It’s intriguing to me to ponder about why the great abridger of the ancient records, the Prophet Mormon, included some stories and not others in the text. No one in ancient times had the Book of Mormon. This book was written for us—for our day—for our time. So, why did Mormon include the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis? What possible application does this have for our time?
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Maurine and Scot Proctor have taught Book of Mormon for many years in Institute and have spent extensive time in the Arabian peninsula, following Lehi’s trail. They are the creators of a foundation that has sponsored a multi-year archaeological study of the best candidate for Nephi’s Bountiful in Oman. They have written a book on the Book of Mormon, as well as immersed themselves in the culture, history, and geography. of the scripture.
It’s intriguing to me to ponder about why the great abridger of the ancient records, the Prophet Mormon, included some stories and not others in the text. No one in ancient times had the Book of Mormon. This book was written for us—for our day—for our time. So, why did Mormon include the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis? What possible application does this have for our time? What are we to learn from this almost unbelievable group of people who turned their whole souls to the Lord Jesus Christ and never waived thereafter? Let’s explore this further.
Hello dear listeners. We are Maurine and Scot Proctor and this is Meridian Magazine’s weekly Come Follow Me podcast. This week we are studying Alma chapters 23-29 with the lesson entitled They “Never Did Fall Away.” I know we’ve mentioned this before but I have to remind you of an experience that happened to me many years ago.
I was tasked with the responsibility of writing a series of movie scripts on the Book of Mormon. When you’re going to write a movie script you have to have all kinds of descriptive details written into the story. I had to search out cultural things, patterns of building and living, manner of dress, and many different things for the script to feel authentic. So, I thought, “Who am I going to talk to about those kinds of details?” Of course, the answer was none other than Dr. Hugh Nibley.
I called him up and asked for an appointment. He said, “I don’t have time to meet with you.” I kept pushing him and I finally convinced Dr. Nibley to let me come down to BYU. He said, “You can come down as long as you just follow me around campus.” And so I did. I followed him all around campus with a notebook and a pen. I asked him complex question after hard question and he’d say, “It’s in there.” I’d ask another question and he’d say, “It’s in there! It’s in there.” What he meant was, “It’s in the Book of Mormon—you’ll find it in there.” That was the only answer he gave the whole hour that I interviewed him. “It’s in there!”
In fact, we came to call it “The Prego Principle”. Do you remember the Prego spaghetti sauce advertisements years ago? Every great ingredient to make a perfect spaghetti sauce. “It’s in there.” Well, after that experience with Hugh Nibley, that’s what we’ve decided to assume: That it’s in there and we can constantly find things in the text of the Book of Mormon and through the workings of the Spirit that we would have never seen before with a cursory reading. That’s one of the premises of the book I just released, Eleven Things You Probably Didn’t Know about the Book of Mormon. We’re going to find things together that you’ve probably never seen before. And I tell that story in the book. You can order the eBook today at latterdaysaintmag.com/eleventhings that’s latterdaysaintmag.com/eleventhings and before sure and spell the word eleven. But we’re also going to continue to apply “the Prego principle” in our podcast discussions each week. It’s in there! It’s in there!
That whole experience with Hugh Nibley changed my approach to the Book of Mormon. So, this week we’re looking at a very special and rare group of people in the Nephite history. Remember, for FIVE HUNDRED YEARS the Lamanites have been separated from the Nephites. They had become an indolent people. They were blood thirsty. They love to plunder the Nephites and even murder them. They carried a huge chip (more like a log) on their shoulders because the leadership of the people had been taken from them. They also felt it extremely unjust that the sacred record of the plates of brass had been taken from them.
Last week we talked about the incredible missions of Ammon, Aaron, Omner and Himni, the royal princes who performed a fourteen-year mission amongst these very people who hated them. And through a series of amazing miracles and blessings from the Lord, seven whole cities or lands were converted to the Lord and His Gospel!
That’s right. We know the seven cities or lands that were converted, because Mormon puts them in the record:
The Land of Ishmael (that’s where King Lamoni ruled and was converted)
The Land of Middoni (that’s where Aaron and his brethren were cast into prison)
The City of Nephi (this is the original geographic location where Nephi came 500 years before when he separated from his brethren—and this is where King Lamoni’s father was taught by Aaron)
The land of Shilom
The land of Shemlon (these two lands were adjacent to the city of Nephi)
The City of Lemuel, and
The City of Shimnilom.
These were not your ordinary converts. They were what you might call super converts.
They truly were. As you know, from the reading, they were so committed to changing their ways and giving themselves wholly to the Savior Jesus Christ and His gospel, they got together and made an overwhelming commitment to the Lord:
Let’s listen in Alma 24, starting in verse 10—as the successor to King Lamoni’s Father on the throne—his name is Anti-Nephi-Lehi—talks about his humble gratitude to the Lord for intervening in their lives and completely changing their hearts:
10 And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son.
11 And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain—
12 Now, my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains, and our swords have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren.
This is such an interesting insight from the record. That parenthetical statement “as we were the most lost of all mankind”—is so fascinating. That’s almost the same words that the four sons of King Mosiah used to describe themselves:
17 Who could have supposed that our God would have been so merciful as to have snatched us from our awful, sinful, and polluted state?
18 Behold, we went forth even in wrath, with mighty threatenings to destroy his church.
19 Oh then, why did he not consign us to an awful destruction, yea, why did he not let the sword of his justice fall upon us, and doom us to eternal despair?
20 Oh, my soul, almost as it were, fleeth at the thought. Behold, he did not exercise his justice upon us, but in his great mercy hath brought us over that everlasting gulf of death and misery, even to the salvation of our souls.
Isn’t this one of the great messages of the Book of Mormon? That the Lord delights to save those who are lost? To rescue those who are in darkness and spiritual prison? To snatch those who are about to fall into the deepest abyss? To extend mercy to those who thought there was no mercy? This is the God we worship—an ever-loving God who is full of grace and truth?
This reminds me of one of my institute students who years ago came to me after class and with tears in her eyes told me that she thought she could never measure up because she had made some rough choices in her past. It flooded me all at once what to say to her. The entire Book of Mormon is full of the redemption stories of those who were once sinners. Alma, Alma the Younger, Zeezrom, the Anti-Nephi Lehi’s. Her countenance immediately cleared of that sorrow.
That truly is the great hope of this week’s lesson—that the Lord is willing and ready to extend His mercy to all those who turn their hearts to Him. And look at these faithful, amazing Lamanites! They not only turned their whole souls to the Lord, they turned their safety over to the Lord as well. Remember the covenant that they made? Here’s King Anti-Nephi-Lehi again—we’re in Alma 24 beginning with verse 13:
13 Behold, I say unto you, Nay, let us retain our swords that they be not stained with the blood of our brethren; for perhaps, if we should stain our swords again they can no more be washed bright through the blood of the Son of our great God, which shall be shed for the atonement of our sins.
And now jump to verse 16:
16 And now, my brethren, if our brethren seek to destroy us, behold, we will hide away our swords, yea, even we will bury them deep in the earth, that they may be kept bright, as a testimony that we have never used them, at the last day; and if our brethren destroy us, behold, we shall go to our God and shall be saved.
And that is just what they did! They buried all their weapons of war as a token that their hearts were truly changed. Talk about making themselves completely vulnerable. And, as if to test their resolve, their enemies came upon them and they would give up their own lives and praised God in the very act of dying. This is such a tender scene as one thousand and five (that means someone accurately and purposely counted the dead) are hewn down by their enemies and are slaughtered without giving any resistance—none whatsoever.
Here’s Mormon’s summary statement on this—now we’re in Alma 24:19:
19 And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin…
Do we have other examples of converts who were firm, steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord?
We certainly learned about Melchizedek and his people—that they all completely repented and they became an extremely righteous people and they obtained the City of Enoch and were translated.
We see that the people immediately following the visitation of Jesus Christ to the Nephites—that for about 165 years—these people were firm, steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God and following the footsteps of Jesus.
We see the people of Enoch that they became so righteous that the Lord Himself came and dwelt with them—and in passage of time, the whole city of Enoch was taken up and translated because of the righteousness of the people.
We certainly see untold thousands joining the Church soon after the Day of Pentecost following soon after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These consecrated former-day Saints had all things common among them and there were no poor among them.
We see whole congregations and towns coming into the Church in the early British mission. These converts would become the backbone of the Church. By 1853 there were about 11,000 Latter-day Saints who had gathered to the Great Salt Lake, but there were 46,000 in England waiting to come to Zion. These, for the most part, were firm, steadfast and immovable.
We see the untold thousands who have accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Mexico, Central and South America. We now have 13 temples in Mexico, 8 temples in Brazil, numerous temples throughout Central and South America. The Latter-day Saints who come to these temples are firm, steadfast and immovable.
And we have the hundreds of thousands who have embraced the gospel with all their hearts in Africa. Do you remember, Scot, our first time visiting the Johannesburg South Africa Temple and running into those beautiful couples from West Africa who came to be endowed. Both the men were bishops, but this was their first time to the temple. These men and their wives had served faithfully for years and years without the blessings of the endowment and sealings. They were firm, steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord.
Some years ago we were blessed to be able to spend the entire summer in the British Isles. One of the greatest joys we experienced in our extensive research and travels in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales was the privilege of attending about a dozen different wards and branches. But there is one that we remember more than all the others.
The Doncaster Ward was amazing. It was on the corner of Thorne and Balmoral Roads and we could feel it when we walked into the church building. There was an enthusiasm for the gospel here. The youth were vibrant and friendly. The leaders went out of their way to greet us. The people were on fire. I couldn’t help but ask the bishop a few questions: “How is your home teaching?” “Oh, it’s always between 90 and 100%.” (I could have guessed that). “How’s your visiting teaching?” “Oh, it’s the same—or better.” “What is the key?” “I don’t know, really. They just love each other.”
There truly was something different here. These saints were a modern example of firm, steadfast and immovable. And then remember, Scot, when we went to do baptisms for the dead some weeks later in the Preston England Temple? Who should we run into but a large contingency of youth and their leaders—all from the Doncaster Ward! We’ve never forgotten these faithful Latter-day Saints.
I was called out of my full-time mission to serve for three months in the Swiss Temple in Zollikofen. It was the experience of a lifetime for me. I loved every second of it. In those days, each week we had a different language that would go over the speakers in a session—and those Saints would come and spend the entire week doing ordinance work from that country—whether it be France, or the Netherlands, or Italy or Germany, or Denmark or Sweden. All of these Saints were amazing and I truly was blessed by each of them. But there was one group that moved me more than all the others—the Finns. These Finnish Saints were remarkable. They came the longest distance to get to the temple and they brought the most people, but there was something more than this. They were rock-solid—firm, steadfast and immovable—in a palpable way. It showed in everything about them. I remember it well, even as a young missionary.
Well, then we were blessed to attend the Helsinki Finland Temple dedication in the fall of 2006. Finland was a curious place to build a temple—there were only about 4,500 members of the Church there, so it didn’t make a lot of logical sense to build. We got the feeling that this was a gift to these long-time, patient, long-suffering, faithful, amazing Latter-day Saints. We met with a couple in Turku in the Tampere Stake and we asked about the activity in their ward. “Oh, we usually have 100-110% attendance.” “What does that mean?!” “We just care for each other. We always have 90 to 100% home and visiting teaching. We reach out to others—we are like family.” These people were firm, steadfast and immovable.
Elder Clate W. Mask of the Seventy spoke of modern-day Anti-Nephi-Lehis at the Guatemala City Temple dedication:
“I have seen humble descendants of Lehi come down from the mountains to that temple and openly weep as they stood there in awe. One gave me an abrazo and asked me to take that hug of love, appreciation, and brotherhood back to all those beloved missionaries that brought them the gospel and to all the Saints whose tithing faithfulness has brought temple blessings within reach. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can all stand spotless [and] pure before the Lord.” (Mask, Clate W., Standing Spotless before the Lord, General Conference, April 1992, p. 92)
There are hundreds more examples in the Philippines, in Chile, in Japan, in South Korea, in Argentina, in South Africa, in Germany—the list goes on and on. And like the righteous Lamanites who were brought to a knowledge of the truth—they “never did fall away.” (see Alma 23:6)
And I love what the next verse says, Alma 26:7:
For they became a righteous people; they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more, neither against any of their brethren.
That makes me ponder—What are MY weapons of rebellion?
That’s such a great question. What do we do that fights against God? What do we do to resist Him? How do we distance ourselves from Him whose arms are outstretched in mercy towards us?
Elder Bednar taught:
To set aside cherished “weapons of rebellion” such as selfishness, pride, and disobedience requires more than merely believing and knowing. Conviction, humility, repentance, and submissiveness precede the abandonment of our weapons of rebellion. Do you and I still possess weapons of rebellion that keep us from becoming converted unto the Lord? If so, then we need to repent now…
A testimony is spiritual knowledge of truth obtained by the power of the Holy Ghost. Continuing conversion is constant devotion to the revealed truth we have received—with a heart that is willing and for righteous reasons. Knowing that the gospel is true is the essence of a testimony. Consistently being true to the gospel is the essence of conversion. We should know the gospel is true and be true to the gospel. (Bednar, David A., Converted unto the Lord, General Conference, October 2012, p. 106)
Again—what are some of our “cherished weapons of rebellion?”
It is easy to have a false concept of God or at least a wrong idea about who He is to you.
When you hold a false idea about God, it colors everything in your relationship. It is an imaginary god and a lesser deity, that we whine to or run from or only call upon when we have lost our keys. It is a god who we’ve made up that disappoints us and keeps us twisting in the wind because he is so uninterested in our well-being.
Perhaps in that light, the reason that we misunderstand or distance ourselves from God, is that we project our own shortcomings upon Him, like a movie that is projected on a screen. It is us, not Him we are seeing when we create these illusions about who God is.
So, one of our weapons is just plain false ideas about Him.
Thus, back to that most primary purpose of life. It is to seek Him and, line upon line, find Him—this Father whose Spirit shines upon you with light and love, and is nothing like the limited god we create. He is not a limited god who cannot work you into his schedule and delights in denying you.
And if I think He doesn’t have time for me or He is quick to dismiss me, well, I can build a whole story around that. And when you start building a story, you start gathering evidence to support that story. And, oh my, you can build quite a bulwark of false ideas that keep you separated from God.
The weapons of selfishness, pride, and disobedience that Elder Bednar highlighted all tend to blind us from seeing the true picture of our lives or of our Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ. And not only are we blinded, but our hearts can become hardened—and when our hearts are hard we stop feeling the promptings and revelations of the Holy Spirit. And when we lose the ability to receive personal revelation, we quickly distance ourselves from God.
Oh, Maurine, you have to tell our listeners about that first time we hiked Mt. Sinai together and what you came to know.
I was feeling a little low at that particular season in my life—whether it was the nine small children we were raising or trying to make ends meet or a combination…I really needed to know that HE was there for me that HE knew I was there on THAT mountain. I started reading in the first chapter of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price.
Moses had to be transfigured to endure His presence and after the vision it was the “space of many hours before Moses did again regain his strength.” Meeting God who sets the boundaries of time and space, who remembers His covenant from generation to generation, who keeps all things in His care, was simply so transcendent Moses was utterly drained.
Here was a God who was glorious beyond comprehension and could show Moses “the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created.” No wonder Moses marveled at this.
The Lord had introduced Himself, “Behold, I am the lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?”
Then came a stunning pronouncement, He says to Moses, “And behold, thou art my son” (Moses 1: 3,4). There is God, glorious beyond our comprehension claiming this intimate, personal relationship with man. Not only do I know you, He says, but you are my son, and therefore, what I am is your destiny. We are made of the same stuff. Moses, you have every attribute, emotion, intellect, and sensibility of mine in embryo. At that moment, that feeling went all through my being, “Maurine, thou art my daughter. I know you. I know you are here.
He is both more glorious and more personal than we understand. His character and being is simply a reality that is the best news in all of time or space. With this true knowledge, I have no weapons of rebellion. There is nothing to divide me from Him.
That experience has greatly blessed my life. I want to move on to Alma 26 for a few minutes—one of my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon. I know, I know—my institute students used to say, “Brother Proctor—you have a lot of favorite scriptures.” Well, I do—I love the scriptures as I love life itself.
Ammon glories in the Lord for a few brief moments after their fourteen-year mission to the Lamanites. He is full of joy and rejoicing at the success they have had—but let’s look at this closely.
3 …our brethren, the Lamanites, were in darkness, yea, even in the darkest abyss, but behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God! And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work.
4 Behold, thousands of them do rejoice, and have been brought into the fold of God.
Ammon was rejoicing that HE could be counted worthy to be an instrument in the hands of God in doing His work. Could anything be more satisfying? Could anything bring us more joy?
Ammon continued to rejoice in verse 9:
9 For if we had not come up out of the land of Zarahemla, these our dearly beloved brethren, who have so dearly beloved us, would still have been racked with hatred against us, yea, and they would also have been strangers to God.
That’s quite a statement from a son and heir of a King. He could have had all the luxuries, pleasures and comforts of life back in Zarahemla—but, instead, he now had the joy of seeing untold thousands turn their whole hearts and souls to God. They had been as he once was—estranged from God, hardened in their hearts, full of false ideas—and now, they were firm, steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God all the days of their lives.
And he continued in verse 13:
13 Behold, how many thousands of our brethren has he loosed from the pains of hell; and they are brought to sing redeeming love, and this because of the power of his word which is in us, therefore have we not great reason to rejoice?
14 Yea, we have reason to praise him forever, for he is the Most High God, and has loosed our brethren from the chains of hell.
15 Yea, they were encircled about with everlasting darkness and destruction; but behold, he has brought them into his everlasting light, yea, into everlasting salvation; and they are encircled about with the matchless bounty of his love; yea, and we have been instruments in his hands of doing this great and marvelous work.
In our dispensation the Lord said,
15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! (D&C 18:15)
Can you imagine the joy of Ammon and his brethren? The only way we can even get a taste of this joy is by sharing the Gospel with someone else and seeing them come to know the Lord.
When I was going to Brigham Young, I worked in the Deseret Bookstore in the University Mall in Orem. I was working at the register one day and a woman came through the line and asked me a question. “If I buy this book here, can I also ship it from here to the person I want to give it to?” I said, “Yes, Ma’am. And I’ll be glad to help you out right now.” So, I rung up the book and said, “If you’ll just step over here I’ll help you fill out the form.” She gave me the name of the person, Cecile Stuhl. I thought, I know a Cecile Stuhl. She continued with the address and ended with Columbia, Missouri, 65201. I said, “You’ll never believe this, but my mother brought Cecile Stuhl into the Church!”
She grabbed both my hands and said, “Who was your mother?” I said, “Her name then was Sister Martha Facer.” She said, with tears immediately welling up in her eyes, “Your mother brought me into the Church.” I stepped around the counter and we hugged and cried for joy—it was our Ammon moment. I then said, “Tell me how this all came about.”
“It was a hot summer day,” Mary said. My husband and I were out on our screened porch and we saw two woman coming our way in wool suits. We thought they must be some kind of religionists so we went back in the house to avoid them. They came to our door and knocked. With a complete desire to send them on their way, we answered the door—and before I could even open my mouth, your mother said, ‘Do you believe in a life after this one?’—That is the one question that I could not resist because we had just lost a child three weeks before. I said, ‘I want to with all my heart.’” They started teaching us and within a few weeks, we joined the Church. Our son then was four years old.
“You tell your mother that we have remained true and faithful all these years and we have now come to Provo to start on a mission.”
That was such a tender, wonderful, joyful meeting.
But, Scot, that’s not all the story, right?
That’s right. That four-year-old boy in that home was now a stake president in California. When he heard about this meeting, he wanted to come and meet my mother. But before he did, he counted all the people who had been affected by those two sister missionaries in his parents’. He counted his parents and their children. He counted the number of missionaries that served from their family and their converts. Before he came to see Mom, he had compiled a list of more than 500 people who had come into the Church since that hot summer day back in 1941.
I hear that story, Scot, and I’m with Ammon: “Who can glory too much in the Lord? Who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men?” Then he say, “Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.” (Alma 26:16)
That truly is one of the greatest insights into joy in the scriptures. This kind of joy is beyond description. It is the kind of joy that fills our very beings to overflowing. It is the stuff of real life. It is the steel threads of testimony. It is the gold and silver threads of our life’s tapestry. It is, as Lehi said, “desirable above all other fruit.” (See 1 Nephi 8:12)
And the story that you told, Scot, can be multiplied ten thousand times by faithful Latter-day Saints all over the world. The joy of sharing the gospel is exquisite beyond expression.
And Ammon issues three powerful promises based on four prerequisites:
We’re reading from Alma 26, verse 22:
22 Yea, he that repenteth (that’s the first prerequisite) and exerciseth faith (that’s the second), and bringeth forth good works (there’s the third), and prayeth continually without ceasing (that’s the last)—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance.
Those are quite the spectacular promises. And are they true? Well, when Mary talked to me about my Mom—it had been nearly 40 years since that day those sisters stopped by. Now it has been 42 years since I saw Mary. Is it possible that the number of converts to the Church could have increased to over a thousand? I think so.
Knowing these things, no wonder Alma declared in chapter 29, verse 1:
1 O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
2 Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.
Well, we have some trumpets now—we have the Internet. We have Facebook. We have Instagram. We have FamilySearch. We have cellphones. We have email. We have emerging technologies that may yet give us the opportunity to come close to the wish of Alma’s heart.
That’s all for this week. We’ve love being with you. We see so many of you now and hear from many—we feel like we’re family. I wish we could greet you and say farewell to each of you by name.
Next week we will be studying Alma, chapters 30 and 31, and the lesson is entitled “The Virtue of the Word of God.”
Thanks to our friend, Paul Cardall, for the beautiful music used for this show and thanks to Michaela Proctor Hutchins for producing this podcast.
Until next week—blessings to you all.