CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 18.
While King Noah and his people are busy burning Abinadi the prophet at the stake, Alma is busy writing down all that he learned from Abinadi. He really learns it, not only recording his words but also repenting “of his sins and iniquities” (verse 1).
When we truly repent, we also testify.
So Alma picks up where Abinadi left off, “privately among the people, (teaching) the words of Abinadi” (verse 1).
These teachings were “concerning that which was to come, and also concerning the resurrection of the dead, and the redemption of the people, which was to be brought to pass through the power, and sufferings, and death of Christ, and his resurrection and ascension into heaven” (verse 2).
He taught all the people willing to listen, but he taught them privately so they would be out of danger of the king. “And many did believe his words” (verse 3).
Near where they met was a place called Mormon, named after a king in the land that bordered the water (verse 4). This is where Alma taught the people (verse 5), and all who believed him came to this place to hear the teachings (verse 6). He taught them, “and did preach unto them repentance, and redemption, and faith in the Lord” (verse 7).
In this way, the people were prepared for baptism, and they were baptized in the waters of Mormon.
These were their covenants of baptism:
“… as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places…” (verses 8-9).
So Alma asked the people:
“… if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?” (verse 10).
The people “clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts” (verse 11).
And so Alma began to baptize the people.
He brought Helam into the waters first, saying “O Lord, pour out thy Spirit upon thy servant, that he may do this work with holiness of heart” (verse 12).
And then he baptized him:
“I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world” (verse 13).
(Note: prepared from the foundation of the world. Just as Christ was prepared premortally for his mission on Earth, so were each of us also prepared for our purpose in mortality. We were all premortally taught and prepared for making covenants on Earth – and for keeping them.)
When Alma baptized the people, he baptized them by immersion, and they “arose and came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit” (verses 14 and 15) and they “were filled with the grace of God” (verse 16).
“Grace” is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
That’s why there is rejoicing.
We cannot save ourselves.
We cannot be good.
We cannot do it on our own.
But we can be made perfect in Him, by letting go of what is not of God and embracing who He is.
When He becomes a part of us, when we are filled with His righteousness, then we are made perfect, whole, and complete. It is then that we are at-one… but it is because of what HE has done for us, not what we have done ourselves. We cannot take any credit, but we can rejoice in the confidence in His ability to do in us and for us what He has promised.
“And they were called the church of God, or the church of Christ, from that time forward” (verse 17).
As the church was being established, Alma (“having authority from God” (verse 18)) organized the priesthood as well, so that those ordained as priests could teach the people “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (verse 18).
What did they teach?
“…nothing save it were the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets…. nothing save it were repentance and faith in the Lord, who had redeemed his people” (verses 19 and 20).
These are the most important concepts for all of us, because everything else builds upon them.
If we can do these things: repent and have faith in the Lord – continually, then all other problems will be prevented or resolved or we will be strengthened to endure through the experience.
If we can follow the words of the holy prophets, then we will be who we need to be and where we need to be. We will be protected, provided for, and blessed for our efforts and beyond (grace).
If we do these three things: follow the words of the holy prophets, repent, and have faith in the Lord, then we will – together – establish Zion now. We will be at-one with God and at-one with each other, and this is where our power lies.
That is why contention causes so much destruction, because it makes us not-at-one.
“And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward (to celestialness with God)… in unity and in love one towards another” (verse 21).
This is what he taught them, and that is how they established Zion, by becoming “the children of God” (verse 22).
They became the people of Holiness.
And as the people of Holiness, remembering Who made them holy, “he commanded them that they should observe the Sabbath day, and keep it holy, and also every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God” (verse 23).
We cannot keep the Holy Sabbath Day holy without working hard the other days, so that we are prepared for it. Keeping the Sabbath Day holy doesn’t start on Sunday morning. It starts the whole week before, when we work hard and play hard on the days intended for those activities. It starts by finishing on Saturday what ought not be done on Sunday. We have to work hard so that we are prepared to take the day off on Sunday, and taking the day off helps us to work hard the rest of the week.
“And he also commanded them… (that they) should labor with their own hands for their support” (verse 24).
We should be as self-reliant as possible, able to use our own resources to gather our own provisions and care for our families in this way.
But then, after our hard week of work, we should rest from that work and use the time to worship.
“And there was one day in ever week that was set apart that they should gather themselves together to teach the people, and to worship the Lord their God…” (verse 25).
Going to Sunday School and Sacrament meeting are so important that they were included in the same chapter as baptism. That’s because Sacrament renews our baptismal covenants as this chapter teaches, and then Sunday School answers the “now what” question by studying the covenant so we can live it.
“And (they)… were not to depend upon the people for their support; but for their labor they were to receive the grace of God, that they might wax strong in the Spirit, having the knowledge of God, that they might teach with power and authority from God” (verse 26).
This is living the covenant: working hard to provide for our own temporal needs and those of our family, and working hard to develop our own spiritual strength through knowledge (study that becomes faith that becomes testimony) and then testifying of that knowledge.
All is to be shared with everyone.
We should work hard not only to meet our own temporal needs, but also so that we can share with others. We should work hard not only to develop our own spiritual strength, but also so that we can strengthen others.
“And again Alma commanded that the people of the church should impart of their substance, every one according to that which he had..” (verse 27).
Just as tithing my ten percent means a different actual amount than the people sitting in the next pew over, so does my ability to give differ. I should give what I am able, but that may not be the same as what other people have to give.
This is not to say that I do not have to give as much. I am commanded to be industrious and come up with a way to use what resources I have – and multiply them so that I am able to give more.
In the same way, what I am able to share may different not only in amount but also in what it is I can give. I can give words or teaching, while my friend can give practical compassion. I can give knowledge, while my friend can give understanding. I have food storage and flip flops to share, while my friend has water and socks to share.
That’s why we need to be at-one.
“And thus they should impart of their substance of their own free will and good desires towards God, and to… every needy, naked soul” (verse 28).
We are commanded to serve others in both temporal and spiritual ways.
Neither will count without the other.
Our physical presence and practical friendship means nothing if we do not also testify in some way.
Our spiritual gifts mean nothing if we are not also caring for their physical needs.
We must do both.
That is how to establish Zion.
“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” (verse 29).
This is how Alma taught the people in the thicket of trees, the forest, near the waters of Mormon (verse 30), on the borders of the land so that King Noah would not find them and kill them (verse 31).
But the kind did finally find them, and sent spies to watch them (verse 32).
King Noah used this to accuse Alma of “stirring up the people to rebellion against him; therefore he sent his army to destroy them” (verse 33).
Not so different from what happened to Joseph Smith, is it?
But Alma and church were warned of the king’s army on its way, “therefore they took their tents and their families and departed into the wilderness” (verse 34), about 450 of them (verse 35).