He Being a Very Subtle Man – Alma 47:3-4

3 And now it came to pass that the king was wroth because of their disobedience; therefore he gave Amalickiah the command of that part of his army which was obedient unto his commands, and commanded him that he should go forth and compel them to arms.
4 Now behold, this was the desire of Amalickiah; for he being a very subtle man to do evil therefore he laid the plan in his heart to dethrone the king of the Lamanites.
(Alma 47:3-4)

If there is a single lesson to be learned from Amalackiah’s rise to power among the Lamanites, it is this: be careful whom you trust. Two people—the king of the Lamanites and Lehonti—placed too much confidence in Amalackiah, and in both cases, there were clear warning signs which they either didn’t notice or ignored.

  • The king unwisely placed Amalackiah in command of his armies, even though he had only recently arrived and had vigorously tried to convince them to attack the Nephites. Why was he so eager to betray his own people, and what did that say about his likely loyalty to the Lamanites?
  • Lehonti, the commander of an opposing Lamanite army, agreed to collaborate in a deception: Amalackiah would surrender in exchange for becoming Lehonti’s second in command. Why would Lehonti trust a person who would betray his own followers so easily? How did he convince himself that this would end well?

Jesus told his disciples that he wanted them to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). He wants us to be kind to others but not to assume that others will always be kind to us. He wants us to be sincere, but not to ignore warning signs when others are being deceitful.

This is a tricky topic, because all relationships are built on trust, and none of us is perfectly trustworthy. Every person we interact with is imperfect, and we all need some level of tolerance for our weaknesses. Nevertheless, an important part of protecting our families and loved ones is detecting when other people don’t have our best interests at heart or when they aren’t being candid about their motives. In particular, as these two stories illustrate, a person who enlists our help to harm someone else is likely to turn against us in the end. Collaborating with them or assisting them is hazardous. We would be wiser to surround ourselves with people we can trust, people who demonstrate a commitment to integrity and who have our best interests at heart.

I’m mindful of the following advice from the Church manual For the Strength of Youth:

As you seek to be a friend to others, do not compromise your standards. If your friends urge you to do things that are wrong, be the one to stand for the right, even if you stand alone. You may need to find other friends who will support you in keeping the commandments. Seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost as you make these choices.

Today, I will be judicious about the trust I place in other people. Even as I strive to be inclusive and kind, I will also be observant and careful. I will recognize the importance of choosing my friends and associates wisely.

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