BMGD #23: Alma 8-12

June 4, 2012 | 7 comments
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CHAPTER 8
1 And now it came to pass that Alma returned from the land of Gideon, after having taught the people of Gideon many things which cannot be written, having established the order of the church, according as he had before done in the land of Zarahemla, yea, he returned to his own house at Zarahemla to rest himself from the labors which he had performed.

What does “which cannot be written” mean?  Does it mean our writer ran out of space?  Does it mean that the things were sacred?  (If so, what effect does it have on the audience to hear “you can’t hear the sacred part”?) What other reasons might there be for not writing these things?  Also note that we never would have known that there was more taught in Gideon that wasn’t recorded without this note, so what’s the point of telling the reader that there are things that you are not telling the reader?  I hate it when people do that to me in real life. I usually pester them until they give up and tell me.   Hm, maybe that is sort of the point here–that’s we’d pester the Lord (since the writer isn’t handy) until we learn these things.  (I’m only half-joking here.)

Is “established the order of the church” different from “established the church”?

Given that these people were basically righteous when Alma got there (as his sermon to them makes clear), what does it mean to say that he established the order of the church there?

“As he had done . . . Zarahemla” is interesting because it points up the commonalities between the two communities when Alma’s sermons pointed up the differences (since Z was wicked and Gideon was righteous).

Why do we need to know that he returned to his own house to rest? (This is a somewhat unusual note in the scriptures, although similar to Jesus seeking privacy/quiet/rest on a few occasions.)  I do really like it:  along with the idea of not running faster than we have strength, it is one of the few brakes on zealots that we have handy.  It is something we should model.

 2 And thus ended the ninth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi.

Brant Gardner:

This is a most unusual chapter beginning for the typical way a modern writer would begin a chapter. What we have as the opening of chapter 8 is what a modern writer would consider a conclusion. After the end of the sermon in chapter 7, we have the final “history” of what happened after the sermon in Gideon. The modern mind attaches this information to the episode in Gideon. Mormon places it at the beginning of a new chapter. This suggests how completely his editorial rule of breaking at the end of inserted sermons effects the structure of his text. We saw a very short chapter in chapter 6 that was also original to the 1830 edition, then an inserted sermon, and now a chapter that begins with what we would determine to be a conclusion to the sermon in Gideon. For the modern reader, there is nothing about a sermon that particularly dictates a chapter change. Why would it have been such a powerful conceptual unit for Mormon? Citation

Gardner suggests that the answer is that Mormon is always quoting the speeches but then writing his own narrative bridges, so he starts a new chapter for the narrative part because it is a new source, and hence distinct in his own mind.

 3 And it came to pass in the commencement of the *tenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, that Alma departed from thence and took his journey over into the land of Melek, on the west of the river Sidon, on the west by the borders of the wilderness.

Do you read v1-3 to say that Alma took a year’s rest?

What are we supposed to do with all of the geographical information?  Are we supposed to be drawing a map as we go?  Are we supposed to find symbolic elements in the locations (“by the borders of the wilderness” is very evocative, no?)?  Something else?

 4 And he began to teach the people in the land of Melek according to the holy order of God, by which he had been called; and he began to teach the people throughout all the land of Melek.

What does “according to the holy order of God” mean here?

Is this verse just repetitive (and, if so, why?) or is “in the land of Melek” distinct from “throughout all the land of Melek”?

 5 And it came to pass that the people came to him throughout all the borders of the land which was by the wilderness side. And they were baptized throughout all the land;

One suspects that “which was by the wilderness side” is important, and that we should have been seeing that same importance in v3.  (Not sure what, though.)

 6 So that when he had finished his work at Melek he departed thence, and traveled three days’ journey on the north of the land of Melek; and he came to a city which was called Ammonihah.

Review v3-5.  I would call this “a story without a story” in the sense that it is just a summary with no meat.  Why do you think this was included in the record?  (My guess: to show a pattern that Alma followed pretty much everywhere he taught.)

 7 Now it was the custom of the people of Nephi to call their lands, and their cities, and their villages, yea, even all their small villages, after the name of him who first possessed them; and thus it was with the land of Ammonihah.

Why do the small villages get special attention here?

This is the first use of “Ammonihah” in the BoM.

Why did we need this background about their naming practices?

So . . . are the people in Ammonihah Nephites?  Or is that ancient history?

The “yea, even all . . .” implies that the author thinks the reader might be surprised by this information.  Why might that be?

I don’t think this was a universal custom, what with Alma and Gideon, etc., but maybe we don’t have enough information to judge.

Isn’t it weird that there was this Nephite named Ammonihah and we never, ever heard anything about him or his people until now?

 8 And it came to pass that when Alma had come to the city of Ammonihah he began to preach the word of God unto them.

 9 Now Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people of the city of Ammonihah; therefore they would not hearken unto the words of Alma.

What does this verse teach you about Satan?  Is this verse written in a sort of shorthand that elides the issue of why/how Satan got hold on them?  (I’m a little concerned that, as written, it kind of suggests that the people were not responsible for the state that they were in, Satan was.)

Why do you think our writer chose to describe the state of the people in the largest generality (“Satan had hold on them”) instead of listing specific sins (“they were idolaters,” etc.)?

 10 Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance.

‘Wrestling’ was also used to describe Enos’ prayer, as well as Jacob wrestling with a messenger from God.  What does this word tell you about their experience with God, and how is this relevant to your own relationship with God? Why the wrestling?  Wouldn’t God have been on Alma’s side here?

What does “pour out” suggest to you about the Spirit?

What does “unto” repentance mean?  (It almost sounds as if the baptism causes the repentance, but I suspect that is not right.)

What does “labor” suggest to you?

I see four phrases, presented in pairs, in this verse:

1. labored much in the spirit

2. wrestling with God in mighty prayer

3. that he would pour out his Spirit

4. that he would grant that he might baptize

Note that the first two are strong actions that Alma will undertake (labor, wrestle) and they also create a parallel between “in the spirit” and “in mighty prayer.”  Note that the second are two results he hopes for that include actions the Lord will take (pour, grant) and that they create a parallel between the Spirit and baptism.

Note that spirit is not capitalized the first time it is used in the verse, but it is the second time.  How might this be significant?

 11 Nevertheless, they hardened their hearts, saying unto him: Behold, we know that thou art Alma; and we know that thou art high priest over the church which thou hast established in many parts of the land, according to your tradition; and we are not of thy church, and we do not believe in such foolish traditions.

Note how much knowledge they have about the church.

What precisely did they do when they hardened their hearts (=minds) here?

How do you decide which traditions to believe?

Is it significant that both v10 and v11 begin with “nevertheless”?

V10 sounded like the perfect recipe–what do you learn from the fact that v11 shows that it was a perfect flop?

V9 told us that Satan had hold on their hearts (=minds); how is that related to the hardening of their hearts in this verse?

Remember that these people live pretty far away from Zarahemla–v6 says that Alma had to travel three days to get there–but they know a fair amount about the situation in Zarahemla.  What do you conclude from this?

I find it deliciously ironic that both the righteous and the wicked accuse each other of believing in false “traditions” in the BoM.

 12 And now we know that because we are not of thy church we know that thou hast no power over us; and thou hast delivered up the judgment-seat unto Nephihah; therefore thou art not the chief judge over us.

Interesting verse–does it suggest that they would have listened to him had he still been chief judge?  Does that imply that he shouldn’t have given up the seat?  Does it imply that a conjoined church and state is inherently coercive?

I find it interesting that they are so very willing to recognize civil authority and at the same time so very unwilling to recognize religious authority.

I’m pretty sure that this verse implies that they are under the political jurisdiction of Zarahemla–that’s interesting, considering that they are so far away.  (On the other hand, maybe Alma is just a really slow walker, and “three days” meant it was like three miles or something.)

There’s something sort of off about this verse to me.  It boils down to “you aren’t the chief judge so we don’t have to listen to you!”  I’m not sure what’s bothering me about that, but it just doesn’t sync.

Did Alma have power over church members?

Note that we are told that Alma prayed and that’s it.  So either these people are responding to Alma’s prayers, or Alma also taught them (but that was not recorded).

 13 Now when the people had said this, and withstood all his words, and reviled him, and spit upon him, and caused that he should be cast out of their city, he departed thence and took his journey towards the city which was called Aaron.

What’s the moral of the Ammonihah story?

I’m curious about withstood/reviled/spit.  Three things, or three ways of saying the same thing?

I think the very worstest thing that we do as scripture readers is to know either how the story ends, or what isn’t the end of the story (even when it looks like the end of the story).  This looks like a miserable defeat.  But he isn’t done.  We, however, live our own lives in v13, not the end of the story, but sometimes it is hard to recognize the defeats in the scriptures when we know the larger stories.  This leaves the defeats in our own lives feeling more pronounced or unexpected that they perhaps should be.

 14 And it came to pass that while he was journeying thither, being weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people who were in the city of Ammonihah, it came to pass while Alma was thus weighed down with sorrow, behold an angel of the Lord appeared unto him, saying:

Does “sorrow” surprise you?  Was that the right reaction to have?

What does “wading” suggest to you about tribulation?

It seems the “you aren’t done yet–go back and try again!” is a fairly frequent theme in the scriptures:  Hagar, Jonah, Lehi/Nephi, and, here Alma.  (Are there others that I am forgetting?)  What can we learn from this pattern?

 15 Blessed art thou, Alma; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from him. Behold, I am he that delivered it unto you.

The angel’s concern is to change Alma’s attitude.  How does he do it?  What does he do?  Why?  The idea of an “attitude adjustment” instead of a “circumstances adjustment” is very interesting to me.  (Maybe we should be praying for this more often?)

I think the “I am he” implies that this is the same angel that was part of Alma’s conversion experience.  Why would the angel need to tell him that?  (Does it suggest that all angels look alike or something?)  Why is it significant?  (Is this Alma’s “guardian angel”?)

Combining the two ideas above, I find it interesting that both times that this angel appeared to Alma, the purpose was to get him to do a 180–once for his own soul, and now for his attitude toward his mission.

Chieko N. Okazaki:

We may not understand the pattern that our lives make as they intersect, connect, separate, and intersect again, but God does. Of course, it was no accident that the angel who rebuked the erring Alma the Younger in a “voice of thunder” was the same angel who returned to Alma, now twenty years a missionary, to say, “Blessed art thou, Alma; … for thou hast been faithful.” (Mosiah 27:11Alma 8:15.) Their lives made a shining pattern. Apr 93 GC

 16 And behold, I am sent to command thee that thou return to the city of Ammonihah, and preach again unto the people of the city; yea, preach unto them. Yea, say unto them, except they repent the Lord God will destroy them.

Interesting–does this imply that Alma’s decision to leave the city was a mistake?  (Consider v24.)

Any parallels with Jonah here?

This is not an easy assignment he’s getting, what with the spitting and everything.

What can you learn from v14-16 about encouraging the discouraged?

 17 For behold, they do study at this time that they may destroy the liberty of thy people, (for thus saith the Lord) which is contrary to the statutes, and judgments, and commandments which he has given unto his people.

Here’s a link to all BoM uses of forms of “study.”  What do you conclude about this word?

What is “(for thus sayeth the Lord)” doing in this verse?

I find “study to destroy the liberty” to be most interesting, because that’s maybe the last thing we would have expected.  Debauchery, sure.  Idolatry, OK.  Wickedness, yup.  But destroying liberty?  When they were so keen on their government?

Is this liberty in the political sense, or free agency, or what?

In what ways is seeking to destroy liberty contrary to the commandments?

 18 Now it came to pass that after Alma had received his message from the angel of the Lord he returned speedily to the land of Ammonihah. And he entered the city by another way, yea, by the way which is on the south of the city of Ammonihah.

I like “speedily,” especially given what he must know he will face there.

Do you presume that entering a different way was inspiration or desperation?

Consider Alma 8:13, 14, 16, and 18.  What can you learn from comparing Alma with Jonah?

 19 And as he entered the city he was an hungered, and he said to a man: Will ye give to an humble servant of God something to eat?

Is it ever OK to call yourself “humble”?

Do you think this was all planned out and/or inspired on Alma’s part, or does the plot develop organically here?

I’m struck by the fact that his basic, physical, inescapable need is the driver of the story here.

Can you make a useful parallel with Jesus asking the Samaritan woman (John 4) for a drink here?

Can you draw any useful parallels between this story and that of Elijah and the widow of Zaraphath?  (The differences are also interesting, mostly the lack of famine.  Also, the widow gets an awesome thank-you miracle while Amulek gets . . . something else entirely.)

 20 And the man said unto him: I am a Nephite, and I know that thou art a holy prophet of God, for thou art the man whom an angel said in a vision: Thou shalt receive. Therefore, go with me into my house and I will impart unto thee of my food; and I know that thou wilt be a blessing unto me and my house.

There’s lots of interesting parallels between this story and Acts 10.  What can you learn from comparing them?

Why would Amulek lead off by identifying himself as a Nephite?  (Was that unusual for the people of Ammonihah?  Or normal?)  The phrasing almost suggests that his being a Nephite means that he knows Alma is a prophet, but that sure didn’t work for the (presumably Nephite, since they are under Zarahemla’s political regime, but maybe not?) people who kicked Alma out of Ammonihah last time.

Alma is the chief priest, but not normally identified as a prophet.  Why does Amulek call him one here?

Why didn’t he just say “yes”?

Note that two angelic visitations were required to hook these two people up.  Each of them had to be faithful to the inspiration received in order for the plan to work.  What might you learn from this?

I think part of the message here is that not only do people with big, important callings get angels, but random, sometimes-slacker-ish people get them, too.

21 And it came to pass that the man received him into his house; and the man was called Amulek; and he brought forth bread and meat and set before Alma.

Is it significant that we don’t get Amulek’s name until so late in the game, when it would have been more natural to name him earlier?

22 And it came to pass that Alma ate bread and was filled; and he blessed Amulek and his house, and he gave thanks unto God.

Why is this verse in the record?

Is it significant that Alma was given bread and meat but is only noted to have eaten the bread?

Possible parallel to Jewish practice explored here.

(Extremely random thought:  sometimes you find LDS scholars exploring OT background to the BoM.  Sometimes you find them exploring a New World background to the BoM.  But I can’t think of much focused on the basic fact that the BoM reflects syncretistic cultures.)

23 And after he had eaten and was filled he said unto Amulek: I am Alma, and am the high priest over the church of God throughout the land.

Skousen reads “churches” instead of “church” here.

Is the eating just to move the plot along, or is it significant?

It may be that previous conversation was just not included in the record, but as it is written, the record reads as if Alma said nothing (after his initial question) until he was finished eating.  If you read it that way, how might that be significant?  (There seems to me to be a real pregnant pause with the entering the house, presenting the food, eating, with no words.)

Note that the first time Alma was in Ammonihah, the people knew his name (see v11).   I assume from the “I am Alma” that Amulek did not know Alma’s name until Alma said it.  This is weird.  What’s going on here?  Why would the wicked people have more knowledge than Amulek?

Is it significant that Amulek identified Alma as a “holy prophet of God” but Alma calls himself the high priest?

24 And behold, I have been called to preach the word of God among all this people, according to the spirit of revelation and prophecy; and I was in this land and they would not receive me, but they cast me out and I was about to set my back towards this land forever.

Was Amulek’s welcome important for Alma personally?  (What I am thinking is that Amulek’s revelation and the food were a confirmation to Alma that he was supposed to be there and that the Lord would support him.)

Note that without the angel, Alma would have made the wrong decision about his mission.

25 But behold, I have been commanded that I should turn again and prophesy unto this people, yea, and to testify against them concerning their iniquities.

26 And now, Amulek, because thou hast fed me and taken me in, thou art blessed; for I was an hungered, for I had fasted many days.

This is the first we hear of Alma’s having fasted. Is the omission significant?

27 And Alma tarried many days with Amulek before he began to preach unto the people.

Why do we need to know this?  What happened during this time (rest, teaching, ice-breaking get-to-know-you games?) and why aren’t we told?

28 And it came to pass that the people did wax more gross in their iniquities.

Oops.  Why did they get worse?  (A cynic might say that it is because Alma was delaying in v27.)

29 And the word came to Alma, saying: Go; and also say unto my servant Amulek, go forth and prophesy unto this people, saying—Repent ye, for thus saith the Lord, except ye repent I will visit this people in mine anger; yea, and I will not turn my fierce anger away.

Why didn’t Amulek get the word personally (esp. since he has shown himself perfectly capable of receiving and acting on inspiration)?

30 And Alma went forth, and also Amulek, among the people, to declare the words of God unto them; and they were filled with the Holy Ghost.

31 And they had power given unto them, insomuch that they could not be confined in dungeons; neither was it possible that any man could slay them; nevertheless they did not exercise their power until they were bound in bands and cast into prison. Now, this was done that the Lord might show forth his power in them.

Is Amulek seen as the key to Alma’s missionary success?  (Remember that when Alma was alone, the people had been able to take him and cast him out of the city.)

I’m curious about the “nevertheless . . .” line, mostly because I can’t figure out why they would have had occasion to exercise their power before this.  Is the implication that this was the first time they needed this power?  Or that they should have used it before this?

One suspects that there are some reaaally interesting stories behind the brief summation of this verse . . .

32 And it came to pass that they went forth and began to preach and to prophesy unto the people, according to the spirit and power which the Lord had given them.

Why didn’t the Lord send Amulek to Alma in the first place?  Why let him get kicked out and depressed?  What is the lesson for you here?

The words of Alma, and also the words of Amulek, which were declared unto the people who were in the land of Ammonihah. And also they are cast into prison, and delivered by the miraculous power of God which was in them, according to the record of Alma.

CHAPTER 9

1 And again, I, Alma, having been commanded of God that I should take Amulek and go forth and preach again unto this people, or the people who were in the city of Ammonihah, it came to pass as I began to preach unto them, they began to contend with me, saying:

This verse strongly suggests that Alma is the writer of this section.  Was this true previously?  How do we know?

Why does this verse repeat information that we already know from 8:29?

Does the “began” mean that this verse is backing up chronologically to 8:29?  If not, how else might it be understood?

2 Who art thou? Suppose ye that we shall believe the testimony of one man, although he should preach unto us that the earth should pass away?

What do you learn from their criticism of Alma here?  Why wouldn’t Amulek’s presence have undercut this claim? (But see 10:12.) How might we do the same thing today?

The “who are you” is delightfully ironic, since the last time he was there, the people knew exactly who he was (see 8:11).

Behind their complaint is that they will believe a majority opinion, not a minority one.  Is this universally bad?  How would one know when (not) to follow it?

3 Now they understood not the words which they spake; for they knew not that the earth should pass away.

This verse strikes me as a bit unusual in that Alma (or Mormon?) thought that we would not have figured this out without his help . . . I’m feeling a little insulted here, guys!

4 And they said also: We will not believe thy words if thou shouldst prophesy that this great city should be destroyed in one day.

Why do they mention this?  Does it relate to their founding myths regarding the destruction of Jrsm?  Why would they consider Ammonihah a “great city” when it seems to be a sort of distant backwater to Zarahemla?

Presumably, there are an infinite number of examples of things that they would not believe that they could have mentioned here.  Is it revealing that they chose to mention the destruction of the world and the destruction of their city?

5 Now they knew not that God could do such marvelous works, for they were a hard-hearted and a stiffnecked people.

Note the structure in v2-5:  two claims of what the people will not believe, each one followed by the narrator explaining something about the claim to us.  How might this pattern be significant?

6 And they said: Who is God, that sendeth no more authority than one man among this people, to declare unto them the truth of such great and marvelous things?

Note on this verse here.

This verse implies that they believe that, if God were to send a message, it would be sent by multiple messengers.  Isn’t this just another way of saying “by the mouth of two or three witnesses will every word be established”?  So what are they doing wrong here?

Where the (&$#$ is Amulek?

7 And they stood forth to lay their hands on me; but behold, they did not. And I stood with boldness to declare unto them, yea, I did boldly testify unto them, saying:

What does Alma accomplish by using (forms of) “bold” twice in one verse?

Note that the “behold” brings the reader into the story.

8 Behold, O ye wicked and perverse generation, how have ye forgotten the tradition of your fathers; yea, how soon ye have forgotten the commandments of God.

Takes a lot of nerve to call a crowd trying to attack you “wicked and perverse.”

Usually, the traditions of your fathers is a bad thing in the BoM . . .

9 Do ye not remember that our father, Lehi, was brought out of Jerusalem by the hand of God? Do ye not remember that they were all led by him through the wilderness?

I like how he appeals to his common heritage with them here.

It seems that asking wicked people questions is a favorite teaching technique of Alma’s.

Is the “him” who was doing the leading Lehi or God?

Alma seems to make a point that not only Lehi but “they  . . . all” were led by God.  Why was this point important to Alma?

10 And have ye forgotten so soon how many times he delivered our fathers out of the hands of their enemies, and preserved them from being destroyed, even by the hands of their own brethren?

Thinking about v9-10, is this garden-variety memory (as in:  I can’t find my car keys), or is this a different usage?

In v9-10, why does Alma focus on God’s delivering ability, when these people don’t need deliverance from political enemies but personal repentance?

11 Yea, and if it had not been for his matchless power, and his mercy, and his long-suffering towards us, we should unavoidably have been cut off from the face of the earth long before this period of time, and perhaps been consigned to a state of endless misery and woe.

I like the “we”:  not only does it team Alma and his (hostile) audience, but it teams all of them with their ancestors.

Why would long-suffering (=patience) be an issue here?

Notice the “probationary state” idea undergirds the logic of the final phrase of the verse.

12 Behold, now I say unto you that he commandeth you to repent; and except ye repent, ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. But behold, this is not all—he has commanded you to repent, or he will utterly destroy you from off the face of the earth; yea, he will visit you in his anger, and in his fierce anger he will not turn away.

I like the idea that lack of repentance has both this-world and next-world consequences.

“This is not all” sounds like a game show to me.

What do you learn about anger from this verse?

“Turn away” is the idea behind “repentance,” so I like the parallel in this verse that if the people don’t turn away from their sins, the Lord will “turn away” from them.

13 Behold, do ye not remember the words which he spake unto Lehi, saying that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land? And again it is said that: Inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.

The “inasmuch . . . in the land” line is a refrain throughout the BoM, and oft-repeated.  Why is this such central material?  What does “prosper” mean in this context?  (Were these people “prospering” right now?)

Note how “prosper in the land” is the antithesis of “cut off from the presence of the Lord.”  What does the fact that these are opposites teach you about each phrase?

I assume Alma thinks that they actually “remembered,” this, but just weren’t living it.  (See 2 Nephi 1:20.)

14 Now I would that ye should remember, that inasmuch as the Lamanites have not kept the commandments of God, they have been cut off from the presence of the Lord. Now we see that the word of the Lord has been verified in this thing, and the Lamanites have been cut off from his presence, from the beginning of their transgressions in the land.

What does this verse teach you about what it means to be cut off from the presence of the Lord?  (Note that, because of the Fall, we all are, to some extent.  But this is obviously something else.  Something that was even “from the beginning” of their transgressions, not just when Nephi and Co. left them.)

Is it significant that “transgressions” and not “sins” is used here?

15 Nevertheless I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for them in the day of judgment than for you, if ye remain in your sins, yea, and even more tolerable for them in this life than for you, except ye repent.

What does the word “tolerable” suggest to you about the judgment?

16 For there are many promises which are extended to the Lamanites; for it is because of the traditions of their fathers that caused them to remain in their state of ignorance; therefore the Lord will be merciful unto them and prolong their existence in the land.

What does this verse teach us about free agency?

An implication of this verse for us today is that it is virtually impossible for us to judge another person, given that we don’t know what kinds of “traditions of their fathers” are manifesting in terrible choices for which the person herself will not be held accountable.

17 And at some period of time they will be brought to believe in his word, and to know of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers; and many of them will be saved, for the Lord will be merciful unto all who call on his name.

Why is this same mercy not extended to the people of Ammonihah, and what does this teach you about the justice of God?  (I think the “but” that begins v18 is pretty much begging us to contrast these guys with the Lamanites.)

18 But behold, I say unto you that if ye persist in your wickedness that your days shall not be prolonged in the land, for the Lamanites shall be sent upon you; and if ye repent not they shall come in a time when you know not, and ye shall be visited with utter destruction; and it shall be according to the fierce anger of the Lord.

What do you make of the Lord using the Lamanites as an instrument in his hands for punishment here?  Do similar things happen today?

Does “when ye know not” mean that they won’t have knowledge (of the gospel) or that they won’t know when the time will be when the Lamanites will attack them?

19 For he will not suffer you that ye shall live in your iniquities, to destroy his people. I say unto you, Nay; he would rather suffer that the Lamanites might destroy all his people who are called the people of Nephi, if it were possible that they could fall into sins and transgressions, after having had so much light and so much knowledge given unto them of the Lord their God;

Skousen reads “this people” instead of “his people” here.

The beginning of this verse is pretty word:  it seems to say that the Lord would prefer that the Lamanites destroy these people than that they destroy themselves.  If they are getting destroyed either way, why would it make any difference to the Lord as to who is doing the destroying?

Is it significant that he refers to “all his people who are called the people of Nephi”?  (I would have thought that we were just talking about the people of Ammonihah here.)

Are “sins” and “transgressions” the same thing (if so, why duplicate?) or two different things (if so, what is the difference) in this verse?

Are “light” and “knowledge” the same thing (if so, why duplicate?) or two different things (if so, what is the difference) in this verse?

Is there a relationship between sin/transgression and light/knowledge in this verse?

20 Yea, after having been such a highly favored people of the Lord; yea, after having been favored above every other nation, kindred, tongue, or people; after having had all things made known unto them, according to their desires, and their faith, and prayers, of that which has been, and which is, and which is to come;

Is “all things” hyperbole here?

What does it mean to be “highly favored” by the Lord?  Does it mean that the Lord plays favorites?  Why would the Lord favor one people above another?

What do you learn about desire, faith, and prayer in this verse?  How do they relate to knowledge?

Is there a relationship between the triplet desire/faith/prayer and has been/is/is to come?

21 Having been visited by the Spirit of God; having conversed with angels, and having been spoken unto by the voice of the Lord; and having the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and also many gifts, the gift of speaking with tongues, and the gift of preaching, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the gift of translation;

Note that these people have “forgotten” all of these things.  That’s a fascinating dynamic!

Is this verse presenting a hierarchy of divine communication, or is the order of items random?

There are four “having” phrases and four “gifts of” in this verse.  Is each “having” related to its corresponding “gift”?  Is there another pattern?

22 Yea, and after having been delivered of God out of the land of Jerusalem, by the hand of the Lord; having been saved from famine, and from sickness, and all manner of diseases of every kind; and they having waxed strong in battle, that they might not be destroyed; having been brought out of bondage time after time, and having been kept and preserved until now; and they have been prospered until they are rich in all manner of things—

V20-22 have a whole bunch ‘o phrases beginning with the word “having.”  Is the order significant?  How do the items relate to each other?

23 And now behold I say unto you, that if this people, who have received so many blessings from the hand of the Lord, should transgress contrary to the light and knowledge which they do have, I say unto you that if this be the case, that if they should fall into transgression, it would be far more tolerable for the Lamanites than for them.

The cynic would say:  you are better off not learning and living the gospel, because then your punishment would be greater if you transgress.

24 For behold, the promises of the Lord are extended to the Lamanites, but they are not unto you if ye transgress; for has not the Lord expressly promised and firmly decreed, that if ye will rebel against him that ye shall utterly be destroyed from off the face of the earth?

Why is he spending so much time on the contrast between them and the Lamanites?

I’m also concerned about the Lamanite contrast:  are we to believe that all of their iniquity came upon them in this generation?  (Because if it had been in past generations, then shouldn’t they get the same get-out-of-jail-free-because-it-is-your-parents’-fault card that the Lamanites get?)

Jim F.:  “Why would the Lord prefer to have all the Nephites destroyed rather than allow them to continue in sin after he has blessed them? To unbelievers the Lord may sound petulant, like a “martyr-parent,” who says, “Since you are ungrateful after all I’ve done for you, I’ll show you.” How would you explain this to someone who saw these verses that way?”

25 And now for this cause, that ye may not be destroyed, the Lord has sent his angel to visit many of his people, declaring unto them that they must go forth and cry mightily unto this people, saying: Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is nigh at hand;

Skousen reads, “repent ye repent ye” here.

Does this mean the visits to Amulek and Alma, or something else?  Are there more preachers?

I think we might think of angelic visits as a “reward” for really righteous people; does this verse support that idea?

26 And not many days hence the Son of God shall come in his glory; and his glory shall be the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, equity, and truth, full of patience, mercy, and long-suffering, quick to hear the cries of his people and to answer their prayers.

How does v26 relate to the verse before it?

“Equity” is an interesting entry on this list–what does it mean?

Consider the qualities of Jesus Christ that are listed.  Which one resonates the most with you and why?  Which one have you really struggled to develop?  How does this description square with the destruction fire-and-brimstone of the preceding verses?

Think about v19-24 and then think about v26:  Do those two chunks sound as if they are describing the same person?

Note that “not many days” mean about 80 years in this case.  What do you conclude from that?

In what ways is it accurate to describe Jesus’ birth as coming “in his glory”?  (We usually emphasize the humility of his mortal experience.)

What does “and his glory shall be the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father” do in this verse?  Is it just making the point that the Son is the Only Begotten?  (The cynic would ask, well, who else’s glory would he comes with, really?)

Notice the two parallel phrases: full of grace, equity, truth and full of patience, mercy, and long-suffering.  How do these two relate?

Are “cries” and “prayers” the same thing or different things in this verse?

I know I am a bad person for thinking this, but I don’t like the “repent–Jesus is coming soon!” message at all.  (I’ve seen bumper stickers that say “Jesus is coming–look busy!”  Shouldn’t we be repenting out of faith and love and not fear that our chance to repent is almost over and Jesus is about to be here to whack us with a stick or something?  I’m just not super-keen on the idea of repentance being motivated by the “Time is running out!  Act now!  First 100 callers get an extra scripture case!” kind of approach.

27 And behold, he cometh to redeem those who will be baptized unto repentance, through faith on his name.

Brant Gardner:

The ordinance of baptism is not explicitly an important aspect of Nephite religion until Alma the Elder. By the time his son is speaking, the ordinance has become definitive, such that the Atoning Messiah has his mission only to the baptized. What this means is that the ordinance of baptism has completely supplanted the Jewish sacrificial atonement. In the development of the gospel in the New World, there is clearly a movement away from the sacrificial cult of Israel and toward a more spiritualized worship that is much more reminiscent of Christianity and even Israel after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Romans. Citation

28 Therefore, prepare ye the way of the Lord, for the time is at hand that all men shall reap a reward of their works, according to that which they have been—if they have been righteous they shall reap the salvation of their souls, according to the power and deliverance of Jesus Christ; and if they have been evil they shall reap the damnation of their souls, according to the power and captivation of the devil.

Skousen reads “every man shall reap a reward of their works” here.

What exactly does it mean to “prepare the way of the Lord”?

What does this verse teach about works?  (Are “works” good deeds or ordinances?  What about faith?)

I like “according to that which they have been”: it suggests to me that the focus is on what people become.

What does “reap” suggest to you about what is happening here?

Notice “power and deliverance of Jesus Christ” compared with “power and captivation of the devil.”

Does Alma see the incarnation as the (or maybe “a”) time of judgment?  If not, how do you explain the relationship of v27 to v28?

29 Now behold, this is the voice of the angel, crying unto the people.

What does this mean, exactly:  did the angel speak directly to the people?  Or did Alma deliver the angel’s words?  And does v29 apply to what came before it or what comes after it?

30 And now, my beloved brethren, for ye are my brethren, and ye ought to be beloved, and ye ought to bring forth works which are meet for repentance, seeing that your hearts have been grossly hardened against the word of God, and seeing that ye are a lost and a fallen people.

I’m very curious about the difference between “ought” and “is” in this verse.

31 Now it came to pass that when I, Alma, had spoken these words, behold, the people were wroth with me because I said unto them that they were a hard-hearted and a stiffnecked people.

Does this mean that Alma said the wrong thing to them?

32 And also because I said unto them that they were a lost and a fallen people they were angry with me, and sought to lay their hands upon me, that they might cast me into prison.

Does this say something about the government in Ammonihah? (Compare 10:13.)  Would this have been extralegal, or did their system permit this?

What I find interesting is that they are angry with Alma for Alma’s words, they aren’t angry about the angel’s words.  Did Alma do the right thing by calling them a lost/fallen people, or did he create a stumbling block for them?

33 But it came to pass that the Lord did not suffer them that they should take me at that time and cast me into prison.

Why don’t we get more detail here?

34 And it came to pass that Amulek went and stood forth, and began to preach unto them also. And now the words of Amulek are not all written, nevertheless a part of his words are written in this book.

Can you determine what triggers Amulek’s time on the stage?  Why wasn’t he there earlier, when Alma was accused of just being “one man” preaching these things?

Why did we need to know that he didn’t write all of Amulek’s words down?  (Remember that we won’t have known that anything was missing if he hadn’t told us!)

CHAPTER 10
1 Now these are the words which Amulek preached unto the people who were in the land of Ammonihah, saying:

One wonders if they had someone transcribing (this strikes me as pretty unlikely) or if Amulek (or Alma, or even someone else) wrote down later his best recollection of what was said, and, if so, how much prettifying was done from the actual speech as delivered.

2 I am Amulek; I am the son of Giddonah, who was the son of Ishmael, who was a descendant of Aminadi; and it was that same Aminadi who interpreted the writing which was upon the wall of the temple, which was written by the finger of God.

Skousen reads “Gidanah” here.

Wait–what?!? We don’t know about any of this!  (This is the only reference to Aminadi in all of scriptures.)  What effect does this completely-out-of-left-field story have on the reader?  (Thought: perhaps the purpose is to suggest the riches of Nephite history that we don’t have.)

In Daniel 5, there is also the interpretation of writing by God on the wall of the temple.  If two examples make a pattern, what do we learn from this one?

Why does Amulek present this personal history to his audience?  (Note that Alma didn’t.)  What effect should it have had on his audience?

3 And Aminadi was a descendant of Nephi, who was the son of Lehi, who came out of the land of Jerusalem, who was a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by the hands of his brethren.

4 And behold, I am also a man of no small reputation among all those who know me; yea, and behold, I have many kindreds and friends, and I have also acquired much riches by the hand of my industry.

Is he being arrogant here?

Why does he tell them this?

5 Nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power. I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people.

So . . . why did he say this and then walk it back?

Skousen reads “miraculous” instead of “marvelous” here.

Brant Gardner:

This verse is a challenge to understand. Amulek makes a statement, then directly contradicts it, noting “I mistake.” There are two possible reasons why we have this contradictory information. The first is that he really did make a mistake, a slip of the tongue. The second is that this is an intentional contradiction. Citation

6 Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart, even until the fourth day of this seventh month, which is in the tenth year of the reign of the judges.

Skousen reads “our judges” instead of “the judges” here.  (This is interesting, I think, in trying to determine how closely allied this city is with Zarahemla.)

What does “know” mean in this verse?  How is that relevant to your life?

I like “I was called many times”–God gives us lots of chances.  (Do we give other people lots of chances?)

Why did we need the specific time reference here?  (Note that these are very rare in the BoM.  Mark’s Gospel seems to make good use of specific time references to emphasize the most important events; perhaps that is happening here as well.)

Neal A. Maxwell:

Even when free of major transgression, we can develop self-contentment instead of seeking self-improvement. This was once true of Amulek, who later acknowledged, “I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God.”  Oct 91 GC

7 As I was journeying to see a very near kindred, behold an angel of the Lord appeared unto me and said: Amulek, return to thine own house, for thou shalt feed a prophet of the Lord; yea, a holy man, who is a chosen man of God; for he has fasted many days because of the sins of this people, and he is an hungered, and thou shalt receive him into thy house and feed him, and he shall bless thee and thy house; and the blessing of the Lord shall rest upon thee and thy house.

Contrast this verse with v4:  note that he is prominent and humble.

Why was “As I  . . . kindred” included when it is not relevant to the story?  (Just “journeying” would have sufficed, but even that doesn’t matter–the point is that the angel came.)

Note that Alma is told to return to Ammonihah by an angel and Amulek is told to return to his house (and perhaps to Ammonihah if his journey had taken him out of there) by an angel.  Is this significant?

I find it interesting that the angel calls Alma a prophet, but previous BoM texts have called him a chief priest and not mentioned prophet.

I find it interesting that the angel tells Amulek that Alma has been fasting, but Alma’s own account of the story leaves that out until after he has eaten.

8 And it came to pass that I obeyed the voice of the angel, and returned towards my house. And as I was going thither I found the man whom the angel said unto me: Thou shalt receive into thy house—and behold it was this same man who has been speaking unto you concerning the things of God.

How did Amulek recognize him?  (Note that sometimes in the Bible info to make recognition possible is given, such as when Jesus sends the disciples to find the place for the Last Supper and tells them to look for a man carrying a pitcher of water, which would have been very noticeable since carrying water was women’s work.)

It strikes me as curious that Alma’s name is not used in this verse, although I think the last chapters suggested that Amulek did not know Alma’s name until Alma told him after Alma had eaten.  (Which reminds me a little of Luke 24:35 “And they told what things were done in the way, and how he wasknown of them in breaking of bread,” although the parallel is not exact.)

9 And the angel said unto me he is a holy man; wherefore I know he is a holy man because it was said by an angel of God.

 

Why does the angel produce such faith in Amulek but not in Laman and Lemuel when they saw an angel?

Brant Gardner:

It is interesting that this introduction of Alma’s divine appointment comes only after Alma has spoken and been rejected. Perhaps the Lord wanted to give the people of Ammonihah the chance to repent without the greater burden of rejecting a declared and confirmed prophet of God. Citation

10 And again, I know that the things whereof he hath testified are true; for behold I say unto you, that as the Lord liveth, even so has he sent his angel to make these things manifest unto me; and this he has done while this Alma hath dwelt at my house.

Not only are there two witnesses, but one is an “insider” (Amulek) and the other, Alma, is an outsider.  Do you think this is significant?  Does it suggest anything about how we should do missionary work?  (I’ve thought it intriguing that the pamphlets that the missionaries hand out come not only in a variety of languages, but a variety of cultures.)

11 For behold, he hath blessed mine house, he hath blessed me, and my women, and my children, and my father and my kinsfolk; yea, even all my kindred hath he blessed, and the blessing of the Lord hath rested upon us according to the words which he spake.

Re-read 8:19-20.  How do the two accounts of the same event differ? What does Alma’s account emphasize?  What does Amulek’s account emphasize?

What happened to Amulek’s mother?

Does listing “my house” separately from “my women” and “my children” mean that he does not live with his women and children?  (I think you could read this as:  Amulek is a polygamist, with the wives each having her own house.)

12 And now, when Amulek had spoken these words the people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness who testified of the things whereof they were accused, and also of the things which were to come, according to the spirit of prophecy which was in them.

I’m kinda surprised by this verse–is it really so unbelievable to them more than one person would be a witness to these things?  Really?

M. Russell Ballard:

Miraculous things happen when members join with missionaries and share pure testimony with those who are not members of the Church. For example, while many people were touched by Alma’s testimony in the land of Ammonihah, when Amulek stood and added his testimony to Alma’s, “the people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness who testified” (Alma 10:12). The same thing can happen with us today. As we stand together the Lord will help us find many more of His sheep who will know His voice as we unitedly share our testimonies with them.  Oct 04 GC

13 Nevertheless, there were some among them who thought to question them, that by their cunning devices they might catch them in their words, that they might find witness against them, that they might deliver them to their judges that they might be judged according to the law, and that they might be slain or cast into prison, according to the crime which they could make appear or witness against them.

Is there some subtext to this verse critiquing them for being ‘letter of the law’ kind of people?  Meaning, they apparently wouldn’t ever consider a good old fashioned lynch mob, but they insist on something with the veneer of legality about it.

14 Now it was those men who sought to destroy them, who were lawyers, who were hired or appointed by the people to administer the law at their times of trials, or at the trials of the crimes of the people before the judges.

Note that, while the word “lawyer” is used in the NT, the meaning seems to be different:  in the NT, they were experts in religious law (not practitioners of secular law as here).

I know you are sick to death of me criticizing Mosiah’s legal reforms, but note that it is the lawyers “appointed by the people” who, because the incentives are messed up, are going after Alma and Amulek.

15 Now these lawyers were learned in all the arts and cunning of the people; and this was to enable them that they might be skilful in their profession.

Are “arts” and “cunning” bad things here?

What work is “of the people” doing in this sentence? Is that a bad thing?

Is the thrust of this verse that their profession required them to develop evil skills?

16 And it came to pass that they began to question Amulek, that thereby they might make him cross his words, or contradict the words which he should speak.

Note that various groups do this to Jesus in the NT.

What does this verse suggest to you about contradictions?  Should we expect them in the gospel?

Would contradicting his words have been illegal in Ammonihah?  Or would it just have discouraged his audience?

17 Now they knew not that Amulek could know of their designs. But it came to pass as they began to question him, he perceived their thoughts, and he said unto them: O ye wicked and perverse generation, ye lawyers and hypocrites, for ye are laying the foundations of the devil; for ye are laying traps and snares to catch the holy ones of God.

Thinking about the first sentence:  Shouldn’t it have been obvious to the Ammonihah-ites that Amulek would figure out what they were doing?  How could he not have known of their designs?

How common is it for someone to be able to perceive someone else’s thoughts?  (Why does this never make the list of gifts of the spirit?)

Can you imagine a situation today where it would be OK to refer to people, to their faces, as a wicked and perverse generation?

Is there a parallel construction of wicked/perverse and lawyers/hypocrites?

One wonders what the word here translated as “hypocrites” was, since that word comes out of the Greek theater tradition.

Are traps and snares two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?

18 Ye are laying plans to pervert the ways of the righteous, and to bring down the wrath of God upon your heads, even to the utter destruction of this people.

19 Yea, well did Mosiah say, who was our last king, when he was about to deliver up the kingdom, having no one to confer it upon, causing that this people should be governed by their own voices—yea, well did he say that if the time should come that the voice of this people should choose iniquity, that is, if the time should come that this people should fall into transgression, they would be ripe for destruction.

Does this mean that these people did now know that Mosiah was the last king?  (I’m trying to tease out the relationship of Ammonihah to Zarahemla; the evidence seems muddled.)  Especially since Amulek is talking here, is he assuming that part of the audience (and note that the part that he is most specifically speaking to is the lawyers, who, we would presume, would be smarter than the average bear) wouldn’t know this?  If not, then why mention it?

Is “having no one to confer it on” entirely accurate?  We know son #1 turned it down, but we don’t know that he asked anyone (“Anyone?  Anyone?”) else, but rather launched into his plan to change to judges.

I’m curious about Amulek’s description of Mosiah’s reforms as “causing that this people should be governed by their own voices.”  Was this not the case during Benjamin’s time?

Again we get this principle that the people are ready for destruction when the majority choose evil.  I’m not sure about this–what about Abraham bargaining for Sodom and Gomorrah?

What does the word “ripe” suggest to you about destruction?

20 And now I say unto you that well doth the Lord judge of your iniquities; well doth he cry unto this people, by the voice of his angels: Repent ye, repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

21 Yea, well doth he cry, by the voice of his angels that: I will come down among my people, with equity and justice in my hands.

Are “equity” and “justice” two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?

22 Yea, and I say unto you that if it were not for the prayers of the righteous, who are now in the land, that ye would even now be visited with utter destruction; yet it would not be by flood, as were the people in the days of Noah, but it would be by famine, and by pestilence, and the sword.

The cynic would ask why the prayers of the righteous can override the choice and accountability of the wicked.  Also, why is the protective power of the prayers of the righteous ending now? (Does v23 answer this?)

How do you mesh the idea with a protective power for the prayers of the righteous with the idea that the people will be destroyed when the majority choose evil?

What is the significance of it not being a flood but famine, etc.?  Is there a point to that?

23 But it is by the prayers of the righteous that ye are spared; now therefore, if ye will cast out the righteous from among you then will not the Lord stay his hand; but in his fierce anger he will come out against you; then ye shall be smitten by famine, and by pestilence, and by the sword; and the time is soon at hand except ye repent.

Moral of the story:  if you are going to be wicked, keep a lot of righteous people around to pray for you so you can escape punishment.

What do you learn about anger from this verse?

24 And now it came to pass that the people were more angry with Amulek, and they cried out, saying: This man doth revile against our laws which are just, and our wise lawyers whom we have selected.

Does the anger in this verse have any relationship to the anger in the previous verse?  How are they related?

Has Amulek in fact said anything related to their laws?  Have these people assumed that because some act was legal it was therefore moral?  How do the lawyers relate to all this?  (Compare v26.)

Note that the people are defending the lawyers on the grounds that the people selected these particular lawyers.  What are the warnings in this practice for us today?  (Hint:  treating partisan politics as if it were a team sport.)

25 But Amulek stretched forth his hand, and cried the mightier unto them, saying: O ye wicked and perverse generation, why hath Satan got such great hold upon your hearts? Why will ye yield yourselves unto him that he may have power over you, to blind your eyes, that ye will not understand the words which are spoken, according to their truth?

Is the stretching forth of the hand significant? (Possibly useful article here.)

Why is he crying “the mightier” unto them?  Is that just increased volume or what?

Well, why did Satan have such a hold on them?

Blind eyes and not understanding spoken words seems to be a mixed metaphor.  Was Amulek getting a little sloppy here, or might this be deliberate and, if so, why?

26 For behold, have I testified against your law? Ye do not understand; ye say that I have spoken against your law; but I have not, but I have spoken in favor of your law, to your condemnation.

So, if Amulek’s preaching had nothing to do with their laws, then why was that the focus of v24?

In what ways has Amulek spoken in favor of their laws?

Given that the real focus of Amulek’s remarks has nothing to do with the validity of Ammonihah-ite laws but rather with their need to repent, is it fair to say that Amulek is allowing himself to get sucked into a tangent here?

Now what Amulek has very clearly spoken against is not their laws but against their lawyers.  The fact that the Ammonihah-ites can’t see the distinction is, I think, very telling.

27 And now behold, I say unto you, that the foundation of the destruction of this people is beginning to be laid by the unrighteousness of your lawyers and your judges.

What do you make of “beginning” in this verse–didn’t it seem as if they were already plenty unrighteous?

We can understand why unrighteous judges would be a problem, but why lawyers?

Does this verse teach us anything about lawyers today?  (Shakespeare:  “The first thing we do . . . “)

Is this really true?  Shouldn’t their individual choices matter more than what their lawyers and judges are doing?  (And, banging this drum again, is this verse a critique of the legal reforms of Mosiah?)

28 And now it came to pass that when Amulek had spoken these words the people cried out against him, saying: Now we know that this man is a child of the devil, for he hath lied unto us; for he hath spoken against our law. And now he says that he has not spoken against it.

Is anything they say true?

Why do you think their response to Amulek was included in the record?

Again, they seem to be conflating “the law” and “the lawyers.”  Why might they have done this?  What is the lesson in this for us today?

29 And again, he has reviled against our lawyers, and our judges.

Do you learn anything about criticizing the government from this complaint?

30 And it came to pass that the lawyers put it into their hearts that they should remember these things against him.

Does this verse imply that the lawyers are the instigators of the opposition to Amulek?  Why would the lawyers be particularly opposed to his preaching?

Once again, I think “remember” is operating with something other than its common modern meaning here.

How could the lawyers put something into their hearts/minds?  Are we to assume that there was anti-Amulek preaching going on?

31 And there was one among them whose name was Zeezrom. Now he was the foremost to accuse Amulek and Alma, he being one of the most expert among them, having much business to do among the people.

Is being “most expert” and/or “having much business” coded as a bad thing here?

Given that we got a similar description of the status of Amulek, I think we’d be justified in making a comparison between the two, but note that they are not described identically:   And behold, I am also a man of no small reputation among all those who know me; yea, and behold, I have many kindreds andfriends, and I have also acquired much riches by the hand of my industry. (Alma 10:4)

32 Now the object of these lawyers was to get gain; and they got gain according to their employ.

Is this an observation or a condemnation?  How is this relevant to us today?

Reading v31-32, is it safe to assume that Zeezrom was a lawyer?  (This is hinted at but not said outright.)

Why do lawyers get such a bad rap in the Book of Mormon?  What is the message for today and what happens if you liken these verses to yourself?   (My thoughts:  not for being lawyers, but for using those techniques out of context; not for being learned, but using the techniques of a teacher and persuader to lead others away from Christ.

Note that there is no chapter break here in the 1830 BoM.

CHAPTER 11
1 Now it was in the law of Mosiah that every man who was a judge of the law, or those who were appointed to be judges, should receive wages according to the time which they labored to judge those who were brought before them to be judged.

Why was it OK for the judges to be paid but not the church leaders?

Again, it looks as if Mosiah’s reforms have led to a poor result, by messing up the incentives for the judges (and the lawyers).

2 Now if a man owed another, and he would not pay that which he did owe, he was complained of to the judge; and the judge executed authority, and sent forth officers that the man should be brought before him; and he judged the man according to the law and the evidences which were brought against him, and thus the man was compelled to pay that which he owed, or be stripped, or be cast out from among the people as a thief and a robber.

What does “be stripped” mean here?

Brant Gardner:

It is probable that the punishments were different because they were meted out to different social classes. The lower class would receive banishment, and the upper class would be humiliated (a rather severe blow to their pride and standing in the community). Citation

This verse reads suspiciously as an effort to explain to the reader how their system worked.  Why was this included?  What does it tell you about the assumptions that the writer/redactor made here about the intended audience?

What happened to the lawyers?  Why is there role not mentioned, especially since the whole point of this (which the chapter break obscures) is to explain why Zeezrom is the way he is and remember, he’s a lawyer.

Note that this is not according to the Law of Moses.

3 And the judge received for his wages according to his time—a senine of gold for a day, or a senum of silver, which is equal to a senine of gold; and this is according to the law which was given.

4 Now these are the names of the different pieces of their gold, and of their silver, according to their value. And the names are given by the Nephites, for they did not reckon after the manner of the Jews who were at Jerusalem; neither did they measure after the manner of the Jews; but they altered their reckoning and their measure, according to the minds and the circumstances of the people, in every generation, until the reign of the judges, they having been established by king Mosiah.

“Minds and circumstances” is interesting–what are we to learn from that?  Is it two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?

It seems like it would be terribly cumbersome to change the weight with each generation.  Why would they have done this?

Why did we not learn that this was a part of Mosiah’s reforms at the end of the book of Mosiah when we learned about all of the other reforms?

And, further grist for my ‘Mosiah’s reforms were a terrible idea’ mill comes from the implications of this comment from John W. Welch:

Beginning in the first year of the reign of the judges, in Alma 1, people in Zarahemla began counting their wealth, accumulating riches, and distinguishing the rich from the poor. While class distinctions and economic conditions surely had existed between the affluent and the poor in Nephite society in earlier years, a dramatic shift in awareness of wealth and riches enters the record beginning precisely with the commencement of the reign of judges at the beginning of the book of Alma. These reactions are exactly what one would expect of a society enjoying and adjusting to the use and exploitation of a new financial system.  Citation

Why was it important for us to know that these names are names that the Nephites came up with?

5 Now the reckoning is thus—a senine of gold, a seon of gold, a shum of gold, and a limnah of gold.

6 A senum of silver, an amnor of silver, an ezrom of silver, and an onti of silver.

7 A senum of silver was equal to a senine of gold, and either for a measure of barley, and also for a measure of every kind of grain.

8 Now the amount of a seon of gold was twice the value of a senine.

9 And a shum of gold was twice the value of a seon.

10 And a limnah of gold was the value of them all.

11 And an amnor of silver was as great as two senums.

12 And an ezrom of silver was as great as four senums.

13 And an onti was as great as them all.

14 Now this is the value of the lesser numbers of their reckoning—

15 A shiblon is half of a senum; therefore, a shiblon for half a measure of barley.

16 And a shiblum is a half of a shiblon.

17 And a leah is the half of a shiblum.

18 Now this is their number, according to their reckoning.

This article has a great chart (in a yellow box) suggesting the elegance of this monetary system.

19 Now an antion of gold is equal to three shiblons.

John W. Welch implies a dramatic purpose for this digression into the weights and measures:

Midway through one of the most heart-wrenching accounts in the Book of Mormon, when Alma and Amulek were on trial for their lives and Amulek’s faithful women and children were put to death by fire, the story is interrupted with an explanation of King Mosiah’s system of weights and measures (see Alma 11:3–19). It is a strange interruption, a mundane hiatus, but at least a relieving diversion as the tension mounts in Alma and Amulek’s showdown with Zeezrom and the legal officials in Ammonihah. Citation

20 Now, it was for the sole purpose to get gain, because they received their wages according to their employ, therefore, they did stir up the people to riotings, and all manner of disturbances and wickedness, that they might have more employ, that they might get money according to the suits which were brought before them; therefore they did stir up the people against Alma and Amulek.

Ancient ambulance chasers!

This verse picks up the theme of 10:32.  If you read 11:1-19 as an aside, what do you learn?  Why did the writer think that the reader needed to know all of this about the Nephite monetary system?  (Honestly, it seems pretty irrelevant.)

So, once again, I’m left wondering about the wisdom of Mosiah2′s legal reforms if they botched the incentives for judges badly enough to create this kind of social discord.

What’s interesting about this verse is that it makes the message of Alma and Amulek incidental to the plot–presumably, these judges would have stirred up the people against any messenger in order to generate new cases.

General question:  10:32 was kvetching about the greedy lawyers, but this chapter pivots to the judges.  What to make of this?

M. Russell Ballard (Oct 93 GC) also accused the media of stirring people up to get gain.

21 And this Zeezrom began to question Amulek, saying: Will ye answer me a few questions which I shall ask you? Now Zeezrom was a man who was expert in the devices of the devil, that he might destroy that which was good; therefore, he said unto Amulek: Will ye answer the questions which I shall put unto you?

Is Amulek asking two questions in this verse, or is one question he asked recounted twice and in slightly different language?

Why did our writer find it necessary to spell out Zeezrom’s motives for us?

Brant Gardner:

Zeezrom is given these words: “Will ye answer the questions…” This tells us something about the translation process that is worth noting. It has been quite obvious that the Book of Mormon is written in King James style English. This verse makes it clear that the style is an affectation rather than something with which Joseph Smith was very familiar. He makes a grammatical mistake here that is due to his lack of true understanding of the thee/thou forms.  . . . The Book of Mormon text would be grammatically accurate if he were speaking to both Amulek and Alma, as “ye” is the plural form of the indirect object. However, the context makes it clear that only Amulek considers himself the object of the request. Thus grammatically, this should be a singular indirect object, which is “thou.” The text should say (making a similar correction in the verb) “wilt thou answer the questions…” . . . This is only further evidence that Joseph’s understanding of language and grammar influenced the text we have.  Citation

22 And Amulek said unto him: Yea, if it be according to the Spirit of the Lord, which is in me; for I shall say nothing which is contrary to the Spirit of the Lord. And Zeezrom said unto him: Behold, here are six onties of silver, and all these will I give thee if thou wilt deny the existence of a Supreme Being.

Skousen reads, “I will if it be . . .”

You get to this verse and you think, Did we really need that multi-verse lesson in Nephite coinage when our writer could have just said that Zeezrom offered Amulek a chunk of change?

It seems so crass and blunt to offer someone a chunk of change to deny God–why does Zeezrom do this?

Is it significant that Zeezrom calls God “a Supreme Being”?  (The only other scriptural use of this title is D&C 107:4.)

Notice that twice in the last verse, Zeezrom asked if he could ask a question.  And then, he . . . doesn’t ask a question.  What’s going on here?

Zeezrom ends up looking really dumb when Alma has barely finished saying that he’ll answer only according to the Spirit and Z. immediately tries to bribe him.  On the other hand, there is an interesting inversion there as Alma says he’ll answer according to the Spirit and Z. tries to get him to answer according to financial interest.

John W. Welch writes:

The corruption of those legal officials may well have had something to do with the idea that Nephite judges had only recently become entitled to be paid for their services. Mosiah’s new system of weights and measures accompanied a major political change from kingship to judgeship, a radical departure from past administrative practices. The new practice of paying judges had evidently soon led to abuse. Citation

(And I don’t know that Welch would agree with me [although in that article he does explore why Mosiah's reforms made a problem like this likely, etc.], and I know you, gentle reader, are sick of hearing about it, but I think this is further evidence for my theory that Mosiah’s legal reforms were a bad idea.)

23 Now Amulek said: O thou child of hell, why tempt ye me? Knowest thou that the righteous yieldeth to no such temptations?

Was this a genuine temptation for Amulek?

24 Believest thou that there is no God? I say unto you, Nay, thou knowest that there is a God, but thou lovest that lucre more than him.

What does Amulek ask and then immediately answer his own question?

25 And now thou hast lied before God unto me. Thou saidst unto me—Behold these six onties, which are of great worth, I will give unto thee—when thou hadst it in thy heart to retain them from me; and it was only thy desire that I should deny the true and living God, that thou mightest have cause to destroy me. And now behold, for this great evil thou shalt have thy reward.

Why does Amulek repeat what Zeezrom said, when it would have been obvious to them (and is obvious to us) what was said?

Note that Amulek’s recitation of Zeezrom’s words isn’t exact; Zeezrom said, “Behold, here are six onties of silver, and all these will I give thee if thou wilt deny the existence of a Supreme Being.”  Are the differences significant?

26 And Zeezrom said unto him: Thou sayest there is a true and living God?

Why do you think Zeezrom drops the issue of the bribe–as well as the attack on Zeezrom’s motives–at this point, and instead focuses in on Amulek’s belief in God?

27 And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God.

What does “true and living” mean?

General thought:  Are you surprised that it is Amulek who ends up with the assignment to do verbal sparring with a powerful adversary and not Alma?  Amulek is a local, but Alma is the head of the church.

28 Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God?

29 And he answered, No.

Does this comport with Restoration thought?  Does it comport with the idea of Jesus Christ and God the Father being separate beings?

30 Now Zeezrom said unto him again: How knowest thou these things?

Ah, the big question.  It always comes back to epistemology!

31 And he said: An angel hath made them known unto me.

Does this answer surprise you?  (I would have thought he would have made reference to the scriptures or prophets or something, as those messengers are more verifiable than an angelic visitation.)

32 And Zeezrom said again: Who is he that shall come? Is it the Son of God?

(How) does v32 relate to v31?

Note that Zeezrom does have some (fact-level) knowledge here.

33 And he said unto him, Yea.

34 And Zeezrom said again: Shall he save his people in their sins? And Amulek answered and said unto him: I say unto you he shall not, for it is impossible for him to deny his word.

Is Zeezrom deliberately playing a semantic game with his question here, or is something else going on?

35 Now Zeezrom said unto the people: See that ye remember these things; for he said there is but one God; yet he saith that the Son of God shall come, but he shall not save his people—as though he had authority to command God.

Zeezrom raises an interesting point here–it is a little awkward when we say what God will or will not do, as if we were able to control that.   How might you respond to him?

Another point:  How can there be one God if there is a Son of God?  Does that mean that the Son of God is not a God?

So Zeezrom has two points of contradiction here in Amulek’s preaching.  Are they really contradictions?  Are there contradictions in the gospel?

36 Now Amulek saith again unto him: Behold thou hast lied, for thou sayest that I spake as though I had authority to command God because I said he shall not save his people in their sins.

37 And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.

Why is it ever OK for a human to describe something God can’t/won’t do?

Note that Amulek is dealing in v36-37 with Zeezrom’s second contradiction, but he doesn’t address his first contradiction.  (In fact, Zeezrom will re-introduce that topic in v38.)  Why do you think Amulek dropped that point?

38 Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father?

Brant Gardner:

As we have seen in other locations in the Book of Mormon, this was a tenet of Nephite believe, even though some of the verses that stated so have been modified to clarify the issue for modern readers. Nevertheless, this equivalence of Father and Son is essential if we are to understand Zeezrom’s rhetorical attack. Citation

39 And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last;

Is there any way to reconcile this verse with current LDS thought?  Is that a desirable goal?

40 And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.

Is the use of “transgressions” (as opposed to ‘sins’) significant here?

Notice how Amulek doesn’t ever really engage the issue of the “math problem” of the number of Gods, but instead just testifies of the Savior.

41 Therefore the wicked remain as though there had been no redemption made, except it be the loosing of the bands of death; for behold, the day cometh that all shall rise from the dead and stand before God, and be judged according to their works.

In this verse and the following verses, Amulek goes far afield from Zeezrom’s question. Why does he do that and why does he address these particular topics when he does it?

42 Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.

What do you make of the application of word “temporal” to what we would normally call physical death, or the death of the body?

43 The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.

Does “perfect form” relate to the perfect union of the spirit and the body, or does it suggest that the body (and, presumably, the spirit?) will be in perfect form?  (There was a great post at BCC a million years ago called, ‘Will I Be a D-Cup in the Resurrection?’)

Is there a meaningful parallel between “spirit and body, reunited, perfect form” and “limb and joint, restored, proper frame.”  They sound awfully similar (but, to be fair, a lot of that is the sound similarities in the English words [reunite/restore, perfect form/proper frame] that wouldn’t have been a feature for Amulek).

Is it significant that we will be in our bodies when we are judged?

What does “knowing even as we know now” mean?  (Wouldn’t you have assumed that, if anything, we’d know more than we know now?)

What does the word “bright” convey in this context?

Will everyone literally feel guilty when they are before the bar of God?

Why are wicked people raised from the dead?  (No, seriously.)

44 Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.

Notice the pairings:  old/bond/male/wicked and then young/free/female/righteous.  Interesting possibilities there . . .

Given that the word “all” obviously covers old, young, bond, free, etc., why do you think Amulek listed all of those groupings of people?  What effect does it have on the reader?

Webster 1828 arraigned:  “Called before a tribunal to answer, and elect triers; accused; called in question.”

What does the “bar” symbolize here?

This question is too deep for my brain, but what does this verse have to say about the relationship of the Son, Father, and Spirit?  What does it mean to say that they are one God?  (And what happened to Heavenly Mother?) Why is the Son mentioned first and the Father in the middle?

Does the emphasis on works in this verse mean that thoughts, or intentions, or faith, are not things that we will be judged on?  Where do ordinances fit in here?

This language is similar to Gal 3:28 (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”) but note how very different the context is there.

Brant Gardner:

Verse 44 is a functional duplication of verse 43. There are two elements in each of the two verses. The first element is the universality of the resurrection, and the second is the inapplicability of the resurrection to the atonement from sin. The duplication of the two verses is an intentional repetition for emphasis. Citation

45 Now, behold, I have spoken unto you concerning the death of the mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption.

At this point, it is easy to lose track of the fact that we are in the middle of a hostile Q-and-A with Zeezrom.  Why do you think Amulek went on at length?  (Was he just filibustering?)  Why do you think Zeezrom allowed him to go on for so long?

46 Now, when Amulek had finished these words the people began again to be astonished, and also Zeezrom began to tremble. And thus ended the words of Amulek, or this is all that I have written.

What would have been astonishing about his words?

What emotion does trembling suggest and why is Zeezrom feeling that right now?

Why let us know that Amulek said more if you are not going to tell us what he said?  And, given that the effect of Amulek’s words was to silence Zeezrom (see 12:1), isn’t it important for us to know what else he said?

General question:  Why do we get what reads like a transcript for this conversation with Zeezrom?  Of what benefit might it be to the reader?

General thought:  If you analyze Amulek’s responses to Zeezrom, what can you learn about how to respond to people like Zeezrom?

CHAPTER 12

1 Now Alma, seeing that the words of Amulek had silenced Zeezrom, for he beheld that Amulek had caught him in his lying and deceiving to destroy him, and seeing that he began to tremble under a consciousness of his guilt, he opened his mouth and began to speak unto him, and to establish the words of Amulek, and to explain things beyond, or to unfold the scriptures beyond that which Amulek had done.

Are lying and deceiving two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?

Why does Alma feel inclined to offer a second witness here, when, clearly, Amulek’s preaching has hit its mark?  Why did Alma think it would be appropriate to explain “things beyond” to Zeezrom at this point?  (Does v2 give a hint as to the real audience for these remarks?)

2 Now the words that Alma spake unto Zeezrom were heard by the people round about; for the multitude was great, and he spake on this wise:

 

3 Now Zeezrom, seeing that thou hast been taken in thy lying and craftiness, for thou hast not lied unto men only but thou hast lied unto God; for behold, he knows all thy thoughts, and thou seest that thy thoughts are made known unto us by his Spirit;

What does “see” mean in this verse?

4 And thou seest that we know that thy plan was a very subtle plan, as to the subtlety of the devil, for to lie and to deceive this people that thou mightest set them against us, to revile us and to cast us out—

What does “subtle” mean here?  (Because, honestly, I don’t think he was that subtle what with leading off by offering a huge bribe.)

5 Now this was a plan of thine adversary, and he hath exercised his power in thee. Now I would that ye should remember that what I say unto thee I say unto all.

Note that even when Zeezrom is following the devil’s plan, the devil is still described as Zeezrom’s adversary.

What do you learn from this verse about how the adversary exercises his power?

Does the final sentence mean that all of the audience was just as guilty as Zeezrom?  If so, how is that possible?

6 And behold I say unto you all that this was a snare of the adversary, which he has laid to catch this people, that he might bring you into subjection unto him, that he might encircle you about with his chains, that he might chain you down to everlasting destruction, according to the power of his captivity.

What does the word “snare” teach you about the adversary?

Note that “encircle” is normally used with the positive connotation of being encircles in the arms of the Lord; I think that normal usage makes this verse all the more shocking.

Is the inverse of all of the chains imagery to suggest that the Lord makes people free?  (This would be an interesting irony, since the general perception is that the Lord’s rules limit us.)

7 Now when Alma had spoken these words, Zeezrom began to tremble more exceedingly, for he was convinced more and more of the power of God; and he was also convinced that Alma and Amulek had a knowledge of him, for he was convinced that they knew the thoughts and intents of his heart; for power was given unto them that they might know of these things according to the spirit of prophecy.

A big deal is made in this story that Alma and Amulek know what Zeezrom is thinking.  Interesting.

Does this verse imply that Zeezrom did not know of the power of God before this time?  (Again, I am interested in the idea that “know” might not have its usual meaning in these passages.)

What role would “the spirit of prophecy” play in knowing someone’s thoughts?  What does that teach you about what the spirit of prophecy means or involves?

8 And Zeezrom began to inquire of them diligently, that he might know more concerning the kingdom of God. And he said unto Alma: What does this mean which Amulek hath spoken concerning the resurrection of the dead, that all shall rise from the dead, both the just and the unjust, and are brought to stand before God to be judged according to their works?

Are you surprised by the sudden turn-around?

Is this the first question that you would have expected him to ask?  (Wouldn’t you have thought it would have been about repentance?)  Why would this question (or to put that another way:  why would this doctrine) have been the first thing on his mind?

I think it is ironic that he keeps asking questions of Amulek and Alma, but now the purpose of his questioning has changed.

9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

What are the mysteries of God?

Are heed and diligence two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?

I kind of feel like there should be a comma after “impart.”

Brant Gardner:

Zeezrom has asked for information, and Alma’s first statement is that the Lord tells some people, but that the Lord also constrains some information. Why does Alma begin this way, and then start explaining things? Alma is answering the implicit question that Zeezrom is asking, not the explicit one. While Zeezrom has opening asked for more information, it would appear that Alma’s perception of his heart sees another unstated question, which is “why don’t I know about this?”  Citation

10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.

What does it mean to receive a lesser portion?

Does this verse imply that “the mysteries of God” means “a really big portion of the word”?

V9-10 imply that receiving knowledge is conditional on obedience and no-heart-hardening.  How is this idea relevant to your life?

11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.

Does this mean that Alma refused to answer the question from v8 because Amulek wasn’t ready for it?  (But compare v12, which seems to go in another direction and the narrative intro to the answer in v9, which suggests that Alma will be answering the question.)

What does it mean to harden your heart?  In what ways do people do that today?  (My thought:  I think it is mostly about being open to new inspiration from the Lord.)

How do you explain the repetition from v10 to v11?

Does this verse imply that if you harden your heart (close your mind?) then you will “forget” what you used to know?  What might that process look like today?

What does this verse teach about the relationship between not knowing stuff and getting taken captive by the devil?

Note that this verse defines “chains of hell.”  Is this what you would have expected for that definition?

12 And Amulek hath spoken plainly concerning death, and being raised from this mortality to a state of immortality, and being brought before the bar of God, to be judged according to our works.

What work is “plainly” doing in this verse?

How does v12 relate to what came before it?

13 Then if our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for then we shall be condemned.

Compare v12 and v13:  is it fair to say that v12 is about works and v13 about our hearts?  If so, how do they relate?  (V14 might help answer this, but note the emendation from Skousen there.)

14 For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.

Skousen reads “works” instead of “words” here.

As we saw with King Ben’s description of “hell,” it is the person herself–not God–who does the judging here.  We will not be cast out from God’s presence; we will remove ourselves from God’s presence (if we could).

Dallin H. Oaks:

From such teachings we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become. Oct 00 GC

15 But this cannot be; we must come forth and stand before him in his glory, and in his power, and in his might, majesty, and dominion, and acknowledge to our everlasting shame that all his judgments are just; that he is just in all his works, and that he is merciful unto the children of men, and that he has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance.

What does “but this cannot be” mean:  That he was wrong in v14?  That v14 describes the less-than-ideal situation?  Something else?

Why the list of attributes in this verse?

What is the role of shame in the judgment?  What is its role in our lives?

Where is God’s mercy if we are not in a state to accept it in this scenario?

Does this verse imply that God lacks the power to save those who do not believe on his name?

What does “fruit” suggest to you about repentance here?

16 And now behold, I say unto you then cometh a death, even a second death, which is a spiritual death; then is a time that whosoever dieth in his sins, as to a temporal death, shall also die a spiritual death; yea, he shall die as to things pertaining unto righteousness.

What do you do with the idea of “two deaths”?  How does that challenge our notions of the finality of death?

Does this verse have any room for post-mortal repentance?

Does “a spiritual death” mean that the spirit dies?  If not, why is this language used?

What does it mean to be dead pertaining unto righteousness?

The first death involves separation of the body from the spirit.  The second death involves separation of the body + spirit from God.  I suspect there’s more to say about this, but not entirely sure what that might be . . .

17 Then is the time when their torments shall be as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever; and then is the time that they shall be chained down to an everlasting destruction, according to the power and captivity of Satan, he having subjected them according to his will.

Notice the “as,” in keeping with the BoM idea that hell is internal.

Kind of random comment:  It is hard to read these metaphorical descriptions of hell as an interior state of pain without thinking about depression, anxiety, PTSD, and similar emotional disorders. What might we conclude from this?

18 Then, I say unto you, they shall be as though there had been no redemption made; for they cannot be redeemed according to God’s justice; and they cannot die, seeing there is no more corruption.

I’m thinking that the first line is not completely accurate:  since they have been resurrected, they are not “as though there had been no redemption.”  What precisely does Alma mean here?

I find the reference to justice interesting, since no one can be redeemed according to justice, only according to mercy.  What’s going on here?

The idea that they can’t die is interesting.  Is this a feature or a bug of God’s plan?  Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to die?  This is making me think of the cherubim stopping Eve and Adam from the tree of life so that they can’t live forever in their sins–it seems that living forever in their sins is precisely what is happening here?

General thought:  Would it be useful to read Amulek’s words as being “sandwiched” between Alma’s two chapters of preaching?

19 Now it came to pass that when Alma had made an end of speaking these words, the people began to be more astonished;

Why is it important for us to know the reaction of the people?

20 But there was one Antionah, who was a chief ruler among them, came forth and said unto him: What is this that thou hast said, that man should rise from the dead and be changed from this mortal to an immortal state, that the soul can never die?

 

Is Antionah a chief judge, or something else?  What does “ruler” mean here?

Is it significant that the first interlocutor was an important lawyer, but now we have the political leader?

Why do we need to know Antionah’s name and position?

Does the question imply that this teaching was unknown to these people?

21 What does the scripture mean, which saith that God placed cherubim and a flaming sword on the east of the garden of Eden, lest our first parents should enter and partake of the fruit of the tree of life, and live forever? And thus we see that there was no possible chance that they should live forever.

He seems to see a conflict between the idea that Alma has just preached that people can live forever in their sins (if they are resurrected but wicked) and the idea presented after the Fall that Adam and Eve were prevented from precisely this outcome by their lack of access to the Tree of Life.  Is he correct that this is a contradiction?

Zeezrom was all about contradictions and here Antionah is pointing one out as well.  Are their motives the same?  Is this a sincere question?  (Brant Gardner says no; I’m not so sure.) Does it matter?

I think the “and thus we see” line is Antionah saying that it is impossible for people to live forever in their sins (that God prevented this early on).  Are there other ways to read this verse?

22 Now Alma said unto him: This is the thing which I was about to explain. Now we see that Adam did fall by the partaking of the forbidden fruit, according to the word of God; and thus we see, that by his fall, all mankind became a lost and fallen people.

I’m sorry, but I think “this is the thing which I was about to explain” is the funniest thing ever.

Is he just talking about Adam here, or is this President Kimball’s “Mr. and Mrs. Adam, I suppose”?

What does “lost” add to your understanding of the fall?

In terms of record keeping, what is the point of v20-21?  The story would have worked just fine without the question and answer.  What are we to learn from this?

Why is the word “fall” an appropriate one to describe what happened here?

Note that the OT doesn’t use the phrase “forbidden fruit.”  What does that phrase convey?

23 And now behold, I say unto you that if it had been possible for Adam to have partaken of the fruit of the tree of life at that time, there would have been no death, and the word would have been void, making God a liar, for he said: If thou eat thou shalt surely die.

Is there a relationship between the idea of lying in this verse and all of the accusations of lying in the previous chapter?

I really feel like the end of this verse is sloppy thinking:  it makes it sound like God made a promise (“if thou eat, thou shalt die”) that might have been false because of that darn tree, and so God has to quickly whip up a barrier so they can’t get the fruit.  This does not sound to me like someone who had a plan from the beginning, but someone who was going to be a “liar” if the problem didn’t get patched quickly.  That doesn’t sound right.  What’s going on here?

24 And we see that death comes upon mankind, yea, the death which has been spoken of by Amulek, which is the temporal death; nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead.

The idea of a probationary state:  It might be interesting to generate a list of common situations and then consider how’d you respond to them if you thought of your life as a probationary state or if you conceptualized your life differently.  (Note that the alternate conceptualization offered in this section of the BoM is wealth-seeking.)

How does the material after the “nevertheless” relate to the material before it?

Does Alma believe in the idea of post-mortal repentance?

25 Now, if it had not been for the plan of redemption, which was laid from the foundation of the world, there could have been no resurrection of the dead; but there was a plan of redemption laid, which shall bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, of which has been spoken.

 

26 And now behold, if it were possible that our first parents could have gone forth and partaken of the tree of life they would have been forever miserable, having no preparatory state; and thus the plan of redemption would have been frustrated, and the word of God would have been void, taking none effect.

Note that this verse has “first parents,” not “Adam.”  Is that significant?

Does this verse imply that everyone in a fallen state is/should be miserable?

27 But behold, it was not so; but it was appointed unto men that they must die; and after death, they must come to judgment, even that same judgment of which we have spoken, which is the end.

So this all strikes me as pretty inside-baseball stuff:  we might be a little ticked if a missionary spent a lot of time in a discussion focusing on these counterhypotheticals instead of focusing on faith, baptism, and repentance.  What’s going on here?

Notice how this verse views mortal death as a very positive thing.

What is “which is the end” doing?  In what sense is judgment “the end”?

28 And after God had appointed that these things should come unto man, behold, then he saw that it was expedient that man should know concerning the things whereof he had appointed unto them;

Does this verse picture God as increasing in knowledge?

How does the idea of man “knowing” in this verse relate to knowing good from evil in the Garden?

29 Therefore he sent angels to converse with them, who caused men to behold of his glory.

In what ways do angelic appearances cause people to behold God’s glory?  What does it imply about God’s glory to say that it is something that an angel can cause you (without seeing God, presumably) to behold?

30 And they began from that time forth to call on his name; therefore God conversed with men, and made known unto them the plan of redemption, which had been prepared from the foundation of the world; and this he made known unto them according to their faith and repentance and their holy works.

Is “call on his name” just a synonym for prayer, or does it mean something different?

“Holy works” is an unusual phrase–what does it mean?

Brant Gardner:

The ability to know about the plan of redemption (or the Atonement) is contingent upon our faith and repentance. These two requirements are not simple throwaway religious language. They really are requirements for understanding the plan of God. Citation

31 Wherefore, he gave commandments unto men, they having first transgressed the first commandments as to things which were temporal, and becoming as Gods, knowing good from evil, placing themselves in a state to act, or being placed in a state to act according to their wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good—

Why is the defining characteristic of being “as Gods” to know good from evil?

How is knowing good from evil an ability that you could gain (if even just symbolically) from eating?

Does this verse mean that Adam and Eve were not “in a state to act” before the fall?  If this is true, how did they fall if they couldn’t act?

Why is the second instance of “commandments” in this verse plural?

What work is “as to things which were temporal” doing?  What does that phrase teach us about the commandment not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  (By the way, I’ll pay anyone who can come up with ONE SHORT WORD that means “the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”)

Why is “Gods” plural here?  Does it have any relation to Amulek telling Zeezrom that there was only one God in the last chapter?

So did they place themselves in a state to act or were they placed in a state to act?

Are “wills and pleasures” two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?

32 Therefore God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption, that they should not do evil, the penalty thereof being a second death, which was an everlasting death as to things pertaining unto righteousness; for on such the plan of redemption could have no power, for the works of justice could not be destroyed, according to the supreme goodness of God.

I think this verse is suggesting that commandments aren’t random rules, but the natural outgrowth of the plan of redemption.

33 But God did call on men, in the name of his Son, (this being the plan of redemption which was laid) saying: If ye will repent, and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you, through mine Only Begotten Son;

I like the parallel with v30, where humans called on God–here, God is calling on humans.

What does it mean to say that God calls on people “in the name of his Son”?

Does this verse just refer to the atonement or is there more going on here?

34 Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest.

35 And whosoever will harden his heart and will do iniquity, behold, I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest.

 

36 And now, my brethren, behold I say unto you, that if ye will harden your hearts ye shall not enter into the rest of the Lord; therefore your iniquity provoketh him that he sendeth down his wrath upon you as in the first provocation, yea, according to his word in the last provocation as well as the first, to the everlasting destruction of your souls; therefore, according to his word, unto the last death, as well as the first.

What does the word “provoke” suggest to you here?

What was “the first provocation”?  What is “the last provocation”?

37 And now, my brethren, seeing we know these things, and they are true, let us repent, and harden not our hearts, that we provoke not the Lord our God to pull down his wrath upon us in these his second commandments which he has given unto us; but let us enter into the rest of God, which is prepared according to his word.

Why do you think Alma goes for “we” here, when presumably his spiritual state is not the same as his audience’s?

What do you make of the idea of “second commandments”?

Brant Gardner:

This chapter is broken in the middle of a paragraph of the 1830 edition. We should understand that there is no conceptual stop here. Alma continued his discourse without significant pause. Citation

7 Responses to BMGD #23: Alma 8-12

  1. Ardis E. Parshall on June 4, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Our ward has fallen so far behind your posting schedule that I save these to read in the week before we hit that lesson, by which time it seems a little late to say anything. But know, please, that I am still reading and appreciating.

  2. Stephen R Marsh on June 4, 2012 at 10:28 am

    I always take the note of “more” to be an editorial device to make certain the audience realizes that the sermons and material provided are not comprehensive. It is easy enough to think we have heard “all” of the gospel, so to speak.

    End of the ninth, beginning of the tenth, I always read that as not taking any time off at all.

    “small villages” I always read as a note that there were not any members of the church in them, at least as a normative rule.

    I am going to have to take a good more time to digest the rest of this.

    Thank you.

  3. Stephen R Marsh on June 4, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Let me be clearer. I really appreciate these posts. Even the ones I do not comment on. I’m in a calling where I miss Sunday School and I am really getting something from these and really, really enjoying them.

    Thank you.

    In case you missed that, thank you very much.

  4. Julie M. Smith on June 4, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Thanks, both of you, that means a lot to me.

  5. J Town on June 4, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    I rarely comment on these posts, but I also very much enjoy these posts and they add quite a lot to my scripture study. So thank you from me as well.

    One point, on Chapter 12:14-15, you ask what the “but this cannot be” in verse 15 is referring to. I read it as referencing that you cannot hide from God, as mentioned at the end of verse 14, but must come forth and stand before God.

  6. Julie M. Smith on June 6, 2012 at 10:08 am

    One more thought on 8:18: Alma was in the process of leaving, but an angel comes and tells him to go back. This is what happens to Hagar. What can we learn from comparing these stories?

  7. Ken on June 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Julie,
    Thank you for all of the work that you put into lesson prep. It benefits me and so many others. Thanks, too, for citations to other readings that are wonderful. And thank you for the frequent RS, Primary Presidencies and GA quotes on particular scriptures.