As I have been reading in Mosiah, I was really struck by the story of Alma's people. There are countless stories in the scriptures, not just the Book of Mormon, of peoples that were destroyed or brought into bondage due to broken covenants and iniquity. I think it is really easy to assume or trust that things will be honky-dorey, except the occasional small hiccup-this is mortality after all, as long as we are doing all that we should. WRONG!!
The story of Alma's people is a prime example of this assumption being untrue. Alma, as we know, was one of the wicked priests of evil King Noah. Upon hearing Abinadi preach, Alma tried to plea for Abinadi's life and was therefore threatened himself. He fled and hid himself in a lovely place called Mormon where he recorded Abinadi's words, repented, and started to preach the gospel. He collected quite the group of believers and baptized them. They were discovered by Noah and were forced to leave. This group of about 450 then settled in a place called Helam where they grew and prospered. In Mosiah chapter 23 we learn that the people pitched their tents, and began to till the ground, and began to build buildings; yea, they were industrious, and did labor exceedingly. The priests and teachers were properly ordained and did watch over their people, and did nourish them with things pertaining to righteousness. And the people did multiply and prosper exceedingly in the land of Helam. They were doing great. They were righteous, following the teachings of Alma and his appointed teachers, working hard and, seemingly, doing all they should.
In the very next verse, you're given some fore-shadowing on this people's fate... Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith. What a bummer. We all know that chastening does not have a good connotation and trying our patience is always a growing experience, to say the least.
This people is wronged by the Lamanites and ultimately brought into bondage by them. As if that weren't bad enough, Amulon (another of King Noah's wicked priests, the one who stole Lamanites daughters, then used those very same daughters to gain favor with the Lamanites when they happened upon them in the wilderness) is put in charge of this righteous group of people as we learn in verse 39, And the king of the Lamanites had granted unto Amulon that he should be a king and a ruler over his people, who were in the land of Helam; nevertheless he should have no power to do anything contrary to the will of the king of the Lamanites.
Things go down hill for Alma's people pretty quickly as we read in chapter 24 And now it came to pass that Amulon began to exercise authority over Alma and his brethren, and began to persecute him, and cause that his children should persecute their children. For Amulon knew Alma, that he had been one of the king’s priests, and that it was he that believed the words of Abinadi and was driven out before the king, and therefore he was wroth with him; for he was subject to king Laman, yet he exercised authority over them, and put tasks upon them, and put task-masters over them.
The people, being righteous, cried mightily unto God (v10) and Ammulon put a quick stop to even that, upon penalty of death, in verse 11. So the people prayed continuously in their hearts and their prayers were answered because of their faith. We read about this in verses 13-16 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage. 14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. 15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord. 16 And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage. And, of course, His promised was fulfilled the very next day as he caused the Lamanites to fall into a deep sleep so Alma and his people could flee to the land of Zarahemla.
I believe these promises are available to us today. I know that all of my trials will not be solely as a result of my poor choices. There are certainly the choices of others that have an effect on me, but there are also going to be times in my life that my loving Father in Heaven knows I am ready for growth. As a family, we encountered a very difficult situation through no fault of our own and I can not properly express the humility, patience, faith, and love that was required for us to overcome that trying time in our lives. BUT we did. I can now look back and see how much that situation helped my marriage by forcing us closer and to work as a team, by making me realize again what an amazing person I was blessed with for an eternal companion. I can look back and see how my faith was strengthened and how we both certainly learned some humility. I look at my life now and see how incredibly blessed my life is now because we were sent down a path that we never would have chosen on our own.
I am so grateful to our Father in Heaven for the blessing of this sojourn here on earth. Our actions in life make the world of difference in being able to make it back to Him. But let's not forget the importance of our reactions. We will all be faced with trials that we did not choose... how will we react? Will we react as Alma's people? With faith and patience and diligence, raising our voices mightily unto God? I hope so because I want to see you all lifted up at the last day as we are promised by Alma.
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