This story is about one of the priests that Noah hired to tell him that he was good and that everything he did was good. His name was Alma. Alma was one of the priests who had mixed yellow with red and made orange. They had gone around painting the walls orange. The pictures on the walls orange. The people in the pictures on the walls orange. They painted their clothes and hands and faces all orange. And so it had become very hard to see things. Because truth and untruth had been mixed together everywhere.

Abinadi saw all the orange everywhere and told the King to take it all down. But removing all that orange paint would be a lot of work. Maybe impossible. And so Noah and the priests said, “I like orange.” But Alma looked at the orange paint and said, “Anyone can see that there is too much orange in this room. Let’s fix it!”

By now you probably realize that the paint was not really paint at all. There was never any orange paint. It’s just a metaphor for something else.

Metaphor a definition:

A metaphor happens when the best way to say what you mean is to say something else.

In this instance, it’s hard to explain how truth and untruth mix and stick to our lives. And it’s hard to talk about how difficult it is to separate truth and untruth once they’ve been mixed. And how that makes change difficult. This is hard to explain by itself. So instead we talk about paint. We talk about how paint mixes and sticks to our walls, and hands, and clothes. And when paint is on your wall or hands or clothes it is hard to remove.

And because you understand something about paint, you understand something about yourself. That’s what we are really talking about. We are talking about how good and bad mix together inside of each of us. You will never be all good in this life. And you will never be all bad. You will always be a mixture. You will always be orange.

It’s easy to get discouraged by that, or to feel ashamed. If you have never felt ashamed before, you will someday. You will do something bad, or make a mistake, and you will feel like you can’t look anywhere but at your toes. Or you will wish the ground would open up like a mouth and swallow you so no one will ever look at you again. Because you feel ashamed. Because it isn’t always easy to be orange.

But even though you will feel ashamed sometimes, eventually, maybe after years and years, you will learn that you are orange, and your neighbor is orange, and your parents are orange, and everyone around you is orange. And there is some comfort in that.

But Noah and his priests couldn’t accept that they were orange. They believed that God would not love them until they were perfect. And so they told themselves they were perfect even though they knew it was not true. Because they didn’t like to be orange, because they didn’t understand God.

Alma was different. He accepted God’s love even though he was imperfectly orange. He knew that God did not love him because he was yellow or red or orange or green or blue. God loved him. That was all. And because God loved him, God could transform him. He saw how God had transformed Abinadi, when Abinadi lit up like a flashlight.

Alma realized it didn’t matter if he was orange all over. He didn’t need to be ashamed. He could make mistakes, and he could try again, and that was alright. Because underneath his skin, at the very core of his soul, there was God. And God is good. And God loved him.

Noah and the other priests wouldn’t listen to Alma. They sent him away. And so Alma found other people to tell about Abinadi and about God. And they decided to try an experiment with God. They said, “God, we will love you and we will be baptized. And we will accept your love even though we are orange all over. And we will see what happens.”

And one of the most amazing things happened. The people started to love each other and they even began to love themselves. If they saw anyone in need, they helped. They gave away all of their money. And shared everything they owned. They weren’t jealous or ashamed. They felt sad if someone was sad. And they were happy when others were happy because they were connected together in love. And so they said, “God, this has been better than anything we could have imagined.” And it was. And they were happy.

All artwork by Lauren Blair.

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One thought on “The priest who was imperfect but decided to accept God’s love anyway (Mosiah 18-24)

  1. Your title, “The priest who was imperfect but decided to accept God’s love anyway,” made me think of something that’s been on my mind for a while. I can tell from the post that it’s been on your minds, too. Your post totally hits the point I’ve wanted to focus on.

    From the pulpit and during lessons we frequently hear people say, “now I’m not perfect.” It seems to me that the implication of that statement is that some people are perfect or that some people could be perfect. I think the whole idea of perfection in anything except maybe waffles sets us off on the wrong foot. I think what we really mean is: “I struggle just like everyone else” or “this is especially hard for me.” 

    I think it’s because of our imperfections that we turn to God. When we’re trying hard to be perfect, we can easily miss the need we have for spiritual help and be led to rely on our own strength. It’s not that Alma was imperfect and accepted God’s love anyway; it’s because Alma recognized his imperfection (serious flaws, bad example, terrible mistakes), that he could turn to God in the very sincere way he did. 

    Addiction recovery meetings are among the most spiritual places I’ve ever been. As I’ve reflected on why that is, it seems to me that everyone there is fully aware of their need for help. No one is acting like they’re in control, or that by trying harder they could be in control. I think people at Addiction Recovery realize that the harder they try on their own to be “perfect” (to not keep making the mistakes they’ve been making), the more they realize they can’t, with their own strength, make themselves perfectly able to resist the thing they’re fighting. 

    My wife, Traci, found an Ensign article from a couple that tells their story of coming out of an addiction together. The last words of that article capture the essence of what I’m trying to say: “God doesn’t want us to try harder; he wants to turn to him sooner.”  I think that’s the key.

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