6 For it came to pass that they did deceive many with their flattering words, who were in the church, and did cause them to commit many sins; therefore it became expedient that those who committed sin, that were in the church, should be admonished by the church.
7 And it came to pass that they were brought before the priests, and delivered up unto the priests by the teachers; and the priests brought them before Alma, who was the high priest….
13 And now the spirit of Alma was again troubled; and he went and inquired of the Lord what he should do concerning this matter, for he feared that he should do wrong in the sight of God.
Soon after establishing churches in all the land of Zarahemla, Alma encountered a new challenge: some members of the church had begun to engage in conduct which was not consistent with the teachings of the church, and they were persuading others to follow their examples. Something clearly had to be done.
When Alma established the church of God at the waters of Mormon and again in the land of Helam, he had taught his people to love one another and to avoid contention (Mosiah 18:21, Mosiah 23:15). None of them were to think that they were above other people, including the priests (Mosiah 23:7). As described later in this chapter, they were to “admonish” one another and to receive corrective guidance willingly (Mosiah 26:39). But as the leader of the church, Alma now faced the responsibility to admonish members of the church who were unwilling to receive correction.
His anguish over this prospect is evident in the narrative. First, he asked King Mosiah to judge these members. The king wisely declined to interfere in what he considered a church matter. Next, as indicated in the passage above, Alma took the problem to the Lord.
In response to Alma’s prayer, the Lord outlined some key principles for dealing with misbehavior in the church:
- The Savior gladly receives everyone who is willing to hear His voice. However, those who refuse to follow Him will not be redeemed at the last day. This is not because He was unwilling to save them, but because they were unwilling to be saved (Mosiah 26:21-26).
- When members of the church commit sins, if they confess and sincerely repent, the church should forgive them, because the Savior will forgive them (Mosiah 26:29-30).
- If members of the church refuse to repent of their sins, then they should no longer be recognized as members of the church (Mosiah 26:32).
I’m guessing that Alma still dreaded those conversations with people who were no longer loyal to the purposes of the church. But at least this answer from God gave him clarity about how to handle the situation. Repentance was the key. People who were repentant—who listened to the voice of the Savior, who received correction willingly, and who reformed their behavior—were welcome in His church. People who refused to repent and hear His voice were no longer members of His church because they were no longer choosing to follow Him.
Today, I will be grateful that my Heavenly Father is willing to give me guidance when I face challenging situations and difficult decisions. Just as Alma asked for guidance when his spirit was troubled, I will take the opportunity to ask God to help me understand how to respond to the difficult situations I face in my life, particularly the decisions involving interpersonal conflict.