The story of the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi provides a scriptural account of what it means to become a peaceable follower of Christ. The people of Anti- Nephi-Lehi were the Lamanite converts of Ammon and his brethren. They came from seven lands and cities and numbered in the many thousands (see chapter head, Alma 23). Once they were converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Anti- Nephi-Lehies covenanted to never return to the bloodthirsty traditions of their forebears. Even when their Lamanite brethren, aroused by the wicked Amalekites and Amulonites, prepared to make war against them, the Anti-Nephi-Lehies refused to lift up their weapons to defend themselves:
Now when Ammon and his brethren and all those who had come up with him saw the preparations of the Lamanites to destroy their brethren, they came forth to the land of Midian, and there Ammon met all his brethren; and from thence they came to the land of Ishmael that they might hold a council with Lamoni and also with his brother Anti-Nephi-Lehi, what they should do to defend themselves against the Lamanites.
Now there was not one soul among all the people who had been converted unto the Lord that would take up arms against their brethren; nay, they would not even make any preparations for war; yea, and also their king commanded them that they should not. (Alma 24:5-6)
The king of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies instructed his people to bury their weapons deep in the ground that they might not be tempted to use them when their Lamanite brethren came to do battle against them. The people followed their king's instructions, viewing their actions as "a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man's blood" (Alma 24:18). When the Lamanites attacked, the Anti-Nephi-Lehies "went out to meet them, and prostrated themselves" on the ground before their attackers (Alma 24:21). The Lamanites killed a thousand and five of the Anti- Nephi-Lehies before the slaughter stopped. Why did the slaughter stop, and what were its consequences? From the account in Alma we learn the answers to these questions:
Now when the Lamanites saw this they did forbear from slaying them; and there were many whose hearts had swollen in them for those of their brethren who had fallen under the sword, for they repented of the things which they had done.
And it came to pass that they threw down their weapons of war, and they would not take them again, for they were stung for the murders which they had committed; and they came down even as their brethren, relying upon the mercies of those whose arms were lifted to slay them.
And it came to pass that the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain; and those who had been slain were righteous people, therefore we have no reason to doubt but what they were saved. (Alma 24:24-26)
The message of this story is not that all members of the Church should conscientiously object to war. There is also a Book of Mormon story about Captain Moroni raising the "title of liberty" as the leader of the true believers in Christ (see Alma 46:11-14). Moroni made impassioned speeches and wrote spirited letters to his Nephite brethren about protecting their liberty, lands, wives, children, and peace (see Alma 48:10). It was the Anti-Nephi- Lehies' unique history that caused them to make a unique covenant with the Lord that they felt an obligation to honor. When they honored their covenant they were blessed, and their brethren, the Lamanites, were also blessed.
While the message of the story is not to insist on universal pacifism, we do learn that by not returning aggressions from others we can have a profound effect on them. Literally, we can change their hearts when we follow Christ's example and turn the other cheek. Our examples as peaceable followers of Christ inspire others to follow him.
(From Living with Enthusiasm by L. Tom Perry)
Fred E. Woods on Transformation through Testimony:
The sons of Mosiah were missionaries among the Lamanites for fourteen years, testifying by the power of the Spirit (Alma 17:4). Their combined testimonies converted thousands of Lamanites and brought joy and great faith to their souls (23:5; 26:4; 37:19). Paul taught that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom 10:17). Joseph Smith explained, "Faith comes by hearing the word of God, through the testimony of the servants of God; that testimony is always attended by the Spirit of prophecy and revelation" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith 148; hereafter TPJS).
These converts changed their name from Lamanites to Anti-Nephi-Lehies to distinguish themselves from the other Lamanites (Alma 23:17). The Anti-Nephi- Lehies not only developed faith in God, but they also experienced a miraculous transformation of their souls through the piercing power of the spirit of pure testimony. This transformation is evidenced by the covenant they made to bury their weapons of war as a "testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man's blood; and this they did, vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives" (24:18).
Where thousands of Lamanites were converted to the Church, the text states that only one of the Amalekites (Alma 23:14), and none of the Amulonites, who were former members who had apostatized after "the order of the Nehors," were converted (24:29). And Mormon noted, "And thus we can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things" (v 30).
People never remain stagnant in their relationship to God once they have received a witness of the Spirit. When they accept the witness of the Spirit and turn toward God, they experience joy, light and life; but if they reject the testimony of the Spirit, they experience pain, darkness, and spiritual death. The sons of Mosiah and the prophet Alma experienced far greater joy than pain, and because of their testimonies many were converted and permanently changed. This caused Ammon and his brethren to cry out with jubilation, and Ammon asked rhetorically:
Behold, how many thousands of our brethren has [God] loosed from the pains of hell; and they are brought to sing redeeming love, and this because of the power of his word which is in us, therefore have we not great reason to rejoice? . . . Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; . . . Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel. (Alma 26:13, 16)
Alma also felt this same way as he saw many of his people return to the Lord: "And behold, when I see many of my brethren truly penitent, and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy; then do I remember what the Lord has done for me" (Alma 29:10).
(From Alma, the Testimony of the Word by Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr.)
Kent P. Jackson and Darrell L. Matthews:
Conversion Brings Joy
Alma 26 contains the report given by Ammon and his brothers after their fourteen-year mission among the Lamanites. Ammon and his brothers rejoiced in the happiness that they had received in the service of others: "How great reason have we to rejoice; for could we have supposed when we started from the land of Zarahemla that God would have granted unto us such great blessings? And now, I ask, what great blessings has he bestowed upon us? Can ye tell?" (Alma 26:1-2.) He continued by glorying in the happiness that had been brought to their converts: "Our brethren, the Lamanites, were in darkness, yea, even in the darkest abyss, but behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God! And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work." (Alma 26:3.) From this scripture we learn that it is a blessing to be an instrument in God's hands to bring the gospel to others. (See also D&C 18:15-16.) The important lesson to be learned from this is that after all of the success that Ammon and his brothers had on their missions, they attributed it all to the Lord. Ammon continued: "I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever." (Alma 26:11- 12.) Here we learn a very important lesson: When we work with the strength of the Lord, all things are possible. If we obey the commandments and follow the teachings of the Church, God will bless us in our righteous desires. Because of their desire and obedience, the sons of Mosiah were blessed with success in their missions. When they gloried in the many miracles they had seen, they did not glory in their own strength; they gloried in the miraculous deeds of God. Of the many miracles that occurred during the missions of the sons of Mosiah, the greatest was the conversion of thousands of souls to the truth.
Ammon recalled the attitude of their fellow Nephites before the sons of Mosiah preached the gospel to their enemies: "Do ye remember, my brethren, that we said unto our brethren in the land of Zarahemla, we go up to the land of Nephi, to preach unto our brethren, the Lamanites, and they laughed us to scorn? For they said unto us: Do ye suppose that ye can bring the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth? Do ye suppose that ye can convince the Lamanites of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers, as stiffnecked a people as they are; whose hearts delight in the shedding of blood; whose days have been spent in the grossest iniquity; whose ways have been the ways of a transgressor from the beginning? Now my brethren, ye remember that this was their language." (Alma 26:23-24.)
It is important for us as Latter-day Saints to remember that we have the responsibility to share the gospel with all the world. This does not include only the nations that we consider to be friendly toward us; it includes all nations. We should never wish evil upon people; we should desire to take the gospel message to them, "with the intent that perhaps we might save some few of their souls." (Alma 26:26.)
President Spencer W. Kimball taught: "What are we to fear when the Lord is with us? Can we not take the Lord at his word and exercise a particle of faith in him? Our assignment is affirmative: . . . to carry the gospel to our enemies, that they might no longer be our enemies." 2 The success of Ammon and his brothers is an effective witness to the power of God's love for all people. And it bears testimony to us today of the gospel's capacity to remove hatred and prejudice from our hearts. Ammon concluded his rejoicing with these words: "Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, . . . and I will give thanks unto my God forever." (Alma 26:37.)
According to Our Desires and God's Wisdom
At the end of the account of the mission of the sons of Mosiah to the Lamanites and their relocation among the Nephites, Alma added a brief commentary on some of the gospel principles involved in the events that had transpired. He lamented the fact that he could not preach repentance with even greater power, but he strove to be content with the calling the Lord had given him. (Alma 29:1-3.) He wrote further: "I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction." (Alma 29:4.) Because we have agency, we control our final destiny. With this agency, we are accountable for our decisions, whether we do good or evil, and choose between happiness and sorrow, since these are the inevitable consequences of those choices. President Ezra Taft Benson has taught: "We are free to choose, but we are not free to alter the consequences of those choices." 3 Those who are not accountable and do not know good from evil are blameless, "but he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires, whether he desireth good or evil, life or death, joy or remorse of conscience." (Alma 29:5.)
Alma also taught that God grants gospel knowledge to his children according to his divine wisdom. "The Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have." (Alma 29:8.) The Lord gives to all nations that portion of his word that they are prepared to receive. Those who do not harden their hearts against the portion of the word of the Lord that they are given receive "the greater portion of the word," until they know the mysteries of God "in full." (Alma 12:10.) On the other hand, those who do harden their hearts against the word of the Lord receive the "lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction." (Alma 12:11.) Ammon promised that those who repent, exercise faith, bring forth good works, and pray continually will know the mysteries of God. Moreover, they will bring "thousands of souls" to repentance. (Alma 26:22.) Mormon applied this same principle to those who were the most wicked in the account that we have been discussing, the Amalekites and Amulonites, who were apostates from the Nephites and had once had the gospel: "Thus we can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things." (Alma 24:30.)
(From Studies in Scripture, Vol. 7: 1 Nephi to Alma 29 by Kent P. Jackson)