The Value of Attending Gatherings (Alma 17)
In Alma 17, Alma continues his travels between the cities of the Nephites to check on the spiritual health of each. As he is on the road to the land of Manti, he is surprised to have a chance encounter with four old friends, the four sons of Mosiah. Even though they are just passing each other on the road, this a joyful reunion as they haven't seen each other in 14 years. What makes it so joyful?
- They have a shared history with each other. Years earlier, an angel appeared to them when they were all together, and they all gave their lives to the Lord at that time. Perhaps they recalled that shared experience during this reunion.
- It's a blessing to see that they are all still brothers in Christ. Some people start out serving the Lord and then fall away, so this is not something to take for granted.
- They share experiences with each other. The experiences shared by the sons of Mosiah are so powerful that Alma uses the next several chapters (all the way through Alma 28) to share them with us.
We have the opportunity today to participate in reunions similar to the one described above. And, we don't have to wait for a chance encounter on the road to do this. The Church schedules gatherings — conferences and campouts — at which we can build and maintain friendships throughout our lifetimes.
Oh, OK, I get it now — this is just another "come to Conference" thing, right? Conference is next week, isn't it? Well, I can just read the minutes to find out what happened. There's going to be a video recording of the Sunday meeting, isn't there? I'll just watch that.
Well, by all means, if we are unable to attend a particular gathering, we should read the minutes, articles, and reports to know what happened and watch whatever videos are made available to share in the blessings. With today's technology, these are typically available very soon after the actual event, so it almost feels like we were there.
However, it's, of course, not the same as being there. We miss out on many personal interactions — both us with others and others with us — when we are not physically in attendance at the gatherings. Granted there is effort and expense involved, especially for those who live far away. But when we can attend, we then experience the same things that Alma and the four sons of Mosiah experienced at their reunion:
Recalling Shared History: One brother who I will likely see at the next Conference may remind me of the time I spilled an entire bowl of wonton soup in my lap when were together on a missionary trip. Another will recall the time that he and I were mistaken for the police when we approached a couple of vagrant guys in a Detroit alley to tell them about the Lord. Another may fondly remember the time that he and I spoke to some prisoners in a New Mexico jail and then prayed for the men by reaching through the bars and placing our hands on each head. What memories do you share with specific brothers or sisters?
Still Brothers and Sisters in Christ: When you don't see someone in a long time, you do tend to wonder whether the person is still in The Church. Even just a warm greeting with someone is enough for each of you to know that you're still brothers and sisters in Christ.
Sharing Experiences: There are always new stories to relate — experiences, miracles, answered prayers, prayer needs, Church accomplishments, etc. Some of these may be written up as blogs or Gospel News Blessing Bits, but many are not. Each story that we tell or hear helps build our collective faith and gives us increased determination to continue to move forward with the building up of the kingdom of God.
Hopefully, we can all agree that there is value in attending the gatherings of The Church. Even as the world moves away from physical interaction in favor of virtual interaction, let's not allow ourselves to mistakenly think that one is just as good as the other. Let's try to be there as often as we can.
Looking forward to sharing greetings, memories, and experiences with you at a future gathering!
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.