Wednesday, February 23, 2011

For the Intent to Do Good

The Book of Mormon tells of a group of young men who served as missionaries among a people called Lamanites. At that time, the Lamanites were described as, “a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people; a people who delighted in murdering . . . , and robbing and plundering” (Alma 17:14-15). One of these missionaries convinced one of the kings of the land to allow him to be the king’s servant. So great and diligent was the service of this young missionary and so great was his faith that he wrought miracles such that the king opened his heart to listen to the message of the plan of salvation. Said the king, “if thou wilt tell me these things, whatsoever thou desirest I will give unto thee” (18:21). This young missionary’s name was Ammon, and the scriptures describe him as “wise, yet harmless” (v.22), a man “of a sound understanding,” who had “waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth,” and who “taught with the power and authority of God” (17:2-3).

Ammon’s wisdom, humility, and preparation allowed him to discern the thoughts of the king and receive strength and revelation from the Spirit to speak with boldness and to know how to teach the king and his household. He was a vital instrument in the hands of the Lord in bringing thousands of Lamanites to a knowledge of the truth.

Indeed, Ammon was a great missionary and we can learn much from his example. One thing that Mormon says of Ammon, however, stood out to me as I read this account recently. When the king offers Ammon anything he desires, including one of his daughters and all of his armies, in order to know how Ammon wrought such great miracles, Mormon describes Ammon’s response in this manner: “Now Ammon being wise, yet harmless, he said unto Lamoni [the king]: Wilt thou hearken unto my words, if I tell thee by what power I do these things? And this is the thing that I desire of thee” (18:22 italics added).

Ammon being wise yet harmless…

In the scriptures, the attributes wise and rich are often mentioned together when spoken of negatively, and are usually grouped together with other negative traits such as pride and hypocrisy (see 2 Nephi 9:28-30; 28:15; see also the eleventh fundamental in Ezra Taft Benson’s talk, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” BYU Devo, 26 Feb 1980). In a similar manner, the good sides of wisdom and riches can be compared. The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob counseled that when we seek for riches, we should seek them for the intent to do good (see Jacob 2:18-19). This counsel can also be applied to wisdom. If we seek wisdom—as we should, for the glory of God is intelligence (D&C 93:36)—we should seek wisdom for the intent to do good, to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish Zion, as did Ammon.*

Ammon had prepared spiritually for the opportunities he had. As we seek first the kingdom of God and obtain a hope in Christ we shall obtain wisdom if we seek it. Ammon could have asked the king for any worldly treasure or power but he was harmless and thus was blessed with the wisdom to answer in the manner recorded in verse 22, “Wilt thou hearken unto my words, if I tell thee by what power I do these things? And this is the thing that I desire of thee.”

We too can live worthy as did Ammon to be entrusted with wisdom and great treasures of knowledge. In our schooling, in our work, and in our dealings with our fellowmen, if we seek first the kingdom of God by first studying our scriptures and first fulfilling our callings, if we begin our days by first getting on our knees and praying for the guidance and direction of the Lord, and if we first live the standards we know to be true, we shall gain wisdom in both our spiritual and temporal affairs and all things shall work together for our good.

Remember Ammon was strong in the knowledge of truth and he had given himself to much prayer and had searched the scriptures diligently. He was patient, courageous, long-suffering, trusted in God, and he was wise yet harmless enabling him to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord.

I conclude with the appeal of another Book of Mormon prophet, “O be wise, what can I say more?” (Jacob 6:19).

May we be wise and hearken unto the counsels of God that we may be instruments in His hands and travel down the strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life.


*Indeed, to be learned is good if we hearken unto the counsels of God (2 Nephi 9:29). The Lord counsels that we be wise in the days of our probation, strip ourselves of all uncleanness, doubt not but be believing, come unto the Him with all our heart, ask with a firmness unshaken that we will yield to no temptation but that we will serve the true and living God (see Mormon 9:27-28).