Friday, December 3, 2010

Alma 1 Comparison between fruits of priestcraft and fruits of true faithfulness; also the church’s defense against persecution

Alma 1 is an interesting chapter. I went through it today and at first I saw it as a series of unrelated events—“Nehor teaches false doctrines, establishes a church, introduces priestcraft, and slays Gideon—Nehor is executed for his crimes—Priestcrafts and persecutions spread among the people—The priests support themselves, the people care for the poor, and the Church prospers” (chapter summary).

But as I got toward the end of the chapter, I began to realize that the chapter actually sets up a contrast between the faithful people of the church and the people outside the church involved in priestcraft.

People who practiced and embraced PriestcraftFaithful church members

Preached false doctrine (v3-4, 7, 16)

(Ex: Nehor contended to lead Gideon and others away from the church)

Spoke the word of God (v7,26)

(Ex: Gideon withstood Nehor with the word of God)

Preached for riches and honor (v16)

Imparted the word of God freely (v20)

Teacher no better than the learner and vice versa (v26)

Lifted up in pride (v6, 32)Showed humility (v20)
Contending sharply, persecuting with all manner of words (v7, 20)No persecuting anyone in or out of the church (v21)

Preachers not laboring with their hands

supported by the people (v3, 5)

Preacher and learners all laboring with their hands for their own support (v26)
General idleness (v32)Diligently returned to labors after hearing the word of God (v26)
Wearing costly apparel (v6, 32)

Clothes neat and comely,

Not wearing costly apparel (v27)

Indulged themselves in all manner of wickedness (sorceries, idolatry or idleness, babblings, envyings and strife; wearing costly apparel; being lifted up in the pride of their own eyes; persecuting, lying, thieving, robbing, committing whoredoms, murdering, etc.) (v32)Steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments (v25)
Envying, thieving, and robbing (v32)Imparted their substance liberally to all, having no respect to persons (v27, 30)
Babbling, envying, strife, murdering (v32)Had continual peace notwithstanding suffering persecutions (v28)

I think that Alma observed these characteristics as he saw them and that Mormon thought these observations important to include because it shows very well that false doctrines really do have an impact on how people live their lives and that it isn’t a good one.

Nehor’s doctrine had a bad influence on Nephite society, which led to the church suffering much persecution. According to Nehor’s doctrine, every priest and teacher had to be popular and had to establish a following. Undoubtedly this led to many people teaching to try amass a following, then trying to steal followers from each other and from the church. Because they felt popularity and material support legitimized a teacher rather than actually teaching the truth, in their view, priests and teachers in the church who didn’t have large followings and who weren’t paid for their preaching weren’t really legitimate and could be dismissed and denigrated. Further, free preaching destroyed priestcraft, so they had a material interest in discouraging free access to the word of God.

The church went through a whole lot of persecution because of this. And some of the church couldn’t resist giving back as good as they got. But most of them hung in there.

The chapter lists several things that the faithful people of the church did:
  • They lived by a strict rule that none of them would persecute anyone whether in or out of the church.
  • They stood steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments.
  • They left their labors to hear the word of God and then they diligently returned to their labors.
  • They imparted of their substance to anyone who stood in need.

These sound like a list of good things that everyone should do, and they are, but I also started to see that there was a strategic quality to them that helped them cope with and dampen the persecution they suffered.

Living by the rule that none of them would persecute anyone whether in or out of the church helped minimize the amount of persecution that occurred. It meant that they could have a place of safety if they were among church members. It also meant that retaliatory persecution from the outside would be negligible.

Steadfastly keeping the commandments helped prevent any outsiders from persecuting out of a sense of having been wronged.

Leaving their labors to hear the word of God and then diligently returning to their labors meant that there would be far fewer idle moments around outsiders and less opportunity for persecution to occur. If outsiders thought labor was beneath them, then members would be safe while laboring as outsiders would avoid work.

Imparting of their substance to anyone who stood in need helped minimize the want that would drive priestcraft adherents on a rant to try to draw followers and their money. If those needs were provided for, they couldn’t complain and rail as much. (Also, refraining from wearing costly apparel prevented them from becoming a target of envy.)

The result of these strategic efforts was this:
28 And thus they did establish the affairs of the church; and thus they began to have continual peace again, notwithstanding all their persecutions.
29 And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need….
31And thus they did prosper and become far more wealthy than those who did not belong to their church. (Alma 1:28-29,31)
How amazing that even in persecution, they began to have “continual peace” and were prospered to such an extent! Surely these principles were given as revelation from God through the prophet Alma (the high priest) to help them in those difficult times. I’m sure the principles the Nephite members followed are applicable today as well.

Will you share with me a time when you were able to achieve peace during persecution?


LeAnn said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Alma. It parallels today. We have our own anti Christs and certainly there was political upheaval in
Alma's day as in our own. I also see that we have costly apparel and pride is a big factor in today's world. I think we are at the point where we should be praying for the 2nd coming; it really isn't that far a way. Can you even imagine living in a Zion Society and having continual peace. I pray for that day.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I liked how you broke down the ideas into two areas.
Blessings to you! LeAnn