fear death, while the righteous have no need to fear death. Mormon described the fear of the wicked during the final battles between the Nephites and Lamanites.
7 And it came to pass that my people, with their wives and their children, did now behold the armies of the Lamanites marching towards them; and with that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked, did they await to receive them.
Wickedness causes destruction as a byproduct. The earth responds to wickedness. Just as righteousness causes good things to happen, so wickedness causes bad things to happen. It is a natural law, but we have no terms in our language to describe this relationship.
7 And they hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord, because of their wicked combinations; wherefore, there began to be wars and contentions in all the land, and also many famines and pestilences, insomuch that there was a great destruction, such an one as never had been known upon the face of the earth; and all this came to pass in the days of Shiblom.
2 Nephi 26:3
3 And after the Messiah shall come there shall be signs given unto my people of his birth, and also of his death and resurrection; and great and terrible shall that day be unto the wicked, for they shall perish; and they perish because they cast out the prophets, and the saints, and stone them, and slay them; wherefore the cry of the blood of the saints shall ascend up to God from the ground against them.
13 Yea, and moreover I say unto you, that if this highly favored people of the Lord should fall into transgression, and become a wicked and an adulterous people, that the Lord will deliver them up, that thereby they become weak like unto their brethren; and he will no more preserve them by his matchless and marvelous power, as he has hitherto preserved our fathers.
These verses all show the relationship between how the universe reacts to wickedness as opposed to how the universe reacts to righteous behavior. The earth itself has physical reactions to wicked and righteous behavior.
4 – Spiritual Results of Wickedness
The wicked fear judgment. If they think of judgment at all, it is not a pleasant thought.
13 Finally, I bid you farewell, until I shall meet you before the pleasing bar of God, which bar striketh the wicked with awful dread and fear. Amen.
35 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.
14 Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection.
26 But behold, an awful death cometh upon the wicked; for they die as to things pertaining to things of righteousness; for they are unclean, and no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God; but they are cast out, and consigned to partake of the fruits of their labors or their works, which have been evil; and they drink the dregs of a bitter cup.
13 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.
The Real Loser
It can be easy to get confused as to who the winners and who the losers are in mortality. These few verses make it clear that choosing wickedness over righteousness has some very unpleasant long-term consequences. Being focused only on mortality and all the pleasures and profits it can bring may be pleasing to the earthly (carnal) mind, but this course of living brings neither lasting happiness, nor eternal fulfillment.
In the next part I’ll treat the subject of the righteous the same way. I’ll give you some verses from the scriptures that talk about the sorrows and the joys of being righteous, and spell out the final state of those who choose to follow the Lord, despite the earthly temptations to do otherwise.
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