Alma 17

Alma 17:2 Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren

This is one of the greatest reunions in scriptural history. It is surpassed only by the story of Joseph of Egypt and his brothers (Gen 42-45). After 14 years of separation, the joy that Alma feels can only be fully appreciated in light of the gospel which they shared. There is something heavenly about reuniting with a loved one, especially when both have been valiant in the cause of truth. Alma's joy was like unto that which is enjoyed in the eternities, for that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy (DC 130:2). This is the kind of joy that will exist between Zion and the city of Enoch which is to return to the New Jerusalem, And the Lord said unto Enoch: then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other (Moses 7:63).

Alma 17:2 they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth...they had searched the scriptures diligently

Scriptures are of little value unless they are searched. They are useful if they are "read," but the term "search" implies something totally different. To "search" is to try to understand, to look for personal meaning, to understand historical context, to reference other sources, to find resolution to conflicts, and to internalize principles. Had the sons of Mosiah "read" the scriptures, though they may have read them one hundred times, they would not have had the power that they received by searching them diligently. The Lord has never commanded the saints to "read" the scriptures; He always commands them to "search" them: search them diligently that ye may profit (Mosiah 1:7)....and search these things diligently, for great are the words of Isaiah (3 Ne 23:1). The result of diligent searching is that one becomes as the sons of Mosiah who had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth.

Howard W. Hunter

"To understand requires more than casual reading or perusal-there must be concentrated study....Not only should we study each day, but there should be a regular time set aside when we can concentrate without interference...The important thing is to allow nothing else to ever interfere with our study....There are some who read to a schedule of a number of pages or a set number of chapters each day or week....It is better to have a set amount of time to give scriptural study each day than to have a set amount of chapters to read. Sometimes we find that the study of a single verse will occupy the whole time." (Ensign, Nov. 1979, pp. 64-5 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, pp. 279-80)

Joseph Smith

"Search the scriptures-search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to his glory nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation. No; for when men receive their instruction from Him that made them, they know how He will save them. Then again we say: Search the Scriptures, search the Prophets and learn what portion of them belongs to you." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 11)

Thomas S. Monson

"May I suggest...a formula [in missionary work] that will ensure your success: Search the scriptures with diligence!...Your confidence will be directly related to your knowledge of God's word. Oh...I am sure you have heard of some missionaries who were lazy, less than effective, and anxious for their missions to conclude. A careful examination of such instances will reveal that the actual culprit is not laziness, nor disinterest, but is the foe known as fear. Our Father chastised such: '...with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man (DC 60:2).'" (Conference Reports, Oct. 1969, pp. 93-4 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 279)

Ezra Taft Benson

"We should make daily study of the scriptures a lifetime pursuit...The most important [thing] you can do...is to immerse yourselves in the scriptures. Search them diligently...Learn the doctrine. Master the principles...You must...see that...searching the scriptures is not a burden laid upon [us] by the Lord, but a marvelous blessing and opportunity." (Ensign, Nov. 1986, p. 47 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 280)

Alma 17:3 they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting

The sons of Mosiah give us a recipe for spiritual power. The gifts of the spirit, the spirit of prophecy and the spirit of revelation, can be ours if we pay the same price to obtain them. The ingredients to this recipe are hard work (it is important that we not forget the effect of 14 years of missionary labors), diligent scripture study, prayer, and fasting. Although church leaders have invited us to work, study the scriptures, pray and fast, still our spiritual power doesn't seem to match that of the sons of Mosiah. This is because we have not been as diligent in those tasks as they have. They were searching the scriptures diligently, they were fasting and praying much, and they were making incredible sacrifices in the mission field. The result was that they taught with power and authority of God.

Bishop Robert L. Simpson

"There are no better examples of teaching by the Spirit than the Sons of Mosiah. The Book of Mormon tells us how they became 'strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding...'

"Is there a priesthood or auxiliary leader any place in this Church who wouldn't give all to possess such power, such assurance? Remember this, above all else, that, according to Alma, they gave themselves to much fasting and prayer. You see, there are certain blessings that can only be fulfilled as we conform to a particular law. The Lord made this very clear through the Prophet Joseph Smith when he declared: 'For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.' (D&C 132:5.)

"Now, the Lord could not have stated the position more clearly, and, in my opinion, too many Latter-day Saint parents today are depriving themselves and their children of one of the sweetest spiritual experiences that the Father has made available to them." (Conference Report, Oct. 1967, p. 17-8)

Delbert L. Stapley

"The Saints by fasting and praying can sanctify the soul and elevate the spirit to Christlike perfection, and thus the body would be brought into subjection to the spirit, promote communion with the Holy Ghost, and insure spiritual strength and power to the individual. By observing fasting and prayer in its true spirit, the Latter-day Saints cannot be overpowered by Satan tempting them to evil...Recently it was my privilege to tour the Northern California Mission, and as I listened to the missionaries, your sons and daughters, make their reports and bear testimony, I was so pleased when they referred time and again to fasting and prayer, and this they resorted to often to obtain God's blessings for themselves in their work. They fasted and prayed for those who were sick among them and when they found it difficult to impress people with the gospel message of the restored Church, they fasted and prayed about it and received great blessings from such fasting and prayer." (Conference Report, Oct. 1951, pp. 122-125 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 281)

Alma 17:4 having had much success in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth

What is most remarkable about the sons of Mosiah is not that they were brave enough to teach the gospel to the Lamanites, but that they were successful. Many Nephites had previously tried to convert the Lamanites but had failed miserably (Jacob 7:24). Although the Lamanites of Ammon's day may have been more receptive, the success of the sons of Mosiah is truly amazing. It was not the effect of their natural intellects or superior methods but their ability to call upon the power of heaven and convert through the Holy Spirit.

Alma 17:9 that they might be an instrument in the hands of God

Heber J. Grant

"I know of no joy on earth that can compare with that which comes to the heart of the man who is an instrument in the hands of God of saving some soul and turning it from that broad way that leadeth to destruction, into that straight and narrow path that leadeth to life eternal."

"As I stand here today, I remember what to me was the greatest of all the great incidents in my life, in this tabernacle. I saw for the first time, in the audience, my brother who had been careless, indifferent and wayward, who had evinced no interest in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and, as I saw him for the first time in this building, and as I realized that he was seeking God for light and knowledge regarding the divinity of this work, I bowed my head and I prayed God that if I were requested to address the audience, that the Lord would inspire me by the revelations of his Spirit, by that Holy Spirit in whom every true Latter-day Saint believes, that my brother would have to acknowledge to me that I had spoken beyond my natural ability, that I had been inspired of the Lord...

"I devoted the thirty minutes of my speech almost exclusively to a testimony of my knowledge that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and to the wonderful and marvelous labors of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and bearing witness to the knowledge God had given me that Joseph was in very deed a prophet of the true and living God.

"The next morning my brother came into my office and said, 'Heber, I was at meeting yesterday and heard you preach...But you never spoke as you did yesterday. You spoke beyond your natural ability. You were inspired of the Lord.' The identical words I had uttered the day before, in my prayer to the Lord...

"...I answered, 'And I was inspired beyond my natural ability; and I never spoke before -- at any time you have heard me, as I spoke yesterday. Do you expect the Lord to get a club and knock you down? What more testimony do you want of the gospel of Jesus Christ than that a man speaks beyond his natural ability and under the inspiration of God, when he testifies of the divine mission of the prophet Joseph?' The next Sabbath he applied to me for baptism." (Conference Report, Oct. 1922, pp. 188-90)

Alma 17:10 the Lord did visit them with his Spirit, and said unto them: Be comforted

The comfort offered to the sons of Mosiah at this time is greatly needed. Although not evident from this narrative, we later learn from Ammon that this time was a time of dejection and depression among these missionaries, Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success (Alma 26:27).

Alma 17:17 went forth among them, every man alone

To perform missionary work alone is certainly not the typical pattern. The text does not give us an indication why they didn't travel in pairs, but a couple of reasons may be that they could cover more ground and that they would be less threatening to the Lamanites if they came alone. The problem is that it would take great courage to walk into a Lamanite city with no companion, knowing that you are completely at the mercy of the people you meet.

Spencer W. Kimball

"What are we to fear when the Lord is with us? Can we not take the Lord at his word and exercise a particle of faith in him? Our assignment is affirmative...to carry the Gospel to our enemies, that they might no longer be our enemies." (Ensign, June 1976. p. 6 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 283)

Alma 17:22 the king inquired of Ammon if it were his desire to dwell in the land

"It is interesting to note Ammon's straightforward approach to sharing the gospel with the Lamanites. It appears that Ammon wanted to win the king's confidence through first serving him. What do you suppose might have happened if Ammon had immediately called the king to repentance?...under the direction of the Spirit, Ammon did not let his anxiety to begin teaching rush him into teaching his listeners prematurely. When Lamoni asked Ammon why he was there, many would have been tempted to launch immediately into a gospel discussion. Ammon wisely waited for the right time to teach. Note his reaction to what appeared to be total distaster. (See Alma 17:29) He was overjoyed at this opportunity to show these people how a true Christian lives, even in a time of crisis. Talk about waiting for the right teaching moment!" (Book of Mormon Student Manual, 1981, p. 246)

Alma 17:24 he would that Ammon should take one of his daughters to wife

There are two ways to look at the offer given to Ammon. The first is that king Lamoni was so impressed with him and his commitment to dwell among the Lamanites that he wanted to honor him with the marriage of his daughter. The second is that the king's daughter was so beastly to look at, that there were no Lamanites in the entire kingdom that would have her hand in marriage. Under this interpretation, King Lamoni was trying to pawn off his homely daughter on the first Nephite he could find. The reader is left to choose which of these interpretations is correct, but the author favors the latter.

Alma 17:25 he was set among other servants to watch the flocks of Lamoni

Ammon is lucky to be alive after being taken prisoner. Although his desire to dwell among the Lamanites has endeared him to the king enough to save his life, he is not given a very desirable assignment. The previous flock tenders had been killed because they were unable to preserve the king's property. Were it not for the power of God and the promise that Ammon would be preserved, Ammon may well have suffered a similar fate.

Alma 17:28 the servants of the king began to murmur, saying: Now the king will slay us

Hugh Nibley

"After the flocks of the king 'scattered . . . and fled many ways," the servants lamented that as a matter of course, "now the king will slay us, as he has our brethren' (Alma 17:28). And they began to weep. What insanity is this, the king kills his own servants for losing a contest that had been acted out before? In fact, 'it was the practice of these Lamanites to stand by the waters of Sebus and scatter the flocks of the people,' keeping what they could for themselves, 'it being a practice of plunder among them' (Alma 18:7). So it was no secret to anyone; this was not an ambush but something to be expected. But the king's own flocks? Didn't he have enough men to protect them if this happened regularly? Well, for one thing the Lamanites played the game for sport; it was more than meat that they were after, for 'they delighted in the destruction of their brethren; and for this cause they stood to scatter the flocks of the king' (Alma 17:35). The fun of it was their main interest, but Ammon spoiled the fun when he 'stood forth and began to cast stones at them with his sling.' They were outraged." (The Prophetic Book of Mormon, pp. 539-40)

Alma 17:29 that I may win the hearts of these my fellow-servants, that I may lead them to believe

The ministries of the sons of Mosiah are filled with great examples of missionary techniques. Ammon immediately recognized an opportunity in what appeared to be a tragedy to his associates. The missionary principle which he most needed was to establish relationships of trust. No Lamanite is going to believe the preaching of a Nephite unless they first trust and respect him. Ammon sees that the scattering of the flocks is an opportunity for him to gain that needed trust and respect.

Alma 17:31 My brethren, be of good cheer

Robert D. Hales

"What did Ammon say? 'Be of good cheer' (Alma 17:31). Now, we may read this as a story about some shepherd trying to round up some missing sheep, but the message is much more powerful and significant than that....Ammon not only led the force to recapture the sheep, he drove away the evil men who caused the problems; and his heroic efforts persuaded the king to follow him and to follow the Savior. Ammon teaches us that no matter our circumstances, we can be an example to others, we can lift them, we can inspire them to seek righteousness, and we can bear testimony to all of the power of Jesus Christ." (Ensign, May 1997. p. 82 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 283)

Carlos E. Asay

"All missionaries should be success-oriented, as was Paul (and Ammon). They should serve with resolve and determination, believing that their honest efforts will not be in vain. Feelings of doubt, defeat, and despair are satanic and must be dispelled. True ministers mirror the optimism and courage of these lines: 'Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!' (D&C 128:22.)" (The Seven M's of Missionary Work, pp. 71-72)

Alma 17:36 Ammon stood forth and began to cast stones at them

Ammon's behavior might seem to be a little violent for a servant of the Lord. But what else was he to do? He couldn't call the police, he was the police-the flock police. His success against a band which numbered not a few is no less amazing than the confrontation between David and Goliath. David and Ammon were apparently both quite skilled with a sling (1 Sam 17:49).

Alma 17:37 every man that lifted his club to smite Ammon, he smote off their arms with his sword

This scene would make for a great action, adventure movie. However, if the battles of the Book of Mormon were accurately displayed in a film, no Mormon could go and see it because it would have to be rated "R" for violence. Neverthless, Ammon's bravery and strength have been admired by generations of Book of Mormon lovers. There are few more dramatic stories in all of the scriptures. Indeed, this is the "David and Goliath" story of the Book of Mormon.

F. Burton Howard

"When I was young, the thing that impressed me most about Ammon was that he bravely defended the flocks of King Lamoni and cut off the arms of renegade Lamanites who tried to scatter those flocks. That was the kind of story that personified what I thought a missionary or great religious leader should be. But the fact that people perform brave acts or achieve victory in battle does not impress me now as much as it did before. There are more far-reaching lessons to be learned. Ammon remains one of my heroes, even though I see him with different eyes. Today, I see heroism as being something different from bravery. It is that quality which makes one courageous when it matters. It is doing what one must do when temptation, or discouragement, or illness, or personal inconvenience suggest otherwise. It is always predicated on faith." (Heroes From the Book of Mormon, p. 121)

Alma 17:39 they...went in unto the king, bearing the arms which had been smitten off

Military men have paraded before their kings in a thousand different times and places. They have stood in impressive array, in full uniform, and bearing their arms. But none of these great soldiers of history have borne arms as literally as did king Lamoni's servants.