Alma Chapter 45
The account of the people of Nephi, and their wars and dissensions, in the days of Helaman, according to the record of Helaman, which he kept in his days. Comprising chapters 45 to 62 inclusive.
Helaman is the author of Alma 45 through 62. The final chapter of Alma, chapter 63 will be written by Helaman's brother Shiblon with heavy editing by the prophet Mormon.
1 Behold, now it came to pass that the people of Nephi were exceedingly rejoiced, because the Lord had again delivered them out of the hands of their enemies; therefore they gave thanks unto the Lord their God; yea, and they did fast much and pray much, and they did worship God with exceedingly great joy.
verse 1 "They did fast much and pray much" Most of the world's armies celebrate victory by getting drunk. It is worthwhile to note that Moroni's army celebrated with fasting and prayer.
2 And it came to pass in the nineteenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, that Alma came unto his son Helaman and said unto him: Believest thou the words which I spake unto thee concerning those records which have been kept?
verse 2 After returning from his missionary journey to the Zoramites, Alma counseled with Helaman and gave him charge of the records. He had also counseled him on the vital and sacred nature of those records (Alma 36-37).
3 And Helaman said unto him: Yea, I believe.
4 And Alma said again: Believest thou in Jesus Christ, who shall come?
5 And he said: Yea, I believe all the words which thou hast spoken.
6 And Alma said unto him again: Will ye keep my commandments?
7 And he said: Yea, I will keep thy commandments with all my heart.
8 Then Alma said unto him: Blessed art thou; and the Lord shall prosper thee in this land.
9 But behold, I have somewhat to prophesy unto thee; but what I prophesy unto thee ye shall not make known; yea, what I prophesy unto thee shall not be made known, even until the prophecy is fulfilled; therefore write the words which I shall say.
10 And these are the words: Behold, I perceive that this very people, the Nephites, according to the spirit of revelation which is in me, in four hundred years from the time that Jesus Christ shall manifest himself unto them, shall dwindle in unbelief.
11 Yea, and then shall they see wars and pestilences, yea, famines and bloodshed, even until the people of Nephi shall become extinct-
verses 10-11 The spiritual deterioration and eventual destruction of the Nephites actually will occur somewhat sooner than Alma foresees here. They will become a hopelessly wicked people by about AD 326 and they will be destroyed by a great and final destructive battle in AD 385. While the Book of Mormon peoples will never really become extinct, certainly they will suffer a destruction of their culture, and they will cease to exist as a Nephite people.
12 Yea, and this because they shall dwindle in unbelief and fall into the works of darkness, and lasciviousness, and all manner of iniquities; yea, I say unto you, that because they shall sin against so great light and knowledge, yea, I say unto you, that from that day, even the fourth generation shall not all pass away before this great iniquity shall come.
verse 12 "from that day, even the fourth generation shall not all pass away before this great iniquity shall come" Following Christ's appearance in the western hemisphere there were many years of general righteousness among the people. This was the "golden age" of the Nephites which lasted until AD 200 ("three generations"). During this idyllic period men "did deal justly one with another" and "there were not rich and poor, bond and free" (4 Nephi 1:2-3). This period has been referred to as the Nephite "mini-millennium." During the "fourth generation" the people will begin to wax strong in iniquity.
13 And when that great day cometh, behold, the time very soon cometh that those who are now, or the seed of those who are now numbered among the people of Nephi, shall no more be numbered among the people of Nephi.
14 But whosoever remaineth, and is not destroyed in that great and dreadful day, shall be numbered among the Lamanites, and shall become like unto them, all, save it be a few who shall be called the disciples of the Lord; and them shall the Lamanites pursue even until they shall become extinct. And now, because of iniquity, this prophecy shall be fulfilled.
verses 9-14 In light of this prophecy by Alma, one might be tempted to say, "Well, so much for the promised land." Dr. Hugh Nibley provided informative insight into the phenomenon of a "promised land":
The term "promised land" has a nice upbeat sound that we like very much, but the great promise is worded as a curse: "Thus saith the Lord God-Cursed shall be the land, yea, this land, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, unto destruction, which do wickedly, when they are fully ripe . . . for this is the cursing and the blessing of God upon this land" (Alma 45:16). When Lehi's party had barely left Jerusalem, Nephi had a vision in which he "looked and beheld the land of promise." And what did he see? "A mist of darkness on the face of the land of promise," and horrible destruction and desolation (1 Nephi 12:4). Obviously one is not home-free when he has set foot upon the land of promise. Quite the opposite; from then on he must watch his step and control the impulse to do whatever he pleases and "have it all." For "God has sworn in his wrath" that what went on in other lands should not go on here. There are nations that were old when Nephi left Jerusalem and whose cultures and languages, customs, manners, and traditions still survive. They have all paid a high price in human suffering as they go along from folly to folly and disaster to disaster, but they are still there. It is not so in the New World, where great civilizations vanish without even leaving us their names, and where no high civilization has survived. It is significant that with all the warning and promising, only one penalty is ever mentioned, and only one means of avoiding it. "Prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, did labor diligently; . . . and . . . by so doing they kept them from being destroyed upon the face of the land; for they did prick their hearts with the word, continually stirring them up to repentance" (Jarom 1:11-12). The penalty is destruction; the deliverance, repentance (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 8, 505-6).
Dr. Nibley in another place gave further insight into the responsibilities inherent in being blessed with a "promised land":
The Nephites and Lamanites each received a promise in the beginning, and each promise contained two parts, a promise of bliss and a promise of woe, "for this is the cursing and the blessing of God upon the land" (Alma 45:16). In the Dead Sea Scrolls every covenant which promises a blessing if kept, promises a corresponding curse if broken, for a contract in which either party should be bound to no conditions whatever would be meaningless (see 2 Nephi 2:5-10). For the Lamanites the penalty of their backsliding is that they shall be scattered and smitten and driven by the Gentiles; the reward of their faith is that they are to survive all their afflictions and in time become the Lord's own people again. For the Nephites the promised reward of faith is that nothing on earth can without their own will and action in any way ever mar their liberty, security, prosperity, and happiness: "And now there was nothing in all the land to hinder the people from prospering continually, except they should fall into transgression" (3 Nephi 6:5). This tremendous guarantee is matched by a promise of total extinction in case they should fail to comply with the conditions of the contract. Since they never became fully ripe in iniquity as did the Nephites, the Lamanites were allowed to remain in the land, paying for the privilege by taking a terrible beating: "Wherefore, if ye are cursed, behold, I leave my blessing upon you. . . . Because of my blessing the Lord God will not suffer that ye shall perish" (2 Nephi 4:6-7). It was an unconditional promise of survival (Jacob 3:5-9; Helaman 7:24; Helaman 15:14-17). No such promise was given the Nephites, and Enos was told that though the Nephites might perish, still the Lamanites would survive to receive his record (Enos 1:13; Enos 1:16). (Ibid., volume 7, 389-90.)
15 And now it came to pass that after Alma had said these things to Helaman, he blessed him, and also his other sons; and he also blessed the earth for the righteous' sake.
16 And he said: Thus saith the Lord God-Cursed shall be the land, yea, this land, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, unto destruction, which do wickedly, when they are fully ripe; and as I have said so shall it be; for this is the cursing and the blessing of God upon the land, for the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.
verse 16 "the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance" Isn't this is a rather discouraging pronouncement? It actually should not be if one understands the law of justice and the principle of justification. Please take a moment and review the commentary for Mosiah 14:11. Since "the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance," a mechanism is established to help us imperfect sinners. For further insight into this concept, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapters 12 and 17-The Law of Justice and Justification and Sanctification.
17 And now, when Alma had said these words he blessed the church, yea, all those who should stand fast in the faith from that time henceforth.
18 And when Alma had done this he departed out of the land of Zarahemla, as if to go into the land of Melek. And it came to pass that he was never heard of more; as to his death or burial we know not of.
19 Behold, this we know, that he was a righteous man; and the saying went abroad in the church that he was taken up by the Spirit, or buried by the hand of the Lord, even as Moses. But behold, the scriptures saith the Lord took Moses unto himself; and we suppose that he has also received Alma in the spirit, unto himself; therefore, for this cause we know nothing concerning his death and burial.
verses 18-19 These verses have given rise to speculation, apparently both in the church of Alma's day and in the church today, that Alma may have been translated by the Lord. Alma was "taken up by the Spirit, or buried by the hand of the Lord, even as Moses." Was Moses translated? Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: "Moses, like Elijah, was taken up without tasting death, because he had a mission to perform. . . . and it had to be performed before the crucifixion of the Son of God, and it could not have been done in the spirit" (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:107, 110). Here President Smith refers to the mission Moses performed on the mount of transfiguration when he appeared before the Savior, Peter, James, and John (Matthew 17:1-13). President Smith further commented: "It is a very reasonable thought to believe that both Moses and Alma, like Elijah and John, were translated to accomplish some work which the Lord had in store for them at some future day" (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5:38).
What does it mean to be translated? See a discussion of the doctrine of translation in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 17, Doctrine of Translation. In this chapter you will read of several ancient non-biblical documents that also suggest that Moses was translated.
20 And now it came to pass in the commencement of the nineteenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, that Helaman went forth among the people to declare the word unto them.
21 For behold, because of their wars with the Lamanites and the many little dissensions and disturbances which had been among the people, it became expedient that the word of God should be declared among them, yea, and that a regulation should be made throughout the church.
22 Therefore, Helaman and his brethren went forth to establish the church again in all the land, yea, in every city throughout all the land which was possessed by the people of Nephi. And it came to pass that they did appoint priests and teachers throughout all the land, over all the churches.
23 And now it came to pass that after Helaman and his brethren had appointed priests and teachers over the churches that there arose a dissension among them, and they would not give heed to the words of Helaman and his brethren;
verse 23 "there arose a dissension among them" A significant political movement is beginning to arise here that will play a major role in the remainder of the Book of Mormon story. For a discussion of this movement, see the introductory comments for Alma 46. This movement will result in bitter contention and dissension in the Nephite culture. It will involve such evil minded characters as Amalickiah and Pachus.
Lynn D. Wardle wrote of dissension in the Book of Mormon: "Dissension is often caused by pride. Often dissension is encouraged by self-promoting, wicked demagogues like Amalickiah and Pachus. Frequently they are supported by other ambitious people who see dissent as the fast track to fame and glory or power (Alma 46:4-5; Alma 51:5-8; Alma 61:3-4; Alma 61:8). Clearly, however, not all who are misled by such persons are of the same venal (corrupt) character (as the re-conversion of many dissenters shows). As a byproduct of pride, dissent simply seems as inevitable in the fallen world as the cycle of humility-obedience-prosperity-pride-destruction that is described repeatedly throughout the Book of Mormon" ("Dissent: Perspectives from the Book of Mormon" in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 69).
24 But they grew proud, being lifted up in their hearts, because of their exceedingly great riches; therefore they grew rich in their own eyes, and would not give heed to their words, to walk uprightly before God.
verse 24 "they grew rich in their own eyes" How easily men succumb to the temptations of materialism in every age! This phrase is a well-stated condemnation!
"give heed to their words" The final "their" in this verse refers, of course, to Helaman and his brethren and not to the materialistic Nephites.