Mosiah Chapter 23
Mosiah 23-24 The senior Alma and his people in the wilderness
Mosiah 23:21 The Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.
An account of Alma and the people of the Lord, who were driven into the wilderness by the people of King Noah. Comprising chapters 23 and 24.
1 Now Alma, having been warned of the Lord that the armies of king Noah would come upon them, and having made it known to his people, therefore they gathered together their flocks, and took of their grain, and departed into the wilderness before the armies of king Noah.
verse 1 Alma and his people left the place called Mormon.
2 And the Lord did strengthen them, that the people of king Noah could not overtake them to destroy them.
3 And they fled eight days' journey into the wilderness.
4 And they came to a land, yea, even a very beautiful and pleasant land, a land of pure water.
verse 4 Geographical note: The land to which Alma and his party fled, the land of Helam, was probably off the usual trail between the land of Nephi and Zarahemla since the Lamanite army will later stumble onto it while they are lost in the wilderness (see Mosiah 23:30; Mosiah 23:35).
5 And they pitched their tents, and began to till the ground, and began to build buildings; yea, they were industrious, and did labor exceedingly.
verses 6-9 Notice in these next four verses how Alma's experience with King Noah, and undoubtedly divine revelation, had turned him into an ardent anti-monarchist. He voices two major objections to having a king. First, he believed that it was not right that one man should be esteemed above another as a king is esteemed more highly than his subjects. Second, a wicked king might tend to spawn wickedness and iniquity in his subjects. Alma could personally testify of this danger since Noah had succeeded in leading him into wickedness. It is clear from examples in the Old Testament and in the Book of Mormon that kings set the moral tone for their people. Their potential influence over their people was profound. Alma perceived that the monarch's power and influence over his people was significant whether he chose to do good or whether he elected to do evil.
6 And the people were desirous that Alma should be their king, for he was beloved by his people.
7 But he said unto them: Behold, it is not expedient that we should have a king; for thus saith the Lord: Ye shall not esteem one flesh above another, or one man shall not think himself above another; therefore I say unto you it is not expedient that ye should have a king.
8 Nevertheless, if it were possible that ye could always have just men to be your kings it would be well for you to have a king.
9 But remember the iniquity of king Noah and his priests; and I myself was caught in a snare, and did many things which were abominable in the sight of the Lord, which caused me sore repentance;
verse 9 The phrase "sore repentance" is a reminder that there is no true repentance without suffering.
10 Nevertheless, after much tribulation, the Lord did hear my cries, and did answer my prayers, and has made me an instrument in his hands in bringing so many of you to a knowledge of his truth.
11 Nevertheless, in this I do not glory, for I am unworthy to glory of myself.
12 And now I say unto you, ye have been oppressed by king Noah, and have been in bondage to him and his priests, and have been brought into iniquity by them; therefore ye were bound with the bands of iniquity.
verse 12 What does it mean to be "bound with the bands of iniquity"? The bondage in which the Nephites lived in the land of Nephi under the tyrannical leadership of King Noah, and later in captivity to the Lamanites, was apparently the direct result of their own sins. A misuse of one's agency leads to a loss of freedoms. See Agency and Freedom in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 13.
13 And now as ye have been delivered by the power of God out of these bonds; yea, even out of the hands of king Noah and his people, and also from the bonds of iniquity, even so I desire that ye should stand fast in this liberty wherewith ye have been made free, and that ye trust no man to be a king over you.
verse 13 "stand fast in this liberty wherewith ye have been made free" Do not risk losing your new-found freedom or liberty by misusing your agency. Do not fail to distinguish clearly between the concepts of agency and freedom (liberty). See Agency and Freedom, in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 13.
14 And also trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments.
15 Thus did Alma teach his people, that every man should love his neighbor as himself, that there should be no contention among them.
verse 15 One New Testament account of the Last Supper gives the impression that the "golden rule" was a new commandment given during Christ's mortal ministry. John 13:34 reads: "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you" (italics added). This is a mis-impression. For one thing, Christ had earlier in his ministry taught the golden rule to his disciples (Matthew 7:12). We know that the golden rule was actually part of the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Sinai (Leviticus 19:18).
16 And now, Alma was their high priest, he being the founder of their church.
verse 16 It was the pattern of ancient Israel that a single high priest should preside over the whole church or at least a region of the church. The high priest ordained priests and teachers and later, elders (Alma 4:7; Alma 4:16; Alma 6:1; Moroni 3:1; Moroni 4:1; Moroni 6:1; Moroni 6:7) to assist him in directing the affairs of the church. Since there is no evidence that the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood existed in the New World at that time, all of these positions are presumed to be offices of the Melchizedek priesthood.
17 And it came to pass that none received authority to preach or to teach except it were by him from God. Therefore he consecrated all their priests and all their teachers; and none were consecrated except they were just men.
verse 17 "none received authority to preach or to teach except it were by him from God" The wording here is a bit awkward, but the meaning is clear. It is apparent that Alma possessed not only the priesthood, but also the keys of the priesthood-the right of presidency.
The word "consecrated" in this verse may be interpreted as ordained or set apart.
verses 18-24 The reader may be surprised to learn that these few verses represent the passage of nearly thirty years in the wilderness during which time Alma and his people lived and prospered.
18 Therefore they did watch over their people, and did nourish them with things pertaining to righteousness.
19 And it came to pass that they began to prosper exceedingly in the land; and they called the land Helam.
20 And it came to pass that they did multiply and prosper exceedingly in the land of Helam; and they built a city, which they called the city of Helam.
verse 20 We are reminded again that the word "city" in the Book of Mormon must be interpreted with caution. While we may see, in our mind's eye, a city as the center of a large population of people, we know that Alma and his company comprised only four hundred and fifty people (Mosiah 18:35). This "city" was more of a village.
verses 21-24 These verses comprise an editorial note written by the prophet Mormon. It has an ominous tone and indicates that Mormon is about to teach us an important lesson about trusting in the Lord. He will use as his text for this lesson the example of the experiences of the people of Alma.
21 Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.
verse 21 "the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people" To chasten is to punish; to correct by punishment; to inflict pain for the purpose of teaching an offender. It is fundamental, of course, to this mortal experience that we be tried and chastened (Helaman 12:3; D&C 95:1; D&C 95:136:31). There can be no growth without trial and pain.
22 Nevertheless-whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day. Yea, and thus it was with this people.
verse 22 To be "lifted up at the last day" is to be eventually saved or exalted in the celestial kingdom. On a more practical level, he who puts his trust in God will ultimately emerge the victor, though the Lord's timetable for that victory may be different from man's.
23 For behold, I will show unto you that they were brought into bondage, and none could deliver them but the Lord their God, yea, even the God of Abraham and Isaac and of Jacob.
24 And it came to pass that he did deliver them, and he did show forth his mighty power unto them, and great were their rejoicings.
25 For behold, it came to pass that while they were in the land of Helam, yea, in the city of Helam, while tilling the land round about, behold an army of the Lamanites was in the borders of the land.
verse 25 "an army of the Lamanites was in the borders of the land" We will learn in verse 30 that this is the Lamanite army which had become lost in the wilderness while pursuing the people of Limhi who had escaped from the city of Nephi.
26 Now it came to pass that the brethren of Alma fled from their fields, and gathered themselves together in the city of Helam; and they were much frightened because of the appearance of the Lamanites.
27 But Alma went forth and stood among them, and exhorted them that they should not be frightened, but that they should remember the Lord their God and he would deliver them.
28 Therefore they hushed their fears, and began to cry unto the Lord that he would soften the hearts of the Lamanites, that they would spare them, and their wives, and their children.
29 And it came to pass that the Lord did soften the hearts of the Lamanites. And Alma and his brethren went forth and delivered themselves up into their hands; and the Lamanites took possession of the land of Helam.
30 Now the armies of the Lamanites, which had followed after the people of king Limhi, had been lost in the wilderness for many days.
31 And behold, they had found those priests of king Noah, in a place which they called Amulon; and they had begun to possess the land of Amulon and had begun to till the ground.
32 Now the name of the leader of those priests was Amulon.
33 And it came to pass that Amulon did plead with the Lamanites; and he also sent forth their wives, who were the daughters of the Lamanites, to plead with their brethren, that they should not destroy their husbands.
34 And the Lamanites had compassion on Amulon and his brethren, and did not destroy them, because of their wives.
35 And Amulon and his brethren did join the Lamanites, and they were traveling in the wilderness in search of the land of Nephi when they discovered the land of Helam, which was possessed by Alma and his brethren.
36 And it came to pass that the Lamanites promised unto Alma and his brethren, that if they would show them the way which led to the land of Nephi that they would grant unto them their lives and their liberty.
verse 36 It is interesting to note that the Nephites and Lamanites seemed to have no trouble communicating with one another, particularly so since we will later learn that the language of the Nephites was different than the language of the Lamanites (Mosiah 24:4). Perhaps they did speak different languages, and Amulon was able to translate for both groups.
37 But after Alma had shown them the way that led to the land of Nephi the Lamanites would not keep their promise; but they set guards round about the land of Helam, over Alma and his brethren.
38 And the remainder of them went to the land of Nephi; and a part of them returned to the land of Helam, and also brought with them the wives and the children of the guards who had been left in the land.
verse 38 The wives and children of those Lamanite guards who had been left in Helam to keep watch over Alma and his people were brought from the area of the land of Nephi to be with their husbands and fathers.
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.
verse 39 "a ruler over his people, who were in the land of Helam" Amulon was installed by the Lamanites as a puppet king over Alma's people, Amulon's "fellow Nephites"-"his people."