Book of Mormon | Lessons from Alma: What to Do When You Are Sad and Worried about Someone You Love (Alma 4-15)
Alma is very sad seeing the big problems in the church and its members:
Alma 14:15 And now it came to pass that Alma, having seen the afflictions of the humble followers of God, and the persecutions which were heaped upon them by the remainder of his people, and seeing all their inequality, began to be very sorrowful; nevertheless the Spirit of the Lord did not fail him.
But here’s a key: he doesn’t let his sadness move him to inaction, but to action! Sitting and being sad, sitting and worrying, does not help anyone!!
Alma makes a decision:
20 And thus in the commencement of the ninth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, Alma delivered up the judgment-seat to Nephihah, and confined himself wholly to the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to the testimony of the word, according to the spirit of revelation and prophecy.
Who is Nephihah?
16 And [Alma] selected a wise man (Nephihah) who was among the elders of the church, and gave him power according to the voice of the people, that he might have power to enact laws according to the laws which had been given.
Why does Alma make this decision?
19 And this [Alma] did that he himself might go forth among his people, or among the people of Nephi, that he might preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them.
So, his plan is to preach to everyone, by his calling, the word of God, his testimony, the spirit of revelation and prophecy, and he carries out his plan.
Things go well, but then he gets to Ammonihah, and he is kicked out.
What does Alma do so as to get help in Ammonihah?
Alma 8:10 Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance.
26 …for I was an hungered, for I had fasted many days.
Unfortunately, things don’t work out the way Alma wishes:
Alma 8:13 Now when the people had said this, and withstood all [of Alma's] words, and reviled him, and spit upon him, and caused that he should be cast out of their city, he departed thence and took his journey towards the city which was called Aaron.
That happens; it’s life. Even when we have the best intention, and we know it’s right, it just might not happen, especially if others are involved. It doesn’t always mean you were wrong to think or do, or that you should have tried harder, or that you made a mistake; it just means it didn’t happen, OK?
You know what? You can’t force people to accept what they don’t want, even if they need it!
Alma realizes that, and rests from them.
Alma 8:24 And behold, I have been called to preach the word of God among all this people, according to the spirit of revelation and prophecy; and I was in this land and they would not receive me, but they cast me out and I was about to set my back towards this land forever.
Still, when you love someone and hope to help them and they refuse it and prefer their unhappiness, it is natural that you are sad for the decision they make:
Alma 8:14 And it came to pass that while [Alma] was journeying thither, being weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people who were in the city of Ammonihah, it came to pass while Alma was thus weighed down with sorrow…
Sometimes, when you do your part the best you can, God steps in. He might take care of the problem, find someone else to help, etc., or He might tell you to try again.
God sends an angel to comfort, edify, and instruct Alma to return and try again:
Alma 8:14 …an angel of the Lord appeared unto him, saying:
15 Blessed art thou, Alma; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from him. Behold, I am he that delivered it unto you.
16 And behold, I am sent to command thee that thou return to the city of Ammonihah, and preach again unto the people of the city; yea, preach unto them. Yea, say unto them, except they repent the Lord God will destroy them.
God helps us. Sometimes he sends angels, sometimes in other ways.
Alma obeys, yet likely by his own smarts and the help of the Spirit (like with Nephi getting the brass plates), he doesn’t just think, “Oh, I’ll just run in the main gate and start yelling”; I think he’s thinking, “Last way didn’t work, what can I do this time?”:
Alma 8:18 Now it came to pass that after Alma had received his message from the angel of the Lord he returned speedily to the land of Ammonihah. And he entered the city by another way, yea, by the way which is on the south of the city of Ammonihah.
19 And as he entered the city he was an hungered, and he said to a man: Will ye give to an humble servant of God something to eat?
And what do you know, unbeknown to prophet Alma (who had just spoken with an angel!), the Lord has prepared the way before him:
Alma 8:20 And the man said unto him: I am a Nephite, and I know that thou art a holy prophet of God, for thou art the man whom an angel said in a vision: Thou shalt receive. Therefore, go with me into my house and I will impart unto thee of my food; and I know that thou wilt be a blessing unto me and my house.
The people of Ammonihah have and will have a very “all of US in our great city” vs. “you from outside” mentality; a very “JUST you, one witness, one foolish man” mentality:
Alma 8:11 …Behold, we know that thou art Alma; and we know that thou art high priest over the church which thou hast established in many parts of the land, according to your tradition; and we are not of thy church, and we do not believe in such foolish traditions.
Alma 9:2 Who art thou? Suppose ye that we shall believe the testimony of one man…?
6 And they said: Who is God, that sendeth no more authority than one man among this people, to declare unto them the truth of such great and marvelous things?
Alma 10:12 And now, when Amulek had spoken these words the people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness who testified of the things whereof they were accused, and also of the things which were to come, according to the spirit of prophecy which was in them.
There needs to be preparation for this, though it will take time; it is necessary so as to not have the same results as the previous attempt at preaching. It comes through the addition of Amulek:
Alma 8:27 And Alma tarried many days with Amulek before he began to preach unto the people.
Did you notice that he is commanded to return, and does so “speedily”; but then he waits for a while before preaching again? Don’t confuse God’s instructions! (Been there, done that.)
Alma receives the revelation that it is time (so important as often is with situations, this timing!!):
Alma 8:29 And the word came to Alma, saying: Go; and also say unto my servant Amulek, go forth and prophesy unto this people…
And both are prepared in the most important way:
Alma 8:30 And Alma went forth, and also Amulek, among the people, to declare the words of God unto them; and they were filled with the Holy Ghost.
They preach, but it’s not easy. They finally win some people over, but in the end they get arrested (oh the shame!) and put in jail. There is no shame in doing the right thing and being unjustly punished, even if it is “the authorities”.
The believing men are cast out of the city and many injured, and the believing women and children are burned alive. This was not part of Alma’s plan of trying to help people! But Alma is not worrying about what others will think of him and his plan; he wants to know what the Lord wants him to do. He gets an answer, and follows it.
They wonder if they might die, but know the time is not yet. They are put in prison, but later are delivered by the power of God, and they know it is time for them to leave the city; besides, they have other important things to do:
Alma 15:1 And it came to pass that Alma and Amulek were commanded to depart out of that city; and they departed, and came out even into the land of Sidom; and behold, there they found all the people who had departed out of the land of Ammonihah, who had been cast out and stoned, because they believed in the words of Alma.
They can only help the people so much, after that it is up to the people to decide. There might be a time to “wash your hands” AFTER hard labor, and LEAVE and LET ALONE. The Spirit can tell you when that time is, etc.
Alma knows he is NOT the Savior of the people of Ammonihah; that is not his identity, nor his life purpose. He has, however, by choice and love, received a call to help them and be the means of bringing them to their Savior. I believe that that is an important distinction.