The stories of missionary work, specifically that of Ammon, Alma, and Aaron et al, in the Book of Alma in the Book of Mormon, are a wealth of information. As I’ve mentioned before in reference to Jacob, one of the things that I find so great about the Book of Mormon is seeing the personalities of the different individuals described and chronicled.
There are those who, like Jacob, I can relate to and understand, and there are others who I respect but cannot perfectly liken to myself personality-wise. Examples that come to mind include Nephi and Ammon.
Today we’re going to talk a little bit about Ammon and his missionary cohorts.
We seem to focus a lot on Ammon, retelling his famed stories of being offered the king’s daughter as a wife, defending the servants and cutting off arms of the Lamanites, and boldly standing up for Lamoni when meeting Lamoni’s father. In other words, we like Ammon for being generally awesome.
Ammon may have had the star personality and the good luck of finding King Lamoni as an investigator, but I tend to feel a kinship more with Aaron and the other guys. Poor Aaron. He had some rough luck but just kept plugging along, doing what he was supposed to do, and teaching. It wasn’t easy, but he stuck with it, and eventually the friends/missionaries reunited.
In Alma 27, we read in verses 16-19:
And it came to pass that as Ammon was going forth into the land, that he and his brethren met Alma, over in the place of which has been spoken; and behold, this was a joyful meeting.
Now the joy of Ammon was so great even that he was full; yea, he was swallowed up in the joy of his God, even to the exhausting of his strength; and he fell again to the earth.
Now was not this exceeding joy? Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness.
Now the joy of Alma in meeting his brethren was truly great, and also the joy of Aaron, of Omner, and Himni; but behold their joy was not that to exceed their strength.
This scripture doesn’t really have anything to do with anxiety or OCD or mental health besides the fact that Ammon is like totally out of control. I mean, what is he like, fainting out of happiness? I don’t know if I will ever qualify as being such a “penitent” and “humble seeker” of happiness. I also love the disclaimer in verse 19. It’s almost like, “we don’t know what was up with Ammon. We all managed to keep it together and stay conscious.”
But with this context, I want to look at Alma 28:8, where it says,
And this is the account of Ammon and his brethren, their journeyings in the land of Nephi, their sufferings in the land, their sorrows, and their afflictions, and their incomprehensible joy, and the reception and safety of the brethren in the land of Jershon. And now may the Lord, the Redeemer of all men, bless their souls forever.
I find it so interesting that right after listing the sufferings, the sorrows, and afflictions, comes the mention of their “incomprehensible joy.” What, wait? How can they have joy (that can’t even be comprehended) when they had so many hard and difficult times as missionaries? How is Ammon passing out with pure happiness? What is this joy and how can I get it?
But that’s the thing. This joy comes as a result of going through really difficult things and maintaining your faith until the end. It comes after or even during the sufferings and sorrows. I don’t know if I fully understand the difference between “feeling good” and being “happy” and “incomprehensible joy.” I think there must be a difference. Somehow joy is made out of hard times and is that much more meaningful as a result. It isn’t just pleasure or giddiness. It is something so much more.
So, while I’m okay with not fainting by being overcome with joy and happiness, I hope that someday I can describe my life and struggles with OCD (and whatever else) in a way similar to verse 8 of Alma 28. I hope I can look back and say, “Yes, it was hard sometimes. There were days that I didn’t really want to go on or thought I couldn’t but then… eventually… it was great. And in the end, I felt joy.”