Alma 18, 19 – LeGrand Baker – The Conversion of the Kings
Over the years, it has been my great privilege to have spent many rewarding hours with many of you as we have read the scriptures together. And that’s the point I wish to make here. It takes time, usually a great deal of time to read, examine, and digest the intent of many passages of scriptures. For example, if we could get through more than the first four verses of Ephesians in less than two or three hours, then we had been moving right along. With that in mind, I read the account of the Nephite missionaries teaching the Lamanite kings, and conclude that we are getting a very abbreviated description of some powerfully profound and in-depth conversations. And that those conversations probably lasted for many days, perhaps many weeks.
Not long ago, Rudd Hopkins, who is working this summer in New York, called me to say, “Wow! I’ve got to tell you what I just read in Alma 22.” At his suggestion, I re-read the story told there. He was right: it is “wow!” I would like to share it with you, but of course, I can’t, so we will just have to go round-about it in the way the scriptures do.
First, lets read the story of king Lamoni’s conversation, and the story of his father’s, and compare them. The comparison should focus on what they were taught and in what order the ideas were presented. Then we will each— each individually, for that is the only way it can be done— compare their remarkable experiences and consider the prerequisites for such experiences.
For ease of reading, I have put one in bold and the other in italics.
36 Now when Ammon had said these words, he began at the creation of the world, and also the creation of Adam,
12 And it came to pass that when Aaron saw that the king would believe his words, he began from the creation of Adam
and told him all the things concerning the fall of man,
reading the scriptures unto the king—how God created man after his own image, and that God gave him commandments, and that because of transgression, man had fallen.
and rehearsed and laid before him the records and the holy scriptures of the people,
13 And Aaron did expound unto him the scriptures from the creation of Adam, laying the fall of man before him,
which had been spoken by the prophets, even down to the time that their father, Lehi, left Jerusalem.
37 And he also rehearsed unto them (for it was unto the king and to his servants) all the journeyings of their fathers in the wilderness, and all their sufferings with hunger and thirst, and their travail, and so forth.
38 And he also rehearsed unto them concerning the rebellions of Laman and Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael, yea, all their rebellions did he relate unto them; and he expounded unto them all the records and scriptures from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem down to the present time.
and their carnal state
39 But this is not all; for he expounded unto them the plan of redemption, which was prepared from the foundation of the world;
and also the plan of redemption, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, through Christ, for all whosoever would believe on his name.
14 And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself;
and he also made known unto them concerning the coming of Christ,
but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth; and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory;
and all the works of the Lord did he make known unto them.
and Aaron did expound all these things unto the king.
I suppose in both of those last statements “all” means all. If that is the case, then the subtext of both stories presuppose a number of interesting things. One is implied in this explanation from the D&C:
19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live (84:10-22)
Given what happened to each of the two kings after their conversion, it is reasonable to suppose that they must have had the priesthood. That, in turn, suggests that they got it from the Nephite missionaries. That probably implies that the sons of Mosiah had all the requisite authority to administer all the blessings, covenants, and ordinances that would have been necessary to bring the Lamanites fully into the Kingdom of God.
This is the conclusion of king Lamoni’s conversion story.
40 And it came to pass that after he had said all these things, and expounded them to the king, that the king believed all his words.
41 And he began to cry unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, have mercy; according to thy abundant mercy which thou hast had upon the people of Nephi, have upon me, and my people.
42 And now, when he had said this, he fell unto the earth, as if he were dead.
12 And it came to pass that he arose, according to the words of Ammon; and as he arose, he stretched forth his hand unto the woman, and said: Blessed be the name of God, and blessed art thou.
13 For as sure as thou livest, behold, I have seen my Redeemer; and he shall come forth, and be born of a woman, and he shall redeem all mankind who believe on his name. Now, when he had said these words, his heart was swollen within him, and he sunk again with joy; and the queen also sunk down, being overpowered by the Spirit.
This is what happened with king Lamoni’s father:
17 And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying:
18 O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead.
22 Now when Aaron saw the determination of the queen, he, also knowing the hardness of the hearts of the people, feared lest that a multitude should assemble themselves together, and there should be a great contention and a disturbance among them; therefore he put forth his hand and raised the king from the earth, and said unto him: Stand. And he stood upon his feet, receiving his strength.
23 Now this was done in the presence of the queen and many of the servants. And when they saw it they greatly marveled, and began to fear. And the king stood forth, and began to minister unto them. And he did minister unto them, insomuch that his whole household were converted unto the Lord.
The sequence of their teachings is unmistakable. Each story appears to contain a very abbreviated review of the ancient Israelite Feast of Tabernacles drama. King Lamoni’s account even ends the same way king Benjamin’s celebration of that drama ended, with a cry for mercy: “O Lord, have mercy; according to thy abundant mercy which thou hast had upon the people of Nephi, have upon me, and my people.” A review of that might be appropriate
1 And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had made an end of speaking the words which had been delivered unto him by the angel of the Lord, that he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and behold they had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.
2 And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.
3 And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.