Lessons from Sermons to Hostile Audiences

During July, I studied sermons which were delivered under less favorable circumstances. In all of these cases, some people in the audience did respond favorably to the message, but the majority of people were not willing to listen. And in every case, the prophets knew that they were in danger because of the hostility to their message. Here is a list of the sermons I studied:

  1. Abinadi’s sermon to the priests of King Noah
  2. Alma and Amulek’s sermon in the city of Ammonihah
  3. Alma and Amulek’s sermon to the Zoramites
  4. Nephi’s sermon from his tower
  5. Samuel the Lamanite’s sermon to the Nephites in Zarahemla

Here are some of the lessons I learned from these five sermons:

1. Don’t be self-righteous.

Abinadi pointed out the hypocrisy of the priests of King Noah, who preached the commandments of God but didn’t keep them. Alma taught the people of Ammonihah that, as soon as the Lamanites were able to transcend the traditions of their fathers, God was eager to bless them. Alma’s audience, on the other hand, faced a bigger barrier: They had willfully rebelled against God. Samuel the Lamanite pointed out that the Lamanites had a track record of being steady when they were converted, whereas the Nephites, who had been blessed so abundantly, were regularly turning their hearts away from God. Alma and Amulek found that the wealthy Zoramites would not listen to them, but the poor were humbled because of their afflictions and were in a preparation to receive the word.

2. Don’t harden your heart.

As Alma explained to Zeezrom in Ammonihah, God shares spiritual knowledge with people who choose not to harden their hearts. Amulek pointed out that, when we intentionally do wrong, our perception of reality is impaired. Abinadi told the priests of King Noah that they had not applied their hearts to understanding. He also quoted the Ten Commandments to them, because those commandments were not written in their hearts. Samuel told the Nephites that they were tuning out true messages which they found distasteful and gravitating to false and flattering messages with no value. He told them that God’s chastening was evidence of His love for them.

3. Think about the future consequences of your current actions.

Samuel warned the Nephites that, if they didn’t repent, they would face desolation, destruction, and poverty. When that happened, they would cry for deliverance, but it would be too late. The time to repent is now, before the consequences occur. Nephi tried to sensitize his audience to the direction their decisions were leading them, by asking questions like, “Why will ye die?

4. God’s mercy is available to those who seek it.

Alma explained in Ammonihah that we can enter God’s rest by humbling ourselves and repenting. He taught them that God would be merciful to all who call on His name. Abinadi emphasized to the priests of King Noah that the gospel isn’t just about keeping the commandments; it’s also about the grace that we can receive through the Atonement of Jesus Christ when we repent. If we seek His help, God can help us overcome the negative propensities associated with our mortal, physical bodies.

Other lessons

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