Saturday, February 10, 2018

Called the People of Ammon

This bit from the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis jumped out at me:

…And they went down into the land of Jershon, and took possession of the land of Jershon; and they were called by the Nephites the people of Ammon; therefore they were distinguished by that name ever after. (Alma 27:26)

It first strikes me as an incredible compliment to Ammon that the Nephites called the Anti-Nephi-Lehis “the people of Ammon.” It gives a sense that Ammon was amazing. Wouldn’t it be incredible if you or I were instrumental in converting so many people that they were called “the people of [your name]”?

But then, Ammon wasn’t the one who did all those conversions. First of all, it was the Spirit, and Ammon was only one of the instruments. Also, Aaron and his other brothers had a big part to play as well. They were all involved. So, it wasn’t necessarily fair to the others to have Ammon shoulder all the credit that way. (Ammon was probably personally embarrassed by it as well.)

And another thing—it was the Nephites who used this name for them, not the Anti-Nephi-Lehis. The Anti-Nephi-Lehis already had their own name for themselves to distinguish them from the Lamanites. We don’t really know how they felt about this name the Nephites put on them. They may have had mixed feelings about it—glad to be identified with Ammon, who was so exemplary, but perhaps wishing for more accuracy.

We perhaps could understand how they feel when we consider how we could be called Latter-day Saints because of the full name of our church, but others have called us “Mormons,” and we’ve had to own and accept that name, even though we consider ourselves Christians.

I really like the next verse that characterizes the Anti-Nephi-Lehis:

And they were among the people of Nephi, and also numbered among the people who were of the church of God. And they were also distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end. (Alma 27:27)

“Distinguished for their zeal.” What do you think that looked like in daily life? Excitement and enthusiasm for doing their duty? Love and interest in prayer and study of the word of God? Interest in serving others? Did this arise out of the joy of their conversion, or is this also something we can choose to become? I think one has to choose it, because while it understandable that conversion from an awful state would lead to great gratitude, there are people who have always been faithful who continue to maintain their zeal.

It might seem superfluous to add that the Anti-Nephi-Lehis were “perfectly…upright,” but think what it would mean if someone was distinguished for their zeal toward God but was not perfectly upright in all things. There would be an element of hypocrisy there. Zeal means nothing without uprightness.

So, if someone is zealous toward God and perfectly upright, does that mean they are perfect? I don’t know? I imagine they would be close to perfection, and it would only be those little errors and occasional mistakes that would create a problem. But it also says the Anti-Nephi-Lehis were “perfectly honest,” so they would be willing to admit their faults, and then because of their faith in Christ, they would be quick to repent. How can you go wrong if you repent every time you notice (or have it brought to your notice) that you have erred or transgressed?

Today let’s work on being zealous for God, not expecting happiness from something indefinite or mysterious out there, but putting all our efforts on doing the Lord’s will. Let’s find our joy in that and strive to be upright in all things.