Alma 7:11-13 — LeGrand Baker — the value of experience
11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.
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One of the most powerful words in the English language is a conjunction we rarely use in our everyday speech the way it is used in the scriptures, and so we often pretty much ignore it when we read it that way. The conjunction is “that.” Please read the following carefully (I have removed “that”) as an example of its importance and of its structural use.
3 O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it;—- they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father,—- they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, —- they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen. (Moroni 4:3.)
Now look at it this way, and observe the structure that is created by the repetition of the word “that”:
O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to
bless and sanctify this bread
to the souls of all those who partake of it;
they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and
witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father,
they are willing to
take upon them the name of thy Son, and
always remember him,
and keep his commandments which he hath given them,
they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.
When we look at our verse 13 we discover the same kind of logical sequence: one idea building on the other.
Now the Spirit knoweth all things;
the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh
he might take upon him the sins of his people,
he might blot out their transgressions
according to the power of his deliverance;
and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.
Alma is saying that even though the Saviour “knoweth all things,” if he had not actually suffered in the flesh, he could not have taken upon him the sins of his people, and therefore he could not have caused their transgressions to cease to exist.
The implication seems to be that even the Creator God had to experience physical sorrow and physical pain in order to blot out our sorrow, our pain, and our sins.
If experience in this world is that important for him, then surely it is for us also. We can feel sorry for those who hurt, but we can only feel empathy for those who hurt in the same way we have already hurt.
Like so many of the prophets, Paul walks us through the sequence of faith (pistis=the tokens of the covenant), hope (living as though the covenants were already fulfilled), and charity (what we are when the law of consecration is what we do). But unlike the others, he adds a condition to “hope” that gives it a much broader meaning:
1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:1-5)
Christians sometimes tend to overlook Ecclesiastes because of its poetic imagery, but there is much wisdom there. Here, for example, is a discussion of experience that is spoken by one who understands, but who sees experience as producing futility rather than hope.
12 I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.
13 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.
14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
15 That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.
16 I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.
17 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.
18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18)
He is correct in many ways. Wisdom brings grief and knowledge brings sorrow. All one has to do is read the prophets’ warnings to discover how true that is of them. In addition to that, human wisdom opens the windows of instability and foolishness, but it also screams out the question: “Is this all there is?” The answer is imbedded in experience.
One whose heart has not been torn in pieces by betrayed love, can not experience in his own soul the agony of such sorrow felt by others. One who has not experienced great physical pain can not even will himself to understand the pain of others. A person who has not felt the clutching grasp and weighty drag of temptation can never sense the agony of one who slipped and fell. Similarly, one who has not experience the comfortableness of requited love, cannot know the peace and fulfillment another person can bring to one’s own sense of self. Just as one who has not been in the presence of the Saviour cannot know the fullness of the joy of his love. It is through experience that we gain the power and the wisdom to bless and to be blessed. Experience is not only the key, it is the only key to wisdom — as the ancients defined wisdom — knowing, understanding, and loving as God knows, understands, and loves.
Thus the Saviour could explain to the Prophet Joseph:
7 Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? (D&C 122:7b-8)