Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ammon’s Wait

Last Sunday in Sunday School we covered the first part of my all-time favorite story in the Book of Mormon – the story of Ammon’s missionary work among the Lamanites.

There was a phrase in the very beginning that caught our teacher’s attention and he pointed it out to us. When Ammon sees the flocks have been scattered and the Lamanite servants are freaking out, it says, “Now when Ammon saw this his heart was swollen within him with joy” (Alma 17:29) To me it has always been a strange idea that Ammon could be so excited at a misfortune that his fellows were so distraught about. But further in the verse we see what Ammon’s intent was. “I will show forth my power...in restoring these flocks…that I may win the hearts of these my fellow-servants, that I may lead them to believe in my words.” (Alma 17:29)

Why was he so happy? Ammon saw it as an opportunity to build his credibility among his Lamanite coworkers. (Notice, he wasn’t even focused on converting the king at all. He just wanted to teach his fellow servants, the people he was around a lot.) But why did he have to build his credibility?

Our stake president noticed that the Lamanites didn’t trust the Nephites at all. If King Lamoni’s father’s attitude—“Whither are thou going with this Nephite, who is one of the children of a liar?. . . .now his children are also come among us that they may, by their cunning and their lyings, deceive us, that they again may rob us” (Alma 20:10,13)— is any indication of the suspicions commonly expressed and demonstrated, Ammon had a hard nut to crack just getting people to believe anything he said.

So I was thinking about why Ammon could have been so happy, and I was reminded that he had already been 3 days doing this job with the Lamanite servants. He had opportunities to talk to them, to see what they are like, and try to start some conversations… or had he?

Have you ever gone someplace to stay for a while and you find that the way things are done are soooo wrong? Have you ever gone someplace like that with the intent to convert people from their incorrect ways? I have. (I really don't know where I get this unmedigated gaul.. ;-)) I’d try to bring issues up and they’d get defensive and I’d find that I was stymied from the very beginning.

I think Ammon knew about this. I just bet that he knew that he wouldn’t be able to force any kind of gospel-oriented discussion on his Lamanite coworkers. He knew that he would have to wait for as long as it took for the Lamanites to ask him questions. He needed an opportunity, an opening. I strongly suspect that during those first three days Ammon was praying really hard, and maybe even fasting, for Heavenly Father to help him. He must have been praying for something that would get the Lamanites to believe him and respect him enough to listen to his message, because that is the only thing that can account for his intense gratitude and his instant recognition of the seeming disaster of Sheep Scatter-Gate as the golden opportunity.

So how can this help us today? We all want to share the gospel with our friends and coworkers. We see from this that Heavenly Father knew that the best way into the hearts of Ammon’s fellow-servants was for their lives to be saved through Ammon’s herding talents and fighting prowess. Heavenly Father knows the way into the hearts of our friends and neighbors and coworkers, and we can pray like Ammon must have done, and Heavenly Father will open the way for them to believe us. The opening will be something that involves our own individual skillset. (Few of us excel at herding, slinging, or sword-fighting anymore.) We just have to be ready, because whatever it is will require a special effort of service or spiritual strength from us that is brilliant enough to flabbergast.

Let's try the experiment! Ready? GO!