8 Now the people of the Zoramites were angry with the people of Ammon who were in Jershon, and the chief ruler of the Zoramites, being a very wicked man, sent over unto the people of Ammon desiring them that they should cast out of their land all those who came over from them into their land.
9 And he breathed out many threatenings against them. And now the people of Ammon did not fear their words; therefore they did not cast them out, but they did receive all the poor of the Zoramites that came over unto them; and they did nourish them, and did clothe them, and did give unto them lands for their inheritance; and they did administer unto them according to their wants.
As I wrote yesterday, Alma assembled a missionary team to preach to the Zoramites because he knew that the word of God would be more impactful than any attempt to influence behavior directly. The Zoramites had developed social structures which provided excessive privileges to the wealthy class at the expense of the poorer classes. For example, they were excluded from worship services even though they were the ones who had built the synagogues in which these services were held (Alma 32:5). Unsurprisingly, the people who were receptive to Alma’s message came from this poorer class, who were dissatisfied with the system and wanted things to change.
The wealthy class became alarmed when the poorer class began to accept Alma’s message. They feared that Alma’s words “would destroy their craft,” crippling social structures and norms which had served them so well. Therefore, they banished anyone who believed the words of Alma and his companions (Alma 35:6).
Fortunately for these refugees, the neighboring land of Jershon was inhabited by the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, former Lamanites who had been converted by the preaching of Ammon and his brothers. They welcomed Alma, his fellow missionaries, and their new converts. As we learn in the passage above, they were willing to help not only when it was safe to do so, but also when they were threatened by the persecutors of the people they were serving. Why were the inhabitants of Jershon so willing to help these refugees, even at the risk of danger to themselves and their families?
- Because they had been refugees themselves. Just like the poor Zoramites, they had been rejected by their own people when they had accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Nephites, had taken them in, given them the land of Jershon, and promised to protect them.
- Because the gospel of Jesus Christ had sunk deep into their hearts and filled them with a desire to serve others. They had taken to heart King Benjamin’s teaching that we retain a remission of our sins by “feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants” (Mosiah 4:26).
We have found refuge. Let us come out from our safe places and share with [those in need], from our abundance, hope for a brighter future, faith in God and in our fellowman, and love that sees beyond cultural and ideological differences to the glorious truth that we are all children of our Heavenly Father (“Refuge from the Storm,” General Conference, April 2016).
Today, I will find ways to serve people in need in my community. Like the inhabitants of Jershon, I will reach outward to those in need of my help, even if it is inconvenient or difficult to do so.