( I appreciate the forced focus that this segmented study of smaller groups of verses causes me to have. What otherwise might just appear as a concluding note to this particular chapter, these final three verses on their own convey some important truths.)
"And, as it happened, it was their lot to have fallen into the hands of a more hardened and a more stiffnecked people;" (vs. 30)The wording in this verse causes me to consider this situation, and many others like it, differently. I am confident as I read this that in different circumstances, the missionaries that fell into the hands of such depraved individuals could have experienced as much success as did their brother Ammon. This reminder is important: to not condemn the poor or unfortunate for their circumstances.
To me it seems that the larger message is one of succor and relief. These two disciples of the caring Christ go to rescue their brethren who "had suffered hunger, thirst, and all kinds of afflictions." Ammon was "exceedingly sorrowful" to find his brethren in this condition. (vs. 29)
And yet, as I dig deeper into the footnotes, I realize that this suffering appeared to have served a purpose as well. A cross reference takes us to the next chapter (Alma 21:14, see also vs 15-17) where it addresses their suffering in Middoni. It seemed that their suffering was a precursor to their success. The last line in 20:29 appears to be the key: "nevertheless they were patient in all their sufferings." The line is linked to a promise made to them at the beginning of their ministry:
...yet ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls. (Alma 17:11)Had Ammon and Lamoni not rescued their brethren out of prison, had Aaron and his fellow servants not suffered the thing that they had suffered in prison, a significant portion of their success would not have been realized.
See also Refuge from the Storm