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Alma Chapter 26

Scripture Mastery

Alma 26:9-12 Ammon is rebuked by his brother Aaron for boasting. Ammon retorts: I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom.

Alma 26:22 Ammon teaches that a man cannot understand the principle of the Lord's mercy or any other of the mysteries lest he repent and bring forth good works.

Alma 26:29-30 Ammon teaches that he and his brothers suffered all manner of afflictions, that perhaps they might be the means of saving some soul.

This chapter contains Ammon's report of his fourteen-year mission among the Lamanites with his two brothers and others.

1 And now, these are the words of Ammon to his brethren, which say thus: My brothers and my brethren, behold I say unto you, how great reason have we to rejoice; for could we have supposed when we started from the land of Zarahemla that God would have granted unto us such great blessings?

verse 1 "My brothers and my brethren" Ammon differentiates among those in the missionary group. His "brothers" were Aaron, Omner, and Himni, and his "brethren" were Muloki, Ammah, and perhaps others.

2 And now, I ask, what great blessings has he bestowed upon us? Can ye tell?

3 Behold, I answer for you; for our brethren, the Lamanites, were in darkness, yea, even in the darkest abyss, but behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God! And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work.

verse 3 "darkest abyss" See the commentary for Mosiah 27:29.

4 Behold, thousands of them do rejoice, and have been brought into the fold of God.

5 Behold, the field was ripe, and blessed are ye, for ye did thrust in the sickle, and did reap with your might, yea, all the day long did ye labor; and behold the number of your sheaves! And they shall be gathered into the garners, that they are not wasted.

verse 5 "And they shall be gathered into the garners" A garner is a granary or a place where grains are stored.

verses 6-7 These verses refer to those Lamanite converts who joined the church during the missionary excursions of the sons of Mosiah.

6 Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them.

verse 6 "neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds" To be "harrowed up" is to be vexed, tormented, distressed, afflicted, or tortured.

7 But behold, they are in the hands of the Lord of the harvest, and they are his; and he will raise them up at the last day.

verse 7 Again, "they" are those Lamanites converted during the mission of the four sons of Mosiah.

"he will raise them up at the last day" He will raise them up on the morning of the first resurrection-they will be resurrected with a celestial body.

8 Blessed be the name of our God; let us sing to his praise, yea, let us give thanks to his holy name, for he doth work righteousness forever.

verse 8 This verse is, itself, a brief psalm or hymn of praise.

9 For if we had not come up out of the land of Zarahemla, these our dearly beloved brethren, who have so dearly beloved us, would still have been racked with hatred against us, yea, and they would also have been strangers to God.

10 And it came to pass that when Ammon had said these words, his brother Aaron rebuked him, saying: Ammon, I fear that thy joy doth carry thee away unto boasting.

verse 10 Perhaps Ammon was somewhat at fault here, yet it may be difficult to draw a line between expressing joy and boasting.

11 But Ammon said unto him: I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.

verse 11 "my heart is brim with joy" This is the only use in all the scriptures of this rather novel and charming expression.

12 Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.

verse 12 "Yea, I know that I am nothing" We might intuitively object to this self-indictment of Ammon's. It would be difficult to argue that this valiant and noble missionary was "nothing." After being favored with a grand vision of the eternities and the power and majesty of God, Moses said: "I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed." Is this true? Is man nothing? It might be argued that the natural man-mortal man without the influence of the Spirit of God is "nothing," particularly when compared to what he might become with the heavenly endowments that are available to him. Or, we might also argue that a man, when thoroughly converted to Christ tends to selflessly forget self and focus all his attentions on others. Hence, he is relatively "nothing" compared to his concern for others.

13 Behold, how many thousands of our brethren has he loosed from the pains of hell; and they are brought to sing redeeming love, and this because of the power of his word which is in us, therefore have we not great reason to rejoice?

verse 13 "how many . . . has he loosed from the pains of hell" Being "loosed from the pains of hell" has a dual meaning. Through Jesus's atonement a man may escape the pains of hell here in mortality. That is, he may be absolved or forgiven of all the guilt and misery which sin may bring. Also, after this mortal phase, he may avoid going to the spirit prison where the unrepentant sinners inevitably will find themselves. In the spirit prison "there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil" (Alma 40:13).

"they are brought to sing redeeming love" This phrase means simply that they are thoroughly converted-their hearts are fundamentally changed. As we have discussed previously (commentary for Alma 5:9), this expression is unique in all the scriptures to the Book of Mormon, indeed unique to the prophet Alma. He describes the thoroughly converted individual as one who is apt to "sing the song of redeeming love" or more simply as in this verse "sing redeeming love" (see also Alma 5:9; Alma 5:26).

"the power of his word which is in us" Here is an important theme found in the account of the mission of the sons of Mosiah (see Alma 17:3-4) and will continue, in a negative way, through the account of the antichrist Korihor in chapter 30. We will then learn more of this concept in the account of the mission of Alma to the Zoramites. Alma will teach that preaching the word of God has a "more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else" (Alma 31:5). Alma will eloquently pray that he might have a greater ability to preach to gospel (Alma 29:1). He will then teach the Zoramites of the importance of nourishing the word or God in our hearts (Alma 32:28).

14 Yea, we have reason to praise him forever, for he is the Most High God, and has loosed our brethren from the chains of hell.

verse 14 Here Alma refers to Jesus Christ as "the Most High God."

15 Yea, they were encircled about with everlasting darkness and destruction; but behold, he has brought them into his everlasting light, yea, into everlasting salvation; and they are encircled about with the matchless bounty of his love; yea, and we have been instruments in his hands of doing this great and marvelous work.

verse 15 "Everlasting salvation" means, of course, exaltation. A "bounty" is a generous gift.

16 Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.

verse 16 Obviously Ammon feels he has "bragging rights," but he is not boasting of his own accomplishments. Rather, he is rejoicing in his Lord.

verses 17-19 Now Ammon recalls the time before his conversion and before the conversion of his brothers and Alma.

17 Who could have supposed that our God would have been so merciful as to have snatched us from our awful, sinful, and polluted state?

18 Behold, we went forth even in wrath, with mighty threatenings to destroy his church.

19 Oh then, why did he not consign us to an awful destruction, yea, why did he not let the sword of his justice fall upon us, and doom us to eternal despair?

verse 19 Ammon is obviously still spiritually cringing and awe-struck over how he and his rebellious brothers and friends escaped "the sword of his justice." He is still a bit incredulous as to how they received instead the Lord's mercy.

To consign is to deliver up. Despair is a state of hopelessness.

20 Oh, my soul, almost as it were, fleeth at the thought. Behold, he did not exercise his justice upon us, but in his great mercy hath brought us over that everlasting gulf of death and misery, even to the salvation of our souls.

verse 20 "almost as it were" This peculiar phrase includes the subjunctive mood. It is placed between two phrases and implies the use of metaphor. The phrase that follows "almost as it were" is figurative and not intended to be taken literally (see also Alma 2:27; Mormon 1:7). Ammon's soul does not literally flee, but we have no trouble understanding his meaning.

The atonement of the merciful Lord overcame death ("that everlasting gulf of death") and sin ("[the] misery [of sin])," and gave us the opportunity to be exalted ("even to the salvation of our souls").

21 And now behold, my brethren, what natural man is there that knoweth these things? I say unto you, there is none that knoweth these things, save it be the penitent.

verse 21 The "natural man" is man without the influence of the Spirit of God. Such a man cannot possibly understand eternal things-things of the Spirit. Paul wrote: "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14).

The penitent are, of course, the repentant. Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines penitent as, "Suffering pain or sorrow of heart on account of sins, crimes or offenses; contrite; sincerely affected by a sense of guilt."

22 Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing-unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance.

verse 22 "mysteries of God" For a discussion of the two definitions of the concept of the "mysteries of God" see the commentary for Alma 12:9. Perhaps the pertinent definition here is spiritual truths that may be understood only through divine revelation-by the help and influence of the Spirit of God.

"unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed" The faithful will not only have an opportunity to learn the "mysteries of God," but they will also be empowered to teach them to others so effectively that some will want to repent and accept the gospel.

23 Now do ye remember, my brethren, that we said unto our brethren in the land of Zarahemla, we go up to the land of Nephi, to preach unto our brethren, the Lamanites, and they laughed us to scorn?

verse 23 "and they laughed us to scorn" Hugh Nibley observed: "One might expect Ammon, the super-swordsman of the Book of Mormon to whom no man or platoon of men can stand up, to wade in and teach the Lamanites a lesson; so when he proposes to go with a few companions among the Lamanites as a missionary, everybody 'laughed us to scorn,' as he reports it" (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 8, 486-87).

24 For they said unto us: Do ye suppose that ye can bring the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth? Do ye suppose that ye can convince the Lamanites of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers, as stiffnecked a people as they are; whose hearts delight in the shedding of blood; whose days have been spent in the grossest iniquity; whose ways have been the ways of a transgressor from the beginning? Now my brethren, ye remember that this was their language.

verse 24 "the traditions of their fathers" See the commentary for Alma 20:13.

"ye remember that this was their language" Ammon says, in effect, "I know that you remember that these are the things they were saying."

25 And moreover they did say: Let us take up arms against them, that we destroy them and their iniquity out of the land, lest they overrun us and destroy us.

verse 25 Ammon is still speaking of those who scoffed at him prior to his mission to the Lamanites. These scoffers said, in effect, "Never mind preaching to them. Instead let us arm ourselves and destroy them."

26 But behold, my beloved brethren, we came into the wilderness not with the intent to destroy our brethren, but with the intent that perhaps we might save some few of their souls.

27 Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.

verse 27 "When our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back" See Alma 17:9-11 and the commentary for Alma 17:9.

President Ezra Taft Benson taught: "There are times when you simply have to righteously hang on and out last the devil until his depressive spirit leaves you. . . . To press on in noble endeavors, even while surrounded by a cloud of depression, will eventually bring you out on top into the sunshine" ("Do Not Despair" Ensign [Nov 1974] 4:65-67).

28 And now behold, we have come, and been forth amongst them; and we have been patient in our sufferings, and we have suffered every privation; yea, we have traveled from house to house, relying upon the mercies of the world-not upon the mercies of the world alone but upon the mercies of God.

verse 28 "we have . . . been forth amongst them" Be certain you notice this delightful expression. We often speak of "going forth." But seldom to we speak of "being forth."

29 And we have entered into their houses and taught them, and we have taught them in their streets; yea, and we have taught them upon their hills; and we have also entered into their temples and their synagogues and taught them; and we have been cast out, and mocked, and spit upon, and smote upon our cheeks; and we have been stoned, and taken and bound with strong cords, and cast into prison; and through the power and wisdom of God we have been delivered again.

verse 29 "we have also entered into their temples and their synagogues" The word synagogue here likely simply means place of worship.

30 And we have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some.

verse 30 Saving "some soul" implies saving a single individual, while "saving some" implies more than one. It makes little difference, of course, what specific hopes the missionaries had. We are taught that we will enjoy great eternal joy if we are instrumental in the exaltation of even one soul (D&C 18:15-16).

31 Now behold, we can look forth and see the fruits of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay, they are many; yea, and we can witness of their sincerity, because of their love towards their brethren and also towards us.

verse 31 "we can witness of their sincerity because of their love" "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20). And what are their fruits? "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:34-35).

32 For behold, they had rather sacrifice their lives than even to take the life of their enemy; and they have buried their weapons of war deep in the earth, because of their love towards their brethren.

33 And now behold I say unto you, has there been so great love in all the land? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, there has not, even among the Nephites.

34 For behold, they would take up arms against their brethren; they would not suffer themselves to be slain. But behold how many of these have laid down their lives; and we know that they have gone to their God, because of their love and of their hatred to sin.

verse 34 Here Ammon refers to his fellow Nephites in the first sentence. The second sentence refers to the converted Lamanites.

"hatred to sin" Today we would probably rather say "hatred toward sin" or "hatred of sin."

35 Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name.

verse 35 "he has all power" God can do any righteous thing that can be done.

"all wisdom" Wisdom may be defined as the application of knowledge based upon the eternal best interest of those involved.

"he is a merciful being . . . to those who repent and believe on his name" Is the Lord merciful to the unrepentant sinner? Certainly he loves the sinner and weeps over him, but the specific gift of mercy is extended only to the righteous and penitent. The gift of mercy is the applying to an individual the full benefits of Christ's atonement which results in that individual's eventual exaltation. This gift is merciful because it is never fully deserved or earned even by the most righteous. In this latter context, we might refer to the gift of mercy as an example of the grace of God. The term grace also implies something given that is not fully deserved. But grace, specifically, is the love God has for his subjects. But it particularly refers to that aspect of his love that he readily expresses and applies, though it is not fully merited.

36 Now if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo. Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of this people, who are a branch of the tree of Israel, and has been lost from its body in a strange land; yea, I say, blessed be the name of my God, who has been mindful of us, wanderers in a strange land.

verse 36 The phrase "this is my life" might also have been worded "he is my life" referring, of course, to God-in this case probably Jesus Christ.

"this people, who are a branch of the tree of Israel, and has been lost from its body" Ammon seems to refer here to all Book of Mormon peoples, both Nephites and Lamanites, who are separated from the main body of Israel wandering in a distant "strange" land. An alternate definition of "this people" may be the Lamanites who have been "lost" from the main body of Israel by sin and disobedience.

37 Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen.

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