Alma 21: What Didn’t Work

Aaron’s experience in Alma 21 is an illustration that can be used as a comparison to Ammon’s missionary work in Alma 17. While Ammon seeks first to serve, and to understand the people that he is sent to teach, Aaron takes a different approach. Aaron heads into the city of Jerusalem among the Lamanites, and immediately begins to preach (Alma 21:4), and contend with the residents (Alma 21:5,11).Alma_21

This approach leads to him being taken by the locals and cast into prison. Now while there is much more to the story (see Alma 21:3 where Mormon’s commentary informs us that this group of Lamanites were hardened), we can learn from Aaron that how you present the message can be as important as the message itself in many cases!

How we present the gospel message reminds me of a story I once read by President Packer. He shared the following:

When Elder Packer was mission president, he continued to search for appropriate means of instructing and motivating the Elders in their teaching the discussions.  One such approach which served him very well and by which he initially learned from Brother A Theodore Tuttle and was implemented in zone conferences he conducted throughout the Mission.  For each one, his wife baked a three-tiered cake, which she  decorated beautifully–thick, colorful layers of frosting, trimmed beautifully, and with “The Gospel” inscribed across the top.  When the missionaries were assembled and proper attention was given to creating an expectant event, the cake was  brought with a big fanfare.  That cake was something to behold!

As he pointed out that the cake represented the gospel, he then asked, ‘Who would like to have some?’  There was always a hungry elder who eagerly volunteered.  The candidate was called  forward and told, ‘We will serve you first.’  Elder Packer then sank his fingers into the top of the cake and tore out a large piece.  As he did so, he clenched his fist around the portion of the cake he had just torn out so that the frosting would ooze through his fingers.  Then as the Elders sat in total disbelief,  he threw the piece of cake to the elder, splattering some frosting down the front of his suit. ‘Would anyone else like some cake?’ He then inquired.  For some reason, there were no takers.

They then produced a crystal dish, a silver fork, a linen napkin, and a beautiful silver serving knife.  With great dignity the next piece was cut carefully from the other side and placed on the crystal dish.  The question was asked once again: ‘Would anyone like a piece of cake?’  The lesson was obvious.” 1


Elder Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently,  Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, p. 227-228.

About LDS Scripture Teachings

I write about ways scripture applies in our lives:
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