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" 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 generation, one man's false beliefs (remember Nehor slew Gideon in Alma 1) have now expanded into a religious lifestyle among this people, with synagogues being built after the order of the Nehors. Wickedness is permitted to be cultivated and strengthened among the Lamanites in their hardened state.

So Aaron begins to preach the word of God in this setting, a synagogue of the Nehors. Almost immediately, like an angry hornet disturbed in its nest, an Amalekite begins to contend with Aaron, throwing it all back into his face. The Amalekite concludes his initial comments with this statement:
Thou also sayest, except we repent we shall perish. How knowest thou the thought and intent of our hearts? How knowest thou that we have cause to repent? How knowest thou that we are not a righteous people? Behold, we have built sanctuaries, and we do assemble ourselves together to worship God. We do believe that God will save all men. (vs. 6)
Then in verse 7, Aaron asks the centering and decisive question: "Believest thou that the Son of God shall come to redeem mankind from their sins?"

It seems to have been a common tactic of the unbelievers to refute the teachings of the missionaries and prophets during the time before the birth of Christ by saying: "We do not believe that thou knowest of things to come," (vs. 8). Korihor, an anti-christ, made very similar claims (see Alma 30:13).

So here Aaron begins to lay out the scriptures that illustrate the coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, "and that there could be no redemption for mankind save it were through the death and sufferings of Christ, and the atonement of his blood." (vs. 9) Aaron used scriptural proofs to back his claims. Of this thing I am not very good at.

His tactics did not have immediate effect for good upon the crowd assembled. In fact, it was as if a hornet's nest had been stirred and Aaron saw that he could no longer work among the people of that city. There is, however, a footnote on verse 9 that points to another passage of scripture that helps illustrate the long-term effect of their teachings.

The footnote leads to an account of some of the Lamanites, that must have present in Aaron's and his brethren's first failed attempts to preach the gospel, when they  finally came to believe on their words (see Alma 25:6). So while the immediate consequences were fruitless, seeds were planted among the Lamanites, and later on they began to grow.

The remainder of this section recounts how similar efforts were repeated in other towns with similar results. They finally arrive at the land of Middoni. In their preaching, the record states that "few believed on the words which they taught." There is a reminder of the Savior's words when he said "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (Matthew 7:14)

It is at Middoni that Aaron and some of his brethren are imprisoned. "And those that were cast into prison suffered many things." Their sufferings had already been addressed elsewhere, it was not without purpose. Rather it became the means of their preparation. It is notable that their deliverance was miraculous