CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 23.
Now Alma and his people are in the land, but King Noah’s missing bad guys – the false priests that got away – are still out there, on the loose. The Lord warns Alma that they are coming, and the people leave to get away (verse 1). The Lord strengthened them to help them get away (verse 2), and they traveled for eight days (verse 3), until coming to a beautiful land with clean water (verse 4). Here they began to live, tilling the ground and building buildings; “yea, they were industrious, and did labor exceedingly” (verse 5).
The people were so relieved to have gotten away safely, and to be prospering in their new home, that they wanted to make Alma their king (verse 6).
While they meant it out of love, and intended the request as an honor, Alma reminded them of the evil king from whom they had just fled:
“… Behold, it is not expedient that we should have a king… if it were possible that ye could always have just men to be your kings, it would be well for you to have a king. But remember the iniquity of King Noah and his priests…” (verses 7-9).
The idea of a King seems to be a good one, Alma is saying, except that it depends on the kind of person the king is. Things will be well with the people if it is a good king, but it will be misery for the people if it is a bad king – as they have just experienced with King Noah.
Alma uses this as a moment to testify, reminding them how even he himself was involved with this bad king before he (Alma) converted:
“… I myself was caught in a snare, and did many things which were abominable in the sight of the Lord, which caused me sore repentance… Nevertheless, after much tribulation, the Lord did hear my cries, and did answer my prayers, and has made me an instrument in his hands in bringing so many of you to a knowledge of his truth…” (verses 9-10).
I love these verses, in a 2 Nephi 4 kind of way.
He is not being mean to himself, but honest about what his past was like without the atonement, without the Savior. He is not looking backward, but rather testifying of how the atonement changed him.
This is important here because he is reminding them that what makes a good king is a covenant-keeping king who loves the Savior and applies the atonement; without it, there is only destruction.
In this way, too, he points the people from himself back to Christ.
While they meant to honor him out of gratitude, Alma reminds them that it really was the work of the Savior, not himself.
“Nevertheless, in this I do not glory, for I am unworthy to glory of myself” (verse 11).
In this way, Alma reminds the people that King Noah oppressed them and put them into bondage and caused them to sin (verse 12). So having a king is not always a good idea.
In fact, the bondage was so bad that they could only be delivered by “the power of God” (verse 13).
So, Alma, says, it would be better to “stand fast in liberty wherewith ye have been made free…” (verse 13).
This is important to consider even for our own politics, especially post 9-11, when we too often and too easily trade our freedom for “security”. It is one thing to fight for freedom and keep our citizens secure, and another thing to let our own government invade us or oppress us or cause us to surrender our agency.
We could apply this to our own individual lives as well, likening the scriptures to what personal liberties we have – or spiritual freedoms we have. What do we do to reinforce these, to maintain them, to nourish them? Or do we fail to do the work required to build our testimonies, gain blessings through Temple work, and love the families given to us? It feels very Matthew 25:29.
So who can be our leader? Those who make and keep covenants (verse 14).
How do you know who is keeping covenants?
By who is loving others well.
“Thus did Alma teach his people, that every man should love his neighbor as himself, that there should be no contention among them” (verse 15).
Contention = not keeping covenants
Love = keeping covenants
It’s that simple.
This is what Alma taught the people as he organized the church (verse 16).
As he organized the church, “none received authority to preach or to teach except it were by him from God”, and only those who kept covenants were given authority (verse 17).
“Therefore they did watch over their people, and did nourish them with things pertaining to righteousness” (verse 18).
So that’s another part of keeping covenants: nourishing.
You can tell who is keeping covenants by who is loving and by who is nourishing.
Those who are contention-ish and those who do not testify or will not feed you spiritual things are not nourishing, and so are not covenant-keepers.
That’s a serious principle to understand, and to ponder in relation to our own covenant keeping.
It also means that covenant keepers have the ability to receive feedback, wrestle with the truth until they understand, and respond in obedience.
Those who cannot are not covenant keepers. Those who are offended are not covenant keepers. Those who blame others or refuse to follow the process of repentance are not covenant keepers.
Again, serious questions for us to consider in regards to our own spiritual development.
Alma taught his people how to be covenant keepers, which means they were loving and nourishing and received his warnings, instructions, and feedback. This is how they were nourished.
And for this, they were blessed (verse 19).
“And it came to pass that they did multiply and prosper exceedingly in the land of Helam…” (verse 20).
Their love for each other and demonstrated obedience by keeping their covenants gets the Lord’s attention, showing Him they are serious about doing His well.
So He refines them further, as “… the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith..” (verse 21).
Alma goes so far as to say that the people need chastening and need their faith tried, so they can develop the spiritual muscles to see God and what He has done in their lives for them (verse 22).
“For behold, I will show unto you that they were brought into bondage, and none could deliver them but the Lord their God” (verse 23).
Here Alma again reminds them that they were delivered by the power of God, not by themselves, and that the power came from their covenant keeping (verse 23).
“And it came to pass that he did deliver them, and he did show forth his mighty power unto them, and great were their rejoicings” (verse 24).
The Lord kept His promises, and the people celebrated their relief, comfort, hope, provision, and protection.
But here is the hard part: because they have faith, that faith must be put to the test so that it can become knowledge (testimony).
So soon they find themselves surrounded by Lamanites (verse 25), and it is scary (verse 26).
“But 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 delivered them” (verse 27).
The next verse says, “Therefore they hushed their fears…” (verse 28).
I love that verse.
They hushed their fears.
Those are amazing words.
But they did hush their fears, and instead they acted in faith, praying to the Lord for His protection.
“And it came to pass that the Lord did soften the hearts of the Lamanites” (verse 29).
But Satan fights back, almost always adding bad influence to bad behavior to make things worse.
So what happens? These Lamanites run into the missing bad guys from King Noah, and they hook up as a group to attack Alma’s people (verses 30-31). The leader of these bad guys was Amulon (verse 32). This guy was so bad that he traded his wife and daughters for the protection of the men (verse 33), and his plan worked (verses 34-35).
It’s this combined group that confronts Alma’s group in the wilderness (verse 36), but promise not to harm Alma and his people if they will show them the way through the wilderness (verse 36).
However, the Lamanites do not keep their promises, and they send guards to surround Alma and his people (verses 37-38). Then the people make Amulon king (verse 38) of the bad guys who escaped King Noah.
This cannot bode well for the Nephites.