Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Quiet Ammon

Alma 17-20

I have been reading those chapters this week. They tell the story of Ammon. Ammon the missionary, the arm-chopping, service-oriented, falling-to-the-ground-unconscious-with-joy guy. It is quite a bizarre story, really, but with some great lessons.

I have always felt a lot of anxiety about missionary work. I love the gospel a lot. It has absolutely changed my life. I want to share it. I am excited about the truths I am discovering and how they change my life and give me hope. I would be a poop if I didn't try to share it somehow.

But how do I share it? Well, surprisingly, one of the things I learned in these chapters is to just be quiet.

When when I left on my mission, Dad gave me a Father's blessing and told me to study Ammon. I always remembered that. In past readings, I took it to mean that the key part of missionary work is service and love, which it absolutely is.  Before Ammon even opened his mouth about the gospel, he offered to be Lamoni's servant, and he served with enthusiasm.
"Surely there has not been any servant among all my servants that has been so faithful as this man; for he doth remember all my commandments to execute them."
Executed all his commandments indeed, and then executed a bunch of people too. Oh, Ammon. What a guy.

And maybe Ammon might have been a sneaky twerp at first and just wanted to serve him to convert him. I don't really know. But doesn't love come after serving someone anyway? Maybe we all kind of fake it at first. When we first get that Home or Visiting teaching assignment do we really love those people on a slip of paper? Some might, but I don't usually. Does that mean we sit around and wait for that love before we serve/visit them? No. When we really serve someone, after time that love grows and it gets real. We learn in later chapters that the love that Ammon developed for the King was so strong and real, to the point where he would risk death defending Lamoni from his Father who tried to kill him on the road. Then it says that the King of the Lamanites, Lamoni's father was so moved by Ammon because he saw that love, and ended up being converted also.
"And when he saw that Ammon had no desire to destroy him, and when he also saw the great love he had for his son Lamoni, he was astonished exceedingly..."
Love. Service. Miracles. Good stuff there, and something I am fumbling with and working on. As always, without charity we are nothing but sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.

However, what impressed me this time reading these chapters was how Ammon also knew how to be quiet. After cutting off the arms and being a hero, saving his flocks, and then remembering to prepare Lamoni's horses as an impressive bonus, he asked,
"What wilt thou that I should do for thee, O king? And the king answered him not for the space of an hour."
An hour is a long time to just sit there staring at each other. It would be awkward. I don't like that kind of silence. I can't help but think that if I were Ammon, I would be rattling off some lesson or principle or testimony after five minutes of an awkward pause. I am there to convert the Lamanites! Let's get this party started! Why didn't Ammon do that? Why did he wait for so long?

Well, first maybe he let Lamoni sort out his thoughts. If you have shared or served or done something for someone, let them think about it on their own. People should not be told what to think. Maybe people need time to come to their own conclusions. Have faith that the Spirit can work on them in the Lord's time. Secondly, I'm sure Ammon wasn't just staring and thinking about his hangnail in that hour. He probably prayed that the Lord would do his thing. And he probably prayed hard that he would have the spirit to know what to say.  In that "hour" or month or year period of time, maybe we can just be quiet and pray: pray for the right words, and pray that God will go ahead of us to prepare hearts with the Holy Ghost, which is something we can never do alone. Ultimately, this is not our work. Christ is the Good Shepherd. It's his job to look after his sheep. At best, we are mediocre shepherds, and that's only if we do our best.

Another point is that Ammon's acts did the talking in this instance. He chopped off arms and saved the day, and then was humble enough to do a simple act of service like preparing the horses for the King. Let our actions speak. Talk is cheap. Oh, how I need that lesson sometimes.

In the words of President Uchtdorf:
"You and I may speak most eloquently of spiritual things. We may impress people with our keen intellectual interpretation of religious topics. We may rhapsodize about religion and "dream of [our] mansion above." But if our faith does not change the way we live--if our beliefs do not influence our daily decision--our religion is vain." (He will Place You on His Shoulders and Carry You Home, April 2016)
I remember Grandpa Matkin, specifically with parenting but it goes broader than that too, saying, "There are only three ways to teach the gospel. The first is example. The second is example. If that doesn't work, then try example." Nicely put.

After that awkward hour, King Lamoni was finally ready to listen, and Ammon "being filled with the Spirit of God" was ready to teach. That was when the miracle of conversion happened. In Joseph Smith's words, "he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together" (D&C 50:22).

That doesn't happen with eager little interjections at any hint of interest, pouncing like a crouching cheetah, with words like "I know exactly the answer!" and other zealous words. Even if you are right, seldom will you go away edified and rejoicing together that way. Yes, this is something I am terrible at doing. You have all probably been victim to this, for which I apologize. My blog post itself might fit this category. Again, sorry.

So based on the story here is my summary for how to share the gospel.
The Ammon Missionary Method
1. Prepare through prayer and fasting and scripture study. (Oh, that is in the backstory I didn't mention. Alma 17:3 Kind of important.)
2. Serve! Develop love!
3. Live the gospel in such a way that people notice your mad skills at cutting off arms (or some other related activity.)
4. Be Quiet. At least an hour. Let God do his thing, preparing both you and the individual.
5. Teach according to "the spirit of prophesy." Not with your own words or clever understanding of the gospel, but with the Holy Ghost.
Basically, my lesson to myself, which may be different from your lesson, is to quit skipping ahead to step 5. Steps 1-4 allow the Lord to be more fully involved in the process. It invites the Holy Ghost. For me, I need to learn to be quiet.

Does this mean I will be quiet and end my scripture study blog posts? Oh, probably not, but one can always hope.

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