Alma Chapter 10
1 Now these are the words which Amulek preached unto the people who were in the land of Ammonihah, saying:
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 the same Aminadi who interpreted the writing which was upon the wall of the temple, which was written by the finger of God.
verse 2 "Aminadi who interpreted the writing which was upon the wall of the temple" Here is a most tantalizing mention of a story, involving a Nephite holy man and one of the forebears of Amulek, to which we do not have access! This must have been a most interesting story and might well have been included on the large plates of Nephi. If so, then Mormon obviously chose not to include it on the plates of Mormon. Amulek's reference to the story suggests that it was well known among the Nephites. This story is not to be confused with the account in Daniel 5 of Daniel's interpreting writings on the temple wall for Belshazzar the king, though its mention here is reminiscent of the Daniel 5 story.
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.
verse 3 "Lehi . . . was a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by the hands of his brethren." It is an often overlooked fact that there is an extensive ethnic mix found in the peoples of the Book of Mormon. Beginning with father Lehi, we already have a rich mixture of near eastern blood. Lehi was descended from Manasseh, therefore he was at least partly of Arabic blood. Manasseh's mother was Egyptian, and Egyptians were a blend of nomads, cattle raisers, farmers, Africans, Asiatics, Semites, and Hamites. Egypt was a complete melting pot. Zoram was a servant or a slave and probably not an Israelite. Tradition in the Church has it that Ishmael was a descendant of ancient Joseph through Ephraim (see the commentary for 1 Nephi 7:1-5). Now stir in the Mulekites and especially the Jaredites. The Mulekites may well have been a heterogeneous group themselves, and they likely became mixed up with the indigenous native peoples that were already in the New World. The Jaredites came originally from the primal mixing center, the tower of Babel.
Once Lehi's traveling party arrived in the New world, the mixing really began in earnest. There was mingling and undoubtedly intermarrying between the Nephites and Lamanites from time to time. The Lamanites were partly of Lehitish origin, but there may well have been some of the same indigenous native American blood mixed in, as we have speculated previously.
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.
verse 4 Amulek gives us the feeling that he was very successful in a worldly way and that his orientation had previously been directed toward things of the world. This helps to understand why he had not been previously responsive to things of the Spirit and had "harden[ed his] heart" (see verse 6). His decision to receive Alma is all the more laudable if we keep in mind that he was not simply choosing to go out among the people of Ammonihah preaching with Alma. He was actually deciding to reject his former life. We will learn that he was not only forsaking "all his gold, and silver, and his precious things" (Alma 15:16), but he was also giving up "those who were once his friends and also . . . his father and his kindred" (Ibid.). It is even possible that he had to give up his wife and children (Alma 10:11).
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.
verse 5 "mysteries" For a review of the two definitions of the concept of the "mysteries of God" see the commentary for Alma 12:9.
"I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people" Amulek has reference to the Nephite people, and he likely had in mind the divine help his ancestors received in traversing the wilderness, crossing the ocean, and remaining secure under the constant Lamanite threat in the New World.
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.
verse 6 "I did harden my heart" To harden one's heart is to willfully close one's heart against the Holy Spirit, in rebellion against God, in order to accomplish one's own will. The resulting hard-heartedness can result in the Spirit's ceasing to strive with a person and in spiritual death. Hard-heartedness can lead progressively from indulging oneself somewhat in wrongdoing to gross wickedness. Hard-heartedness is associated with complaining or murmuring, unbelief, blindness of mind, anger, impenitence, stiffneckedness, pride and sexual sin, desire for vengeance, abominations, cruelty, and murder. Hard-heartedness restricts spiritual understanding and can eventually lead to "know[ing] nothing" concerning the mysteries of God, and then being "taken captive by the devil" (Alma 12:9-11). It resists the softening action of the Holy Spirit and its attendant virtues, like meekness, compassion, and humility. It renders one vulnerable to lies, and blind to divine signs and wonders. It flourishes in conditions of ease and prosperity.
"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" Amulek had been repeatedly "called" or whispered to by the Spirit. His conscience had been pricked, and deep down he really knew the truth. Yet he had not fully responded. President Joseph F. Smith wrote: "I believe there are tens of thousands of people who have heard the truth and have been pricked in their hearts, but they are seeking every refuge they possibly can to hide themselves from their convictions of the truth" (Gospel Doctrine, 360-61).
Amulek "knew concerning these things." This means he knew well what he should do. He knew what his behavior (thoughts, feelings, actions) should be according to the standard of the Lord's commandments. He knew that he should deliberately summon the character to obey. But his natural self resisted. He goes on to say, "yet I would not know." To truly learn ("know") a spiritual truth requires deliberately obeying the Lord's commandments-deliberately doing what you know is right. Then, through the process of personal revelation, you receive gifts of the Spirit which include increments of divine attributes and a testimony of spiritual truths. Amulek refers to a time when he "would not know" spiritual truths because he was not obey the Lord's commandments.
"the fourth day of this seventh month" What time of the year did this event occur? How does the Nephite calendar correspond to our calendar today? For a discussion of this question, see the commentary for Alma 16:1. Amulek's reference to "this seventh month" (italics mine) suggests that Alma and Amulek spent less than a month preparing before going out to preach to the people.
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.
verse 7 Amulek's visitation by an angel has caused some to ask the questions: "Why did Amulek receive such a marvelous blessing of the Lord? What did he do to merit such marvelous divine favor?" One might well ask the same questions about Alma (Mosiah 27) and Paul (Acts 9). Perhaps Amulek, as well as Alma and Paul, were foreordained to his calling. Alma will later speak of the principle of foreordination (Alma 13). We might suppose that Amulek was "called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of [his] exceeding faith and good works" (Alma 13:3). Such valiance in the pre-existence may have rendered him worthy of this heavenly visitation even though he was temporarily caught up in things of the world here in mortality. It should be also noted that pre-earthly faithfulness and foreordination does not always guarantee obedience here on earth. It is to Amulek's eternal credit that he did believe and cooperate with the angel.
What a blessed compliment to Alma, having the angel say of him, "He is a holy man . . . a chosen man of God." For a discussion of the scriptural word chosen, see the commentary for 1 Nephi 1:19-20.
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.
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.
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.
verse 10 "I say unto you, that as the Lord liveth, even so has he sent his angel" (italics added) Amulek not only bears testimony to the people but he swears a solemn oath that what he said about the angel was true. For more thoughts on the ancient practice of oath taking, see the commentary for 1 Nephi 4:31-33.
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.
verse 11 It is apparent that Amulek was a family man who had in his household "women," "children," "my father," "my kinsfolk," and "all my kindred." We need not suppose he was a polygamist because he had "women" in his house. These might certainly have been other relatives.
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.
verse 12 Obviously some among the people of Ammonihah were responsive to the Holy Ghost, the "spirit of prophecy."
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.
verse 13 "by their cunning devices they might catch them in their words" We will learn hear that Amulek is referring to a group of articulate lawyers professionally trained in the techniques of debate. The first "their" refers to these lawyers, and the second "their" refers to Alma and Amulek.
"according to the crime which they could make appear or witness against them" Obviously these clever and wicked lawyers (see verse 14) were out to entrap Alma and Amulek by manipulating the circumstances and make them appear guilty of a crime so they might be delivered before a judge and be convicted of the crime.
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.
verse 14 "it was those men who sought to destroy them" One aspect of these lawyers' motivation seems to have been simply a Satan-driven hatred for the things of God.
"lawyers, who were hired or appointed by the people to administer the law at their times of trials . . . before the judges" The meaning of the phrase "administer the law" is worth a moment's consideration. It would appear that the role of the lawyer in that day was much the same as it is today. They did not write, enforce, or interpret the law. Rather they simply represented the interests of people involved in legal conflict. This is referred to here as "administering" the law.
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 skillful in their profession.
verse 15 It has been noted, with amusement by some, that in almost every instance, "lawyers" are mentioned in a derogatory context in the Book of Mormon. Undoubtedly in Book of Mormon times, as in our day, lawyers played a valuable role in protecting the rights of the individual.
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.
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 foundation of the devil; for ye are laying traps and snares to catch the holy ones of God.
verse 17 "they knew not that Amulek could know of their designs" One of the gifts of the Spirit is the ability to discern the mind and intentions of others.
"ye lawyers and hypocrites, for ye are laying the foundation of the devil; for ye are laying traps and snares to catch the holy ones of God" It seems important to point out that these men were not wicked because they were lawyers. In Ammonihah it is likely that most of the lawyers were of the learned and wealthy class who espoused the teachings of Nehor. They were of the order of the Nehors. Thus, they were philosophical enemies of the prophets of God.
In a gospel sense, hypocrisy is the pretense of religious conviction in the absence of true conviction. It is the claim to religious commitment without the practice of religious principles. A hypocrite feigns belief, while the heart is really serving personal pride and vain ambition. The Greek word translated as "hypocrite" in the New Testament is the word for an actor in a play, one who portrays someone different from the person he or she really is. Hypocrisy is a manifestation of the carnal or "natural man" and not of the truly converted "saint."
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.
verse 19 Amulek refers to a warning of King Mosiah recorded in Mosiah 29:27.
"well did Mosiah say" The word "well" here means appropriately, aptly or correctly. It also seems to carry the meaning of poignantly or penetratingly. Note the additional usage of this same meaning of the word "well" later in this verse and also in verses 20 and 21.
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.
verse 20 "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" For a discussion of the meaning of this phrase, see the commentary for Alma 5:50. Perhaps Amulek's meaning here is that the duration of mortal life is short and unpredictable. One never knows when one's death might occur, particularly if one lives in the city of Ammonihah (which will soon become a doomed city) and if one is unrepentant (see verse 23).
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.
verse 21 "with equity and justice in my hands" We never need question the absolute fairness of the Lord's judgments.
verses 20-21 "well doth the Lord judge . . . well doth he cry unto this people" For a discussion of a unique meaning for the word "well" in these verses, see the commentary for verse 19.
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.
verse 22 "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" Obviously not all of the people in Ammonihah were caught up in priestcraft and other false concepts. We will learn that after the preaching of Alma and Amulek, "many of them did believe . . . and began to repent, and to search the scriptures" (Alma 14:1). However, "the more part of them were desirous that they might destroy Alma and Amulek" (Alma 14:2).
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.
verse 23 "then will not the Lord stay his hand" A more conventional rendering would be "then the Lord will not stay his hand."
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.
verse 24 "This man doth revile against our laws which are just" We will learn (in verse 26) that the people were incorrect in this criticism of Amulek. The law of the land was the "law of Mosiah" (Alma 12:1) consisting of the system of judges which governed the land. Amulek and Alma were, of course, supportive of the principles behind this form of government. Amulek, however, did take issue with how the people of Ammonihah interpreted or practiced this form of government. He had previously denounced the practice of government in Ammonihah when he said: "Mosiah [caused] 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. . . . If it were not for the prayers of the righteous . . . ye would even now be visited with utter destruction" (verses 19, 22). Obviously the "voice" or majority of the people in Ammonihah had chosen unwisely, and their "wise lawyers" were not in fact wise.
"This man doth revile against . . . our wise lawyers whom we have selected" They are accurate in this criticism. Amulek had reviled against their lawyers (see verse 17).
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?
verse 25 "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?" For a discussion of how Satan may blind the eyes of a man and bind him with the chains of hell, see Alma 12:9-11 and its commentary. For a more complete discussion of Satan and his strategies, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 16, The Role of Satan.
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.
verse 26 "I have spoken in favor of your law, to your condemnation" The law of Mosiah was based upon righteous principles. These principles had been violated by the Ammonihahites.
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.
verse 27 Again, the formula for destruction is spelled out in verse 19: "if the time should come that the voice of this people should choose iniquity . . . they would be ripe for destruction."
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.
verse 28 Here is the age-old irony of Satan-inspired individuals accusing the righteous of being Satan-inspired.
29 And again, he has reviled against our lawyers, and our judges.
30 And it came to pass that the lawyers put it into their hearts that they should remember these things against him.
verse 30 Obviously these lawyers were the learned, the charismatic, the influential, the leaders. They determined the ideological directions for the majority of the people.
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.
verse 31 Here we are introduced to Zeezrom, an intelligent, clever, and wicked lawyer. Make certain that you are pronouncing his name correctly. It has three syllables rather than two, and the middle syllable is emphasized-Zee-eh'-zrum-(see the Pronouncing Guide).
"having much business to do among the people" Zeezrom was one of the most successful and sought after of the lawyers. We will learn that he was "expert in the devices of the devil, that he might destroy that which was good" (verse 21).
32 Now the object of these lawyers was to get gain; and they got gain according to their employ.
verse 32 The primary motivation of the lawyers was not the welfare of the people. They were not idealists who sought primarily the promulgation of fairness and justice.