CLICK HERE to read Alma 1.
King Mosiah and Alma the prophet have passed away, and now Alma (Junior, aka The Younger) reigns as judge over the people using the laws of God as established under his father and King Mosiah (verses 1 and 2).
Alma dives into this new calling right from the beginning. There is a big tough guy “noted for his much strength” (verse 2) who has been out on the streets, preaching to the people. Except that what he is preaching is AGAINST the church. He also declares leadership to be a popularity contest, and says that the leaders (priests and teachers) should not have to work – but instead be supported by the people (verse 3). He also taught false doctrine, saying that it didn’t matter what choices people made because the Lord would redeem all people (verse 4).
People began to respond to his false teaching, even giving him their money (verse 5).
“And he began to be lifted up in the pride of his heart, and to wear very costly apparel, yea, and even began to establish a [false] church after the manner of his preaching” (verse 6).
While doing this, he meets up with a real teacher of the real church, and starts arguing with him, in hopes “that he might lead away the people of the church; but the man withstood him, admonishing him with the words of God” (verse 7).
This bad guy didn’t win against the real teacher, because this isn’t just any teacher. This is a tried and true teacher, already proven. It’s Gideon!
Since Gideon called him out for his false teaching, this big, bad, tough guy began to attack him, even though by now Gideon is very old, and so he killed Gideon with a sword (verse 9).
This is a false priesthood, those who “evangelize” by confronting instead of inviting, and those who message leads to violence instead of peace.
When the people found out what happened, he was brought before Alma “to be judged according to the crimes which he had committed” (verse 10).
Though the guy “pled for himself with much boldness” (verse 11), Alma called him out for practicing priestcraft because of making his leadership about popularity, having pride above the other people, and charging them money for his teaching. Alma takes this very seriously, saying that not only did this guy introduce priestcraft, but he tried to enforce it by the sword – and if “priestcraft (were) to be enforced among this people it would prove their entire destruction” (verse 12).
Alma and the people know Gideon, and they know he was righteous (verse 13). This is his crime, not only the priestcraft, or committing such crimes, but also killing a righteous man. After this judgment, he “did acknowledge… that what he had taught to the people was contrary to the word of God…” and there he died (verse 15).
Yet the damage had been done, and priestcraft began to spread through the land “for there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor” (verse 16).
But because of the example made of Nehor (the bad guy who killed Gideon), they did not lie because the law punished liars. So instead, they “pretended to preach according to their believe; and now the law could have no power on any man for his belief” (verse 17). In the same way, they did not steal or rob or murder, because these were punished by the law (verse 18). So they were very “good”, yet what they preached and taught was false.
This created enough of a separation that those not of the church began to persecute the believers (verse 19), “and afflict them with all manner of words” (verse 20). They mocked the believers, and mocked how they lived and kept their covenants “because they were not proud in their own eyes, and because they did impart the word of God, one with another, without money and without price” (verse 20). So they mocked the believers for being good and kind and at-one, and took advantage of the church being strict about not mocking non-believers (verse 21).
Yet the pressure began to build, and many became proud, and got sucked into the contention (verse 22).
And contention always destroys, “and it was a cause of much affliction to the church” (verse 23) because “many hearts were hardened” (verse 24), which led to people leaving the church.
So it was very hard to remain true, very difficult not to get sucked into contention, not to give up despite mocking and persecution.
“Now this was a great trial to those that did stand fast in the faith; nevertheless, they were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God, and they bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them” (verse 25).
So there was a need for the priests to teach the people, and not just teach the people but also live their everyday real lives while teaching.
“And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God, they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learning; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength” (verse 26).
This is, again, the people being at-one.
Not just at-one, but self-reliant on their own while at-one with each other.
That’s establishing Zion.
That’s becoming people of the covenant, people of Holiness.
“And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely” (verse 27).
Part of being at-one is sharing with others. Part of being at-one is caring for others.
Part of being self-reliant is being simple enough in day-to-day life that there is something earmarked for giving away, for sharing, for supporting those around us that we should be loving.
This is establishing Zion.
“And thus they did establish the affairs of the church; and thus they began to have continual peace again, notwithstanding all their persecutions” (verse 28).
Being self-reliant and at-one is what brought them peace again, instead of the destruction caused by pride and contention.
Notice that their external situation (“all their persecutions”) had not changed.
It was their internal state that had changed.
It was not what was going on around them, or what other people did for them, or how others appreciated them, or what was happening to them that established peace.
It was how they established peace for others that gave themselves peace, and gave peace to them as a people.
When they were a peaceful people, they no longer squandered and no one lacked anything.
This multiplied their blessings, “having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need” (verse 29).
Yet they were wise stewards of these blessings, continuing to give and share what they had.
“And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need” (verse 30).
It was these very principles of obedience, unity, at-one-ness, and peace that led to them becoming a more wealthy people than those not of the church (verse 31).
“For those who did not belong to their church did indulge themselves in sorceries, and in idolatry or idleness, and in babblings, and in envyings and strife; wearing costly apparel; being lifted up in pride of their own eyes…” (verse 32), and it was only sin and strife that followed, ultimately leading them to destruction rather than prosperity.