One of the most important stories in the Book of Mormon is the story of King Benjamin from a few weeks ago. His words unified a divided group of people, brought them closer to God than their people had been in generations. However, the real learning to be had from that story comes this week as we get to know, for the first time, the children who were too young to experience Benjamin’s words first-hand. This “Rising Generation” falls away from the gospel community in droves. Many even persecute and lead others away. It feels familiar with my own generation.
Mormon does an excellent job of summarizing the reasons for their falling away, and I plan to discuss in detail later in the post. Understanding each “Rising Generation” is a key component of parenting and of gospel teachings passing through generations. The gospel message must not only remain relevant, but it needs to impact the lives of each generation.
You can read a post where I discussed this from the perspective of sharing our spiritual experiences with our children here:
We cover a lot of history this week and so I hope the summaries of events and history is helpful, but not distracting to the primary message about the “Rising Generation.”
CHAPTERS FOR STUDY WEEK 20-21 – Mosiah 18-Alma 4
– The covenant of baptism is more than obedience, it is taking on the name of Christ and being willing to mourn with those that mourn, comfort those in need of comfort, and lighten the burdens of all people.
– Rising generations of youth will always struggle with the God of their parents and knowing this is the key to helping them find God in their own way.
– Apostasy is centered on pride, wealth, status, and removing limits to our personal desires. Things that build those things up are likely going to be challenging to the gospel and the spirit of the Lord.
History and Context:
– 500 years after Nephi, baptism has taken on a more ancient Israel type meaning. A ritual part of faith, but less significant than the baptism of John the Baptist. In fact, the covenant of taking upon the name of Christ is even separate from baptism at the time of King Benjamin. Alma changes this significantly and brings two key components to baptism that are essential to the way we look at baptism now.
- The first is becoming part of the community. For the first time in the Book of Mormon, being baptized is completely tied to being a part of a new community of the saints, and later it is established as a church.
- The second is the additional covenant language of bearing one another’s burdens, comforting, mourning, and helping each other in our journey. This collectivism in the context of baptism is a key facet of the way we look at baptism in our day and much more similar to Paul than Nephi and the Old Testament. What is cool about this is that Alma receives this as a revelation. He didn’t have the scriptures or the traditions of his fathers to limit his view of what should be done, and the Lord taught him a better way. I think this is a nice reminder that sometimes out traditions can be a barrier to revelation not a conduit.
– Syncretism is a word that is unfamiliar to most of us, but it is how religions develop over centuries. it is the process of different ideas and belief structures assimilating and creating something new. This happens to all people, especially ancient people who had fewer means of organizing and distributing information. This means it is very likely that the people over centuries would have assimilated local customs with their own traditions. So, when leaders like Benjamin, or Mosiah, or Alma bring different groups of people together under one belief system it wouldn’t have been easy, but they would have had some similarities in their belief systems.
– Moving governance from Kings to Judges is not only a Book of Mormon and Old Testament progression. It is the progression of all people who seek freedom as a guiding principle to their lives. So, it is important to remember that as we seek more freedom, there is necessarily more options and more differences in our choices. That is why charity, forgiveness, and compassion are the hallmarks of Christian belief. With everyone having freedom to act, we must love, forgive, and give the benefit of the doubt to all those around us because mistakes are part of the process of returning to the Lord.
– Nehorism becomes a central theme to Mormon’s depiction of apostasy. It leads to three primary attitudes that lead all people away from God.
- Wealth – the focus on wealth separates us from other people and therefore from God.
- Status – most separation socially is based on inequality in wealth, but there are other systematic separations that come through status, race, political beliefs, and appearance. This kind of separation is equally as damaging to our spiritual health.
- Intellectual Pride – the fastest and easiest of all spiritual separations happens when we think we know more and understand more than God or His oracles.
– Important New People:
- Gideon – Leader of a rebellion against King Noah, who is converted by Alma and defends the church against Nehor. Nehor kills Gideon which leads to a great division among the people.
- Amulon – The leader of the priests of Noah. Amulon kidnaps and marries a Lamanite daughter and then weasels his way into the inner circle of the Lamanite king. and persecutes Alma and his people before they flee to Zarahemla.
- Alma the Younger – Son of Alma, who actively persecutes the church and believers until he is stopped by an angel. He is converted and then becomes the the first Chief Judge and High Priest of the people of Zarahemla, before relinquishing the role of Chief Judge to focus on bringing people back to the church.
- Nehor – founder of the first religion that is in opposition to the church. With the government changing from a kingdom and the religion being the religion of the king, the people are now free to govern themselves, this leads to the formation of multiple religions, some being formed to disguise wicked intentions for power. This is true for Nehor and he takes it so far as to kill Gideon over a dispute.
- Amlici – second leader of Nehor’s church and takes advantage of the conflict of interest Alma has as political and spiritual leader. He motivates a large portion of the people to rebel and join the Lamanites in an effort to overthrow the government. He is defeated, but his actions lead Alma to relinquish political leadership.
- Sons of Mosiah Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Himni – sons of King Mosiah II who reject the kingship offered them for a mission to the Lamanites. They are promised by God that they will be protected as they journey to teach their ancestral kin.
– Timeline for these chapters – 121 BC – 85 BC
The Fruits of Abinadi’s Courage
We pick up after Abinadi’s death with the fleeing Alma gathering all the people who believed in Alma’s words to the Waters of Mormon. The fruits of Abinadi’s courage was this large group of people who believed in the Lord God and were willing to leave their homes and wander in the wilderness to keep their covenant with God. I hope Abinadi found joy in this sight from the heavens.
This place would have obviously been meaningful to Mormon the author as well. He was likely named after this place, but why was he named after it. This was the beginning of the church structure that would last until Mormon saw it destroyed. This place, to Mormon, was like the Sacred Grove for Latter-day Saints.
I also do not think there is a better explanation of what it means to be a covenanted Christian than when Alma says:
“Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?”
If we all thought of our religion, our spirituality, and our commitment to Christ in this framework then we would truly feel the blessings Benjamin promised his people before – always rejoice, feel the love of God, and always have a remission of our sins.
Dual Examples of Trials and Burdens
While Alma and his group are having their experience away from Lehi-Nephi, Noah is distracted from an invasion of Lamanites by Gideon and a group of rebels who are seeking to destroy Noah for his wicked and terrible reign. When Noah and Gideon see the oncoming invasion from the tower, Noah and his Priests flee and Limhi, Noah’s son, remains and negotiates a peace with the Lamanites after many people die. Gideon sends people to find Noah and kill him. Eventually, the priests of Noah kidnap Lamanite daughters and this brings war and bondage to Limhi’s people. However, Ammon returns from his journey to find Zarahemla and Limhi’s people are able to get the guards drunk and flee to Zarahemla in the night.
Alma’s people, after fleeing from Noah’s search party, had establish a place to live in Helam. However, their wonderful new lives were not meant to last. Amulon, a priest of Noah, and the priest responsible for kidnapping the Lamanite daughters and marrying them, had gained favor with the Lamanite king. Amulon was leading a party to follow Limhi’s people and became lost until the stumbled upon Helam. Amulon knew Alma and took his revenge by persecuting and enslaving Alma and his people. The Lord was pleased that the people remained faithful in their hearts and lightens their burdens, and then eventually delivers them by putting the guards to sleep and leading Alma and his people to Zarahemla.
The Rising Generation
Zarahemla, and Mosiah their king, had a challenge on their hands. Zarahemla was already a mixture of refugees and outcasts, and now it was taking in two new peoples, with different experiences and in some ways different faiths. Mosiah and Alma are both close to the spirit and are able to figure out how to separate responsibilities and Mosiah takes on the political leadership and Alma starts the church. Many people are baptized and believe, but there are many people, particularly the children of those who were converted by King Benjamin, who fall away and persecute the newly formed church.
This falling way focuses on Mosiah’s own sons, the grandsons of Benjamin, and Alma’s son Alma the Younger. These influential men were constantly seeking the destruction of the church and leading people away. The story of their conversion is repeated multiple times in the Book of Mormon and I will go into more detail at a later point, but they are confronted by an angel of the Lord and for three days they lay dumb experiencing the torments of hell until they think on the name of Jesus Christ and feel the redemption their parents had taught them about. This conversion leads Alma to take on the role of ministering to the people around Zarahemla and the Sons of Mosiah on a mission to teach the gospel to the Lamanites, something that had never worked before.
Separating Church from State
Mosiah and Alma the Elder both die and with the Sons of Mosiah refusing the kingdom, the society reforms into a system of judges to rule the villages and towns. Alma the Younger becomes the first Chief Judge but the people begin to fall into apostasy with a competing religion formed by Nehor. Gideon confronts Nehor and their scuffle results in Nehor killing Gideon. Nehor is convicted by Alma, but this causes a weird conflict with the people and a man named Amlici took on Nehor’s mantle and attempted to gain the voice of the people against Alma.
When Amlici is defeated and driven out, he eventually joins the Lamanites and all-out war breaks out. Alma leads the fight and drives them back and protects their land, but many people die. When peace is established Alma continues to build the church and is made High Priest. This conflict becomes intense for Alma and as he sees those in the church prosper and become prideful and abandon the true meaning of the gospel, he relinquishes his role as Chief Judge to Nephihah and turns his focus to rebuilding the hearts of the church throughout the land.
What can you do to lift another’s burdens in your life? What things can you do to teach your kids this idea?
Why is it so difficult for parents to help their children experience God? Is it because we don’t push enough, or push too much? Or is the only answer for them to figure it out for themselves?
How can we learn to live with negative effects of freedom, like others being able to persecute us or disagree with us?
Key Moment or Scripture: Mosiah 26:1-4
1 Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.
2 They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ.
3 And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened.
4 And they would not be baptized; neither would they join the church. And they were a separate people as to their faith, and remained so ever after, even in their carnal and sinful state; for they would not call upon the Lord their God.
We talk so much in our current society about the “nones” the millenial and Z generations are less religious than many generations before. However, what is clear is that this trend is not unique to our time. It happens over and over again in history. The conditions that cause the “Rising Generation” to fall away are usually similar and Mormon captures them pretty well.
- Have not had spiritual experiences when learning the things their parents believe.
- “could not understand the words of King Benjamin”
- Think what their parents believe is make-believe, unnecessary, or even harmful.
- “did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, or the coming of Christ”
- “Their hearts were hardened.”
- They separated themselves from the church and refused to be a part of it.
- “would not be baptized; neither would they join the church. And they were a separate people”
While the reasons for this path is more complicated and perhaps have many legitimate reasons, Mormon hits on two things that I believe are absolutely crucial in what is the cause of this underneath the surface.
- Because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God.
- They would not call upon the Lord their God.
I want to reiterate that there are complex reasons that people lose their faith, but I can speak from my own experience leaving, coming back and ministering to so many who have fallen (some have returned and others never will), and there is a positive and negative feedback loop that is created by our engagement or lack of engagement in spiritual processes. The most basic is exercising faith through studying the word of God and praying with sincerity and emotion.
The foundation of belief and the strength of our faith is our willingness to believe in Jesus Christ, that he was resurrected, and that there is spiritual energy and revelation available to us. Being willing leads to a desire to learn and absorb the words of God and prayer for help, forgiveness, and gratitude. This feedback loop grows and strengthens faith.
The stumbling blocks for this process are limitless. Sins, guilt, perfectionism, politics, church leaders’ failings, changes in doctrines and revelations, policies that seem ridiculous, family conflict, financial distress, betrayal, conflicts between belief and scientific fact. Every single one of these things put a block into the positive feedback loop of faith and connection with God. These things are necessary, they are the point of life. They create the contrast that forces us to choose, over and over and over again to keep participating in the spiritual process of growing closer to God.
I am confident that the bigger the stumbling block, the larger the spiritual reward for persisting in our faithful processes. I have seen this so many times with the people in my life, including myself. If they will engage their stumbling blocks with prayer and engaging God, then they find their way to the Lord. If our stumbling blocks cause us to disengage, and even worse seek to discredit and defame the crucial underpinnings of Christian faith, then the negative feedback loop begins and just as powerful as the positive feedback loop builds faith, the negative feedback loop creates its own faith in the world, in the individual, and in the premise that belief in Christ is make believe, unnecessary, or even harmful.
As parents, what else can we do but love our children no matter which part of the cycle they are in? They must see in us our struggles and persistence, our doubts and our convictions, they must see that we love, that we mess up, that doubt and that we serve with our whole hearts and minds. If they see this, and they feel they have someone they can turn to, then the time will come when they might question their faith in Christ, or in something else, and then may the Lord bless our hearts and minds with the words that can touch their hearts with the sweet spiritual feelings of peace, love, joy, and reunion with the Lord. I can testify that the feeling of the spirit after an extended absence is one of the sweetest feelings of reunion, relief and confidence that exist. It is available to us all, but sometimes our journey and the journey of our children will be long and windy that reunion is felt.
Next week will be Memorial Day and so I will not be posting until May 31. With everything going on it has been a little easier for me to do two lessons every two weeks anyway, so I think I might continue to that through the year. I love the Book of Mosiah, there are so many things that feel so relevant to my own life and I am thankful to God that it was written and has made such an impact on my life.
- Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon by Brant Gardner
- The Book of Mormon as History by Brant Gardner
- Understanding the Book of Mormon by Grant Hardy
- The Book of Mormon Made Harder by James Faulconer