It would likely be impossible to read all that has been written about the missions of Alma and the Sons of Mosiah as recorded in the Book of Mormon. A full 13 chapters of the Book of Alma are devoted to the Sons of Mosiah’s mission among the Lamanites. These chapters include the timeless stories of Ammon at the waters of Sebus, his confrontation with Lamoni’s father, the conversion of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis and, of course, the most famous line in the Book of Mormon…..”to me, he doth not stink”.
Seriously, these are marvelous stories of faith, endurance, and sacrifice – stories that endure as shining examples to each and every one of us who proclaim ourselves to be disciples of Christ. But there is another story in the Book of Mormon that might even outshine this one. I didn’t even realize how incredible it was until I read the fifth chapter of Helaman for the umpteenth time this morning.
In the previous chapter, we were presented with a very condensed version of the pride cycle. In this account, two waves of Nephite dissenters emigrated into the land of the Lamanites following a civil war that resulted in “much bloodshed” (Helaman 4:1). The first wave of dissenters were confronted with fresh memories of the bloody defeats at the hand of their Nephite brethren only 20 years before, but the second wave succeeded in stirring up enough hatred among the Lamanites to induce them to attack the Nephites one more time. In this disastrous war, the Lamanites captured more than half of the Nephite lands, including the Land of Zarahemla. The Nephites were forced to flee to the Land of Bountiful while “those dissenters of the Nephites, with the help of a numerous army of the Lamanites, had obtained all the possession of the Nephites which was in the land southward.”(Helaman 4:8)
The rest of Chapter 4 bemoans the Nephite apostasy that had led to this severe reversal of fortunes:
And it was because of the pride of their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, yea, it was because of their oppression of the poor, withholding their food from the hungry, withholding their clothing from the naked, and smiting their humble brethren upon the cheek, making a mock of that which was sacred, denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation, murdering, plundering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, rising up in great contentions and deserting away into the land of Nephi, among the Lamanites- (Helaman 4:12)
Verse 15 begins to describe the repentance process, following which, Moronihah led them to regain “the one-half of their property and the one-half of all their lands” (Helaman 4:16.)
Verses 20-25 describe the nature of their repentance; how they “were in great fear, lest they should be overpowered, and trodden down, and slain, and destroyed” (verse 20) by the Lamanites who “were exceedingly more numerous than they”……and that ”except they should cleave unto the Lord their God they must unavoidably perish” (verse 25).
The cycle was complete. Fear and humility from the Lamanite wars of Moroni had yielded to repentance resulting from the teachings of Helaman and Shiblon, the sons of Alma. Peace brought prosperity, which led all-too-predictably to pride, dissention, war and destruction as the Lord lifted His protective hand (Helaman 4:25).
It is here that things get really interesting. Nephi, like his grandfather, Alma the Younger, surrenders the judgment seat to Cezoram and sets out with brother Lehi to rebuild the strength of the church. Remembering the words of their father Helaman, exhorting them to “declare unto the people ….the commandments of God”.(Helaman 5:6), they met with great success re-converting those who had previously dissented from the church. Having restored the Lord’s church among the Nephites, they set out to preach to the Lamanites who had tarried in and around the Land of Zarahemla, converting 8000 of them such that they became “convinced of the wickedness of the traditions of their fathers” (Helaman 5:19).
When they went into the Land of Nephi to preach to the rest of the Lamanites, they were captured and thrown into prison – “even in that same prison in which Ammon and his brethren were cast by the servants of Limhi” (Helaman 5:21). Verse 23 begins the account of Nephi and Lehi being encircled about by a ring of fire as they were about to be slain by their captors. Verse 24 says:
And when they saw that they were encircled about with a pillar of fire, and that it burned them not, their hearts did take courage.
The walls shook and a cloud of darkness enveloped their Lamanite captors. A voice that foreshadowed the Lord’s coming at the temple in Bountiful called out to them, “Repent ye, repent ye, and seek no more to destroy my servants whom I have sent unto you to declare good tidings.” The voice, as described in verse 30, “….was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul—“ The voice repeated its message twice more before a Nephite dissenter named Aminadab cried unto the persecutors; “You must repent and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ….” (Helaman 5:41). When the cloud disappeared, the Nephites’ captors found themselves within the pillar of fire. Verses 45-49:
And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from Heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words.
And it came to pass that there came a voice unto them, yea, a pleasant voice, as if it were a whisper, saying:
Peace, Peace be unto you, because of your faith in my Well Beloved, who was from the foundation of the world.
And now, when they heard this they cast up their eyes as if to behold from whence the voice came; and behold, they saw the heavens open; and angels came down out of heaven and ministered unto them.
And there were about three hundred souls who saw and heard these things; and they were bidden to go forth and marvel not, neither should they doubt.
What a marvelous account of the Lord’s mercy and His power to save! Still, that’s hardly even the beginning of the story, although it is completed within the next three incredible verses! Verse 50:
And it came to pass that they did go forth, and did minister unto the people, declaring throughout all the regions round about all the things which they had heard and seen, insomuch that the more part of the Lamanites were convinced of them, because of the greatness of the evidences which they had received.
What?!!! Nearly the entire Lamanite nation – converted through the first-hand account of approximately 300 recent converts? Today, we rejoice, appropriately so, over one baptism! Whole missions in today’s church set annual goals of 200, 300, even 3000 baptisms, and these 300 recent converts (less than 2 missions’ worth of missionaries) were responsible for tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of baptisms! But the story gets even better! Verse 51:
And as many as were convinced did lay down their weapons of war, and also their hatred and the tradition of their fathers.
Incredibly, what could not be accomplished by almost 60 years of off –and-on warfare was brought about within less than a year doing it the Lord’s way. Both weapons and hatred were voluntarily laid down, ala the People of Ammon. (See links below.) And the crowning declaration is in verse 52:
And it came to pass that they did yield up unto the Nephites the lands of their possession.
What an amazing story; one easily as compelling as that of the Sons of Mosiah, yet instead of 13 chapters, it is told in one. These Lamanites were every bit as converted as the People of Ammon, but that history is described in one verse. And the armies of Moroni strove for 14 years before finally wresting their lands from the hands of the invading Lamanites, and this time it was all returned in one verse – apparently in a matter of weeks or months; and without bloodshed. But now the real point of this post…….
In this day of incredibly mounting tension between the western and Muslim worlds, dare we consider the possibility that the power of the Holy Spirit holds the key to defusing the bomb that looms over our world? Satan has promised to “buy up armies and navies”; he has never reneged on that promise; and its manifestations have never been more powerful than they are today. What sort of miracle would it take to invoke the Lord’s holy power on the world diplomatic stage? How prophetic was Ron Paul when he suggested during the South Carolina Presidential debates that we invoke the Golden Rule in our international relations? Do I…….do you…….do we have the courage to invite the Lord to protect this land as well as the lands of our brethren who have so much hatred towards us, and to bring us together within the fiery pillar of His love?
This story is yet another example of how the Book of Mormon is “as current as the morning newspaper”. …..“The Book of Mormon: Read All about It”, President Gordon B. Hinckley, New Era, Sept. 2003
The Book of Mormon is a powerful ensign for us living in the 21st century. It offers inspired guidance on everything from personal morality to the plan of salvation (Alma 39-42); from the role of the word of God in our quest for eternal salvation (1 Nephi 8) to a stunning caution against tolerating or condoning the secret combination that exert such an insidious influence on our world today (Ether 8). It contains beautiful and timeless expositions on faith, hope, charity, forgiveness, baptism, the Holy Ghost and eternal salvation. The account of the Savior’s visit to the temple at Bountiful rivals and complements all of His teachings from the four gospels. We have been exhorted by every prophet from Joseph Smith to Thomas Monson to read it, study it, absorb it and follow its teachings; yet there remain those within the church who treat its words casually; who refuse to recognize the power of its prophetic guidance and its essential relevance to the challenges that we face as individuals, as a church, as a world. I declare that we do so at our peril and to our own condemnation!