The following is an excerpt from Remember: Sacred Truths We Must Never Forget, by Alonzo Gaskill (Cedar Fort, 2015).
In a spirit of warning and prophetic counsel, Alma commanded his people to retain in their remembrance the captivity of their fathers (Alma 5:6; 36:29). Why focus on the “bondage and captivity” of those of the past? To some, the reason will seem obvious. More often than not, however, we fail to see the profundity in Alma’s advice and thus we neglect to heed his counsel.
When I was four or five years old, I witnessed the arrest of my fourteen-year-old uncle. Though only a boy himself, this shirtless and shoeless youth was handcuffed and aggressively escorted to the squad car while I looked upon the scene, confused and afraid. Nearly a half-century later, I “retain in my remembrance” a vivid mental image of the event: where I was standing at the moment of his arrest, what he was wearing, and how those around me responded to this shocking incident in our family. I was too young to fully grasp all that was happening, nevertheless, the experience left me a changed boy. My uncle’s vice for which he had been arrested was substance abuse. He was using and selling drugs. I was not a Latter-day Saint at that time. The faith with which I was associated taught nothing akin to the Word of Wisdom. However, from that day and throughout the years leading up to my conversion to Mormonism, I was never tempted to use drugs, smoke, or drink alcohol. Owing that I was reared in a family of “smokers” and my parents owned a liquor store, I attribute my abstinence to one thing: I could not forget my uncle’s arrest. Over the years, as I watched the “bondage and captivity” that came into his life because of drugs and alcohol, any temptation to partake was completely squelched by the reality that his “captivity” could become mine.
Remembering the captivity of our fathers offers us protection from their failings and sins. It is a vivid and practical way to see the consequences of sin without partaking of that which God has forbidden. As we remember the “bondage” those of the past have encountered through straying from God’s path, we are given rather practical reasons for living more holy lives.
Appropriately, Alma also reminds us of God’s mercy, longsuffering, and power to deliver our souls from the hell created by our sins and disobedience (Alma 5:6; 36:29). Thus, while his message is one of warning, it is also one of hope. Each of us sins. Each of us needs redemption. And God has provided the means whereby we can overcome, not only our sins but, in many cases, even our addictions. Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
For the sake of our happiness and well-being, the Lord has warned, “Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the Lord your God, and hear the word of the Lord concerning you—the Lord who shall suddenly come to His temple; the Lord who shall come down upon the world with a curse to judgment; yea, upon all the nations that forget God” (D&C 133:1–2; italics added). We often quote the colloquialism, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” It is a blessing to witness the mistakes of society—including the consequences of those mistakes—if we learn from them. If we forget God, however, we will bring upon ourselves the curses, captivity, and bondage of this lone and dreary world.
Alonzo L. Gaskill is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having been raised in the Greek Orthodox faith. He has worked for the Church Educational System for more than a quarter of a century, and is currently a professor of World Religions at Brigham Young University. His book, Remember: Sacred Truths We Must Never Forget, can be found on Amazon.