“They Taught with Power and Authority of God”
Taught By Jeff Stone
July 13, 2008
For the appropriate context of this week’s lesson, we need to turn back a few chapters to Mosiah 27 where we are reminded of Alma and the sons of Mosiah. Back in those days, they were persecuting the church. By the end of Mosiah 28 they’ve converted and have decided to serve The Lord and become missionaries.
It’s about this same time that Mosiah sets up the reign of the judges and the new government structure and shortly after passes away. Mosiah and Alma the elder both pass away in Mosiah 29 which is the final book of The Book of Mosiah. The first 16 chapters in The Book of Alma are a record of Alma’s dealings with the people along with Amulek’s dealings with the people.
For more about Amulek, see lesson 23, More Than One Witness where you will see how and where Alma and Amulek met each other. Lesson 23 and Lesson 24, Give Us Strength According to Our Faith … in Christ, go into depth about Alma’s and Amulek’s missionary work.
Structure of This Week’s Scriptures:
While traveling to Manti, Alma ran into the sons of Mosiah. The sons recounted what the had been doing for the past 14 years. As mentioned above, the first 16 chapters are about Alma’s efforts. The next few chapters are about the efforts of the sons of Mosiah. The record is an abridgment of Alma’s record of what the sons of Mosiah (Omner, Aaron, Ammon, Himni) recounted to Alma.
We are reading the translation of Mormon’s abridgment. The stories recounted to Alma happened between 90 and 77 BC. However they are being told to Alma in 77ish BC. Mormon abridged the record a few hundred years later, and then of course, 1400ish years later, Joseph Smith received Mormon’s abridgment and translated it into what we call Alma Chapter 17 to 26. The image below demonstrates this.
Chapters 17 to 21 are a recount of the events, and chapters 22 to 26 are the words of Aaron (one of the sons of Mosiah) and Muloki as they preached the gospel during the time period that is recounted in chapters 17 to 21.
A Hardened and Ferocious People:
The first thing the sons of Mosiah talk about to Alma is the fact that they were very successful in their efforts as missionaries. From Alma 17, we can learn what it takes to be a successfully missionary. Remember, “Every Member a Missionary.” In the first few verses (2-4) of Alma 17, we learn what they did to succeed:
- Study Scriptures
We learn in the next two verses (5 and 6) some of the many sacrifices they experienced. However, we quickly discover that these sacrifices were ones they were willing to accept because they truly loved the people they were serving, and they truly loved God.
In verses 10-14, we see what kind of people The Lamanites were and what kind of challenge the sons of Mosiah faced. They were, however, comforted by The Spirit in their challenges. This set of scriptures should give us hope when we share the gospel with our friends, neighbors and families. I doubt that any of us will be dealing with people as “hardened and ferocious” as The Lamanites were.
Next we learn of Ammon’s relationship with King Lamoni. In these verses, we will learn two very good “techniques” for teaching the gospel. First, love and serve the people you are teaching. Become their friend, and treat them as a friend, not a prospect. Secondly, work with them on a common ground.
Basically, Ammon is captured and bound and brought before King Lamoni. King Lamoni asked Ammon if he wanted to live there in the land of Ishmael with The Lamanites. Ammon said that he did and that, in fact, might live there the rest of his life (Alma 17:22–23). This please the King, and so he offered Ammon one of his own daughters as a wife, but Ammon refused and offered to be the King’s servant.
During this period of service, he had the King’s flock and along came some of the other Lamanites, and they scattered the King’s flock. The others who were also servants of the King helping Ammon were afraid that the King would kill them because the flock was lost.
However, Ammon saw this as a great opportunity to show them and the King the power of God. Ammon began to gather the flock together and had the other servants watch the flock while he went after the rest of them. Meanwhile The Lamanites began to continue to attack, but Ammon slung rocks at them and killed several of them. They began approaching Ammon with clubs trying to swing at him and kill him, but with each swing of the club Ammon cut off the arm with his sword.
The Lamanites finally left them alone. The servants picked up all of the arms and brought them to King Lamoni where they showed them and told the King all that had happened. They believed that Ammon might be the “Great Spirit” and they “knew” that Ammon could not be killed.
The King asked about this and offered to give all that he had if Ammon would tell him how he had such power. Ammon asked for one thing: for King Lamoni to believe Ammon’s words. The King Agreed.
Ammon then began to speak concerning what The Lamanites called “The Great Spirit” and explained that this was God. Thus he started with a common ground where he knew that Lamoni could relate. This was the beginning of the Ammon preaching the gospel to Lamoni. So we see the two principles in action: Friendship first. Secondly the common ground approach to teaching.
Of course this leads to many of the people being converted. They saw that Ammon had the power and authority of God and was able to teach and lead by The Spirit. Therefore The Spirit converted many. We can also learn from Ammon’s example of what he taught. He taught the basics of the gospel. He taught about the atonement and redemption. Upon hearing this word, the people and the King repented. (Alma 18:24–41).
Falling to The Earth and Back Again:
In Alma 18 verses 42 and 43, King Lamoni, due to his repentant heart, fell to the Earth as though he were dead. When the Queen discovers her husband, King Lamoni, appears to be dead, she seeks Ammon and she testifies that she knows that Ammon is a prophet of God, and therefore she would like Ammon to visit her husband.
Ammon tells her that her husband will rise the next day, and he asks her if she believes this. She says yes (Alma 19: 9). He then tells her that she has more faith than anyone amongst the Nephites. What a powerful thing to say, considering that at this time, the Nephites, for the most part, are a righteous people. Here she is the Queen of the Lamanites, “…ferocious people,” yet she is more faithful than the Nephites.
I think that verse 36 perfectly sums up the success as it begins with the phrase, “And thus the work of the Lord did commence among the Lamanites.” The verse continues, “thus the Lord did begin to pour out his Spirit upon them; and we see that his arm is extended to all people who will repent and believe on his name.”
Meeting the King’s King:
Lamoni’s conversion ultimately led to the conversion of his father who was king over all the Lamanite Kingdoms. Lamoni was excited to spread the gospel. Meanwhile, the Lord told Ammon to go to Middoni where his brother Aaron was in prison along with a couple of other servants, Muloki and Ammah.
If you read the first 20 verses of Alma 20, you find that on the way to Middoni, Lamoni and Ammon come across Lamoni’s father who is quite upset that Lamoni is with a “Nephite, a child of a liar“. When Lamoni tries to explain, his Father threatens to kill him and even attempts to do so, but Ammon steps in a saves Lamoni’s life by telling Lamoni’s father that killing Lamoni would be shedding innocent blood. Lamoni’s father then tries to kill Ammon, but Ammon block his blows and hurts the Lamoni’s Father’s arm so that he cannot fight back.
Lamoni’s father pleads for his life. He offered Ammon half of his kingdom to spare his life, but Ammon just wanted to free his brother and friends from prison. He asked for that and for Lamoni to be left alone. This gesture touched Lamoni’s father (Alma 20:21–30).
We discover through these past few chapters that Ammon’s love for the people was what converted them. It’s the old saying that people “… don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” These passages are proof of how true that is. Add to that the fact that this is no ordinary love; it’s the love of God and one of His servants.
Aaron Preaches The Gospel:
Remember that chapters 21 through 26 is a record of the words of Aaron. While the sons of Mosiah are recounting the stories to Alma in chapters 17 – 20, they tell the story of Ammon and King Lamoni. Then they, probably Aaron (my tie is over my shoulder), tells Alma the story of his trials and his words. This is covered in 21 through 26. This week we will only cover chapter 21 and chapter 22, and then only briefly.
Alma 21:1–15 tells the story of how Aaron and his friends ended up in prison. Please take a moment to read that account. In verses 14-17, we learn that Lamoni and Ammon finally arrived and freed them, and the first thing that Aaron and his companions do after freedom is go out and continue to preach.
Again, a huge lesson for us is that we can have hope that we can press forward in the midst of our trials. These missionaries dealt with things that likely none of us will ever have to deal with. It definitely puts things in perspective for me.
We see throughout the remainder of chapter 21 that the work continues. Lamoni, Ammon, Aaron, Muloki and others continue and the word of the Lord moves forward in the land of the Lamanites, and many people convert and are brought to the Lord through these missionary efforts.
Converting the King’s King:
As we learned earlier, Lamoni’s father was now interested in learning of The Lord, so Aaron teaches him. He teaches him in a similar manner that Ammon taught Lamoni by starting with the “Great Spirit” and making a connection. Then he moves on to the Fall and to the Atonement and so forth. He preaches and teaches the gospel to Lamoni’s Father. This is covered in Alma 22:1–15.
Lamoni’s father believes and wants to know what to do next. Aaron tells him three things in verse 16:
- Bow down before God
- Repent of all thy sins
- Call on [God’s] name in faith
The King (Lamoni’s father) was willing to “give away his sins” to know the truth and be saved. In verses 17-18 we see how willing the King was to convert. He bowed himself to the Earth, much like Lamoni, and was mistaken for dead.
When the Queen (Lamoni’s Father’s Wife) saw this, she thought he was dead. Aaron, in order to prevent a fight or any problems, he used the priesthood to raise up Lamoni’s Father. This event caused the King’s household to convert and the many of his people to convert.
Regarding King Lamoni’s Father’s conversion, President Ezra Taft Benson said: “Each of us must surrender our sins if we are to really know Christ. For we do not know Him until we become like Him. There are some, like this king, who must pray until they, too, have ‘a wicked spirit rooted’ from them so they can find the same joy” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1983, 63; or Ensign, Nov. 1983, 43).
At this point, in the remaining verses (28-35) the Lamanites begin to separate into two groups. The first group are those who believe and live in the cities. The second group are those referred to as idle (verse 28) and live in tents in the wilderness.
This begins the change in the dynamic between the Nephites and the Lamanites. We will see in the coming chapters what happens to each of these groups. Be sure to read ahead and be prepared.