Relying on the theme presented in a previous post that all scriptures denote there is a Christ, and every story is really about you, me, and Jesus Christ and his Atonement, I would like to share an approach to a short and simple event recorded in The Book of Mormon.
The episode mentioned occurs in the 25th chapter of the book of Mosiah. As a backdrop to our story, in chapter 24 we read of Alma and his people being persecuted by Amulon and his brethren, pouring out their hearts to God for deliverance, and being led away in the night out of bondage into the wilderness, and eventually to the land of Zarahemla where they found King Mosiah and the Mulekites. Some of the children, or people, of Amulon must have left with Alma and his followers; and they are the subject of chapter 25 we will focus on.
In verse 12 we read:
“And it came to pass that those who were the children of Amulon and his brethren, who had taken to wife the daughters of the Lamanites, were displeased with the conduct of their fathers, and they would no longer be called by the names of their fathers, therefore they took upon themselves the name of Nephi, that they might be called the children of Nephi and be numbered among those who were called Nephites.”
Why are we told this? In the abridgment of the record, why would Mormon find this worth including?
Let’s generalize just a smidgen. These individuals were not proud of who they were associated with, they “were displeased with the conduct of their fathers”, so they no longer connected themselves with those people, and “would no longer be called by the names of their fathers.” They then “took upon themselves the name of Nephi” so they could from now on be associated with, and remembered as, Nephites. In other words, they didn’t like the group of people (who happened to be their forebears) they were hanging around with, [or grew up with] and they wanted to make a change in their lives and be affiliated with, or “numbered among”, new people.
Alright, now we ask the question, where is Jesus Christ in this scripture and how do you, me, and his Atonement tie in?
The central message of this passage is that of change, which is a testament to the Atonement. It is a type and a foreshadow. These “children” of Amulon changed their identity, and took upon themselves a new name. Does that sound familiar at all? It should, because we do the exact same thing. We change our lives in the necessary ways, and take upon ourselves the name of Christ. We read in Mosiah 5:7 “And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” Just as the people of Amulon took upon the name of Nephi and were called the children of Nephi, we take upon the name of Christ and we become his children.
There are powerful lessons to be found in the framework of this scripture, and to be learned from the children of Amulon.
It is wise to choose carefully with whom we spend our time, and who we allow ourselves to become associated with. Jim Rohn has noted, “You are the average of the five people you hang around with. . . You must constantly ask yourself these questions. Who am I around? What are they doing to me? What have they got me reading? What have they got me saying? Where do they have me going? What do they have me thinking? And most importantly, what do they have me becoming?” However, the children of Amulon understood a valuable truth. Namely, that our life is not defined by those who went before us, or by those we are associated with, or by the things that any of them have done. We are responsible for ourselves, and we are in charge of what name we will be known by, and who we will be numbered among. And we can change that at any time.
How easy would it have been for them to lazily conclude, “Well our parents were unrighteous power hungry blockheads, so I guess that in the future we can look forward to becoming unrighteous power hungry blockheads too.” Or, “Everyone else in our community persecuted Alma and his weirdo friends, we might as well do the same, even if we don’t understand why.” It would have been very easy, but they didn’t do that. They recognized their experiences with growing up in such an environment for what they really were – malignant and destructive. They understood that “bad experiences are an expensive school that only fools keep going to.” (Ezra Taft Benson) They chose to learn from the mistakes of those around them and change so they wouldn’t have the same bad experiences. These people grasped the principle taught by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “God doesn’t care nearly as much about where you [or those you have been associated with] have been as He does about where you are and, with His help, where you are willing to go.” They were “willing to go” to the land of Zarahemla with Alma and his people, and leave their old life and situation behind. And because of the sacrifices they made, they then had the opportunity to be “called the children of Nephi.”
Maybe it is your “fathers” conduct that you’re displeased with at this time, maybe it isn’t. Maybe it is your friends or a specific group of people that you no longer want to be a part of. Or maybe it is the negative experiences that you have had because of the individuals you were “numbered among” that is frustrating you. Whatever it is, the message of this story, and my message to you, is that you can change and you can overcome.
Here is why they did it, and why you should too…
13 “And now all the people of Zarahemla were numbered with the Nephites, and this because the kingdom had been conferred upon none but those who were descendants of Nephi.”
They wanted the blessings of the kingdom! We find here another type and pattern. The spiritual blessings of the Kingdom of God only come to the family of Abraham, the House of Israel. That is who the promises have been made to. But anyone that is not a member can be adopted in and become the seed of Abraham. Just as the children of Amulon were adopted into the family of Nephi and called Nephites.
You’re thinking so what does that have to do with me? Well, whether you are a descendant of Abraham or not, the so what is the principle itself. We, like the people of Amulon, and all the people of Zarahemla can remove our association with those whose conduct displeases us, and can change our identity to become numbered among the children of the family whose descendants the kingdom, or blessings, shall be conferred upon. We must look at ourselves as having this potential to conquer and learn from bad experiences of the past, whether they be others’ or our own. Then after we do this, let us also look at others the same way, and see them for who they have the potential to become, and help them change their identity and take upon a new name as well.