In Alma’s first year as chief judge “a man who was large, and was noted for his much strength” (2) is brought before him. He’d gone about “preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God” (3), persecuting the church and preaching populism. He teaches that there is no need to keep commandments. God has redeemed all men no matter what they do.
And it came to pass that he did teach these things so much that many did believe on his words, even so many that they began to support him and give him money.”Alma 1:5
This man “began to be lifted up in the pride of his heart, and to wear very costly apparel, yea, and even began to establish a church after the manner of his preaching.” (6)
He meets Gideon along the road and contends with him. He’s practicing priestcraft, having a form of godliness, but only for material gain and popularity. When Gideon can’t be convinced, he “drew his sword and began to smite him…therefore he was slain by the sword.” (9)
The people of God take this man who just slew one of their members and bring him before Alma. “And it came to pass that he stood before Alma and pleaded for himself with much boldness.” (11) He was not repentant at all.
Alma judges him and says, “Behold, this is the first time that priestcraft has been introduced among this people. And behold, thou art not only guilty of priestcraft, but hast endeavored to enforce it by the sword; and were priestcraft to be enforced among this people, it would prove their entire destruction.” (12)
This shows how evil and destructive priestcraft is within a nation.
Alma sentences Nehor to death.
They carried him upon the top of the hill Manti, and there he was caused, or rather did acknowledge, between the heavens and the earth, that what he had taught to the people was contrary to the word of God; and there he suffered an ignominious death.” (15)Alma 1:15
I wonder how sick Alma felt after this all took place. It had to hurt him to have another man killed, but even worse was the destructive influences he could see creeping in amongst the people he loved. It would’ve been nice if Nehor’s death had ended this foolishness, “nevertheless, this did not put an end to the spreading of priestcraft through the land; for there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor. (16) Nevertheless, they durst not lie, if it were known, for fear of the law, for liars were punished; therefore they pretended to preach according to their belief; and now the law could have no power on any man for his belief.” (17)
Because of this false teaching and love of the vain things of the world, those who were of the church of God—who had taken Christ’s name upon them—were persecuted (19) “with all manner of words, and this because of their humility; because they were not proud in their own eyes, and because they did impart the word of God, one with another, without money and without price.” (20)
The Church taught their members not to “arise and persecute those that did not belong to the church,” (21) but some still “began to be proud, and began to contend warmly with their adversaries, even unto blows; yea, they would smite one another with their fists.” (22)
There will always be those who hate us, but we need to answer with a soft voice—not contention.
Pride leads to contention, arguing with our adversaries, maybe coming to blows on social media and smiting each other with virtual fists.
Do not give into the temptation to answer hate with hate, spite with more spite, anger with anger. Humility breeds love. Pride breeds contention and hate.
This persecution and fighting among the saints “was the cause of much trial with the church. (23) For the hearts of many were hardened, and their names were blotted out…And also many withdrew themselves from among them.” (24)
This is heartbreaking, but we must never give up hope that those that fall away can return. God always stretches out His hands in mercy, pleading with us to return to Him. We must do the same for others.
This was a great trial to those that did stand fast in the faith; nevertheless, they were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God, and they bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them.”Alma 1:25
Steadfast and immovable. It’s interesting to note here that just because they were righteous and followed God didn’t mean their lives were made easy. On the contrary, persecution was HEAPED upon them. The good thing is, when we are steadfast and immovable, God lightens our burdens or strengthens our back so we are able to endure our trials with cheerful hearts. We know this life isn’t the end. It is a testing and proving ground.
And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely.”Alma 1:27
We give according to what we have. If we have been blessed with much, we should give much. If we are struggling day to day for temporal survival, then we give of other things—our love, listening ear, smiles, charity. Not all help has to have a monetary value.
Because the believers were righteous, they were blessed not only spiritually, but physically as well. They focused on God and others instead of on themselves…and were blessed for that.
The believers “did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore, they were liberal to all…having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need. And thus they did prosper and become far more wealthy than those who did not belong to their church.” (30)
Being rich isn’t a sin. But loving riches is because it turns us inward and we don’t help others.
What way are you turned–inward or outward? One leads to pride and other evil. Service leads us back to God.