24 October 2016

"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 need for geographical boundaries.)

This southern continent appears to be separated into three general areas: '
  • The land of Nephi on the south
  • The land of Zarahemla in the middle
  • The land of Bountiful on the north
 The land of Zarahemla sounds to be surrounded on all sides by wilderness.

Those that were attempting to follow Christ are the ones who were imposing the borders. It was the more idle part of the Lamanites that were closest to the Nephites as well, living in the wilderness that surrounded the land of Zarahemla where the Nephites lived. So part of the effect of the borders that were being enforced was to create a separation between the idleness of the Lamanites and the industriousness of the Nephites.

It is also noteworthy that the Nephites did not allow the Lamanites to surround them on all sides. Rather, the Nephites kept the northern part of the wilderness open to give them access to the land northward. It was a place for their retreat.

I've studied this for several days now, and the more that I've come to consider this, there seems to be a spiritual parallel here in the fortified borders of the Nephites that made it so that they were still able to maintain their separation. The scriptures say that this was wisdom in the Nephites so that they wouldn't have to suffer from the afflictions of the Lamanites. (see vs. 34) So must every disciple of Christ build spiritual borders between themselves and the world. These individual, spiritual boundaries separate us from idleness and wickedness of the world. The need for a deliberate separation from the world is requisite for spiritual survival and protection.

But where else is this idea presented?

"And go ye out from among the wicked. Save yourselves. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord." (D&C 38:42)

"Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord." (Isaiah 52:11)


What is interesting is that there was a boundary to separate the wicked from the righteous, the Nephites from the Lamanites. However that dynamic had already shifted in certain parts of the land of the Nephites, and with the proclamation of the king of the Lamanites stretching throughout all the land of Nephi, boundaries and their purpose were about to change permanently.

This is perhaps the last time in Nephite/Lamanite history where a traditional border and division between these two groups existed, especially on spiritual terms. Perhaps it was for this purpose and the spiritual parallel that could be taken from such a system that the editor at this point in time took pains to include it in the spiritual record of their people.

15 October 2016

"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 "had seen the cause of the king's fall." Again, no direct reference to Diety in this verse, but I am prone to see Christ as "the cause" of the king's fall. The power of God was with Aaron and his brethren. Whether the servants recognized God as that cause, they saw the power of God working through Aaron and his fellows, and it terrified the servants of the king.

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What follows in the next six verses is very much a Pentecostal experience not unlike that which was recorded in the Book of Acts. As the queen realizes that this is no ordinary situation, she begins to be "exceedingly" fearful. (see vs. 21)  When Aaron sees the determination of the queen to destroy Aaron and his companions, he raises the king from his unconscious state. The king immediately begins to minister to the people. Now unfortunately, we do not have recorded what he said, or how he said it, but the impact of his ministering had the effect of converting his entire household unto the Lord. (see vs. 23)

In the same group of verses, there soon thereafter came a large company of Lamanite subjects, gathered to the house of the king. The king is able to pacify the multitude, and then place Aaron and his brethren in their midst!  There they were able to preach the word of God. Where only moments before, these same people were suspicious of these Nephite missionaries, suddenly they were now listening. 

No further details are offered than this, but from it, I am reminded that spiritual manifestations are how the Lord's work is done. Prayers and faith are always required. We cannot work without the Lord's unseen influence to accompany us, and we cannot automatically expect that this will always happen.