I absolutely loved reading these chapters! There was just so much JOY in them! Honestly, I felt such a motivation to keep reading--it was like the joy they felt was swelling inside of me too! I really don't know how else to describe it.
I also think these chapters, and those just preceding them, are the best chapters for missionary work. I have not served a mission, but I have wanted and tried to share the gospel, and I can't imagine anything better, or worse, than what these missionaries experience. But they were patient in their sufferings ( Alma 26:28) and they were obedient. When their hearts were depressed (I can relate to that) "the Lord comforted us," (Alma 26:27). And as a result, thousands come to the knowledge of the Savior and are saved.
The most amazing part to me is how those of the Lamanites who accept the gospel and join the church "never did fall away." (Alma 23: 6) Their conversion is so real. They are so dedicated and so determined to completely abandon their wicked ways for righteousness and even refuse to defend themselves against the Lamanites. This is the power of true repentance. I know I have read this scripture before, but when I read it this time I think it was the first time I fully appreciated it:
"And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that the hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and take away the guilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son."
What a wonderful feeling it is to have guilt removed and feel the joy that replaces it when you know you have been forgiven. I can imagine that the greater the sin, the greater the relief of that guilt. So for these people, suffering from the guilt of murder, the joy would be immense and so sweet. It makes the King's words so powerful:
Alma 22: 15 & 18:
"...I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.
...and I will give away all my sins to know thee..."
And of the joy Ammon felt the scriptures say, "Now was not this exceeding joy? Behold this is the joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humbel seeker of happiness." (Alma 27:18)
The description of the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi is my new goal:
"...And they were also distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end."
Awesome. Totally awesome!
Yesterday my neighbor told me that he enjoys the Old Testament so much more than the New Testament because it is so full of good stories--action and intrigue. I told him later that if he chose to read the Book of Mormon which my daughter had so enthusiastically handed him that evening (Yeah! way to go Sophie!), he would probably enjoy it for the same reasons. I know these chapters were that way for me. The more I read, the more I am able to really immerse myself in the lives and feelings and teachings of the people. I have read novels where I felt like I had become friends with the characters, and when the book ended, I was sad and felt the loss of someone close to me. Now, for the first time, I am beginning to feel the same kind of emotional investment and connection to these stories and these people. I know they are not just characters, but real people. And I know their lives and their stories are of great worth to us--I have no doubt that my life is better because they lived and died and set an example for us.
I also know that I don't want to become like the Amalekits or Amulonites--having once had the truth and then forsaking it:
"And thus we can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin, and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things."
We are warned of Satan's "cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men." (Alma 28:13)
Yikes! The threat is real. We have to be careful. We have to be diligent.