35 Now there was one among them who was a Nephite by birth, who had once belonged to the church of God but had dissented from them.
36 And it came to pass that he turned him about, and behold, he saw through the cloud of darkness the faces of Nephi and Lehi; and behold, they did shine exceedingly, even as the faces of angels. And he beheld that they did lift their eyes to heaven; and they were in the attitude as if talking or lifting their voices to some being whom they beheld.
37 And it came to pass that this man did cry unto the multitude, that they might turn and look. And behold, there was power given unto them that they did turn and look; and they did behold the faces of Nephi and Lehi.
38 And they said unto the man: Behold, what do all these things mean, and who is it with whom these men do converse?
39 Now the man’s name was Aminadab. And Aminadab said unto them: They do converse with the angels of God.
40 And it came to pass that the Lamanites said unto him: What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us?
41 And Aminadab said unto them: You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you.
A few days ago, we discussed the fact that we can’t know in advance who will be interested in learning about the gospel, and that we need to overcome our tendency to judge others based on the little we know about them. In the passage above, we can see that this principle applies not only to gospel learners, but also to gospel teachers. The Lord can use the unlikeliest of people as His messengers.
When Ammon and his brothers taught the gospel to the Lamanites, they had very little success among the people who had previously been members of the church but had fallen away (Alma 23:14). Mormon uses this fact to teach the principle that the act of rejecting the truth changes you–it hardens you so that you are less likely to accept the truth in the future. (See Alma 24:30.)
Decades later, two brothers named Nephi and Lehi traveled to the land of the Lamanites to preach the gospel. They were imprisoned, but after many days, when a group of soldiers entered the prison to execute them, Nephi and Lehi were miraculously protected by a pillar of fire. The men heard a voice, which commanded them to repent and leave these two missionaries alone. Some of the men who had been sent to kill the missionaries were Lamanites, and the rest were “Nephites who were dissenters.” While Nephi and Lehi were surrounded by protective fire, these other men were surrounded by a cloud of darkness, and they were immobilized by fear.
As we read in the passage above, one of the Nephite dissenters became their teacher. While we don’t know much about Aminadab, we are told that he had fallen away from the church. Something happened to him during this miraculous experience. He was the first to notice that Nephi and Lehi shone like angels and that they were talking with unseen beings. He told his colleagues to look, and when they did, he explained to them what they were seeing. He then explained what they needed to do to overcome the cloud of darkness and enter the light themselves: cry unto the voice they had heard until they had faith in Jesus Christ.
Aminadab was certainly an unlikely gospel teacher. I’m sure that if you had asked him earlier that day to discuss faith or prayer, he would have given a very different answer. But God knew him better than he knew himself, and God knew that, under the right circumstances, he could play an important role in the conversion of his friends and colleagues.
As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has taught:
Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work. As one gifted writer has suggested, when the infinite fulness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all. Those finite vessels include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving (“Lord, I Believe,” General Conference, April 2013).
Today, I will be grateful that Heavenly Father can use imperfect people to accomplish His perfect work. I will be patient with myself and with the people around me, all of whom fall short of perfection. I will remember that all of us, in spite of our imperfections, can contribute meaningfully to the work of the Lord.