QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Few men on earth, either in or out of the Church, have caught the vision of what the Book of Mormon is all about. Few are they among men who know the part it has played and will yet play in preparing the way for the coming of Him of whom it is a new witness. Few are they who believe its truths and abide by its precepts to such a degree that they would qualify to read the sealed portion of the plates and learn the full account of what the Lord has in store for the people of the world (Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah, p.159).
One of the overarching messages of these accounts from the end of the book of Mosiah is that God keeps his promises. Over and over again as these dramas unfold, we see evidence—powerful evidence—of the truthfulness of the Lord's declaration in D&C 1:38:
What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.
As you study and ponder and teach these chapters, watch for the fulfillment of the Lord's promises made to the people of Nephi in the Land of Nephi, and to all men.
1. ALMA TEACHES THE BAPTISMAL COVENANT AND BAPTIZES MANY PEOPLE (Mosiah 18)
Alma, converted by the words of Abinadi and the Spirit of the Lord, “repented of his sins and iniquities, and went about privately among the people and began to teach the words of Abinadi . . ." (Mosiah 18:1, emphasis added). He went privately rather than openly like Abinadi. I am fully confident that he did not give many first discussions to Noah or his priests during this time. He had narrowly escaped martyrdom himself and he seems to have had a different purpose than Abinadi. Alma's mission was to convert. Abinadi's was to warn. Alma's message was also the message of the atonement—“the power, and sufferings, and death of Christ, and his resurrection and ascension into heaven" (Mosiah 18:2). Alma was another person who had “beautiful feet." And he taught anyone who would listen. “And as many as would hear his word he did teach" (Mosiah 18:3).
This brings to mind Paul's counsel to Timothy: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:2). All of us serve under the same obligation as Timothy and Alma. When an opportunity to preach presents itself, we must preach. The “season"---the practicality, the preparation, our personal fears---cannot be considerations.
Therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men; For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say (D&C 100:5,6).
We will say a bit more about this later in the lesson.
Note that Alma taught them privately. The threat of discovery and destruction by Noah was a dark shadow over every meeting, every sermon, every action associated with this tiny group of believers. Still they met and preached and acted, for their love of the work and the word surpassed their fear of the king. So, in spite of the danger—the searches (Mosiah 18:5)—they met and worshiped. Their gathering place was in a grove of trees near a body of pure water in a place called Mormon.
Finally, “After many days," when a significant crowd had gathered, Alma preached about repentance and redemption and faith and then offered this people the opportunity to enter into the covenant of baptism.
A careful analysis of these verses of covenant and promise teach wonderful lessons about the obligations we assume by entering into the water, and the obligations God assumes if we abide by our promises (Mosiah 18:8-10).
1. A desire to come into the fold of God
2. A desire to be called his people
3. A willingness to bear one another's burdens
4. A willingness to mourn with those that mourn
5. A willingness to comfort those that stand in need of comfort
6. A commitment to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places
7. A determination to serve him
8. A determination to keep his commandments
1. He will redeem us
2. We will be numbered with those of the first resurrection
3. We will have eternal life
4. He will pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon us
I read a story the other day on the Internet. I love the net, but I get crazy when I find wonderful stories and striking insights and important information without any sources cited. However, I'd like to share this story here because it teaches a great lesson about our part of the baptismal covenant, whether the story is true or not. We'll call it a parable—“The Parable of the Brick and the Jaguar."
A young executive was driving his brand new Jaguar in an area where there were usually several children playing in the street. He thought he saw something darting our from between parked cars and slowed down. As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead a brick smashed into the Jag's side door! He slammed on the brakes and spun the Jag back to the spot from where the brick had been thrown. He jumped out of the car, grabbed some kid and pushed him up against a parked car shouting . . . “Just what the heck are you doing? . . . That's a new car and the damage that brick you threw is going to cost me a lot of money. Why did you do it?"
“Please mister, please. I'm sorry, I didn't know what else to do!" pleaded the youngster. “I threw the brick because no one else would stop . . ." Tears were dripping down the boy's cheeks as he pointed around the parked car. “It's my brother," he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can't lift him up." Sobbing, the boy asked the executive, “Would you please help me get him back in his wheelchair? He's hurt and he's too heavy for me."Moved beyond words, the driver . . . lifted the young man back into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts, checking to see that everything was going to be OK.“Thank you and God bless you," the grateful child said to him. The man then watched the little boy push his brother down the street toward their home. It was a long walk back to his Jaguar: a long, slow walk. He never did repair the side door. He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast that someone had to throw a brick at you to get your attention.God whispers in your soul and speaks to your heart. Sometimes when you don't have time to listen, he has to throw a “brick” at you (Author unknown).
The sacramental prayers remind us of our baptismal obligations to take the name of the Lord and to keep his commandments and to always remember him. I have wished on occasion that we had a regular reminder of the other part of the baptismal covenant. We have promised to bear one another's burdens, and to mourn and to comfort. But so often it takes a brick to get our attention.
We exert our forces and offer our resources when hurricanes devastate the poor in Central America, or when floods leave thousands homeless in Africa, or when tsunami’s devastate Indonesia or Japan. I believe that the baptismal covenant requires us to be just as willing to act in behalf of those who suffer silently in our own neighborhood—the widow, the orphan, the blind, the halt, the lonely, the poor.
Elie Weisel writes:
If there is one word that described all the woes and threats that exist today, it's indifference. You see tragedy on televison for three minutes and them comes something else and something else. Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil. The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference (From the Citation for an Honorary Doctoral Degree, awarded to Elie Weisel at the 114th Summer Commencement Exercises at BYU, August 17, 1989).
We are prohibited by the covenant we made at baptism from being indifferent to the suffering around us. In Matthew 25, the Lord made our duties crystal clear in his parable of the sheep and the goats. There we are taught this:
If we ignore misery when we encounter it and could reduce it, we are not disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. If, when we have the opportunity and capacity we fail to minister to those who hunger or thirst, to those who are sick or lonely or incarcerated, then it is as though we had abandoned the Savior himself in his hour of need, and without repentance, we may Ago away into everlasting punishment." [Matthew 25:46 (34-36)] Our prayers and professions are hypocritical. In practice, our indifference is a denial of our faith (Misery and Joy, by Ted Gibbons, p. 95).
The people of Alma “clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: this is the desire of our hearts" (Mosiah 18:11). Then Alma baptized them, and organized a church. (Mosiah 18:17) This is the first mention of a church in America in the Book of Mormon.
Mosiah 18 gives a sweet view of the articles and covenants of Alma's church: the provisions made for the teaching and meeting of the people, that which the priests were to receive for their labor (18:26), the doctrine that was to be preached, etc.
He also organized the people to assist in the application of their baptismal covenants.
And again Alma commanded that the people of the church should impart of their substance, every one according to that which he had; if he have more abundantly he should impart more abundantly; and of him that had but little, but little should be required; and to him that had not should be given. And thus they should impart of their substance of their own free will and good desires towards God, and to those priests that stood in need, yea, and to every needy, naked soul. And this he said unto them, having been commanded of God; and they did walk uprightly before God, imparting to one another both temporally and spiritually according to their needs and their wants (Mosiah 18:27-29).
Our part of the baptismal covenant contains one other provision worth a brief mention here. We are under covenant to stand as witnesses of God always and everywhere. There are a multitude of wonderful examples of disciples who have done this very thing under the most difficult and dangerous of circumstances. Abinadi and Alma come to mind at once. But in my study of the Old Testament this year, I found an example that I have often overlooked.
In 2 Kings 5, we read the story of Naaman, the captain of the host of Syria, a great an honorable man, and a mighty man of valor, who happened to be a leper (2K5:1).
Serving in the home of this man was an Israelite slave, a little maid “brought away captive out of the land Israel" (2K5:2). Consider her circumstances. She is an innocent victim of a war waged by men she probably does not know over issues she may not understand. She has been torn from her family and her religious community. But when she learns that her master has leprosy, she stands as a witness. The God in whom she has trusted has allowed her life to go in directions she could never have imagined. Every hope she had seemed to have been destroyed. All of her faith and obedience had not kept her safe, home, happy. And yet, when the opportunity presents itself, she stands as a witness.
And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy (2K5:3).
She is a wonderful example for those of us who are under covenant to stand as witnesses at all times and in all things and in all places.
Noah learned of a movement among his people, sent spies to watch Alma and his people, and then an army to destroy them (Mosiah 18:32,33). Alma received a warning of the coming of the king's army, and he and his people departed into the wilderness.
2. KING NOAH BETRAYS HIS PEOPLE AND SUFFERS DEATH BY FIRE (Mosiah 19)
A certain amount of political intrigue followed the escape of Alma and his people. Part of the people began to oppose the king and contentions followed. Finally the people of Noah seem to have begun to see their king for what he really was. Gideon would have sent the king to his eternal reward except for the timely attack of the Lamanites (Mosiah 19:6-8).
As the people fled, Noah commanded his followers to abandon their families and follow him, for “he himself did flee before them . . ." (Mosiah 19:9).
Many would not do this thing, but “the rest left their wives and children and fled" (Mosiah 19:12). We know from the records that the wicked priests were among those who abandoned their families in favor of their own lives. And we know the name of at least one child who was left behind by a fleeing father: Limhi. He may have had a family of his own by then. The record refers to him as a “just man" (Mosiah 19:17), and it may be that he refused to leave his own family. Either way, Ahe was not ignorant of the iniquities of his father.”
The Lamanites captured those who remained behind, and they conferred the kingdom on Limhi, who made an oath to give to the Lamanites one half of all they possessed (see Mosiah 19:26).
Those who fled soon had a change of heart, however. We learn that
they had sworn in their hearts that they would return to the land of Nephi, and if their wives and their children were slain, and also those that had tarried with them, that they would seek revenge, and also perish with them. And the king commanded them that they should not return; and they were angry with the king, and caused that he should suffer, even unto death by fire (Mosiah 19:19,20).
You may remember that I suggested that one of the messages of these chapters is that the Lord keeps his promises. All of them. Without excuse. The death of Noah by fire fulfilled one such promise, a promise mentioned in Mosiah 12:3; 13:10; and 17:18. Abinadi had predicted that those who followed Noah with such devotion during his spiral into iniquity would one day value his life “as a garment in a hot furnace." We see here that they did.
But there was another promise—another prophecy—made by Abinadi to the people of Noah. That promise, found in Mosiah 12:1-8, was that these rebellious Nephites would be brought into bondage (12:2) and would be smitten and slain (12:2) because of their refusal to repent. That bondage began, as we have seen, in Mosiah 19. The fulfillment of the rest of the prophecy, with regard to the people of Limhi, we will see in Mosiah 21 and 22.
3. LIMHI'S PEOPLE ARE CHASTENED AND EVENTUALLY DELIVERED BY THE LORD (Mosiah 20-22)
The wicked priests ought to be in the Guinness Book of World Records under misery. Their drunkenness and immorality, their support of king Noah, their abandonment of their wives and children, their flight into the wilderness . . . and if that were not enough, they were able to initiate through their iniquity and lack of self control to initiate a war between the Nephites and the Lamanites, following two years of relative peace (see Mosiah 20:29), by kidnaping 24 Lamanite daughters. And there is more.
One of Limhi's great desires was that these men should be captured. They were thieves.
And he caused that his people should watch the land round about, that by some means they might take those priests that fled into the wilderness, who had stolen the daughters of the Lamanites, and that had caused such a great destruction to come upon them. For they were desirous to take them that they might punish them; for they had come into the land of Nephi by night, and carried off their grain and many of their precious things; therefore they laid wait for them (Mosiah 21:20,21).
The misery the Nephites experienced at the hands of the Lamanites was in fulfillment of the prophecies of Abinadi.
And it came to pass that after many days the Lamanites began again to be stirred up in anger against the Nephites, and they began to come into the borders of the land round about. Now they durst not slay them, because of the oath which their king had made unto Limhi; but they would smite them on their cheeks, and exercise authority over them; and began to put heavy burdens upon their backs, and drive them as they would a dumb ass Yea, all this was done that the word of the Lord might be fulfilled (Mosiah 21:2-4).
The people were in agony and “did afflict the king sorely" (21:6) with their desires to go to battle. They went, three times, and were defeated each time. Then, finally, it happened.
And they did humble themselves even to the dust, subjecting themselves to the yoke of bondage, submitting themselves to be smitten, and to be driven to and fro, and burdened, according to the desires of their enemies. And they did humble themselves even in the depths of humility; and they did cry mightily to God; yea, even all the day long did they cry unto their God that he would deliver them out of their afflictions (Mosiah 21:13,14).
Their humility and their cries did not go unnoticed, but . . .
the Lord was slow to hear their cry because of their iniquities; nevertheless the Lord did hear their cries, and began to soften the hearts of the Lamanites that they began to ease their burdens; yet the Lord did not see fit to deliver them out of bondage. And it came to pass that they began to prosper by degrees in the land, and began to raise grain more abundantly, and flocks, and herds, that they did not suffer with hunger (Mosiah 21:15,16).
In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord said this:
They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble. In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me (D&C 101:7,8).
We have seen too many TV shows. We are not accustomed to problems than cannot be solved quickly. But the Lord is working on the composition of the human soul, where eternal changes are almost always prolonged.
We should remember that people don't get in serious trouble in one step. I don't think anyone steps off a precipice into the depths of immorality and apostasy. They slide down the slippery sides of the chasm. When they hit bottom, it's interesting that usually they want to take one step out. There's not one step out any more than there was one step in. It's a long, hard climb. Mostly they have to crawl to get outCon their knees. The best way out is to get into the organized activity pattern of the Church, to stay in it and resist the temptation to be drawn out of it. When people get out of this pattern, penalties come. They find themselves unhappy . . . and no one wants to be unhappy (Elder Boyd K. Packer, Improvement Era, May 1970, p. 7).
Chapter 21 explains the arrest of Ammon and some of his men from Zarahemla. Limhi thought perhaps they were some of the wicked priests of Noah (see 21:23.24). We also learn in this chapter the of the manner in which the plates of the Book of Ether were discovered (see 21:25-27).
In Mosiah 22, the Nephites escape from the Lamanites and return to the land of Zarahemla where they join the people of Nephi. This escape is fulfillment of another promise of the Lord to his children.
Verily I say unto you, notwithstanding their sins, my bowels are filled with compassion towards them. I will not utterly cast them off; and in the day of wrath I will remember mercy (D&C 101:9).
4. THE LORD DELIVERS ALMA'S PEOPLE FROM BONDAGE (Mosiah 23,24)
The righteousness of Alma's people did not prevent the prophecies of Abinadi from being fulfilled. But their experience with their enemies and with bondage was a much different one from the experience of the people of Noah and Limhi.
When his people asked Alma to be king, he deferred. He had seen (so had they for that matter!) how much damage a wicked king could do to a righteous people. Nephi (see 2 Nephi 5:18) and the brother of Jared (see Ether 6:22,23) had similar concerns. Alma defined the issue clearly when he warned:
And also trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments (Mosiah 23:14)
This is a lesson worth exploring. We cannot be too careful about those to whom we give our allegiance.
I had a friend in high school. He came from a broken home and lived with a father who beat him frequently and made life miserable for him, his younger brother, and his mother. But I liked him. He was bold and creative and resourceful. From time to time he would confide in me that one day he and his brother were going away . . . far away. When the time was right, and the opportunity appeared, they would find a way to leave their father behind forever. Usually following such a sharing of confidence, J.M. would ask me if I would come with them.
I was always flattered that he would ask, and I always said Yes. The truth is that I had no need or desire to go. My family was great! Mom and Dad were warm and loving and I was safe. But I wanted to be accepted, to appear adventurous. After a couple of years, the family moved to a nearby state. Months later we got a newspaper clipping in the mail from the mother of the two boys. J.M. had learned enough by reading and observation to convince himself and his brother that he could fly a plane. One night they went to the airport, stole and Piper Cub, and took off. At 5000 feet J.M. apparently lost control of the aircraft. It crashed and they were both killed.
I remember sitting at the kitchen table reading the article with my mother. What if they had attempted the flight while they lived in my ward? What if I had been invited to come along? I might have trusted J.M. enough to go. It could have cost me everything.
And also trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments (Mosiah 23:14)
We cannot be too careful about whom we decide to trust.
The Lamanite army that had followed Limhi and his people into the wilderness became lost. In their wanderings they had found the people of the wicked priests in a place they called Amulon (23:31). Then they stumbled upon the people of Alma in Helam.
In the book of Mosiah we see four different groups of people react to the coming of a Lamanite army. Their reactions are diverse and most enlightening.
ZENIFF (see Mosiah 10:9,10). “And it came to pass that I caused that the women and children of my people should be hid in the wilderness; and I also caused that all my old men that could bear arms, and also all my young men that were able to bear arms, should gather themselves together to go to battle against the Lamanites; and I did place them in their ranks, every man according to his age. And it came to pass that we did go up to battle against the Lamanites; and I, even I, in my old age, did go up to battle against the Lamanites. And it came to pass that we did go up in the strength of the Lord to battle."
NOAH (see Mosiah 19:9). “And the king commanded the people that they should flee before the Lamanites, and he himself did go before them, and they did flee into the wilderness, with their women and their children."
LIMHI (see Mosiah 20:7-9). “Therefore they sent their armies forth; yea, even the king himself went before his people; and they went up to the land of Nephi to destroy the people of Limhi. And now Limhi had discovered them from the tower, even all their preparations for war did he discover; therefore he gathered his people together, and laid wait for them in the fields and in the forests. And it came to pass that when the Lamanites had come up, that the people of Limhi began to fall upon them from their waiting places, and began to slay them."
ALMA (see Mosiah 23:27-29). “Alma went forth and stood among them, and exhorted them that they should not be frightened, but that they should remember the Lord their God and he would deliver them. Therefore they hushed their fears, and began to cry unto the Lord that he would soften the hearts of the Lamanites, that they would spare them, and their wives, and their children. And it came to pass that the Lord did soften the hearts of the Lamanites. And Alma and his brethren went forth and delivered themselves up into their hands; and the Lamanites took possession of the land of Helam."
There is a lesson here, and it is the lesson of Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding."
When the Lamanite king gave Amulon permission to rule Helam and the people of Alma, things became nearly unbearable. But from that experience came a wonderful lesson. I wrote the following several years ago.
The Nephites who had joined the church at the Waters of Mormon and who had settled at Helam were placed in bondage by the Lamanites. (See Mosiah 18, 23, and 24.) Amulon, Alma's former colleague and present enemy, was made king over the people of Alma, and he undertook to make their lives miserable. He "exercised authority over them, and put tasks upon them, and put taskmasters over them." (Mosiah 24:9.)And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God.And Amulon commanded them that they should stop their cries; and he put guards over them to watch them, that whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death. (Mosiah 24:10, 11.)In the bitterness of his apostasy, Amulon could not bear the shame generated by the worship of his subjects. To end his discomfort, he installed the death penalty for prayer:And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts. (Mosiah 24: 25.)The Lord re sponded, “Lift up your heads and be of good comfort . . . I will deliver [you] out of bondage. And I will ease th e burdens which are put upon your shoulders." (Mosiah 24:13, 14.)An account of a similar incident comes from the Massacre at Haun's Mill in 1838. Almost twenty men or boys were killed in the attack on a small Mormon settlement by a mob of Missouri settlers. Fifteen others were wounded. The mob, before leaving, "pillaged the village and robbed the dead of their boots, clothing, and valuables." When they left the mill "they dragged with them horses, wagons, cows, and property of nearly every description belonging to the settlement." (Joseph Smith and the Restoration, Ivan J. Barrett, 1968, p. 330.)A few days following the attack, a number of the mob returned. According to members of this group of rabble, they "lived fat, too," feasting on the remaining cattle and hogs that should have sustained the surviving widows and orphans, as well as the wounded. (Ibid.)Like the people of Alma, these unfortunate victims found their only solace in prayer, and the widows vented their feelings in heartfelt appeals to their Heavenly Father. (Assorted Gems of Priceless Value, N.B. Lundwall, p. 97.) And, like Amulon, two thousand years earlier, the mobbers could not endure the guilt engendered by these prayers.One of the mobbers delivered the warning, "The captain [Captain Comstock] says if you women don't stop your damn praying, he will send down a posse and kill every damn one of you!" Even the solutions were the same. Prayers and cries were hushed as women, fearful for their lives, spoke to their Creator in the silence of their hearts and minds.But for at least one, this terrified silence was a shame and humiliation. Amanda Smith longed to hear her own voice raised in prayer. One morning, as the day began, she slipped into a nearby cornfield, crawled into a shock of corn, and raised her "voice high that it reached the heavens." (Enos 1:4.)As she left her sanctuary a voice spoke to her, repeating the following words from the hymn "How Firm a Foundation":That soul who on Jesus hath leaned for repose,I cannot, I will not desert to its foes;That soul, though all hell shall endeavor to shake,I'll never, no never, no never forsake!From that moment on, she was at peace. (Ibid.) [From Rending the Veil of Heaven, Ted Gibbons, pp. 51,52)
Alma's people paint a powerful portrait of true disciples in a time of trouble. We learn from them what we ought to do (see Mosiah 24:15,16)
-They did submit cheerfully and with patience to the will of the Lord
-They had great faith
We also learn what God is able to do for us in such situations:
-The Lord softened the hearts of their enemies (23:29)
-The Lord eased the burdens upon their shoulders (24:14)
-The Lord did strengthen them (24:15)
-He promised to go with them and deliver them out of bondage (24:16,17)
-He caused a deep sleep to come upon their enemies (24:19)
-He promised to stop their pursuers in the valley of Alma (24:23)
-They reached Zarahemla in only twelve days (24:25) The people of Limhi were many days in the wilderness (see 22:13)
Enos and the Brother of Jared knew that God cannot lie (Enos 1:6; Ether 3:12). We must know it too. We must put our trust in the promises of the Lord. We have seen in these chapters that he is perfectly reliable. It is that quality that enables us to have faith in him.
I perceive that it has been made known unto you, by the testimony of his word, that he cannot walk in crooked paths; neither doth he vary from that which he hath said; neither hath he a shadow of turning from the right to the left, or from that which is right to that which is wrong; therefore, his course is one eternal round. (Alma 7:20)