Monday, June 21, 2010

Alma 19: Spiritual gifts manifested in Lamanite conversion

I found some interesting things in the scriptures recently that I hadn’t noticed before. One was in the story of Ammon teaching the Lamanites. I noticed that when the Lamanites woke up from their Spirit-induced sleep, they immediately manifested spiritual gifts.

When Lamoni wakes up the first time, he says to his wife the queen, “Blessed be the name of God, and blessed art thou.” And then he tells her he has seen his Redeemer (the gift of visions) and he prophesies of the redemption of Christ (prophecy). Further, I looked at that statement “Blessed art thou” directed at his wife and I didn’t see how that had anything to do with anything he said afterward. It was puzzling to me, but then this time I realized that he was demonstrating the spiritual gift of discernment, echoing something Ammon had said to her earlier about her blessed state because she believed more than any of the Nephites. Lamoni could not have known his wife’s blessed believing state unless it had been revealed to him through spiritual gifts.

I further have to point out that Lamoni’s wife seems to have demonstrated the spiritual gift of believing the testimony of others. She believed what her servants said about Ammon being “a prophet of a holy God” and she believed Ammon when he said that Lamoni would wake up after another day. Then, it is no surprise that when Lamoni did wake up and then bore powerful testimony to the redemption of Christ on conditions of belief, she believed what her husband said and thus was overpowered by the Spirit.

When Lamoni’s wife awoke from sleeping in God, it says that she “arose and stood upon her feet, and cried with a loud voice, saying: O blessed Jesus, who has saved me from an awful hell! O blessed God, have mercy on this people! And when she said this, she clasped her hands, being filled with joy, speaking many words which were not understood” (Alma 19:29-30) and then raised King Lamoni up. (I can only conclude that she had a conversion experience similar to Alma the Younger’s.) But I wondered about those words she spoke which were not understood. I struck me just recently that she had to have been speaking in tongues.

Perhaps we could argue that she merely spoke things about the gospel that were not understood because of the spiritual ignorance of her people at that point. Or perhaps we could say that she was slipping back into a more native language and she was an immigrant of some sort.. but those explanations do not fit the intensity of the faith manifested in this story, and we all know that miracles happen in proportion to our faith. A manifestation of the gift of tongues is in perfect harmony with the spiritual climate of this story at this point and in perfect proportion to the faith she manifested.

When Lamoni’s servants awoke, they declared the change they had experienced in their hearts, that they had no more desire to do evil. They also “did declare unto the people that they had seen angels and had conversed with them; and thus they had told them things of God, and of his righteousness.” (Alma 19:34) The servants evidently had gifts of visions.. and angelic visions at that.

In thinking about these wonderful spiritual gifts that Lamoni, Lamoni’s wife, and their servants received in their conversion, I can see that those gifts were the fruits of their desires for the truth, their open-hearted acceptance of what they were told, and their immediate efforts to lay hold on salvation. Their enthusiasm was palpable. I look at my own life and I see that far too often I have held back, I have made only tentative efforts, my heart has been only half-open. Their example has reminded me of the commandment to love the Lord with all my heart, might, mind, and strength. It has shown me that to reap the full spiritual blessings of obeying the commandments, I need to give it my best, strongest efforts and my fullest zeal.


Clifford said...

Very profound. I am inclined to agree with you.