25 Now all these things were done, yea, all these wars and contentions were commenced and ended in the fifth year of the reign of the judges.
26 And in one year were thousands and tens of thousands of souls sent to the eternal world, that they might reap their rewards according to their works, whether they were good or whether they were bad, to reap eternal happiness or eternal misery, according to the spirit which they listed to obey, whether it be a good spirit or a bad one.
27 For every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey, and this according to the words of the spirit of prophecy; therefore let it be according to the truth. And thus endeth the fifth year of the reign of the judges. (Alma 3:25-27)
After all the messy battles with the Amlicites are over, Mormon gives us this sum-up statement.
What Mormon implies but doesn’t say is that this shows us how quickly people can meet their end. In one year these contentions started and brought on a war that expanded, and the Lamanites were drawn into it, and by the end, tens of thousands of people were dead, all of whom probably expected to live a full life.
Because death can come when it isn’t expected, it is best for us to repent day by day and live our lives righteously so that we are not caught unawares if it comes sooner than expected. The Nephites had had quite a long stretch of peace, and yet, in that one year it all broke down. Living in America, we’ve had a long stretch of civil peace, so we might think it couldn’t happen here, but can we say that we are better than the Nephites? That peace could be shattered more easily than we think, so we are not so secure as we might think.
It is also interesting that Mormon mentions this concept of which spirit one lists to obey. The archaic meaning of list is “want or like.” If think what you list, then you think what you like.
Another meaning of list is related to shipping. If a ship lists, it leans to one side because of the weight put on that side of a boat. So if you list to obey a particular spirit, you lean toward or have a preference for obeying that particular spirit because of the weight or importance you put on what it says.
It is worth thinking about the kinds of impulses we have a tendency to follow in life. Are they angry? Criticizing? Procrastinating? Punishing? Kind? Honest? Greedy? Lustful? Amusement-seeking? Loving? Industrious? Generous?
Mormon also says that every man receives wages of that spirit they list to obey. So it is worth thinking about the wages we will receive from the particular spirit we follow. What are the wages of procrastination and delay? Lack of readiness and sloth and non-completion of tasks and a sense of non-efficacy. What are the wages of industriousness? A sense of power and satisfaction. Enjoying the fruits of our labors, and so on.
Today let’s determine to list away from those spirits that entice us to bad things and list to obey the Spirit of the Lord.