After teaching to the people in Zarahemla and Gideon, Alma returns home to “rest himself from the labors which he had performed.” (1) This ends the ninth year of the reign of the judges. The next year, “Alma departed from thence and took his journey over into the land of Melek…” (3) This sounds like the outskirts of Nephite society. He baptizes a bunch of people and travels three days journey north to a city called Ammonihah. (6)
“Now Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people of the city of Ammonihah; therefore they would not hearken unto the words of Alma.” (9)
Alma wrestles with God in mighty prayer for their behalf, that their hearts will be softened. “Nevertheless, they hardened their hearts…” and basically mocked him, saying he had no authority over them now that he wasn’t chief judge. (11-12)
They throw him out of their city, after reviling, spitting and persecuting him. This weighed Alma down with much sorrow “wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people…” (14)
As Alma is leaving, an angel comes to him. The same angel who came to him before, when he was wicked. He blesses Alma and tells him to lift up his head and cheer up. He commands him to “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.” (16)
I love how God doesn’t give up on a people after only one warning. He usually gives them multiple warnings to repent before destruction comes. Alma, himself, was once a sinner.
Though he was the son of a great prophet, he lost his way for a time and became a ‘wicked and an idolatrous man.’ For reasons we can only guess, he actively opposed his father and sought to destroy the Church. And because of his eloquence and persuasiveness, he experienced great success.
But Alma’s life changed when an angel of the Lord appeared to him and spoke with a voice of thunder. For three days and three nights, Alma ‘was racked with eternal torment,…even with the pains of a damned soul.’ And then, somehow, a faint memory brought light to the darkness of his mind—an eternal truth, taught by his father: that Jesus Christ would come ‘to atone for the sins of the world.” Alma had long ago rejected such concepts, but not his ‘mind caught hold upon this thought,’ and he humble, earnestly placed his trust in Christ’s atoning power.”Dieter F. Uchtdorf – https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2016/10/learn-from-alma-and-amulek?lang=eng
Now the angel wants him to teach these same saving truth to the wicked people of Ammonihah, even though they have rejected him once.
The angel reveals the people’s wicked plots to “destroy the liberty of thy people.” (17) After the angel speaks, Alma “returned speedily to the land of Ammonihah.” He didn’t argue and tell the angel all the reasons he shouldn’t go back, like how the people wanted to kill him.
When we receive spiritual promptings, do we go to work to fulfill them quickly? Or do we doubt the message or messenger or justify why we can’t do such a thing?
God knows what we are capable of. When we trust Him, we will be more willing to obey speedily, casting away our doubts.
Alma returns and enters the city by the back entrance this time.
Sometimes we have to be creative in finding ways to obey God’s commands. If we try and fail, remember that so did Alma. So did Nephi. God doesn’t pave the path for us to succeed. Usually, He lets us flounder to prove whether we are determined to do His word, no matter what. These times of floundering can be a trial of our faith. But if we are of a mind to obey speedily, we will try, and then try again and again. Like Alma. Like Nephi.
When Alma returns, he is hungered and asks a man if he would feed him. This man is Amulek, who has also been visited by an angel and commanded to receive Alma.
Alma introduces himself and blesses Amulek’s family for helping and feeding him, for he was hungry because he had fasted many days. Alma tarries with Amulek’s family for many days. After many days, the Lord tells Alma to take Amulek with him and warn the people to repent again or they will be destroyed. They go and “were filled with the Holy Ghost.” (30)
And they had power given unto them, insomuch that they could not be confined in dungeons; neither was it possible that any man could slay them; nevertheless they did not exercise their power until they were bound in bands and cast into prison. Now, this was done that the Lord might show forth his power in them.”Alma 8:31
God could have kept them out of prisons, but He allowed them to suffer so that He might reveal His power to the people and help them see truth. We’ll see in much more detail in the following chapters how Alma and Amulek did this. But to end this chapter, I’ll leave us all with some questions to ponder.
- Am I willing to obey God speedily?
- Am I willing to be creative in figuring out how to fulfill all His commands?
- Do I stand steadfast in my testimony of Christ, even when I am made to suffer for it?
If I answered no to any of these, how can I do better? What sins can I give to the Lord so that I may be more worthy of His Spirit to be with me? What can I consecrate or dedicate to Him to show my humility and trust in Him?