CLICK HERE to read Alma 45.
When the Lord delivered the people again, they did rejoice and give thanks, even fasting and praying and worshiping in joy (verse 1). In these ways they remembered their God, and thanked Him for what He did for them. This kept peace in the land, and the people prospered. But the moment they forget God, or become proud and think their success is their own, and stop acknowledging the Lord’s hand in their lives, they remove themselves from His blessings. The rest of the book of Alma is about the consequences that happen when we do this.
Alma, Jr., knows this, and has worked to teach his sons at a personal level the same lessons the people are learning as a whole. There are always these parallel layers, both what is happening to us as a people and what is happening to us individually. Alma asks his son Helaman if he understands this, if he believes the records which have been kept and passed down by the prophets (verse 2). Helaman affirms that he does believe (verse 3), so Alma then asks if Helaman believes in Jesus Christ, and that He will soon come (verse 4). Helaman says that he does (verse 5), and Alma asks for the evidence: whether or not Helaman will keep the commandments (verse 6). Helaman says that he will keep the commandments “with all my heart” (verse 7).
This satisfies the personal interview, and Alma blesses his son, telling him that he will be blessed spiritually and temporally for this faith and obedience (verse 8).
Alma then prophesies also, commanding Helaman not to share the prophecy publicly until it is fulfilled, but to go ahead now and add the prophecy to the records being kept and passed down (verse 9). Alma’s prophecy is that within four hundred years of Jesus Christ manifesting himself to the Nephites, they will “dwindle in unbelief” (verse 10). He says this will causes “wars and pestilences, yea, famines and bloodshed, even until the people of Nephi shall become extinct” (verse 11). These will be the consequences, he says, of the people no longer believing, choosing works of darkness – even literally in the form of lascivious sins (verse 12). The people will get so sucked into this darkness, that they and their descendants will no more be people of the covenant (verse 13).
But then he adds more! The few who DO remain in the covenant, who are believers, will be counted among the Lamanites (verse 14). This is huge! At the time when Alma is talking to his son Helaman, the Lamanites are the hater-non-believers, and the Nephites are the believers. Alma is saying this is going to switch, because the Lamanites will become believers and accept the gospel, while the Nephites will become the hater-non-believers. Whoa!
So this was his prophecy shared with Helaman in a blessing, and then Alma also blessed his other sons (verse 15). He also, in the role of prophet, “blessed the earth for the righteous’ sake” (verse 15), which means he also cursed the land when the people do wickedly (verse 16). Alma then blessed the church, meaning those truly converted and remaining faithful for always (verse 16).
Then Alma left, and “was never heard of more; as to his death or burial we know not of” (verse 18).
Behold, this we know, that he was a righteous man; and the saying went abroad in the church that he was taken up by the Spirit, or buried by the hand of the Lord, even as Moses. But behold, the scriptures saith the Lord took Moses unto himself; and we suppose that he has also received Alma in the spirit, unto himself; therefore, for this cause we know nothing concerning his death and burial (verse 19).
And so Alma, Jr.’s son, Helaman, becomes the next prophet and record keeper (verse 20). He finishes Alma’s record for the rest of this book, telling the history of the people as they make choices and reap the consequences, just as prophesied by his father.
How does it happen, when these believers have been through so much and know so much?
It happens in a very simple way: they simply forget God, both to thank Him and to choose Him.
Agency is not our ability to choose. Agency is our ability to choose whom to follow.
And the Nephites begin to surrender their agency by forgetting to choose to follow God.
This develops dissension and disturbances that distract from their covenants (verse 21), and so Helaman and his brothers and other leaders go throughout the land “to establish the church again”, including establishing the priesthood (verse 22).
This is very similar to where we are today, with the church being established, and the priesthood being set up and spread out – with our prophets and apostles warning us because we have the authority but will not turn to God to develop the power. It is a precarious place to be, and dangerous if we do not remember to choose God.
As the priesthood and leaders were set up, instead of developing the power of the priesthood through faithfulness and service, and establishing peace by becoming the people of holiness (establishing Zion), they would not listen to the prophets and apostles and leaders (verse 23). They, like us, had the authority but did not do the work to develop the power. They forgot to choose to follow God:
But they grew proud, being lifted up in their hearts, because of their exceedingly great riches; therefore they grew rich in their own eyes, and would not give heed to their words, to walk uprightly before God (verse 24).
And that was the beginning of their end, just as Alma prophesied.