This chapter does not have a lot of "doctrine" but the lessons found therein are very valuable. The overriding theme of the chapter is "struggle." Every person and group mentioned in the chapter "struggles" in one way or another, to arrive at the desired destination or to be liberated from something. How do we struggle in life and what can we learn from Mosiah 7 to help us overcome those struggles?
Ammon the Descendant of Zarahemla
It is interesting that Ammon who was a descendent of Zarahemla was chosen to lead the search party. It would have seemed wiser to send a descendent of Nephi to go back to the land of Lehi-Nephi. Zarahemla and consequently his descendants would have had no knowledge of the land of Lehi-Nephi. Perhaps this is the reason they did not know which course to travel and subsequently wandered for forty days (v. 3-4).
Forty days is not an un-common number in the scriptures. Forty days is usually associated with struggle throughout the scriptures. A search of the on-line scriptures shows many, many references of forty days of struggle.
It rained for forty days and forty nights causing the Great Flood (Genesis 7:4, 12, 17). Moses fasted for forty days two times (see Deut. 9). The children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years (Numbers 14:34) after showing a lack of faith from their report of searching the land of Canaan for forty days (Numbers 13:25). Joseph mourned for forty days after his father Jacob died (Genesis 50:3). Goliath taunted Israel for forty days (1 Sam 17:16). Jonah warns the people of Ninevah that if they don't repent, their city would be destroyed in forty days (Jonah 3:4). And lastly, Christ fasted in the wilderness for forty days (Matt. 4:2, Mark 1:13).
In each of the references above, it is worth noting that there is a spiritual element to the period of struggle. After forty days, the people involved are cleansed in some manner or spiritually strengthened. The price for that cleansing and increased spiritual strength is an arduous struggle whether it be persevering rains and floods, hardship, thirst, hunger, fatigue or mourning.
The end of Ammon's search party's struggle marks the beginning of hope for the people of Limhi.
An Effectual Struggle to be Made
Limhi was "exceedingly glad" (v. 14) to know that his brethren were still alive in the land of Zarahemla. He had the people gather at the temple to tell them of the wonderful news. In verse 18 he tells the people, "the time is at hand, or is not far distant, when we shall no longer be in subjection to our enemies, notwithstanding our many strugglings, which have been in vain; yet I trust there remaineth an effectual struggle to be made."
Obviously, previous attempts were made to procure their liberation from the Lamanites, but they were unsuccessful. But with the coming of Ammon, Limhi sees his arrival as a sign that their next struggle (attempt) at their liberation will be successful. Limhi's first attempts at liberation were not successful because the people were not humble and they did not trust in the Lord. After all those attempts failed, the people humbled themselves and began to plead with the Lord (Mosiah 21:14). Only after their pleadings began did Ammon and his brethren arrive.
Even after Ammon arrived, Limhi counseled the people to lift up their heads and rejoice and to put their trust in God (v. 19). He then reminds them of the struggle of the children of Israel and Lehi and his family. He reminds them that if they had not sinned, they would not have had these sore afflictions come upon them (v. 25). He reminds them of the consequences of failing to listen to a prophet of God (Abinadi). He tells them that the promise of the Lord was fulfilled … they were warned by Abinadi and they suffered as Abinadi had foretold (v. 32).
Trust in the Lord and Deliverance
The chapter ends with Limhi telling his people how they can hope to be delivered from bondage.
"But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage" (Mosiah 7:33).
At any given point in our life we are struggling with something be it a trial, an illness or a personal issue. We are always struggling with something. The question, therefore, is how are we dealing with our current struggles? Do we take no thought and hope that the problem goes away by itself? Do we seek advice from friends? Do we attempt to fix the problem without involving the Lord?
I think we need to involve the Lord in all our struggles. If we think we can fix our own problems without the Lord, then we are not trusting in the Lord. It is true that some of our problems can be solved on our own. But the more often (and hopefully always) we involve the Lord and petition his help and humbly receive his guidance, then our struggles will be bearable and we will be strengthened spiritually.
I came across the following quote with regard to struggles in this life:
"The persistence of these human frailties from the beginning of the race till now is but an indication of the heritage of mortality rooted down deep in it. The age-old urging to conquer them attests that mortal imperfections are antagonistic to other instincts native to the human family. There is then set up in the individual a conflict between the opposing forces of good and evil. We should accordingly expect the vices and the virtues respectively, to be essentially of the same nature till the conflict is over, though there may be differences of degree and of manifestation. The conquest of evil by the good is the struggle of life. It is the struggle for perfection and the attainment of salvation which is supremacy over evil. We must not be too discouraged because progress is slow, for it involves working changes in human desires and inclinations. Perfection has to be achieved; salvation has to be won. They do not come as free bestowals. The process seems to be through winning the struggle for supremacy between human imperfections and the mandates of the God-given perfect law. It is by meeting adversities, battling down obstacles, rising triumphant over opposing forces that man builds muscle and moral and intellectual fibre and spiritual stamina. It is the process by which he has built up his amazing mastery in the physical world and the forces that operate in it reducing them to servitude and ordering them to his bidding. There is no such thing in this world as getting something for nothing. Everything has its price. Every step forward in the realm of human progress, in the amazing advance of man in his mastery in the physical world has come out of grueling toil and sweat, heartbreaking disappointments and failures and, after failure returning again to the struggle.
The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
The Ladder of St. Augustine
Henry W. Longfellow"
(Elder Albert E. Bowen Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Conference Report, October 1949).