Alma Chapter 9
The words of Alma, and also the words of Amulek, which were declared unto the people who were in the land of Ammonihah. And also they are cast into prison, and delivered by the miraculous power of God which was in them, according to the record of Alma. Comprising chapters 9 to 14 inclusive.
1 And again, I, Alma, having been commanded of God that I should take Amulek and go forth and preach again unto this people, or the people who were in the city of Ammonihah, it came to pass as I began to preach unto them, they began to contend with me, saying:
verse 1 Note that Alma is now speaking in the first person. It is likely that Mormon is quoting directly from Alma's record.
verses 2-4 To this point, we have no record of what specific messages Alma might have preached to the people of Ammonihah. We only know that he had preached "the word of God unto them" (Alma 8:8). We do know that he had been instructed by the angel to warn them that "except they repent the Lord God will destroy them" (Alma 8:16). It would appear that Alma had already delivered this message to them. He had warned them that lest they repent, the Lord would destroy their city in only one day. Their response in effect is: "Who do you think you are, coming here and telling us that our city will be destroyed because of our sins? Do you really expect us to believe you? Never mind the city, why not tell us that because of our sins the whole earth will come to an end? We simply do not believe that our great city will be destroyed in one day."
2 Who art thou? Suppose ye that we shall believe the testimony of one man, although he should preach unto us that the earth should pass away?
verse 2 Undoubtedly one of the arguments leveled against Alma during his first visit to Ammonihah was that Alma was traveling alone and that his testimony was of only "one man." The same criticism is repeated in verse 6. This criticism will be answered when Amulek adds his testimony to Alma's in chapters 10 and 11.
3 Now they understood not the words which they spake; for they knew not that the earth should pass away.
verse 3 The "they's" here, of course, refer to the people of Ammonihah. In deriding Alma by using sarcastic hyperbole, the contenders had inadvertently hit upon a great truth. We know that the telestial earth will, in fact, one day "pass away" or be cleansed, just prior to the Lord's second coming, in preparation for its terrestrial phase-the Millennium.
4 And they said also: We will not believe thy words if thou shouldst prophesy that this great city should be destroyed in one day.
5 Now they knew not that God could do such marvelous works, for they were a hard-hearted and a stiffnecked people.
verse 5 "they were a hard-hearted and a stiffnecked people" See the discussion of hard-heartedness in the commentary for Alma 10:6.
6 And they said: Who is God, that sendeth no more authority than one man among this people, to declare unto them the truth of such great and marvelous things?
verse 6 Consider the blasphemy here. The people say in effect, "Who does your God think he is in sending only one man here to declare unto us these fantastic and unbelievable things? Does he really expect us to believe them?" We will later learn that they also will say of Ammonihah, "God could not destroy [Ammonihah], because of its greatness" (Alma 16:9). We will learn that it will be decimated in one day by Lamanites (Alma 16:10).
Thus far the people of Ammonihah had heard only Alma testify to them and warn them. The law of witnesses states: "One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses shall the matter be established" (Deuteronomy 19:15; see also 2 Corinthians 13:1, italics added). Also the Lord's law of warning holds that he will never destroy a people "save it were foretold them by the prophets of the Lord" (2 Nephi 25:9, italics added). Note that the word "prophets" is plural.
7 And they stood forth to lay their hands on me; but behold, they did not. And I stood with boldness to declare unto them, yea, I did boldly testify unto them, saying:
8 Behold, O ye wicked and perverse generation, how have ye forgotten the tradition of your fathers; yea, how soon ye have forgotten the commandments of God.
verse 8 The people of Ammonihah were generally categorized "Nephites" though, as previously mentioned, many of them likely had Mulekite heritage. Beginning at the time Mosiah first brought his Nephite settlers into the land of Zarahemla, there occurred considerable amalgamation of Nephite and Mulekite cultures, though the integration never became complete.
verses 9-11 Alma reviews some of the main tenets of the Nephites' "tradition of [their] fathers" in these verses.
9 Do ye not remember that our father, Lehi, was brought out of Jerusalem by the hand of God? Do ye not remember that they were all led by him through the wilderness?
10 And have ye forgotten so soon how many times he delivered our fathers out of the hands of their enemies, and preserved them from being destroyed, even by the hands of their own brethren?
11 Yea, and if it had not been for his matchless power, and his mercy, and his long-suffering towards us, we should unavoidably have been cut off from the face of the earth long before this period of time, and perhaps been consigned to a state of endless misery and woe.
12 Behold, now I say unto you that he commandeth you to repent; and except ye repent, ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. But behold, this is not all-he has commanded you to repent, or he will utterly destroy you from off the face of the earth; yea, he will visit you in his anger, and in his fierce anger he will not turn away.
13 Behold, do ye not remember the words which he spake unto Lehi, saying that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land? And again it is said that: Inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.
verse 13 Alma recalls the Lord's words to Lehi. The prophet Nephi previously recorded that the Lord said this same thing to him (1 Nephi 4:14; 2 Nephi 1:20), but we have no record of the Lord's delivering this same message to Lehi.
14 Now I would that ye should remember, that inasmuch as the Lamanites have not kept the commandments of God, they have been cut off from the presence of the Lord. Now we see that the word of the Lord has been verified in this thing, and the Lamanites have been cut off from his presence, from the beginning of their transgressions in the land.
15 Nevertheless I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for them in the day of judgment than for you, if ye remain in your sins, yea, and even more tolerable for them in this life than for you, except ye repent.
verse 15 It is clear that God holds his children strictly accountable for the light and knowledge available to them. The people of Ammonihah were apostate "Nephites" (mostly Mulekites) and had received much light and knowledge. They had been given much for which they would be held accountable. The Lamanites would not be held to such a high standard.
16 For there are many promises which are extended to the Lamanites; for it is because of the traditions of their fathers that caused them to remain in their state of ignorance; therefore the Lord will be merciful unto them and prolong their existence in the land.
verse 16 "there are many promises which are extended to the Lamanites" The Lord promised to be merciful to the Lamanites and to judge them lightly because their sins were partly the result of incorrect "traditions of their fathers" (see the commentary for Mosiah 10:12-17; see also Helaman 7:24; Helaman 15:11-12). Do you suppose the Jews may be judged more lightly by the Lord for similar reasons? How about the Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, and Protestants?
17 And at some period of time they will be brought to believe in his word, and to know of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers; and many of them will be saved, for the Lord will be merciful unto all who call on his name.
verse 17 This prophecy will find fulfillment both in Book of Mormon times (Helaman 13:1) and in the dispensation of the fulness of times.
18 But behold, I say unto you that if ye persist in your wickedness that your days shall not be prolonged in the land, for the Lamanites shall be sent upon you; and if ye repent not they shall come in a time when you know not, and ye shall be visited with utter destruction; and it shall be according to the fierce anger of the Lord.
verse 18 This prophecy will be fulfilled some four years after it was delivered (Alma 16:1-3; Alma 25:1-3).
"fierce anger of the Lord" It is most interesting how the Old Testament period prophets portray Jehovah's motives and emotions. We have learned, through abundant New Testament and modern-day scripture that the Lord seems to have been misrepresented. Today, we might speculate that rather than fierce anger, Jehovah is more likely to have felt disappointment and frustration. And, we would add, he was not without hope that the Ammonihahites would one day repent. Yet, here is the prophet Alma accusing him of feeling "fierce anger." It is not entirely clear to me why this "misimpression" of the Lord's emotions exists among the Nephites. Perhaps, the people (and the prophets) then were reared to believe that God was less patient, less long-suffering, less merciful. Or, perhaps God simply had to deal with the people of that age differently than he deals with us today. This latter explanation seems less likely given the extremes of wickedness to which we are exposed today.
Given the capacity for vindictiveness attributed to God then by his prophets, it is not surprising to read that they also felt him capable of orchestrating "utter destruction" of a people. While today, we would certainly have to allow him that ability, we would rather suspect that instead of deliberately arranging their destruction, he simply withdrew his protective veil and allowed the true nature of mortality and some mortals to take their course.
19 For he will not suffer you that ye shall live in your iniquities, to destroy his people. I say unto you, Nay; he would rather suffer that the Lamanites might destroy all his people who are called the people of Nephi, if it were possible that they could fall into sins and transgressions, after having had so much light and so much knowledge given unto them of the Lord their God;
verse 19 The meaning of this verse may be restated succinctly: When some Nephites become immersed in iniquity, they pose a threat to the spiritual integrity of other Nephites. The Lord would rather destroy the sinners rather than allow the righteous to be led astray (this is roughly the principle of 1 Nephi 4:13-It is better that one man should perish rather than a nation be led into unbelief).
verse 20-23 Here is yet another a restatement of the Nephites' "traditions of their fathers."
20 Yea, after having been such a highly favored people of the Lord; yea, after having been favored above every other nation, kindred, tongue, or people; after having had all things made known unto them, according to their desires, and their faith, and prayers, of that which has been, and which is, and which is to come;
21 Having been visited by the Spirit of God; having conversed with angels, and having been spoken unto by the voice of the Lord; and having the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and also many gifts, the gift of speaking with tongues, and the gift of preaching, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the gift of translation;
22 Yea, and after having been delivered of God out of the land of Jerusalem, by the hand of the Lord; having been saved from famine, and from sickness, and all manner of diseases of every kind; and they having waxed strong in battle, that they might not be destroyed; having been brought out of bondage time after time, and having been kept and preserved until now; and they have been prospered until they are rich in all manner of things-
23 And now behold I say unto you, that if this people, who have received so many blessings from the hand of the Lord, should transgress contrary to the light and knowledge which they do have, I say unto you that if this be the case, that if they should fall into transgression, it would be far more tolerable for the Lamanites than for them.
24 For behold, the promises of the Lord are extended to the Lamanites, but they are not unto you if ye transgress; for has not the Lord expressly promised and firmly decreed, that if ye will rebel against him that ye shall utterly be destroyed from off the face of the earth?
verse 24 "the promises of the Lord are extended to the Lamanites" See the commentary for verse 16.
25 And now for this cause, that ye may not be destroyed, the Lord has sent his angel to visit many of his people, declaring unto them that they must go forth and cry mightily unto this people, saying: Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is nigh at hand;
verse 25 What "angel," and who are these "many . . . people"? Perhaps Alma has reference to his own miraculous conversion along with that of the sons of Mosiah and others (Mosiah 27:11-24). Their conversion by the angel apparently included a mandate, spoken or unspoken, to carry the gospel to others (Mosiah 27:32). This same angel stopped Alma on the road from Ammonihah to Aaron, and it may well have been the same angel who instructed Alma and Amulek in the home of Amulek (Alma 10:10).
Alma summarizes the angel's message beginning in this verse and extending through verse 28 (see verse 29).
26 And not many days hence the Son of God shall come in his glory; and his glory shall be the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, equity, and truth, full of patience, mercy, and long-suffering, quick to hear the cries of his people and to answer their prayers.
verse 26 Alma's reference here, of course, is to Christ's mortal advent.
"his glory shall be the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father" During his mortal sojourn Christ was allowed unique access to the powers of the Father, though his "glory," during his mortal sojourn will not be evident to all, as it will be at the time of his second coming.
"grace . . . longsuffering" The godly attributes of Christ are spelled out. How would you define "grace"? It is the matchless love he has for us, particularly that aspect of this love that inclines him to be patient and merciful with us even when we don't, by our actions, merit that mercy.
"Equity" is a rich word with a unique meaning. Can one really distinguish between equity and justice? Intuitively we may define justice as "according to the law as it is written." What then is equity? Is it something in addition to justice? Elder Bruce R. McConkie has defined equity as "the principle which tempers the harshness of justice. Equity dictates that the law shall be administered according to its spirit and not merely its letter (D&C 102:16; 134:3; Helaman 3:20; 3 Nephi 6:4). It is an attribute of Deity (Psalm 98:9; Psalm 99:4; Alma 9:26)" ("Equity" in Mormon Doctrine, 231). See also the commentary for 3 Nephi 6:4 for a discussion of the meaning of "equity" as contrasted with the concept of "justice."
"quick to hear the cries of his people and to answer their prayers" Here it is made clear that though we pray to the Father, Jesus answers our prayers (see Bruce R. McConkie's Mortal Messiah, 4:74).
27 And behold, he cometh to redeem those who will be baptized unto repentance, through faith on his name.
28 Therefore, prepare ye the way of the Lord, for the time is at hand that all men shall reap a reward of their works, according to that which they have been-if they have been righteous they shall reap the salvation of their souls, according to the power and deliverance of Jesus Christ; and if they have been evil they shall reap the damnation of their souls, according to the power and captivation of the devil.
verse 28 "prepare ye the way of the Lord" This commandment is identical with that to "make straight" the pathway of the Lord (see the commentary for Alma 7:19).
"all men shall reap a reward of their works, according to that which they have been" Here is a reminder of the principle of accountability which is an integral part of the law of justice. It is also an elaboration of the "law of restoration" (see the introductory commentary for Alma 41).
"they shall reap the salvation of their souls, according to the power and deliverance of Jesus Christ" Remember that no man will be saved or exalted on his own merit.
"they shall reap damnation of their souls, according to the power and captivation of the devil" For a discussion of what it means to be damned, see the commentary for 2 Nephi 9:24.
We know it is the law of justice (see the introductory commentary for Alma 5), not Satan, that condemns the unrepentant sinner. What is the role of Satan in an individual's damnation? As the Spirit may prompt a man to do good, so the influence of Satan may prompt him to do evil. One might well argue that the promptings of the devil are more ubiquitous and more readily accessible to man, as they require no effort or striving. They are provided to all mortals "free-of-charge." On the other hand, one must strive to qualify for the promptings of the Spirit of God.
This verse is another beautiful example of "antithetical parallelism" (see the commentary for Alma 5:40 for a discussion of this interesting form of Hebrew poetry). Note the italicized antonyms in this verse:
If they have been righteous
they shall reap the salvation of their souls,
according to the power and deliverance
of Jesus Christ;
and if they have been evil
they shall reap the damnation of their souls,
according to the power and captivation
of the devil.
29 Now behold, this is the voice of the angel, crying unto the people.
verse 29 Verses 25 through 28 have contained the message of the angel probably delivered to Alma and Amulek while they prepared together in Amulek's home (Alma 10:10). Who is this angel? See the commentary for verse 25.
30 And now, my beloved brethren, for ye are my brethren, and ye ought to be beloved, and ye ought to bring forth works which are meet for repentance, seeing that your hearts have been grossly hardened against the word of God, and seeing that ye are a lost and a fallen people.
verse 30 "ye ought to be beloved" You ought to love one another and me as well.
"ye ought to bring forth works which are meet for repentance" You ought to behave in a manner which provides evidence of your repentance.
"your hearts have been grossly hardened against the word of God" You are not responsive to promptings of the Spirit. See the discussion of hard-heartedness in the commentary for Alma 10:6.
"ye are a lost and fallen people" You are consumed by things of the world.
31 Now it came to pass that when I, Alma, had spoken these words, behold, the people were wroth with me because I said unto them that they were a hard-hearted and a stiffnecked people.
32 And also because I said unto them that they were a lost and a fallen people they were angry with me, and sought to lay their hands upon me, that they might cast me into prison.
33 But it came to pass that the Lord did not suffer them that they should take me at that time and cast me into prison.
verse 33 Notice how this verse illustrates Alma's trusting his fate completely to the Lord.
34 And it came to pass that Amulek went and stood forth, and began to preach unto them also. And now the words of Amulek are not all written, nevertheless a part of his words are written in this book.