CLICK HERE to read Alma 16.
With the believers being strong in maintaining peace by not engaging in dissension or contention, and focusing instead on building the church by serving each other and loving each other well and studying to know and understand more, they have peace for many years (verse 1).
But then war returns. The Lamanites try to invade Ammonihah (verse 2), and attack before the Nephites can raise an army (verse 3). The Lamanites carry off prisoners into the wilderness, and the Nephites want to rescue their people (verse 4).
So the leader of the Nephites (Zoram) goes to Alma because he understands that Alma is a prophet. Zoram and his sons, Lehi and Aha, go meet with Alma to seek his counsel about whether or not “they should go into the wilderness in search of their brethren, who had been taken captive by the Lamanites” (verse 5). Alma did ask the Lord about what they should do, and the Lord answered him, and Alma passed on directions to Zoram and his sons about where the Lamanites would be crossing and how to beat them in battle (verse 6). Zoram and his sons followed these instructions, and it happened as the Lord had said (verse 7).
“And they came upon the armies of the Lamanites, and the Lamanites were scattered and driven into the wilderness” (verse 8). Zoram and his sons were able to rescue all their people, and “there was not one soul of them” that was lost in battle or when they were captive (verse 8). Zoram and the rescued people returned to their own homes in safety.
But, “every living soul” of the people of Ammonihah were destroyed, just as the Lord had prophesied through Alma back in chapter 9 (verse 9). The people had mocked the prophet, saying it was impossible, but “in one day it was left desolate” (verse 10). This was the destruction-consequences of the false priesthood of Nehor (see chapter 14).
However, those who had believed the words of the prophet were not only safe, but as they studied their scriptures and loved and served each other, they had peace for many years (verse 12).
The people built churches and temples, and Alma and Amulek continued their ministry, teaching the people (verse 13). They taught everyone who would listen, “without any respect of persons, continually” (verse 14). As the church grew, many were called on missions, so that the church was established throughout the land, “among all the people of the Nephites” (verse 15).
The people cared for each other so well that they were at-one because everyone’s needs were met and everyone worked hard through service. “And there was no inequality among them; the Lord did pour out his Spirit on all the face of the land to prepare the minds… (and) to prepare their hearts to receive the word which should be taught among them at the time of his coming” (verse 16).
This is huge. HUGE.
BEFORE they could RECEIVE the words of God, they first had to love and serve each other. Before they could RECEIVE the teachings of Christ, they first had to make sure the others around them were also ready to receive.
No matter what teachings they heard – even if others around them were hearing the same message, like in a Sacrament meeting – the only ones that would get anything out of it, the only ones who would understand anything, are those who were loving others, caring for others, meeting the needs of others, and serving others.
We have to GIVE before we can RECEIVE.
And even this receiving was not to hoard it up for themselves. The teaching was to prepare them for MORE. But they cannot get MORE until they do something about what they know already. This is the upward spiral of the Gospel, that we must first be obedient and “go and do” – love others, serve others, give to others, care for others – then we can receive, but that receiving is so that we can go and do more, but then our reward is more knowledge and greater unfolding of the mysteries of God. This is the process.
For these people, it affects them in significant and real ways. This is about 80 years before the time of Christ, so these people are the Grandparents of those who will be adults when Christ appears to the Nephites. The words of the prophets are literally teaching them how to prepare themselves – and thus their children, and their grandchildren – what will be taught to them AT THE TIME OF HIS COMING.
These people are being taught to prepare themselves and their children and their children’s children to literally and physically welcome Christ and hear His words and teachings when He literally and physically visits in person.
This is the SAME as us, in our day, right now.
We are preparing to welcome the Savior, literally and physically, in person.
We are preparing our children to welcome the Savior, literally and physically, in person.
“That they might not be hardened against the word, that they might not be unbelieving, and go on to destruction, but that they might receive the word with joy, and as a branch be grafted into the true vine, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord their God” (verse 17).
If we are hard against the word, we will not be soft enough to be obedient, and so it will not be able to change us, and so we will not be ready.
If we are not believing, then we will be lost when the non-believers explain away – as is already happening – the signs of the return of Christ, including the return of Enoch and his city of Holiness (which is why it is so important, if we are to meet them when they return, that we also become the People of Holiness as instructed to do so in 1 Nephi 15). It is our meeting them when they return that does “graft us” into the true vine (People of Holiness).
In the meantime, false priesthoods distract with un-holy things, non-holy things, and dis-holy things, in effort to keep us from becoming the People of Holiness, to keep us from becoming at-one, to keep us from preparing, to keep us from caring, to keep us from serving, to keep us from loving, to keep us from creating. Instead, Satan wants us to destroy, and he provides many individualized paths to destruction so that we can fall in the ways easiest to our own weaknesses: lyings, deceiving, envying, strife (contention), malice (drama/revenge/mean/bitter/ugliness), revilings, stealing, robbing, plundering, murdering (relationships, people, emotional, spiritual, physical), committing adultery (including the new adultery of inappropriate emotional attachments), lasciviousness (including being desensitized to the badness of sexual talk, jokes, allusions, and behavior) (verse 18).
Instead, to be the People of Holiness, we must be strong in our testimonies, and be obedient so that our testimonies can be strengthened further. We must care for one another and serve one another, so that we learn what real love is. We must forgive and let go and bury our weapons (physical or emotional), and make peace. We must remember what is unfolding, what has already started unfolding, and be ready for the return of the Son of God, and let Him make us worthy of His great atoning sacrifice (verse 19).
This lessons, as true for us as the people whom Alma taught, are what will prepare us for the return of Christ just as it prepared those people for His appearance then. They knew He would come after his resurrection, “and this the people did hear with great joy and gladness” (verse 20).
And knowing these things is what establishes us, claims us, even, as the People of Holiness, “having got victory over the devil, and the word of God being preached in its purity in all the land, and the Lord pouring out his blessings upon the people…” (verse 21).