CLICK HERE to read Alma 24.
So the Lamanites and those who did not convert stirred up the other non-converts to anger (verse 1). This wasn’t just not-choosing-to-join-the-church, this was being ugly and mean about it: “And their hatred became exceedingly sore against them, even insomuch that they began to rebel against their king…” (verse 2). They are rebelling against the king who converted, because he gave the people the freedom to convert if they wanted. This is ironic because before the king converted, he forced the people to worship his way; now he gives them freedom to worship, and people get cranky. It’s so backwards, but people were too busy being contentious about it to notice.
But the king was old, and passed his kingdom on to his son (verse 3), and died the same year the Lamanites were preparing “for war against the people of God” (verse 4).
When Ammon the prophet saw that the Lamanites were preparing for war, they held a council to decide how to defend themselves (verse 5). However, there was not anyone among the converts who would take up arms or prepare for war – and the king also said they shouldn’t (verse 6). Instead, the king pointed out that they themselves were no different from this warring Lamanites before they converted, and that it was the prophets who taught them and God who rescued them from the “false traditions of our fathers” (verse 7).
“And behold, I thank my great God that he has given us a portion of his Spirit to soften our hearts” (verse 8), so they cannot go to war and keep their hearts soft. They understand that without God, they are no different from the people preparing war against them, and so instead of being hurt or angry or afraid, they have compassion and refuse to make war against them. They have “opened a correspondence” with these Lamanites, testifying to them, and going to war against them will destroy this testimony (verse 8). So they know that no matter what, they cannot be at war – and that even their refusal to go to war will be part of their testimony.
“And behold, I also thank my God, that by opening this correspondence we have been convinced of our sins, and of the many murders which we have committed” (verse 9). This is humility, that in the wake of being attacked, they stand firm in understand who God is and who they are and are strong in remembering that it is God who changed them. This keeps them soft, helps them focus on their testimony rather than dangers coming at them, and motivates them to testify instead of destroy.
“And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son” (verse 10).
Instead of focusing on what other people are doing wrong to them, they are focusing on what wrongs they know are their own fault – and how God has rescued them from these things.
We have all sinned, and the more we understand who God is, the more we understand how very far away we are – until we realize to what lengths He has gone to bring us to Him. And for that, He gets the credit, not anything we have done. Even as we are transformed, that is still to His credit (glory!), not our own.
We all have murdered. Even if not literal, physical murder, we still kill relationships, neglect friends, harm others, hurt feelings, squash the spirits of those who look up to us, step on those we don’t notice, and fail those who love us. At least I do. And these, I think, are both my worst failures and the most destruction I have caused and do caused. The only thing that can heal this kind of damage is pure love, a love way more pure than what I am able to create or come up with or give. The atonement is big enough, deep enough, complete enough, to cover even my “murders”, my sins, my transgressions. My sentence is paid. My Savior met the demands of justice by paying with His own life, and this is what enables me to find mercy even though I do not deserve it. This has always been part of His plan, and that is the gift of His grace, of His favor, of His love for me as His daughter ” (verse 11):
“And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain – ” (verse 11).
Now here is the good part: because of their understanding of this, because they understand God has taken their stains away, because their repentance is so complete, they do not want to re-stain themselves (verses 12-13). That is a complete repentance, not re-staining.
“And the great God has had mercy on us, and made these things known unto us that we might not perish; yea, and he has made these things known unto us beforehand, because he loveth our souls as well as he loveth our children” – and so it is by His mercy that He makes His plan known (verse 14).
This not-re-staining themselves is a testimony to God of their complete repentance (verse 15). Not repeating their mistakes, is part of the evidence that they are changed – that they believe He has changed them. Giving that evidence, that fruit, is their offering to God, for it is by His grace and glory that such a transformation is accomplished.
So the people decide that they will literally bury their swords in the earth as evidence, as testimony, that they will not go back to how they were before they converted (verse 16). It is evidence, or testimony, that they really are transformed. It is evidenced, or testimony, that they believe God is who He says He is and that they believe He can do what He promised to do. So all the people took their swords, and literally buried them in the earth (verse 17). This was their testimony to God and to other people that they would never go back to war, to “murder”, and that they would now give up their own lives before they would declare war against another (verse 18). This is how firm was the belief of the converted Lamanites, that they offered peace by burying their weapons (verse 19).
However, the Lamanites that did not convert still prepared for war (verse 20). When the converted people saw the warring Lamanites headed towards them, they went out to meet them and to offer peace. They prostrated themselves and began to pray (verse 21), and it was in this position – laying upon the earth in prayer – that the warring Lamanites began to slay them (verse 21).
“And thus without meeting any resistance, they did slay a thousand and five of them; and we know that they are blessed, for they have gone to dwell with their God” (verse 22), and when the peace-offering converts realized that they were going to die, they “praised God even in the very act of perishing under the sword” (verse 23).
This was such an incredible experience that it stopped the warring Lamanites in their tracks (verse 24). Their “hearts had swollen in them for those… who had fallen under the sword, for they had repented of the things which they had done” (verse 24). These, who had been part of the warring Lamanites, also laid down their weapons (verse 25). In this way, more people converted to God than those who had died praising God (verse 26). More than a thousand were “brought to a knowledge of the truth; thus we see that the Lord worketh in many ways to the salvation of his people” (verse 27).