After escaping the king’s assassins, Alma “repented of his sins and iniquities, and went about privately among the people, and began to teach the words of Abinadi.” (1)
Abinadi’s mission hadn’t been in vain, though he never saw the fruits of his work. But he’d planted seeds in Alma’s heart that led him to repent and believe.
What kinds of seeds am I planting each day?
Are they seeds that can uplift and help others grow, or am I planting seeds of discord and bitterness?
Alma plants seeds of repentance and hope in Christ to all he can find while he is in hiding. He didn’t let fear silence him.
He meets with believers at a place called Mormon by a “fountain of pure water.” (5) Alma teaches the believers the first principles of the gospel—“repentance, and redemption, and faith on the Lord.” (7)
I wondered why Abinadi didn’t just teach like Alma, on the sly while he was in hiding, so the king wouldn’t have captured him and burned him as a martyr. Then I realized God commanded Abinadi to preach openly. God needed a prophet to warn Noah and his people that they would be destroyed if they didn’t turn from their wicked ways and repent. Abinadi did what he was called to do. And Alma is doing what he has been called to do.
- Do I do what God calls me to do, whatever it may be?
- Do I trust God enough to listen and do His will, even if it seems that he’s setting me up to fail, like Abinadi?
- Am I willing to give up a life of ease and popularity, like Alma, to follow God’s commands?
Witness to God
Alma teaches the gathering of believers about baptism at the waters of Mormon.
…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; / 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—/ 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?”Alma 18:8-10
I love the steps he outlines to come unto Christ and witness unto Him our willingness to follow Him.
- Desire to come unto His fold
- Desire to be called His people
- Willing to bear one another’s burdens
- Willing to mourn with those that mourn
- Willing to comfort those that stand in need of comfort
- Stand as a witness of God at all times, in all things, and all places
- Be baptized as a witness that we will do all those things
- Covenant to keep His commandments
When we do these things, we witness to God that we are His, and He will pour out His Spirit more abundantly upon us.
The people desire this relationship with God that Alma has described. They want to be baptized and covenant with God to follow Him, so they can have His Spirit to be with them.
Alma takes Helam, one of the first converts, and cries to the Lord for His Spirit that “he may do this work with holiness of heart.” (12)
A holy heart is a healthy heart.
Alma then baptizes Helam by burying both of them in the water, by immersion.
And they arose and came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit.”Mosiah 18:14
Baptism is essential to returning to God. Even Jesus Christ was baptized while He lived on earth to show us the way.
About 204 people are baptized by Alma and “filled with the grace of God.” (16) They are called the church of God or the Church of Christ. Alma commands them to “preach nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord, who had redeemed his people.” (20)
Hearts Knit together in Unity
Alma “commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith, and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another. (21) …And thus they became the children of God.” (22)
Henry B. Eyring, one of the apostles today, gave a talk in 2008 about unity.
He said that “joy comes when we are blessed with unity.” He encouraged us to be humble and find ways to help people see the truths they share, instead of contending and putting others down who don’t see exactly how we do. He says that Christ’s people will build unity with people from vastly different backgrounds.
The children of God have more in common than they have differences. And even the differences can be seen as an opportunity. God will help us see a difference in someone else not as a source of irritation but as a contribution. The Lord can help you see and value what another person brings which you lack.”Henry B. Eyring, Heart Knit Together in Unity, 2008
Alma also encourages the new converts to “observe the Sabbath day, and keep it holy, and also every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God.” (23)
What is the difference between observing the Sabbath day and keeping it holy?
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines observe as: 1) to conform one’s action or practice to (as a law, rite, or condition): 2) comply with; 3) to inspect or take note of; 4) to celebrate or solemnize in a customary or accepted way; 5) to watch carefully especially with attention to details or behavior for the purpose of arriving at a judgment; 6) to come to realize or know especially through consideration of noted facts; 7) to take notice.
When I observe the Lord’s Sabbath, I take note of it and treat the day as significant. It becomes different—more special—than other days. I conform my dress, speech, actions to show reverence to God and witness that love Him. I watch carefully what I do, paying attention to details to show my gratitude to God for creating the earth and giving me so many blessings. I acknowledge Him as my Creator and the Giver of all Good Things.
Keeping it holy is a companion to observance—but maybe observance can be more outward actions, and the holy part is more in our hearts, something that can’t be seen, except by God.
- Is the Sabbath written on my heart?
- Do I treasure it as something holy?
Impart to One Another
Alma wants the believers to meet together one day a week to teach and worship. (25) He counsels the priests to labor for their living, so they don’t become like the wicked priests of Noah (26). He encourages them to “impart of their substance, every one according to that which he had…” (27) And they should give of their own free will and good desires to everyone who was needy or naked. (28) After covenanting with God and witnessing that they would follow Him, the people “did walk uprightly before God, imparting to one another both temporally and spiritually according to their needs and their wants.” (29)
They took care of each other—body and spirit. That way, even those who might be poor money-wise could still impart of their spiritual bounty.
In a talk by Dale Renlund in 2015, entitled Through God’s Eyes, he talked about what his brother told him when he was called to be a bishop of a church ward.
You need to know that the Lord hasn’t called you because of anything you have done. In your case, it is probably in spite of what you have done. The Lord has called you for what He needs to do through you, and that will happen only if you do it His way.”Dale G. Renlund, Through God’s Eyes, 2015
That’s a good reminder for us with any calling or responsibility we have in life. Don’t think we’re better than others because of it. Seek to serve God and forget ourselves.
…to effectively serve others we must see them through a parent’s eyes, through Heavenly Father’s eyes. Only then can we begin to comprehend the true worth of a soul. Only then can we sense the love that Heavenly Father has for all of His children. Only then can we sense the Savior’s caring concern for them. We cannot completely fulfill our covenant obligation to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort unless we see them through God’s eyes.”Dale G. Renlund, Through God’s Eyes, 2015
I think this is the kind of care and unity Alma wanted the new converts at his time to seek after. And we should strive for the same type of love and unity in our lives, with our families, our neighbors, and our communities.
The king discovers their movement and sends an army to slay them, accusing Alma of stirring up the people to rebellion against him. Alma and his people were “apprised of the coming of the king’s army” and departed into the wilderness to find a place of refuge and safety. There were about 450 people in their group by this time.
Do I listen to God’s promptings?
Sometimes, He warns us to head into our own ‘wilderness’ to escape destruction. This might be a physical wilderness or mental or spiritual one. God teaches His people things they can’t learn otherwise in wildernesses. Think of Moses and the children of Israel. Lehi and his family.
Do I trust God enough to learn and continue to push forward when I am in a “wilderness” and it seems that He has forgotten me?