(It is curious how that even in making a chronological study of the scriptures, the Lord is able to line up my life experiences with where I am at in the Book of Mormon.)
The wars, of which were made mention of in the previous chapter, led to a considerably dearth of resources among the Nephites in the following year, for they had lost men (brethren), flocks and herds, and fields of grain. But this caused the people to be humble, so much so that they were made to be aware of their duty. This attending to their duty meant that "they began to establish the Church more fully," and consequently, thousands had joined themselves to the Church of God.
So in the seventh year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, there were some 3,500 persons baptized into the Church and the people of Nephi enjoyed peace in their land. The very next year, the people, because of this freedom (blessing) given them of the Lord, began to be prideful. The cause of their pride was their material possessions. (see vs. 6) The result of their pride was their focus was on their possessions and they treated one another with contempt.
It is interesting to note that at the same time there was a part of the church that got caught up in pride and selfishness, while on the other hand there was another part of the church that picked up the slack by living the true religion, and making even greater sacrifices to attend to the needs of those around them:
"...succoring those who stood in need of their succor, such as imparting their substance to the poor and the needy, feeding the hungry, and suffering all manner of afflictions, for Christ’s sake, who should come according to the spirit of prophecy." (vs. 13)Verse 14 explains why and how this part of the people were able to maintain their faith. It was that they had a testimony, or a personal witness of the doctrines of the truth. They looked forward to the day of Christ's coming, knowing that in Christ was the promise of a remission of their sins and the reality of the resurrection of the dead.
Alma is thus in a unique position being both in charge of the judgment seat and also being high priest for the Church. Alma knew that he could do more good through preaching of the word, instead of sitting in judgment against the people, and so he chose to put off the judgment seat and confine himself solely to the preaching of the word of God. Alma chose the expose his people to mercy, rather than justice, hoping that they would be reminded of their duties and forsake their sins. (see verses 16-20)