A while ago, one of our readers, lets call him “Ben” to protect his anonymity, brought to our attention a really cool moment in the Book of Mormon. He wanted to get our 4 perspectives on it. He had noticed that the Father of King Lamoni was only willing to give up “half” his kingdom to save his own mortal life even when Ammon had him at swordpoint after defending King Lamoni and himself from his attacks (Alma 20). But, later, when in his own home, and after Ammon’s brother, Aaron, had taught him the principles of the gospel, he was willing to give “all” he had to know God, and save his spiritual life (Alma 22).
Tyson was the first to respond and opine on this subject, and we read about it HERE.
For my take, I will go a little different route, and use some references that probably wouldn’t make it in a Sunday school lesson, but perfectly illustrate the principle that I take away from the story of the Father of King Lamoni. The references I’m talking about just happen to be the lyrics from a Pearl Jam song.
Before I lose anybody, I will just say that Pearl Jam music is not always an uplifting positive thing. Im not claiming that it is, but if Donald Duck, Donuts, ski boots, and burning pianos can teach us, then Pearl Jam can definitely make a small contribution to this blog, and can help teach a gospel principle. If it makes anyone feel better, this song wasn’t anything crazy, just Eddie Vedder singing with a Ukulele, so there’s that. I guess this is where I include the caveat that even a blind squirrel finds a nut in the forest every once in a while, or even a broken clock is right twice a day… etc. etc.
The few lines of lyrics that will start us off come from a song called “Soon Forget”. The song describes a man who is obsessed with money. His only love in life is fancy cars and giant houses, and never takes any time to concentrate on anything else. He grows old, clings to his 100 dollar bills, and fades away into obscurity and eventually dies. No one remembers him, or his money. No one even bats an eye when he passes. He hadn’t taken any time to develop personal relationships, or give any time to the true and lasting things that really matter. Even though he had money and supposed power, he was forgettable. He was just like Ebenezer Scrooge without the change of heart. Here are some of the lines from the song.
Sorry is the fool who trades his soul for a Corvette Thinks he’ll get the girl, he’ll only get the mechanic What’s missing? He’s living a day he’ll soon forget
Counts his money every morning, the only thing that keeps him [going]
Locked in a giant house, that’s alarming The townsfolk, they all laugh
Sorry is the fool who trades his love for hi-rise rent Seems the more you make equals the loneliness you get And it’s fitting, he’s barely living a day he’ll soon forget
That’s one more time around, and there is not a sound He’s lying dead, clutching Benjamins, never put the money down He’s stiffening, we’re all whistling, a man we’ll soon forget
Sounds like Ebenezer doesn’t it? This is what I imagine when I read the story of the Father of Lamoni. He was not only a King, but THE King. He had many kingdoms, His son Lamoni was also a king, but still subject to his powerful Father. In my mind, he was not unlike the man in the song. He had money, power, and spent his time celebrating lavishly. That is what was important to him. After all, it was his son’s absence at one of his big time feasts that upset Lamoni’s Father in the first place¹.
Imagine a king that is used to getting his way 100% of the time. He has everything he could possibly want- Money, power, land, subjects, and was probably not used to anyone challenging him- Not even his own son, who was also a king. He didn’t want for, or need anything. Nothing at all. He didn’t depend on any help from anyone. Especially his Father in Heaven.
These types of people usually aren’t exactly humble. Arrogant and prideful is probably a better description. His word was final. No questions. His view of himself was likely dependent on the power he had. His identity was dependent on his wealth, and influence. If his worldly possessions were to be lost, taken, or destroyed, he would, in essence, cease to be who he was. He was his stuff.
This thought is evidenced by the words he spoke against Ammon. He argued against Ammon to his son and said, “Lamoni, thou art going to deliver these Nephites, who are sons of a liar. Behold, he robbed our fathers; and now his children are also come amongst us that they may, by their cunning and their lyings, deceive us, that they again may rob us of our property²” He emphasized everything in terms of robbing property. Stuff. Thats all he was worried about. If we look at him this way, is it any wonder that when he was up against it, and Ammon had a sword on him, that he only offered half of his kingdom? In his mind, if he lost all he possessed, He, as he saw himself, would be dead anyway because his stuff would be gone.
But, lets fast forward to after he had been taught and understood a new fuller perspective. He had been amazed that Ammon, a Nephite, an enemy, a challenger, had refused to take half of his kingdom. Not only that, but all he wanted was for his companions to be released from prison, and for his new friend King Lamoni to retain his kingdom, and that he (the Father of King Lamoni) would not be displeased with him (King Lamoni).
How surprising must that have been to a man who sees stuff as the only important thing in the world? He probably had a Ebeneezer Scrooge moment right then and there. He must have thought about that continuously until Aaron came and taught him gospel, and further explained the reasons behind why Ammon had done what he had done, and said what he had said.
Only after a new perspective was taught to King Lamoni’s Father, did he see that the worldly wealth, power, and influence that he possessed could not bring him the one thing that all of us want- to be happy. Only after his eyes were really opened did he offer everything that he had. He had tasted the one thing that he knew he lacked, the one thing that money couldn’t buy. Happiness. True, lasting, eternal happiness and joy.
When Aaron taught him the gospel, Im sure he felt it. The spirit testifies of truth and he got a little taste of the real joy that comes through obedience to the gospel, and he wanted it. At any cost. The record says that, “…Aaron did expound unto him the scriptures from the creation of Adam, laying the fall of man before him, and their carnal state and also the plan of redemption, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, through Christ, for all whosoever would believe on his name³.” It probably isn’t that big of a stretch to think that he may have read him the words of Jacob, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy4.”
Soon after Aaron finished teaching him, the father of King Lamoni understood. He understood what he had been missing, even though he had everything. This is what he said, “What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy5.”
He was now willing to give up, freely (without a sword up to his neck), everything he had to know the joy of the gospel. Remember, he had viewed himself and his worth as being dependent on his possessions. His stuff. He was now willing to part with everything that he thought he WAS, in order to BE something new. He had an eternal perspective. And that was worth far more than anything he could possess.
We all could use a little more eternal perspective, and loosen our grip on the worldly things we possess or work for. The joy we all seek is only found when we give up those parts of us that are stuck in the world, and we let go. Real happiness only comes when we are willingly obedient to our Heavenly Father and His Son. It may be as simple as wanting our treasure to be in heavenly currency instead of earthly coins.
“And whosoever will lose his life in this world, for my sake, shall find it in the world to come6.”
1. Alma 20:9
2. Alma 20:13
3. Alma 22:13
4. 2 Nephi 2:25
5. Alma 22:15
6. JST Mathew 16:28