Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2016

"Against the People of God," Alma 24:1-4

Alma 24:1-4

As I reviewed verses 1 and 2, the thought came into my head that these people (the Amulonites and Amalekites) were deliberately in opposition to whoever had a belief in God. Now that the Lamanites had converted to God and though these former Nephites had tried to escape this influence by moving among the Lamanites, the opposition had come again into their own country.

In my Sunday School classes yesterday, we were having a discussion on faith, hope, and charity. Our instructor made an interesting observation about the adversary's counterfeits: fear, despair, and anger. I mention this here because this is what is motivating these former Nephites to take action against the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi.

"...[they] were stirred up by the Amalekites and by the Amulonites to anger against their brethren.
"And their hatred became exceedingly sore against them, even insomuch that they began to rebel..." Fear can be a powerful motivator, and has been for much of the w…

"The Curse of God Did No More Follow Them," Alma 23:7-18

Alma 23:7-18

We read in verse 7:
For they became a righteous people; they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more, neither against any of their brethren.
Symbols of conversion to Christ included a name change and they become a "very industrious people."


It is a few mornings after the first day that I have read this group of verses. I am now sufficiently humbled to hear the word of the Lord.

(How many times has this pattern been repeated? I come to a seemingly clerical set of verses - a set of verses that appear to only be there for housekeeping reasons, or to connect the story lines from one point to another. But time and time again, nothing is in this Book of Mormon without deliberate purpose. Such is this passage.)

So we have here a list of the seven lands that were converted to the Lord. The list may seem like just a list of names at first. But do we ever regard converts to the Lord with such superficial, trivial attention? H…

"For the King Had Been Converted Unto the Lord," Alma 23:1-6

Alma 23:1-6

Verse 3 reads "for the king had been converted unto the Lord, and all his household;" There is a footnote on "household" that takes me to Genesis 18:19 where the Lord himself observes the following:
For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.I've gone on to read in Genesis about the story of Lot, and how angels came into the city to warn him and his household to get out because the city of Sodom was to be destroyed. The scriptures say:
And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law. (Genesis 19:14)This is me!  Lot was saved from the destruction and wickedness of the people, but his family was not! Compare and contrast t…

"The Nephites in Their Wisdom," Alma 22:27-35

Alma 22:27-35

What appears to be mostly a lesson in geo-political borders during the time of the Nephites and Lamanites, has me searching for something deeper. The author (Mormon) takes a moment to explain in words the layout of the land so that the we can get an appreciation for how far out the proclamation of the king of Lamanites was circulated.

But I have to believe there is more here. As I approach my study of the Book of Mormon, there is this fundamental assumption: that everything included in the Book of Mormon is written to give a witness or testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ. So if that is true (and it is), what do I learn about Christ from these verses?

As the geography is described here, I get an image in my mind that the inhabitants of both the Nephite an Lamanite civilizations are located on the same continent. (Recent thoughts shared with me about the probability that the Lamanites and Nephites didn't literally have different skin colors, also supports the greater nee…

"As Though They Had Been the Cause," Alma 22:19-26

Alma 22:19-26

In these verses, it seems to be that that which is not written which offers the greater insights. This morning, I am asking myself: where is God in these verses? What about these particularly verses points me closer to Christ?

In verses 19 and 20, there is no mention or reference to God or Christ. But as I went back and re-read those verses, it appears to be what was not said that revealed Their influence. So the queen learns of the state of her husband, and discovers Aaron and his brother standing near by. The verse says, "as though they had been the cause of his fall."  The wording says so much without saying anything at all. Or in other words, Aaron and his brothers were NOT THE CAUSE of the king's fall. This is where God is hidden in the details of this verse. The power of God, or His influence upon the king (which was through the teachings and ministering of Aaron and his brethren) was the cause of the fall.

The next verse also says that the servants &qu…

"God, Wilt Thou Make Thyself Known unto Me[?]," Alma 22:17-18

Alma 22: 17-18

The king believes the words of Aaron, and immediately "the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees." (vs. 17)  Prostrated upon the ground, crying mightily unto the Lord, the king then offers this beautifully simple prayer:
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. (vs. 18) The end of verse 18 then explains that the king "was struck as if he were dead." This passing of state from consciousness to unconsciousness is reported at least three times in the Book of Mormon as part of miraculous conversion processes. It happened previously with this man's own son, King Lamoni, (see Alma 18:42-43) and then to his entire household (See Alma 19:13-16). It also happened to Alma the Younger (See Mosiah 27:19-20 and Alma 36:10-11). Alma the Younger&#…

"What Shall I Do?" Alma 22:15-16

Alma 22:15-16


After the king had the plan of redemption explained to him by Aaron, the missionary, the king had only one question on his mind: "What shall I do...?" There is actually more to his question than this, but this is so profoundly similar to Peter's interactions with those at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. (See Acts 2:37)

What the king said in its entirety was this:
...What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? (vs. 15, emphasis added)The verse continues with the king making one final statement, which emphasizes the urgency of his inquiry, "Behold... I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom..." Is the grass really greener on the other side? By that, I mean, is having all of this world's goods,…

"Believest thou that there is a God?," Alma 22:1-14

Alma 22:1-14

The start of this chapter takes pains again (see previous chapter) to explain that the Spirit of the Lord did lead Aaron and his brethren to the house of the king over all the land of Nephi, except that part which the king had recently separated and given to his son, Lamoni. The geo-political details are not nearly as important here as the fact that it was the Spirit of the Lord that led them there. They didn't go because they were directed to go by Ammon, though Ammon was the one who relayed the referral. They didn't go because there was nothing else for them to do, and they felt like shooting for the stars. They went because the Spirit of the Lord led them there. (see vs. 1)

They may not even have known that this was where they were headed, like Nephi trying to get the brass plates, taking one step at a time. On the other hand, maybe they did fully know exactly where they were going and in what context they were coming. Because after all, Ammon had just rescued th…

"He Did Exhort Them Daily, with All Diligence," Alma 21:18-23

Alma 21:18-23

Now there is a curious thing that transpires in these verses. In returning to the affairs of his own kingdom, Lamoni subsequently establishes the rule of a free people through his land. It is an interesting sequence of events:
The king Lamoni and his household is converted to the gospel of Christ. (chapters 18-19)Ammon and Lamoni are confronted by Lamoni's father, king over all the land, which results in Lamoni obtaining full freedom and autonomy to govern over his own kingdom as he pleased. (chapter 20)Lamoni subsequently (in these verses) returns to his own land, and declares freedom for all in his kingdom. In considering this freedom, a footnote has brought me over to Doctrine and Covenants 134:1-4, which reads in part:
We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life... We believe that relig…

"And They Went Forth Again to Declare the Word," Alma 21:15-17

Alma 21:15-17

What surprises me about this set of verses is that in a sense, nothing had changed. Their external circumstances had not changed. After Aaron and his brethren had been released from prison, they went back to the synogogues of the Amalekites and into any assembly of the Lamanites that would let them come in. The venues did not change.

What did change was this: "And they went forth whithersoever they were led by the Spirit of the Lord," ( vs. 16). I went back and looked for any reference to the Spirit of the Lord guiding their previous efforts, and there was none. Imprisonment and the subsequent sufferings that resulted seems to have been the humility catalyst needed to prepare this particular set of missionaries for the work that lay ahead of them.

Now verse 17 states that:
...the Lord began to bless them, insomuch that they brought many to the knowledge of the truth; yea, they did convince many of their sins, and of the traditions of their fathers, which were not c…

" And Few Believed," Alma 21:1-14

Alma 21:1-14

At the beginning of the chapter, Aaron and his brethren first arrive at a land named Jerusalem, named by the Lamanites in remembrance of the land from which they came. The Lamanites built this city with the help of those who had dissented from among the Nephites, the Amalekites and the people of Amulon (making the city then probably less than 50 years old at the time that Aaron and his brethren visit it).

Now an interesting phenomenon is observed here. For the Lamanites were already of a hard heart, but these other groups which had only recently dissented from the Nephites, were even more hardened in their hearts. I suppose this is because for the Amulonites and the Amalekites, they were this way of their own choice, whereas the Lamanites had inherited their hardheartedness as a tradition from their forefathers. The mixture of the two seems to have had a more damaging effect, causing the Lamanites to be more wicked. (see vs. 3)

Aaron discovers that in the span of one generat…

"Into the Hands of... a More Stiffnecked People," Alma 20:28-30

Alma 20:28-30

( 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 affli…

"In Thine Anger, Thy Soul Could Not Be Saved," Alma 20:8-27

Alma 20:8-27
"For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." James 1:20"Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away." 3 Nephi 11:30These twenty verses contain the account of Ammon and Lamoni's encounter with Lamoni's father, the king over all the land. Without introduction or explanation, Lamoni's father immediately labels Ammon as "one of the children of a liar." (vs. 10)

Respecting his father, Lamoni gives the cause for his delay.  Then, "to his astonishment, his father was angry with him." (vs. 13, emphasis added) There are two directions that I want to address with this verse.

First, it astonished Lamoni that his father responded to him with anger. I'm not sure if it was because his father had always been a peaceful man towards him as his son, or if it was rather because Lamoni had hoped to have receive…

"No One Hath Told Me, Save It Be God;" Alma 20:1-7

Alma 20:1-7

King Lamoni invites Ammon to accompany him up to meet his father the king. I am impressed by how clearly Ammon is able to receive divine directives, or what we might more commonly call personal revelation.The record doesn't state the timing in which the revelation came to Ammon, whether it came immediately after Lamoni's invitation, or perhaps later on in moment of quiet reflection and prayer.

It is also impressive how quickly Lamoni responds to this divine directive once he learns of its source.(see vs. 5-6) Then in verse 7, there is also a change of attitude on Lamoni's part. Where at first, Lamoni thought to flatter the king of the land of Middoni, who was a friend of his, now Lamoni states that he will plead with the king for the deliverance of Ammon's brethren. Something about knowing that the directive was actually a divine mandate changed Lamoni's attitude and sense of urgency. Suddenly it wasn't just a social injustice that was needing to be r…

"He, Immediately... Began... to Teach Them" Alma 19:31-36

Alma 19:31-36

The king has now awoken from his trance and verse 31 says this:
And he, immediately, seeing the contention among his people, went forth and began to rebuke them, and to teach them the words which he had heard from the mouth of Ammon; (emphasis added)This is reminiscent of Nephi's attitude towards and faith in the power of the word of God.
 ...I, Nephi, did speak much unto my brethren... for they had humbled themselves because of my words; for I did say many things unto them in the energy of my soul. (1 Nephi 16:22,24)
Mormon makes a similar observation about Alma's confidence in the word of God:
And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God. (Alma 31:5)
Back to the account of king Lamoni, Amm…

"Supposing... It Would Cause Them to Beleive," Alma 19:14-30

Alma 19:14-30

Alma sees; the servants see; the lady servant of the queen, Abish, sees; all because of direct manifestations from the Holy Spirit based on correct understanding of eternal truth.

Verse 14 says that Ammon saw that the Spirit of the Lord poured out upon the Lamanites according to his prayers. It was in the seeing and the discerning of the significance of that outpouring of the Lord's Spirit upon the Lamanites, a group of people that had been the source of so much contention and conflict among his own people, that Ammon felt a profound sense of gratitude towards God for what was being done. So great was the joy that he now felt that it overpowered his physical body, just as had happened to the king and the queen moments before.

This leaves the servants of the king and queen, who upon seeing these three leaders overpowered with the Spirit also begin to pray because the fear of the Lord had come upon them. This causes them all to fall to the earth. Everyone in the king'…

"Being Overpowered by the Spirit," Alma 19:12-13

Alma 19:12-13

At the appointed time, king Lamoni awakens from his deep sleep, and there is his wife, the queen, waiting for him. The first words out of his mouth are these: "Blessed be the name of God, and blessed art thou." The first part of this statement makes sense. King Lamoni had just received a powerful witness of the reality of God, but he then gives the same blessing to his wife. Why?

I am reminded of the statement of Nephi's brother Jacob, "Behold, the Lamanites your brethren... their husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands; and their husbands and their wives love their children... and one day they shall become a blessed people." (Jacob 3:5-7)

King Lamoni goes on to testify that he had seen his Redeemer, and then emphasis three points:
"and he shall come forth,""and be born of a woman,""and he shall redeem all mankind who believe on his name." (vs. 13)These are curious points of testimony for me: very s…

"The Light of the Glory of God," Alma 19:1-11

Alma 19:1-11

In this group of  verses, King Lamoni has been overpowered  by the influence of the Holy Spirit and has laid prostrate for 2 days. The queen summons Ammon to inquire of him the state her husband's well-being so that she could know what to do.

The queen explains to Ammon that the servants of her husband regarded him as "a prophet of a holy God" and that he had "power to do many might works in his name." On this premise, on the testimony of the servants of her husband, the queen asks Ammon for guidance.

Verse 6 reads as such:
Now, this was what Ammon desired, for he knew that king Lamoni was under the power of God; he knew that the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was…

"This is God," Alma 18:18-43

Alma 18:18-43

There are a couple of items that are assumed here. Ammon is working by power. And now King Lamoni is recognizing that power: the power to discern the thoughts of his heart, the power to slay the enemies of the king. Lamoni tells Ammon that if he will explain to him how he has this power, that he would in turn give him up to half of his kingdom. This power that Lamoni recognizes, he sees as extremely valuable.

In verse 20, King Lamoni demands, "tell me by what power ye slew and smote off the arms of my brethren that scattered my flocks." The king goes on in the following verse to explain that he would give armed guard to protect Ammon, but that he recognized Ammon as more powerful than his armies, "But I know that thou art more powerful than all they;" (vs. 21).

Now to put what follows into proper context, I have been brought to consider a talk by Elder Jeffery R. Holland given as instruction to new mission presidents regarding the importance of teaching …