Alma 8:18-20 — LeGrand Baker — Alma at the Gate
18 Now it came to pass that after Alma had received his message from the angel of the Lord he returned speedily to the land of Ammonihah. And he entered the city by another way, yea, by the way which is on the south of the city of Ammonihah.
19 And as he entered the city he was an hungered, and he said to a man: Will ye give to an humble servant of God something to eat?
20 And the man said unto him: I am a Nephite, and I know that thou art a holy prophet of God, for thou art the man whom an angel said in a vision: Thou shalt receive. Therefore, go with me into my house and I will impart unto thee of my food; and I know that thou wilt be a blessing unto me and my house.
This story contains an important principle that teaches how the Lord deals with his children. The lesson is repeated many times in the scriptures, but usually not as dramatically as it is here.
Alma has been driven from town, and was told never to come back. After he leaves, the angel comes to him, compliments him on how he has lived his life since the last time they met, and tells him to go back to Ammonihah again.
Alma obeyed, but he did not walk belligerently up to the gate from which he had been expelled. Instead, he went through another gate. Prophets are rarely belligerent, unless that is also part of their instructions: “Be as wise as serpents [i.e. don’t let somebody step on your head], and harmless as doves,” the Lord had instructed his Twelve at Jerusalem.
So Alma returned, as instructed, and found Amulek waiting for him. An angel had told Amulek to care for Alma. Amulek also obeyed, explaining to Alma, “I know that thou art a holy prophet of God, for thou art the man whom an angel said in a vision: Thou shalt receive. Therefore, go with me into my house and I will impart unto thee of my food; and I know that thou wilt be a blessing unto me and my house.”
Alma accepted Amulek’s hospitality and they became life-long friends.
The principle is this: The angel who spoke to Alma didn’t tell him Amulek would be there to help. He didn’t make any promises at all. He only told Alma to return. Alma obeyed and the Lord made the necessary arrangements so that Alma would get something to eat and would have help in fulfilling his assignment.
That is probably the most important principle by which we can guide our lives: It is our responsibilities to keep our covenants, and if we live worthily, the Lord will teach us what we must do so we can keep those covenants. A covenant and a promise are not the same thing. A promise is something just one person does. A covenant is something that two people do together. When we made covenants, he made covenants with us also. He promised that he would arrange that we could keep our parts. (Ephesians ch. 1) So now, as we struggle in the darkness of this world, it is his responsibility to make sure nothing gets in the way that is so heavy that it precludes our keeping our covenants. He does that. If we do our part, there will be no power in earth or in hell that can prevent us from doing what we promised Him we would to do. But it requires that we quietly obey the instructions of the Spirit, and when necessary, unobtrusively find another way, rather than going belligerently through the unfriendly gate.