A new book to begin. As we begin reading the first of 63 chapters, let us remember who we have.
Alma (aka Alma the younger) who is the first chief judge in the land of Zarahemla and is also the high priest over the church which was established by his father Alma the elder.
Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni (aka The Sons of Mosaih) who are out on a mission to the land of Nephi attempting to share the gospel among the Lamanites and call them unto repentance.
Gideon a strong and mighty man who assisted in the flight of the people from the land of Nephi to escape bondage of the Lamanites.
As this book begins, we are in a time of peace and the people are content after having the reign of the judges commence. The people of Zarahemla are considered to be Nephites, but they really are a melting pot of people at this point.
Okay, so here I am studying and I had a total “AH-HA!” moment. I got to about verse 27, but had to stop. Something dawned on me and I was caught by surprise. Everything in it’s place. God’s house is a house of order.
Verse 26 reads: “And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to heart the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength.” My realization here, is that our church today, about 2,105 years later is run the same way. No one is above another, each person is asked to share with their strengths. People take turns giving talks in sacrament meeting and share their knowledge, almost every one has a calling so that they can learn and grow and impart their knowledge upon others. AMAZING. This was happening in the Church of God before Christ was ever even born. I love this gospel.
Tangent done for now, moving back to the original purpose of Alma 1: Everything seems to start out well enough in the reign of the judges, but it seems as if things go downhill pretty fast. We know, that clearly, not everyone that lived in Zarahemla believed on Christ, and not everyone was a member of the Church of God at that time. Mosiah told us that that is acceptable and that everyone can have their own beliefs as long as there are no persecutions one way or the other based on someone’s beliefs. So, there once was a man named Nehor, and he is considered to be an Anti-Christ. To be clear, he isn’t the devil, but he clearly opposed the teachings of Christ and opposed the Church of God that was prevalent in Zarahemla. So Nehor goes about the people of Zarahemla “declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported bu the people. And he also testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.” This is wrong. Wrong. Wrong. While God did create all men, not everyone will be saved at the last day, not all will be redeemed. One must live righteously in the name of Christ in order to receive these blessings, among other requirements. Needless to say, Nehor gathered quite the following and many people beleived him and began supporting him and giving him money. Gideon, a man of God, the same Gideon that helped the people flee from the land of Nephi and out of bondage, stood up to Nehor. Gideon and Nehor exchanged words and Gideon was able to correct all of the wrong words that Nehor taught by using the words of God and correct principles. Nehor got so angry and ended up killing Gideon who was old at this time. There were many witnesses to this killing and Nehor was taken before Alma to be judged of his crime.
Alma explained that Nehor was guilty of priestcraft and that this was against the law. If the people of Zarahemla fell into traps such as his, it would be the cause of their destruction. Additionally, Nehor was guilty of murder and therefore sentenced to death. Nehor was taken to the hill Manti for his sentence to be carried out and there he acknowledged that his teachings had been wrong. He did, however, lead many souls away from the Church of God and these people willingly had their names removed from the records of the church.
The people that left the church realized that they were free to not belong to the church, but they also knew that they could not teach false doctrine in Zarahemla, so they taught and pretended what they were teaching was their belief so that they were not punished. They did, for the most part, behave themselves for fear of the law and followed basic commandments and moral righteousness. Persecutions between the people of God and those that did not believe stopped and the people began to live in peace again. Those that belonged to the Church of God prospered and shared their belongings and wealth with those in need, whether believers or not.
I like to visualize being there at the disagreement between Nehor and Gideon. I like to envision Gideon righteously standing before God and everybody telling Nehor how wrong he is. It saddens me in this vision to see Gideon be killed, but I know that he is in the Celestial Kingdom watching over others and encouraging them to stand for what is right.
I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.