In the seventh chapter of Mosiah, King Limhi teaches his people one of the central principles of the Book of Mormon:

But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage (Mosiah 7:33).

Limhi’s message is preeminently the physical liberation of the people from their subservience to the Lamanites. But he is certainly teaching them a deeper spiritual principle, which also happens to have direct temporal application to their condition. Not far away, the dissident people of Alma have already been living by this principle and have experienced its blessings. The contrast between these two peoples illustrates the principle of deliverance and the higher law. It also shows the consistency of the Lord in dealing with his people. Many of the efforts we make on our own to fight or escape physical bondage not only fail, but they lead to more spiritual bondage. Only the Lord can truly deliver us from both physical and spiritual bondage.

The Wages of Sin

The people of Zeniff spend many years learning the principle of deliverance. When they rely on the Lord, he delivers them from their enemies. When they are wicked, they suffer. By the time Noah takes the throne, the people have established a degree of peace and prosperity that allows them to live comfortably, but Noah leads them into pride and iniquity. In their extravagance and apparent prosperity, the people of Noah start having more Lamanite trouble. Small-scale attacks provoke Noah into sending his armies against the Lamanites. They are victorious, but instead of giving thanks to the Lord,

…they were lifted up in the pride of their hearts; they did boast in their own strength, saying that their fifty could stand against thousands of the Lamanites; and thus they did boast, and did delight in blood, and the shedding of the blood of their brethren, and this because of the wickedness of their king and priests (Mosiah 11:19).

Their success is short-lived. After about two years, the Lamanite armies return, and that boastful ratio is put to the test. The people are slaughtered, smitten, and put into bondage.

His Hand is Stretched Out Still

Before this calamity happens, Abinadi arrives and calls the people to repent. Through his prophet, the Lord is primarily offering the people deliverance from their spiritual bondage, but he also warns of other bondage to come. Their pride makes them blind to their own captivity, and the people reject Abinadi. He returns two years later, but this time his mission is more about damage control than prevention. One of the great heroes of the Book of Mormon, Abinadi shows his commitment to the principle of deliverance. Knowing they will not repent, he insists on preaching his message. If Abinadi knows that his is a suicide mission, with only the effect of reaching a single person, he doesn’t seem to mind. His deliverance is in death, and in fact the Lord does hear his cries and receives his soul.

Tender Mercies

The sole adherent to the words of Abinadi, Alma is delivered out of the hands of the king’s guards. Though his process of repentance may take some time, he experiences the immediate effects of the plan of redemption (Alma 34:31). Through his secret preaching, Alma is able to persuade several hundred people to repent. They gather together at a hidden location where they make the covenant of baptism. Fearing insurrection, Noah seeks them out to destroy them, but they are again delivered and led away by their obedience to revelation. Having settled in a new home, they have a time of peace and prosperity. But old habits and customs can be hard to break. The people want a king, and Alma has to explain why this would be a bad idea in their case:

And now I say unto you, ye have been oppressed by king Noah, and have been in bondage to him and his priests, and have been brought into iniquity by them; therefore ye were bound with the bands of iniquity.

 

And now as ye have been delivered by the power of God out of these bonds; yea, even out of the hands of king Noah and his people, and also from the bonds of iniquity, even so I desire that ye should stand fast in this liberty wherewith ye have been made free, and that ye trust no man to be a king over you (Mosiah 23:12-13).

As if this principle were not obvious enough, the Lord finds a new way to teach them.

Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.

 

Nevertheless—whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day. Yea, and thus it was with this people.

 

For behold, I will show unto you that they were brought into bondage, and none could deliver them but the Lord their God, yea, even the God of Abraham and Isaac and of Jacob.

 

And it came to pass that he did deliver them, and he did show forth his mighty power unto them, and great were their rejoicings (Mosiah 23:21-24).

The people are again subjected to bondage by the Lamanites, but they submit humbly without fighting. Instead, they appeal to the Lord for strength and deliverance. He responds and leads them peacefully away to safety. He even fights an apparent battle for them (Mosiah 24:23). They are never required to take up arms. They are only required to turn to the Lord and he will deliver them.

The Lower Law

Contrast this approach and attitude with that of the people of King Limhi, who remain in the land of Nephi. These are those who have not repented. These are those who rejected Abinadi and who refused to listen to Alma. Their iniquity puts them in spiritual bondage, and having rejected the offer of deliverance from this spiritual bondage, they now find themselves in physical bondage. Mormon comments to help us understand:

And now the afflictions of the Nephites were great, and there was no way that they could deliver themselves out of their hands, for the Lamanites had surrounded them on every side (Mosiah 21:5).

They try anyway. At one point, the people of Limhi had a rather powerful military and won victories over the Lamanites. Perhaps looking back to the day of their glory, they resolve to take of arms. Their decision is not a reluctant or humble one. They are angry with their enemies; they are still not repentant. Three times they go up against the Lamanites to battle and are defeated each time.

And now there was a great mourning and lamentation among the people of Limhi, the widow mourning for her husband, the son and the daughter mourning for their father, and the brothers for their brethren” (Mosiah 21:9).

Finally, they are compelled to humility. In their humble state, they remember the words of Abinadi and Alma and start to truly repent. Ammon and his brethren arrive from Zarahemla and the people are given hope. They are inspired with a plan to escape the Lamanites and return to Zarahemla. Later in the Book of Mormon, we are expressly taught this principle by Alma the younger:

And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved.

 

And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be humble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word?

 

Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed—yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty.

 

Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe (Alma 32:13-16).

The Higher Law

Wherever we are spiritually, the Lord will condescend to deliver us. We must only repent and put our faith in him. This is as true for physical deliverance as it is for spiritual, but the Lord always does both. If we only want physical deliverance, we are left to our own strength. Our pride can only offer us a degree of success before we find ourselves in physical bondage again. We always have the choice: humble ourselves and seek spiritual deliverance, which will be accompanied by physical deliverance, or remain in our pride until we are compelled to be humble, at which point we must choose again. The people of Limhi did not initially humble themselves. They would not be delivered from spiritual bondage, so they were left to their own strength in their physical bondage. This led to “…a great mourning and lamentation.” On the other hand, the people of Alma humbled themselves without being compelled and were greatly blessed. They were delivered spiritually and physically from bondage, “…and great were their rejoicings.” In both cases, the Lord delivered the people when they humbled themselves, but obedience to the higher law brought greater blessings.

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