Church News viewpoint: 'He returned speedily'

For missionaries worldwide, Alma the Younger remains a heroic and timeless example of proselytizing zeal and dedication.

Despite being the son of a prophet who shared his name, he rebelled against his father and sought to destroy the Lord’s church. Alma the Younger would ultimately repent and forever change his ways after being visited and rebuked by an angel.

When Alma saw the Church begin to drift into wickedness, he committed himself entirely to missionary work, stepping away from prominent civic duties so he could share the gospel across many lands. His initial “find-teach-and-baptize” efforts were a joyous success. Many in the cities of Zarahemla, Gideon and Melek listened to his teachings, accepted the gospel and “were baptized throughout all the land” (Alma 8:5).

Then things got rough.

From Melek, Alma traveled three days north to the land of Ammonihah. There he taught the same message that he had shared in prior areas, but the people of Ammonihah rejected his words — calling them “foolish traditions.” They reviled him, spit on him and “cast him out of their city.”

Dejected, depressed and perhaps fearing for his life, Alma decided to continue on to the city of Aaron. He likely had no intention to spend another minute in Ammonihah.

But the Lord had other plans for Alma.

The same angel who had once rebuked Alma appeared to him again, telling him to return to Ammonihah “and preach again unto the people of the city” (Alma 8:16).

At that moment Alma had a choice to make. He could, like Jonah of the Old Testament, flee from “the presence of the Lord” and hustle off in the opposite direction. Or he could choose obedience.

Alma 8:18 reveals Alma’s response: “Now it came to pass that after Alma had received his message from the angel of the Lord he returned speedily to the land of Ammonihah.”

Alma did not decide to go back to Ammonihah after weighing all the pros and cons. He didn’t take the weekend to decide. He didn’t ask the angel for clarification or further explanation. No, he returned speedily and fulfilled his calling.

“Isn’t that interesting?” asked Elder Robert B. Harbertson, a General Authority Seventy, in his October 1984 general conference address. “He returned speedily. Maybe his earlier experience with the angel caused him not to tarry or question, but to react immediately. But I believe he was motivated by love for the Lord and his desire to be obedient.

“Alma’s reaction and attitude to this request has been of great strength to me as I strive to serve the Lord.”

Anyone who serves God will, at some point, be extended the call “to return to Ammonihah.” Some will be asked to devote a few hours each week in, say, a Relief Society or an elder’s quorum calling. Others battling stage fright or perhaps feelings of inadequacy will speak in sacrament meeting or teach a gospel doctrine class. And tens of thousands of young men, young women and senior couples will — in Alma-like fashion — be asked this year to leave their homes and share the gospel with strangers in foreign lands and languages.

The Lord will bless and support all who obey “speedily.”

When Alma returned to Ammonihah he was met by a prosperous man named Amulek who gave him food and shelter. Amulek himself was being obedient to the divine direction he had received to follow the prophet Alma. He would soon be called to leave his own home and serve as Alma’s missionary companion.

“Here again ... I am strengthened and guided in how I should live and react to opportunities the Lord gives me to serve,” said Elder Harbertson. “Amulek had much; he was comfortable and well-to-do, had a good wife and children, had a good position in the community, and yet he responded without hesitation to the call to serve.”

Alma and Amulek proved obedient when they were commanded to do hard things. Through obedience, we can also enjoy sacred guidance and support.

“There is no need for you or for me, in this enlightened age when the fulness of the gospel has been restored, to sail uncharted seas or to travel unmarked roads in search of truth,” taught President Thomas S. Monson. “A loving Heavenly Father has plotted our course and provided an unfailing guide — even obedience. A knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us as we are obedient to the commandments of God.”

The greatest test of this life, he added, is obedience. It was Jesus Christ who said, “We will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:25).

The Savior remains our perfect example of obedience. As Paul said, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;

“And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all that obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).

Throughout His perfect mortal life, Christ was ever obedient to His sacred mission.

“Never was He haughty. Never was He puffed up with pride. Never was He disloyal. Ever was He humble. Ever was He sincere. Ever was He obedient,” said President Monson.

“Though He was tempted by that master of deceit, even the devil, though He was physically weakened from fasting 40 days and 40 nights and was an hungered, yet when the evil one proffered Jesus the most alluring and tempting proposals, He gave to us a divine example of obedience by refusing to deviate from what He knew was right.

“When faced with the agony of Gethsemane, where He endured such pain that ‘his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground,’ He exemplified the obedient Son by saying, ‘Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.’

“As the Savior instructed His early Apostles, so He instructs you and me: ‘Follow thou me’ ” (April 2013 general conference).

Are we willing to speedily obey?

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