Alma 23:6 as many of the Lamanites as believed...never did fall away
It is remarkable in its own right that the sons of Mosiah were able to convert thousands. It is even more remarkable that all the converts endured to the end. So powerful was their conversion process, that they could never turn their backs on the gospel. It is analogous to those who were present when the Savior appeared. At that time the people stayed faithful for 4 generations.
The parable of the sower demonstrates why this is so remarkable. In the parable, the seed which is the word of God falls among four different kinds of soil. This parable is typical of many new converts. Some are like the seed which fell in stony places, they hear the word and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended (Matt 13:20-21). Yet, none of these converts can be likened to the seed among the stony places. They were faithful in spite of terrible tribulations and persecutions-even to the laying down of their lives (Alma 24:21-22). Similarly, these new converts cannot be likened unto the seed which fell among the thorns, where the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful (Matt 13:22). They later migrate to the land of Jershon where, Mormon explains, they were 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).
Most missionaries have lost converts to tribulation, persecution, and the cares of the world. The sons of Mosiah were exceptions for all their converts were like the seed which fell into good ground. They heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty (Matt 13:23). The modern day prophets have encouraged us to do as much as we can to prepare the soil as did the sons of Mosiah, so that it will bear fruit-even an hundredfold.
Gordon B. Hinckley
"[missionaries have a responsibility to those they baptize to help them be] faithful and true, dyed-in-the-wool Latter-day Saints, with a conviction in their hearts concerning the truth of this great work. Now, this is going to become an issue all over the Church. It is a matter that deeply concerns me."
"My brothers and sisters, please, I plead with you: Do all you can to see that those who you baptize are not baptisms only but solid true converts to this Church who will remain so.
"The Book of Mormon speaks of missionaries who taught so faithfully and so well that those they baptized never did fall away. (See Alma 23:6.) Now that ought to be our standard and our motto...I don't believe there is any reason why a convert to this Church should leave again in a short time." (Church News, 3/15/97)
Howard W. Hunter
"You may recall that the sons of Mosiah were so effective in their teaching, with 'the power of God working miracles in them,' that 'as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away' (Alma 23:6). We trust that your efforts will be as fruitful. As you teach potential converts, make sure they have a sufficient foundation of faith, understanding, conviction, and commitment to keep themselves faithful when they become members of the Church. Please be certain there is coordination with the ward mission leader and stake missionaries so that new converts are warmly fellowshipped by ward or branch members." (Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, p. 252)
"(Speaking of missionary work) How can a man judge the beauty of a building if all he ever sees is the plan or foundation of it, not seeing the final structure with its decorations and adornments? He cannot know much about what it is to be. We sometimes go into a home, say a few words, and bear our testimonies, and think we have fully warned that house and that it will stand condemned in the day of judgment if they receive not the gospel. I tell you, I believe there are thousands upon thousands of men and women who love the Lord enough that they would join the Church and bear his name if they could only see the picture as we see it, and we simply don't take the time to tell them of it." (G. Lamont Richards, LeGrand Richards Speaks, p. 108)
Ezra Taft Benson
"The Book of Mormon is to be 'a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel,' said the Lord. (2 Nephi 29:2.) It is a standard we should heed and follow.
"In the twentieth section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord devotes several verses to summarizing the vital truths which the Book of Mormon teaches. (See verses 17-36.) It speaks of God, the creation of man, the Fall, the Atonement, the ascension of Christ into heaven, prophets, faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, endurance, prayer, justification and sanctification through grace, and loving and serving God.
We must know these essential truths. Aaron and Ammon and their brethren in the Book of Mormon taught these same kinds of truths to the Lamanite people (see Alma 18:22-39), who were 'in the darkest abyss' (Alma 26:3). After accepting these eternal truths, the Book of Mormon states, those converted Lamanites never did fall away. (See Alma 23:6.)
If our children and grandchildren are taught and heed these same truths, will they fall away? We best instruct them in the Book of Mormon at our dinner table, by our firesides, at their bedsides, and in our letters and phone calls-in all of our goings and comings." (A Witness and a Warning, p. 11)
Alma 23:7 they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion
Elder Patrick Kearon
The Anti-Nephi-Lehies in the Book of Mormon laid down their weapons of war and buried them deep in the earth, covenanting never again to take up arms against their brethren. But they did more than that. "They became a righteous people" because "they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more." (Alma 23:7, emphasis added) Their conversion was so complete and so profound that they "never did fall away."
But before their conversion, remember their state: they were living in what the scriptures call "open rebellion against God." (Mosiah 2:37; Alma 3:18) Their rebellious hearts sentenced them to live "in a state contrary to the nature of happiness" because they had "gone contrary to the nature of God." (Alma 41:11) When they laid down their weapons of rebellion, they qualified themselves for the Lord's healing and peace, and so can we. The Savior assures, "if they harden not their hearts, and stiffen not their necks against me, they shall be converted, and I will heal them." (D&C 112:13; emphasis added) You and I can accept His invitation to "return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal [you]." (3 Ne. 18:32) (Ensign, Nov. 2010, 51)
Alma 23:17 they called their names Anti-Nephi-Lehies
This is a confusing name. These Lamanites have covenanted to be faithful to the God of Nephi and the God of Lehi and yet they choose a name which seems to imply that they oppose them. After their conversion, why would they take upon themselves such a name? Certainly, this group of converts held no disdain for Nephi or Lehi.
The best explanation is that the group chose to be called after the righteous king Anti-Nephi-Lehi. He was the son of the king and a brother to Lamoni (Alma 24:3-6). Eventually he became king and the spiritual leader of this group. He was the one who suggested that these new converts bury their weapons of war as a testimony to God (Alma 24:5-16). As we know, Book of Mormon peoples often called themselves by the name of their leader. Therefore, it would seem that the term Anti-Nephi-Lehi meant exactly what it seems to mean. When Lamoni's father named his son "Anti-Nephi-Lehi," it was in accordance with the entire Lamanite culture-to oppose the Nephites. When the people decided to call themselves Anti-Nephi-Lehies, it must have been because they liked the king, taking upon them his name without taking much thought for its original meaning.
In English, this phenomenon happens all the time. Names like, Aspen, Cadence, Dallas, and Ivy all have underlying meanings but we may not always think of the underlying meanings. When translated into English, the name of Anti-Nephi-Lehi has a stark and definite meaning.
An alternative, common scholastic interpretation argues that the prefix Anti- in this context doesn't mean against. This argument originated with some rather forced linguistic interpretations uncharacteristic of Hugh Nibley:
"These readers assume the Latin/Greek meaning of the prefix 'anti', which means 'opposing' or 'against'. However, the Book of Mormon record states that it was written in reformed Egyptian, so a Greek or Latin meaning is unlikely. 'Anti' may be a reflex of the Egyptian 'nty:', he of, the one of. Thus, rather than having the sense 'against', it may have the meaning 'the one of Nephi and Lehi.'" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Nephi-Lehi)
This logic is faulty unless one can imagine that the Anti-Christ Korihor (Alma 30:12) was really "one of Christ." Anti can't mean against in "Anti-Christ" and for in "Anti-Nephi-Lehi." You just can't have it both ways. This logic also insinuates an incorrect interpretation by Joseph Smith. Yet, this interpretation is the most used explanation.
What was the significance of this new name?
"The new name symbolized the necessity of a new way of life and social structure demanded by conversion, the turning from a way of life and re-turning to God (see Alma 23: 16-18)." ("Violence and the Gospel: the Teachings of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Book of Mormon" by Edwin Brown Firmage, BYU Studies, vol. 25 (1985), Number 1 - Winter 1985 47.)
New covenants are associated with new names, but this one wouldn't last. The Anti-Nephi-Lehis didn't keep their oppositional name when they moved to Jershon. Covenant names aren't ones that can be easily discarded, but it was. Why would this be? Perhaps it was because the Nephites would much rather refer to them as the "the people of Ammon" than call them by the name of Lamoni's brother (Alma 27:26). Apparently, the underlying meaning was not lost on them.
A third possible explanation is that "Anti" was a place name not meaning against. This is plausible because there was one village called "Ani-Anti" (see Alma 21:11).
Alma 23:18 the curse of God did no more follow them
The greatest curse on the Lamanites was that they had been cast from the presence of God according to the promise, Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence (2 Ne 1:20). Alma said, Now I would that ye should remember, that inasmuch as the Lamanites have not kept the commandments of God, they have been cut off from the presence of the Lord. Now we see that the word of the Lord has been verified in this thing, and the Lamanites have been cut off from his presence, from the beginning of their transgressions in the land (Alma 9:13). See also 2 Ne 5:20-25 and 3 Ne 2:15.