Lesson 20: My Soul Is Pained No More
Purpose: To inspire class members to continually apply the principle of repentance, become converted, and share the gospel.
[Draw the class’s familiar “map” on the board indicating the relative north/south positions of “Lehi-Nephi” (original settlement region, abandoned by Nephites who fled north; now occupied by Lamanites); “Zarahemla” (to the north, where the Nephites encountered the Mulekites); and in between, “Zeniff/Noah/Alma” (settled by Zeniff’s people on their expedition back to Nephi/Lehi); also, “Helam” (founded by Alma and his followers). Very briefly review the history of these groups, showing how they each ended up back at Zarahemla under the leadership of Mosiah. Referring to Alma’s arrival:]
Mosiah 24:24-25; Mosiah 25:1-2:
24 And it came to pass that they departed out of the valley, and took their journey into the wilderness.
25 And after they had been in the wilderness twelve days they arrived in the land of Zarahemla; and king Mosiah did also receive them with joy.
1 And now king Mosiah caused that all the people should be gathered together.
2 Now there were not so many of the children of Nephi, or so many of those who were descendants of Nephi, as there were of the people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness.
So now, finally, all of the people whose stories we have been following have gathered back to one place, under one leader, and it will be a little easier now for us to keep track of who is who and who is where. Note, however, that even though the people are united – in one location, under one leader, with one religion – they still recognize at least one major distinction among themselves – some are known as descendants of Nephi, and the rest are known as descendants of Mulek, natives of the land of Zarahemla among whom the Nephites have settled.
Why do you suppose they maintained this distinction? Was it good, or bad, or both, that this distinction remained? Do we have any similar distinction in the Church today? What might be good about that, or bad?
When Mosiah gathered all the people together, he had the records of the people of Zeniff read, so that all those who had been living in Zarahemla could hear the history of Zeniff, and Noah, and Abinadi, and Limhi, and Alma. What benefit would that have been to the people of Zarahemla? What benefit would it have been to the newly arrived descendants of Zeniff’s people, including Alma and his followers, to have their stories told to the people of Zarahemla?
We as Church members often hear conversion stories of individuals, or stories of the progress of the Church in new regions – the stories of people who are newly arrived among the people of God. In some ways, that makes us like the people living in Zarahemla who listened to the stories of Abinadi and Alma and the others. Why do you like to hear conversion stories? Why is it good not only for us, but for the newly converted, to share their stories?
SCRIPTURE DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. Limhi’s and Alma’s people join Mosiah’s people in the land of Zarahemla
2. Many Church members are led into sin by unbelievers
3. Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah are visited by an angel
4. Alma and the sons of Mosiah dedicate themselves to preaching the gospel
[“They did deceive many with their flattering words”]
After Mosiah had finished having these records of the newcomers read, he did what might be an unexpected thing:
14 And now it came to pass that when Mosiah had made an end of speaking and reading to the people, he desired that Alma should also speak to the people.
15 And Alma did speak unto them, when they were assembled together in large bodies, and he went from one body to another, preaching unto the people repentance and faith on the Lord.
What do we know about Mosiah – what kind of a man was he? (He was King Benjamin’s son and presumably had been taught everything Benjamin believed; he reigned as a righteous king; he was an effective leader, assimilating all the groups who became known as “Nephites.”) And yet almost immediately upon Alma’s arrival, Mosiah defers to Alma as a religious figure. What does that suggest about these two men?
17 And it came to pass that after Alma had taught the people many tings, and had made an end of speaking to them, that king Limhi was desirous that he might be baptized; and all his people were desirous that they might be baptized also
18 Therefore, Alma did go forth into the water and did baptize them; yea, he did baptize them after the manner he did his brethren in the waters of Mormon; yea, and as many as he did baptize did belong to the church of God; and this because of their belief on the words of Alma.
The Nephites were familiar with baptism – it is mentioned as far back as the days of Nephi, who preached baptism as a sign of repentance and commitment to keep the Lord’s commandments (e.g., 2 Nephi 31/14).
There seems to be something new, or at least a new understanding, about baptism as Alma taught it, as we discussed last week. In addition to cleansing from sin, what did baptism mean to Alma and his followers? [Review briefly the covenant of baptism as spelled out in Mosiah 18.]
And here in this part of the story, we see yet another element to baptism that seems to be new: Baptism is a necessary doorway to membership in the church of God. This is the first clear indication we have of a separate religious organization within the society of Nephites: There are now people who belong to Nephite society, share Nephite/Mulekite ancestry, obey Nephite laws, and presumably observe the Law of Moses – and a smaller subset of that society who, in addition to all of this, also belong to a church, an organized body of believers in the coming Messiah and his future Atonement, who lived under the ministry of priests and teachers appointed by Alma, as chief priest. There are many local congregations – beginning with seven, we read – but all part of the same unified church.
All is well in Zarahemla … for a time.
1 Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.
Remember, Benjamin was the father of the current Mosiah, so it’s been a full generation since his landmark teachings. As these children grew up, they were probably taught the words of Benjamin – we have them in the Book of Mormon so they were preserved. Why didn’t his words have as great an effect on the rising generation as they had had on their parents?
Sometimes there are key events that I think you have to have experienced to get the full impact – I don’t think hearing about them after the fact has quite the same effect as living them, no matter how carefully a record is preserved. I can think of two such instances in my adult life: The 1978 revelation on the priesthood, and the sending of the first missionaries behind the former Iron Curtain. You can read all the facts today and know intellectually just as much as people who lived through those events – but I think that when you lived in the years when certain things were taught about blacks, and you expected that the day of extending the priesthood would not come until long after you were dead – or, if you grew up during the Cold War with duck-and-cover drills in school, so that the thought of Mormonism being freely taught in Russia was a fantasy that you never expected to see – then the emotional impact of seeing those changes come about in an instant is something that just cannot be conveyed in words on paper.
Can you think of other events that had a profound and lasting influence on you, that you feel had to be lived and not just read about, to have the full impact?
I suppose this is one major reason why we focus on our history and try in some ways to recreate it, through pageants and parades and handcart treks, and so on. How are those things helpful in teaching the rising generation – and how might they be detrimental, at the same time?
What ways can you suggest to help “the rising generation” understand the sacred experiences we have witnessed? How can we help them recognize such moments in their own lives?
Let’s read what happened when these Book of Mormon peoples did not “believe the tradition of their fathers.”
2 They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ.
3 And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened.
I suppose there is hardly a person in this room who does not know someone whom these words describe – people in their 20s and 30s, primarily, who grew up in the Church, who may have served missions and married in the Temple, who have decided – without being guilty of any particular sin that the rest of us are not guilty of – that they do not believe the tradition of their fathers, and have left religion behind because “they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened.” These are people we love, people who are members of my family and most of yours, as well as the children of friends and neighbors.
We aren’t going to be able to solve that problem in the next five minutes – but if any of you have ideas to share, I’d love to hear them. How do we treat such loved ones when they make this announcement? Is there anything we can do – or shouldn’t do – that might affect whether they are ever able to become believers again?
The people whose hearts were hardened and who committed sin included many of those who were members of the Church. These people were brought before Alma to be judged for their sins. He didn’t know what to do with them, and sent them to Mosiah to be judged. Mosiah didn’t know any better what to do than Alma did, and he sent them back to Alma. What followed results in a long scriptural passage, but it’s important enough that I think we should read it as a class – and as we do, think of how these principles might apply to you and your loved ones whose hearts have been hardened:
13 And now the spirit of Alma was again troubled; and he went and inquired of the Lord what he should do concerning this matter, for he feared that he should do wrong in the sight of God.
14 And it came to pass that after he had poured out his whole soul to God, the voice of the Lord came to him, saying:
15 Blessed art thou, Alma, and blessed are they who were baptized in the waters of Mormon. Thou art blessed because of thy exceeding faith in the words alone of my servant Abinadi.
16 And blessed are they because of their exceeding faith in the words alone which thou hast spoken unto them.
17 And blessed art thou because thou hast established a church among this people; and they shall be established, and they shall be my people.
18 Yea, blessed is this people who are willing to bear my name; for in my name shall they be called; and they are mine.
19 And because thou hast inquired of me concerning the transgressor, thou art blessed.
20 Thou art my servant; and I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life; and thou shalt serve me and go forth in my name, and shalt gather together my sheep.
21 And he that will hear my voice shall be my sheep; and him shall ye receive into the church, and him will I also receive.
22 For behold, this is my church; whosoever is baptized shall be baptized unto repentance. And whomsoever ye receive shall believe in my name; and him will I freely forgive.
23 For it is I that taketh upon me the sins of the world; for it is I that hath created them; and it is I that granteth unto him that believeth unto the end a place at my right hand.
24 For behold, in my name are they called; and if they know me they shall come forth, and shall have a place eternally at my right hand.
25 And it shall come to pass that when the second trump shall sound then shall they that never knew me come forth and shall stand before me.
26 And then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, that I am their Redeemer; but they would not be redeemed.
27 And then I will confess unto them that I never knew them; and they shall depart into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
28 Therefore I say unto you, that he that will not hear my voice, the same shall ye not receive into my church, for him I will not receive at the last day.
29 Therefore I say unto you, Go; and whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge according to the sins which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also.
30 Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me.
31 And ye shall also forgive one another your trespasses; for verily I say unto you, he that forgiveth not his neighbor’s trespasses when he says that he repents, the same hath brought himself under condemnation.
32 Now I say unto you, Go; and whosoever will not repent of his sins the same shall not be numbered among my people; and this shall be observed from this time forward.
33 And it came to pass when Alma had heard these words he wrote them down that he might have them, and that he might judge the people of that church according to the commandments of God.
So what guidance was Alma given regarding the treatment of transgressors in the Church? And what hope was Alma given – what hope do we have – about those who have hardened their hearts this way? Are they cut off forever? How might that guide our behavior toward those who have, for the moment at least, been separated from the Church?
To conclude, let’s go back to the early part of our lesson, where we talked about the welcome given in Zarahemla to the newly arrived people of Zeniff and of Alma. Mosiah read their records to the people so that everyone would know of their repentance and conversion and faithfulness and escape from bondage.
I am happy that we’re talking about this point on Fast Sunday – we will be listening to testimonies today. We may hear stories of conversion to the gospel, or at least stories of ward members who have been newly reminded, reconverted, perhaps, to particular principles of the gospel. Those stories almost certainly will be less dramatic than the ones Mosiah read – we won’t hear of prophets being burned or of converts hiding in the wilderness from pursuing armies. But if we listen for it, the stories we do hear will have some of the same elements: conversion to a true principle, escape from bad habits or from discouragement, the fleeing of one kind of life for a better kind of life. We may hear from some whose hearts have been softened after a period of disbelief.
And if those stories are told, and if we receive them in the right spirit, we may feel echoes of the same reactions of the people of Zarahemla did when Alma and his people told their story:
7 And now, when Mosiah had made an end of reading the records, his people who tarried in the land were struck with wonder and amazement.
8 For they knew not what to think; for when they beheld those that had been delivered out of bondage they were filled with exceedingly great joy.
9 And again, when they thought of their brethren who had been slain by the Lamanites they were filled with sorrow, and even shed many tears of sorrow.
10 And again, when they thought of the immediate goodness of God, and his power in delivering Alma and his brethren out of the hands of the Lamanites and of bondage, they did raise their voices and give thanks to God.
11 And again, when they thought upon the Lamanites, who were their brethren, of their sinful and polluted state, they were filled with pain and anguish for the welfare of their souls.