CLICK HERE to read Alma 4.
Though the people now have peace, they grieve those who died in the war (verse 2).
“And so great were their afflictions that every soul had cause to mourn; and they believed that it was the judgments of God sent upon them because of their wickedness and their abominations; therefore they were awakened to a remembrance of their duty” (verse 3).
What is their duty?
It is the same as ours: to testify.
This is our premortal covenant: Jehovah promised to atone for us, and we promised to testify of that atonement. He has kept up his end of the deal. What are we doing to keep up ours?
“And they began to establish the church more fully; yea, and many were baptized….” (verse 4).
An important piece of this is the church acting under the authority and organization of the Priesthood:
“yea, they were baptized by the hand of Alma, who had been consecrated the high priest over the people of the church, by the hand of his father, Alma” (verse 4).
More than 3,500 people get baptized! (verse 5).
But then, as the years pass, the people begin again to become proud “because of their exceeding riches, and their fine silks, and their fine-twined linen, and because of their many flocks and herds, and their gold and their silver, and all the manner of precious things, which they had obtained by their industry…” (verse 6).
So instead of just being humble and working hard to be industrious so they can be self-reliant, the people get proud about all they have produced and gained for themselves.
“Now this was the cause of much affliction to Alma…” (verse 7). It has only been eight years since King Mosiah warned the people about becoming proud, and urged them to share and be equal, to be at-one, even to become Zion.
What follows pride? Contention.
“… they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure” (verse 8).
Instead of helping each other, they are persecuting each other. Instead of giving to each other, they are hoarding. Instead of being at-one and living in peace, they are arguing and fighting and being mean.
“And thus…. there began to be great contentions among the people of the church; yea, there were envyings, and strife, and malice, and persecutions, and pride, and even to exceed the pride of those who did not belong to the church…” (verse 9).
Now the people are so out of hand that they are worse than the non-believers!
This made the church “a great stumbling-block to those who did not belong to the church; and thus the church began to fail in its progress” (verse 10).
It’s one thing to testify in words and behaviors in the right time and place.
But if we are not “set apart”, and if we are not different than non-believers, and if we do not approach our problems and challenges differently than non-believers, then what good is it to them to join the church? We are called to be more than just good examples, but actually set apart, different, unique, holy.
When we are not, we are not only failing to testify (and so failing to keep up our end of the atonement covenant), but also actually getting in the way of the Gospel.
“… he saw also that the example of the church began to lead those who were unbelievers on from one piece of iniquity to another, thus bringing on the destruction of the people” (verse 11).
Why? Because the people were not at-one.
“Yea, he saw great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted” (verse 12).
This is in comparison to those keeping their baptismal covenants:
“… succoring those who stood in need of their succor, such as imparting their substance to the poor and the needy, feeding the hungry…” (verse 13).
When we are choosing well, choosing our consequences that lead to becoming holy, then we are “looking forward to that day, thus retaining a remission of their sins; being filled with great joy….” (verse 14).
Seeing such humble followers being afflicted by those who were proud and contentions grieved Alma (verse 15). It grieved him so much that he decided to give up his judge-ship-ness, while retaining the role of prophet and teacher (verses 15-18). He did this so he can focus his time and energy on preaching to the people, to help them “in remembrance of their duty” (remember their making and keeping covenants) (verses 19-20).