“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” (Genesis 20:12)
The blessings that come from obeying this commandment are not always immediate. As we look through the history of the world, we can see the pattern of destruction that follows when this commandment is broken.
I’ve been jotting down timeline information in the Book of Mormon, from Mosiah through Alma (I’m at about Alma 25), and something jumped out at me today: another story running through the books of Mosiah and Alma that we don’t pay much attention to, but it’s one that illustrates the fifth of the Ten Commandments…..
In 150 B.C., in the tenth year of the reign of the wicked king Noah, we find Amulon and Alma serving under him as priests. Alma believed Abinadi, repented, and dedicated his life to covenant-keeping and serving God. Amulon called for Abinadi’s death by fire.
The short version of the story is, Alma refused a kingdom, choosing to serve instead, and his posterity helped shape the rest of the history of the people of Nephi. Amulon seized whatever power he could, rocketed into power and influence amongst a much larger group of people, but his whole posterity were destroyed within about forty years. Both earned ‘honor’ if you define it as fame or respect. But honoring our parents most of all means honoring our Heavenly Father by keeping his commandments. Alma did, while Amulon’s power came through force and imposing death on others.
If you want the longer version of the story, here it is:
Alma taught the gospel, baptized hundreds, and fled into the wilderness with 450 church members when warned by the Lord (Mosiah 18:35), settling in a place a little closer to Zarahemla, which they called Helam. They immediately began tilling, planting, and building, and they prospered to a degree that amazed Alma. They lived there in peace for between 23 and 25 years. At this point Amulon entered Alma’s life again.
Going back to the time when they split, within a couple of years after Alma’s people left, the Lamanites attacked Noah’s people. Amulon and the other priests, along with Noah and other men, abandoned their families in an effort to save themselves. There was a mutiny, Noah was burned at the stake, but Amulon and the priests escaped, living in the wilderness. Two or three years later, they kidnapped twenty-four of the Lamanites’ daughters and married them. The men stole food and valuables from the people of Limhi- either for survival or to impress their wives. They named the place they settled, Amulon, and 20-22 years later we find that they had ‘begun’ to possess the land and till the ground. The Lamanites ran across them and their land while searching for the escaped people of Limhi. The Lamanites’ first inclination was to kill them, but the priests’ Lamanite wives convinced them not to. They continued their search with the people of Amulon in tow, and next encountered Alma’s people. Next thing we read, the king of the Lamanites had not only given political honor and power to Amulon (ruling over Alma’s land of Helam, Mosiah 23:39), but had put Amulon and the others in charge of creating and running an educational system. (Mosiah 24:1, 4-7) This was in 121 B.C and the beginning of Amulon’s people’s meteoric rise to power among the Lamanites.
But let’s return to the time when Amulon ruled over Alma. Alma and his people were delivered from Amulon within about a year, and joined Mosiah’s kingdom in the land of Zarahemla. Alma became close friends with King Mosiah, and apparently helped influence the massive change in government there from a monarchy to a republic—the reign of the judges under a set of laws established by Mosiah. It was a shift that gave power to the individual. Alma’s son became the first chief judge, but voluntarily gave up political power after eight years. He did this in order to share what he saw as the truly vital power: the power that God’s word has in changing hearts, lives, and nations, and the power of the priesthood in providing saving ordinances. He, like his father, taught and served without pay. Alma’s descendants continued to do this for generations afterward, shaping the Nephite nation for the better.
In contrast, over the next few decades, Amulon and his children were involved in threatening to kill people of their own heritage (Alma’s group, see Mosiah 24:10-11), and in driving at least two other groups to kill their own relatives, as well: The Amalekites, who were Nehors, helped completely destroy the city of Ammonihah, which was full of Nehors; and the Lamanites, who killed Lamanites who had become converted to the gospel.
When Ammonihah was destroyed in 81 B.C., the Lamanites—the unconverted ones, plus the Amalekites and Amulonites– killed all of those people but took captive Nephites from the city of Noah and the surrounding area. The Nephites chased down the Lamanites to retrieve the captives, and in that battle and ones soon afterward to drive the Lamanites out of the wilderness, “almost all” of the descendants of Amulon were killed by Nephites (Alma 25:4). The Lamanites, reeling from their losses, began to remember the things Aaron and the other sons of Mosiah had taught them, and many repented. The remaining children of Amulon– likely the actual CHILDREN of him, who would have been between about 40 and 60 years old– were calling the shots at this point and killed all the new converts in a fiery massacre. The remaining Lamanites were so incensed that they hunted down and killed whatever Amulonites they could find. Any who could, escaped to the ‘east wilderness’. Moroni probably inadvertently helped finish them off; between 72 and 67 B.C. he focused on driving all the Lamanites out of the east wilderness, and the Nephites moved in instead. This would have chased all the remaining Amulonites back to the Lamanites, who were anxious to continue the genocide.
So after about 40 years of enjoying significant power among the much larger nation of Lamanites, Amulon’s descendants were wiped out by battle, disease, burning, and being hunted down.
This was all prophesied by Abinadi, about forty years earlier.
“And now when the flames began to scorch him, he cried unto them, saying:
Behold, even as ye have done unto me, so shall it come to pass that thy seed shall cause that many shall suffer the pains that I do suffer, even the pains of death by fire; and this because they believe in the salvation of the Lord their God.
And it will come to pass that ye shall be afflicted with all manner of diseases because of your iniquities.
Yea, and ye shall be smitten on every hand, and shall be driven and scattered to and fro, even as a wild flock is driven by wild and ferocious beasts.
And in that day ye shall be hunted, and ye shall be taken by the hand of your enemies, and then ye shall suffer, as I suffer, the pains of death by fire.
Thus God executeth vengeance upon those that destroy his people.” (Mosiah 17:14-19)
Alma the Younger saw this prophecy fulfilled, and he taught his son Helaman, “O remember, remember, my son Helaman, how strict are the commandments of God. And he said: If ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land—but if ye keep not his commandments ye shall be cut off from his presence.” (Alma 37:13)
Alma and Amulon both exercised power. One chose true priesthood power, the power to give and serve. The power that refines and brings honor “without compulsory means”. (D&C 121:46) The other chose political power and compulsion, the power to take. The power that very often corrupts.
Which one brought honor to his parents?
-by Rhonda Hair