In preparing for Gospel Doctrine Lesson 19 None Could Deliver Them but the Lord, I noticed a story that I hadn’t really noticed before that moved me about Alma’s people escaping from the Lamanites.
This lesson also covers the beautiful verses that Alma describes as the covenant of baptism, which might be my favorite scripture of all. Mosiah 18:8-10
8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
This is the ultimate description of what it means to be LDS. Our job is to mourn with those who mourn, comfort those who comfort, and stand as a witness of God. Stand as a representative of Jesus Christ and do the things and say the things that we believe he would. I like this story, an old Buddhist tale, to illustrate what it does for each other when we mourn with those who mourn.
A young woman lost her child. She was inconsolable. She went walking through the village wailing with the dead baby in her arms and she goes to the Buddha and she says please give me medicine to heal my baby. But the baby’s dead and obviously nothing can be done. The Buddha says bring me a handful of mustard seed. Go to each house in the village and ask for a mustard seed and bring them to me. But the mustard seed must come from a house where there has been no death of a child, parent, or friend. So she goes to every house in the village and when she comes back to the Buddha she had no mustard seed. Every house had experienced death. But what she did receive at every house was an embrace, and tears and sorrow shared as they related to her loss. Through that experience she was able to find peace and resolution and be able to bury her child.
It’s also interesting to me that Alma mentions he was teaching the words of Abinadi. Abinadi didn’t say much about how people following Christ should treat each other. He focused his message on the Savior’s life and atonement and the meaning behind it. He quoted Isaiah 53, “he was bruised for our iniquities”. I find it moving that Alma took this message and most likely extrapolated out himself that a people worshiping Jesus Christ and wanting to be like him would “mourn with those who mourn”.
I’ve always been moved by that passage, but the story I hadn’t really noticed before as being spiritually moving is the one starting in Chapter 23.
In Chapter 23, Alma’s people that had gotten baptized together were living peacefully in the wilderness, and hiding out from King Noah’s people. They built a city Helam and things were going pretty well. Ashley was 10 months sober and life never felt better. Her new apartment wasn’t a lot, but she was close to home, her mom could sit for her two children while she worked her new job. She had worked hard to straighten up her life and was finally feeling some peace as the result of those efforts. She felt like she was getting the new start she needed and could make a go of it this time.
19 And it came to pass that they began to prosper exceedingly in the land; and they called the land Helam.
And then, the trial came.
21 Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.
They’re working in their fields and they look up and see a huge army of Lamanites surrounding them. Why does he need to test their patience? Ashley just got fired from her new job after a background check came up with information about her past. Ashley drops her kids off to her ex’s for the weekend. He’s a self-righteous jerk and always makes her feel bad about herself. He’s remarried now to a girl with money and they live in a big house, and his wife talks down to her. She goes home to spend the weekend alone, trapped in her thoughts. She’s feeling the cravings of the crystal meth she had turned to in the past to help her handle her life. She’s feeling worthless. The memories of being abused as a child are haunting her. Hasn’t she been through enough? She can’t handle any more. She looks at all these obstacles facing her and it seems like the Lamanite army surrounding her ready to crush her. Ashley wonders why he needs to test her patience and faith.
25 For behold, it came to pass that while they were in the land of Helam, yea, in the city of Helam, while tilling the land round about, behold an army of the Lamanites was in the borders of the land.
26 Now it came to pass that the brethren of Alma fled from their fields, and gathered themselves together in the city of Helam; and they were much frightened because of the appearance of the Lamanites.
And the Lamanites put them in bondage and even force them that they can’t pray out loud. But they pray in their hearts and God hears them and makes their burdens light. And so Ashley prays like the people of Alma to have her burdens lightened. Please God come to me. Make these burdens light.
12 And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.
13 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.
Ashley prayed to God and did pour out her heart unto him, and he did know the thoughts of her heart. And it came to pass the voice of the Lord said to Ashley: “Lift up your head and be of good comfort, for I know the covenant you’ve made with me. I know your heart. I know who you are. And you’re about to know who I am. You’re about to know the power I have to work through you in your life. I will covenant with you. I will ease your burdens which are on your shoulders, even so that you cannot feel them on your back. You can endure this time in your life. You’ll find a new job. The cravings for using drug will become lighter and lighter. The pain of your childhood will become more bearable and your heart will be healed. And why am I doing all this for you Ashley? Why am I giving you this trial and then sustaining you so you can endure it? So that you will know of a surety I am here for you. That I’m a God who visits my dear precious Ashley in her time of affliction.” And so Ashley did submit cheerfully and with patience to the will of God.
Then God made a miracle for the people of Alma to escape. Mosiah 24:19-20
19 And in the morning the Lord caused a deep sleep to come upon the Lamanites, yea, and all their task-masters were in a profound sleep.
20 And Alma and his people departed into the wilderness; and when they had traveled all day they pitched their tents in a valley, and they called the valley Alma, because he led their way in the wilderness.
Just like the miracle for Alma, he made a miracle for Ashley. A friend came to visit her. The voices in her head were silenced long enough for her to endure this weekend. He put a deep sleep over the temptation of crystal meth and the financial pressures and the impact her ex had on her. Ashley was able to make an escape through it.
21 Yea, and in the valley of Alma they poured out their thanks to God because he had been merciful unto them, and eased their burdens, and had delivered them out of bondage; for they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it were the Lord their God.
22 And they gave thanks to God, yea, all their men and all their women and all their children that could speak lifted their voices in the praises of their God.
The people gave thanks to God for this miracle and his mercy and for easing their burdens. And Ashley gave thanks to God. And she knew he eased her burdens. And great were her rejoicings.