We talk a lot about Ammon, missionary son of Mosiah, but recently I realized that the other Ammon (the one in the Book of Mosiah, the one who finds the people of Limhi) is a pretty good missionary too, though he had some problems.
32 And now since the coming of Ammon, king Limhi had also entered into a covenant with God, and also many of his people, to serve him and keep his commandments.
33 And it came to pass that king Limhi and many of his people were desirous to be baptized; but there was none in the land that had authority from God. And Ammon declined doing this thing, considering himself an unworthy servant.
34 Therefore they did not at that time form themselves into a church, waiting upon the Spirit of the Lord. Now they were desirous to become even as Alma and his brethren, who had fled into the wilderness.
35 They were desirous to be baptized as a witness and a testimony that they were willing to serve God with all their hearts; nevertheless they did prolong the time; and an account of their baptism shall be given hereafter. (Mosiah 21:32-35)
“since the coming of Ammon, king Limhi had also entered into a covenant with God, and also many of his people, to serve him and keep his commandments.” (emphasis added) – This suggests that Ammon had had a good influence on Limhi and his people somehow. This made me curious to go searching for what Ammon did that brought this about and I found it near the very beginning of the story, in Mosiah 8:2-3.
2 And he [Limhi] caused that Ammon should stand up before the multitude, and rehearse unto them all that had happened unto their brethren from the time that Zeniff went up out of the land even until the time that he himself came up out of the land.
3 And he [Ammon] also rehearsed unto them the last words which king Benjamin had taught them, and explained them to the people of king Limhi, so that they might understand all the words which he spake. (Mosiah 8:2-3)
Ammon must have repeated for King Limhi and his people everything from that powerful sermon of King Benjamin’s and explained it all. Undoubtedly this would lead the people to want to repent and make a covenant with God as King Benjamin’s people had. I have personally seen in my life recently how sharing stories of courageous, righteous acts can inspire others to do the same thing.
But back to Mosiah 21:32-35.
And it came to pass that king Limhi and many of his people were desirous to be baptized; but there was none in the land that had authority from God. And Ammon declined doing this thing, considering himself an unworthy servant. (v33)
Verse 33 shows us something important—for a baptism to occur, there must not only be someone who wants to be baptized, there must also be someone else with 1) authority from God who is 2) spiritually prepared to baptize. All the priests of Noah were gone, but fortunately, Ammon somehow had priesthood authority… except there was a problem--Ammon declined to baptize on the grounds he didn’t feel worthy at that time.
I think we can get a number of lessons from this.
First, Ammon is a good example of understanding his own spiritual status. We have no idea why he considered himself unworthy, but it is commendable that he had the courage to decline even when he was the only one around with authority. (That must have been very difficult; think of the pressure that was on him!)
Second, it shows us how important it is that priesthood ordinances be performed by worthy individuals. Ammon valued worthiness as a priesthood holder more than just making people happy by “going with the flow.”
Third, it shows how important it is to live so as to always be spiritually prepared at any time to perform priesthood ordinances. Ammon probably never imagined he might someday be the only one around with authority to baptize, and modern priesthood holders get to see the consequences of this so that they can learn not to make the same mistake.
Another good thing about these verses is that they show something very interesting—the covenant with God can be a separate act from baptism, but baptism still has to take place eventually as a witness or testimony of that covenant. How might this principle be important? Some people find the gospel at a time in their lives when they can’t get baptized immediately. For instance, a teenager whose parents will not allow him/her to get baptized can still make a covenant with God to serve Him, and keep that covenant to the time they come of age to get baptized. As another example, individuals in prison who find and believe the gospel can’t get baptized until they are released, but making a covenant with God can serve them for the time in prison until they can be baptized as a witness they made that covenant.
Ammon is an interesting character in the Book of Mormon. He taught the words of King Benjamin such that many people were convinced they needed to covenant with the Lord and get baptized. Yet his unworthiness stymied him from exercising his priesthood power fully. I hope the men of the church can avoid his predicament.