Have you ever wondered about the difference between humbling ourselves and being compelled to be humble? I have been intrigued for a long time about the experiences of Alma and his people compared to those of King Limhi and his people as found in the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Mosiah 19-24.
The prophet Abinadi visited the people of wicked King Noah to call them to repentance; he told them that they would come under bondage if they did not repent (see Mosiah 11:21). When Abinadi returned after two years and found that the people had not repented (see Mosiah 12:1), he delivered an even stronger warning. This time he told the people that many of them would be slain, suffer famine and pestilence, or be destroyed if they refused to repent.
This time Alma believed the words of Abinadi and wrote them down. He began to teach the people; those who believed him repented and became righteous. This group was forced to separate themselves from the majority of the people who remained wicked. Both groups eventually came under bondage because they did not repent with the first warning, but there were great differences between what happened to the two groups. One group voluntarily repented, and the other group was compelled to repent.
The majority of the people rejected and killed Abinadi; they continued in their wickedness. They were divided, contentious, and brought into bondage by the Lamanites. Many of them were killed including King Noah; his son Limhi began to reign. The smaller group listened to Alma, who believed the words of Abinadi; they developed faith, repented of their sins, and were baptized. The Lord warned them to flee into the wilderness to escape King Noah’s soldiers.
King Limhi’s people endured bondage and went to war with the Lamanites several times in attempts to gain freedom; they eventually accepted their bondage. Alma’s people prospered and built a city; they lived in righteousness and prospered exceedingly. While Alma and his people continued to live in peace and prosperity, King Limhi and his people recognized their plight; they repented and turned to the Lord. They were compelled to be humble and to accept their bondage. As they became more righteous, the Lord blessed them by degrees. They gave wine to the Lamanite guards and caused them to be drunk. Limhi and his people escaped under the cover of darkness. The next day they were pursued by a Lamanite army but were not overtaken.
The Lamanite army discovered Alma and his people and put them under bondage. Alma’s people stayed faithful and endured their trials patiently. The Lord eased their burdens and strengthened them; He eventually delivered them out of bondage. The Lord caused a deep sleep to come over the Lamanites, and Alma and his people escaped during daylight hours.
From the experiences of these two groups of people, we can plainly see that it is better to humble ourselves than to be compelled to be humble. President Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) taught the following about humility:
“Humility, of course, is not a sign of weakness. Humility does not mean timidity. A person can be humble, powerful, and courageous. The Prophet Joseph is a good example. Humility is an acknowledged recognition of our dependence on a higher power.” (See The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson , 369.)