15 June 2016

"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 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

08 June 2016

"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 11:30 
These 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 received a different reaction upon hearing of the miraculous events of his conversion. So why was Lamoni astonished? We really don't know, but maybe it also had something to do with the freshness or newness of his conversion to the gospel of Christ, and his lack of experience with opposition to the work of God.

Secondly, everything that the king says in response to Lamoni is skewed by his anger:
Lamoni, thou art going to deliver these Nephites, who are sons of a liar. Behold, he robbed our fathers; and now his children are also come amongst us that they may, by their cunning and their lyings, deceive us, that they again may rob us of our property.
This is the second time that the king references their stereotyped belief that all Nephites were liars. The king then commands Lamoni to slay Ammon, to which Lamoni refuses. This provokes the anger of the king even more -- to the point that the king draws his sword, ready to slay his own son.

Ammon, who is neither astonished like Lamoni, nor angry like his father the king, stands forth and begins to instruct the king. Ammon wastes no time in getting to the core of the issue. "if thou shouldst fall at this time, in thine anger, thy soul could not be saved." (vs. 17)

The king rejects Ammon's counsel and instead turns his focus on trying to kill Ammon, whom he feels is the root cause of all his present troubles anyways. However, Ammon changes the dynamics of the situation with a few swift moves, placing himself in a position to slay the king should he please. Yet this is not Ammon's intention nor motive.

Suddenly, placed in a position of vulnerability, pleading for the preservation of his own life, the king is now ready to give Ammon anything he pleases. Ammon, however does not change course, does not pause to pray about the bribe of ultimate power in the Lamanite realm. Undeterred and unchanged by the king's pleas, Ammon's request are to free his brethren and for Lamoni to retain his place as king in his own land.

It was ultimately the demonstration of Ammon's love for Lamoni that caused the heart of the old king to be softened toward him. Wonderous, amazing love that doesn't seek for pride or vain fulfillment. The principle was so foreign to the king.

I, too,  find this to be a fascinating point! It wasn't the testimony of Lamoni's experience that softened the heart of his father, thought it provided a foundation. It wasn't an equally enraging, or angry reply to the threats of the king that softened his heart. It was an act of charity and selfless defense that provided the substance of conversion -- teaching coupled with action:
And when he saw that Ammon had no desire to destroy him, and when he also saw the great love he had for his son Lamoni, he was astonished exceedingly... For the king was greatly astonished at the words which he had spoken, and also at the words which had been spoken by his son Lamoni, therefore he was desirous to learn them. (vs. 26-27)