These chapters are filled with new beginnings that can teach us great lessons. Consider some of the principles that can be learned from the following events:
Having been converted, the sons of King Mosiah felt a strong desire to preach the gospel to the Lamanites (Mosiah 27:32-28:5). After inquiring of the Lord and receiving an assurance that they would be blessed with success and protection, King Mosiah supported their decision (Mosiah 28:6-9). Because his sons had declined the opportunity to be king, he was then left without a successor to his throne and a caretaker for the scriptural records. At this same time, Mosiah was working to care for the sacred records that had been entrusted to him. He translated the Jaredite records and then conferred all the records upon Alma the Younger (Mosiah 28:10-20). Instead of appointing another king, King Mosiah proposed that the Nephite government be administered by a system of judges (Mosiah 29). Alma was appointed the first chief judge (he was also the high priest over the church) (Mosiah 29:39-44).
Shortly after Alma became chief judge, Nehor established himself as a preacher and spoke out against the Church and its doctrines. He convinced many to believe him and give him money. When he killed Gideon, a faithful member of the Church, he was brought before Alma to be judged. Finding Nehor guilty of priestcraft and of trying to enforce it by the sword, Alma sentenced Nehor to death.
Here are some lessons from the new beginnings for the sons of King Mosiah, the Nephite people, and Alma the Younger:
- Mosiah 28: As our conversion deepens, our desire to share the gospel increases. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught, “The intensity of our desire to share the gospel is a great indicator of the extent of our personal conversion” (“Sharing the Gospel,” Ensign, Nov. 2001). Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “The key to successful member missionary work is the exercise of faith. One way to show your faith in the Lord and His promises is to prayerfully set a date to have someone prepared to meet with the missionaries. I have received hundreds of letters from members who have exercised their faith in this simple way. Even though families had no one in mind with whom they could share the gospel, they set a date, prayed, and then talked to many more people. The Lord is the Good Shepherd, and He knows His sheep who have been prepared to hear His voice. He will guide us as we seek His divine help in sharing His gospel” (“Creating a Gospel-Sharing Home,” Ensign, May 2006). On another occasion he taught us how we can easily prepare and share the gospel. “There is a great need for clear, simple statements that present those who are curious with the basics about the Church as it is today. Prepare your own list of talking points that will assist you in explaining what we believe to your friends of other faiths. Have on one page a few facts about the Church as it is today to give to them along with a copy of the Articles of Faith. The four main subjects deal with facts, faith, families, and fruits of the restored gospel. Most people will not read or focus on more than just a few important facts at one time. Whatever you choose to use to inform your friends and acquaintances about the Church, write it down, check it for accuracy, and keep it simple and short. The growing prominence of the Church and the increasing inquiries from others present us with great opportunities to build bridges, make friends, and pass on accurate information. But it can also present a greater possibility of misunderstanding and sometimes even prejudice if we allow others to define who we are and what we believe rather than presenting it ourselves. Sometimes the best way to answer people’s interest can be by how we live. Now is the time for all of us to reach out and tell others who we are. Prepare some simple facts and help those who are curious to know a little about the Church and then to want to know more about the Restoration of the gospel. Never hesitate to bear your testimony with sincerity and love. The power of personal testimony cannot be denied and often ignites in others the interest to know more.” (Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Faith, Family, Facts, and Fruits”, Ensign, Nov. 2007)
- Mosiah 29: Each person has a duty to uphold righteous laws and leaders. Elder Royden G. Derrick, then a member of the Presidency of the Seventy taught, “The history of the people of ancient America, recorded in the Book of Mormon, teaches that civilizations are built on moral foundations; that when people are morally strong, they do well; that when they are morally weak, they suffer. It teaches us that freedom cannot outlive morality and that freedom is not free—it must be earned” (Ensign, May 1981). The twelfth article of faith states, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” “The three significant words used in the 12th Article of Faith,” commented President David O. McKay, “express the proper attitude of the membership of the Church toward law. These words are—obey, honor, and sustain. The Article does not say we believe in submission to the law. Obedience implies a higher attitude than mere submission, for obedience has its root in good intent; submission may spring from selfishness or meanness of spirit. Though obedience and submission both imply restraint on one’s own will, we are obedient only from a sense of right; submissive from a sense of necessity. Honor expresses an act or attitude of an inferior towards a superior. When applied to things it is taken in the sense of holding in honor. Thus, in honoring the law, we look upon it as something which is above selfish desires or indulgences. To sustain signifies to hold up; to keep from falling. To sustain the law, therefore, is to refrain from saying or doing anything which will weaken it or make it ineffective. We obey law from a sense of right. We honor law because of its necessity and strength to society. We sustain law by keeping it in good repute.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1937, p. 28.) Elder James E. Talmage said: “A question has many times been asked of the Church and of its individual members, to this effect: In the case of a conflict between the requirements made by the revealed word of God, and those imposed by the secular law, which of these authorities would the members of the Church be bound to obey? In answer, the words of Christ may be applied—it is the duty of the people to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s [see D&C 63:26; Matthew 22:21]. At the present time the kingdom of heaven as an earthly power, with a reigning King exercising direct and personal authority in temporal matters, has not been established upon the earth. The branches of the Church as such, and the members composing the same, are subjects of the several governments within whose separate realms the Church organizations exist. In this day of comparative enlightenment and freedom there is still cause for expecting any direct interference with the rights of private worship and individual devotion; in all civilized nations the people are accorded the right to pray, and this right is assured by what may be properly called a common law of humankind. No earnest soul is cut off from communion with his God; and with such an open channel of communication, relief from burdensome laws and redress from grievances may be sought from the power that holds control of nations.” (Articles of Faith, pp. 422–23.) President N. Eldon Tanner taught: “There are many who question the constitutionality of certain acts passed by their respective governments, even though such laws have been established by the highest courts in the land as being constitutional, and they feel to defy and disobey the law. Abraham Lincoln once observed: ‘Bad laws, if they exist, should be repealed as soon as possible; still, while they continue in force, they should be religiously observed.’ This is the attitude of the Church in regard to law observance. … There is no reason or justification for men to disregard or break the law or try to take it into their own hands. It is the duty of citizens of any country to remember that they have individual responsibilities, and that they must operate within the law of the country in which they have chosen to live.” (“The Laws of God”, Ensign, Nov. 1975) President Joseph Fielding Smith likewise said: “No member of the Church can be accepted as in good standing whose way of life is one of rebellion against the established order of decency and obedience to law. We cannot be in rebellion against the law and be in harmony with the Lord, for he has commanded us to ‘be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign. …’ (D&C 58:22.) And one of these days he is going to come.” (“Our Responsibility as Priesthood Holders,” Ensign, June 1971) The exception to this principle would be when the Lord directs His people through His prophets to take an opposing stand to government. Otherwise they recognize the established authority of government. (For more on this subject see, D&C 134 and “Earthly Governments and Laws“)
- Alma 1: When confronted by evil, we must oppose it in God’s way. Elder Carlos E. Asay, then a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, shared some very useful counsel about how to react when confronted by those who would destroy our faith: “How do we respond to such malicious and evil designs? Do we strike back? Allow me to suggest a course of action—one which is in harmony with the teachings of the Savior, and one which, if followed, will be in harmony with the wise counsel of prophets past and present: 1. Avoid those who would tear down your faith. Faith-killers are to be shunned. The seeds which they plant in the minds and hearts of men grow like cancer and eat away the Spirit. True messengers of God are builders—not destroyers. We send our missionaries into the world to teach and to assist people in receiving truth line upon line until the fulness of the gospel is received. (See D&C 98:112.) As one new convert testified: “My previous church provided me the chapter on mortality. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints added two more chapters pertaining to the premortal and postmortal existences.” 2. Keep the commandments. President Brigham Young promised, “All we have to do is to go onward and upward, and keep the commandments of our Father and God; and he will confound our enemies.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957, p. 347.) If we obey holy laws, we will take upon ourselves “the whole armour of God” and we will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (See Eph. 6:11–18.) Moreover, obedience ensures us of the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit. 3. Follow the living prophets, as we have just been admonished. One Church leader taught: “Always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it. … But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.” (Heber J. Grant, quoted by Marion G. Romney in Conference Report, Oct. 1960, p. 78.) We walk in uncharted mine fields and place our souls in jeopardy when we receive the teachings of anyone except he that is ordained of God. (See D&C 43:2–7; D&C 52:9.) 4. Do not contend or debate over points of doctrine. The Master warned that “the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil.” (3 Ne. 11:29.) We are inconsistent if we resort to Satanic tactics in attempting to achieve righteous ends. Such inconsistency results only in frustration, loss of the Spirit, and ultimate defeat. Remember, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege.” (Eleventh Article of Faith.) 5. Search the scriptures. Few of us would go astray or lose our way if we regarded the scriptures as our personal guide or compass. (See Alma 37:44.) The iron rod is the word of God, and if held to, we will not fall. 6. Do not be swayed or diverted from the mission of the Church. There are those who would draw you off course and cause you to waste time and energies. Satan used a diversion ploy when he tempted Christ in the wilderness. The Savior’s decisive response, “Get thee hence, Satan” (Matt. 4:10), is a proper example for all of us. 7. Pray for your enemies. Christ said to the Nephites, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.” (3 Ne. 12:44; see also Matt. 5:44; 3 Ne. 12:10–12.) While on the cross, the Savior pled, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34.) There are many who are kept from the truth—not because they don’t want it, but because they know not where to find it. 8. Practice “pure religion.” Involve yourself in Christian service. Succor the needs of the sick and poor; visit the fatherless and widows, and be charitable to all whether in the Church or out of the Church. (See James 1:27 and Alma 1:30.) 9. Remember that there may be many questions for which we have no answers and that some things have to be accepted simply on faith. An angel of the Lord asked Adam, “Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord?” He answered, “I know not, save the Lord commanded me.” (Moses 5:6.) There may be times when we are called upon to climb Mount Moriah’s and to sacrifice our Isaac’s without a full and prior explanation. Faith is the first principle of the gospel; it is a principle of progress…. I promise all missionaries—and all members—that if the nine actions just mentioned are followed consistently, victory will be yours and faith and testimony will be preserved. At the same time—1. I assure you that opposition to our cause testifies of its divinity. Would satanic powers combine against us if we were not posing a threat to such powers? 2. I assure you that opposition, if met and overcome, has a refining influence upon our lives. A verse in one of our hymns reads: When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply. The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine. (“How Firm a Foundation,” Hymns, no. 66.) The Savior learned obedience by the things which he suffered. (See Heb. 5:8.) Joseph Smith’s oppositions gave him experience and worked for his good. (See D&C 122:7.) 3. I assure you that the waters in which we are wont to swim are but little puddles when compared with the deep rivers of opposition in which the Prophet Joseph and others swam. (See D&C 127:2.) 4. I assure you that our cause is just and it will succeed, regardless of the opposition exerted against us. Earlier Saints were bolstered by these words: “As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.” (D&C 121:33.) President Brigham Young said: “Every time you kick ‘Mormonism’ you kick it upstairs; you never kick it downstairs. The Lord Almighty so orders it.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1941, p. 351.) With all my heart I implore those who are walking on the fringes of our faith to seek the safety of the center. This can be done best by counseling with your leaders and remaining within the fellowshipping circle of the Saints, and receiving nourishment from the good word of God. Do not permit faithless people to turn you out of the right way or to put you out of existence. (See Moro. 6.) And I pray for those who deal in the highest form of larceny—that of stripping people of their precious testimonies. Such action, if continued, will lead only to the futility and emptiness of the dream of a night vision. (See 2 Ne. 27:3; Acts 5:33–39.) God help us all in our war against sin. Though our numbers may be few and our dominions small, may we go forward “armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory” (1 Ne. 14:14). (“Opposition to the Work of God”, Ensign, Nov. 1981)