Lately I’ve been exploring the concept of “deliverance” in the Book of Mormon, and I’m excited to share some of the things I’m finding. These are just preliminary thoughts, but I hope they will be helpful. The word “deliver” is used 231 in the Book of Mormon, and nowhere is it more concentrated in its use than Mosiah chapters 7-25. In these chapters we read of different Nephite groups who were captured by the Lamanites. For now, I want to compare and contrast what happens with the people of Limhi and the people of Alma (although things get even more interesting when the priests of Amulon are thrown into the mix).
When the Lamanites came upon Limhi and his people they used a strategy that relied on their own abilities to soften the hearts of the Lamanites. “And it came to pass that those who tarried with their wives and their children caused that their fair daughters should stand forth and plead with the Lamanites that they would not slay them. And it came to pass that the Lamanites had compassion on them, for they were charmed with the beauty of their women” (Mosiah 19:13-14).
In contrast, Alma and his people used a different approach when they were discovered by the Lamanites. Although the people were afraid when the Lamanites arrived, “Alma went forth and stood among them, and exhorted them that they should not be frightened, but that they should remember the Lord their God and he would deliver them. Therefore they hushed their fears, and began to cry unto the Lord that he would soften the hearts of the Lamanites, that they would spare them, and their wives, and their children. And it came to pass that the Lord did soften the hearts of the Lamanites” (Mosiah 23:27-29).
Both groups avoided being destroyed by the Lamanites; however, note that Limhi’s people trusted in the persuasiveness and charm of their wives. In contrast, Alma’s people turned to the Lord for deliverance, rather than trusting in their own strength.
This same contrast between trusting in oneself and trusting in the Lord is manifest in how these groups handled their captivity. Limhi and his people focused on man’s ability to deliver them. For example we read,
- “And now, behold, our brethren will deliver us out of our bondage” (Mosiah 7:15)
- “that we might appeal unto our brethren to deliver us out of bondage” (Mosiah 8:7)
- “All the study of… king Limhi and his people, was to deliver themselves out of the hands of the Lamanites (Mosiah 21:36)
- “Limhi began to consult with the people how they should deliver themselves out of bondage” (Mosiah 22:1).
- “I [Gideon] will be thy servant and deliver this people out of bondage.(Mosiah 22:4)
Eventually Limhi and his people did escape, apparently delivering themselves through the ingenuity of Gideon and the strength of the beverages they served to the Lamanites. Perhaps Limhi’s people believe that it was their own works that had saved them. However, in Mosiah 25, after all of the Nephites had safely made it back to Zarahemla, Alma “did exhort the people of Limhi and his brethren, all those that had been delivered out of bondage, that they should remember that it was the Lord that did deliver them” (Mosiah 25:16). It is interesting that the record states that Alma specifically reminded Limhi and his people who it was that delivered them.
In contrast, consider what happened to Alma and his people when they were sought to escape from the hands of the Lamanites. As Alma’s people received sore afflictions “they began to cry mightily to God” (Mosiah 24:10).
When they were told they could not pray, they “did pour out their hearts to” God (Mosiah 24:12). They then received the following assurances from the Lord, all of which emphasized that it was the Lord who would deliver them.
- “I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage” (Mosiah 24:13).
- “Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage” (Mosiah 24:16).
- “I will go with thee and deliver this people out of bondage” (Mosiah 24:17)
Alma and his people knew the source of their deliverance, for after they escaped, “they poured out their thanks to God because he had…delivered them out of bondage” (Mosiah 24:21).
This contrast between Alma and Limhi is more nuanced than it initially appears to be. At times Limhi and his people acknowledged that they would need the Lord’s help to deliver them (see Mosiah 21:14), and Alma and his people did more than simply pray. When the Lord told them to leave they spent all night “gathering the flocks together” (Mosiah 24:18). Think about what it would have felt like to be a Nephite gathering flocks together at 4:00 AM, exercising your faith that the Lamanites will not wake up on time (when had that ever happened? Can you imagine the awkward moment that would come if the Lamanites had woken up?)
Perhaps a key distinction between the people Limhi and the people of Alma is that although both groups of people worked for their deliverance, Alma’s people had a deeper trust in the Lord and confidence that He would deliver them. They knew they needed to do their part; however, they deeply recognized that it was the Lord would deliver them.
I have had experiences in which I have been like Limhi and his people, focusing all of my energies on delivering myself from the problems I faced. One such experience came while trying to sell our home in Miami. The market was terrible and there were hundreds of comparable homes for sale, some at prices much cheaper than ours. I worked feverishly to do everything I could to sell the home. But as I came to learn more about deliverance, I began to plead more fervently that the Lord would manifest his power and deliver us. I continued to put forth effort, but focused more on building my faith that the Lord could and would exercise his mighty power. And He did.
Just in the past few weeks, I’ve been facing a challenge that, while not earth-shattering has taken up a lot of my time and attention, and I’ve been really worried about it. As I was teaching Mosiah in class I was reminded of the importance of praying for deliverance and started doing so more with more effort than I had been. I didn’t stop working to solve more problem, but I did pray more and exercise more faith that God could deliver. This past week the problem was completely resolved; it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and I completely attribute my deliverance to the Lord.
It is good to study out problems and work for our own salvation as Limhi and his people did. But even if we resolve our challenges, apparently through our own abilities, we must remember that “it was the Lord that did deliver” us (Mosiah 25:16). Like Alma and his people, as well as many others in the scriptures, we may find that an important key to resolving the challenges is to remember the Lord’s promise when he said, “I will deliver you” (Mosiah 24:16).