(A Seminary Lesson from February 17, 1995. TG Entry: Missionary Work)
I Seminary Lesson About Ammon
I started the week talking about missionary preparation. I used Mosiah 27, 28 and Alma 17 as the references. I believe they were good missionaries because they: (1) Repented of their sins (Mosiah 27:35), (2) Desired to go (Mosiah 28:3-5), (3) Waxed strong in the knowledge of God and studied the scriptures (Alma 17:2), and (4) Prayed and Fasted to receive the Spirit of God (Alma 17:3).
On Wednesday I taught the culture shock lesson, using Alma 17. I noted the following about Ammon. They were a very different people:
14 And assuredly it was great, for they had undertaken to preach the word of God to a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people; a people who delighted in murdering the Nephites, and robbing and plundering them; and their hearts were set upon riches, or upon gold and silver, and precious stones; yet they sought to obtain these things by murdering and plundering, that they might not labor for them with their own hands.
15 Thus they were a very indolent people, many of whom did worship idols, and the curse of God had fallen upon them because of the traditions of their fathers; notwithstanding the promises of the Lord were extended unto them on the conditions of repentance.
Let’s suppose you were called from America on a mission to Iraq. I believe the relationship between the Lamanites and Nephites was somewhat similar to our relationship with Iraq. What do you thing would happen when you get off the plane in Baghdad. Maybe this:
20 And as Ammon entered the land of Ishmael, the Lamanites took him and bound him, as was their custom to bind all the Nephites who fell into their hands, and carry them before the king; and thus it was left to the pleasure of the king to slay them, or to retain them in captivity, or to cast them into prison, or to cast them out of his land, according to his will and pleasure.
They handcuff you and haul you off to the police station. Then, the police chief asks you why you are there, and you say, “I want to live with you.” Maybe in Iraq it would be OK for you to live there if you were married to an Iraqi woman. So, in keeping with the local customs, the police chief offers you his daughter.
24 And it came to pass that king Lamoni was much pleased with Ammon, and caused that his bands should be loosed; and he would that Ammon should take one of his daughters to wife.
25 But Ammon said unto him: Nay, but I will be thy servant. Therefore Ammon became a servant to king Lamoni. And it came to pass that he was set among other servants to watch the flocks of Lamoni, according to the custom of the Lamanites.
You must learn how to tactfully refuse such customs (we had to refuse the custom of Tea daily), and still have the people be pleased with you. After doing so, he gives you a wonderful job. The job that may have been the lowliest job in the land–cleaning the sewers, or some other wonderful task.
After doing this for a while, you learn that those who don’t perform the task that well have a special reward.
28 Now the servants of the king began to murmur, saying: Now the king will slay us, as he has our brethren because their flocks were scattered by the wickedness of these men. And they began to weep exceedingly, saying: Behold, our flocks are scattered already.
How do you react to surprise customs? You could say, “Wait a minute! No one told me this could happen. I didn’t sign up for this. Let me out of here!” What surprise customs will you encounter? Maybe a meal containing something considered inedible in your country. Maybe the accommodations will be very different from your home. Who knows, but you will have them.
What was Ammon’s response?
29 Now they wept because of the fear of being slain. Now when Ammon saw this his heart was swollen within him with joy; for, said he, I will show forth my power unto these my fellow-servants, or the power which is in me, in restoring these flocks unto the king, that I may win the hearts of these my fellow-servants, that I may lead them to believe in my words.
Ammon realized that when faced with an unexpected custom, it was his opportunity to show how much he really cared about the people. He saw that he could convince them that they were important to him–more important than his own customs. He took joy in being able to demonstrate his love for them.
Did he look down upon them, or make them feel inferior?
30 And now, these were the thoughts of Ammon, when he saw the afflictions of those whom he termed to be his brethren.
31 And it came to pass that he flattered them by his words, saying: My brethren, be of good cheer and let us go in search of the flocks, and we will gather them together and bring them back unto the place of water; and thus we will preserve the flocks unto the king and he will not slay us.
Not in the least. He remembered that they were his brother’s and sisters. He considered them part of his family. He treated them with respect.