Alma Chapter 28
1 And now it came to pass that after the people of Ammon were established in the land of Jershon, and a church also established in the land of Jershon, and the armies of the Nephites were set round about the land of Jershon, yea, in all the borders round about the land of Zarahemla; behold the armies of the Lamanites had followed their brethren into the wilderness.
verse 1 Apparently members of the Nephite armies were deployed in two separate ways in order to protect the people of Ammon against pursuing Lamanites. First, they were placed "round about the land of Jershon." The land of Jershon was a limited land within the larger land of Zarahemla-like a "state" within a country. Second, they were assigned to guard the "borders round about the land of Zarahemla" where invading Lamanites would be likely to cross. It would not have been necessary to patrol the entire length of the border, since it is likely that there were but a limited number of practical routes by which men could enter Zarahemla. It would have been necessary to secure only these few.
2 And thus there was a tremendous battle; yea, even such an one as never had been known among all the people in the land from the time Lehi left Jerusalem; yea, and tens of thousands of the Lamanites were slain and scattered abroad.
verse 2 "Abroad" here may be interpreted "far and wide."
3 Yea, and also there was a tremendous slaughter among the people of Nephi; nevertheless, the Lamanites were driven and scattered, and the people of Nephi returned again to their land.
4 And now this was a time that there was a great mourning and lamentation heard throughout all the land, among all the people of Nephi-
5 Yea, the cry of widows mourning for their husbands, and also of fathers mourning for their sons, and the daughter for the brother, yea, the brother for the father; and thus the cry of mourning was heard among all of them, mourning for their kindred who had been slain.
6 And now surely this was a sorrowful day; yea, a time of solemnity, and a time of much fasting and prayer.
verse 6 "a sorrowful day . . . a time of much fasting and prayer" It would seem that the ancient Hebrews and the Nephites practiced fasting in a context somewhat different from the way we practice it today. It was, for example, practiced at times of grieving and sorrowing, and it seems to have been part of their funeral custom. In the Old Testament and in the Book of Mormon, we read of fasting associated with mourning on behalf of the dead (see 1 Samuel 31:13; 2 Samuel 1:12; Alma 30:2). On one occasion David evidenced his grief at Abner's death by fasting (2 Samuel 3:35).
7 And thus endeth the fifteenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi;
8 And this is the account of Ammon and his brethren, their journeyings in the land of Nephi, their sufferings in the land, their sorrows, and their afflictions, and their incomprehensible joy, and the reception and safety of the brethren in the land of Jershon. And now may the Lord, the Redeemer of all men, bless their souls forever.
verse 8 "sufferings . . . sorrows . . . incomprehensible joy" Is it not true that these three summarize the experience of those involved in diligent service of the Lord in this mortal world? Perhaps missionary work is especially likely to be associated with these emotions.
9 And this is the account of the wars and contentions among the Nephites, and also the wars between the Nephites and the Lamanites; and the fifteenth year of the reign of the judges is ended.
10 And from the first year to the fifteenth has brought to pass the destruction of many thousand lives; yea, it has brought to pass an awful scene of bloodshed.
11 And the bodies of many thousands are laid low in the earth, while the bodies of many thousands are moldering in heaps upon the face of the earth; yea, and many thousands are mourning for the loss of their kindred, because they have reason to fear, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are consigned to a state of endless wo.
verse 11 To "molder" is to decay, to waste away, to crumble into dust.
"because they have reason to fear, according ot the promises of the Lord, that they are consigned to a state of endless wo" These phrases refer to those who know about the Lord's promises of eternal joy or eternal condemnation promised to the righteous and the unrighteous, and they have not lived up to the Lord's commandments. The term "endless wo" does not mean that suffering continues forever. Rather "endless" refers to God's suffering. God is endless, and that suffering which occurs at his hand is referred to as God's suffering or endless suffering, referring not to the duration of the suffering but rather to its initiator (see D&C 19:10-12).
12 While many thousands of others truly mourn for the loss of their kindred, yet they rejoice and exult in the hope, and even know, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are raised to dwell at the right hand of God, in a state of never-ending happiness.
verses 11-12 To our dispensation the Lord has given what has been called the "law of mourning": "Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die, and more especially for those that have not hope of a glorious resurrection. And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them; and they that die not in me, wo unto them, for their death is bitter" (D&C 42:45-47).
13 And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men.
verse 13 "how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression" Because of tremendous differences in the diligence of men in keeping the laws of God, there is a broad disparity in the level of righteousness among men.
Another meaning is important here. A righteous community characteristically shares among its members a feeling of equality and mutual respect. As sin and transgression make themselves more evident among a people, there is a shift from an egalitarian to a ranked and stratified society (Alma 4:11-12; Alma 5:54; 3 Nephi 6:11-14). This concept of a class system is based on the righteousness or unrighteousness of individuals within the system according to the laws of God. In this type of "class system," those in the "upper class" yearn and labor for the welfare of those in the "lower class." Among the upper class charity is the manner of dealing with others in the system.
In the world, however, class systems are commonly based on worldly criteria which include wealth versus poverty, education versus ignorance, refined culture and manners versus baseness. These systems are based on pride and not charity. The widening gulf between these classes, as for example between the elite class and the commoner, has been, in the world's history, a major factor leading to the eventual collapse of societies.
14 And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord; and thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing-sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life.
verse 14 "the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord" That is, in the Lord's "class system," there exists a noble and magnificent calling for all men to serve diligently in the Lord's vineyard in order to lift those in the "class" below them.
"and joy because of the light of Christ unto life" The concept of joy has been referred to many times in the Book of Mormon text. True joy is a very specific, and not at all a generic, concept. Joy is, in the ultimate sense, a gift given to man by the Spirit of God. It can only be earned through persistent righteous living. It is the same joy that the Father and the Son experience. There are, of course as there are for all gifts of the Spirit, worldly imitations such as "happiness" or "pleasure." These worldly facsimiles are not inherently evil or wicked. They may even be wholesome and uplifting. They do, however, lack that abiding and soul-affirming quality found in true joy. True joy can only come from the Lord. It is divine compensation for satisfactory spiritual progress. Joy is figuratively the "ice cream cone" the Lord gives us for obeying him.
Another spiritual gift related to joy which is also given by the Spirit of God to those who have paid the price is peace-the peace of God. This is the quiet assurance that one's course in life is pleasing in the sight of God (D&C 19:23; D&C 59:23). Those who experience this peace also experience the spiritual gift of hope. They enjoy the state we may refer to as the "rest of the Lord" (see the discussion of the gift of hope in "Two Little-Appreciated Gifts of the Spirit" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 10, Deliberate Faith and Revealed Faith and in "The Fruits of Faith" in volume 1, chapter 11, Other Notes on Faith. Still further discussion of this topic is found in "The Rest of the Lord-the Gift of Hope" in volume 1, chapter 17, Justification and Sanctification).