Alma Chapter 12
Alma 12:9-11 Alma's teaching of the "chains of hell." He that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word and then they are taken captive by the devil.
Alma 12:14 For our words and our works will condemn us 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.
Alma 12:24 Death comes upon mankind, nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent.
Alma 12 and 13 consist of Alma's discourse to Zeezrom and to the people of Ammonihah.
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.
verse 1 Zeezrom has become uncharacteristically quiet or silent. The Spirit had obviously touched him to know the truth of Amulek's teachings, and he was probably contemplating their significance in view of his sinful past.
"Amulek had caught him in his lying and deceiving to destroy him" Amulek had correctly perceived that Zeezrom was lying and deceiving in order to destroy Amulek in their ideological debate.
"to establish the words of Amulek, and to explain things beyond" Alma's intent in speaking to the Ammonihahites was to confirm the truth of Amulek's preaching and to teach additional truths ("things beyond") over and above those things Amulek had taught.
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;
verse 3 "thou hast lied unto God; for behold, he knows all thy thoughts" It is impossible to remain undetected if we attempt to lie to God, yet we can deceive Satan, for "there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart" (D&C 6:16).
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-
verse 4 By now, the reader perceives that "subtle"and "subtlety" are negative qualities. But do you recall exactly what they mean? Subtlety usually means having the ability to make fine distinctions. Here, however, "subtle" means crafty, sly, cunning, and devious.
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.
verse 5 "he hath exercised his power in thee" Alma tells Zeezrom, "You have been used by the very adversary for his purposes."
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.
verse 6 A snare is anything by which one is entangled and brought into captivity and trouble.
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.
verse 7 The "spirit of prophecy" is, of course, the Holy Ghost.
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?
verse 8 We witness a miraculous transformation of Zeezrom from vicious critic and heckler to honest investigator!
verses 9-11 These verses explain the basis on which eternal truths are taught to the human family.
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.
verse 9 "mysteries of God" Harold B. Lee taught that a mystery is a spiritual truth which may be grasped only through divine revelation-a fact or concept that can truly be understood only with the help and influence of the Spirit of God. All spiritual truths are "bewildering mysteries" to those who are "hard-hearted" or "stiff-necked" as they simply are unable to understand them. This definition of mysteries seems to pertain in this particular verse and throughout the Book of Mormon (Ye Are the Light of the World, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974], 211).
These mysteries are advanced concepts of spiritual understanding. There are essential requirements for receiving this type of mystery. They are received and understood only by those who have been prepared by learning the concepts of the gospel in a step-wise fashion, "line upon line" and "precept upon precept." They are received only under the influence of the Holy Ghost, therefore only those righteous individuals who live worthy of the Holy Ghost's influence qualify to receive them. Such concepts are sacred, and there is a measure of defilement in disclosing them to someone who is not prepared to receive them because of failure to meet the above qualifications. Such disclosure not only profanes the sacred concept, but in addition is a waste of time since it is not possible for one who is unprepared to spiritually comprehend it. For a more complete discussion of the concept of mysteries of God, see the commentary for 1 Nephi 1:1.
During his mortal ministry Jesus used parables to conceal the mysteries of the kingdom from the unworthy and the spiritually unprepared. These parables were so effective at concealing the message that Jesus often had to explain the meaning afterward even to his disciples.
"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" Here is a commandment directed to those with an understanding-a spiritual witness-of some of the "mysteries of God." To whom are they allowed to teach or to impart these mysteries? They are allowed to teach these sacred concepts only to those who have appropriately prepared themselves spiritually by seeking the help of the Holy Spirit through prayer, by study, and by obedience-they have given "proper heed and diligence . . . unto him." They have acknowledged the Author of the mysteries by their obedience to him.
The Lord may reveal, through his Spirit, to some individuals particular morsels of understanding because of the diligence of their study or because of their particular circumstances. In these instances, the Lord may not intend that these morsels be taught to all members of the Church. They may, at times, not even be applicable to the general membership of the Church.
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.
verse 10 "he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word" For a discussion of this concept see the commentary for verse 11. See also the discussion of hard-heartedness in the commentary for Alma 10:6.
"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" The promise is given only to the faithful and obedient: They will be given knowledge "line upon line, precept upon precept" until they receive, in "due time" a fulness of the Father (D&C 98:12; D&C 93:19). They who receive light and continue in that light "receiveth more light: and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day" (D&C 50:24). Simply stated, they will receive all the knowledge the Father has. This concept is discussed also in the commentary for 2 Nephi 28:30. More is implied than the idea that knowledge is given to man a little at a time. The receiving of new knowledge is a matter of personal desire, personal worthiness, and personal readiness. Also implicit in this concept is the idea that in order to receive additional knowledge, one must prove oneself a faithful steward over the knowledge already received. If not, then even that which has been already received will be taken away.
The concept of a man's coming to know a spiritual truth is far richer than a mere mental process of learning and understanding. "Knowledge" of each spiritual truth comes as a gift of the Spirit, an increment of an attribute of God. When a man comes to know a spiritual truth, he receives that truth by personal revelation, and his heart and mind are changed. He becomes a new creature. Such knowledge of spiritual truths comes less by reading and studying than through one's obedience to gospel commandments. To learn gospel truths is to receive gifts of the Spirit. This same concept adds richness to the expression "the word of God." Learning the word of God effects a change in an individual. That change may be termed spiritual growth. See Spiritual Growth-Gifts of the Spirit in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 7.
"mysteries of God" Again, see the discussion of mysteries in the commentary for 1 Nephi 1:1.
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.
verse 11 In contrast to the previous verse wherein we are taught how an individual might receive a fulness of light or knowledge, this verse describes the phenomenon of a man's losing all knowledge of eternal truths. Then, inevitably, the man is taken captive by the devil and led down to destruction. The concept of "the chains of hell" is particularly apt. The devil slips his chains around the neck of the unbeliever so subtly and shrewdly that he snares and binds them almost before they realize it. Nephi commented on this ability of Satan when he observed that the devil "leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord [a soft cord], until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever" (2 Nephi 26:22). These "chains" are referred to elsewhere in the scriptures as "awful chains" (2 Nephi 28:22), "everlasting chains" (2 Nephi 28:19), and "everlasting chains of death" (Alma 36:18).
Just as knowledge of spiritual truths comes through one's obedience to the gospel commands and represents real spiritual growth, one will fail to grow and even lose the growth that one does possess through one's disobedience to gospel law. Both the process of learning and the process of forgetting spiritual truths tend to be self-perpetuating. He who denies his natural self and obeys a commandment is rendered more likely to subsequently deny himself again and obey again. Contrariwise, the man to gives in to his natural self and fails to obey a commandment becomes more inclined to disobey the next time he is tempted. This latter individual becomes caught in a spiraling whirlpool which takes him down and down until he is irreversibly ensnared by the "chains of hell."
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.
verse 12 These words of Amulek are found in Alma 11:41-45.
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.
verse 13 This verse is a reiteration of verse 11. The idea that the word of God "has not been found in us" does not refer so much to what we know. Rather, it refers to what we have become.
verses 14-18 Here Alma speaks of those who refuse to repent.
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.
verse 14 The principle underlying this verse is accountability. Accountability is being responsible, or answerable, for one's "thoughts," "feelings," "words," and "works." For mortals to be accountable to God, three conditions must exist. First, a law must be given which defines the boundary between good and evil (2 Nephi 2:13; Alma 42:17-22). Second, there must be a knowledge of the law, a knowledge of good and evil (2 Nephi 2:5); and third, there must be agency, the freedom to choose between obedience or disobedience, between good and evil (2 Nephi 2:26-27). God has created a mortal experience where all three of these essential elements are present.
Is it not true that a person's "thoughts," "feelings," "words," and "works" are but outward manifestations of what that person really is at his very core, in his very heart of hearts?
"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" Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines fain as, "Gladly; willingly; with joy or pleasure." Thus the expression "fain be glad" is an odd, redundant phrase.
Can you think of a state that is the exact opposite of the one described in this verse? Consider, in the context of this verse, D&C 121:45: "Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God."
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.
verse 15 "But this cannot be; we must come forth and stand before him" This phrase refers to the final thought in the previous verse, "we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence."
It is sobering to contemplate the inevitable consequences of maintaining an unrepentant attitude here in mortality. Except for those who go with Satan and become sons of perdition, each and every individual will (1) feel shame in God's presence; (2) see himself with all sham and pretense stripped away and realize that God's judgments are completely fair-indeed, more than fair; and (3) acknowledge that there is no other way to be saved in a kingdom of glory than acknowledging Jesus as their Savior and sincerely repenting of their sins.
One meaning of the word meet is "that which is suitable, fitting, and proper." To bring "forth fruit meet for repentance" is to sincerely repent and then provide appropriate evidence of the completeness of that repentance.
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.
verse 16 "then cometh a death, even a second death" Again, we are considering the fate of him who remains unrepentant here in mortality. What exactly is this "second death"? To understand clearly the answer to this question, let us review part of the concept of the fall: Because Adam transgressed in the garden, all mankind will temporarily suffer two penalties: (1) Each person will be cut off from the presence of God while here in mortality, the so-called spiritual death. This may also be referred to as the "first death." (2) Every man will also suffer physical death, the separation of his spirit from his body. These penalties are temporary because, as we will learn, their effects will automatically be some day reversed by virtue of the Lord's atoning sacrifice and death. In other words, "No man will be eternally punished for Adam's transgression" (Article of Faith 2). Remember, that the law of justice includes the concept that it is unjust to punish one man for another's sins. Thus, all men will be resurrected, and also no man will be excluded from the presence of God because of Adam's sin. At a point in time every man will be returned to the presence of God to be judged. It does not matter how wicked and unrepentant, every person will, after the resurrection, be brought back into the presence of God for judgment (Alma 40:11-14). This returning to God's presence of every man is proof that no one suffers a permanent spiritual death because of Adam's transgression.
Once in God's presence each person is judged. They will either be exalted in the kingdom of God and thus remain in his presence or they will be sent out of his presence a second time and suffer the so-called "second death." They will be cut off from the presence of God, and from his happiness and joy, forever. These will be consigned to one of the lower two kingdoms or they will suffer a complete second death and live with Satan forever as sons of perdition.
The term "second death" is used several times in the Book of Mormon. It sometimes seems to refer to that place of eternal damnation where Satan and his sons live, so-called outer darkness (see Jacob 3:11). The reader is reminded that the doctrine of the post-mortal phase of man's existence is incomplete as taught in the Book of Mormon. Those who ultimately inherit the terrestrial or telestrial glories also may be said to have suffered the "second death."
"then is a time that whosoever dieth in his sins, as to a temporal death, shall also die a spiritual death" "Then" refers to the time when people will be consigned to suffer the second death. This tragic consignment occurs when an individual lives through mortality and dies unrepentant. After his physical death, he will consequently also die spiritually.
We must keep in mind that at our death, the "partial judgment" of each one of us is made by an all-knowing and all-seeing Lord. We will be judged worthy of a state of "paradise" or be placed in the spirit world in a non-paradisiacal state, a state of "prison." Each of God's children will finally live eternally where they are happy and fulfilled. If they are truly celestial people in their hearts-at their core-they will so be judged. If they would fit and be happiest in a lesser degree of glory, then that is where they will live for eternity. Hence, the individual "who dieth in his sins" simply means that during his mortal experience, he failed to become-through repeated repentance and obedience-a true celestial being. And, he will consequently be remanded to a lesser degree of glory or to outer darkness.
The phrase, "he shall die as to things pertaining to righteousness" suggests an aspect of permanence to the phenomenon of the "second death."
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.
verse 17 "lake of fire and brimstone" This expression refers to those who suffer the second death. It does not, of course, describe the literal fate of anyone. Rather, it is a figurative or symbolic expression that is discussed more fully in the important commentary for 2 Nephi 9:16. If the reasons why the spirit world is referred to in scripture as "hell" are not fresh in your mind, please review that commentary for 2 Nephi 9:16.
"they shall be chained down to an everlasting destruction" Verse 11 and its commentary reviews the manner in which Satan uses the chains of hell to capture those with hardened hearts. These eventually come to have no knowledge of spiritual truths and have no choice but to respond to the will and logic of the devil. Only those who become sons of perdition are completely and eternally "chained down to an everlasting destruction."
This "captivity of Satan" will also be experienced in some measure by those who eventually inherit a lesser degree of glory. They will be temporarily consigned in the world of spirits to "prison," the place for all of those not blessed with the state of paradise. In the case of these individuals in prison, however, this captivity will come to a finite end at the moment they are resurrected with a terrestrial or a telestial body. For them this captivity is "eternal" or "everlasting" only in the sense that it is God's punishment (see D&C 19:10-12). In their cases, it does not last forever.
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.
verse 18 This verse can only describe the sons of perdition. It is only they who "shall be as though there had been no redemption made" (see the commentary for 2 Nephi 9:8-9). It is only they who will not "be redeemed according to God's justice."
"they cannot die, seeing there is no more corruption" The word "corruption" in scripture means something like decay or deterioration. What a desperate plight awaits the sons of perdition! They will find themselves in outer darkness, subject to the devil and, initially at least, possessing an eternal body. There will, however, be no escape from their hopeless situation. Whether or not they will eventually experience dissolution of their resurrected body, they will remain in outer darkness forever. There is no way out!
The question as to the state of the body of those resurrected to inherit outer darkness is not completely settled. This verse may suggest that the "perdition body" will last for eternity. There is some speculation, however, that the resurrected body of those doomed to live in outer darkness forever will eventually undergo dissolution (see the commentary for 2 Nephi 1:22).
19 Now it came to pass that when Alma had made an end of speaking these words, the people began to be more astonished;
verse 19 "the people began to be more astonished" Obviously some of the people were beginning to respond to the Spirit. They were beginning to believe the words of Amulek and Alma.
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?
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.
verses 20-21 Antionah is critical of the possibility of immortality because God had placed cherubim before the tree of life to prevent Adam and Eve (or their posterity) from living forever.
What are cherubim? We have previously discussed this question. Allow me to remind you. Many animals and plants live in God's presence, and it is likely that we have never heard of or seen many of them. John the Revelator saw and heard such animals in God's presence (Revelation 5:8-14), and Joseph Smith recorded how these animals praised and glorified God (TPJS, 291-92). One such animal is the seraph (singular) or seraphim (plural). In D&C 109:79, Joseph Smith describes seraphs (alternately seraphim) in God's presence. Joseph refers to them as "bright, shining seraphs." Another type of winged heavenly creature is the cherub (singular) or cherubim (plural). Ezekiel teaches that cherubim also have hands and faces (Ezekiel 10:7; Ezekiel 10:14). Mesopotamian tradition and art represent them as winged bulls with human faces, but this need not necessarily correspond with the truth. An alternate explanation of seraphim and cherubim is that they are angels in the celestial presence of God who belong to the human family, and that the descriptions of their non human parts ("wings") is only figurative and symbolic. Perhaps their "wings" are figurative representations of their power to move and to act.
It is interesting to note that Antionah doubted the doctrine of the resurrection and perhaps the doctrine of an afterlife because of a misinterpretation of the account of "cherubim and a flaming sword" in the Garden of Eden. He had assumed that since Adam and Eve were prevented from eating the fruit of the tree of life, "there was no possible chance that they should live forever." His error is an understandable one and perhaps even a sincere one. Alma will explain his error, read on!
verses 22-27 There are three key points to understanding Alma's explanation to Antionah:
1. Adam's transgression brought about a temporary spiritual death or a temporary separation of man from God, and in addition every man will perpetuate this spiritual death and render it "permanent" by his own sins (Romans 3:23).
2. The plan of redemption holds that the only way to overcome this permanent separation from God is through obedience and repentance in a mortal state.
3. Once Adam and Eve had fallen from their immortal state and were mortal, it was necessary to prevent them from partaking of the fruit of the tree of life. The Bible tells that is they had partaken, they would have "live[d] forever" (Genesis 3:22). However, in neither Genesis nor the book of Moses are the implications of this situation clearly defined. We can be grateful to Alma for an explanation. Apparently, eating of the fruit of the tree of life, once they were mortal, would have simply perpetuated their "mortal" state forever. They would have existed forever in a sort of quasi-resurrected state. This quasi-resurrected body would not die, and somehow, in this condition, they would have been prevented from engaging in the real process of mortality. They could not have been properly tested. They could not have grappled with the tests of temptation, obedience, disobedience, and sin. They could not have repented of their sins. Apparently, they also could not have born children. There is obviously much we still do not know about the implications of the tree of life in Eden.
A period of ordinary mortality is absolutely necessary for our spiritual progress. If Adam and Eve had partaken of the tree of life, they would have been shut out from the presence of God forever. A most vital part of the plan of redemption is the relatively brief period we spend in mortality-our "moment" of probation.
We may thus more clearly understand why the Book of Mormon warns against wasting the days of our probation. If a person "wasteth the days of his probation, . . . awful is his state" (2 Nephi 9:27), for he finds himself in the same condition that would have prevailed if Adam and Eve had partaken of the tree of life immediately and continued forever in their sins, shut out from the presence of God. Those who waste the days of their probation exist as though there were no plan of redemption and no atonement.
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.
verse 22 "by his fall, all mankind became a lost and fallen people" Do we really become a "lost and fallen people" because of Adam's fall? Let us review the consequences of Adam's transgression. They are:
1. All mankind became mortal. Our bodies are subject to "corruption" or deterioration, and all of us will eventually suffer a physical death. We are therefore temporarily "lost and fallen" in the sense that we are in need of being resurrected.
2. All mankind became separated from God, and we need to regain his presence, thus in another way we become temporarily "lost and fallen" because of Adam's sin.
3. We came to know good from evil. That is, humankind was enabled to have a full knowledge of good and evil, sufficient to allow them to grow spiritually as they make moral choices. This effect of Adam's fall may be regarded as positive and productive.
4. Mankind was enabled to procreate. This, also, is a positive and productive change.
Now, we do believe that no one of us will suffer eternally because of Adam's transgression (Article of Faith 2). We are taught that consequences (1) and (2) of Adam's transgression (above) will be automatically removed or fixed. It is however by virtue of Christ's atonement that none of us will suffer eternally due to Adam's fall. Without being rescued or redeemed by that atoning sacrifice, each of us would indeed have remained permanently a "lost and fallen people."
Another consequence of the fall is that man, in his mortal state, is significantly reduced in power and in the ability to acquire knowledge compared to his living in a spirit body. In speaking of the reductions in ability that man experiences in this mortal sphere, Joseph F. Smith wrote: "I think that the spirit, before and after this probation, possesses greater facilities, aye, manifold greater, for the acquisition of knowledge, than while manacled and shut up in the prison-house of mortality" (Gospel Doctrine, 13).
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.
verse 23 This verse makes the point that if Adam and Eve had partaken of the fruit of the tree of life in the garden, then they never would have died. They would have lived forever in their fallen "mortal" state. This would have been, of course, a major problem.
"the word would have been void, making God a liar, for he said: If thou eat thou shalt surely die" This instruction and warning by God was given in the context of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In Genesis 3:3, Eve implies that God had told Adam and Eve that if they partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they would surely die. This death, and the mortal life that preceded it, of course, would be a good thing-a vital part of the God's plan. An untimely partaking of the fruit of the tree of life would have thwarted God's plan. Man would not experience mortality and then die and later be resurrected. In this sense, then, God would have been "a liar."
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.
verse 24 The logic of this verse is that since death has come upon mankind, then obviously a functional and redemptive mortal probationary period has also come upon mankind.
"this life became a probationary state" Adam and Eve did not partake of the tree of life, and this life did become a valid probationary state.
It may be parenthetically noted that one doctrine not fully explained in the Book of Mormon is the complete truth of the "probationary state" or second estate through which each of us must pass. It includes not only our mortal lives on earth but also the period of time that some will spend in the "spirit prison." Those who are blessed to go to "paradise" need no further probationary state since they have already completed their probation. The fact that it is possible to repent after this mortal phase is missing from the Book of Mormon (see the commentary for Mosiah 2:33).
"that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead" This seems to refer to that eternal period when all, save the sons of perdition, will live in the kingdoms of glory.
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.
verse 25 "from the foundation of the world" The period here referred to as the "foundation of the world" is that period in the premortal existence when preparations were made for the great mortal experience of the family of Adam and the plan of redemption by which members of that family might eventually return to their celestial home.
"the plan of redemption" This is another name for the plan of salvation (see the commentary for 2 Nephi 9:6).
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.
verse 26 This verse proposes a hypothetical situation which did not, and indeed could not never have come to pass because the word of God stated otherwise. As we have discussed, if Adam and Eve had partaken of the fruit of the tree of life after they had secured their mortality by partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they would have lived forever in a sort of suspended state of eternal "mortal" agony where they were guilty of sin but unable to repent. They would have had a type of quasi-resurrected, "mortal" body which would not die. Though they had transgressed in the garden (partaken of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil) and fullly knew right from wrong, there would be no mortal period of probation available to them. There would be no opportunity to be tried and to repent. They would be unable to earn their exaltation. The rest of us would also have suffered. We would have been stuck in our pre-existent unembodied state.
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.
verse 27 "it was appointed unto men that they must die" Intrinsic within this statement is the idea that it was appointed unto men that they must become mortal, live out their mortal probationary period, and then die a mortal death.
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;
verse 28 It is given unto man to know about the plan of salvation and other eternal truths. Every man should know fully that he will die and be judged by the Lord.
29 Therefore he sent angels to converse with them, who caused men to behold of his glory.
verse 29 At the time of Adam, the heavenly instructions to mortal man were delivered through angels (see Moses 5:6; Moses 5:58 and D&C 29:42).
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.
verse 30 "from the foundation of the world" See the commentary for verse 25.
Since the time of Adam, spiritual knowledge has been bestowed upon mortals contingent upon their faithfulness-their "faith and repentance and their holy works."
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-
verse 31 "they having first transgressed the first commandments" The "first commandments" were those given to Adam and Eve in the Garden. Though the plural "commandments" is used in this verse, we regard this phrase as referring to the single commandment not to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. When this commandment was transgressed, the act brought unto Adam and Eve knowledge of good and evil, placing them in a position to act "according to their wills . . . whether to do evil or to do good." It also brought upon them a separation from God, mortality, and the inevitable eventuality of their own deaths.
For a discussion of the difficult questions raised by Adam and Eve's experiences in the Garden of Eden, see the commentary for Moses 3:17 in Learning to Love the Pearl of Great Price.
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.
verse 32 "Therefore God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption" These are the "second commandments" spoken of in verse 37. These were given to Adam and Eve and their offspring. These commandments are the gospel of Jesus Christ or the plan of redemption. The penalty for breaking these commandments is the "second death," an everlasting spiritual death. See the discussion of the meaning of the phrase "second death" in the commentary for verse 16 above.
"for on such the plan of redemption could have no power" Every individual who, at the final judgment, is judged unworthy to enter the presence of God suffers the "second death." Once a person has been so judged, there is no provision in the plan of salvation for bringing him back into the presence of God.
"the works of justice could not be destroyed" This phrase refers to the law of justice. There is no appeal from the workings of this law.
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;
verse 33 It is fundamental to the gospel plan that we do all that we do in the name of the Son. Everything redemptive is accomplished in the name of Christ, who mediates all transactions between God and man. "Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore" (Moses 5:8).
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.
verse 34 "these shall enter into my rest" What is the "rest of the Lord"? Alma will refer to this concept several times during his preaching to the people of Ammonihah (verses 36, 37; Alma 13:6; Alma 13:12; Alma 13:13; Alma 13:16; Alma 13:29; Alma 16:17). In brief it is to rest or dwell in the presence of the Lord for eternity. See the commentary for 2 Nephi 21:10. See also "The Rest of the Lord" in chapter 17, Justification and Sanctification in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1. See also a discussion of the closely related gift of hope in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine: see "Two Little-Appreciated Gifts of the Spirit" in volume 1, chapter 10, Deliberate Faith and Revealed Faith. See also "The Fruits of Faith" in volume 1, chapter 11, Other Notes on Faith.
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.
verse 36 "the rest of the Lord" Again, for the meaning of the "rest of the Lord," see the commentary verse 34.
"first provocation" The "first provocation" was in the Garden of Eden. God was provoked by Adam and Eve's transgression. As a result he brought physical and spiritual death upon them and their posterity.
When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they were disobedient. Hence the Lord was provoked and withdrew his presence and swore in his wrath that they would not enter into his rest while in the wilderness (Psalm 95:8-11). This is the "last provocation."
"last death" The "last death" is the same as the "second death." The "first" death and the "second death" are defined in the commentary for verse 16 above.
The general meaning of verse 36 is since God was true to his word in earlier provocations, there is every reason to believe that he will be equally true to his word if we provoke him by our disobedience here in mortality.
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.
verse 37 "his second commandments" For an explanation of the "second commandments" see the commentary for verse 32.