CLICK HERE to read Alma 18.
The last chapter (Alma 17) was all about how to love and care for each other and serve each other well. This is most often the best way to testify, even without words: to love. Offer peace. Be kind. Do something. Help. Just love. It’s that simple: God is love (1 John 4:16).
So when all the servants start telling King Lamoni what happened, how Ammon took care of his sheep and protected the people and the sheep, and did his job well, it got his attention (verse 1). It got his attention so much, that when “he had learned of the faithfulness of Ammon”, “he was astonished exceedingly” (verse 2).
When’s the last time that you loved someone so well, and served them so much, and did your job so completely that people were astonished?
King Lamoni was so astonished, he thought Ammon might not even be human (verse 2). Can you imagine, doing so much so well so thoroughly with all the right motives (just to love and serve) that people wondered if you were even human? King Lamoni thought maybe Ammon was the “Great Spirit” (verse 2). He asked the people, and the people could not answer because they themselves were so astonished! They were astonished “because of his expertness and great strength” (verse 3). They did not know if he was human or spirit-being, but they knew he was friendly to the King, serving the king, because he had done so much for the king.
What can we do to serve someone so well, that their hearts are softened by the love they feel, so much that even those who were once enemies now know you are friends?
All of this had King Lamoni convinced that Ammon must be “the Great Spirit” (verse 4). This “Great Spirit” was a tradition of his people, passed down from their ancestors (verse 5). They knew this “Great Spirit” rewarded them for goodness, and punished them for bad choices (verse 3-6).
Ammon’s saving the flocks and protecting the people and fighting off the attackers is a big deal, because it was common place for the Lamanites to wait by the waters where the flocks drink. They would then scatter the flocks to steal them or kill them to keep them away from King Lamoni’s people. This was such a big problem, and such a long-term problem, that it was a big deal Ammon was able to keep the flocks safe and get them home again (verse 7).
So King Lamoni says, “Where is this man that has such great power?” (verse 8).
But Ammon is not there for the glory. He is there to serve, and to let his service be his testimony. So when they go looking for him, that’s where he is: still working, feeding the horses (verse 9).
This made King Lamoni even “more astonished, because of the faithfulness of Ammon” because “he doth remember all my commandments to execute them” (verse 10).
In fact, King Lamoni was so in awe of Ammon that he was not able to even summon Ammon to come before him (verse 11). But when Ammon had the horses ready, and the chariots set to go, then it was his job to tell the king all was ready. So Ammon went to King Lamoni, only when it was his duty to do so. When he entered the presence of the king, Ammon could tell that “the countenance of the king was changed” (verse 12). Out of respect and duty, Ammon started to leave, but was called to stay (verse 13).
Ammon turned to the king and asked what he could do for the king, but the king did not answer him for a whole hour, because he did not know how to respond (verse 14). So Ammon asked again, trying to find out what the king needed or what he could do for the king (verse 15). But then Ammon was “filled with the Spirit of God”, and able to perceive the thoughts of the king (verse 16). Ammon realized that the king had heard that he had defended the servants and the flocks.
But Ammon, still humble, and still focused on his mission to testify of Christ (and not of himself), said to the King, “What is it, that thy marvelings are so great? Behold, I am a man, and am thy servant; therefore, whatsoever thou desirest which is right, that will I do.”
How simple it is, to meet the needs of others.
How simple it is, to simply be obedient.
How simple it is, just to serve.
These words caused the king to marvel again, “for he beheld that Ammon could discern his thoughts” (verse 18). Finally, King Lamoni just asked Ammon directly, “Who art thou? Art thou that Great Spirit, who knows all things?” (verse 18).
Ammon answered, “I am not” (verse 19).
The king said, “How knowest thou the thoughts of my heart?” (verse 20). He wanted to know by what Spirit Ammon was able to discern his thoughts, and by what power Ammon was able to protect his people and his flocks (verses 20-21).
Then – and I love this – it says Ammon was “wise, yet harmless” (verse 22). This is so important! Cunning is often evil, and cleverness can be used to destroy. The power of words can be used to hurt and harm, or to heal and help. So when the king says that he will give Ammon anything he wants, long as Ammon explains himself, Ammon uses the opportunity to testify (rather than for his own gain). Without commanding or oppressing the king, he invites the king to listen and understand (verse 22). The king agrees (verse 23).
“And Ammon began to speak unto him with boldness, and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?” (verse 24).
King Lamoni replies that he doesn’t understand (verse 25).
Ammon rephrases the question, asking if King Lamoni believes “there is a Great Spirit”? (verse 26).
King Lamoni says he does believe there is a “Great Spirit” (verse 27).
Ammon clarifies, teaching King Lamoni that this “Great Spirit” is God. Then he asks the next question, asking King Lamoni if he believes that the “Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?” (verse 28).
King Lamoni answers, saying that he believes the “Great Spirit”, who is God, did create all things of the earth, but that he does not know what “heaven” is (verse 29).
Ammon says, “the heavens is a place where God dwells and all his holy angels” (verse 30).
King Lamoni then asks, “Is it above the earth?” (verse 31).
And Ammon answers, “Yes, and he (God) looketh down upon all the children of men; and he knows all the thoughts and intents of the heart; for by his hand were they all created from the beginning” (verse 32).
King Lamoni says that he believes this, and asks if Ammon is sent from God (verse 33).
Ammon answers that he is a prophet, saying, “I am a man; and man in the beginning was created after the image of God, and I am called by His Holy Spirit to teach these things unto the people, that they may be brought to a knowledge of that which is just and true; and a portion of that Spirit dwelleth in me, which giveth me knowledge, and also power according to my faith and desires which are in God” (verses 34-35).
Then Ammon began to teach King Lamoni about the creation of the world, and of Adam and Eve, and the Fall – which is why we need the atonement, and taught him all the things of the holy scriptures and the teachings of the prophets (verse 36). Ammon taught King Lamoni and all his people about their history, about how the people had wandered in the wilderness, and the experiences they had (which we learn from ourselves, so as to avoid repeating the mistakes and to learn who God is and what He is capable of) (verses 37-38). So he also taught them about “the plan of redemption, which was prepared from the foundation of the world; and he also made known unto them concerning the coming of Christ, and all the works of the Lord did he make known unto them” (verse 39).
And King Lamoni believed him (verse 40).
He believed him because he already had the light of Christ within him, so the more he learned, the more it felt true, because he wasn’t only learning it but remembering it. These things are truths we all know, things we all understood before we ever came to Earth, and so the truth of them resonates deep within us as we study them and learn them – because we are remembering them, and the Holy Spirit confirms to us, yes, it is true.
So King Lamoni “began to cry unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, have mercy,” and begged for mercy for his people (verse 41). Then he collapsed, overcome by the Spirit (verse 42). His servants carried him to his wife, and he laid there for two days and two nights, with his wife and children mourning over them because they thought he had died (verse 43).
But he hasn’t died, and what happens next is amazing!