The chapters that we will cover this week are the missionary experiences of Mosiah II’s sons and their companions. These events were clearly chosen by Mormon as not only a way to show their miraculous experiences, but because the converts to this missionary journey become the focal point of a war that changes the landscape of the people for generations. It is the first event in a chain reaction that leads to coming of Christ. The war also produces Captain Moroni, whose influence upon Mormon permeates all of Mormon’s biases and opinions of Lamanite people.
It was fun to think about my own missionary experiences as I studied these sections and remember all the wild, crazy, and miraculous experiences I had. I thought of making my missionary experiences the focus of the post, but I couldn’t shake one of the conversion stories Mormon tells us in these chapters. When the King of the Lamanites has a desire to know God and to believe, he says something that resonated so much with me. He pleads to God:
“O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee…”Alma 22:18
This plea reminded me of a personal story I will share later in the post, but I know so many people who want the same thing the King did. Finding God is more difficult than ever in our world because there are so many options to find solutions, answers, and guidance to our problems besides God. Instead of study, fasting, and prayer we can Google. Instead of learning to love everyone through service and community involvement, we can follow or unfollow anyone online based on if we like what we hear or not. The challenges of life are easier to avoid, bury, or solve on our own. This has made God more and more irrelevant or hidden to many people.
Finding God is a key component, if not the key component to our life’s journey and in one man’s short faithful prayer he shows us the simple path to finding God.
- Faith – a willingness to believe
- Humility – a willingness to ask what to do
- Repentance – a willingness to change.
It takes a deep feeling in our hearts and minds to have this kind of faithful humility and openness to change, but when it happens, the power we can feel from God and particularly His love and compassion is life-changing.
There are other inspiring stories and teachings in these chapters, so spend the time to study and ponder what they mean for your own relationship with God.
CHAPTERS FOR STUDY WEEK 25-26 – Alma 17-29
– Fully committed service and friendship opens the hearts of all human beings to the Spirit of the Lord.
– To receive intense revelation, an equally intense commitment, change of heart, or covenant must be offered as a sacrifice.
– Those who convert to the gospel will often face stiff opposition to their changes, especially from people who may have left the church and have deep feelings of animosity.
History and Context:
– Mormon’s editorializing about the Lamanites is something I want to point out again. The bias that is built into Mormon’s experience as a captain at war with “Lamanites” along with his reading and abridging thousands of years of history with built in bias makes it seem as though the Lord has cursed anyone and everyone, and that the Lamanites are all horrible, blood-thirsty, lazy people. I think it is important to read these words knowing that his bias is not accurate. The evidence doesn’t support it as many of the people who he considered “Lamanites” happen to be some of the most amazing people we learn about. I say this, because it is important when reading ancient documents, or even older modern documents, that bias is a part of editorializing. This doesn’t mean Mormon was a bad guy or didn’t have the spirit inspiring him, it means he had his own experiences that colored his way of explaining situations.
– The moniker of Anti-Nephi-Lehi is strange to us because we interpret the word Anti as against or opposed to which is a Greek origin. However, it is more likely a root of an Egyptian or Semetic word anti means facing or looking in a mirror. It likely it means more like “of or from the.” “I am the one of Nephi and Lehi.”
– Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Himni, Muloki – Sons of Mosiah and companions of theirs as they minister to the Lamanites.
– Lamoni and the Queen – Tribal king and queen of a smaller city and son of the King and unifier of many of the cities in the area. His brother becomes the king of the Anti-Nephi-Lehi people who covenant with God not to fight or kill anymore.
– Abish – a young woman who was converted to the Lord, with her father, and devoted to the Lord even though no one around her was. She was instrumental in helping the people of importance see and know that the Lord converted King Lamoni and the queen.
– Lamoni’s Father – Likely unified many of the territories in the Land of Nephi and after seeking to kill Lamoni for betraying the people, is converted by Aaron and encourages the conversion of all his people.
– Amalekites and Amulonites – groups of dissenters from the believing path. They subscribed to the philosophies of Nehor and had strong feelings against Nephites. They had become a part of the surrounding communities and infiltrated the ranks of leadership to influence hatred toward those in Zarahemla.
Ammon and Lamoni
The first part of the missionary story that we learn about is Ammon. He is convinced this will not be easy and so he commits to fitting in however necessary to make a difference. Service to the king is a great option, and although Ammon’s status is given away when Lamoni seeks to marry his daughter to Ammon, service is the focus of Ammon’s mission and he refuses to become a servant. One of the statements that Mormon makes that really hit me was that Lamanites were “who he termed to be his brethren.” Ammon felt the need to be united with his brethren and he already loved them.
It is very likely that Lamoni was looking for an honorable way of eliminating Ammon and a way for him to maintain his power over his territory, and so he put Ammon in a situation that was likely pre-arranged to end in Ammon’s death. However, Ammon sees this as an opportunity. Putting his trust in the Lord to protect him, Ammon protects the flocks from people looking to steal and kill. Reports of his efforts to disarm dozens of people by himself, puts Lamoni in a tricky situation. Ammon, when called before Lamoni, uses the opportunity to let the spirit guide him and he is able to convince Lamoni to open up his heart to learning about God. When Lamoni prays for mercy and to find the Lord he is struck dumb. This was what happened to Ammon as well and so he knew what was happening. The queen is also converted and Ammon, the queen and all the guards are also struck dumb. A young woman named Abish sees this opportunity for the gospel to spread and brings many people to see. When the people come one of them had a brother Ammon had killed at Sebus protecting the flocks and he attempts to kill Ammon and is struck down by God. Eventually, Abish touches the queen and they all arise and with the help of Lamoni the territory is mostly converted.
After speaking with Lamoni, Ammon feels like he needs to go and help his brothers. Lamoni agrees to help and they journey to Middoni. On the way the come across Lamoni’s father. After a confrontation, Lamoni’s father is persuaded that Ammon is a good friend to Lamoni and agrees to let Lamoni govern as he sees fit and help Ammon to free his brothers.
Aaron and Muloki teach Lamoni’s Father
Aaron and his brothers had faced a much worse situation and had been beaten and imprisoned. They were in a very bad spot when Ammon and Lamoni arrive to free them. The story then shifts to Aaron, as Ammon and Lamoni go to preach to all of Lamoni’s people.
Aaron goes to visit with Lamoni’s father and they have a similar teaching situation as Ammon and Lamoni. Lamoni’s father is converted and declares that allows the teaching of the gospel in his kingdom. These brothers then go on to convert many people among the kingdom, but there are two groups of people who are not converted. The Amalekites and Amulonites. In other words, dissenters from Zarahemla and followers of the philosophy of Nehor.
In one exchange, that I imagine was indicative of their feelings, an Amalekite asks two questions that I want to talk about briefly.
“You have testified you have seen an angel? Why didn’t angels visit us? Aren’t we good people too?”
There is an uncomfortable line that is drawn in our minds when it comes to miraculous experiences. We have heard of and maybe even experienced people who have been healed by the Lord, who were protected by angels, have seen angels, seen visions or other miracles. However, that doesn’t happen to everyone, not even super faithful people. Why? This is a hard question, and not one that can be answered easily. However, the thing that I want to point out about this rhetorical exchange by the Amalekite, is that when people turn miraculous experiences, and faith confirming experiences around as a weapon on the faithful it is a powerful tool of the adversary to diminish faith.
Sharing spiritual experiences needs to increase, and even though it can be easy to feel spurned by the Lord when those things haven’t happened to us, if we can feel the love and compassion and gratitude that it happened to someone else, we will feel the spirit in our hearts. We can feel the joy and happiness they feel and sometimes that is one of the most important things we can learn…to be happy for others. Not having a miracle doesn’t mean our faith wasn’t enough or another’s was, but we can learn important things from experiencing a miracle and not experiencing them. In either case we shouldn’t feel ashamed to share them.
The Anti-Nephi-Lehi Refugees
The final parts of these chapters, beside the reunion of Alma and the Sons of Mosiah, is the story of the converts and their covenant not to fight and kill any longer. They make a promise to God that is so firm, that many of them are slaughtered by rival tribes and Amalekites and Amulonites. I wish all of us could feel the conviction of our covenants with God the same way.
These converts become refugees who settle near Zarahemla and become important allies to the Nephites. However, we learn another thing about the Amalekites and Amulonites from Mormon. He points out something he has noticed in reading and abridging this history and I can confirm it to be the truth in my anecdotal experience as well. He says this about those who have had a testimony of Christ and then abandon it:
“And thus we can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin an transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things.”Alma 24:30
I have seen and experienced that with people I love and more times than I can count. Rejecting the spiritual side of life creates hardness in our hearts. It is possible to unite spiritual things with temporal, secular, scientific, and social ideas. It takes work, but when we reject that hard work our hearts will become hard to the things of God and to believers.
Reunion and Rejoicing
We finish up the chapters with Alma being reunited with his friends and fellow miscreants before their conversion. They not only have been instrumental in saving thousands of spiritual lives, they have grown close to the Lord and stayed close to the Lord through difficulty and conflict. When they see each other their happiness is indescribable. I think this is how I would describe reuniting with loved ones in heaven. This is how Mormon describes this joyful reunion:
“Now the Joy of Ammon was so great even that he was full; yea, he was swallowed up in the joy of his God, even to the exhausting of his strength; and he fell again to the earth. Now was not this exceeding joy? Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seekers of happiness.”Alma 27:17-18
Mormon then places Alma’s psalm, like Nephi’s, at the conclusion of these wonderful missionary experiences. Alma’s words in chapter 29 are inspiring and show what happens to someone’s heart who dedicates their life to trying to help others reunite with God. It makes us different. I can state without reservation, that the two years of my life when I sacrificed to help, serve, and bring people to the Lord, made me a better person and helped me love the Lord. Those experiences changed my heart and mind and I can relate with Alma in wishing that everyone could feel and experience what I did and have.
Key Moment or Scripture: Alma 22:18
18 O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.
I spoke at the beginning of the post about how much this scripture means to me, and I want to share an experience that is very personal to me, but I feel like it illustrates and adds a second witness to this kind of humble and life changing prayer.
When I was living in Las Vegas, I was in the middle of a very difficult time in my life. I had been in a volatile relationship that was not good for me or her. We really couldn’t quit each other, and I felt like I was making her life worse every time we were together. I felt responsible for things that had changed in her personality and I truly could see we were not good for each other, but I couldn’t fully quit her. Add to that I had fallen away from the Lord. I was an empty vessel that half-heartedly went to church, had many doubts and more sins. I was not keeping my covenants or attempting to repent and find the Lord. I was in a very dark place spiritually. However, I was making a lot of money, I was having fun, and I was doing what I wanted to do. I was living the philosophy of Nehor I guess, but I wasn’t happy. I was empty.
One fast Sunday, while I was attending sacrament meeting, someone said something in their testimony that made me think of the King of the Lamanite’s prayer. This man was the mighty King, he was the pinnacle of his peers. Yet his prayer was so simple and humble. I felt this stirring in my heart that I need to really change if I wanted the things that would make me truly happy…a life partner, a family, and joy. That day I went home and went into my room and said a similar prayer. I said to God, “I will do anything You want me to do, I will change everything if I need to do it. Please tell me what to do and I will make the change so I can feel Your love, mercy and be the person You want me to be.”
I then sat at my desk for about an hour and wrote down all the things I needed to change. It was an amazing list, some things I haven’t quite changed still, but I did end my relationship for good, I made wholesale changes to my behavior and attitude, and within a short period of time I met the best person in the world, my loving wife. I could never have imagined to have the kind of happiness and joy that my life is full of now, and I truly do owe it to a sincere humble prayer of faith and the mercy of God Almighty. He lead us to each other, and I wasn’t ready for my wife until I came to that place in my life.
That prayer didn’t answer every question, solve any doubts I had about the church, church history, or other social issue conflicts I had. However, it proved to me that most of the time those things are subordinate to what is most important when it comes to connecting with God. Faith, Humility, and a willingness to Repent. I can say with confidence that every humble, emotional, willing-to-repent-of-anything kind of prayer will make us better and closer to God. I have experienced it and thank the Lord for that experience.
It will be a few weeks before I post again, and I hope everyone has a great Father’s Day. When we pick up again we will be diving into Alma’s debate with Korihor and his journey to the Zoramites where we will discuss Alma’s great sermon on faith as a seed.
- 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