This lesson is about the importance of understanding and keeping our baptismal covenants. The lessons we have to learn this week come from the experiences of the people of Zeniff when they allowed Zeniff’s son, Noah to flatter them into living great evils. They were entrapped by sin, and none could deliver them except the Lord. These chapters show us what happens when we have to face the consequences of our actions, whether or not we repent.
Reading Assignment: Mosiah 18-24.
The Lord sent Abinadi to the people of Noah and warned them that they had gone too far in their devotion to their sinful ways. If they did not turn from their sins and repent they would suffer the consequences of their rebellious behavior. In Mosiah 11:25 Abinadi tells the people the conditions required by the Lord in order to save themselves. In verse 29 we are told why the people refused to repent.
25 And except they repent in sackcloth and ashes, and cry mightily to the Lord their God, I will not hear their prayers, neither will I deliver them out of their afflictions; and thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me.
29 Now the eyes of the people were blinded; therefore they hardened their hearts against the words of Abinadi, and they sought from that time forward to take him. And king Noah hardened his heart against the word of the Lord, and he did not repent of his evil doings.
The consequences play out
It is important to demonstrate here that neither the consequences of sin, nor the blessings of repentance are always immediate. The next number of chapters in Mosiah take place over the course of years. The important lesson though is that no matter how long it takes, the word of the Lord is always fulfilled.
The people have hardened their hearts against the prophet of the Lord. They reject him and burn him alive. Shortly before Abinadi is killed, Alma is smitten with guilt as he recognizes the truthfulness of what Abinadi is teaching. He pleads for the life of Abinadi, but is driven out by the king and his fellow priests. He must hide in the countryside to keep from being murdered by his fellow priests.
While there, he records all the words of Abinadi. He repents of his sins and the part he played in the trial of the Lord’s prophet. Meanwhile, the prophet has been killed, sealing the fate of all the people. Alma starts to preach to the people secretly, and his converts begin to gather at the waters of Mormon.
In chapter 18 of Mosiah he spells out the covenants we make when we come to the Lord. This is found in Mosiah 18:8-13. Please read all these verses and think about what the Lord wants us to do in order to qualify for the blessings he offers us in return. The full blessing is stated in verse 13.
8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
11 And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts.
12 And now it came to pass that Alma took Helam, he being one of the first, and went and stood forth in the water, and cried, saying: O Lord, pour out thy Spirit upon thy servant, that he may do this work with holiness of heart.
13 And when he had said these words, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he said: Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world.
We’ll come back to our covenants and our promised blessings in a minute. Right now I want to talk about the consequences of the people’s prior behavior in regards to their rejection of the Lord and His servants.
The people as a whole had been flattered into a false reality by the wicked priests. They willingly paid 20% of their income to support the evil being perpetrated by the king and his ilk. But after Abinadi’s death there began to be a shift in the sentiments of the people. A small, but vocal group rose up in rebellion against the King. The Lamanites had begun to attack the people. The King had reduced the military and had won a battle or two, but because of his reduction in forces, he just didn’t have enough to properly defend the people if the Lamanites attacked in full power.
This small group included a man named Gideon who swore an oath to kill the king for his offenses to the people. As he fought with the king, the king fled to one of his great towers. It was on top of his tower that he noticed that the armies of the Lamanites had entered their lands. They could tell that they didn’t stand a chance against forces of this size. Their personal squabble was put aside as they ran to warn the people of the incoming army.
As the people fled before the armies of the Lamanites, the king told the men to abandon their families to save themselves. Some of them did. Others refused to leave their families. Those who abandoned their families eventually took the king and burned him alive, just as Abinadi had foretold they would. The king’s wicked priests fled into the wilderness to save themselves from the king’s fate.
In the meantime those who stayed behind put their beautiful daughters out in front of them and had them plead with the Lamanites to spare the people. The Lamanites, charmed by the beauty of their women, made them all prisoners and took them back to their homes with the condition that they now would have to pay a 50% tax on everything they produced each year. Noah’s son Limhi was made king in his father’s place.
Long story short, the wicked priests kidnapped some daughters of the Lamanites, which the Lamanites blamed on the people of Limhi. More war. They finally reached a settlement, but the Lamanites had them penned in so they could not escape the land. Their king had sworn an oath that they could not kill the Nephites, so instead the Lamanites did this, as described in Mosiah 21:3-5.
3 Now they durst not slay them, because of the oath which their king had made unto Limhi; but they would smite them on their cheeks, and exercise authority over them; and began to put heavy burdens upon their backs, and drive them as they would a dumb ass—
4 Yea, all this was done that the word of the Lord might be fulfilled.
5 And now the afflictions of the Nephites were great, and there was no way that they could deliver themselves out of their hands, for the Lamanites had surrounded them on every side.
The people were suffering just as the Lord had told them they would if they did not repent. And as promised, the Lord was slow to hear their cries as they sought His help. They were converted when Ammon found the people of Limhi. They were faithful after that, but the Lord had told them it would take time to be forgiven. The more they humbled themselves, the more they were blessed.
Once they were converted and had repented, the Lord prepared a way for them to escape from captivity and return to Zarahemla with Ammon.
Interestingly enough, even Alma’s people, who had repented and had been baptized and were faithful to the Lord, had to suffer captivity in order for the word of the Lord to be fulfilled. But their experience in captivity was vastly different from those of the people of Limhi.
Limhi’s people went to battle against the Lamanites time and time again, and lost. They were beaten into submission and were driven to be humble. But Alma’s people were humble to begin with. They actually had more cruel taskmasters than did Limhi’s people. They were threatened with their lives if they prayed out loud.
Read Mosiah 23 and 24. Mark how differently the captivity of Alma’s people is from the captivity of Limhi’s people. Both people are treated as beasts of burden. Both as smitten by their enemies. But Alma’s people are willingly humble and submissive to the will of the Lord. They submit to their conditions and pray in their hearts unceasingly. They remain obedient to the commandments, and as a result have miracles performed in their lives.
Only after the people of Limhi are beaten down and become submissive, are finally converted, and they turn to the Lord, are they eventually delivered by stratagem through the inspiration of a righteous man, Gideon. But the People of Alma are delivered by a miracle. Through their faithfulness to the commandments, and the humility in their sufferings they demonstrated, the Lord saw fit to cause a deep sleep to come upon the Lamanites, giving the people of Alma time to escape unharmed.
Both peoples had to be punished for not repenting during their window of opportunity before Abinadi was killed. Both were brought into bondage and punished for their sins. Both groups repented, eventually, and were delivered by the Lord from their sorry state. Both groups were reunited with their lost relatives in the city of Zarahemla. The people of Limhi weren’t baptized until they returned to Zarahemla.
The shining example here is that of the people of Alma. They fulfilled their baptismal covenants. The longsuffering shown by Alma’s people, the witnessing of Christ through their righteous behavior in all circumstances, no matter how hard they had it in life, testified that they were truly converted to the Lord.
All of us have consequences that will be ours to face because of past behavior. We cannot escape consequences. What is important is that we submit to whatever life throws at us from this day forward, exercising our faith in Christ, witnessing of Christ in all things and in all places, and remaining obedient to the commandments. It is only then the Lord can fulfill His part of the baptismal covenant, which is to fill us with His Spirit and give us eternal life.