I was reading for my 30 Day Book of Mormon Challenge today, and I had a breakthrough understanding of Alma 17.
This is the part of The Book of Mormon where Alma the Younger runs into his buddies the Sons of Mosiah who have been separately laboring for the Lord, and he says that what added to his joy was that "they were still his brethren in the Lord."
This is also the chapter where we Ammon, while watching over the flocks of King Lamoni, ends up literally "disarming" the Lamanite thugs who have been scattering the king's sheep.
Side-note: I noticed in the June 2013 Friend, there is a little script for kids to have a pageant re-enacting this story. There is a funny suggestion under "props." It says that for arms "You could use socks stuffed into old pairs of nylons..." Ha ha. What? :)
So, I've read this story so many times, but only today, did the placement of these two happenings start to hold significance for me.
As I read, I asked myself, "What does this story have to do with our lives today?"
I thought about what was being scattered: The King's Sheep
Sheep are significant in scriptural contexts...The Lord uses the flock to signify his children.
So who are The King's Sheep today? Members of his church...or sons and daughters of God who have entered his flock through baptism.
Who are these bad guys furiously working to scatter the King's sheep who are trying to drink from the waters of Sebus? Satan and those who are under his influence who spread lies and half-truths and otherwise encourage personal apostasy.
And what about the waters of Sebus? Since the sheep needed the water to live, these waters signify the living waters i.e. the words of Christ found in the scriptures and in the words of the living prophets. It could also signify coming to church and partaking of the sacrament each week to renew covenants or the covenants made in the waters of baptism.
Now, Ammon is the man, right? Somehow he is so strong that he is able to do what none of the other servants of the King were even brave enough to attempt: He cuts off the arms of all of these punks and then he kills their leader.
Ammon could signify the Prophet, but in my analogy, he signifies you and me and anyone in God's church who is called to teach or watch over portions of the Lord's flock.
In this reading of The Book of Mormon, I could finally see that this story was not simply a display of strength by the Lord, but a lesson to us as leaders in his church in the latter-days.
We too can "disarm" those whose purpose it is to lead astray the sheep who are under our care. How did Ammon accomplish this?
We know that the Lord had promised Mosiah that he would deliver his sons, and we know that we are protected when we keep our covenants, but I think the answer lies in the beginning of the chapter.
Verse 3: "They had given themselves to much prayer and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.
Verse 9: "They fasted much and prayed much that the Lord would grant unto them a portion of his Spirit to go with them, and abide with them, that they might be an instrument in the hands of God..."
The answer is that Ammon armed himself--through fasting and prayer--with the power of the spirit of the Lord.
We too can and should seek to be an instrument in the hands of God by preparing in the same way that Ammon did -- through covenant keeping, through fasting, and through prayer.
We too can protect "The King's Sheep"...his precious congregations, his youth, and our children by "disarming" those who are interested in scattering his flock, and we do this by wielding the sword of truth and being armed with His Spirit. Because compared with the truth, Satan doesn't have a leg to stand on!
Man! The Book of Mormon is so powerful. So simple. So true. Read it. And love it.