READ Mosiah 28:3-8
After their experience with the angel and their repentance, why did the sons of Mosiah “suffer much anguish of soul” fearing that they should be cast off forever?
Because although (with Alma 2) they had also been born of God, their calling and election had not been made sure and they had not been ministered to by Christ and entered into His rest (see D&C 132:21-25).
They did not know with surety that the course they were on was pleasing to the Lord to the extent that their salvation could be assured – beyond a general “directionally correct” feeling of “trying to keep the commandments” and succeeding most of the time (see LoF 6:2-8).
This was more concerning to them given their backgrounds of “vile sinfulness” although we are all in the same boat, as all are sinners and God cannot abide sin with the least degree of allowance – they were just more obvious, which was actually to their advantage as they were preoccupied with resolving their doubt and receiving a promise or hope of exaltation from God.
What does it imply when God said that the sons of Mosiah “shall have eternal life” if they are allowed to go preach to the Lamanites?
That they might not receive eternal life otherwise, despite their repentance. This seems to imply that you can’t just “dial in” your probationary state – “I’ve entered into the Gate, I am finished” is not acceptable.
The mission to the Lamanites is the vehicle through which they will be able to “sacrifice all things” and thus obtain faith unto salvation and ultimately receive the promise of their exaltation (see LoF 6; TPJS 171:2).
READ Alma 17:1-5
What had the sons of Mosiah done over 14 years to be able to teach with the power and authority of God?
They had listened to the angel who commanded them to repent.
They had searched the scriptures diligently to know the word of God for themselves.
They had connected directly with God themselves through much prayer and fasting – they labored in the Spirit or worked hard in the spiritual realm to connect with God.
They gave up their comforts (they were Nephite princes) to risk their lives in ministering to their sworn enemies the Lamanites for 14 years.
They suffered many afflictions including hunger, thirst, fatigue, prison, persecution, etc.
As a result, they had been blessed with spiritual gifts: prophesy and revelation.
They knew the Lord that they taught about – they met him again and again in their afflictions.
READ Alma 17:9-12
Why did the sons of Mosiah take courage as they began their missionary work?
They had received a promise from the Lord: go forth among the Lamanites and establish my word, be patient in affliction, and I will make you an instrument in my hands.
Note: there was no promise of physical protection…their father acquired such a promise but they did not (see Mosiah 28:1-9).
Their hope is in the success of their mission: the salvation of many souls.
Ammon and King Lamoni
READ Alma 17:20-25
How does King Lamoni react to Ammon’s refusal to marry one of his daughters and become a royal son-in-law to become, instead, a servant?
He considers it a snub and basically condemns him to death.
He does this by assigning Ammon to shepherd duty, knowing that the life expectancy for his shepherds was very short due to the sheep stealing crime wave that was in progress.
READ Alma 17:26-30
How did Ammon react to the scattering of the flocks?
He is thrilled – his heart is “swollen within him with joy”.
He sees this as an opportunity to show forth God’s power to win over the hearts of his peers, so that they might listen to him when he preaches the word of God to them.
He sees this as God intervening on his behalf to give him a chance to further his mission – not as a trial or affliction that needs to be overcome and especially not as the adversary trying to thwart him.
READ Alma 17:31-39
What do we learn about Ammon in these verses?
He was not a big, imposing guy and didn’t look edgy or scary – because the Lamanite hooligans assumed that any one of their men could kill Ammon, by themselves, whenever they wanted to.
He is a good leader – he quickly sees what needs to happen, he engages with his peers and builds them up, he clearly communicates his plan and the others immediately follow his instructions, despite his being new to the shepherd role and a Nephite.
He is brave or so full of faith that he is not afraid of a large gang of Lamanites.
He’s incredible with a sling-shot and sword – either through his own practice and/or with the power of God, he has ninja-like reflexes and superhuman strength – basically, he’s Batman without the scary costume, or maybe Legolas from The Lord of the Rings...
READ Alma 18:1-11
What does Lamoni understand God to be?
A Great Spirit.
Who punishes people for breaking His commandments – like murder.
Who has the ability to come down from heaven to intervene directly in the lives of men, with power.
Who inspires them in all their thoughts and actions, such that they “supposed that whatsoever they did was right” (they assume… although Lamoni’s fear that he is in trouble with the Great Spirit is giving him pause regarding this doctrine…).
READ Alma 18:17-21
What condition does Ammon set on his servitude to the king?
He will do whatever the king desires, as long as it is “right”.
Who has been scattering and stealing Lamoni’s flocks?
His “brethren” – his brothers or other royal family members.
Why does Lamoni want to know by what power Ammon defended his flocks?
It doesn’t seem to be because he wants that power himself.
He still doesn’t necessarily believe that Ammon isn’t the Great Spirit or at a minimum is sent from heaven (v33); because Ammon tells the king that he is just a man (v17) but Lamoni ignores him and asks him if he is really the Great Spirit (v18).
He seems to sense the supernatural power that Ammon has, for good, and wants to know more about it and him, such that he is willing to give Ammon whatever he asks – it doesn’t appear that he’s doing this to placate Ammon out of fear of him.
READ Alma 18:22-35
What is the thing that Ammon desires of Lamoni?
To “hearken unto my words”.
Hearken = to listen, to attend to what is uttered with eagerness or curiosity, to observe or obey, to hear by listening (1828 Webster’s Dictionary).
He wants the king to listen with an open mind and heart, with real intent, willing to be believing, willing to work to find out if what Ammon says is true, even if what he is told is offensive to him or flies in the face of the traditions he holds to be true.
What doctrine does Ammon establish with Lamoni first?
That there is an all-knowing God who created mankind after His image (v32).
And that Ammon has been called by God to teach the truth about God to the Lamanites (v34).
How does the Spirit work within Ammon?
A “portion” (not a fullness) “dwells” in his body.
It gives him knowledge, as God is all knowing and His Spirit intimately connects God with Ammon – and the Holy Spirit is the mind of God; knowledge comes from intelligence or light and truth.
It also gives him power to do things in the physical world that he would not otherwise be able to do – the power is because of the connection Ammon has with heavenly beings through the veil (i.e. priesthood).
It works according to Ammon’s faith in God.
But Ammon’s desires must be “in God” or completely aligned with God, in order to be honored; in fact, his faith is dependent upon his obtaining the will of God, otherwise doubt will be introduced into his mind and faith will diminish.
READ Alma 18:36-39
Why does Ammon risk telling Lamoni that the king’s ancestors had rebelled against God?
It is the truth – they did rebel.
That rebellion caused their people to drift from the truth and lose light and knowledge (see Alma 12:10-11).
It enabled a whole set of religious and cultural traditions to be established which the people believed in and practiced, which were not correct.
Believing in things that are false is “unbelief” and the stronger one’s beliefs, the less likely they will be open to the truth when it is presented to them, and the less likely they will seek after the truth in the first place, believing they already have it; and the more prideful they will be in their “chosen-ness”.
This is a test to see if Lamoni will truly “hearken” unto his words, even if they are offensive to everything he believes he knows to be true – is he truly an open, truth seeker or not?
What does Ammon teach last to Lamoni and why does he teach the other two topics (establishing the truth about God and the falseness of the traditions of their fathers) first?
Last message: The plan of redemption prepared from the foundation of the world; the coming of Christ; the works of the Lord in accomplishing that redemption through His condescension, ministry, atonement, death and resurrection.
Lamoni already has a belief in God and while it is not based on completely accurate knowledge, it’s surprisingly close to the truth in many respects; Ammon connects on a common belief; but more importantly, acknowledging the existence of God and then gaining a correct understanding of His attributes and characteristics is critical to Lamoni gaining faith unto salvation (see LoF 3:2-5).
Awaking and arising from the false traditions which bind one down is critical to being open to receiving the truth when it is taught; otherwise people will assess the truth against their false traditions and reject it, by definition – because it will go contrary to what they understand to be true.
READ Alma 18:40-43
Why did Lamoni, a wicked king who has just heard a “first discussion”, have such a powerful spiritual experience?
He truly believed all Ammon’s words.
He was seeking for the truth (albeit only recently) and was willing to do whatever Ammon or the Great Spirit asked him to do.
He was being taught by a man who spoke with the tongue of angels because he knew of what he taught, having been ministered to by an angel and having completely repented himself.
Why are we not having these kinds of spiritual experiences?
This should give us pause – this shows that the Lord is willing to connect and give intense spiritual experiences to people with much less “spiritual experience” than most members of the Church have today.
Are we believing? Are we seeking? Do we have debilitating traditions that bind us in unbelief? Are we as spiritually experienced as we’d like to believe?
Either we are not yet obeying the commandments God has given to us, or we are not yet in possession of the commandments we need to enter into and remain in His presence – those are the only two possible answers. We can’t say we’re doing everything right and God is just testing all of us… since the last 4 generations of Church members since the death of Joseph Smith have not manifested the same spiritual experiences as Joseph had or Lamoni in this story. And if we can’t blame God, it must be us that is the problem.
Lamoni chose to believe with his whole soul the things he had been taught – he “obeyed” in his heart, and the proof of his change of heart was demonstrated in his life from that time forward; but it is interesting to note that the Lord did not require demonstration of that behavior change before He blessed Lamoni with these great spiritual manifestations. It is men who require objective, outward proof (or time) in order to grant forgiveness, which should also give us pause… (see Alma 34:31).
READ Alma 19:6-8; 12-13
Compare King Lamoni’s experience with Alma II’s similar experience – what is the same and what is different?
Same: both were overcome by the Spirit to the degree that they lost consciousness; this “coma” lasted 3 days; both had a “dark veil of unbelief” cast away from their minds; both experienced exquisite joy; both saw Christ in vision; both were redeemed and changed.
Different: Alma was harrowed up and racked with all his sins for most of his “coma” while Lamoni was overcome with light and joy during all of his; Alma was an unwilling participant while Lamoni had already promised to believe all that he was taught by Ammon; Alma had been taught about Christ years before by his father and had rejected Him while Lamoni had a false understanding of God and had just been taught the truth and believed all he was taught.
Why were both wicked Lamoni and wicked Alma given the privilege of seeing Christ in vision?
Because He wants us ALL to come unto Him! (see Matthew 11:28; John 7:37; 2 Nephi 26:25; 2 Nephi 28:32; Alma 5:16; 3 Nephi 9:14, 22; 3 Nephi 11:14-17; 3 Nephi 12:19-20; 3 Nephi 18:25; Ether 4:13-14; Ether 12:27; John 14:15-23; D&C 130:3; D&C 132:21-25).
God’s work and glory is our immortality and eternal life (Moses 1:37); eternal life is to know God - not just knowing about God (John 17:3 and 3 Nephi 11:15); redemption from the fall is to be brought back into God’s presence (see Ether 3:13).
Because they forsook their sins, called on His name, obeyed His voice, covenanted to keep His commandments (see D&C 93:1) – every soul who does this shall see His face and know that He is! And God cannot lie or He would cease to be God.
READ Alma 19:16-17
What does Abish and her father’s experience teach us?
That God sends visions and messengers to all kinds of people according to His own will – He is no respecter of persons – you do not have to be a leader in a Church hierarchy or even a member of the true Church or even live in a land where the Gospel is available to be visited by the Lord or His messengers.
It is possible to be converted to Christ and live in a wicked society and stay true to the Lord.
The Lord sends visions to people so that others can also be converted (see Jeremiah 23:28).
READ Alma 19:28-30
Of what significance is it that this miracle is done by a servant woman, Abish, rather than by Ammon?
It shows that Abish had spiritual power to perform miracles, which requires an association through the veil with the powers of heaven (also known as a “priesthood”) to perform.
It shows that God is no respecter of persons and does not care for mortal lines of hierarchy or gender bias.
READ Alma 19:31-36
What does it mean to “hear” the words of God?
To open your heart to them.
To desire to believe the truth.
To truly listen to them with real intent (that if they are true, you will embrace them and change).
To act on them and prove them – albeit not blindly because they have to show good “fruit”.
What does it mean to have one’s heart changed and have no more desire to do evil?
You have a new spirit within you, animating you (see Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Moses 6:61; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
Your mind is renewed (see Romans 12:1-2).
Your spirit is “quickened” with light such that your frequency is raised to be filled with more glory or intelligence (see Moses 6:65-66; Alma 5:7).
You are released from the chains of hell and bands of death and freed from darkness (see Alma 5:7-14).
You begin to receive Christ’s image in your countenance or face (see Alma 5:14).
Why did the people see angels if Ammon was there to teach them?
There are some things that one man cannot teach another but must be learned by mankind including their standing before God and the bestowal of “sure knowledge”.
Angels have the duty to prepare mankind for the presence of Christ by preaching repentance (see Alma 13:29; Moroni 7:22-25; D&C 29:42).
At best, another man can tell about these things to each other; they can bear testimony to the fact that they have experienced them – that they are true anecdotally - and they can teach another about the path they personally took to get there (see LoF 2:54-56).
Aaron and the King of All Lamanites
READ Alma 21:4-6
What assumption does the Amalekite make with regards to the ministry of angels and Aaron’s claim in particular?
That angels only appear to righteous people.
That they are righteous as defined by being religious – at least as religious as the Nephites and definitely the sons of Mosiah (pre-conversion).
That angels have not ministered to them.
That if angels have not ministered to them, who are as religious as the Nephites, that they cannot have ministered to any Nephite.
So, Aaron is lying about the angel to borrow credibility toward his argument that the people should repent of their ways and adopt the Nephite religion.
Is the Amalekite making a good argument regarding the thoughts and intents of their hearts?
Yes, and no.
Yes, in that he is right that outward performances can make judgement incorrect – one must be able to look upon the thoughts and intents of the heart to make an accurate and godly judgement; in this case the people are very religious so it would be very hard to tell from outward appearances (see 1 Samuel 16:7; John 7:24).
No, in that Aaron and his companions have been filled with the Holy Spirit which knows all things and that Spirit has shown them and testified to them of the evil thoughts and intents of these hypocritical, religious people (see Hebrews 4:12; Alma 12:7).
READ Alma 21:7-12
Why did Aaron respond with a doctrinal question instead of just saying “the Spirit revealed your hearts to me”?
His question draws out the faith or lack thereof in a God who can redeem mankind.
It also draws out faith or disbelief in revelation from God – that God can reveal the future or the thoughts and intents of the heart through the Holy Spirit to mortals.
What strategy did the Amalekites use to rebuff Aaron’s preaching?
They appealed to their traditions (“we do not believe…”) – an ideology that they had inherited from others (parents or authority figures in their society) which was based, by definition, on an emotive connection to their society or those esteemed “figures”, not on reasoning or evidences.
They framed Aaron’s argument in terms of being just another “tradition”.
They would not engage in rational argument but turned the discussion away from pure knowledge or true facts by launching into a personal attack - “mocking” Aaron in anger.
Is Aaron’s lack of success coming from the fact that he was “contending” or arguing with the people?
It depends if he was debating or arguing (“what is right”) or engaging in contention (“who is right”).
Contending = to strive against, to struggle in opposition; to use earnest efforts to obtain; to defend and preserve; to dispute earnestly, to strive in debate; to strive to convince or reclaim (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary).
Contention is enmity, the state or feeling of being actively opposed or hostile to someone or something; it is of the devil and will not lead the seeker to the truth (3 Nephi 11:29); it is a reaction against a position rather than a defense against the evidences or reasons behind that position; it is teaching with one’s learning and denying the Holy Ghost (see 2 Nephi 28:4).
Debating using a persuasive argument should consist in the honest discussion of pure knowledge or true facts and the ability to deliver that knowledge skillfully enough that it stands as a witness, beyond reproach; “reasoning together” is to consider logical arguments with the intent of coming to a shared conclusion which, in order to be rational, must reconcile all addressed evidences for all parties (see D&C 50:10-12; Isaiah 1:18), but requires intellectual openness and honesty to do so.
How does “hardening one’s heart” prohibit “reasoning together” (D&C 50:10-12; Isaiah 1:18) over the word of God?
Because one party will not consider the logical arguments of all sides – they intend to only consider evidences that support their preconceived viewpoint or belief system.
They may refuse to listen altogether…
They may turn the logical argument into an angry personal attack where emotions cloud facts and an honest discussion of facts can no longer be conducted…
Or they may engage in “guile” or dishonest, sly craftiness (but short of lying) where they attempt to disrupt rational reasoning by distraction that draws attention away from a simple, honest analysis of the issue at hand – they use devices called “logical fallacies” including appealing to authority, appealing to common practice, appealing to tradition or ad hominem (where someone dismisses evidences or reasoning based on their impression of the person who is giving them – it is libel by label; the person is deemed as incapable of possessing truth and thus is easily ignored without objective consideration of their evidences) – “apostate” being the most effective ad hominem in the Church because members will immediately discount everything that the “apostate” says.
READ Alma 21:15-17
What is the relationship between one’s traditions and being brought to a knowledge of the truth?
Without uprooting false tradition, the individual’s ability to have faith on the Lord unto repentance is greatly limited (see Helaman 15:7).
While new truth will sometimes be compatible with that which is already understood (one’s “traditions”), it frequently opposes the extant or current beliefs of the hearer.
Unless one is open to the possibility that their traditions are not correct (or at a minimum woefully incomplete), they will judge new truth against their current understanding and reject the new truth out of hand.
And if that new truth concerns the nature of God…if you do not have a correct understanding of God’s character and attributes, you cannot have faith unto salvation because you have put your faith in a God that does not exist the way you think He does - and when He does not act in line with how you think He should (based on your false beliefs), doubt will creep into your mind and faith will depart; one cannot have faith in a God that does not exist (see LoF 4:17-19).
Or if that new truth concerns the atonement of Christ and the gospel covenant…if you do not have a correct understanding of what you must do to be saved, the chances of your doing what is required is remote – actually, it’s impossible.
How does one “convince” someone of the truth of the gospel?
It is not about convincing the hearer that you are right…
It is about convincing the hearer to pray to God believing that it could be right.
How should the gospel be taught and what are the implications?
With persuasion, longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, love, kindness and pure knowledge – all without guile (see D&C 121:41-42).
None of these characteristics connote an exchange of aligned positions – all of them speak to divergent views of the truth, otherwise why would persuasion, longsuffering and love need be used?
It requires a two-way exchange or debate or argument or “discussion” of alternative views.
This is because truth is not self-evident – if it was, there would not be conflicting views and no need for argument.
Also, man or the natural man is an enemy to God, his thoughts are not God’s thoughts, and he cannot comprehend God or His works without assistance from God so he does not have access to all the facts and wouldn’t understand them all if he did - so his best effort to know what is right (the truth) will be flawed; so man are incapable, on their own, of knowing what is right or wrong – what is true or false (see Mosiah 3:19; Isaiah 55:7-9; Moses 1) …
Without intervention from God – through the medium of the Holy Ghost which is the mind of God and can reveal all things to the one who has it within them (see LoF 5:2; Moroni 10:5).
New truth cannot be evaluated through the lens of the current beliefs of an individual (see John 7:24 JST); “candidate” truth can only be evaluated through individual revelation from God and only then if the individual asks with real intent – that the fact is possibly true and the individual is willing to act on it if confirmed it is true by God.
What must they do after they have been “convinced” that something may be true through rational argument?
They must “experiment upon the Word” for themselves.
They must connect with God themselves and go from rational argument and anecdotal testimony of others’ experiences to proving the doctrine by interacting with God themselves – to gain their own experiential knowledge or proof.
READ Alma 22:1-6
What is troubling the King and why?
What is the “Spirit of the Lord”? How does it dwell within you and connect you with God such that His will is revealed to you as well as the thoughts of others? How is it different from the “Great Spirit”?
The standard of judgement and the consequences for not aligning with that standard through repentance (i.e. change of mind and heart).
READ Alma 22:7-14
Why does Aaron teach the creation, fall and atonement in that order – why not just teach the atonement?
The creation gives context for the Fall of Man and the Fall gives context for the Atonement.
No natural man would willingly sacrifice what is required: their whole souls or “wills” – to God unless they understood their absolute need for salvation from sin and death.
You can’t understand your need for redemption via Christ until you understand your lost and fallen state, which happened because of the Fall.
You won’t understand why partaking of the forbidden fruit merited a telestial fall unless you understand the original creation and the commandments that were given in the Garden of Eden.
What does it mean that no human being can merit ANYTHING of himself?
We are all completely indebted to God and are unprofitable servants (see Mosiah 2:20-39).
God supports us from moment to moment (see Mosiah 2:20-25) – we can’t do anything without His aid.
We are nothing compared to God (see Moses 1:10).
READ Alma 22:15-18
How does the King understand the concept of being born again?
He has a “wicked spirit” that has “rooted” or has fixed itself to him (but is not him) which he cannot extricate himself from or remove.
God can root out the wicked spirit from him.
God can fill him with His Spirit, if he will receive it.
The two spirits seem mutually exclusive – they cannot both dwell in his breast or heart at the same time.
Receiving God’s Spirit means that he won’t be cast off at the Judgement day.
Receiving God’s Spirit will fill him with joy now and in eternity.
What is the difference between what the King initially offers God, what God wants from the King, and what the King actually offers God in prayer?
The King begins by offering God his temporal kingdom – he is offering to give up his livelihood, his worldly prestige and power, and his most defining personal element (since his birth): his kingship.
God does not want these things as He they are gifts from God and not something that the King can legitimately gift to God – they are not the King’s to give as God gave them to him and could take them back at any time.
God wants the King to bow down before Him to repent of his sins and call on His name in faith for forgiveness and to be born again or changed – God wants the King’s heart, the only thing the King has which is really his to give.
The King not only bows down but lays himself flat on the ground in an attitude of humility, supplication, and adoration, and cries mightily to God offering Him all his sins that he might know God and be saved at the Judgement; this must have been a shocking scene to all of the Lamanites who witnessed it.
Why does the King say “give away all my sins” rather than “forsake” my sins?
Give away implies that he no longer wants them but that at one time they were “dear” to him; sins can be “pets” that we hold close to the chest instead of enemies that have their tentacles or roots into us.
Forsake could mean to leave them behind and no longer participate in them but may not preclude thinking fondly about them in memory. Something is given away when it is no longer wanted.
Describe the level of faith the King displays in his prayer and the implications?
“If there is a God…” – He has just learned about God from Aaron and while he said that he believed earlier, now that he must talk to God, his faith is tested – does he really believe? Maybe. He is implying that he thinks there might be a god and has faith enough to pray publically in case it is true.
“And if thou art God…” – This is interesting because it implies that there could be other spiritual entities that one could pray to and connect with; if the entity Aaron has told him about is actually God…
“I will give away all…” – He is willing to give away all of his sins or in other words, change his entire life if this God exists and is the “God of love and redemption” that Aaron has told him about; he is exercising faith in that he has “real intent” to change at great personal cost to himself. He is putting himself on God’s altar as a sacrifice.
If God will answer the King’s prayer, He will answer yours! This is not an “iron-clad” faith but has many assumptions and loopholes for doubt but it is honest and with real intent – and so it was answered – ours can be, too – in like manner.