8. And now it came to pass that Amulon began to exercise authority over Alma and his brethren, and began to persecute him, and cause that his children should persecute their children.
9. For Amulon knew Alma, that he had been one of the king’s priests, and that it was he that believed the words of Abinadi and was driven out before the king, and therefore he was wroth with him; for he was subject to king Laman, yet he exercised authority over them, and put tasks upon them, and put task-masters over them.
It seems like in some ways this might have been a more grievous enslavement than Limhi’s people. Those Lamanites didn’t like Limhi or his people, but Amulon really hates Alma and his followers. It’s much more personal here, whereas with Limhi and his people it was more just the traditional and cultural general dislike between the 2 groups. The specificity of “tasks” and “task-masters” which weren’t mentioned with Limhi’s people, makes it sound like they were slaves much more in the way we think of them: doing what they’re told with threat of physical punishment, if they don’t. Limhi’s people just had general guards to make sure the Lamanites got their half of all their production, and that the Nephites were generally behaving themselves. It seems unfair that the Lord allows even harder circumstances for Alma’s people, when they were the ones to repent first, and did it when things were still good. They were righteous, why should they be punished more severely?
I think that’s the wrong question. The Lord always wants us to grow and become better. It doesn’t matter where we’re at currently, he’ll challenge us to become better, often (always?) through trials of one sort or another. These people were likely at a much higher spiritual level than Limhi’s people, because they’d willingly started their journey to righteousness much earlier. So in some ways, they needed a more difficult trial in order to improve. Perhaps if they’d had the same bondage as Limhi’s people, they wouldn’t have felt burdened nearly so much, and therefore not had as great of an opportunity to rely on the Lord, exercise faith, and grow.
Richard G. Scott said it this way:
Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more. He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain.
10. And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God.
11. And Amulon commanded them that they should stop their cries; and he put guards over them to watch them, that whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death.
If it wasn’t clear this was a much harsher enslavement before, it is now…. “No praying!”
12. And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.
You can stop people from doing things, but you can’t stop them from thinking….
13. And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
14. And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
Interesting “the voice of the Lord came to them…” I suppose it’s possible that it came to them each, individually and that they all got the same impression or thoughts delivered to their minds. It’s also possible that Alma received revelation, and that they were able to write it or verbally pass it around, probably in secret. The revolutionary themes continue: exiled people are found and enslaved by the enemies they fled. In attempts to kill their hope, they put severe restrictions on their freedom of speech and action. But the people continue to think. They can’t say it out loud, but the subversion continues, though they’re outwardly submissive.
15. And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.
16. And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.
17. And he said unto Alma: Thou shalt go before this people, and I will go with thee and deliver this people out of bondage.
Wow, I get chills reading this. This people is so patient and humble once they know the will of the Lord. It doesn’t sound like all that much time goes by. He probably didn’t need them to endure it terribly long. Just that they needed to go through it, and exercise their agency and faith, to trust Him. I need to “submit cheerfully and with patience to the will of the Lord.” I think that’s the key to life: being happy, and seeking the will of the Lord, then submitting to it, retaining that happiness throughout. What joy they must’ve felt when they received that message “Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.” Isn’t that the message we all seek: the Lord’s assurance that we’re doing a good job, and that he’ll soon deliver us from either our trials, or from this life?
Now it’s clear he speaks to Alma at the end. But it could be he was speaking to him all along. Some D&C revelations address the church as a whole, then specifically address Joseph, or other individuals. So it’s possible it was just 1 revelation, with Alma merely acting as the medium through which it was transmitted, and the last part was addressed directly to him.
18. Now it came to pass that Alma and his people in the night-time gathered their flocks together, and also of their grain; yea, even all the night-time were they gathering the flocks together.
19. And in the morning the Lord caused a deep sleep to come upon the Lamanites, yea, and all their task-masters were in a profound sleep.
20. And Alma and his people departed into the wilderness; and when they had traveled all day they pitched their tents in a valley, and they called the valley Alma, because he led their way in the wilderness.
They don’t just sit back and wait for the Lord to deliver them. They get ready. But unlike Limhi, the Lord does some of the work for them. They don’t have to get their task-master’s drunk or anything.
Separate note: makes me wonder what natural phenomena the Lord might’ve used that caused the Lamanites to fall into a deep sleep, but he Nephites, who were up gathering their flocks, remained unaffected…?
21. Yea, and in the valley of Alma they poured out their thanks to God because he had been merciful unto them, and eased their burdens, and had delivered them out of bondage; for they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it were the Lord their God.
22. And they gave thanks to God, yea, all their men and all their women and all their children that could speak lifted their voices in the praises of their God.
If they felt joy at receiving God’s message before, it must have been so much greater now that they’d escaped. They had clearly seen the Lord working to deliver them. And here’s the lesson of all this: the exercised FAITH and SUBMISSION to God’s will first. They had no miracle until after they’d shown their faith and humility. Those who want miracles to prove things to them, have it backward. God does not work that way.
23. And now the Lord said unto Alma: Haste thee and get thou and this people out of this land, for the Lamanites have awakened and do pursue thee; therefore get thee out of this land, and I will stop the Lamanites in this valley that they come no further in pursuit of this people.
24. And it came to pass that they departed out of the valley, and took their journey into the wilderness.
25. And after they had been in the wilderness twelve days they arrived in the land of Zarahemla; and king Mosiah did also receive them with joy.
This reminds me a lot of Moses and the Children of Israel. The Lord is regularly telling his Prophet what to do to lead the people out of bondage. He tells them to get moving, but also stops their pursuers. The similarities are really strong, with one key difference: this is a tried and tested people who have great faith and no desire to ever return to slavery.