Alma 22:1 he was led by the Spirit to the land of Nephi
The Spirit will lead us to those who are ready to hear the gospel if we pray for success, listen to the whisperings of the Spirit, and are willing to do the work. Aaron met all these requirements and is about to catch the biggest fish in the sea of Lamanite society.
Joseph B. Wirthlin
"Recently I was reminded of how vital it is to always be alert to the quiet whispering of the Holy Ghost. While on an assignment in Hawaii, Sister Wirthlin and I visited the island of Molokai...We drove into the mountains to a trail that leads to an overlook... As we walked back to our car, we passed a young man headed toward the overlook. I offered a polite greeting, and from his answer, I could tell that he was from Germany.
"I served a German-speaking mission in Austria and Switzerland as a young man. Here was a young man whose countenance bespoke a sincere heart and an approachable personality, and I spoke his language and understood his culture. I felt prompted to open my mouth and introduce the gospel to him, but because other people were around us, our brief encounter was interrupted, and we went our separate ways without my having said a word about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I failed to be the missionary that every member of the Savior's church ought to be.
"As we drove away, I had the disturbing feeling that I had failed in my duty to proclaim the gospel. I remembered the Lord's words in the Doctrine and Covenants: 'But 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. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them.' (D&C 60:2.)
"We drove around the island to see Molokai's beautiful waterfalls. After many miles, the road came to a dead-end, and we got out of our car to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. We had been there only a few moments when another car drove up and stopped. The young man we had seen on the overlook trail got out of the car, smiled, and gave me a warm handshake. As I grasped his outstretched hand, I thought to myself, This time I will do my duty!
"...I don't believe it was happenstance that my wife and I met this young man twice. Our meetings were not chance encounters or mere coincidence. But the Lord doesn't always give us a second chance to share the gospel. I had failed to follow the Spirit the first time when the still small voice spoke to my heart and mind to prod me to action. But when I saw that young man get out of his car later, I quickly made up my mind I would not fail a second time and that I would open my mouth as the Lord so emphatically commands in revelations that apply to all of us.
"...Each of us has the sacred responsibility to proclaim the gospel. The Savior's commandment applies to all members of the Church, not just to full-time missionaries or to returned missionaries. We each have the responsibility to follow the Spirit when it prompts us to share the gospel so that others can come to follow the Savior.
"We must act when the Spirit speaks! When I hearkened to the Spirit, the young man from Germany responded positively to my message. But it wasn't really my message. It was God's message, brought to my mind by the Spirit of the Lord." (Finding Peace in Our Lives, p. 241)
Alma 22:1 king...over all the land save it were the land of Ishmael
Lamoni's father used to be king over all the land, including the land of Ishmael. However, things changed after his encounter with Ammon and Lamoni. At that time, he promised to give all control of the land of Ishmael to Lamoni, saying, I will govern him no more (Alma 20:26).
Alma 22:9 he is that Great Spirit, and he created all things
Much in the same way that Ammon taught Lamoni, Aaron begins at the level of understanding of his investigator, teaching him about the Great Spirit. The "Great Spirit" concept is not altogether wrong. Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, surely was a Great Spirit before donning a tabernacle of flesh. Under the direction of his Father, he created all things both in heaven and in earth.
Aaron has taught the two most fundamental doctrines of the gospel: 1) that God lives, and 2) that he created the heavens and the earth. Although this may seem obvious, the fact that the creation is taught as the first distinguishing characteristic about God is significant and consistent in the scriptures. The creation of heaven and earth distinguishes God from all the pagan gods; it is the greatest single act which distinguishes Him from all imitators. The creation story is so important that it is told in latter-day scriptures in three different places and also in the temple. No other story, save the Savior's ministry and atonement, gets as much scriptural "air-time."
Alma 22:13 Aaron did expound unto him the scriptures from the creation
We should be studying the ministries of Ammon and Aaron to learn about how to do missionary work. They are great examples. Aaron's teachings could not be more exemplary. He teaches on the king's level, teaches from the scriptures, and teaches the doctrine in the order in which it should be taught. A good missionary will not teach of Jesus Christ before teaching of the need for a redeemer. The importance of the Savior's atonement cannot be understood without understanding the Fall, which in turn cannot be understood without understanding the creation of Adam. Hereby, we see the logic of Aaron's teaching. The Creation story must precede the Fall which must precede the Atonement. Bruce R. McConkie calls these three doctrines, "the pillars of eternity."
Henry B. Eyring
"Just as soil needs preparation for a seed, so does a human heart for the word of God to take root...Aaron, one of the great missionaries in the Book of Mormon, knew how to teach that way. You remember how he taught King Lamoni's father, the old king. The king's heart had already been prepared by seeing love and humility in the way Aaron's brother had treated Lamoni, his son. But even with that preparation of the old king's heart, Aaron taught the word of God in a way to emphasize God's love and our need for him: 'And it came to pass that when Aaron saw that the king would believe his words, he began from the creation of Adam, reading the scriptures unto the king-how God created man after his own image, and that God gave him commandments, and that because of transgression, man had fallen. And Aaron did expound unto him the scriptures from the creation of Adam, laying the fall of man before him, and their carnal state and also the plan of redemption, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, through Christ, for all whosoever would believe on his name.' (Alma 22:12-13.)
"You won't very often have the remarkable result that Aaron had. After hearing the word of God taught that way, in what the scriptures sometimes call the plan of happiness, the old king said that he would give whatever he had to root the wickedness out of him and have eternal life. When Aaron told him to cry to God in prayer for forgiveness, the king bowed down on the spot. The seed was planted. He was doing the will of God. (See verses 15-18.)
"When you touch the hearts of people you serve, you won't do everything exactly the way Aaron did. But you will do some of the same things. You will try to help them feel that God loves them by the way you treat them. You will be humble so that they are more likely to choose to be meek and lowly of heart. You will teach the word of God, when the Spirit prompts you, in a way that testifies of God's love for them and their need for the atonement of Jesus Christ. And you will teach them commandments they can keep. That is why, when you go into the mission field, you learn to commit those you teach to pray or to read the Book of Mormon or to come with you to a sacrament meeting or to be baptized. You know that when they keep commandments they plant the seed. And you know that it will grow, their souls will be expanded, and when that happens their faith will increase." (To Draw Closer to God, pp. 187-8)
Alma 22:14 since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself
Without the Redemption, all mankind would become devils, angels to a devil (2 Ne 9:9). Benjamin says, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants (Mosiah 2:20). Aaron explains that the sorry state of fallen man is such that he could not merit anything of himself. Paul expresses this concept differently. He says, For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph 2:8-9). Paul is saying that, of his own accord, fallen man can in no way overcome the consequences of the Fall, yet we are often uncomfortable with these verses of Paul. We often qualify Paul's writings with the words of James, faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone, or Nephi, it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do (James 2:17, 2 Ne 25:23). Yet Paul's writings really need no qualification; there is nothing wrong with the message of Eph 2:8-9. Paul is teaching the same thing that Aaron is-that fallen man could not merit anything of himself.
Alma 22:14 the grave shall have no victory
Expounding on the words of Isaiah, Paul taught, Death is swallowed up in victory, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:54-57). With a great knowledge of the scriptures, Aaron teaches the same doctrine as it was taught by Abinadi (Mosiah 16:8).
To the Savior, death is the enemy-both physical death and spiritual death. His pre-mortal assignment and foreordination were to destroy these two mortal enemies. After the Millenium and the short season which is to follow, the Savior will destroy all his enemies. His greatest enemies, of course, are sin and death. Paul explains, Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority, and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet (1 Cor 15:24-27, italics added). Then will be the time when the grave shall have no victory, and...the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory.
Commentary on Mosiah 16:8 describes four ways in which the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.
Alma 22:15 What shall I do that I may have this eternal life?
There is a beautiful parallel between this story and the story of the rich man who had asked the Savior the same question. These two men were at different stages in their spiritual progression and therefore received different answers. To the king, Aaron responded with the basic principles of the gospel: faith, repentance, humility, and prayer. To the rich man, the Savior replied, if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. Yet, the Savior knew that this rich man had a weakness. All his faithfulness could not prepare him for what the Savior would require next. He inquired, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions (Matt 19:16-22).
What a great contrast from this humble king. The young rich man had kept all the commandments but could not keep one more-to sell his riches and follow the Savior. On the other hand, the king is willing to sacrifice everything, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy. As a result of the king's humble, penitent attitude he is enveloped by the power of God, being born again. As a result of the rich man's pride, he went away sorrowful.
Alma 22:18 I will give away all my sins to know thee
As members of the Church, we are often like the rich man, keeping almost all of the commandments but not able to consecrate ourselves in full measure. Elder Maxwell refers to these members as "the almost valiant." In effect, we are not really ready to say, I will give away all my sins to know thee. Rather, we keep a few closet sins. Though hidden away, they become our most carefully guarded possessions. It is because of this sinful stubbornness that we do not get the privilege of knowing the Savior.
Ezra Taft Benson
"Each of us must surrender our sins if we are to really know Christ. We do not know Him until we become like Him. There are some, like this king, who must pray until they, too, have 'a wicked spirit rooted' from them so they can find the same joy." (Come Unto Christ, p. 51)
Neal A. Maxwell
"[speaking of the process of coming to know God] We also come to have sufficient 'faith unto repentance,' thereby becoming willing 'to give away all [our] sins to know [God]' (Alma 34:15; 22:18). These may include activities and endeavors that distract and deflect us. Getting used to giving away such onerous things is a necessary first step to prepare us for the giving that constitutes eventual consecration.
"...Among some Church members there is, sad to say, a lack of real faith in the living God and in His plan of salvation. This includes the universal need for repentance and remodeling; failure to pay a full tithing; failure to wear the holy temple garments; refusal to work meekly at making a marriage more successful or helping a family to become happier; inordinate resentment of personal trials; trying to serve the Lord without offending the devil or the world; being willing to serve the Lord but only in an advisory capacity; failing to sustain the Brethren; neglecting prayer; neglecting holy scriptures; neglecting parents; neglecting neighbors; neglecting sacrament meetings; neglecting temple attendance; and so on. Of such happiness-draining failures the common cause, at the testing point, is the failure to endure it well. When we stop short, we interrupt the precious process of personal development.
"...Many of us are kept from eventual consecration because we mistakenly think that, somehow, by letting our will be swallowed up in the will of God we lose our individuality (see Mosiah 15:7). What we are really worried about, of course, is giving up not self but selfish things-like our roles, our time, our preeminence, and our possessions. No wonder we are instructed by the Savior to lose ourselves (see Luke 9:24). He is only asking us to lose the old self in order to find the new self. It is a question not of one's losing identity but of finding one's true identity.
"...The submission of one's will is placing on God's altar the only uniquely personal thing one has to place there. The many other things we 'give' are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when we finally submit ourselves by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God's will, we will really be giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give. Consecration thus constitutes the only unconditional surrender which is also a total victory. (If Thou Endure It Well, pp. 44-55)
Neal A. Maxwell
"The almost valiant resemble the valiant, except that they show considerably less consecration and measurably more murmuring. They are less settled spiritually and are more distracted by the world. They progress, but do so episodically rather than steadily and pause on plateaus." (Men & Women of Christ, p. 3)
Alma 22:27-34 The Geography of the Book of Mormon
Few Book of Mormon subjects have been more debated or more confusing than the extrapolation of geographic sites from the words of Mormon. Numerous books and papers have been written by great scholars-all coming to different conclusions. The author's opinion is that the geography of the Book of Mormon is not that important. Sunday School classes should not waste their time on extensive discussions or heated debates. If Mormon wanted us to know the exact locations of cities, etc., he could have been more descriptive. As it is, we argue about the descriptions he has given us.
On the other hand, Alma 22 is the key to trying to understand the geography. Therefore, some brief consideration is reluctantly given to the subject. Many other theories are available but the following makes the most sense to the author and seems to be most consistent with the text of the Book of Mormon. This theory disregards recent tendencies to place the Nephites primarily in Central America largely because the text does not support it-even if that is where most of the ruins are.
The key to understanding this concept revolves around verse 27. The narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west should not be interpreted to be the same thing as the small neck of land spoken of in verse 32. Things do not make any sense if these are equated. The narrow strip of wilderness divided the Nephites to the north from the Lamanites to the south. Hence Mormon's comment, and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided. Mormon is saying that the king of the Lamanites sent the proclamation to all the regions which were separated from the land of Zarahemla (to the north) by the narrow strip of wilderness. Again, this does not mean that Zarahemla was in the land northward as is seen from the following passage, And it came to pass that their flocks began to flee before the poisonous serpents, towards the land southward, which was called by the Nephites Zarahemla (Ether 9:31, see also Alma 63:4). This wilderness, which separated the Nephites and Lamanites, is spoken of in many locations: Omni 1:12-13, Mosiah 7:4; 8:7; 21:25; 23:1-3. This narrow strip could be traversed from north to south in only 21 days (Mosiah 23:3; 24:25). From east to west, it must have been quite long, but the text does not tell us the length.
With this explanation, the rest of the geography can be understood. We will go from north to south. First, the land of Desolation where the Jaredites lived was the farthest north. Its most southern extent was the Panamanian isthmus, it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea (v. 32, see also Alma 50:34; 52:9; 63:5; Mormon 3:5). Many would disagree that verse 32 is describing the Panamanian isthmus but let's assume that the interpretation is a simple one. According to this construct, the land immediately north of the Panamanian isthmus was called Desolation, and the land immediately south of the Panamanian isthmus was called Bountiful, And it came to pass that Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward (Alma 63:5). This places the land of Bountiful in modern day Colombia. South of Bountiful is the land of Zarahemla (see v. 29). South and west of the land of Zarahemla is the land of the Lamanites (the land of Ishmael, the land of Nephi, etc). Again, the land of Zarahemla and the Lamanites were both in the land southward and were separated by a wilderness (v. 22).
"During the days of Alma and General Moroni, Book of Mormon lands consisted of three sectors that could be considered Nephite, Lamanite, and former Jaredite. The depopulated Jaredite lands comprised the land northward; Nephite and Lamanite lands lay in the land southward. Nephite lands, known as the land of Zarahemla, were sandwiched between the ancient Jaredite lands to the north and the Lamanite land of Nephi to the south. A narrow neck of land divided the land northward and the land southward; thus, Book of Mormon lands were shaped like an hourglass (Fig. 1). The land southward was further divided into northern and southern sectors by a narrow strip of wilderness that ran from the east sea to the west sea. Nephites inhabited the lands north of this wilderness divide, and Lamanites controlled those to the south." (FARMS: Review of Books, vol. 1, p. 23, F. Richard Hauck, Deciphering the Geography of the Book of Mormon, italics added)
President Anthony V. Ivins
"There is a great deal of talk about the geography of the Book of Mormon. Where was the land of Zarahemla? Where was the City of Zarahemla? and other geographic matters. It does not make any difference to us. There has never been anything yet set forth that definitely settles that question. So the Church says we are just waiting until we discover the truth. All kinds of theories have been advanced. I have talked with at least half a dozen men that have found the very place where the City of Zarahemla stood, and notwithstanding the fact that they profess to be Book of Mormon students, they vary a thousand miles apart in the places they have located. We do not offer any definite solution. As you study the Book of Mormon keep these things in mind and do not make definite statements concerning things that have not been proven in advance to be true." (Conference Reports, Apr. 1929, p. 16)
Harold B. Lee
"Don't be concerned over Book of Mormon geography. Some say the Hill Cumorah was in southern Mexico (and someone pushed it down still farther) and not in western New York. Well, if the Lord wanted us to know where it was or where Zarahemla was, He'd have given us latitude and longitude, don't you think? And why bother our heads trying to discover with archaeological certainty the geographical locations of the cities of the Book of Mormon like Zarahemla?
"The witness of the Book of Mormon is not found in the ruins of Central and South America. They may be outward evidences of a people long since disappeared. The real witness is that which is found in the Book of Mormon itself." (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 156)