Alma Chapter 19
1 And it came to pass that after two days and two nights they were about to take his body and lay it in a sepulchre, which they had made for the purpose of burying their dead.
2 Now the queen having heard of the fame of Ammon, therefore she sent and desired that he should come in unto her.
3 And it came to pass that Ammon did as he was commanded, and went in unto the queen, and desired to know what she would that he should do.
4 And she said unto him: The servants of my husband have made it known unto me that thou art a prophet of a holy God, and that thou hast power to do many mighty works in his name;
5 Therefore, if this is the case, I would that ye should go in and see my husband, for he has been laid upon his bed for the space of two days and two nights; and some say that he is not dead, but others say that he is dead and that he stinketh, and that he ought to be placed in the sepulchre; but as for myself, to me he doth not stink.
verse 5 "others say that he is dead and that he stinketh" Obviously this coma-like state of Lamoni's appeared to most observers to be very much like death.
6 Now, this was what Ammon desired, for he knew that king Lamoni was under the power of God; he knew that the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness-yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God-
verse 6 "the light of the glory of God" The "light" spoken of here refers to eternal truths, doubtless emanating from the Lord Jesus Christ himself-the light of Christ. If the reader has an interest in the topic of light, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 15, The Concept of Light.
7 Therefore, what the queen desired of him was his only desire. Therefore, he went in to see the king according as the queen had desired him; and he saw the king, and he knew that he was not dead.
8 And he said unto the queen: He is not dead, but he sleepeth in God, and on the morrow he shall rise again; therefore bury him not.
verse 8 "He is not dead, but he sleepeth in God" Just what is the nature of this peculiar coma-like state into which king Lamoni had lapsed? What does it mean to "sleep in God?" Apparently it is a state in which the body and its higher functions are suspended so the spirit may become free of the body and become focused completely on the Holy Spirit and the revelations which he brings from heaven. This trance is indeed a special gift of the Spirit which the Lord may use in order to provide important revelation to man. "Freed from the fetters of a mortal body, man's spirit can be ushered into the divine presence; it can hear what otherwise could not be heard and see what otherwise could not be seen-even the visions of eternity and even the Almighty himself" (Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 140). See also the commentary for verse 34 of this chapter.
9 And Ammon said unto her: Believest thou this? And she said unto him: I have had no witness save thy word, and the word of our servants; nevertheless I believe that it shall be according as thou hast said.
10 And Ammon said unto her: Blessed art thou because of thy exceeding faith; I say unto thee, woman, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites.
verses 9-10 One LDS author has compared the queen's reaction to the period of her husband's coma to the incident when Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead: "Martha, Lazarus's sister, did not have the faith to understand what Jesus was teaching when he told her, 'Thy brother shall rise again'(John 11:23). Not until she saw her brother walk out of the tomb did she realize that he was not referring to rising after the resurrection. Lamoni's wife, on the other hand, established her beliefs after hearing only the testimony of Ammon and her servants. When Ammon told her that her husband would rise the next day, she responded, 'I believe that it shall be according as thou hast said' (Alma 19:9). It is not surprising that Ammon blessed her for her great faith" (Camille Fronk in "Show Forth Good Examples in Me," Studies in Scripture Volume Seven 1 Nephi to Alma 29, 321-24).
11 And it came to pass that she watched over the bed of her husband, from that time even until that time on the morrow which Ammon had appointed that he should rise.
12 And it came to pass that he arose, according to the words of Ammon; and as he arose, he stretched forth his hand unto the woman, and said: Blessed be the name of God, and blessed art thou.
13 For as sure as thou livest, behold, I have seen my Redeemer; and he shall come forth, and be born of a woman, and he shall redeem all mankind who believe on his name. Now, when he had said these words, his heart was swollen within him, and he sunk again with joy; and the queen also sunk down, being overpowered by the Spirit.
verse 13 "I have seen my Redeemer; and he shall come forth, and be born of a woman, and he shall redeem all mankind who believe on his name" One of the characteristics inevitably found in those who have experienced a mighty change in their hearts or have been converted to the gospel is a profound faith in Jesus Christ and an irresistible desire to testify of him.
14 Now Ammon seeing the Spirit of the Lord poured out according to his prayers upon the Lamanites, his brethren, who had been the cause of so much mourning among the Nephites, or among all the people of God because of their iniquities and their traditions, he fell upon his knees, and began to pour out his soul in prayer and thanksgiving to God for what he had done for his brethren; and he was also overpowered with joy; and thus they all three had sunk to the earth.
15 Now, when the servants of the king had seen that they had fallen, they also began to cry unto God, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them also, for it was they who had stood before the king and testified unto him concerning the great power of Ammon.
verse 15 "for the fear of the Lord had come upon them also" It would seem that the "fear" which came upon these servants, undoubtedly communicated by the Spirit of the Lord, was more reverence and awe than dread, terror, and fright.
16 And it came to pass that they did call on the name of the Lord, in their might, even until they had all fallen to the earth, save it were one of the Lamanitish women, whose name was Abish, she having been converted unto the Lord for many years, on account of a remarkable vision of her father-
verse 16 "even until they had all fallen to the earth" These servants also were privileged to participate in the experience of having a divinely-induced trance wherein they were taught and converted by the Spirit.
"Abish" See the supplemental article, Names in the Book of Mormon.
17 Thus, having been converted to the Lord, and never having made it known, therefore, when she saw that all the servants of Lamoni had fallen to the earth, and also her mistress, the queen, and the king, and Ammon lay prostrate upon the earth, she knew that it was the power of God; and supposing that this opportunity, by making known unto the people what had happened among them, that by beholding this scene it would cause them to believe in the power of God, therefore she ran forth from house to house, making it known unto the people.
verses 16-17 "having been converted unto the Lord for many years, on account of a remarkable vision of her father . . . and never having made it known" The phrase "remarkable vision of her father" is obviously ambiguous. Just who had the vision? Did Abish see her father in a vision? Or did her father have a vision which he shared with her? It would seem that the latter interpretation is more likely, though it is difficult to be certain.
One can only speculate as to Abish's private thoughts over these "many years" since her conversion. Might she have wondered why her father had been blessed with a "remarkable vision." Was there to be any purpose beyond her own conversion? Would she ever be able to share her joy with others? After all, aren't visions usually given by the Lord for specific purposes? Seeing the condition of the king and his court, she may well have thought, "This is it! This is the purpose for which I have been converted!"
18 And they began to assemble themselves together unto the house of the king. And there came a multitude, and to their astonishment they beheld the king, and the queen, and their servants prostrate upon the earth, and they all lay there as though they were dead; and they also saw Ammon, and behold, he was a Nephite.
19 And now the people began to murmur among themselves; some saying that it was a great evil that had come upon them, or upon the king and his house, because he had suffered that the Nephite should remain in the land.
20 But others rebuked them, saying: The king hath brought this evil upon his house, because he slew his servants who had had their flocks scattered at the waters of Sebus.
21 And they were also rebuked by those men who had stood at the waters of Sebus and scattered the flocks which belonged to the king, for they were angry with Ammon because of the number which he had slain of their brethren at the waters of Sebus, while defending the flocks of the king.
22 Now, one of them, whose brother had been slain with the sword of Ammon, being exceedingly angry with Ammon, drew his sword and went forth that he might let it fall upon Ammon, to slay him; and as he lifted the sword to smite him, behold, he fell dead.
verse 22 Seeing Ammon completely defenseless, this Lamanite decided to gain retribution for his slain brother.
23 Now we see that Ammon could not be slain, for the Lord had said unto Mosiah, his father: I will spare him, and it shall be unto him according to thy faith-therefore, Mosiah trusted him unto the Lord.
verses 22-23 There can be no doubt that the Lord can and does intervene at times to lengthen or shorten our sojourns in mortality when it suits his purposes. Part of the message of comfort which the Lord revealed to the prophet Joseph while he was a prisoner in the jail at Liberty, Missouri, was: "Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever" (D&C 122:9). However, we should probably not assume that every death suffered by a mortal was willed by God. A thoughtful consideration of the nature of this mortal existence seems to leave room for the occurrence of accidental deaths as well ("mortal accidents"). It would seem that the Lord only infrequently orchestrates or micro-manages the deaths of mortals, and that for his specific purposes. Most often our mortal death is left to be the result of the nature of this frail mortal experience.
24 And it came to pass that when the multitude beheld that the man had fallen dead, who lifted the sword to slay Ammon, fear came upon them all, and they durst not put forth their hands to touch him or any of those who had fallen; and they began to marvel again among themselves what could be the cause of this great power, or what all these things could mean.
25 And it came to pass that there were many among them who said that Ammon was the Great Spirit, and others said he was sent by the Great Spirit;
26 But others rebuked them all, saying that he was a monster, who had been sent from the Nephites to torment them.
27 And there were some who said that Ammon was sent by the Great Spirit to afflict them because of their iniquities; and that it was the Great Spirit that had always attended the Nephites, who had ever delivered them out of their hands; and they said that it was this Great Spirit who had destroyed so many of their brethren, the Lamanites.
verses 25-27 Isn't it true that here on earth among us mortals there is a wide divergence in our abilities to discern situations having eternal implications? It seems clear that the essential yet variable ingredient is receptiveness to the promptings of the Spirit. When the Spirit is lacking, a mortal looks upon the handiwork of God and inevitably finds nothing of God in it. Mortal logic and intellect is absolutely unable to discern and perceive spiritual meaning. Here, some of the Lamanites in their inability to understand spiritual things made incorrect conclusions about Ammon. It is interesting that at the time of Enoch, some people who did not understand him called him a "wild man" (Moses 6:38).
28 And thus the contention began to be exceedingly sharp among them. And while they were thus contending, the woman servant who had caused the multitude to be gathered together came, and when she saw the contention which was among the multitude she was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto tears.
verse 28 Abish cried in her disappointment. Many of the Lamanites present could not see the obvious profound spiritual meaning of this event that she could see.
29 And it came to pass that she went and took the queen by the hand, that perhaps she might raise her from the ground; and as soon as she touched her hand she arose and stood upon her feet, and cried with a loud voice, saying: O blessed Jesus, who has saved me from an awful hell! O blessed God, have mercy on this people!
30 And when she had said this, she clasped her hands, being filled with joy, speaking many words which were not understood; and when she had done this, she took the king, Lamoni, by the hand, and behold he arose and stood upon his feet.
verse 30 "speaking many words which were not understood" It is difficult to know, in the context of this phrase, whether the queen was speaking in tongues-in the Adamic language, the language of God-or whether she was speaking their language, but speaking of concepts by the inspiration of the Spirit which were not understood by her listeners because of their profound doctrinal meaning.
31 And he, immediately, seeing the contention among his people, went forth and began to rebuke them, and to teach them the words which he had heard from the mouth of Ammon; and as many as heard his words believed, and were converted unto the Lord.
verse 31 "as many as heard his words believed, and were converted unto the Lord" In the next verse we will learn that "there were many among them who would not hear his words." We are not talking about acoustical phenomena here. Those who "heard his words" were not just those who were within earshot of his voice. They were those who chose to hear and accept his words. Similarly, those "who would not hear his words" were those who chose not to accept and believe them.
32 But there were many among them who would not hear his words; therefore they went their way.
33 And it came to pass that when Ammon arose he also administered unto them, and also did all the servants of Lamoni; and they did all declare unto the people the selfsame thing-that their hearts had been changed; that they had no more desire to do evil.
verse 33 "they had no more desire to do evil" A statement by President Joseph F. Smith, as he spoke of his own conversion, is pertinent here: "I felt that I would not injure the smallest insect beneath my feet. I felt as if I wanted to do good everywhere to everybody and to everything. I felt a newness of life, a newness of desire to do that which was right. There was not one particle of desire for evil left in my soul" (Gospel Doctrine, 96).
34 And behold, many did declare unto the people that they had seen angels and had conversed with them; and thus they had told them things of God, and of his righteousness.
verse 34 This remarkable story of the trance-like state that fell upon the household of Lamoni might seem to some to be peculiar. Is this a "teaching technique" or revelatory device unique to the Book of Mormon? Has the Lord employed this method for revealing information on other occasions to other people? Are similar experiences found elsewhere in the scriptures? There are indeed some anecdotes in the Bible that are more easily explained once we have read and understood the story of Lamoni and his household. On one occasion in the Old Testament Balaam fell "into a trance" and had "his eyes open[ed]" in order that he might see "the visions of the Almighty" (Numbers 24:16). The prophet Ezekiel reported that on one occasion as he sat in his house, "the hand of the Lord God fell there upon [him]," and he beheld "the visions of God" (Ezekiel 8:1-2). In the New Testament Peter "fell into a trance, and saw the heaven opened." He then received the revelation in which the Lord extended the blessings of the gospel to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews (Acts 10:10-11). It is significant that Paul, the great missionary to the Gentiles, received his call to preach to the Gentiles under similar circumstances. "While I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; and saw him saying unto me, make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me" (Acts 22:17-18).
35 And it came to pass that there were many that did believe in their words; and as many as did believe were baptized; and they became a righteous people, and they did establish a church among them.
verse 35 By what influence were Lamoni and his servants and many of the Lamanites converted? Was it the miraculous demonstrations of Ammon's power that converted them? After all, they had been witness or at least had heard of Ammon's phenomenal exploits at the waters of Sebus. They had seen the king and all his household fall into a trance and awaken converted to the gospel. They had watched as a would-be assassin fell dead as he raised his sword to kill the defenseless Ammon as he lay in a trance. Did all these miracles result in their conversion? Was it the angel who visited the younger Alma and the sons of Mosiah who converted them? Of course it was not. It was simply and completely the influence of the Spirit of God who converted all these people as they observed "the goings on" (Alma 5:46).
36 And thus the work of the Lord did commence among the Lamanites; 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.