He Consecrated All Their Priests and All Their Teachers – Mosiah 23:16-18

16 And now, Alma was their high priest, he being the founder of their church.
17 And it came to pass that none received authority to preach or to teach except it were by him from God. Therefore he consecrated all their priests and all their teachers; and none were consecrated except they were just men.
18 Therefore they did watch over their people, and did nourish them with things pertaining to righteousness.
(Mosiah 23:16-18)

After leaving the land of King Noah, Alma and his people established a new city. Some of the people wanted Alma to be their king, but he taught them that they should not give up their newly claimed liberty. They should not “esteem one flesh above another,” and therefore they should “trust no man to be a king over [them]” (Mosiah 23:7, 13).

Then he taught them about church government. The people had to decide for themselves whom they would follow. Alma cautioned them that they should “trust no one to be [their] teacher nor [their] minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments” (Mosiah 23:14).

They trusted Alma. They had gathered regularly at the waters of Mormon to hear him preach, even though he was hiding from the king’s soldiers, who had been commanded to kill him. They had accepted his invitation to be baptized and to become part of the newly organized church. They had subsequently abandoned their homes and followed him into the wilderness to establish a new city. They absolutely believed that he was a “man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments.” So they also trusted the people whom he selected to act as their spiritual leaders.

In the passage above, we read that all of the priests and teachers were chosen and consecrated by Alma personally. This was logistically possible in their case: they were a relatively small group of people, about 450 when they established the city (Mosiah 18:35).  The church organization was intentionally simple. Alma ordained one priest for every 50 members, so there were about nine priests. It’s not clear how many additional people were chosen as teachers, but the total number of church leaders was small. The people took confidence from their knowledge that every one of these leaders was selected by Alma himself.

In a revelation given to Joseph Smith in Kirtland, Ohio in 1831, the Savior taught the members of His church how their leaders were to be chosen:

Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church (D&C 42:11, italics added).

And our fifth Article of Faith states:

We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof (Articles of Faith 1:5).

I’ve always thought of authority as something that is imposed upon me, that I am obligated to respect. But as I’ve pondered this passage today, I’ve begun to think of authority in a new way: as a mechanism for transferring trust from one person to another. Let me give two examples:

  1. I trust President Russell M. Nelson as my spiritual leader. I have had a number of experiences which have convinced me that he is a man of God. I have had fewer experiences with Elders Gerrit W. Gong and Ulisses Soares, but I accepted them as new members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles last April because I know that they were called by President Nelson.
  2. Yesterday at church, several members of my congregation were called to serve in various responsibilities, including teachers. I don’t know all of them, but I raised my hand to sustain them in their new responsibilities because I know that they were called by my bishop, whom I know and whom I trust.

Of course, this places a serious responsibility on the people who have been chosen. They are literally borrowing the trust of the people they serve from the leader who chose them. Perhaps that is why Alma instructed his priests “that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets” (Mosiah 18:19). They were now acting as representatives of the church, and specifically as representatives of the high priest who had called them. They needed to recognize that their actions and their words would reflect on Alma personally, since they had received their authority directly from him.

Today, I will be grateful for a church organization which allows an orderly transfer of authority from one leader to another. I will remember Alma’s caution: I must ultimately decide whom I will trust as my spiritual leaders and teachers. I will be grateful that I can have confidence in the people who have been assigned to teach me because I have confidence in the people who made those assignments.

 

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They Were Called the Church of God – Mosiah 18:16-17

16 And after this manner he did baptize every one that went forth to the place of Mormon; and they were in number about two hundred and four souls; yea, and they were baptized in the waters of Mormon, and were filled with the grace of God.
17 And they were called the church of God, or the church of Christ, from that time forward. And it came to pass that whosoever was baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his church.
(Mosiah 18:16-17)

When we are baptized, we become members of the church of God.

Nephi taught that baptism is the “gate” which grants access to “the strait and narrow path leading to eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:17-18). Once you have entered that path, you have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, which will help you know how to follow the path (2 Nephi 32:1-3). If you then “press forward” along the path and “endure to the end,” you will ultimately obtain the reward of eternal life (2 Nephi 31:20). Nephi talked about it in individual terms: we each choose to enter that gate and to move forward along that path independently of the decisions of other people.

About 400 years later, Alma preached to a group of people in secret because of persecution from their government. After preaching to them for many days, he invited them to be baptized. As we read in the passage above, the entire multitude—two hundred and four people—were baptized at that time. Alma organized them into a church, which he called “the church of God” or “the church of Christ.” After that time, everyone who chose to be baptized became a member of the church.

Alma gave them some instructions for how to operate the church:

  1. Church leaders (“priests and teachers”) should teach the members the doctrines which they had been taught (Mosiah 18:18-20).
  2. Members should strive to be unified and to avoid contention with one another (Mosiah 18:21).
  3. They should keep the sabbath day holy (Mosiah 18:23).
  4. They should meet at least once a week to worship together and to teach one another (Mosiah 18:25).
  5. The priests should not be supported by the members, but they should all support one another, both temporally and spiritually (Mosiah 18:26-29).

These instructions help us to understand Alma’s vision of the purpose of the church: he saw it as a support system for a group of disciples of Jesus Christ, all of whom were walking along the path together. By meeting together often, supporting one another, and teaching one another, they could more effectively follow the path that they had entered. They could help each other along and increase the probability that they would all reach the goal that they had individually set for themselves.

Today, I will be grateful for my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I will take note of the ways the Church helps me to follow the path I started when I chose to be baptized. I will be grateful for the instruction I receive in church meetings, for the assignments which enable me to stretch and develop Christlike attributes, and the opportunities I have to support other members of the Church and to be supported by them as we face the challenges of life.

 

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He Should Take the Names – Mosiah 6:1-2

1 And now, king Benjamin thought it was expedient, after having finished speaking to the people, that he should take the names of all those who had entered into a covenant with God to keep his commandments.
2 And it came to pass that there was not one soul, except it were little children, but who had entered into the covenant and had taken upon them the name of Christ.
(Mosiah 6:1-2)

Names are important.

After hearing King Benjamin’s speech, his people pleaded with God to “apply the atoning blood of Christ” so that their sins could be forgiven (Mosiah 4:2). As a result, they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and their guilt disappeared. They subsequently made a covenant with God to obey His commandments for the rest of their lives (Mosiah 5:5).

All this was done verbally. It was a memorable event: the final speech of a beloved king, given as the people were all gathered, in families, around the temple. But Benjamin realized that they needed something to make this covenant more permanent. So he took their names. He made a written list of the people who had made the covenant. This accomplished several things:

  1. It made the covenant more durable. Decades later, it would be harder to forget or deny that they had made these promises. We all know that a written record is more reliable than our memory, particularly over a long period of time.
  2. It created a sense of community. A group of names on a single document with a single purpose represents a group of people who are unified. This list emphasized what they had in common—a covenant with God and a determination to keep that covenant forever—rather than their differences.
  3. It emphasized the importance of a name. This group of people had just taken upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ. What did that mean to them? By allowing their names to be taken, perhaps they felt more fully the importance of the name which they had just taken upon themselves. A name isn’t just a name; it represents something. Just as signing our names on a document creates real obligations, taking upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ creates accountability to Him.

Today, I will be grateful that my name has been “taken,” that there is a written record of the covenants I have made with God, and that this record unites me with other people who have made the same covenant. I will also remember the obligations I have taken on, because I have declared my willingness to take upon myself the name of Jesus Christ.

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I Would That Ye Should Take Upon You the Name of Christ – Mosiah 5:7-8

7 And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.
8 And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.
(Mosiah 5:7-8)

When King Benjamin asked his son Mosiah to gather the people, he said that one of his purposes was to “give unto them a name that never shall be blotted out” (Mosiah 1:11-12). After he taught the people about Jesus Christ, they spontaneously pleaded with God to “apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins” (Mosiah 4:2). As a result, they were filled with the Spirit of the Lord and received “a remission of their sins” (Mosiah 4:3). They subsequently entered a covenant with God “to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days” (Mosiah 5:5). In the passage above, Benjamin explained to them that, by making this covenant, they had become “the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you.”

Then, he urged them to take upon themselves the name of Christ. What did he mean? If they had become the children of Christ, if they had been “spiritually begotten” by Him, what more did they need to do to take upon themselves His name?

As President Henry B. Eyring pointed out, the sacramental prayer on the bread teaches us that taking upon ourselves the name of Christ is a process, not an event:

The statement that we are “willing to take upon [us]” His name tells us that while we first took the Savior’s name when we were baptized, taking His name is not finished at baptism. We must work continually to take His name throughout our lives, including when we renew covenants at the sacrament table and make covenants in the Lord’s holy temples.
So two crucial questions for each of us become “What must I be doing to take His name upon me?” and “How will I know when I am making progress?”
(“Try, Try, Try,” General Conference, October 2018)

President Eyring suggested several ways that we can take the Savior’s name upon ourselves; by speaking for Him, by serving Him, and by cultivating the Christlike feelings of faith, hope, and charity in our hearts.

Today, I will remember that, even though I have made sacred covenants with God, the process of taking upon myself the name of Christ is ongoing. I will strive to continue that process by speaking on His behalf, by serving Him, and by continuing to develop Christlike attributes.

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They Had Brought No Records with Them – Omni 1:17-19

17 And at the time that Mosiah discovered them, they had become exceedingly numerous. Nevertheless, they had had many wars and serious contentions, and had fallen by the sword from time to time; and their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator; and Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could understand them.
18 But it came to pass that Mosiah caused that they should be taught in his language. And it came to pass that after they were taught in the language of Mosiah, Zarahemla gave a genealogy of his fathers, according to his memory; and they are written, but not in these plates.
19 And it came to pass that the people of Zarahemla, and of Mosiah, did unite together; and Mosiah was appointed to be their king.
(Omni 1:17-19)

Amaleki, the last writer on the small plates of Nephi, relates a cautionary tale about the importance of written records. About 450 years after Lehi and his family left Jerusalem, the king of the Nephites, Mosiah, was warned by God to take his people further away from their enemies, the Lamanites. Like their ancestors had done before, they abandoned their homes and traveled through the wilderness to an unknown destination in search of peace.

To their surprise, they found another civilization with a similar pedigree to their own. The people of Zarahemla had also immigrated from Jerusalem at about the same time that Lehi and his family left, just before the Babylonian captivity. However, they had not fared so well as the Nephites.

Amaleki attributes all of these societal ills–contention, erosion of the language, and loss of faith–to one cause: the lack of written records. “They had brought no records with them,” he says.

The people of King Mosiah taught them their language, after which King Zarahemla recited the oral history of his people. King Mosiah then did the obvious thing: he wrote the history which Zarahemla had just recited, so that it could be preserved without having to be remembered.

King Mosiah’s son Benjamin took an important lesson from this experience. Years later, he taught his sons that the brass plates which Lehi’s family carried to the promised land saved them from the same kind of societal corrosion which Zarahemla’s people had experienced:

My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God.
For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates….
I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief.
(Mosiah 1:3-5)

Today, I will be grateful for the written words which are available to me, particularly the word of God, written by prophets. I will remember that written words have a permanency and power far beyond spoken words, and I will take advantage of the written texts which are available to me, to increase my unity with other people, to refine my ability to communicate effectively, and to build my faith in Jesus Christ.

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Thy Fathers Have Also Required of Me This Thing – Enos 1:16-18

16 And I had faith, and I did cry unto God that he would preserve the records; and he covenanted with me that he would bring them forth unto the Lamanites in his own due time.
17 And I, Enos, knew it would be according to the covenant which he had made; wherefore my soul did rest.
18 And the Lord said unto me: Thy fathers have also required of me this thing; and it shall be done unto them according to their faith; for their faith was like unto thine.
(Enos 1:16-18)

Individual salvation leads to collective salvation. As the story of Enos demonstrates, a person may reach out to God because of a fear for the welfare of his or her own soul, but once the weight of their sins has been lifted by the Atonement of Jesus Christ, their thoughts and feelings will immediately turn to the welfare of others.

After Enos’s “guilt was swept away,” he felt “a desire for the welfare of [his] brethren, the Nephites” (Enos 1:9). After receiving assurances from God on their behalf, his “faith began to be unshaken in the Lord.” He prayed “with many long strugglings” for his enemies, the Lamanites (Enos 1:11). Only after God promised to preserve the spiritual records of his people and make them available to the descendants of the Lamanites did Enos’s soul “rest.”

What did he do next? He went to work: preaching, prophesying, and testifying to his people, trying to help them receive the promises that he now knew they could receive. He also participated in efforts to help the Lamanites regain their faith (Enos 1:19-20). “Rest” did not mean complacency or relaxation. Rather, it meant that he could set aside his fears, have confidence in God’s promises, and work hard with an assurance that his efforts would not be in vain.

I think it’s significant that the Lord told Enos, “Thy fathers have also required of me this thing.” Even though he had just received a personal remission of his sins after many hours of solitary prayer, he was not alone. His ancestors had experienced similar things and had also pleaded with God to bless their people. Salvation is both an individual and a collective endeavor.

Today, I will strive to follow Enos’s example. I will pray for the welfare of the people around me. I will take opportunities to teach and testify of the truths I know. And I will remember that, however personal my own spiritual experiences may seem, other people have made similar requests of God and have received similar promises from Him.

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They Did Prick Their Hearts – Jarom 1:11-12

11 Wherefore, the prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence; teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was. And after this manner did they teach them.
12 And it came to pass that by so doing they kept them from being destroyed upon the face of the land; for they did prick their hearts with the word, continually stirring them up unto repentance.
(Jarom 1:11-12)

Before the Apostle Paul became a church leader, while he was still fighting against the church, he had a miraculous experience on the road to Damascus which caused him to rethink his current course of action. He saw a bright light and heard the voice of the Savior saying, “Why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5, Acts 26:14).

The “pricks” probably referred to the discomfort caused by goads, sticks with sharp points on the end, as farmers signaled to their large animals the need to make a small course correction or to keep moving forward (“Goad,” Bible Dictionary).

As the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us, “The words of the wise are as goads” (Ecclesiastes 12:11). The Savior’s message to Paul was a message of both reproof and empathy. He had been given many small warnings, “pricks.” By failing to respond to them and even fighting against them, he had made his own pain far worse than it would have been if he had responded appropriately.

In the passage above, Jarom speaks similarly about the work of church leaders among the Nephites. They taught the people the law, they prophesied of the coming Messiah, and they urged the people to stay on the gospel path. By “pricking” the hearts of the people continually, they were able to help the people avoid severe negative consequences.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf once told of a tragic airplane accident caused by a mistake in the flight coordinates of only two degrees. He said, “It is the early recognition of danger and a clear course correction that will keep you in the light of the gospel. Minor decisions can lead to major consequences” (“A Matter of a Few Degrees,” General Conference, April 2008).

As Elder D. Todd Christofferson has taught, a benefit of church participation is that we receive promptings to make those kinds of course corrections:

One of the greatest blessings of being part of the body of Christ, though it may not seem like a blessing in the moment, is being reproved of sin and error. We are prone to excuse and rationalize our faults, and sometimes we simply do not know where we should improve or how to do it. Without those who can reprove us “betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost,” we might lack the courage to change and more perfectly follow the Master. Repentance is individual, but fellowship on that sometimes painful path is in the Church (“Why the Church,” General Conference, October 2015).

Today, I will be grateful for the gentle reproofs that I receive from the scriptures, from church leaders, and from the promptings of the Holy Ghost. I will remember that these “pricks,” while uncomfortable, serve an important function: keeping me from straying too far off the path and helping me to avoid far greater pain. I will choose to respond to the corrective guidance I receive as the Nephites did in the time of Jarom, knowing that “kicking against the pricks” will only bring greater discomfort.

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