Note: I want to apologize for this post. I started writing it about a month ago and then got distracted with other things. I just want to get it over with and on to other topics. So I finished it today and haven’t gone through and made any revision. So I apologize and I hope you get something from it.
My most recent studies in the Book of Mormon have been in Mosiah. I’ve been studying the different breakaways and unifications in this book. Even the history of Lehi leaving Jerusalem gives some of the same things. Those of you who have also read these account probably have noticed many similarities between these accounts and our times today. What I would like to do here is examine the events in the Book of Mosiah and see how they can relate to us today. If so, then perhaps we can get guidance in what we must do.
Just a little backstory, I’m sure many of you are already familiar with it. Lehi was commanded by God to flee Jerusalem and the Apostate Jewish Church. He took his family and they fled. After crossing a great sea they arrived in what we call the Americas. Led by the Spirit Lehi’s family build up a church. The family was split in two with one group fleeing to another place, the Nephites. And the others developing a hatred towards the Nephites, the Lamanites.
The Nephites fled into the wilderness and settled in a land they called Nephi. There in Nephi they built a temple. They went through times of righteousness and wickedness. Eventually one Nephit named Mosiah was commanded by God to flee the land of Nephi. Mosaih eventually found the land of Zarahemla. Zerahemla had been established by agroup of people called the Mulekites. The Mulekites were another group of people who had fled Jerusalem. The Mulekites made Mosiah their king. This began the reign of Kings in Zarahemla. At some point a temple was constructed in the land of Zarahemla. Mosiah was not only the King but also established the church. All of the righteous people followed Mosiah out of the land of Nephi. Those who stayed were destroyed by the Lamanites. Mosiah’s son Benjamin became the king after his father. During this time the army of Zarahemla was sent to look for the land of Nephi.
A man by the name Zeniff was part of a scouting party. And he spied on the Lamanites. When Zeniff saw the good in the Lamanites he did not want them to be destroyed. Instead we wanted to make a treaty with them so they could poses the land of Nephi. But the ruler of the army was a bloodthirsty man. There was a battle where part of the army who sided with Zeniff fought against the part who sided with the ruler. Everyone who survived, including Zeniff, returned to Zarahemla.
Zeniff had a strong desire to reclaim the land of Nephi. So he gathered as many people as he could and went there. He made a treaty with the Lamanite King and began to rebuild the old city. They also established a righteous branch of the church. They began to reuse the old temple. There were also a few conflicts with the Lamanites.
Now we get to the interesting stuff.
Eventually Zeniff conferred his Kingdom upon his son Noah. This made Noah the proper leader both politically and religiously. We can liken this today to the leaders of the Church who were appointed by a certain process.
Noah put down all of the Priests his father had conferred and replaced them with his own. He put a tax on everything that the people produced.
Today it is required that you pay ten percent of everything your income in order to be able to enter the temples of the Church.
Noah also built many great and beautiful buildings. He decorated the temple and build a place for his priests to sit.
The Church uses the money from tithing to build large and beautiful temples. They also use investment income(which originated from tithing) to build many other building. For example a $6 Billion shopping center.
Noah also built a great tower near the temple. This to me is a shocking parallel in that a few hundred feet in one direction from the temple is a tower known as the Church Office Building. And a few hundred feet in another direction are two more towers that are part of the City Creek Center.
While towers may be interesting there is an even stronger parallel with today. If there are any Believing Mormons reading this, and you have made it this far, I advise you to carefully study this interaaction in the Book of Mormon.
There was a citizen of the land of Nephi named Abinadi. The Lord gave him a message to deliver. So Abinadi began preaching. The people turned Abinadi in to King Noah.
Now when we read Mosiah 11 we read it with hind sight. We can see obviously that what King Noah was wicked. But strangely the people supported him completely. When Abinadi began preaching the people rejected him. Abinadi was just some nobody. Now these are people who followed a righteous leader, Zeniff, just a short time before. So how could a people support a righteous leader and then a wicked one without even batting an eyelash? The answer is because they were not following the principles of righteousness they were following the leader. I guarantee that as some point early in his ministry King Noah taught that he could never lead the people astray. All the people had to do was follow him and they would be fine.
So when Abinadi came the people hated his words because he didn’t follow the leader. He taught that what their leader was doing was wrong. But the people, remember they supported a righteous King before so they didn’t love wickedness, continued supporting their leader.
This same exact(I don’t mean closely resembles, I mean exact) attitude exists in Church members today. Church members will support their leaders no matter what they do. Even when Church leaders violate or command the violation of God’s commandments the people don’t care. They support the leaders in these things. In fact if some random guy, just like Abinadi was, went to Salt Lake and started preaching against the wickedness of the Church, the members would HATE him. I bet some would even want to kill him. Members of the Church today would fit perfectly into King Noah’s Church.
If anything comes from Mosaih 11 let us remember that Church leaders can and do lead us astray. It’s part of the program! This chapter teaches us that we must be constantly on guard and defend ourselves against incorrect teachings that may come from our leaders.
Back to the story. After being taken to the king, Abinadi preached against the him and his priests. One of Noah’s priests, Alma, listened to Abinadi’s words and wanted Abinadi to be set free. But Abinadi was eventually killed and Alma was cast out.
Because Alma was now an outlaw he hid and recorded the words of Abinadi,. He repented of his wicked actions. He then went around preaching Abinadi’s words to the people, but he did it in secret. I have demonstrated in this post and previous ones, that we live in a time of wickedness. We should look to Alma as an example of what to do in times of wickedness.
First Alma wrote the words of Abinadi. We need to treasure up the word of the Lord.
Secondly Alma repented of his sins. This is a process that all of us should be doing. Repentance is change. So when we learn something more or different than what we are currently doing we must change to come into alignment with the correct teaching.
Third Alma began preaching to the people in secret. The reason he was preaching in secret was to avoid the king, who wanted him killed. While we don’t have a king who wants us dead, we do have powerful church authorities. For some of us it may not yet be time to depart the L-DS Church. In this case it may be better to preach in secret. Others of us may have already become significantly distanced from the L-DS Church the we can preach openly. Regardless it is vital that we begin preaching to the people.
Those people who believed Alma, went to his hiding place in Mormon. After a few days there were many people there and Alma began teaching them. He taught them about faith, redemption, and repentance.
After teaching them Alma asks them to be baptized. He gives some qualities a person should have before baptism. The attributes are as follows:
– Be desirous to come into the fold of God,
– Be desirous to be called his people,
– Are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light,
– Are willing to mourn with those that mourn,
– To comfort those that stand in need of comfort,
– To stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death.
Notice that none of these are about having a strong knowledge about Church doctrines or policies. Rather they are attitudes that we should possess before baptism. I’ve heard many people say that this is the baptismal covenant. But this is not the covenant. Instead we learn that baptism is a witness of a covenant we make. The covenant we make is that, “[w]e will serve [God] and keep his commandments.” Baptism is not the covenant but a witness of the covenant.
Additionally we must recognize that all these people were already baptized into the church under Zeniff and Noah. So what they were doing was participating in rebaptism. Members of the Church today claim that weekly partaking of the sacrament is a renewal or re-committal of the baptismal covenant, but this is not correct. Rebaptism is a renewal of the baptismal covenant.
After being rebaptized these people were called the church of God or church of Christ. And anyone else who was baptized was added to this church.
This is also an example for us today. Baptism is the way to enter the Lord’s church. And either by a n initial baptism, a valid former baptism, or a rebaptism we likewise enter the Lord’s church. In the church Elders and Priests are authorized to perform baptism. I would encourage anyone reading this that if you possess those attributes listed above, that you be baptized, or rebaptized into the church. You can locate and Elder or Priest and have them perform this. You can use the comments section below to find someone.
Alma commanded the Priests he ordained to teach nothing except the words of the prophets, and faith and repentance.
Alma also commanded them that they shouldn’t have any contention. This is something that I believe is important for becoming unified with other people who believe differently about certain things. We must “look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.” The Gospel is all that is important for our function as the church. Other topics are interesting and edifying but we should only be preaching faith and repentance.
Another thing is interesting is that immediately Alma instituted the Law of Consecration. Just like in the first years of Christianity. all people gave what they had and it was distributed among everyone.
It was about this time the the King found out about this movement and sent his army to find them.
Now imagine this was occurring in our days. There is a group of people gathering without the permission of the Church(TM). They are holding meetings, baptizing, preaching, and living the law of consecration. All of this without the consent or permission of the “mainstream” Church.
Now imagine that Thomas Monson finds out about this movement(I am not insinuating that Thomas Monson is participating in the same activities as King Noah was). What do you think Thomas Monson or other general authorities would do?
I think that if any of the members were still attending L-DS wards then they would be pulled into Bishops offices. They would most likely undergo Church discipline. The First Presidency would issue warnings against participating in such groups. They would condemn such groups as apostate and having gone astray. Granted this is just my own thoughts, but it may reflect reality.
Instead of embracing such a movement as branch of the church, the Church today would assume the same role that Noah did in Alma’s day.
Well it so happens that Noah did what any good power hungry leader should do. He told everyone that Alma was stirring up the people to rebellion against him. So he sent his army out to squash the “rebellion.” But meanwhile back near the waters of Mormon Alma and his people were somehow “appraised” of the coming of the King’s army. So they go out of there and fled into the wilderness.
Now this seemed to snapped some of the people out of the apathy they were in. Because after this a “lesser part” began to threaten the king. This tells to me at least that the people had at least some sense of reason. The majority of the people may have sided with with Noah, knowing the prophet(or king in their case) can never lead them astray. But when he sent his army out to kill a bunch of innocent crazies gathered in the woods at least a few of the people realized there was something wrong in whoville.
Long story short a guy name Gideon comes to kill the king. And chases him up the tower. But I love King Noah’s reaction. If any of you have seen the movie Madagascar, there is a scene where Melman the giraffe is stuck in a shipping crate, after being shipwrecked on Madagascar. Alex the lion is trying to get him out by ramming him with a tree trunk. But Melman realizes Alex is about to ram him in the crotch. As Alex is running closer Melman is screaming for him to stop. Then suddenly he shouts, “There’s Gloria!”(Gloria is a hippopotamus that is part of their group and hasn’t been found on the island yet) Alex stops to look and to Melman’s surprise Gloria’s shipping crate really has washed up on the beach. Melman says to himself, surprised that his ruse was true, “It IS Gloria.”
I can just imagine this same reaction with King Noah. Gideon is chasing him up the tower. Fearing for his life King Noah desperately shouts out, “Oh look it’s the Lamanites!” Then to his surprise the Lamanites really are there!
So then Gideon spares him and King Noah ordered all the men to leave their wives and children and flee into the wilderness. Now I imagine that the TBNs(True Believing Noahites) where wondering what king of trial of faith this was. Why was the Lord commanding the priesthood holders to flee into the wilderness and leave the women and children at the mercy of the Lamanites? But we must be obedient to the Lord’s anointed because he knows what’s going on more than we do. However this seemed to be another dividing line, shattering many of the TBNs beliefs because many decided it was better to stay and send their fair daughters out to plead with the Lamanites.
The other dividing line was with those TBN men who had fled into the wilderness. They realized that what King Noah was doing was wrong. So the burned him, fulfilling Abinadi’s prophecy. Now I wonder if the people had hear of the prophecy and made a conscious decision to fulfill it rather then, “Oh wadaya know, the prophecy was fulfilled.” Perhaps they took it upon themselves to fulfill the prophecy. This can serve as an example to us. Do we sit around waiting for prophecies to be magically be fulfilled or are was actively trying to fulfill the prophecies?
Anyway before the people can kill the priests they flee. The men who fled returned home(I can just imagine the explaining they had to do to their wives).
But the pleading the beautiful daughters did worked. The Lamanites allowed them to live in the land with Limhi(one of Noah’s sons) as their king. They had a great tax placed upon them.
Limhi was a more righteous man. He worked to establish peace in his kingdom.
Meanwhile the old priests under Noah stole some of the daughters of the Lamanites to be their wives. This cause trouble for Limhi when the Lamanites blamed him for the disappearance of their daughters. But after a great deal of trouble Limhi got it sorted out. He started to again establish a peaceful kingdom.
Eventually Ammon from Zarahemla wanders into their town. He starts figuring out what happened. And they morun for everything that happened. And interesting key word is that they mourned that Alma, who had formed a church of God, had fled. Alma hadn’t formed THE church of God, but a church of God. Since the church of God was still around in other areas what Alma formed was just part of the church.
Now that the people had been forced to see that Noah could in fact lead them astray the people wished that they could have joined Alma’s people. Now the people wanted to be baptized but for some reason Ammon felt unworthy and didn’t baptize them.
Eventually Limhi and his people escape from the Lamanites and return to Zarahemla.
Meanwhile in the wilderness Alma and his group found a nice place and started to build a city. The people wanted Alma to be their king but Alma refused. He told them, “It is not expedient that we should have a king; for thus saith the Lord: Ye shall not esteem one flesh above another; or one man shall not think himself above another; therefore I say unto you, It is not expedient that ye should have a king.”
Eventually the army of the Lamanites, who had been in search of the escaped people of Limhi, stumbled upon Alma’s group. The Lamanites agreed to spare Alma’s people’s lives and liberty if they showed them how to get back to the land of Nephi. But the Lamanites went back on their promise and ended up putting the people who came from Noah’s priest, led by Amulon, over Alma’s people.
After a time of trial Alma, and those people of Amulon who had join their church, decided to break the (Lamanite) laws of the land and flee again into the wilderness. They left and found another place to stay, but the Lord told them to keep moving because Lamanites were after them. So they kept forging ahead in the wilderness and lo and behold the found their way back to Zarahemla.
After Mosiah, the grandson of Mosiah and son of Benjamin, talked to the assembled body of people, he had Alma speak to them. Alma eventually baptized the people of Limhi. Now I do have a question why nobody of Mosaiah’s people was able to baptize the people of Limhi. Or perhaps Limhi’s people arrived only a short time before Alma and didn’t have time for anyone else to baptized the.
Now I’m going to quote here what happened next:
“And it came to pass that king Mosiah granted unto Alma, that he might establish Churches throughout all the land of Zarahemla; and gave him power to ordain priests and teachers over every Church. Now this was done because there was so many people that they could not all be governed by one teacher; neither could they all hear the word of God in one assembly; 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; yea, even the Church of God: for there was nothing preached in all the Churches except it were repentance and faith in God. And now there was seven Churches in the land of Zarahemla. And it came to pass that whosoever was desirous to take upon them the name of Christ, or of God, they did join the churches of God; and they were called the people of God. And the Lord did pour out his spirit unto them, and they were blest, and prospered in the land.”
This to me is a key indicator to support the idea that “the church” is in fact many different individual congregations. The church is the people as a whole but at the same time each independent congregation is also the church.
I hope you’ll forgive me for this overly long summary of these chapters of Mosiah. The overall point I want to draw from this is that establishing a church(meaning a congregation) can be done as dictated by the Spirit. It does not require authorization from “Presiding Authorities.” These chapters provide a real example of how this can work and that is IS ACCEPTABLE TO GOD! We must look to the Book of Mormon to see the will of the Lord. The Doctrine and Covenants deals with more of the nitty gritty of establishing churches, which I will discuss later.
For now I leave you with this. Don’t be afraid to gather in settings apart from L-DS meetings. You are the church and wherever you are gathering that is a gathering of the church.