Mosiah 29 “Let Us Be Wise”
King Mosiah wanted to know what his people desired for their government after his reign ended (verses 1-3). But when their wish for one of his sons to be the next king became impossible, he wisely proposed a superior solution: To replace the kings with judges, who would be elected by the people (verses 10-11; see also verses 25-38). Governments run by benign, popularly-elected officials are rare in the history of mankind. More commonly, people have suffered under despotic tyrants who fit the characterization of wicked kings described by Mosiah as part of his rationale for a new system. Consider the things Mosiah said about kings in verses 16-18, 21-23, 31, 35-36 (see also 1 Samuel 8:4-20; wherein Samuel warns the children of Israel against choosing kings as their leaders).
Mosiah was confident that even though there would be some who would vote for people and policies that go against the greater good, he knew that the majority would choose that which was right (verse 26). But Mosiah also gave a stern warning against the day when the majority would “choose iniquity,” which would lead to “great destruction” (verse 27). Sadly, Mormon later noted the arrival of that day, occurring some 60 years later (see Helaman 5:1-3).
The new system of judges was so significant in Nephite history that they changed the reckoning of their calendar, which they had followed for over 500 years. Instead of marking time from Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem, here they began counting years according to the rule of the judges (see Alma 1:1; it will change once again in 3 Nephi, based upon the signs of Christ’s birth; see 3 Nephi 2:8).
Alma 1:2-16 Already There Is Intrigue
In the very first year of the reign of the judges, Alma—the first elected chief judge and also the prophet-leader over the church—encounters an Anti-Christ (whose teachings are comparable to those of Sherem in Jacob 7, Korihor in Alma 30, and Zoram in Alma 31). His name is Nehor (verse 15) and he taught taught:
- Every priest and teacher ought to become popular and not labor with their hands, but be financially supported by the people (verse 3).
- All mankind will be saved at the last day; people need not fear, for the Lord will raise all to exaltation (verse 4).
And the results of his teachings?
- Many believed Nehor and supported him and gave him money (thus revealing his true motive; verse 5).
- He became lifted up in pride, wearing costly apparel, and established his own church (verse 6).
- Sharp contention, which led to Nehor murdering one who opposed him (verses 7-9).
Alma declares that Nehor is guilty of “priestcraft.” Read Alma 1:12, 16; 2 Nephi 10:5; and 2 Nephi 26:29 to identify (1) The definition of priestcraft, and (2) The results of priestcraft. How do the definition and results compare to the work of Satan?
Alma 1:19-32 Those in the Church and Those Who Were Not
Go through these verses and make two lists:
- The things done by those who did not belong to the church of God, as found in verses 19-20, 32.
- The things done by those who belonged to the church, in verses 25-28, 30.
What things stand out for you? What do these two lists teach you about living in this world, but not being worldly? (See also Alma 5:57; John 15:19; 17:11, 14-15; 1 John 2:15-17; 4:4.)
Consider how we can become more “steadfast and immovable” (verse 25) and more faithfully do the following:
- Bear persecution with patience (verse 25).
- Become “equal” as members of God’s church (verse 26).
- Impart of our substance to the poor, needy, sick, afflicted, naked, and hungry; whether the recipients are of the church or not (verses 27, 30).
Note how these Christlike attributes and behaviors led to “continual peace,” despite “all their persecutions” (verse 28). In other words, their lives were filled with external conflict, yet they felt internal peace (see also John 14:27; 16:33).
Alma 2 Leadership
Here we find a deep contrast between the leadership approaches of righteous Alma (verses 12-13, 16, 21, 28, 30) and wicked Amlici (verses 1-2, 4, 8, 10, 14). What were their differing motivations and methods? What lessons can we learn from these two leaders that can help us in our roles and interactions today?
Alma 3:6-19 “A Curse Upon Them”
As noted previously, the curse upon the Lamanites and others in the Book of Mormon is not the dark skin; the actual curse was the withdrawal of God’s spirit (see 2 Nephi 5:20; Alma 9:13-14). The dark skin was the mark of the curse (Alma 3:6-7, 10; see also 2 Nephi 5:21), as a warning to the righteous to avoid their wicked ways (Alma 3:8-9, 15; see also 2 Nephi 5:22-23). The loss of God’s spirit and influence came as a natural result after persistent iniquity and hard-heartedness, and this led to idleness, mischief, incorrect traditions, and spiritual destruction (Alma 3:8; see also 2 Nephi 5:24). Of course, the Lord left open the opportunity for repentance and reversal of the curse (Alma 3:14; see also 2 Nephi 5:22; Alma 23:18).
Alma 4:1-13 A Tragic Cycle
During the second year of Alma’s reign as chief judge the members of the church “did stand fast in the faith…were steadfast and immovable…were equal…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…did establish the affairs of the church…began to have continual peace [and] began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things” (Alma 1:23, 25-29). But then something went wrong. Only four years later, the conflicts recounted in Alma 2-3 had led to the people being “greatly afflicted for the loss of their brethren” as well as the loss of their herds and crops. In turn, these losses led to mourning and introspection of their own “wickedness and abominations,” and “therefore they were awakened to a remembrance of their duty.” So they repented (see Alma 4:1-5).
Must we always suffer affliction in order to be awakened to our spiritual duties? Was Amilici the cause of their troubles, or were their problems self-inflicted? One of the great lessons in the Book of Mormon is our need to be true to the Lord regardless of our circumstances (see also Helaman 12:1-6).
Unfortunately, only two years later Alma’s people began turning again to pride and materialism, and “the church began to fail in its progress” (Alma 4:6-10). Alma saw “great inequality among the people,” some filled with pride and hate and overlooking the needy. Meanwhile, we find our example in those who gave of their substance even while “suffering all manner of afflictions, for Christ’s sake” (verses 11-13).
Alma 4:15-20 Alma’s Solution
What are some key words and phrases in these verses that describe Alma’s solution to the problems among his people? (See also Alma 31:5.) Think of times in your life when the “pure testimony” (verse 19) or teachings of our living prophets—or of other people—have stirred you to greater faith and obedience.