The sons of Mosiah went to teach the gospel to the Lamanites. They were among the Lamanites for 14 years. So many things happened in the course of their ministry that we will have to be selective in what we choose to focus on. But one thing we can’t neglect is their example of service and love for their fellowman. They taught with power and authority from God, but first they had to serve the people to win their trust and demonstrate their love.
Reading Assignment: Alma 17-22.
Before we jump into the story line, let’s look at the situation of these missionaries. Their conversion on the road with Alma was complete enough that they couldn’t bear the thought of even the Lamanites suffering through life without the gospel of Christ. These brethren were all alive when the people of Limhi and the people of Alma returned from being the captives of the Lamanites. They knew the stories of the terrible things the Lamanites had done to their prisoners.
The same humility and devotion that led them to suffer being spat upon and struck in the face by the Nephites as they tried to repair the damage they had caused to the Lord’s church compelled them to go to the Lamanites. They knew first-hand how the efforts of Zeniff turned out when he tried to focus on the good side of the Lamanites and went to live among them. It ended in tragic misery and captivity for his descendants.
An important note needs to be made here. The Lamanites weren’t wicked people, like we think of the priests of Noah or the Zoramites that are coming up in a few lessons. The Lamanites murdered and plundered to get gain. Their hearts were indeed set upon the things of this world, but they had never been taught the gospel either. This granted them a measure of mercy from the Lord that people like the priests of Noah and the Zoramites never got. For those priests and Zoramites knew the truth and rebelled against what they knew to be true.
For those of you who served foreign missions, did you ever stop to ask yourself if you would have joined their military and fought their wars for them? This is just what Ammon did. In chapter 17 and 18 when Ammon served king Lamoni, he signed up as a servant, but like being in the wild West, he found himself having to defend the property of the king against lawless villains. How would you have reacted if you had been called upon to defend the citizens of the country in which you were serving? Did you love them that much?
As you read the chapters and verses of this lesson, look at all the ways these missionaries were called upon to demonstrate God’s love. They tended flocks, fought bandits, killing many of them, fed horses and cleaned their stalls. They served as teachers, and ambassadors for the Nephites. They were even model prisoners. The point is, we never know how we will be called upon to serve others in our efforts to bring them the gospel.
These missionaries didn’t know what was going to be required of them. They knew their task was almost insurmountable, so they fasted and prayed much for the Lord’s help. In Alma 17:10-12 the Lord answered their prayers, gave them comfort, gave them instructions, then gave them a promise.
10 And it came to pass that the Lord did visit them with his Spirit, and said unto them: Be comforted. And they were comforted.11 And the Lord said unto them also: Go forth among the Lamanites, thy brethren, and establish my word; yet ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls.12 And it came to pass that the hearts of the sons of Mosiah, and also those who were with them, took courage to go forth unto the Lamanites to declare unto them the word of God.
The Lord sent them the Spirit to comfort their hearts. Comfort from the Spirit gives us the courage to do things we might otherwise not be able to do. The Lord told them to teach the truth (“establish my word”), but warned them they would have to be patient in their sufferings and afflictions. But it would be through their long-suffering and afflictions that He would make them an instrument in bringing many to salvation. It was because of this promise that they took courage and went forth among the Lamanites to teach them the gospel.
How often are we told to go into a calling with patience and that we need to endure whatever comes so we can fulfill the purpose of our office or calling? We rarely ever know just what we will be called upon to do or to sacrifice. But knowing that the Lord will be pleased with our efforts and reward us with success, allows us to have the courage we need to press forward in our service to others with joy in our hearts, just like the sons of Mosiah.
Questions to consider:
• Do you think the sons of Mosiah, and those they took with them to serve among the Lamanites, would have developed the love for the people they needed to have in order for the Lamanites to trust them, if they had not willingly served them in every conceivable capacity?
• Is there any task that should be considered beneath us to perform when serving others?
• How important is service in softening a person’s heart toward the gospel message?
• What part does service play in creating love?
• Does service for someone only create love for the person being served?
• Does service done for us also open our hearts to love those who have served us?
• How does service create trust?
• How does trust make a person more open to the gospel message?
• Can you find examples of any of this in the chapters of this lesson?
Bringing it down
It is important to remember that those to whom we take the gospel message have been taught differently than we have been. Many of us have grown up knowing the vocabulary of God’s work. Those who have been raised by the world have different meanings for many of our words, and don’t know the meaning of many other words. See how Ammon gently handled king Lamoni when he started to teach him in Alma 18: 24-30.
24 And Ammon began to speak unto him with boldness, and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?25 And he answered, and said unto him: I do not know what that meaneth.26 And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit?27 And he said, Yea.28 And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?29 And he said: Yea, I believe that he created all things which are in the earth; but I do not know the heavens.30 And Ammon said unto him: The heavens is a place where God dwells and all his holy angels.
Lamoni didn’t know the name God. He only knew of a Great Spirit. Ammon had to connect what Lamoni knew with what he was trying to teach him. Lamoni hadn’t heard anything about there being heavens, so Ammon had to simply describe them so Lamoni had something in which to exercise his faith.
Note how simple Ammon kept his descriptions. He didn’t launch into detail or depth. He wanted the king to understand the simplest of concepts about God so Lamoni could exercise faith in him. He could learn the details later.
As I mentioned in the beginning, there is much to learn in these chapters. We have only looked at a couple of small points in a vast array of information. But if you can answer all the questions posed here, and you have studied the chapters that make up this lesson, you will have a lot to think about.
When we agree to sharing the gospel with others, we have the right to seek and receive peace from the Spirit about our calling. We are all given the same injunction by the Lord to serve in any manner we can so he can make us an example of His love.
Serving others in order to serve our God will create love within us, will help us feel His love within us, and will build trust between us and those whom we serve. As they grow to trust our actions, they will also grow to trust our words. Even if they still choose not to believe our words, they will believe the goodness of our intent.
We may not need to go to war to perform our service to others, but when we are “all in” in our commitment to show them the way to Christ, our service will have just as great an impact on them as Ammon’s service did on the servants and the king.