Friday, January 29, 2010

Ammon, Lamoni, and Lamoni’s Father: Unexpected Obstacles Can Further Missionary Work

Yesterday my husband and I were reading the chapter about when Ammon and Lamoni go to deliver Ammon’s brethren from prison. I always thought it was very odd that Ammon was prompted to not go to see Lamoni’s father but that when he goes to Middoni to get his brothers out of prison, they meet Lamoni’s father anyway! This seemed kind of contradictory to me that the Lord would tell Ammon to not go see a person and then make it so that he meets him after all.

I was thinking about this today and I realized that in the larger scheme of things, by allowing the events to happen as they did, the Lord actually was setting the stage for the conversion of Lamoni’s father. Remember that Lamoni straightway wanted to go show Ammon to his father. (“See who I met! Look what I learned! Listen to him and be converted too!”) While Lamoni’s feelings were perfectly natural—what convert doesn’t immediately want to share what they found with their nearest and dearest?—following those inclinations would certainly have set up an awkward situation. The scene that played out in the road between Lamoni, his father, and Ammon would have have occurred in more unfavorable conditions and Lamoni would certainly have felt frustrated and stymied from it if that had been his main reason for seeing his father.

But by giving Ammon and Lamoni a mission to accomplish that didn’t involve conversion, the Lord could bring Lamoni’s father to them, and with that as the bigger concern, discussion of religion would be a “by the way” bonus and the interaction would be more natural and genuine.

I think Heavenly Father also knew that Lamoni’s father needed to be softened up in a similar way to Lamoni and his servants. The Lamanites, a fierce and warlike culture, considered fighting prowess to be the most impressive characteristic a man could have. The better a fighter you were, the more they would respect you. Heavenly Father used this bit of information and began missionary work among the Lamanites by creating a new association in the minds of the Lamanites—associating fighting prowess with God, faith, and religion. He used the same thing with Lamoni’s father. For the first time, Lamoni’s father saw superior strength and fighting prowess associated with saving souls, love of his son, mercy, having no guile, and the Spirit of the Lord. Not only this, but he heard everything that Ammon had done that led to Lamoni’s conversion. (He didn’t accept it initially, but with sufficient time to think after the encounter, those ideas began to sink deeper into his heart.)

The Lord allowed Lamoni’s father to be an obstacle for Lamoni and Ammon to overcome, knowing that this victory would be enough to impress Lamoni’s father and make him more receptive. Interestingly enough, Ammon and Lamoni were going to liberate the very missionaries that would later teach the gospel to Lamoni’s father.

Something I learn from this is that each person has a characteristic or a skill that they particularly respect. We may not know what it is, but Heavenly Father does, and to bring the gospel to His children, He may maneuver us into situations in which we demonstrate how that respected idea is associated with the gospel.

Something else I learned from this was that the unexpected obstacles we may suddenly run into can actually be part of the Lord’s plan, preparing the way for future missionary success. So, when we suddenly face opposition in choosing the right or helping others, we can keep this in mind. Stand up for what’s right! Stick to your guns! You never know if you may be playing Ammon or Lamoni’s part in a similar scenario that may eventually bring similar conversion results.

Another thing that occurs to me is that Lamoni’s father was particularly impressed not just by Ammon’s fighting prowess, but by his mercy and generosity when in a position of power. Ammon held the life of Lamoni’s father in his hand, and Lamoni’s father knew it. Lamoni’s father probably thought that Ammon would do what he himself would have done in the same situation—extract as much benefit as possible because the chance wouldn’t come again. Lamoni’s father considered Ammon’s mercy as completely undeserved. Further, he would consider Ammon’s unselfish requests highy unusual when Ammon could have asked for so much more. Whether or not Ammon or Lamoni’s father realized it, when Ammon was merciful and generous, he became a type of Christ, an object lesson for Lamoni’s father so that he could begin to understand the mercy and generosity of God in the face of his own undeserving position.


Morgan Deane said...

Thank you Micheala. I hope some of these principles can apply to the problems in my life.

Michaela Stephens said...

For your sake, I hope so too. We never really know when we are right in the middle of the obstacle, do we?