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The Role of Shared Stories in Becoming Unified (Mosiah 25)

A Video Supplement for
Come, Follow Me Book of Mormon Lesson 20:
“They Were Called the People of God” (Mosiah 25-28)




In Mosiah 25, King Mosiah, “caused that all the people should be gathered together” (Mosiah 25:1) for the purpose of unifying several groups of people who, because of their systematically different experiences, might have difficulty fully relating to each other as truly one people and, more to the point, as brother and sisters. You see, the people of Zeniff who had gone to the Land of Nephi among the Lamanites to inherit the land where Nephi first built his city in the new world before the Lamanites took over the area had experienced a great deal of both adversity and divine deliverance that was outside the experience of those who had remained in the land. The same was true of Alma’s people who had split from the people of Zeniff during Noah’s reign of wickedness and lived separately until a band of Lamanites found them while lost in the wilderness and took them into captivity until the Lord delivered them.

So with these real and serious divisions based on differences of experience, how does Mosiah approach the project of unifying his people so that these differences do not come to weaken his people and make them vulnerable to fracturing under the ever-present threat of Lamanite aggression. In responding to this challenge, King Mosiah in a way resorts to the power of shared experience to unite his people. Experience is what divides them into those who did or did not go up to the Land of Nephi, but by sharing the stories of their experiences while there, the same experiences can also unite them. Beginning with verse 4,

4 And now all the people of Nephi were assembled together, and also all the people of Zarahemla, and they were gathered together in two bodies.
5 And it came to pass that Mosiah did read, and caused to be read, the records of Zeniff to his people; yea, he read the records of the people of Zeniff, from the time they left the land of Zarahemla until they returned again.
6 And he also read the account of Alma and his brethren, and all their afflictions, from the time they left the land of Zarahemla until the time they returned again.

This reading has the desired effect. Indeed, it seems that it almost allows the hearers who had remained in the land of Zarahemla the whole time to become part of the experiences of their brethren who did not. Continuing at verse 7,

7 And now, when Mosiah had made an end of reading the records, his people who tarried in the land were struck with wonder and amazement.
8 For they knew not what to think; for when they beheld those that had been delivered out of bondage they were filled with exceedingly great joy.
9 And again, when they thought of their brethren who had been slain by the Lamanites they were filled with sorrow, and even shed many tears of sorrow.
10 And again, when they thought of the immediate goodness of God, and his power in delivering Alma and his brethren out of the hands of the Lamanites and of bondage, they did raise their voices and give thanks to God.
11 And again, when they thought upon the Lamanites, who were their brethren, of their sinful and polluted state, they were filled with pain and anguish for the welfare of their souls.

Stories lead to empathy and even sympathy because the rehearsal of the story and the act of listening to it involves an act of creation within the hearer. In sharing their stories, King Mosiah has made the experiences of Alma’s people and Limhi’s people part of the common stock of experience of the people as a whole. In doing so he has laid the foundation for unity and understanding among his people as a whole. A similar thing happens when people share their testimonies of their own experiences with coming to know God and receiving his help and teaching within their families and among their friends in their congregations, and also when we share our stories more generally. Reading the stories of the members of the Church in Saints can fulfill a similar role for the entire Church as we come to understand the challenges they faced and come to appreciate the faith they brought to bear in addressing those challenges. Reading about and remembering the faith that others have shown and the deliverance which God provided them can likewise instill like faith in the readers as well as helping the readers and the hearers to more perfectly become one in keeping with the mission of Elijah outlined in Malachi in turning, in particular, the heart of the children to their fathers. But more to the point, listening to one another’s stories of faith can help us to more perfectly become one in Christ today.

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