In the Stables
As mentioned in the previous entry, Ammon did indeed prepare before entering the missionary fields. However, once he began his mission, the time for preparation was over the and time for work had begun. He did not take a break after defending the king's flocks … he continued to serve.
Elder Eyring said, "Now, remember that he not only protected the servants and the animals at the waters of Sebus, but he drove off the enemy. When the other servants brought the evidence of what Ammon had done, King Lamoni said, “Where is he?” They said, “Oh, he is in the stables. He is doing every little thing to serve you” (see Alma 18:8–9).
"Isn’t that odd? He was called to teach the doctrines of salvation, but he was in the stables. Don’t you think he should have been praying and fasting and polishing his teaching plan? No, he was in the stables." (Henry B. Eyring, “The Book of Mormon Will Change Your Life,” Ensign, Feb 2004, 9)
He Perceived Thoughts
Ammon had the gift of discernment (D&C 46:23). This is the ability to perceive others' thoughts and intents.
President Monson demonstrated his gift of discernment while recalling a memory he had during a General Conference talk in the Tabernacle.
"During the message I delivered at general conference in October 1975, I felt prompted to direct my remarks to a little girl with long, blonde hair, who was seated in the balcony of this building. I called the attention of the audience to her and felt a freedom of expression which testified to me that this small girl needed the message I had in mind concerning the faith of another young lady.
"At the conclusion of the session, I returned to my office and found waiting for me a young child by the name of Misti White, together with her grandparents and an aunt. As I greeted them, I recognized Misti as the one in the balcony to whom I had directed my remarks. I learned that as her eighth birthday approached, she was in a quandary concerning whether or not to be baptized. She felt she would like to be baptized, and her grandparents, with whom she lived, wanted her to be baptized, but her less-active mother suggested she wait until she was 18 years of age to make the decision. Misti had told her grandparents, “If we go to conference in Salt Lake City, maybe Heavenly Father will let me know what I should do.”
"Misti and her grandparents and her aunt had traveled from California to Salt Lake City for conference and were able to obtain seats in the Tabernacle for the Saturday afternoon session. This was where they were seated when my attention was drawn to Misti and my decision made to speak to her.
"As we continued our visit after the session, Misti’s grandmother said to me, “I think Misti has something she would like to tell you.” This sweet young girl said, “Brother Monson, while you were speaking in conference, you answered my question. I want to be baptized!”
"The family returned to California, and Misti was baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Through all the years since, Misti has remained true and faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Fourteen years ago, it was my privilege to perform her temple marriage to a fine young man, and together they are rearing five beautiful children, with another one on the way." (Thomas S. Monson, “Tabernacle Memories,” Ensign, May 2007, 41–42)
If we are in tune with the Holy Ghost, we too can be blessed with this gift.
Repentance and Reformatting
Once King Lamoni was hooked, there was no going back. (see Alma 18:22-23) At this point, Ammon began to re-format Lamoni (with the help of the Holy Ghost). Because I'm somewhat of a computer geek, I liken King Lamoni's conversion to rebuilding a computer. In some cases, a computer's hard drive and OS and other components become so corrupt, that it is necessary to completely rebuild the computer rather than try to fix individual problems. King Lamoni and his servants and subjects had been so entrenched in the Lamanite way of thinking (Alma 18:5) that Ammon had to teach him everything from the beginning. Even King Lamoni's basic understanding about God had to be corrected. From there, Ammon "began at the creation of the world" and continued to teach Lamoni from the scriptures all spiritually historic events in history to the present time in which they lived. Just as important, Ammon had to teach Lamoni the correct history of Nephi and Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael.
In summary, Ammon had to help Lamoni change his knowledge. As he changed his knowledge and understanding, so did his mind and spirit and breath change.
Elder Nelson said the following in the April 2007 General Conference, "The doctrine of repentance is much broader than a dictionary’s definition. When Jesus said “repent,” His disciples recorded that command in the Greek language with the verb metanoeo. This powerful word has great significance. In this word, the prefix meta means “change.” The suffix relates to four important Greek terms: nous, meaning “the mind”; gnosis, meaning “knowledge”; pneuma, meaning “spirit”; and pnoe, meaning “breath.”
"Thus, when Jesus said “repent,” He asked us to change—to change our mind, knowledge, and spirit—even our breath. A prophet explained that such a change in one’s breath is to breathe with grateful acknowledgment of Him who grants each breath. King Benjamin said, “If ye should serve him who has created you … and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath … from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.”
"Yes, the Lord has commanded us to repent, to change our ways, to come unto Him, and be more like Him. This requires a total change. Alma so taught his son: “Learn wisdom in thy youth,” he said. “Learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God. … Let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.”
"To repent fully is to convert completely to the Lord Jesus Christ and His holy work. Alma taught that concept when he posed these questions: “I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” That change comes when we are “born again,” converted and focused upon our journey to the kingdom of God. (Russell M. Nelson, “Repentance and Conversion,” Ensign, May 2007, 102–5)
Fainting and Rebooting
King Lamoni did not speak much if at all during Ammon's discourse. The only words uttered by Lamoni directly after Ammon's teaching are, "O Lord, have mercy; according to thy abundant mercy which thou has had upon the people of Nephi, have upon me, and my people." (Alma 18:41) After hearing the correct history of Nephi and Laman and Lemuel, it seems that Lamoni finally understood why the Nephites seemed to be so much more blessed than the Lamanites. King Lamoni greatly desired to have those same blessings the Nephites enjoyed.
Upon speaking these words, "he fell to the earth." After the format was complete, Lamoni's system had to reboot!
There are many references in the scriptures about men's strength failing them after they had received glorious instruction. We know that Lehi was overcome with the Spirit after seeing a vision (1 Nephi 1:7). We also read of Alma losing all his strength after being visited by an angel of the Lord (Mosiah 27:19). Joseph Smith was also left weak after numerous visits by the angel Moroni (JSH 1:48).
After Lamoni had laid in bed for two days, the queen inquired of Ammon. Ammon taught her that the "dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind" and was being replaced with the "light of the glory of God." This process was so powerful that it "had overcome his natural frame." (Alma 19:6)
The pattern of being overcome with joy and the Spirit of the Lord continued after Lamoni finally awoke. He spoke to the queen and testified to her that he had seen his Redeemer. Upon speaking these words, the queen was overcome too and fainted with joy. After seeing this miracle, Ammon began to pray and thank the Lord for blessing the Lamanites and he too fainted with joy.
Now that the king, queen and Ammon had all fainted, the only people left standing were the servants. So great was their fear that they too began to call upon God after which they too fainted.
Is there a modern-day equivalent to the servants being the last to faint and consequently be converted? Had they been taught in isolation (away from the king), would they have been converted? Or was it part of their conversion process to see the king and queen and Ammon faint? I suppose what I am trying to pinpoint here is as parents and friends and neighbors, we may need to "show the way" before our children and friends and neighbors are converted. On the flip-side of that thought, we could ask ourselves if we rely on others' testimony of the gospel or do we stand on our own testimony … independent of others'?
Abish - Seeing Isn't Believing
The one servant who did not faint was Abish. She had been converted to the gospel years before. The one desire she had at the time was to show the people the power of God (Alma 19:17). She thought that if the people could just see with their eyes that the king and queen and the servants and Ammon had been overcome with the power of God, they would believe.
Sadly, the effect was not what Abish had hoped for. Instead of seeing and believing, the people began to rationalize as to why the king and queen and the others lay dead. Many arguments broke out and none of them were correct. In fact, one of the persons was a brother of one of the robbers that Ammon had slain. He tried to execute revenge on Ammon, but he was smitten to death by God. (Alma 19:22)
When the people saw this, more arguments erupted. The contention among the people continued and Abish failed in her attempt to convince the people.
The point taken is that we cannot be converted from the outside in. We must be converted from the inside … by the Spirit. That is the only way we can truly become converted. None of the people arguing were converted because they saw the power of God. It may have piqued their interest to investigate the gospel, but they were not converted because they saw with their eyes.
Abish became sorrowful because of all the contention. She took the queen by her hand hoping to raise her and the queen arose.
The queen had been converted and raised the king from his slumber. When the king saw all the contention among his people, he "rebuked them" and began to teach them the things Ammon had taught him. "And as many as heard his words believe, and were converted unto the Lord." (Alma 19:31) Again … note that only after they were taught and touched by the Spirit were the people converted.
Hearts are Changed
Alma 19:33 nicely sums up what has happened among this people. "Their hearts had been changed" and "they had no more desire to do evil."
Reading these two chapters and writing the commentary on them has a little story in and of itself that I thought I'd share. During my lunch break on May 15, 2007, I read Alma 18 and wrote the first two sections. For whatever reason, I just could not finish the commentary. It was as if I had a stupor of thought … I simply didn't know what else to learn from the chapter. But I knew there was something else to learn. So I stopped at a point and left it.
Later that night, I had an interview with one of the Stake presidency. While I was waiting for the interview to start, I pulled out my Palm Pilot and began reading Alma 18 again to see if I could gain any other insight. The words that Lamoni spoke before he fainted kept sticking in my head. I kept asking myself why he would say those words and that is when that thought which I wrote about popped into my head.
Then this morning, driving into work, I was listening to the April 2007 General Conference talks. I "flipped" through a number of the talks until I landed on Elder Nelson's talk on repentance and conversion. I began to view Lamoni's repentance and conversion through the prism of Elder Nelson's words and that is when I really began to learn from the Spirit. It was as if knowledge was indeed "pouring down" from the Almighty.
To me, this is just another testimony that we can learn from the Spirit when we immerse ourselves in the scriptures.