It is a well-known story among members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nicknamed the Mormons.
Ammon and his brothers were the sons of a Nephite King. The Nephites were God’s people who lived in the Americas starting 600 years before Christ was born. The king, Mosiah, knew his time on earth was coming to an end, and asked his sons who should be king. All of these young men declined the offer, wishing instead to go and serve as missionaries to the Lamanites. The Lamanites were those who were either led to hate the Nephites because of the traditions of their fathers, or who had openly rebelled against God’s Church.
Ammon separated from his other brothers and came to the land called Ishmael that was ruled by a man called Lamoni. Ammon was bound and brought before the king, who asked why he had come to this land where he was hated. Ammon surprised Lamoni by saying his only wish was to serve. Lamoni, pleased by this, set him up with other servants to guard the flocks.
A local band of Lamanites took immense pleasure in scattering the flocks of the king. The servants were far outnumbered and had no way of keeping this from happening. On the third day of Ammon’s service the flocks were once again scattered. The other servants began to murmur. They knew King Lamoni would have their lives, as it had happened to other servants before them.
Ammon immediately saw where he could use this experience to help open a door to missionary work. He calmed the servants down saying together they would re-gather the flocks. The servants obeyed, and soon enough they’d accomplished this task. Once again the band of Lamanites came to scatter the flocks. Ammon charged the servants to surround the flocks, and stepped up to deal with these awful men.
Try to imagine the sight of one, lone, unknown individual going up against a throng of evildoers. They had no idea the Lord had promised Ammon’s father no harm would come to this son, nor did they realize what power had been granted to Ammon because of his righteous desires.
Ammon began to fling stones with his sling. The Lamanites were astounded as man after man fell, six in all. They rushed at him with their own slings and clubs, but none could touch him. Any one who raised a hand against him had his arm cut off. The only man to die by the sword, however, was the leader of the pack. As he went down the others began to flee from this frightening sight.
Once the Lamanites left, Ammon placed his sword and sling away, continued to water the flocks, and returned to the king’s household. His fellow servants, no doubt shocked and amazed by all they had seen, followed his lead. But upon returning to the household they gathered up many of the arms that had been cut off to use as a witness of the remarkable events.
Needless to say King Lamoni was astonished. He asked where Ammon was, to which the servants told him he was preparing the horses for the king’s journey into his father’s land, which had been commanded of them even before they left to water the flocks.
Lamoni’s words beautifully show his surprise. “Surely there has not been any servant among all my servants that has been so faithful as this man; for even he doth remember all my commandments to execute them” (Alma 18:10). Lamoni sent for Ammon, and then the missionary work began.
What can we learn from Ammon about being a successful missionary? Whether you’re a member of a church, specifically called to be a missionary, or simply feel the importance of sharing the Lord’s gospel, here are a few keys to follow:
First is to study, pray and fast (Alma 17:2-3). You can’t teach what you don’t know. You need to pray about the things you read to know if they are truth, and you should fast to keep yourselves in better tune with the Spirit of the Lord.
Second, you need to love God and others. I think loving God comes first. It was because of their love for God that the sons of Mosiah wanted to go out and preach His word, to turn the hearts of those who didn’t know better towards the light. As you explore and enlarge that love for God, you might be surprised to find your capacity to love those who may hate you growing by leaps and bounds.
Third, we need to give service and develop trust. Why is giving service so important? It is a remarkable teaching tool. Think of the Savior, who led a life of service. Only the most humble willingly set aside their own pride and serve others. Those who voluntarily give of their time, efforts, talents, and means instill in others the desire to trust. Ammon’s first act as a captive of Lamoni was to offer his service. He saved the king’s flocks. He could have gone strutting back in to the king, all full of himself, and demanded that Lamoni now listen to him. He could have caused much fear in the hearts of those who didn’t understand. Instead, he quietly went on with the work he’d been commanded to do.
Fourth, we need to teach from the scriptures. Once King Lamoni trusted Ammon, he allowed this great man to teach the word of God. Doors were opened. Lessons were taught. An entire city was converted to the Lord’s Church. It was truly a miracle.
One last thing. We can be the greatest orator in the world, teaching and preaching whatever may come into our hearts, but it won’t mean a thing unless we have the Holy Spirit with us. If we are not worthy to have his presence with us, if we are teaching things that go against the Lord’s ways, the Holy Spirit cannot reside. It is the Holy Spirit that testifies to our hearts, and then the teaching truly begins.
To be the most effective teachers, or missionaries, we have to have that Spirit with us.
To read the full story of Ammon, start with Alma 17.