1 Now it came to pass in the sixth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, there were no contentions nor wars in the land of Zarahemla;
2 But the people were afflicted, yea, greatly afflicted for the loss of their brethren, and also for the loss of their flocks and herds, and also for the loss of their fields of grain, which were trodden under foot and destroyed by the Lamanites. [famine]
3 And so great were their afflictions that every soul had cause to mourn; and they believed that it was the judgments of God sent upon them because of their wickedness and their abominations; therefore they were awakened to a remembrance of their duty. [Humility in the wake of hardship often brings people to repentance.]
4 And they began to establish the church more fully; yea, and many were baptized in the waters of Sidon and were joined to the church of God; yea, they were baptized by the hand [stewardship] of Alma, who had been consecrated the high priest over the people of the church, by the hand of his father Alma.
5 And it came to pass in the seventh year of the reign of the judges there were about three thousand five hundred souls that united themselves to the church of God and were baptized. And thus ended the seventh year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi; and there was continual peace in all that time.
6 And it came to pass in the eighth year of the reign of the judges, that the people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches, and their fine silks, and their fine-twined linen, and because of their many flocks and herds, and their gold and their silver, and all manner of precious things, which they had obtained by their industry; and in all these things were they lifted up in the pride of their eyes, for they began to wear very costly apparel. [Only two years after their devastation they began to become proud again.]
7 Now this was the cause of much affliction to Alma, yea, and to many of the people whom Alma had consecrated to be teachers, and priests, and elders over the church; yea, many of them were sorely grieved for the wickedness which they saw had begun to be among their people.
Interesting that they were grieved because of the pride of the people. No mention of whoredoms, murder, or secret combinations. They simply had become idolatrous. The way they dressed was the focus of the priest’s concern. Why would this be an issue? How would this manifest to us today? Expensive designer clothes, cars, jewelry, status. Could the seeking of influence on social media also be a form of idolatry? The word idolatry is to place something in your heart over the Lord in its importance. Ask yourself whether you have any idols in your heart.
8 For they saw and beheld with great sorrow that the people of the church began to be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure. [Have we not seen this in our culture today?]
9 And thus, in this eighth year of the reign of the judges, there began to be great contentions among the people of the church; yea, there were envyings, and strife, and malice, and persecutions, and pride, even to exceed the pride of those who did not belong to the church of God. [How one dressed was a huge thing in the Nephite culture. They would often divide themselves into classes or respectability depending upon such things. It would be the equivalent of a man with a PHD looking down upon the man who was a road worker. Such class division exists within America today, and even within the churches.]
10 And thus ended the eighth year of the reign of the judges; and the wickedness of the church was a great stumbling-block to those who did not belong to the church; and thus the church began to fail in its progress.
11 And it came to pass in the commencement of the ninth year, Alma saw the wickedness of the church, and he saw also that the example of the church began to lead those who were unbelievers on from one piece of iniquity [sin from unbelief] to another, thus bringing on the destruction of the people. [of their souls]
12 Yea, he saw great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted.
13 Now this was a great cause for lamentations among the people, while others were abasing themselves, succoring those who stood in need of their succor, such as imparting their substance to the poor and the needy, feeding the hungry, and suffering all manner of afflictions, for Christ’s sake, who should come according to the spirit of prophecy;
14 Looking forward to that day, thus retaining a remission of their sins; being filled with great joy because of the resurrection of the dead, according to the will and power and deliverance of Jesus Christ from the bands of death. [How we succor the poor amongst us is a sign that we are a disciple of Christ.]
15 And now it came to pass that Alma, having seen the afflictions of the humble followers of God, and the persecutions which were heaped upon them by the remainder of his people, and seeing all their inequality, began to be very sorrowful; nevertheless the Spirit of the Lord did not fail him. [Sometimes when we become discouraged we forget the Lord and the Spirit cannot be reached in our hearts. Alma cried out to the Lord even more, and the Spirit remained strong with Him.]
16 And he selected a wise man who was among the elders of the church, and gave him power according to the voice of the people, that he might have power to enact laws according to the laws which had been given, and to put them in force according to the wickedness and the crimes of the people.
17 Now this man’s name was Nephihah, and he was appointed chief judge; and he sat in the judgment-seat to judge and to govern the people. [A law according to the Nephites that if the chief judge were to step down, the next in line was to take his place. Nephihah would be responsible for making laws to deal with the new crimes of the people. This was perhaps something Alma was concerned to do because he was also the High Priest amongst the church and it would seem a conflict of interest.]
18 Now Alma did not grant unto him the office of being high priest over the church, but he retained the office of high priest unto himself; but he delivered the judgment-seat unto Nephihah.
19 And this he did that he himself might go forth among his people, or among the people of Nephi, that he might preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them. [Many outside the church had accused Alma of having biases against them for not being in the church.]
20 And thus in the commencement of the ninth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, Alma delivered up the judgment-seat to Nephihah, and confined himself wholly to the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to the testimony of the word, according to the spirit of revelation and prophecy. [The gifts of the Spirit, particularly the gift of revelation and prophecy, are the most essential to preach the word of God.]
Alma had served nine years as the chief judge of the people of Nephi. An office which was the equivalent of an elected President, Congressman, and Supreme Court Justice all wrapped up in one person. He was appointed according to the voice of the people, and then chose to leave it to preach the gospel amongst all the people of Nephi, which were in the hundreds of thousands. They did not have the ease of communication which exists today, so many of the rising generation only knew Alma vaguely, if at all. All these things taking place while the sons of Mosiah were attempting to preach the Gospel to the Lamanites. There may have been times Alma wished he had also followed with his friends to their far away mission. Watching the people continually fall into forbidden paths from God would be disheartening.
Imagine the head of the church leaving his comfortable office and security, to travel by foot, without immediate communication to family and friends, to go among the non-believers to preach the Gospel of Christ. He gave up everything according to the commandments given him, according to the spirit of revelation and prophecy. This is the kind of faith Alma the younger had. We will see in the coming chapters how walking into the unknown with only our faith in the Lord can yield enormous blessings.