there is a story in the book of mormon that i have always loved. it’s a longish story with many great scenes. it is a story of hearts being changed, or turned to the lord. it ends with the unlikely conversion of an enemy king. it begins years earlier with the conversion of four sons of a different king.
the four brothers rebel in the worst of ways. at the point where their parents think all is spiritually lost for those boys, they literally see the light. eventually all four brothers refuse the throne and venture into enemy territory to spread the word. ammon becomes a servant to king lamoni. in the process of protecting the king’s flocks, he famously chops off the arms of the would-be robbers. through this courageous act ammon gains access to the king. perplexed by ammon’s power, the king supposes ammon to be god. i love the exchange between the two.
despite speaking different religious languages, ammon uses the moment to find similarities in beliefs and is able to teach the king. king lamoni’s conversion opens the door for ammon’s brother to teach lamoni’s father. his father also believes and offers up all his sins to know god.
all of the characters in this story are united in turning. they turned away from their sins and turned, fully committed, to the lord. in the new testament mark tells of a young rich man who chooses to turn a different direction. he inquires of the lord what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. christ acknowledges that this young man has been obedient and kept the commandments, but that wasn’t enough.
christ asks him to sell his things, give to the poor, take up the cross, and follow him. then, christ says that this young man will have earned his treasure in heaven. we know the story, the man, sorrowing, walks away from christ. i have always felt so sad at this outcome. i realized recently that i sorrowed in a similar way at what was asked of me. i symbolically turned my back on christ.
a few weeks ago i was given a new calling at church. i was asked to teach the 9 year old sunday school class. i have not worked with the children at church in 14 years. this was not something i wanted. i didn’t even have a good reason for my sadness but i went home and cried anyway. 9-year-olds are a whole different rodeo than teenage girls!
the next few sundays i talked about jesus’ betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection with my little class. they are all so eager and cute and easily distracted. i love each of their personalities. i started thinking that i could do this. i started turning myself in the right direction.
and then last sunday hit. i over-zealously volunteered to teach all of the 9-year-olds instead of just my half. it was 10 to 1 and i lost miserably. i seriously considered leaving them there in that sunday school room and fleeing the scene. but i stuck it out because i realized that i didn’t want my story to end like the young rich man.