We left Alma and his people in an odd situation. They had repented of their sins and separated from those in Shemlon who had yet to abandon their evil ways. In their new location, these brave people were now keeping the commandments and, as a result, prospering in the land. This was exactly as it should have been according to the covenant God made with them.
Then God decided to test these people who had already sacrificed so much by leaving behind homes, jobs, families and friends by making the covenant of community at the Waters of Mormon. God allowed the Lamanite army to discover them. It is important to note that there is no mention of Alma’s people having any weapons or enough man power to raise an army. No, these people were were completely defenseless.
To add insult to injury, the Lamanite army God sent to test the people brought Amulon with them. Amulon, ever the great opportunist, saw a chance to seek revenge against Alma. Amulon knew the Lamanite army wanted to get home. He also knew they did not have the resources or desire to take a large group of Nephites as prisoners. So he volunteered to take care of Alma’s people until the Lamanites could return to take charge.
Alma and his people were in serious trouble. Amulon now had absolute power over them. In no time, Amulon and his cowardly cohorts became absolute dictators. To exact vengeance for Alma’s acceptance of Abinidi, Amulon and his henchmen placed heavy burdens on these righteous people.
So great were those burdens that the people pleaded for relief from God through ceaseless vocal prayers.
Weren’t they keeping the commandments?
Didn’t God say that by doing so they would prosper in the land?
They were keeping the commandments and now they were definitely not prospering.
Unfortunately, the consequences of these righteous prayers was not only added burdens but a cruel edict from Amulon that anyone caught praying would be executed. This severely tested the faith of Alma’s people. When they needed God most it appeared they had limited access to Him. Worse yet, it appeared that God had abandoned them.
My guess is these great people falsely assumed their current plight was a punishment for past sins. They had to wonder if they were really fully forgiven. Maybe they thought God was not a reliable partner. Could it be that keeping the commandments had no correlation to prospering in the land?
Nephi challenged us to liken the scriptures unto ourselves to extract more meaning from them. So, before we learn how this current condition created by God can help us better understand the concept of a covenant, ask yourself how you would feel if you were enslaved by a despotic ruler? How would you feel towards God if your imprisonment seemed to come on the heels of your change of heart that should have brought you closer to God?
I’ll conclude this series with my next post.