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For a little bit of background for these chapters, we have just seen Alma leave his job as chief judge to become a full time missionary. Was he planning on returning to civilian life after his mission? Who knows? What I do know is that sacrifice and consecration bring enormous spiritual blessings. Alma gave up a lot to become a full-time missionary. In my mind, I can’t imagine that God didn’t teach him marvelous things in return for his service. We are so lucky to have some of his sermons. So…what does Alma have to teach us in chapter 5?
Alma 5:7 Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them.
Wonderful imagery here, but let’s take a really close look so that we know exactly what the scripture is teaching us. What was giving off the illumination? What was being illuminated?
The everlasting word was giving off the illumination. The word can include so much more than just the scriptures, but the scriptures are a great way to get it.
Our souls are what is getting illuminated. Now, that may sound really warm and fuzzy, but look closer at that verse. Their souls were illuminated and they were “encircled about by the bands of death and the chains of hell.” Not so warm and fuzzy.
There are so many gifts that the word of God can add to our lives. It can bring us peace and revelation, but this verse talks about something else entirely. When we think about the imagery, we see a person sitting in the dark. As a candle in front of them is illuminated, they look down and see that they’ve been sitting in chains this entire time. This is one of the gifts of the scriptures; it can show us places where we are bound in chains.
Now here’s what’s really cool.
Alma 5:5 And behold, after that, they were brought into bondage by the hands of the Lamanites in the wilderness; yea, I say unto you, they were in captivity, and again the Lord did deliver them out of bondage by the power of his word; and we were brought into this land, and here we began to establish the church of God throughout this land also.
Now, we are all very aware of the fact that Alma’s people were delivered by the power of the Lord. In Mosiah 24:14-23, the Lord makes the Lamanites fall asleep and Alma’s people escape.
BUT. That is not exactly how the words read in the scripture. It says specifically that the Lord delivered Alma’s people by the power of his word. Seems like an interesting statement to make. His words delivered Alma’s people. How does that work?
It reminds me of another verse that used to confuse me immensely.
Doctrine and Covenants 8:3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.
It was the spirit of revelation that brought Moses and the children of Israel through the Red Sea.
To be quite frank, I don’t believe we fully appreciate the literal power of Heavenly Father’s words. But to keep this simpler, let’s consider how revelation literally saved these groups of people.
Moses received revelation to go and rescue the children of Israel. I can’t imagine how many times Moses received specific revelation on how to bless his people throughout the timeline of the plagues. We know of one example for sure. The Israelites were guided to sacrifice a lamb and smear its blood on their doorways so that the angel of death would “passover” them and not kill the firstborn sons. In this sense, the spirit of revelation guided the Israelites to protect their sons; revelation literally saved them. In Exodus 14, we see the Israelites regretting their decision to follow Moses; they want to turn back and serve the Egyptians. However, the Lord whispers to Moses to hold forth his staff and part the waters. Moses and his people walk through on dry ground and are saved.
Let’s look at Alma’s people and how the word of the Lord saved them.
Mosiah 24:16 …the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.
So the Lamanites fall into a deep sleep; how did that happen? We don’t know. Was it by the word of the Lord? I’m going to guess that had something to do with it. BUT. I can think of one way that the word of the Lord literally saved Alma’s people. After escaping, they travelled for a day and stopped in a valley and “poured out their thanks to God because he had been merciful unto them.”
Mosiah 24:23 And now the Lord said unto Alma: Haste thee and get thou and this people out of this land, for the Lamanites have awakened and do pursue thee…
We may not know exactly how the Lord’s word was involved in putting the Lamanites to sleep, but we do know that He warned them to leave quickly so they wouldn’t be captured and led back into bondage. The word of the Lord literally saved them.
Has the word of the Lord ever literally saved you?
I put a post out on Facebook to gather stories of people who have been literally saved by the word of the Lord. I want to share just one that really struck me. This was a message sent to me by a woman named Kathryn.
“I struggled with a devastating eating disorder for over 15 years. I went to therapy, I went to eating disorder treatment centers, and I prayed for deliverance. It never came. At least That’s how it felt after 15 years of barely hanging on. I felt like I was in bondage to a prison that I had never asked for or deserved to be in.
One day I truly felt that I couldn’t keep fighting. I was tired and it was too hard. That night I woke up at 3 am and I couldn’t sleep. I was scrolling through Facebook and somebody had posted David Archuleta’s song, My Little Prayer.
I felt the spirit move through me for the first time in years. I prayed and I told God I would give it one last try.
Then President Nelson invited the women to read the Book of Mormon in 90 days. I committed myself to do that, and over that time I experienced miracle upon miracle. Miracles that I didn’t think were possible, because I had been forgotten so many years before.
I am now recovered and healthy, something I thought would never be possible. My scriptures are my best friend. I feast upon them daily, not because I feel obligated but because they helped deliver me from bondage that nearly took my life.”
The word of the Lord has literal power, power that we do not fully understand.
Elder Marion G. Romney stated, “I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents.”
You will change as you read the book with diligence. Please, please read The Book of Mormon with diligence. Not only can it save us, but it can save our families. It has real power. The biggest indication of the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon is its ability to change the hearts of people.