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By: Kelly Merrill, Moroni Channel
I have a friend who is currently serving a mission. He wrote me recently for help in dealing with a trial in his life. While serving his mission, his mother was evicted from her residence, and he was suffering from an illness that was hampering his ability to serve. He wondered why the Lord would allow such things to happen when he was trying so hard to do the things he was supposed to do.
My response to this good Elder was basically this, that service to God is not an insurance policy against harm or trials in this life. We cannot expect that just because we are in the Lord’s service that we won’t have any troubles. It just doesn’t work like that.
If being obedient to the commandments doesn’t protect us from harm and trials in this life then why are we being obedient? What are we supposed to gain from keeping the commandments? Why should we be fully committed – all in – when it comes to our devotion to the Lord?
To answer my own questions, I would like to use an example from the Book of Mosiah with the people of Limhi and the people of Alma. The common beginning thread for what happened to these two groups of people begins with the prophet Abinadi’s visit to the people of Noah.
King Noah was a wicked king. He had corrupted his entire kingdom with his personal wickedness. The people were quickly ripening in their iniquity, so the Lord sent Abinadi to warn them of their impending doom if they did not repent. As you read Mosiah 11:20-25 note the conditions of their repentance required by the Lord. This is the first time Abinadi has come to the people. This is their only chance to repent without dire consequences.
20 And it came to pass that there was a man among them whose name was Abinadi; and he went forth among them, and began to prophesy, saying: Behold, thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me, saying, Go forth, and say unto this people, thus saith the Lord—Wo be unto this people, for I have seen their abominations, and their wickedness, and their whoredoms; and except they repent I will visit them in mine anger.
Abinadi told them they must repent now or be taken into captivity. They must “repent in sackcloth and ashes, and cry mightily to the Lord.” The results of their captivity would be that they would be taken into bondage and smitten by their enemies. None would be able to deliver them except the Lord, and He would be slow to hear their cries, just as they were slow to hear His words.
That was Abinadi’s first visit to the people. On his second visit he was sent to warn them of their destruction. He prophesied that the king’s life would be valued as a garment in a furnace, and that the people would be brought into captivity. This time he did not offer them an escape from their fate, only forgiveness for their sins if they repented. His words are found in Mosiah 12:2-7.
2 Yea, wo be unto this generation! And the Lord said unto me: Stretch forth thy hand and prophesy, saying: Thus saith the Lord, it shall come to pass that this generation, because of their iniquities, shall be brought into bondage, and shall be smitten on the cheek; yea, and shall be driven by men, and shall be slain; and the vultures of the air, and the dogs, yea, and the wild beasts, shall devour their flesh.
Notice the difference in tone between his first warning and his second warning. They are no longer offered protection from the Lord if they repent, only continued life if they repent and cry mightily to the Lord to be spared. It has been two years since their first warning, and the people had hardened their hearts.
To shorten the story narrative, King Noah has Abinadi burned to death. Abinadi, while they are burning him, tells the king that just as he is being killed, so too will the king die, and many of the priests and their descendants. Alma was the only priest present at the trial to be convinced of the truthfulness of Abinadi’s words. He repented and began to secretly preach the gospel to the people.
Alma gained several hundred followers. They were hunted by the king and were forced to flee into the wilderness to hide from the king’s army. As promised, the Lamanites came in and took the people of Noah captive.
Limhi was a son of Noah. After the people killed Noah for telling the men to abandon their wives and their children as they fled from the Lamanite army, they made Limhi their king. The king of the Lamanites made Limhi a vassal king, requiring a tax of half of all they produced each year. The Lamanites posted guards around their land so they could not escape. They had wars with the Lamanites in an effort to become free again, but they were beaten back and subjected each time. This proved the words of Abinadi that they would be smitten by their enemies and that none could deliver them except the Lord.
The people of Limhi were treated like dumb beasts, having burdens lashed to their backs and the Lamanites drove them like they would a beast of burden. When they finally admitted that they were trapped, they humbled themselves and made a covenant with the Lord to keep his commandments. They were in this humbled state when Ammon arrived from Zarahemla. Ammon promised to lead them back to their ancestral home. As they sought to find a way out of bondage, a righteous man named Gideon came up with a plan of using the back pass out of the valley. They got the guards extra drunk with strong wine, and they made their escape back to Zarahemla.
Every word of Abinadi was fulfilled. Their trials and suffering were not just as punishment for their sins, but to humble them so they would turn to the Lord and rely on Him for deliverance. This is what the Lord offered them in the beginning, but they hardened their hearts against Abinadi’s words and would not repent.
Alma’s people repented and set up the church among themselves. They were a righteous and industrious people. But alas, they did not repent when they had the chance when Abinadi first came to them.
Their first trial came when the king’s army sought to destroy them and they had to flee. They settled in a land they called Helam. They prospered and were a truly righteous people. But the Lord had made a promise, and he always keeps his promises. An army of Lamanites came into the land and were led by none other than some of the wicked priests of Noah. They hated Alma for his conversion to Abinadi’s teachings.
Limhi’s people were captives of the Lamanites, but Alma’s people were captives of the Lamanites who were led by Amulon, who personally hated Alma. There was a level of vindictive and spiteful rule involved with Amulon’s governance.
Miracles of Obedience
Both Limhi’s and Alma’s people had to suffer the consequences of their disobedience and lack of repenting when Abinadi gave them fair warning from the Lord. But look at the difference between the experiences of these two groups. Limhi’s people suffered, and suffered, and suffered until they were forcibly humbled. Alma’s group had already humbled themselves, so even though they still had to be punished, the Lord rewarded their faith with miracles.
List of Miracles
Lessons to be Learned
When we submit to the Lord and willingly humble ourselves and obey Him, he is free to intervene in our behalf. When we are disobedient to God’s laws, we limit what he is able to do for us.
Both groups of people were initially hardened and disobedient. But Alma’s people repented first and even though they had to suffer in the same way Limhi’s people did, because of their obedience to the Lord He was able to bless them with many miracles.
Miracles are provided by the Lord to confirm our faith. They are not given without faith being demonstrated first, unless the miracle is given to condemn us. Here is my original paragraph of questions
“If being obedient to the commandments doesn’t protect us from harm and trials in this life then why are we being obedient? What are we supposed to gain from keeping the commandments? Why should we be fully committed – all in – when it comes to our devotion to the Lord?”
Three questions, and three answers.
This is what I mean by being “all in.” Alma’s people, once converted, became all in. They were going to be obedient no matter what tragedy befell them. Because of their continued obedience and humility the Lord was able to turn their trials into great stepping stones of spiritual maturity. They became even more righteous because they showed the Lord they would remain faithful no matter what happened around them.
We have the same challenges to face, though probably not by way of an enemy army. We all need to commit ourselves to being “all in” when it comes to daily observance and obedient behavior. And when we finally take that one-way plunge and commit our lives to the Lord, he will be able to work miracles for us the way he did for the people of Alma.
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