23 June 2014

"Satan Had Gotten Great Hold upon the Hearts," Alma 8:7-13

Alma 8:7-13

There are two corollary lines of thought that I find very interesting, which this passage reminds me of: Works and Knowledge.

In verse 9, the scripture observes "Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people." There's a footnote on the word "hold" that leads me to consider the reality of satan's opposition. In terms of knowledge, he discourages people from knowing him, while God encourages us to know Him (God the Father and His Son).

In regards to works, the works of the devil oppose the works of righteousness. In fact, one of the more diabolical tactics employed by the devil is to say that no work is needed to draw closer to God. Similarly, he lies to others by telling them that there is no need to work in Zion. (see 2 Nephi 28:19-22 )

There  is actually a third line of thought which results in understand one of satan's most effective tactics: contention, to "stir them up to anger against that which is good." (2 Nephi 28:20) "For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another." (3 Nephi 11:29)

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Back in Alma 8, we read in verse 7, that when the city of Ammonihah was established, it was established after the traditions of the Nephites, meaning that they were probably inclined to the traditions of Nephites, including traditions that were probably righteous traditions. Hence, Alma feels it appropriate to enter in among them to preach the word of God, to what he hopes will be a receptive people. (Verse 7 seems to suggest this.)

Verse 9 holds that much more weight and depth, because "Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people of the city of Ammonihah; therefore they would not hearken unto the words of Alma." What we see here then is evidence of the work of wickedness that the devil had accomplished among the people of Ammonihah since its founding. Is there no work going on here? Satan knows as well as God that in order to accomplish anything, we must be industrious about the course we wish to pursue. We can accomplish nothing without work.

Subsequently, as we look at verse 10, we see how hard Alma is working in response to the wickedness and the work that has already been accomplished among this people.

Because of the work that Alma did to try to preach to the people, and because of the response of the people to his preaching, Alma withdraws himself from among them to move on elsewhere, to where his preaching would be better received. This is good doctrine and council: that we do not dwell among those that would not receive us, as long as we have the confidence that we have given everything that we have to give. (see vs 13)

17 June 2014

"In the Land of Melek," Alma 8:1-6

Alma 8:1-6

Not in a chapter in and of itself, this brief account of Alma's work in the land of Melek stands in contrast to the account that is made in the land of Ammonihah. For in the land of Ammonihah, Alma is met with great opposition and rebellion in his efforts to preach the Gospel. But what we see from the previous chapter among the people of Gideon and from this summary of his visit to Melek, is that, for the most part the people were willing to listen to Alma and believed the things that he taught, and many were baptized.

Verse 5 even goes so far as to say that people came in from the corners of the land to be baptized. It seems that the people recognized the great importance of having an authorized servant of God among them.

Alma taught "according to the Holy Order of God." (see verse 4) Or in other words, it was his commission to the Priesthood that gave him authority and the responsibility to share the word of God with others.

Among the membership of the Church today, this is something that is easily taken for granted. We have missionaries among us. We are organized into quorums. Temples surround us. Priesthood leadership is in our midst. What a blessing it is to have the church as we have it today! Never to be taken for granted. Then when we do have those sacred and rare privileges to listen to prophets and apostles, isn't it amazing that technology has provided us with the tools to be able to communicate across the globe?

But I go back to my initial thought, and what we have here in Melek is proof that what had happened to the people of Ammonihah was notable for their wickedness. In our day, the gray of indifference would have us conclude that there is neither good nor bad. The people of Melek and of Gideon responded to the word of God with humility and faith when it was preached to them. The people of Ammonihah responded in wickedness, reacting in anger and violence to the word of God.