CLICK HERE to read Alma 22.
Ammon continued teaching the king Lamoni’s people (verse 1), so this chapter through chapter 26 follows the account of his brother Aaron, now released from prison and back on his mission. Aaron had many grand adventures, and some of his sermons are recorded for us in these chapters.
Aaron followed the Spirit for where and who to teach, and this led him to king Lamoni’s father (verse 1). He first approached the king and bowed before him, introducing himself as the one that the king released from prison on behalf of Ammon (verse 2). Then he formally asks for his life to be spared, demonstrating respect for the king and submission to cultural laws, and offers to be his servant so as to honor the debt they owe to the king (verse 3). This is a marvelous teaching of the atonement that Aaron is demonstrating to the king.
The king grants Aaron and the other missionaries their lives, but will not let them be his servants; however, he does want them to teach him “for I have been somewhat troubled in mind because of the generosity and the greatness of the words of thy brother Ammon” (verse 3). The king wants to know more, and is confused about why Ammon has not come back to teach him more.
Aaron explains that the Spirit has called Ammon to teach elsewhere, to teach the people of Lamoni (verse 4). This catches the king’s attention, because that’s his very question “What’s the Spirit of the Lord?” (verse 5). He also wants to know about what Ammon said about repentance, and what that means (verse 6).
Aaron answers the king by asking him if he believes there is a God (verse 7). The king answers that he knows some people say there is a God, and that he lets his people build sanctuaries to their Gods (verse 7). Then he says, “if now thou sayest there is a God, behold I will believe” (verse 7). This is a great step of faith, of believing the words of prophets, of understanding before knowledge fully comes. It shows the king’s heart is soft and responsive, and that he really wants to know the truth. He is willing to submit to something greater than himself, and willing to believe before he fully understands. Like any other relationship, our relationship with God unfolds over time – but the relationship cannot begin until we are willing to admit God exists.
“And now when Aaron heard this, his heart began to rejoice, and he said, Behold assuredly as thou livest, O king, there is a God” (verse 8).
The king asked if God is the same as “the Great Spirit”, just as Lamoni had asked (verse 9).
Aaron says that this is God, and that God “created all things both in heaven and in earth” (verse 10).
The king then replies that he believes this, even that the Great Spirit created all things, and he wants to know more and that he will believe what he is taught (verse 11).
“And it came to pass that when Aaron saw that the king would believe his words, he began from the creation of Adam, reading the scriptures unto the king – how God created man after his own image, and that God gave him commandments, and that because of transgression, man had fallen” (verse 12).
This, Aaron taught him, was part of the plan all along, because we cannot know what is good if we do not learn also what is bad. We cannot experience joy without also experiencing sorrow. But God did not abandon us in this fallen state, and so from the beginning – before any of us even were born – redemption from that fall was also part of the plan, and it was Christ who would provide that redemption (verse 13).
“And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance… and Aaron did expound all these things unto the king” (verse 14).
As the king listened and learned, he asked questions. He asked how to obtain this eternal life, and I love how he phrased it, for I have felt the same:
“… Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy…. Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy” (verse 15).
Aaron says that all it takes is a little humility: “if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest” (verse 16).
And that’s what the king did, literally, right then and there: “the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees, yea, even did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying:
“O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.”
I love this prayer, because there is no presumption in it, and it is humble and honest and true. He is still relying on the testimony of the prophet, still believing only because he trusts someone who has told him it is true. That is the starting place. But then he does honestly want to make it is his own, asking God to manifest Himself, to make Himself known, so that he can have his own testimony, his own believe, that does not only rely on the words of others.
But he also demonstrates his understanding of who God is, having faith that if God is real (even though he is still learning) that God can do what God has promised. So he acts in response to knowing who God is by saying he will give up that which is not of God, let go of habits and old ways that are against what God has ordered for his children, turn away from sins and transgressions that grieve God and His children. This is the beginning of repentance, of humility, of introducing himself to God.
This is great faith, and a bold prayer.
The king is so overcome that he falls, just as Lamoni did (verse 18). The servants run to tell the queen, who finds Aaron and his friends standing near the king. She thinks they killed him, and order the servants to take them out to be killed for murdering the king (verse 19). But the servants had witnessed what happened, and plead with the queen not to harm these mighty men (verse 20). When she realizes they are afraid of the prophet, then she is also afraid, and so instead orders the servants to call the people to come and kill the prophet (verse 21).
“Now when Aaron saw the determination of the queen, he, also knowing the hardness of the hearts of the people, feared lest that a multitude should assemble themselves together, and there should be a great contention and disturbance among them; therefore he put forth his hand and raised the king from the earth…” (verse 22). When the queen and the servants saw this, they “greatly marveled”, and Aaron was able to teach them so that the whole household was converted (verse 23).
Many people had gathered after the queen had called them (verse 24), but Aaron ministered unto them so they were pacified (verse 25). When the king saw this, he asked Aaron to preach to the people of all the land (verses 26-35).