10 August 2016

"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:
  1. The king Lamoni and his household is converted to the gospel of Christ. (chapters 18-19)
  2. 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)
  3. 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 religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.
 Finding this set of verses from Doctrine and Covenants validates the importance of religious freedom and its place as a core tenet of free society.

Surrounding the establishment of freedom in the land of Ishmael, the question of what the role of Ammon would be is brought to consideration. King Lamoni would not permit that Ammon remain a servant. So we read in the end of the chapter about his modified duties.

Verse 23 reads in part:
And Ammon did preach unto the people of king Lamoni; and it came to pass that he did teach them all things concerning things pertaining to righteousness. And he did exhort them daily, with all diligence;
 We talk a lot about the miraculous conversion of the Lamanites pointing to Ammon's labors at the beginnings: chopping off arms, converting the king, etc. We also like to reference the evidences of their profound conversion pointing to the army of Helaman, the 2000 stripling warriors, and their amazing mothers. Yet between point A and point B, we get a glimpse here of how this mighty conversion was maintained and how it was that a nation was built to produce such an unified conversion to the Gospel of Christ among the people of Lamoni.

Daily, Ammon was found teaching the people concerning the things pertaining to righteousness, with all diligence. There is nothing glamorous about this type of consistent dedication, but the results are almost guaranteed to produce the desired outcomes of deep and abiding conversion to the truth. This is where the bulk of Ammon's missionary labors were spent, in establishing and then maintaining the Church among the people of Lamoni for 14 years!

05 August 2016

"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 correct.
There is a footnote on the word "convince." There is a longing as I read this, and the other passages connected to this footnote, to want to be this kind of instrument in the hands of the Lord. 

01 August 2016

" 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.

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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