There is quite a bit going on in Alma 1-3. We are introduced to our second visible anti-Christ, as Nehor enters the stage (Sherem was the first- see Jacob 7). Following his death we read how the Nephites were able to establish a utopian like society in the last few verses of chapter 1. Chapters 2-3 illustrate that some people will always find a way to be haters- no matter how happy a society is, there are those who have to come and make things difficult!
Nehor comes from the word (נחור) meaning to snore or to snort. He certainly does spread his “hot air” around in this chapter. I will write on the anti-Christs in the Book of Mormon in a later post, when I get to Korihor in Alma 30.
After we see him leave the story, we read Mormon’s commentary:
This did not put an end to the spreading of priestcraft through the land; for there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor (Alma 1:16)
I would mention here that Nephi helps us to see priestcraft in his commentary in 2 Nephi 26:29.
The church prospers even amidst adversity (Alma 1:24) as they remained steadfast and immovable (Alma 1:25). We read of their utopian society in verses 26-30:
1. They did not look down on others (Alma 1:26).
2. They had equality (Alma 1:26).
3. Everyone worked (Alma 1:26).
4. People worked in the areas where they had talent, or strength (Alma 1:26).
5. Those that were blessed financially gave of their resources to benefit others (Alma 1:27).
6. They experience peace amidst persecutions (Alma 1:28).
7. They prospered, yet were able to keep greed in check by giving to all (Alma 1:30).
This people is an example to us today of how to have the ideal society. In America today, we have groups from the right and from the left that are working to cultivate this type of society, yet both groups miss the mark. One side emphasizes that what we earn is ours, and the government should not take it away, while the other side wants government to take from those that have much and redistribute it to those that have little. Both sides argue for their cause: one for the property rights of man, the other for the need to take care of those less fortunate.
The Savior has the answers to what ails American culture today. This group did have property rights, but were so generous in their charity that everyone was prosperous (Alma 1:30).
The Amlicite Wars
I like to emphasize with young people the idea that when things are going well, there is always someone who will try to make things difficult. We had a good discussion of times when this happens: a young person gets a nice car, only to come out one day and see that it has been keyed. Another shared how he was eating an ice cream cone and someone came and smashed it in his face!
Amlici is this person: the consummate hater. He isn’t happy with a utopian society were all prosper, rather, he wants to be king. If he cannot be the king of the Nephites, he then decides to secede and be king over anyone who will follow him (Alma 2:9). He leads these dissenters through what I like to call the Amlicite Wars. There are three of them, and after these wars, we learn that Amlici is killed (Alma 2:31), and even though they enlist the assistance of the Lamanites (Alma 2:24, Alma 3:23), they are finally defeated.
The point of Mormon telling us of these wars comes at the end of chapter 3:
And in one year were thousands and tens of thousands of souls sent to the eternal world, that they might reap their rewards according to their works, whether they were good or whether they were bad, to reap eternal happiness or eternal misery, according to the spirit which they listed to obey, whether it be a good spirit or a bad one. For every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey, and this according to the words of the spirit of prophecy; therefore let it be according to the truth (Alma 3:26-27 italics added).
The point is clear: you get out of your life what you put into it. Much of our happiness or misery is brought upon by our own attitudes and actions. There are so many ways to illustrate this principle, and it is good to show students the many ways that this principle works in their lives. Oftentimes they will catch on as they “see” this principle work, and will share their experiences. I find these last two verses in Alma 3 very telling of Mormon’s style: he lays out a scenario, showing us the protagonists, the antagonists, and the conflict, after which he gives us his “thus we see” commentary. Often in this commentary is a powerful principle that young people can apply in their personal lives. Mormon is not just saying, “do good and you will be blessed, do bad and bad things will happen.” While this is true, the stories Mormon shares with us in Alma and the principles he draws out are so much deeper than this! The principles he illustrates have great application in our lives!
Mormon also shows us in these first three chapters that even in the midst of a wonderful society, the Amlicis of our lives will always creep in, working to get more power and more attention. The Nephites do not start a war with Amlici, but they certainly finish it!