Neglect: When You Can and You Should, but You Don't (Alma 60)
In Alma 60, the Nephite army still finds itself without reinforcements from the government such that their frustration is running high. Moroni sends another letter to the chief judge Pahoran — this one even more forceful than his previous letter — calling out the chief judge for his apparent neglect of the Nephite army. Here are a few passages from the letter:
- "Great has been the slaughter among our people…yea, great has been your neglect towards us" (verse 5)
- "Ye have neglected them insomuch that the blood of thousands shall come upon your heads for vengeance" (verse 10)
- "I fear exceedingly that the judgments of God will come upon this people, because of…the slothfulness of our government, and their exceeding great neglect towards their brethren" (verse 14)
The word "neglect" is used over and over to emphasize that the government has the resources to provide the army, and that they should be supporting the army, but yet no assistance is being provided.
They can help, and they should help, but they're not helping.
(Moroni finds out in the next chapter that Pahoran is actually not in a position to help, but he doesn't know that now; thus, his frustration and the accusation of neglect.)
Sometimes, when a person's behavior is questioned, they may respond with a statement like "I'm not doing anything wrong." Neglect is when not doing anything is wrong. It's when action is required and no action is forthcoming. Lack of action in such cases typically results in some consequences — sometimes immediate, sometimes over time. For example:
- If you neglect your spouse, then you won't have a close relationship and may even wind up with a divorce.
- If you neglect your children, then you could lose custody of them; if you neglect the opportunity to instruct them, then you lose the opportunity to influence the type of people they grow up to be.
- If you neglect your job, then you may eventually be unemployed.
- If you neglect your car's upkeep, then you may find yourself stranded when the car breaks down.
- If you neglect your health, then your health can deteriorate.
In all of the above cases, there are things we can and should be doing — taking care of ourselves, providing for our families, going to work, etc. — if we don't, then it's neglect, and we will eventually see the consequences.
The same concept applies to serving God. The Word of God outlines the actions that are required to be a servant of God: repentance, baptism, receive the Holy Ghost, endure to the end. These are things that anybody can do — all are invited to serve God — and they are things we should do according to the scriptures. Therefore, if we take no action, it's neglect, and there may be consequences later.
Some may try to substitute other actions — "good works," "loving everybody," "being a good person," etc. I would equate this to putting a nice air freshener in your car instead of getting your brakes fixed. It may make for a pleasant ride, but when the end of the road is approaching, which action will make a difference, and which will constitute neglect?
Even after giving our lives to the Lord, let's be careful to not let neglect creep in. In our human minds, we can easily justify:
- Neglect in attending church (I go as often as I can; nobody misses me when I'm not there.)
- Neglect in donating (I can't afford it; why do they need my money?)
- Neglect in working for The Church (I go on Sunday; isn't that enough?)
- Neglect in standing up for the teachings of Christ (I don't want to lose friends.)
Let's not question whether we can do things like the above in our service to God. Let's not question whether these are things we should be doing. In each case, and others, we know through the Holy Spirit that these are things we can do and we should do — at least to the best of our ability.
If we choose to do nothing, then there may well be consequences over time. Our closeness to God may be affected; our lives will not bear fruit; we won't help others find their way to Christ; etc. In some cases, we may eventually turn away from God altogether.
Jesus Christ came to earth to do something that He could do, and needed to do, in order to purchase our salvation. He didn't neglect that responsibility. Out of appreciation for that, let's not neglect any opportunities we have to take actions in our own lives to further the cause of Christ.
"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (James 4:17)
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.