Shortly after Alma became chief judge, a man named Nehor started to teach false doctrine and introduced priestcraft among the Nephites. He killed a righteous man and was executed for his crime. Some years later, Amlici tried unsuccessfully to become king over the Nephites. When the people voted to reject him as king, he gathered his supporters—called Amlicites—to go to battle against the Nephites. The Nephites prevailed, but tens of thousands of people were killed. Feeling humbled by the war, many Nephites remembered their duty, and thousands joined the Church. However, within a year, many members of the Church had become proud and were persecuting others. Alma decided to give up his duties as the chief judge and focus on bearing witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Church members prosper despite the spread of priestcraft and persecution
People sometimes seek to be popular. Take a moment to think about the possible dangers of this desire. What happens if you care more about what your friends think of you than what God thinks of you?
Search the first lines of Alma 1:12 for the word Alma used to describe what Nehor introduced to the Nephites. Then look at footnote 12a. Read 2 Nephi 26:29, the first cross-reference listed in the footnote, and identify what those who commit priestcraft do and do not do.
Priestcraft is when people preach “false doctrines … for the sake of riches and honor” and to “set themselves up for a light unto the world” (Alma 1:16; 2 Nephi 26:29). They do not want to build up God’s kingdom by their preaching. Rather, they want to receive gain (such as wealth, social advantage, or power over others) and the praise of other people. They want to focus attention on themselves, not on God and His gospel. Priestcraft is a serious sin in God’s eyes, as Alma made clear when he told Nehor, “Were priestcraft to be enforced among this people it would prove their entire destruction” (Alma 1:12).
As Nehor tried to “lead away the people of the church,” a righteous man named Gideon “withstood him, admonishing him with the words of God” (Alma 1:7). In response, Nehor drew his sword and slew Gideon. Nehor stood trial for his crimes and was executed. Read Alma 1:16 to discover if Nehor’s death ended priestcraft among the Nephites.
Read Alma 1:26–27, and identify ways the Nephite priests of God acted differently from Nehor and others who practiced priestcrafts.
In your scripture study journal, write how the Nephite priests acted. How were the actions of the Nephite priests different from the actions of those who practiced priestcraft?
As priestcraft spread throughout the land, many people began to persecute the faithful members of the Church. To prepare to study the rest of Alma 1, consider how you have seen other people tease, mock, or persecute those who keep the commandments of God.
Read Alma 1:19–20, and look for why some people persecuted members of the Church. Alma 1:21–31 records how Church members responded to the persecution. Read the scripture passages below and fill in the chart:
How did some members respond to the persecutions? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
How did other members of the Church live despite the persecution? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
What were the consequences of their actions? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
What blessings did they receive? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Write a principle that you learned from studying this chart: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
One of the principles you could have identified is: When we live the gospel, we can have peace in our lives, even if we are persecuted.
In your scripture study journal, explain how understanding the above gospel principle can help you when facing persecution or pressure to disobey the commandments. Then answer one of the following questions:
When have you kept the commandments despite persecution or pressure not to do so, and what blessings did you receive?
How will you respond to your adversaries?
The Amlicites and the Lamanites join in battle against the Nephites
Alma 2 tells about further trials for the Nephites. Read the chapter heading to find out how a man named Amlici and his followers opposed the Nephites. Amlici wanted to become king over the Nephites, but the Nephites held a vote and chose to reject him and continue with their system of judges. The followers of Amlici gathered together and made him their king. Amlici commanded his followers to go to war with the Nephites, and soon thereafter the Lamanites joined the Amlicites in fighting the Nephites.
Because the Nephites were faithful to the Lord, the Lord helped them in their battles with the Amlicites and the Lamanites. Read Alma 2:18, 28–31, 36, and mark the words strengthen and strengthened each time they appear. Look for how the Lord strengthened the Nephites.
In your scripture study journal, write about a time when you felt that the Lord strengthened you as you tried to do what is right.
The Amlicites separated themselves from God
Think about the messages some people might try to send about themselves through their choices in clothing, hairstyles, earrings and other jewelry, tattoos, and body piercings.
Read Alma 3:4, and identify how the Amlicites changed their appearance.
Whom were the Amlicites “distinguished from”? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Whom did they want to look more like? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Amlicites’ change in appearance was a manifestation of their rebellion. As recorded in Alma 3, Mormon reminded us of the curse and the mark that had come upon the Lamanites hundreds of years earlier because of their rebellion against God (see Alma 3:6–10; see also 2 Nephi 5:20–24). The Amlicites had voluntarily put marks on their foreheads, but these marks served a purpose that was similar to the mark the Lord had put on the Lamanites.
What do you learn from Alma 3:18–19 about those who are cursed of the Lord? (Those who come out in open rebellion against God bring a curse upon themselves.) It is important to understand that the curse was a state of being “cut off from the presence of the Lord” (2 Nephi 5:20). Through their actions, the Amlicites had separated themselves from God.
From the example of the Amlicites, we learn that it is our choice to separate ourselves from God. Those who “come out in open rebellion against God” (Alma 3:18) cut themselves off from God, or in other words, bring a curse upon themselves.
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: In contrast to the Amlicites, what can you do in your life now to make sure that you do not cut yourself off from God?
Alma 3:20–25 tells how the Nephites defeated the Lamanites in another battle, but many people from both sides were killed. Read Alma 3:26–27, looking for the major lesson Mormon wanted us to learn from the account of the Amlicites and the battles between the Nephites and Lamanites.
Complete the following principle according to what you read in Alma 3:26–27: We receive happiness or misery depending on ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Take a moment to think about whom you choose to follow in your life. Reflect on the following questions: What kinds of rewards, or wages, does Satan offer those who follow him? (They are usually very tempting at first, but they will ultimately result in unhappiness and addictions.) In contrast, what wages have you received from the Lord for choosing to follow Him?
Write in your scripture study journal about a time when following the Lord has brought you happiness.
After a period of Church growth, Church members become proud and Alma resigns as chief judge to call them to repentance
Following the war with the Lamanites and Amlicites, the Nephites were “awakened to a remembrance of their duty,” and they “began to establish the church more fully” (Alma 4:3–4). As a result, about 3,500 people joined the Church (see Alma 4:5). Unfortunately, in the short time of a year, many of the people in the Church began to be proud. Read Alma 4:8–12, and identify the wicked actions that occurred because of the pride among Church members. A principle we can learn from this scripture passage is: If we set an unrighteous example, our actions can hinder others from accepting the gospel. (See Alma 4:10.)
In your scripture study journal, write one example of a wicked action or attitude demonstrated by the Nephites in Alma 4:8–12. Explain why it is important to avoid that action or attitude as a member of the Church today.
As a result of the wickedness in the Church, Alma appointed another man to replace him as chief judge so that he could dedicate all his time to his calling as the presiding high priest over the Church and help members overcome their pride and their sins by “bearing down in pure testimony” (Alma 4:19). Read Alma 4:19, and underline what Alma desired to do to help his people.
Alma 4:19 illustrates these principles: Fulfilling our spiritual duties may require sacrifice. The Lord’s servants bear testimony and call sinners to repent. Bearing pure testimony helps others draw closer to God.
Could you imagine someone giving up a prominent political position, such as being the president of a country, in order to serve a mission? Alma did!
Write in your scripture study journal what you think the phrase “bearing down in pure testimony” (Alma 4:19) suggests about how Alma would teach. Also record how you have been influenced to change or improve by hearing someone else bear testimony of the gospel.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Alma 1–4 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: