The Book of Alma begins with the account of Nehor, who practiced Priestcraft. Through law, the Nephites protected themselves against the motivations of those who would lead them astray. Amlici took his intentions to a new level when he was defeated by popular vote and armed his followers.Alma 2:18 "Nevertheless the Lord did strengthen the hand of the Nephites, that they slew the Amlicites with great slaughter, that they began to flee before them."
When the Amlicites joined forces with the Lamanites, the Nephites feared destruction. Again, their cause was blessed by the Lord and they were strengthened.
Alma 2:28 "Nevertheless, the Nephites being strengthened by the hand of the Lord, having prayed mightily to him that he would deliver them out of the hands of their enemies, therefore the Lord did hear their cries, and did strengthen them, and the Lamanites and the Amlicites did fall before them."
Why did these clashes of opinions escalate to war? The law allowed people to hold their own opinions. No one could legally persecute another for their beliefs. However, when one faction desired to compel another group to believe with lethal force, then war was inevitable.
Alma 3:8 "And this was done that their seed might be distinguished from the seed of their brethren, that thereby the Lord God might preserve his people, that they might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions which would prove their destruction."
The conflicts between the Amlicites and Nephites led to huge loss of life. But, soon the Nephites reemerged with strength and many, lacking wisdom, elevated themselves in comparison to their neighbors and within the church this inequality was so pronounced that Alma gave up his judgement-seat to preach repentance.
Alma 4:15 "And now it came to pass that Alma, having seen the afflictions of the humble followers of God, and the persecutions which were heaped upon them by the remainder of his people, and seeing all their inequality, began to be very sorrowful; nevertheless the Spirit of the Lord did not fail him."
The preaching of Alma is powerful, so powerful that his words today speak to me and touch my spirit. Who can not be moved by the words:
"And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?"
Drawing on the past history, Alma calls his people to remember the bondage they suffered and warns them that this same decline will bring them to destruction or to their knees in repentance.
The people in Zarahemla were in a bad way but the next town, the people of Gideon, we're in better spiritual condition. Alma had reason to rejoice in this group of people.
Alma 7:26 "And now my beloved brethren, I have spoken these words unto you according to the Spirit which testifieth in me; and my soul doth exceedingly rejoice, because of the exceeding diligence and heed which ye have given unto my word."
Here is a good example how the goodness of people strengthens the missionaries who can then go to preach with more resilience.