Alma 28:1 the armies of the Lamanites had followed their brethren into the wilderness
What could be the motivation of these Lamanites in trying so hard to destroy their converted brethren? The people of Ammon had not offended them, fought them in battle, or caused them any harm, yet they are the object of great hatred. They could be accused of being “traitors” to the Nephites but their conversion and migration presented no military threat to them. So what is the driving force?
When hatred and malice are demonstrated for the sake only of hatred and malice, Satan is the driving force. These Lamanites would not have chased their brethren deep into Nephite territory if they were not stirred up by the Amalekites. One of the Amalekites’ most pronounced qualities was hatred, for Satan has great hold on the hearts of the Amalekites, who do stir up the Lamanites to anger against their brethren to slay them (Alma 27:12).
Alma 28:2 there was a tremendous battle…such an one as never had been known
Mormon does not give us the details of this battle, even though it was the largest battle in Nephite history, to that point. His motivation for describing the many wars in the end of Alma is not just for the sake of military history but rather to teach us many important lessons. The details of this tremendous battle apparently would not be helpful for us.
What is interesting is to recognize the scale and scope of Nephite/Lamanite battles. Their battles equal the great battles of the last two centuries in terms of casualties. The commentary for Alma 2:19 describes a previous battle in which the casualties were on the same scale as the bloodiest battles of the Civil War and World War II. This conflict, according to Mormon, was an even greater slaughter, yea, and tens of thousands of the Lamanites were slain and scattered abroad. Yet, the exact number was not counted, Now their dead were not numbered because of the greatness of their numbers; neither were the dead of the Nephites numbered (Alma 30:2).
Alma 28:3 there was a tremendous slaughter among the people of Nephi
We should not overlook the great sacrifice of these Nephite warriors. They were not fighting for their lands, wives, and children. They were fighting for converted Lamanites, people who were guilty of great crimes against the Nephite people. Nowhere in this narrative does Mormon tell us that there were any of the Nephites who were opposed to protecting the people of Ammon. The Nephites were not judgmental. They could forgive those who were once their bitter enemies. Not only that, they were willing to die for them. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (Jn 15:13).
Contrast the mercy and great love of these Nephites to our own petty tendencies to be judgmental. We are critical of people within our own church because of the smallest, most insignificant things. We have unnecessary conflicts with neighbors and family members because we have not caught the message of the Book of Mormon. We could learn a great lesson from these Nephites who made the greatest of all sacrifices for those who were once their enemies—and they did it without a word of complaint.
Alma 28:4-6 there was a great mourning and lamentation heard throughout all the land
The pain of losing a loved one is understood only by those who have experienced it. Without the gospel of Jesus Christ, such a tragedy is truly devastating. Without the message of salvation, death is a final, tragic separation. Only through the Atonement is this pain lessened. Mormon states that amidst the sorrow of the Nephites, their only joy was because of the light of Christ unto life (v. 14).
“In an interview the author had with a prominent minister, the minister admitted that his church held out no hopes of the reuniting of family ties beyond the grave. Then he added: ‘But in my heart I find stubborn objections. Take for instance the kitten. When you take it away from the cat, in a few days the mother cat has forgotten all about it. Take the calf away from the cow and in a few days the cow has forgotten all about the calf. But when you take a child away from his mother, though she lives to be a hundred years old, she never forgets the child of her bosom. I find it difficult to believe that God created such love to perish in the grave.’” (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, p. 198)
“More painful to me are the thoughts of annihilation than death. If I have no expectation of seeing my father, mother, brothers, sisters and friends again, my heart would burst in a moment, and I should go down to my grave. The expectation of seeing my friends in the morning of the resurrection cheers my soul and makes me bear up against the evils of life. It is like their taking a long journey, and on their return we meet them with increased joy.” (Teachings, p. 296 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 292)
Joseph F. Smith
“I rejoice that I am born to live, to die, and to live again. I thank God for this intelligence. It gives me joy and peace that the world cannot give, neither can the world take it away. God has revealed this to me, in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know it to be true. Therefore I have nothing to be sad over, nothing to make me sorrowful...
“On the contrary, it is cause for joy unspeakable, and for pure happiness. I cannot express the joy I feel at the thought of meeting my father, and my precious mother, who gave me birth in the midst of persecution and poverty, who bore me in her arms and was patient, forbearing, tender and true during all my helpless moments in the world. The thought of meeting her, who can express the joy? The thought of meeting my children who have preceded me beyond the veil, and of meeting my kindred and my friends, what happiness it affords! For I know that I shall meet them there. God has shown me that this is true. (Conference Report, Oct. 1899, pp. 70-71)
Russell M. Nelson
“Our limited perspective would be enlarged if we could witness the reunion on the other side of the veil, when doors of death open to those returning home…We need not look upon death as an enemy…I know by experiences too sacred to relate that those who have gone before are not strangers to leaders of this Church. To us and to you, our loved ones may be just as close as the next room—separated only by the doors of death.” (Ensign, May 1992, pp. 72-3 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 292)
Alma 28:6 a time of solemnity, and a time of much fasting and prayer
We seldom think of fasting when we are mourning but the Nephites fasted and prayed in the midst of their sorrow. The greatest comfort in times of sorrow is the comfort of the Holy Ghost and nothing brings us closer to the Spirit than fasting and prayer. Therefore, a great way for us to cope with death and loss is to pray and fast.
Alma 28:11 they have reason to fear…that they are consigned of a state of endless wo
The warnings of the Lord are not just idle threats. The wicked will suffer endless wo in spirit prison, thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die, and more especially for those that have not hope of a glorious resurrection…And they that die not in me, wo unto them, for their death is bitter (DC 42:45-47).
“’Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state ... until the time of their resurrection’ (Alma 40:14). From modern revelation we learn that the expression ‘endless wo’ does not mean that the intended punishment is of endless duration, but rather that it is God's punishment, and God is endless; therefore he has chosen to call that punishment that comes from him by this name, or endless. This is done to make the warning more express, ‘that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men’ in the hope that it will dissuade them from sin. (See D&C 19:4-13.)” (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, p. 193)
Alma 28:12 they rejoice…and even know…that they are raised to dwell at the right hand of God
At funeral services of the righteous, many comments and testimonies are given that the deceased will come forth in the morning of the first resurrection because of their righteousness. But how can the friends and family of the deceased know this? It is according to the promises of the Lord. Those who have kept their baptismal and temple covenants have received the promise from Him who cannot lie that they will be heirs of salvation. This is the challenge for us—to endure to the end, faithful to our covenants.
F. Burton Howard
“I once attended a funeral service with Elder M. Russell Ballard. A statement he made there has remained with me to this day. He said, ‘life isn’t over for a Latter-day Saint until he or she is safely dead, with their testimony still burning brightly.’ ‘Safely dead’—what a challenging concept. Brothers and sisters, we will not be safe until we have given our hearts to the Lord—until we have learned to do what we have promised.” (Ensign, May 1996, p. 28 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 292)
Alma 28:13 the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression
This phrase has more than one level of meaning. Inequality in mortality is rarely blamed on sin and transgression, but the sins of pride, greed, deceit, stealing, and dishonesty all breed such inequality. If all were righteous and living the law of consecration, there would be no inequality at all. But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin (DC 49:20). If inequality is because of sin, then the converse should also be true—that equality is a function of righteousness. The law of equality, under the law of consecration, is a necessary and fundamental component of celestial law, That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things; For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you (DC 78:5-7).
The second level of meaning to Mormon’s comment is that there is inequality in the rewards given to men. This inequality also comes because of sin and transgression. He is contrasting the death and punishments of the wicked, consigned to a state of endless wo (v. 11), to the death and rewards of the righteous, raised to dwell…in a state of never-ending happiness (v. 12). In many respects this inequality is greater than that of mortality. In other words, the difference between the blessed state of the righteous and the cursed state of the wicked after death is much greater than the disparity between the rich and the poor during mortality.