Serving God With Exactness (Alma 57)
Quite a bit is written in Alma 53 to 57 regarding the 2,000 stripling soldiers led by Helaman. Their claim to fame was that they stepped in for their fathers, who were unable to join the army due to the oath they made to God, and helped defend their nation against the Lamanite army. The stripling soldiers fought in many battles and, though many were wounded, none of the 2,000 were killed in battle.
In Alma 57, Helaman recognizes this group for the great service they have provided. He makes one point in particular to explain their success:
"They did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them" (Alma 57:21)
As their leader, Helaman appreciates that these young men follow his commands with exactness — not doing what is most convenient or ignoring commands they don't want to follow or mixing in their own ideas, which they may think could be a better way to go. By following the commands with exactness, the men show faith in their leader (that he knows what needs to be done) and also faith in God (that He knows what needs to be done). Their faith, as illustrated by serving with exactness, is rewarded by God as He protects them in the battles and gives them great success.
The scriptures contain many teachings and commands of Jesus Christ. As His servants — as His soldiers — we are expected to do our best to follow these commands with exactness. Among these commands are procedures known as "ordinances," such as baptism, communion, and feet washing, which are part of serving God. Jesus showed His disciples how to do these things; they taught others who taught others and so forth. Sadly, over time, the way the ordinances were performed began to change. Perhaps some people found it inconvenient to do these things exactly as Jesus had done; some may have had "better ideas" about how to do them.
It took the restoration of the gospel in 1830 to restore the ordinances such that the members of The Church of Jesus Christ could once again be taught to do these things exactly as Jesus did them. For example, converts are baptized today the same way that Jesus was and the same way that converts in the early church were baptized. They are taken out into a natural body of water and immersed. The words said by the minister during a baptism are the exact words Jesus said to use in 3 Nephi 11:25. Afterward, converts receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, exactly as taught in Acts 8:17. The procedure for bestowing the Holy Ghost is exactly what is described in Moroni 2; the ministers first kneel in prayer and then receive the power to bestow the Holy Ghost.
The church ordinances are just one group of teachings from the scriptures that have been affected by inexact following. There are many other teachings that continue to be ignored or altered today as people choose to live their lives in ways that do not match up with the Word of God. Perhaps some teachings are viewed as inconvenient; perhaps some are seen as outdated; perhaps some are things they just don't want to do.
If it's my desire to serve God with exactness, then I should ask myself:
- Can I serve God with exactness when it comes to my money?
- Can I serve God with exactness when it comes to marriage?
- Can I serve God with exactness in the way I treat other people?
- Can I serve God with exactness even at the risk of being persecuted by others as a result?
- Do I know what the scriptures say about all of the above?
Perhaps it would require perfection to follow all of the commands of God exactly. Even so, it's not an excuse to intentionally cut corners in serving God. Remember how miraculously God worked in the lives of the 2,000 stripling soldiers who performed every word of command with exactness. Our lives can only be more blessed if we do our best to serve God with exactness.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.