This year we have the wonderful opportunity to study the Book of Mormon in Gospel Doctrine. Of all the books in the world, this is my favorite book. It has brought me more peace and insight than any other book I’ve ever read. As I’ve reflected on some of the lessons I’ve learned by reading this precious book, I thought I could share a few with you. And, of course, I would love to hear some of yours as well.
Lesson One – What About Sam?
I have a great love for Sam, the other older brother of Nephi. Not much is said about him, but from what is said, one can only surmise that he was a great man. I think of his humble, unassuming role as brother to one of the greatest figures in the Book of Mormon, Nephi. I think many of us are Sams. We are there to support the Nephi’s. But does this make us any less important? Absolutely not. Think of all the worthy priesthood holders and sisters in the church. Can they all be bishops or relief society presidents? It just isn’t possible, but even if we never hold what we consider a prominent calling in the church, it doesn’t make our contributions any less valuable. We are told in the Book of Mormon that Sam would receive all the promised blessings given to Nephi. Think about how President Monson talks about his primary teachers. I think of the impact my visiting teachers have had on me. We erroneously think of these as small callings, but remember, by small and simple things, great things come to pass. I have no doubt Sam brought great comfort and strength to his younger brother, just as we, in any role, can bring that to those around us.
Lesson Two – Righteous Living Does Not Equal a Trial Free Life
The stories of Alma and Lamoni perfectly illustrates lesson two. As we know, Alma was a priest of wicked King Noah, who happened to be the father of Lamoni. Alma and several of Noah’s people were converted unto the Lord. This wasn’t to the liking of King Noah, and Alma is warned that he and his people should flee into the wilderness, out of the land of Nephi. In the meantime, the Lamanites attack King Noah’s people and eventually King Noah is put to death and his son, Lamoni, is left to reign in his stead. Lamoni and his people suffer greatly and are brought into bondage by the King of the Lamanites, mostly due to a lot of foolish and unrighteous choices on their part. On the other hand, you have Alma and the people of the Lord who are trying to do all they can to live righteous lives. And what happens to them? They are brought into bondage by Amulon, the leader of King Noah’s wicked priests. I can hardly say this was fair. And what’s even more unfair, or so we may think, is that Lamoni and his people are delivered out of the hands of the Lamanites before the people of Alma are delivered. What? How does that make sense? Why would the Lord allow such a thing to happen? How does the scripture go- “Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea he trieth their patience and their faith.” Yep, it’s true. Not always fun, but true. But the Lord also gives us a great promise and blessing –
“Nevertheless- whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day.”
And so the people of Alma were tried, but think about the miraculous manner in which they were delivered. Think about the faith that this must have instilled in such righteous people. Think about the fact that once Alma and his people were delivered and arrived in the land of Zarahelma, Alma was called to be the leader of the church. I think it is fair to say the Lord knows what He is doing and that He doesn’t allow us to have, or give us, trials without purpose. I think it should also be mentioned that He is a merciful God and willing to bless us when we turn toward Him, just like the people of Lamoni and Alma.
Lesson Three – Stay on the Mountain
In the book of Alma, we learn of a real fun guy named Amalickiah. This guy is desperate to be the king of the Nephites and when that doesn’t happen, he sets his sights on being king of the Lamanites. In Chapter 47 of Alma, we see how Amalickiah, through his cunningness, obtains the throne of the Lamanites. Amalickiah, being the evil guy he is, convinces the King of the Lamanites to go to battle against the Nephites. Well, most of his army doesn’t think this is a very good idea, and they take off and find refuge upon the top of the mountain Antipus. As you can imagine, this doesn’t make the King of the Lamanites too happy, so he appoints Amalickiah to be over the remaining part of his army. It is now Amalickiah’s job to whip into shape those dissenters. Amalickiah, being the opportunist he is, devises another plan.
The leader of the dissenters is Lehonti. And at first you think this guy is a smart guy. He was smart enough to know that they shouldn’t go against the Nephites. Hello? Have you heard of Captain Moroni? He was smart enough to seek higher ground. He was even smart enough to reject Amalickiah’s request to come off of the mountain just to “talk”. He rejected him three times. But just like Satan, Amalickiah changed his tactic and tried to make Lehonti feel all warm and fuzzy. He suggested that they meet in the middle, and Lehonti should bring his guards. Lehonti made a fatal error and came down off of his higher ground. Lehonti was then lulled away into thinking that he was in charge when, truly, he had lost his footing. Lehonti ended up dying after being poisoned by degrees.
Satan will do anything he can to get us to come down off of our mountains. He will even entice us with the truth. Once we come down, we are in his grasp and can be poisoned, all while not knowing it. Don’t come down off the mountain!
Lesson Four – Humility Goes a Long Way
This last lesson, honestly, has so many lessons, but I will focus on the being humble aspect. Toward the end of the book of Alma, things aren’t looking all that great for the Nephites. Not only have they been in a long drawn out war with the Lamanites, but they are also battling dissenters within. The battle on the home front leaves Moroni and his men without needed provisions to sustain life. Moroni, being the bold man that we all love, sends a letter to Pahoran, the Chief Judge, letting him know of the dire situation, and accusing Pahoran of neglect. I suggest you read the whole letter in Chapter 60 of Alma. It is quite the diatribe. I’m pretty sure I would have been in tears if I had received such a letter. I would have also been furious. Moroni throws some pretty serious accusations at Pahoran.
Though Moroni was right to expect support from his leaders, he did not know of the rebellion going on at home. Quite frankly, Pahoran would have been justified in telling Moroni off just a little. I think of Elder Quentin L. Cook’s talk “I Hope Ya Know, We Had a Hard Time.” That’s what I would have said to Moroni, had I been Pahoran. But, no, he was a much better person than I am. While he told Moroni of their struggles, he never once admonished him. Instead, this is what he had to say to his friend –
“And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; for I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart.”
Wow! What a guy.
Think what a different story it would have been had Pahoran let his pride get in the way. Perhaps the Nephites would not have been victorious over the Lamanites. Think of the friendship that was saved because an ego was checked at the door.
Humility goes a long way.
These are just a very few of the lessons that I’ve learned from this marvelous book. I believe in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s promise that we will get nearer to God by abiding by the precepts of the Book of Mormon. I look forward to this year of study. I hope you do as well.