4 Now when Ammon and his brethren saw this work of destruction among those whom they so dearly beloved, and among those who had so dearly beloved them–for they were treated as though they were angels sent from God to save them from everlasting destruction–therefore, when Ammon and his brethren saw this great work of destruction, they were moved with compassion, and they said unto the king:
5 Let us gather together this people of the Lord, and let us go down to the land of Zarahemla to our brethren the Nephites, and flee out of the hands of our enemies, that we be not destroyed.
6 But the king said unto them: Behold, the Nephites will destroy us, because of the many murders and sins we have committed against them.
7 And Ammon said: I will go and inquire of the Lord, and if he say unto us, go down unto our brethren, will ye go?
8 And the king said unto him: Yea, if the Lord saith unto us go, we will go down unto our brethren, and we will be their slaves until we repair unto them the many murders and sins which we have committed against them.
9 But Ammon said unto him: It is against the law of our brethren, which was established by my father, that there should be any slaves among them; therefore let us go down and rely upon the mercies of our brethren.
10 But the king said unto him: Inquire of the Lord, and if he saith unto us go, we will go; otherwise we will perish in the land.
11 And it came to pass that Ammon went and inquired of the Lord, and the Lord said unto him:
12 Get this people out of this land, that they perish not; for Satan has great hold on the hearts of the Amalekites, who do stir up the Lamanites to anger against their brethren to slay them; therefore get thee out of this land; and blessed are this people in this generation, for I will preserve them.
13 And now it came to pass that Ammon went and told the king all the words which the Lord had said unto him.
Sometimes, an idea comes to us as we think about our circumstances and the problems we face. We may have a good feeling about the idea and believe that it is the right thing to do. If it is a significant decision with potentially long-term consequences, we should still take it to the Lord in prayer and receive a confirming witness that it is in accordance with His will. Particularly, if others are affected by the decision, we may need that confirming witness in order to achieve their buy-in.
I really like the exchange between Ammon and the king in this passage. I imagine Ammon and his brethren as young missionaries who were more prone to act on an immediate prompting than the older and wiser king. Note that the king never refuses to follow Ammon’s idea, but he does the following:
1. He expresses specific concerns about the idea, which helps Ammon to clarify the details.
2. He offers a variant of the idea, which helps Ammon to further think the idea through and visualize how it would play out in the real world.
3. He insists (twice) that Ammon take the idea to the Lord in prayer and receive a formal confirmation that this is the right thing to do.
The king had great faith in the inspiration given to these young missionaries, and he was a responsible leader who required adequate support for his decisions. I really like the balance he achieves: he is willing to make bold decisions in faith without knowing how things will turn out, and at the same time, he insists that decisions be as well thought-out as possible within the boundaries of their limited information.