This created a new situation for Alma, and one that he wasn't fully prepared to handle. To help us better understand why, we can imagine that something like this happened:
"How do you know that the dead will rise again?" Oreb asked. "Have you ever seen anyone come out of the grave?"
"That's what the scriptures say," Siron answered meekly.
"What scriptures?" Oreb asked tauntingly. "Where does it say that?"
"That's what Elam the teacher says."
"Oh, and I suppose you believe everything he tells you." The sarcasm was unmistakable in Oreb's voice.
"Well,… yes. Why would he lie?"
"Why would he lie? Think about it, Siron. Look at the hold he has over you and all the other people in your church. You're all like a bunch of mindless animals being herded together in a pen. He tells you lies because he wants to control your life."
"That's not true," Siron shot back defensively.
"Oh, really? Look how many times a week you assemble yourselves. Do you not call that being herded together? And what do you do at these church meetings?
"We worship God."
"Oh, that sounds like a lot of fun. And how do you do that? Do you sit having fun playing games while drinking a little bit of wine?"
"No, we don't drink wine. We sing songs to God, and listen to Elam teach us from God's word."
"And I suppose you have a lot of fun doing that, don't you?"
Siron felt a little sheepish. "Well… it's not suppose to be fun," he answered.
"I know it's not," Oreb shot back. "My parents used to drag me to those meetings when I was younger and I was bored to death because I couldn't understand a thing they said. All of that religious talk wasn't for me. That's why I no longer belong to that church. And there are many others just like me who have grown up and realized that none of what they teach makes any sense. I could never figure out what my parents saw in listening to that gibberish."
"It makes sense to me," Siron replied, "sort of."
"You know, when I was younger, I used to believe everything my parents told me, but now that I've grown up and am not under their thumb any more, I'm beginning to realize how none of what I was taught is true. Take for example that stuff about the resurrection. Now, come on, does it really make sense to you that dead people can rise up from the grave?
Siron said nothing.
"When you really start looking at what these religious types are trying to shove down people's throats, it doesn't take long before you find out that it's all hogwash. None of it's based on reality. According to them, God should strike me dead for the way I'm living, but the only thing that's happened to me is that I'm enjoying life instead of being cooped up in a small room being bored to death listening to some longwinded old guy preach to me."
"It's not really that bad," Siron replied.
"You don't think so?" Oreb asked. "Tell you what. A couple of the guys are coming over to my place tonight. Why don't you come over and find out what it's like to have a little bit of fun in your life."
"I'd loved to," Siron answered apologetically, "but, I have a meeting to go."
"Don't tell me it's one of those church meetings?"
"It's not going to kill you to miss one little meeting is it? Or are you afraid you might actually enjoy yourself for once?"
Siron thought for a moment and then hesitatingly replied, "All right. I guess one time won't hurt."
And that was how it began for Siron. Six months later, as he was leaving Elam's house after attending one of his church meeting, Elam stopped him and said, "Siron, before you go, could I talk with you for a moment?"
Siron hesitated then said, "Is this going to take long? I've got someone waiting for me."
"This won't take long."
Siron watched as everyone left the house and suddenly felt very uncomfortable. "Can we talk some other time?"
Elam went over to his front door and gently closed it. "I understand that you and Oreb have become good friends, is that right?"
"I hang around with him now and then. Look, I really have to be going."
As Siron stepped toward the front door, Elam remained in the way.
"It's come to my attention that you have been seen drunk on a few occasions. Is that true?"
"And what if I have?" Siron shot back defensively. "What crime is that?"
"God's word tells us that it is not good for man to drink an excess of wine."
"Yeah, well, God's word tells us to do a lot of things. I notice that you aren't exactly perfect yourself."
"No one is perfect, Siron, but that is why Christ will come. His death will atone for our sins, but we need to repent when we do stray from the path of righteousness."
"So you say."
Elam was a little surprised by Siron's answer. "Do you doubt this?"
"I don't know. Maybe it's true, and then again… who knows for sure?"
"I can testify to you that it is true. The only way to be forgiven of your sins is to repent of them."
"But what if it isn't a sin?" Siron asked defiantly.
"Drunkenness is not pleasing to God, therefore, in His eyes it is a sin."
"Well, that's what you say, but that's not the way I see it. If it were such a sin, then why doesn't God strike me dead or something?"
"Because He loves His children and gives them time to repent."
"Okay, I get the message. I'll take your words under advisement. Look, I've got an important appointment. Can I go now?"
"I also understand that you have been doing more than just getting drunk."
"Okay, so I've got a lot of repenting to do. Now, move out of the way and let me leave."
"I've also heard that you have been talking to some of the other members of the church, trying to get them to do things that you know are against God's laws."
"So now it's a crime to talk to people, is that what you're going to tell me?"
"It's a crime against God to lead His people astray."
"I'm not leading anyone astray," Siron angrily replied. "You keep telling us that we're free to decide for ourselves what to do. But I guess that only counts when we decide to do what you think is right."
"You are free to decide for yourself, Siron, but it's been reported that you are trying to get other members of the church to follow your wicked ways, and it's beginning to cause quite a bit of trouble among our people. "
"So, now you're going to blame me for the decisions other people make?"
"Have you been telling people that there is no such thing as sin?" Elam asked.
"No!" Siron lied.
Elam noticed that Siron wouldn't look him in the eye. "Then tell me, what is it that you have been telling people."
"You think everything is a sin," Siron bitterly replied. "Well, maybe everything isn't a great big, unpardonable, sin. You keep telling us that God wants us to be happy, right? Then why is it a sin when I do something that makes me happy?"
"Wickedness doesn't bring happiness."
"Then I'm not doing anything wicked because I am happy, except when I'm being lectured to."
"Are you really happy, Siron?"
"No you're not," Elam quietly said. "Look at you. There is no peace in your soul. You are an angry, bitter man and yet you can not see it, even though everyone else can."
"So, what business is that of yours?"
"I am concerned for your welfare, Siron and I want to help you find the peace that only Christ can give."
"I believe in Christ, so I'm doing just fine."
"Have you noticed how unhappy your wife is? Have you not noticed how your children have become more troublesome for you?"
"So, now you're going to blame me for everyone else's problems?"
"All I'm trying to do is show that you are not the happy man you claim to be, and your unhappiness is affecting others, even the very people you love."
"I'm just fine! It's everyone else who's got the problem. Now, get out of my way. I don't have to stay here and take this kind of verbal abuse."
Elam stood where he was, but before he could say any more, Siron pushed him aside and hurried out the door.
Elam watched as Siron rushed down the street and a deep sense of sadness filled his heart. The rest of the day, his soul was troubled as his conversation with Siron continued to replay itself in his mind. His deep concern was how he might be able to affect a change in Siron's heart, but the more he thought about it, the harder it was to find a solution. When nightfall came, and Siron's behavior continued to trouble Elam's heart, he knew he had to seek help for his problem, so he went to the home of Hamoth, the priest.
Alma had never experienced anything like this before. He was used to people rejecting his message of repentance, but not within the church. After all, to become a member, they had to not only repent first, but covenant to obey all of God's commandments before they were allowed to be baptized. Therefore, when Elam and Hamoth had come to him several days ago telling him how they had both talked with a member of their church by the name of Siron concerning his sins and that he still wasn't repentant, Alma couldn't understand how such a thing could happen.
Elam and Hamoth were just as amazed and that was why they had come seeking Alma's advise. At first, Alma thought perhaps this teacher and priest had not been properly teaching the people, but after closely questioning them he couldn't find any fault with their duties. That's when he had suggested that they bring Siron before him, along with any witnesses who would testify to his sins, and then he would judge for himself.
In the beginning, Alma had wondered if this whole episode was merely a conflict of personalities between Siron and Elam. And if that was the case, he reasoned that since he didn't know Siron then perhaps his impartiality would make it easier to resolve the problem. But, even after so many witnesses had come forward, testifying to Siron's sins and his disruptive behavior among the members of the church, the man was still unrepentant. Even more astonishing was that Siron refused to admit he had done anything worthy of repenting. No matter what Alma had said to him, even though he quoted scripture after scripture, Siron steadfastly maintained there was nothing sinful about his behavior.
But, what troubled Alma even more was that Siron's attitude was affecting other members of the church who began to agree with his ideas. As a result, contention and hard feelings between believers in Christ was spreading throughout the church. Instead of the peaceful meetings they once had, now people continually argued with one another.
Finally, after pondering the problem all night without finding any solution, Alma decided to talk to King Mosiah about it.
"And what is it you would like me to do?" King Mosiah asked, after hearing Alma's account of Siron.
"Behold, this man has been brought before me, accused by his own brethren in the church of being involved in many kinds of iniquities, yet he refuses to repent, or to even acknowledge that he has done anything wrong. But, if he does not repent of these sins, his soul will be lost. Therefore, I felt that if he could be brought before you, that you could judge him according to his crimes."
"If he didn't listen to you or to his teacher or priest, why do you think he would listen to me?"
"Because you are the king," Alma pleaded. "Perhaps he will have more respect for your word than mine. Also, you are older and wiser than I. You were raised by a righteous father and have studied the brass plates much longer than I. Perhaps you will discover a solution to this problem where I have failed."
"Alma, my dear friend. You give yourself too little credit. When you first came to my kingdom, I saw in you a man filled with the Spirit of God. You had a zeal and a passion for the things of God and had begged me for permission to teach my people. Do you remember that?"
"I do, my king. And you were very gracious in allowing me to do that."
"Not as gracious as you might think, my friend. It was a wise decision on my part. My father, Benjamin, had been a teacher to my people and taught me to read and understand the words of God. When he conferred the kingdom on me, I then took on the responsibility to teach my people in his place. That is what God has charged me to do, and I will be held accountable for the sins of this people."
"That is why I feel you should judge this man," Alma interrupted.
"But I was fulfilling my obligation when I appointed you to be the chief teacher of the land," King Mosiah said kindly. "I have delegated to you my responsibility and, as such, you act in my stead. You know the scriptures as well as I do, and you have God's Spirit with you at all times."
"But now, I feel as though it has left me," Alma lamented. "I have prayed mightily unto the Lord, but still I have no answer to my prayers on how to solve this problem."
"He has not left you," Mosiah answered. "Remember how you asked my permission to establish churches throughout the land?"
"I have established seven of them," Alma responded.
"Yes, and how is it that you have been able to establish that many churches if God's Spirit was not with you? Many, many people have become converted to Christ because of your preaching, and you have been the cause of much righteousness throughout the land. None of this could have happened if the Spirit of God was not with you."
"Then where is He now when I pray unto Him?"
"Do you not remember the words of God which the prophets have said, The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him he will forsake you?" (2 Chron.15:2)
"Yes, I remember them well, and I have taught them to our people."
"Then remember them for yourself," Mosiah instructed. "I have appointed you to be the chief priest over all the other priests in the land. That is why you are known as the High Priest. This is your calling from God. As long as you do not forsake your duty, the Lord will be with you if you seek him. My counsel to you is to continue to seek the Lord and faint not, and if you will do that, you will find him. Therefore, I judge not this man, but instead, I deliver him into your hands to be judged."
Although Alma could not argue with the words of King Mosiah, his heart was still heavy with worry. He knew that the way to eternal life was to accept Christ and be baptized, but Siron had been baptized yet he now lived in sin. The solution to sin was repentance, but Siron was not repentant and refused to obey the words of God. The formula for peace was to have God's Spirit that comes from following God's word, but Siron twisted God's words to say that there was no such thing as sin. As a result of this, rather than there being a spirit of peace in the church, a spirit of contention began to prevail.
Alma didn't know how to resolve this problem properly and he feared that if he did it the wrong way, that God would be displeased with him. Therefore, he once more dropped to his knees and pleaded mightily unto the Lord saying, "O, God of mercy, thou hast redeemed me from my sins, which were terrible and grave. Thou hast saved me from the depths of hell and have lifted my soul to the heights of heaven according to thy mighty power which is in Christ's atoning sacrifice for my sins. Thou hast blest me with a spirit of understanding so that I might cry repentance unto my people and hast blest my efforts in bringing many souls unto a knowledge of Christ. In all of my efforts, I have sought to do no other thing than that which thou hast commanded me.
"But now my soul is racked with torment, for after having brought people to Christ, some are now turning away from Him. Although they do not deny Him or His atonement, yet they deny they are living in sin, therefore, they will not repent. And if they will not repent, I know they will die in their sins, and the judgment of justice must be brought to bear against them. For this reason, my soul is in anguish, because I desire that all men should repent and be saved from this awful fate.
"I have tried mightily to bring all men unto repentance and I have had some success. But now, among those whom I have brought to thee, there are some who now refuse to repent. Therefore, I fear that after so great a labor, my efforts to save their souls will have been in vain and they will perish with the ungodly even though they belong to thy church. Such a thought is almost more than I can bear.
"What more can I do for them? Where have I failed in my duty to thee? Is the church under a curse because I have not followed thy ways well enough or served thee diligently enough? If I have failed thee in some way, I beg that you show me where I need to repent so that I might not bring this curse upon thy people. Tell me what I must do that I might bring these wayward members of thy church to repentance, for I know not how to do that."
As Alma prayed, the voice of the Lord came unto him saying, "Blessed art thou, Alma, and blessed are they who have been baptized in my name. And the reason why thou art blessed is because thou hast exercised exceeding faith in the words of my servant Abinadi when that was all you had to depend on. And the reason why those who have been baptized in my name are blessed is because they exercised exceeding faith in your words when that was all they had to depend upon. Thus, it is by faith in me through hearing the words of my servants that people are blessed.
"Thou art also blessed because thou have done as I have commanded when I commanded that thou should establish a church among this people. And the reason I have caused that a church should be established among them is so that they might be known as my people. I have told thee, and thou hast taught your people that baptism is a covenant whereby people willingly agree to bear my name and be known by my name before all people at all times. And if they will do this thing, then they shall be my people.
"Thou, Alma, my servant, have done this, and hast kept the covenant which thou hast made with me. Therefore, thou shalt have eternal life as I have promised. Thou hast gone forth in my name, as I have commanded thee, to gather together my sheep. And who are my sheep? Those who will hear my voice as spoken through the mouth of my servants. And those who will hear my voice, I have commanded that they should be received into my church, and those who are received into my church will I also received as my own. And how shall they be received into my church that I may receive them unto me? Behold, only those who have been baptized unto repentance will I receive, for those who will repent I will forgive.
"I who speak unto you am He that will take upon Himself the sins of the world. I have created man and I grant unto all men that they should believe on me so that, in the end, they might have a place at my right hand. But, how shall they have a place at my right hand unless they are called? And behold, they are called by my name. If they know me, they will come forth when I call and then they will have a place eternally at my right hand.
"But those who do not know me will not come forth when I call. Therefore, they must wait until the second trumpet shall be sounded. Then will those who never knew me come forth and shall stand before me and shall know that I am the Lord their God and their Redeemer. Yet, not withstanding this knowledge, they will not be redeemed, because I will confess unto them that since they knew me not, neither do I know them. Therefore, they must depart from my presence and go into an everlasting fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels.
"Blessed art thou, Alma, because thou has inquired of me concerning those transgressors who belong to my church. I say unto you, that whosoever will not hear my voice and hearken unto it shall not be received into my church, because I will not receive them on the last day. It matterth not to me if they have already been baptized and have been received into the church. If they will not hear my voice nor hearken unto my words, they are not mine. It is because of exceeding faith in my words that my blessing is given, but if there is no faith in my word, then the blessing is revoked.
"Therefore, I say unto you my servant Alma, go forth among the people of my church, and whosoever transgresses my word, ye shall judge them according to the sins which they have committed. If they have sinned and they confess their sins before thee and repent of those sins with all the sincerity of their heart, ye shall forgive them and I will forgive them also. Yea, as often as my people repent with sincerity of heart, that often will I forgive them of their sins which they have committed against me.
"But this is not all. Ye shall also forgive those sins which ye have committed against one another, for he that will not forgive his neighbor's transgression when his neighbor repents, that same person has brought himself under condemnation.
"Now, I say unto you, Alma, go, and whosoever will not repent of his sins, the same shall not be numbered among my people, for they know me not and neither do they exercise their faith in me. Therefore, their sins remain in them and they cannot be blessed. And this shall ye observe to do from this time forward."
And it came to pass that when Alma heard these words, he rose from his knees and wrote them down so that he might have them as he went forth to judge his people according to the commandment that God had given him. And whosoever was found to have transgressed God's word and did confess them and repented of their sins were numbered among the people of the church. But those who were judged by Alma to have committed iniquity but would not confess nor repent of their sins were not numbered among the people of the church and their names were blotted out from the records of the church.
And as Alma regulated all the affairs of the church according to the manner and commandment which he had received from God, it came to pass that the church began again to have peace. And the church prospered and grew exceedingly in the number of people who were baptized as the members walked conscientiously before God. And this was because Alma and those that labored with him taught the word of God in all diligence, even though they suffered many afflictions, being persecuted by those who did not belong to the church. Yet, not withstanding these afflictions, they continued to admonish their brethren and all other people concerning their sins according to the word of God. And he commanded the people to pray without ceasing and to give thanks in all things.
Things are not so different today. There are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have their own ideas about certain doctrines and feel that their understanding is more correct than the current position of living prophets. They quote scripture in ways that are different from the prophets, or use the reasoning of the world to justify their own private interpretations of God's word.
Some examples of this include those who feel that homosexual behavior should be allowed. Another example are those who feel that it is wrong to deny women the priesthood. There are a number of people who teach that polygamy is a law of God and that the church is wrong to forbid its practice. And there are many other false doctrines that various members of the church hold who then try to convince other members to accept their way of believing.
Quite often, when these people are brought before their bishop or stake president, who have the responsibility to judge the members of the church, they deny they have committed any sin. When the church finds them guilty of a serious transgression, such as teaching false doctrine in the church, or flagrantly violating the standards and beliefs of the church, they may find themselves being excommunicated, disfellowshipped, or restricted in what they can do in the church.
When this happens, it is common to hear these people complain that the church has dealt with them unfairly. They protest that the church has no right to impose any punishment on them. They criticize the church leaders for being close-minded, dictatorial, or out of touch with modern reality. They grumble that the church denies its members their right of free agency to think for themselves. And yet, while they denigrate the church leaders, they continue to claim they firmly believe that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, that the Book of Mormon is God's word, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's true church on the earth today.
What they fail to realize is that the church is doing only that which God had instructed Alma to do. God has commanded that those who will not heed the counsel and teachings of His authorized servants, are not accepted by Him and therefore, they are not to be numbered with those who are faithful in following the words of God's duly appointed servants.
There is only one faith, one doctrine, and one Spirit, and it is the responsibility of those who have been called to sit in judgment to insure that the unity of the faith is maintained. If they fail to insure this unity, then the church would be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine that men devise (see Eph. 4:11-14). Those who persist in following a different doctrine than what the church authorizes, are undermining the unity of the faith that God has said should exist in His church. Therefore, they are acting in opposition to God. As a result, they have already cut themselves off from God, and when the Church removes them from its membership rolls, all they are doing is physically ratifying what the church member has already spiritually done to themselves. Thus, it becomes an outward manifestation of their inward standing with God.