Struggling through the middle is a challenge. The middle of a workout, when hot and sweaty and out of breath. The middle of the month when finances are dwindling. The middle child whose needs are sometimes overlooked and underestimated. The middle of a medical diagnosis or painful treatment. The middle of a long flight or road trip or hike when what’s ahead seems longer than what’s behind. The middle of a worldwide pandemic full of disrupted lives and uncertainty. The middle of a trial that looms heavy and seems like it will never end.
Middle doesn’t necessarily mean the halfway point through something. Various professions and creative pursuits have some form of middle. For artists, the ugly stage of a painting is the part where the piece is messy, isn’t as anticipated, and frustration is high. For writers, the middle is the slow process of drafting ideas and characters, with countless revisions and edits. For athletes, the middle is hitting their wall with its accompanied fatigue, loss of energy, and disorientating negativity. Life sometimes may feel like one big middle. A friend recently told me she feels like she’s been in the middle for the past several years.
There is another side, a brighter path ahead for those who push through this middle space and even come to treasure God’s hand in the struggle.
Author Emily Belle Freeman calls such times “middle moments.” She writes, “This moment in the middle will not last forever. There will be an end, an answer, and a promise. All these things shall eventually work together for your good. But right here and now, you have the privilege of journeying with the Lord. Enjoy the journey, for I have found that we come to know Him best in the moments when we need Him most. Years from now, when you look back, you might discover that this moment, right here in the middle, was one of the most precious moments of your life. Because it led your heart to His” (Making It through the Middle: Hope and Help When the Journey Seems Long. Deseret Book, 2014).
The scriptures tell of many middle moments, when afflictions were sore and deliverance seemed impossible: the wickedness of the entire earth before the Lord covenants with Noah and he is spared in an ark; the struggles of the Israelites before their deliverance through the Red Sea and subsequent blessings thereafter; Joshua’s wondering and pleading before the walls of Jericho fall; Nephi’s anguish of body and soul in the wilderness and on the boat before arriving in the promised land; the wanderings and questions of the Jaredites before the Lord’s finger illuminates their journey across the waters.
Recently in Come, Follow Me, we read of one of Alma and Amulek’s middle moments, as they witness the inhumane suffering and death of many believers they loved. We saw the Lord’s hand as the prison walls later crumbled and their lives were spared. We watched Zeezrom’s miraculous conversion and healing. This week we witness some middle moments of the sons of Mosiah, as they are strengthened through many afflictions and ultimately are used as remarkable instruments in the hand of the Lord.
DISCUSS and PONDER:
Watch these two brief videos:
What have been some of the middle or transformative moments of your own life? How have such times brought you closer to the Lord? Share with your family a time you’ve struggled and what you learned.
As I strengthen my own faith, I can more effectively share the gospel
Last year I attended the open house of the newly renovated Oklahoma City Temple. This was especially meaningful to me since I had served in that very neighborhood as a missionary two decades ago. As an added bonus, I attended with a dear friend from high school who lived nearby, and we spent a few days together catching up. I treasured conversations that centered on our faith in Christ, our various challenges and struggles, and our unified efforts to “rear [our] children in love and righteousness” (The Family:
A Proclamation to the World).There is much joy in reconnecting with loved ones in Christ.
During what was no doubt a divinely orchestrated tender mercy of the Lord, Alma crossed paths with the sons of Mosiah. He did “rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord” (Alma 17:2). All were strengthened as they swapped missionary stories. They teach us a divine pattern that can help us and our children develop similar spiritual strength. We can likewise:
- wax strong (grow, increase) in the knowledge of the truth (Alma 17:2)
- be men and women of a sound understanding (Alma 17:2)
- search the scriptures diligently that we might know the word of God (Alma 17:2)
- give ourselves to much prayer and fasting (Alma 17:3)
- teach with power and authority of God (Alma 17:3)
As the sons of Mosiah did these things, they “had much success in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth; yea, by the power of their words many were brought before the altar of God” (Alma 17:4). This required great effort on their part, as it does on ours, and they suffered much, “both in body and in mind, such as hunger, thirst and fatigue, and also much labor in the spirit” (Alma 17:5).
DISCUSS and PONDER:
Pick one of the things from the list above that the sons of Mosiah did to develop spiritual strength. How could you each do a little better in this area and what would be the result? Brainstorm and then choose a specific way this week you will each try to improve and establish a family reward (such as a pizza or ice cream party) at the end of the week for trying.
I can be an instrument in God’s hands to bring salvation to His children
Parents likely recall King Mosiah’s hesitation to let his sons go preach the gospel to the Lamanites. He knew their mission would be dangerous and difficult. He inquired of the Lord and was promised “Let them go up, for many shall believe on their words, and they shall have eternal life; and I will deliver thy sons out of the hands of the Lamanites” (Mosiah 28:7). The sons of Mosiah did “go and do” and “took their journey into the wilderness to go up to preach the word among the Lamanites” (Mosiah 28:8-9).
We begin to read now in Alma the fulfillment of this prophecy. As the sons of Mosiah journeyed through the wilderness, they prepared. They “fasted much and prayed much that the Lord would grant unto them a portion of his Spirit to go with them, and abide with them, that they might be an instrument in the hands of God to bring, if it were possible, their brethren, the Lamanites, to the knowledge of the truth” (Alma 17:9). I love the imagery of an instrument, perhaps like a musical instrument, played so beautifully in the hands of a musician, or a tool in the hands of a craftsman. The Lord heard their cries and “did visit them with his Spirit, and said unto them: Be comforted. And they were comforted” (Alma 17:10).
The Lord asks them to “go forth among the Lamanites, thy brethren and establish my word” (Alma 17:11). With this charge comes some heartfelt encouragement, similar to what many parents have said as a child leaves home: “Be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument [this word again!] of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls” (Alma 17:11). They “took courage” and went forth to their various assignments, parting ways and “trusting in the Lord that they should meet again at the close of their harvest” (Alma 17:13).
And what experiences they had!
DISCUSS and PONDER:
Read and discuss this quote together from Pres. James E. Faust, “May I suggest that you take your challenges one day at a time. Do the best you can. Look at everything through the lens of eternity. If you will do this, life will take on a different perspective…I fear you sisters do not realize in the smallest part the extent of your influence for good in your families, in the Church, and in society…I truly believe you are instruments in the hands of God in your many roles, especially that of motherhood.” This was addressed to mothers but can be applied to all. Is there a time the Lord has used you as an instrument to assist in helping someone else? No matter our role or age, how can we be used as instruments in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others?
What is courage? Ask your youth and children to share a time they “took courage” to face something challenging. How can we each develop greater courage to do what the Lord asks of us, especially in how we share our beliefs with others?
Watch any or all of these videos and discuss what you’ve felt about being an instrument in the hands of God and courageous.
- My New Life (8:19)
- No Cussing Club (4:56)
- The Righteous Need Not Fear (1:06)
- Dare to Stand Alone (4:19)
- The Goal: A story of faith, friendship, and forgiveness (7:27)
Make a hand-lettered sign or other reminder to take courage and be instruments in the Lord’s hands this week to serve others.
I can help others prepare to receive the gospel.
I served a full-time mission and have also lived in countries with varied faith traditions. I know a little of the challenges surrounding the charge to “declare unto [all] the word of God” (Alma 17:13), but the sons of Mosiah faced monumental hurdles well beyond what most of us will ever face. They had undertaken a great work to “preach the word of God to a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people; a people who delighted in murdering” and robbing and plundering (stealing, looting), whose “hearts were set upon riches” and they did worship idols “because of the traditions of their fathers” (Alma 17:14-15). No wonder they needed courage! We know some of the miraculous outcomes from their respective missions, but individually they would suffer through many middle moments first.
Having taken “their several journeys throughout the land” and being administered to by Ammon (Alma 17:18), the sons of Mosiah depart to their various assignments. Ammon entered the land of Ishmael and we know his story there. He was taken captive by King Lamoni, thrown in prison, and when later questioned said he wanted to “dwell among this people for a time; yea, and perhaps until the day I die” (Alma 17:23). King Lamoni was intrigued by this answer and offered him a daughter to wed, but Ammon said, “Nay, but I will be thy servant” (Alma 17:25). His remarkable service in defending the king’s sheep ultimately leads to the conversion of King Lamoni.
The CFM manual suggests two approaches to studying this story. First, look at the truths that Ammon taught King Lamoni. “What do these verses suggest to you about the truths you can share with others to help them seek a testimony of the gospel” (CFM, pg. 99)? Some of these truths are:
- God is real and created all things in heaven and earth (18:28)
- God is in heaven and looks down upon all of His children. He knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts (18:32)
- We are created in the image of God (18:34)
- The Holy Ghost can dwell in us and give us knowledge and power according to our faith and desires (18:35)
- The plan of redemption was prepared from the foundation of the world (Alma 18:39)
- Christ will come (Alma 18:39)
Ammon recounted the creation of the world, the creation of Adam and the fall of man, and the scriptures spoken of by the prophets. He rehearsed the history and records from the time Lehi left Jerusalem, including the rebellions of Laman and Lemuel (Alma 18:36-38). After Ammon preached of Christ’s coming and the plan of redemption, King Lamoni “believed all his words,” cried out for mercy, and fell to the earth as if dead (Alma 18:40-43).
We likely won’t have a dramatic experience like Ammon’s, but we can help prepare others to receive the gospel when they’re ready through our love, examples, and heartfelt service.
DISCUSS and PONDER
Service opens and softens hearts and is still a critical piece of full-time missionary service today. What characteristics did Ammon have? [He was a “friend to the king” (Alma 18:3), was loyal and dependable (Alma 18:10), asked what was desired (Alma 18:14), and was filled with the Spirit of God in his efforts (Alma 18:16)]. Consider how your family might reach out to others through serving them as Ammon did: faithfully, humbly, and powerfully.
Pick one of these videos to watch about acts of service. Choose something simple your family can do this week for someone in need. You may need to get creative to find ways to serve that respect social distancing and current restrictions in your area.
- Service through Song (3:19)
- Unselfish Service (2:26)
- ProjectProtect | The 5 million mask miracle (4:00)
- Youth in Action (3:50)
- Have I Done Any Good? (3:33)
My testimony can have a far-reaching influence
One person can make a difference. We know this simple truth and have seen it in the Book of Mormon so far with stories such as Nephi, Abinadi, and Alma. Now, we see that many are converted because of the missionary efforts of Ammon and the sons of Mosiah. The CFM manual suggests highlighting some examples of far-reaching effects of one person’s testimony and efforts.
- Ammon shared the gospel with King Lamoni who shared the gospel with his people. “As many as heard his words believed, and were converted unto the Lord” (Alma 19:31). Their hearts were changed, they were baptized, established a church, and this group of Lamanites “became a righteous people” (Alma 19:33-35). He later granted unto them the “liberty of worshiping the Lord their God according to their desires, in whatsoever place they were in” and “exhort[ed] them daily, with all diligence” (Alma 21:22-23). The people gave heed unto his word, and they were “zealous for keeping the commandments of God” (Alma 21:23).
- Abish was a “Lamanitish” woman who had been “converted unto the Lord for many years, on account of a remarkable vision of her father” (Alma 19:16). Author Heather B. Moore shares valuable insight about Abish. She was a servant, a lady-in-waiting of sorts who was entrusted to care for the queen. She had an important role and the Lord “saw fit to use a servant–a commoner–to spread His message.” Abish recognized the Spirit and was familiar with it, enabling her to not fall to the earth but to run “forth from house to house, making it known unto the people” (Alma 19:17). Moore writes, “Abish served as an important catalyst for gathering a large crowd and raising her queen. She had prepared herself for this moment. She may have never predicted that she’d be called upon to act in such a capacity, but she was ready when the moment came…Like Abish, we are servants in our Father’s kingdom, and we may not yet realize what a notable and measurable impact our simple testimony may have on another.” (Women of the Book of Mormon: Insights & Inspirations, by H. B. Moore, Covenant Communications, 2010, pp. 57–61.)
- King Lamoni testified to his father that “I know that they [Ammon and his brethren] are just men and holy prophets of the true God” (Alma 20:15). Though initially angry, he is touched by “the great love [Ammon] had for his son Lamoni” and was “desirous to learn” the words Ammon taught Lamoni (Alma 20:26-27).
- Aaron and his brethren taught and testified to groups of Lamanites who were “sufficiently hardened” and did “wax strong in wickedness and their abominations” (Alma 21:3). Though they “open[ed] the scriptures unto them” and testified of Christ, “few believed” and Aaron and his brethren were cast into prison (Alma 21:9, 12-13). They “suffered hunger, thirst, and all kinds of afflictions; nevertheless they were patient in all their sufferings” until they were “delivered by the hand of Lamoni and Ammon” (Alma 20:29, 21:14). They went forth from prison, “preaching the word of God” and “brought many to the knowledge of the truth” (Alma 21:16-17).
- Aaron shared the gospel with King Lamoni’s father, who had “been somewhat troubled in mind because of the generosity and the greatness” of the words of Ammon (Alma 22:3). After Aaron testified and taught of Christ, the king said, “What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God?…I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy” (Alma 22:15). His whole household is later “converted unto the Lord” (Alma 22:23) and a proclamation is sent forth to all his people that Ammon, Aaron, and their brethren shall be protected and allowed to preach (Alma 23:1).
DISCUSS and PONDER
What parts of this story stand out most to you? How do you see the Lord’s hand in all of this, starting with Ammon and King Lamoni? Share an example from your own life or from your family’s history about the difference just one person can make in bringing someone closer to Christ.
The Lord’s arm is extended to me when I repent
Following this incredible story of Ammon, King Lamoni, Abish, and all of it, I love Mormon’s commentary tucked into this short verse: “And thus the work of the Lord did commence among the Lamanites; thus the Lord did begin to pour out his Spirit upon them; and we see that his arm is extended to all people who will repent and believe on his name” (Alma 19:36). We see the Lord’s hand of mercy is upon all, that even deeply rooted traditions and hardened hearts can be changed. We see that often we don’t know what great work the Lord has as instruments in His hands. We see the Lord pours out His Spirit, before our afflictions and in them, in ways we could not have predicted.
DISCUSS and PONDER
What do you see from the stories shared in this chapter? What have you learned about yourself and about the Lord? How have you felt the Lord pour out His Spirit upon your family?
This could be a good time to review the principle of repentance (See Gospel Topics: Repentance) As inspired, choose a video or article listed to watch or read together and discuss.
King Lamoni felt the “dark veil of unbelief…cast away from his mind” and it was replaced by “light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness–yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul” (Alma 19:6). This is a powerful explanation of the conversion process and ultimate change of heart.
There are many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world in need of this kind of light, peace, and redemption that can only come through “the death and sufferings of Christ, and the atonement of his blood” (Alma 21:9). As we develop spiritual strength through prayer, fasting, searching the scriptures, following the prophet, and seeking personal revelation, we will be used as instruments of God to bless all around us.