Alma Chapter 14
1 And it came to pass after he had made an end of speaking unto the people many of them did believe on his words, and began to repent, and to search the scriptures.
2 But the more part of them were desirous that they might destroy Alma and Amulek; for they were angry with Alma, because of the plainness of his words unto Zeezrom; and they also said that Amulek had lied unto them, and had reviled against their law and also against their lawyers and judges.
verse 2 "they also said that Amulek had lied unto them, and had reviled against their law and also against their lawyers and judges" The majority of the people of Ammonihah were right on one count. Amulek had reviled against their lawyers (see Alma 10:17). They also accused Amulek of lying and reviling against their law neither of which he had done. The law of the land was the "law of Mosiah" (Alma 12:1). It consisted of a 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 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 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" (Alma 10:19; Alma 10:22). Obviously the "voice" or majority of the people in Ammonihah had chosen unwisely, and their "wise lawyers" were not in fact wise. When accused of speaking out against the laws of Ammonihah, Amulek stated that he had not, in fact, spoken out against their laws. Rather he maintained that he had spoken in favor of the law of Mosiah (Alma 10:26). For this denial, Amulek was accused of being a liar.
3 And they were also angry with Alma and Amulek; and because they had testified so plainly against their wickedness, they sought to put them away privily.
verse 3 "they sought to put them away privily" "Privily" means secretly or out of the public eye.
4 But it came to pass that they did not; but they took them and bound them with strong cords, and took them before the chief judge of the land.
5 And the people went forth and witnessed against them-testifying that they had reviled against the law, and their lawyers and judges of the land, and also of all the people that were in the land; and also testified that there was but one God, and that he should send his Son among the people, but he should not save them; and many such things did the people testify against Alma and Amulek. Now this was done before the chief judge of the land.
verse 5 "they . . . also testified that there was but one God, and that he should send his Son among the people, but he should not save them" These are charges previously made against Alma and Amulek by Zeezrom (See Alma 11:35). The charges are based upon misquoting and distortions.
6 And it came to pass that Zeezrom was astonished at the words which had been spoken; and he also knew concerning the blindness of the minds, which he had caused among the people by his lying words; and his soul began to be harrowed up under a consciousness of his own guilt; yea, he began to be encircled about by the pains of hell.
verse 6 We have already witnessed the evolution of the miraculous conversion of Zeezrom (Alma 11:46; Alma 12:1; Alma 12:7-8), and we have previously speculated that the fact that the Spirit was able to touch him while he was literally in the process of confronting the servants of God suggests that he was a choice and righteous individual in the pre-existence. We are reminded of the apostle Paul, the elder and younger Almas, and the sons of Mosiah.
"his soul began to be harrowed up under a consciousness of his own guilt" The term "harrow up" or "harrowed up" is unique in all the scriptures to the Book of Mormon. It means vexed, tormented, distressed, afflicted, or tortured.
7 And it came to pass that he began to cry unto the people, saying: Behold, I am guilty, and these men are spotless before God. And he began to plead for them from that time forth; but they reviled him, saying: Art thou also possessed with the devil? And they spit upon him, and cast him out from among them, and also all those who believed in the words which had been spoken by Alma and Amulek; and they cast them out, and sent men to cast stones at them.
verse 7 "these men are spotless before God" Zeezrom pled before the people for the lives of Alma and Amulek.
"and they cast them out, and sent men to cast stones at them" Zeezrom and other men converted to the gospel by the preaching of Alma and Amulek were cast out of the city and stoned. They then fled to the neighboring city of Sidom. There, Alma and Amulek will later (Alma 15:2) bring them tragic news. Their wives and children who remained in Ammonihah are about to be cast into the fire and burned to death (verses 8 through 14).
8 And they brought their wives and children together, and whosoever believed or had been taught to believe in the word of God they caused that they should be cast into the fire; and they also brought forth their records which contained the holy scriptures, and cast them into the fire also, that they might be burned and destroyed by fire.
verse 8 "And they brought their wives and children together" "They" are the hard-hearted people of Ammonihah. "Their" refers to those men who believed in the words of Alma and Amulek and had been cast out of the city and stoned. Their wives and children who were left behind in Ammonihah were cast into the fire and killed.
Alma and Amulek had warned the people of Ammonihah that the wicked would be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone (see verse 14). The wicked response of the people was to make certain that the believers were the ones to suffer by fire.
"they also brought forth their records which contained the holy scriptures, and cast them into the fire also" Were scriptures in those days written on materials that would burn? Weren't the significant records largely written on metal plates and stone monuments? While metal plates and stone monuments were used, another common type of record in Mesoamerica is the codex which is a record written on pages of tree bark or animal skins. This writing material was flattened so that the codices could be folded similar to the way in which a map folds.
In this verse the people of Ammonihah seal themselves up for destruction by shedding the innocent blood of those who believed in the word of God (Alma 10:23; Alma 16:1-3).
9 And it came to pass that they took Alma and Amulek, and carried them forth to the place of martyrdom, that they might witness the destruction of those who were consumed by fire.
10 And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.
verse 10 Just imagine the excruciating agony of watching this unimaginable scene. Amulek was obviously and justifiably shaken.
11 But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.
verse 11 God permits the wicked to inflict suffering upon the righteous "that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day" (see also Alma 60:13; D&C 103:3 101:78, 93).
12 Now Amulek said unto Alma: Behold, perhaps they will burn us also.
13 And Alma said: Be it according to the will of the Lord. But, behold, our work is not finished; therefore they burn us not.
verse 13 Undoubtedly the Spirit had born witness to Alma that he and Amulek were in no immediate danger of being martyred.
14 Now it came to pass that when the bodies of those who had been cast into the fire were consumed, and also the records which were cast in with them, the chief judge of the land came and stood before Alma and Amulek, as they were bound; and he smote them with his hand upon their cheeks, and said unto them: After what ye have seen, will ye preach again unto this people, that they shall be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone?
verse 14 "lake of fire and brimstone" This expression, of course, does not describe the literal fate of anyone. Rather, it is a figurative or symbolic expression that is discussed more fully in the commentary for 2 Nephi 9:19.
15 Behold, ye see that ye had not power to save those who had been cast into the fire; neither has God saved them because they were of thy faith. And the judge smote them again upon their cheeks, and asked: What say ye for yourselves?
16 Now this judge was after the order and faith of Nehor, who slew Gideon.
verse 16 "after the order and faith of Nehor" People within the order of Nehor were learned in language, attempted to lead the people astray, denied Christ, and denied that any prophet could foretell the future. They believed that every priest and teacher ought not to labor with their hands but rather ought to be supported by the people (Alma 1:3) and that all people would be saved and hence there was no need for repentance (Alma 1:4; Alma 15:15). For additional information on the order of the Nehors, see the commentary for Alma 8:8. It would be most useful to review this latter commentary before continuing.
"gnashing their teeth upon them, and spitting upon them" While we can easily understand the act of spitting upon a person as an act of ridicule or derision, we are not so intuitively familiar with the act of "gnashing" our teeth upon someone for the same purpose. Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines gnashing as, "a grinding or striking of the teeth in rage or anguish." We are left to conjure up in our mind's eye how this might have played out.
17 And it came to pass that Alma and Amulek answered him nothing; and he smote them again, and delivered them to the officers to be cast into prison.
18 And when they had been cast into prison three days, there came many lawyers, and judges, and priests, and teachers, who were of the profession of Nehor; and they came in unto the prison to see them, and they questioned them about many words; but they answered them nothing.
19 And it came to pass that the judge stood before them, and said: Why do ye not answer the words of this people? Know ye not that I have power to deliver you up unto the flames? And he commanded them to speak; but they answered nothing.
20 And it came to pass that they departed and went their ways, but came again on the morrow; and the judge also smote them again on their cheeks. And many came forth also, and smote them, saying: Will ye stand again and judge this people, and condemn our law? If ye have such great power why do ye not deliver yourselves?
verse 20 "If ye have such great power why do ye not deliver yourselves?" If you have great powers given you of your God, why don't do deliver yourselves from this prison?
21 And many such things did they say unto them, gnashing their teeth upon them, and spitting upon them, and saying: How shall we look when we are damned?
verse 21 These leaders from the order of the Nehors did not believe, even for one moment, they would ever be damned. Having apparently no fear of retribution the people continue their mockery, saying in effect: "And how do you suppose we will look after we are damned?"
22 And many such things, yea, all manner of such things did they say unto them; and thus they did mock them for many days. And they did withhold food from them that they might hunger, and water that they might thirst; and they also did take from them their clothes that they were naked; and thus they were bound with strong cords, and confined in prison.
23 And it came to pass after they had thus suffered for many days, (and it was on the twelfth day, in the tenth month, in the tenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi) that the chief judge over the land of Ammonihah and many of their teachers and their lawyers went in unto the prison where Alma and Amulek were bound with cords.
verse 23 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.
The "land of Ammonihah" is area surrounding the city of Ammonihah.
24 And the chief judge stood before them, and smote them again, and said unto them: If ye have the power of God deliver yourselves from these bands, and then we will believe that the Lord will destroy this people according to your words.
verse 24 "If ye have the power of God deliver yourselves . . . and then we will believe that the Lord will destroy this people" These words of the chief judge bring to mind the devil's temptation of the Savior: "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread" (Matthew 4:3). When Alma and Amulek do finally invoke the Lord's strength to deliver themselves from this prison, you will see that the effect was anything but the conversion of the Ammonihahite leaders. Rather they will be filled with great fear, and flee (verse 26). Such is a universal truth regarding those who ask for signs. No amount of signs will convince them.
25 And it came to pass that they all went forth and smote them, saying the same words, even until the last; and when the last had spoken unto them the power of God was upon Alma and Amulek, and they rose and stood upon their feet.
26 And Alma cried, saying: How long shall we suffer these great afflictions, O Lord? O Lord, give us strength according to our faith which is in Christ, even unto deliverance. And they broke the cords with which they were bound; and when the people saw this, they began to flee, for the fear of destruction had come upon them.
27 And it came to pass that so great was their fear that they fell to the earth, and did not obtain the outer door of the prison; and the earth shook mightily, and the walls of the prison were rent in twain, so that they fell to the earth; and the chief judge, and the lawyers, and priests, and teachers, who smote upon Alma and Amulek, were slain by the fall thereof.
28 And Alma and Amulek came forth out of the prison, and they were not hurt; for the Lord had granted unto them power, according to their faith which was in Christ. And they straightway came forth out of the prison; and they were loosed from their bands; and the prison had fallen to the earth, and every soul within the walls thereof, save it were Alma and Amulek, was slain; and they straightway came forth into the city.
29 Now the people having heard a great noise came running together by multitudes to know the cause of it; and when they saw Alma and Amulek coming forth out of the prison, and the walls thereof had fallen to the earth, they were struck with great fear, and fled from the presence of Alma and Amulek even as a goat fleeth with her young from two lions; and thus they did flee from the presence of Alma and Amulek.