Friday, May 4, 2012

Mosiah 18-24

Refer to chart of the Book of Mosiah in the previous post.


A group of the Nephites led by Zeniff had a dream:  They desired to go back and inhabit the Land of Nephi where they had originally settled, and where the Lamanites lived.  They were hopeful that the Lamanites had changed and the animosity had passed.

In his own words, Zeniff’s "overzealousness" lead to bondage.  The Nephites and Lamanites had always been enemies since the history of the country.  King Laman welcoming Zeniff and his little Nephite colonists with open arms should have signaled a trap.  But Zeniff did not see this because he was “following his dream.”

Things got worse for two generations, until in King Limhi’s time (the grandson of Zeniff), the Lamanites came upon them to destroy them, and the Nephites decided to become indentured servants, rather than fight another bloody battle.   As Limhi said in Mosiah 20:22, “…it is better that we should be in bondage than that we should lose our lives…”

In our society today, we have many comparative situations in which we are offered something that looks like a good thing, and against our better judgment we rationalize “following our dream” (sometimes also known as giving in to temptation), take the bait, and find ourselves entrapped. 

Agatha Christie had a dream to become a performing musician and worked diligently throughout her youth to develop her vocal and pianistic abilities, only to find that she was not ever going to realize that goal.  “It is good to have a dream,” she wrote in her autobiography, “as long as you do not hold onto it too tightly.”  Instead of performing, she began writing and became the greatest female author of her time, and the most published novelist (male or female) of all time, selling 4 billion books, according to Wikipedia.

So must we approach our dreams with the possibility that the Lord may have something else in mind for us.  The only goals we are safe in striving for are those that are endorsed by the Holy Spirit as we pray about them.   If we pursue a course without taking counsel of the Spirit (or sometimes even our own common sense), then we create our own problems, just as King Zeniff did, not necessarily by being wicked, but by just being stupid.


In addition to following the overzealousness of King Zeniff, this group of Nephites also had followed the incredible wickedness of his son, King Noah, and had killed the prophet Abinadi who had come to their spiritual rescue.  Fortunately, King Limhi decided to become a righteous man, and encouraged them to follow.  (This was indeed fortunate for them, since they had proven themselves to be such excellent followers of whoever was in charge.)  But, because of their past history, there were a lot of spiritual and physical reasons that the people of King Limhi were in a very miserable situation (Mosiah 21:2-5).  This had to happen to them because the Lord through the prophet Abinadi, had told them it would, and He does not make idle threats (Mosiah 12:2-5).

These people now had a big problem and they needed a solution to it.  First they tried solving it on their own.  Three times they went to battle against the Lamanites to fight their way through the difficulty.  Three times they were beaten back and suffered loss of life.  Their attempt at solving their problems by themselves only added to their problems.  They turned to the Lord, as people often do, only when they had absolutely no other recourse (Mosiah 12:13-15).

Finally, in response to their persistent cries, and after they had paid the price the Lord had exacted for their previous wickedness, Mosiah, king of the main body of the Nephites, was inspired to send a group of 43 men to find them and to help them plan an escape back to the Land of Zarahemla.

At this point they had two very good reasons to escape from the Lamanites.  One, obviously, was to get out from under the bondage they were in, and the other we find in Mosiah 21:33--All the people with authority to baptize were elsewhere in the world.  So long as they were stuck here, they could not join the church and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost.


At this time another group of Nephites suffered under bondage:  The Christian converts led by Alma.  It’s easy to understand why the people of Limhi were in trouble:  Most of it was their own fault.  It’s not so easy to understand why the people of Alma suffered through some of the same difficulties.

Alma was initially misled by King Noah, but when Abinadi gave his warning, he immediately heeded it.  What were the last words of Abinadi’s speech to the priests?  (Mosiah 16:15)  “Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father.  Amen.”  Alma obeyed this injunction (Mosiah 18:1-2).

Alma had the priesthood and so he had the authority to baptize.  (The other wicked priests did not live worthy of their priesthood and had abandoned the people anyway.)  But being the one to restore a church, he first set himself apart (Mosiah 18:12).  (That would be a good prayer for us to refer to whenever we get a new church calling.)  Then he baptized Helam, going under the water with him.  Although baptism is not mentioned much in the scriptures prior to this point, Alma may have already been baptized before receiving his priesthood, but he may have felt the need for a symbolic cleansing or a rebaptism.  (Brigham Young had a number of people rebaptized in the early days of the Church to renew the covenant they had strayed from when they had drifted from Church activity.)  After baptizing what grew to a total of 450 people (Mosiah 18:35), Mosiah set up Gospel Essentials classes to teach the people and nurture their new faith.

Because of Alma’s priesthood, these people were blessed with church membership and probably the Gift of the Holy Ghost, blessings the people of Limhi did not have.  The guidance of the Spirit was a great blessing to them in their trials to come.

Alma and his people took upon themselves what we now call the baptismal covenant (Mosiah 18:8-9), and Ammon and his rescuers, which we will soon read about, lived up to their baptismal covenant in their treatment of King Limhi’s people (Mosiah 21:29-31).

When the people of Alma joined the church of Christ, it was at great peril to their lives, just like it was for the early Latter-day Saints.  And just like them, they had to flee their homes and settle in another land.  In Alma’s case, it was an eight-day journey, lead by the Lord.

In the first half of chapter 23, we can see that the people of Alma were doing everything right.  Alma told them (verse 14) to “trust no one to be your teacher…except he be a man of God.”  Then he set up righteous teachers for them (Mosiah 23:17-18).  Everything was going fine and they appeared to have left their problems behind.  But problems have a way of sneaking up behind us (Mosiah 23:20-21).  Here’s our first “nevertheless” in the story: even when we are doing what’s right, we may have grievous trials (Mosiah 23:22).  Here, however, we find the second “nevertheless:” the Lord will save us if we keep the faith (Mosiah 23:23-24).  And here we can see the point of the story to follow, heralded by the words, “For behold, I will show unto you…”

As the people of Ammon were minding their own business—paying their tithing, doing their home teaching, delivering casseroles to the sick—suddenly an army of Lamanites stumbled upon them.  This army had been pursuing the people of Limhi as they fled back to Zarahemla, had lost their trail and also lost their way back to the Land of Nephi, but they found Alma’s people.  (How unlucky can you be?)  And not only was it an army of Lamanites, it was an army of Lamanites who had previously found and joined forces with the runaway wicked priests of King Noah.  If there was any greater enemy to Alma’s people than the Lamanites, it was the priests of King Noah.  Alma and his people fell into bondage with these Amulonites as their rulers and teachers.  What could have been worse?


Okay, so this all brings a very pertinent question to mind:  Why do the righteous have trials?  Why does the Lord "chasten" those who aren’t going astray?

The New Testament Saints were another group of people who suffered great trials while trying to do what was right.  We can find answers to these questions in the words of their apostles.  First the words of Peter (1 Peter 2:20-21).  “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently [like the people of Limhi]? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently [like the people of Alma], this is acceptable with God.  For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.”  Of all the people who have endured great trials which seemed unfair, Christ is the greatest.  We may have to endure undeserved trials in order to develop the characteristics of Christ.

What exactly is it that trials will teach us that almost cannot be learned in any other way?  James, the brother of Jesus, answers that question (James 1:2-4).  “…knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing [or, in other words, having your development completed].”


As you study the teachings and doings of the Lord in the scriptures, you find that patience is one of His hallmark traits.  If we are to be like Him, we must learn patience.  What has taught you patience in your life?  Do you ever hear people say things like this:

“Because we have always been blessed financially and have been able to have everything we ever wanted, we have learned to be patient.”

“Johnny was my most difficult and frustrating child, but Suzy, being so loving and kind, easy to discipline, obedient and sensitive, is the one who taught me patience?”

“Because of the perfect health I have enjoyed during my 80 years of life, I have developed a great deal of patience.”

These statements would be ridiculous.  In fact, the development of patience by its very definition comes through enduring situations that we would think of as being negative—something we would never have chosen for ourselves, something we would think of as a trial.  If we had our way, we would never have the opportunity to develop the very important Christian attribute of patience!  And so sometimes, as in the case of the people of Alma, the Lord chastens us when we are being obedient.

Is it fair?  2 Thess. 1:4-5: “So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure; which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer.”  The benefit outweighs the misery.


The people of Alma learned patience in their trials and did not buckle under the pressure.  They saved themselves much trouble by their obedience to the previous counsel of Alma to “trust no one to be your teacher…except he be a man of God.”  Although the Lamanites placed the wicked priests of Noah once again in the position of leadership over these Nephites, they paid no attention to the teachings of these Amulonite rulers and continued to worship the Lord.  They knew they were in trouble, but they prayed for deliverance before trying to free themselves from bondage.  In this way, they were blessed with the Spirit of the Lord to tell them what to do to endure and then to escape.

The Lord promised to help them (Mosiah 24:14-15).  They learned patience, something they could not have learned without trial.  They also learned about the Lord’s kindness and power in helping them bear their burdens.  If you have no burdens to bear, how can you experience the joy of having the Lord help you with them? 


So, since both groups suffered the same difficulty, what were the benefits to Alma’s group for having been righteous?

The record leads us to assume that the people of Limhi were probably in bondage for quite a while, since the Lord prospered them “by degrees” (Mosiah 21:16).  Since they had been engaged in battles with the Lamanites, they had suffered great loss of life (Mosiah 21:17).  They had to drug the Lamanites with wine to escape, and rely upon the help of the rescue team sent by King Mosiah.  After traveling “many days” in the wilderness (Mosiah 22:13), they made it back to Zarahemla.

In contrast, the people of Alma had suffered no war casualties.  The Lord himself “drugged” the Lamanites for their exodus (Mosiah 24:16-19).  Because they believed the counsel of Alma the night before, with no indication of how they would escape—this, of course, is what we call “faith”—they were prepared to leave.  When they were only one day’s journey away—not safe yet, by any means—they stopped to give thanks to the Lord (Mosiah 24:21-22).  And then they walked straight to Zarahemla in twelve days (verse 25), with no guide.

Trials come both as chastisement for our disobedience and as blessings for our development, but it is definitely easier to endure and sometimes even escape our trials if we have prepared ourselves through faithful obedience and study as did the people of Alma.


Unknown said...

It's cool that you're talking about The Book of Mormon this way!

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