I started the day looking at Jenny’s Sunday verse. I like to read her thoughts each Sunday, because they parallel my studies so often. Jenny is not LDS, but we agree on many, many things in Christianity, and on ways to come to Christ. Her verse this week is about encouraging words and comes from Hebrews 3:13. I think she uses the NIV Bible, while I use KJV. The poster below is the KJV of the verse.
Today, I also found AMP (amplified) on the list of versions, and, for this verse, at least, I liked the extra explanation.
Hebrews 3:13 AMP: But continually encourage one another every day, as long as it is called “Today” [and there is an opportunity], so that none of you will be hardened [into settled rebellion] by the deceitfulness of sin [its cleverness, delusive glamour, and sophistication].
It occurred to me, and this is why I mention this verse today, that this is exactly what all of my Book of Mormon heroes have done. Nephi encouraged and exhorted his brothers to return to Christ. He taught his people of Christ and how to live a Christian life. Abinadi’s life was devoted to this purpose, and in the end, he exhorted King Noah and his priests to repent and not be hardened by sin. One man listened and took that to heart, Alma. Alma spent his life doing the same. King Benjamin called his people together at the end of his life to be sure that he had given the primary message of Christ to them all of his life.
Over and over, I see that the lives these people lived were devoted to Christ and to their fellow beings. Their whole purpose was to exhort and encourage one another daily, as long as it was today and there was an opportunity. We all know that the day is coming when there will no longer be an opportunity. We must share the gospel of Christ while we can and bring souls to Him.
This week, I want to tell you a little bit about Alma and Mosiah together. This is Alma I and Mosiah II, son of Benjamin and grandson of Mosiah I. The Nephites didn’t use the numbers, but just to help us keep it straight, I have.
Palenque Ruins 2
When Alma and his people arrived in Zarahemla, it was about 120 B.C. We don’t have their calendar, but according to our reckoning of time, that’s when it was. Previously, the Nephites had joined the Mulekites in their city of Zarahemla, and also Lemhi’s people, called the people of Zeniff (who was the original Nephite who had left to return to the land of Lehi-Nephi, ancestral lands, one might term it) had come to Zarahemla. So there were basically four groups living in Zarahemla, three of them Nephites or branches of the Nephites, and then the Mulekites who were descended from Zedekiah’s surviving son, Mulek1, at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem.
Artist’s rendition of Zarahemla
Mosiah 25 gives an account of Mosiah and Alma coming together to serve the people. The Mulekites had previously chosen to have Mosiah I as their king, also. I imagine this might have had something to do with the fact that he had the ancient records of Israel and knew the original language, as did all the Nephites because they had the records to teach them.
Mosiah 25:1 – And now king Mosiah caused that all the people should be gathered together.
Mosiah 25:5-6 – And it came to pass that Mosiah did read, and caused to be read, the records of Zeniff to his people; yeah, he did read the records of the people of Zeniff, from the time they left the land of Zarahemla until they returned again. And he also read the account of Alma and his brethren, and all their afflictions, from the time they left the land of Zarahemla until the time they returned again.
Remember that Alma’s people were originally of those who had descended from Zeniff and those who went with him to their former homeland. At the meeting on that day, all the people of Zarahemla chose to be called Nephites and have Mosiah II as their king. Afterward, Mosiah asked Alma I to speak to the people.
Mosiah 25:15, 17 – And Alma did speak unto them, when they were assembled together in large bodies, and he went from one body to another, preaching unto the people repentance and faith on the Lord. And it came to pass that after Alma had taught the people many things, and had made an end of speaking to them, that king Limhi was desirous that he might be baptized; and all his people were desirous that they might be baptized also.
Alma baptized everyone who came to him, as he had already baptized his own people in the Waters of Mormon. Then Mosiah “granted unto Alma that he might establish churches throughout all the land of Zarahemla ….” Using the word granted makes me think that Alma asked the king’s permission to do so, and it was given to him.
Mosiah 25:21-22 – Therefore they did assemble themselves together in different bodies, being called churches; every church having their priests and their teachers, and every priest preaching the word according as it was delivered to him by the mouth of Alma. And thus, notwithstanding there being many churches they were all one church, yeah, even the church of God; for there was nothing preached in all the churches except it were repentance and faith in God.”
There were seven churches, or congregations, in the land of Zarahemla, which included the city and the surrounding territory. I think of this as one stake, with seven wards, like the one I belong to here in Knoxville. I don’t know how large an area it was, so it might even be seven stakes, each with several wards meeting. That isn’t important. The unity is important, that they all preached the same gospel, as my church today, because all the information came down from the prophet Alma, as it does from the present day prophet, Thomas S. Monson.
Artist’s rendition of Zarahemla, with Nephite Warriors
I like the way the government under King Mosiah worked together with the church under Alma. Each had separate functions, but they worked together, not at odds with one another. Later, when none of Mosiah’s sons would be king, a system of judges was set up. Alma became the chief judge as well as the prophet. That was very wearing on him because he wanted to be preaching to the people, so a time came when he appointed someone else to the chief judge’s seat, while he devoted himself to the spiritual affairs of the church.
Can you imagine a place where the government and the church cooperated? I think our Constitution was designed so that could happen, the government staying out of church affairs, unlike the original purpose for the founding of the Church of England, and the cause of so many leaving England for the colonies. This is the Constitutional meaning of separation of church and state, but it’s been turned on its head so that the church is deemed the enemy of the state now. I like the way the people of Zarahemla did it better!
Next week, we move on to Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah.
1Not a lot is known about the people of Zarahemla, the descendants of Mulek, but what there is is summarized nicely in this article from the March, 1987, Ensign, the church magazine.
2This is not positing that the Palenque Ruins are Book of Mormon relics. This is an example of what the city and temple may have looked like.