Mosiah Chapter 27
Mosiah 27 The rebellion and conversion of the younger Alma and the four sons of Mosiah
This chapter is the first account of the conversion of the younger Alma and the four sons of King Mosiah and the beginning of their labors for the church. We will yet read two additional accounts of this miraculous conversion related by the younger Alma to his sons Helaman and Shiblon.
1 And now it came to pass that the persecutions which were inflicted on the church by the unbelievers became so great that the church began to murmur, and complain to their leaders concerning the matter; and they did complain to Alma. And Alma laid the case before their king, Mosiah. And Mosiah consulted with his priests.
verse 1 In any era, it is inevitable that persecution will be felt by members of the church of Christ. Paul wrote, "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12). Joseph Smith taught, "The enemies of this people will never get weary of their persecution against the church, until they are overcome" (TPJS, 259).
"Mosiah consulted with his priests" Apparently Mosiah maintained a group of priests that functioned at times as a council to which he could go for advice and counsel (see also Alma 23:16). Even King Noah had utilized his priests for this function (Mosiah 12:17). Presumably Mosiah's priests also had ecclesiastical functions when they were not counseling the king.
Mosiah had previously refused to become involved when Alma requested that Mosiah judge a group of Nephite sinners (Mosiah 26:10-12). Mosiah had apparently felt that the matter was purely a religious one and should be handled by Alma and the church. On this particular occasion, however, Mosiah obviously felt that there were civil issues involved, and he did become involved.
2 And it came to pass that king Mosiah sent a proclamation throughout the land round about that there should not any unbeliever persecute any of those who belonged to the church of God.
3 And there was a strict command throughout all the churches that there should be no persecutions among them, that there should be an equality among all men;
verse 3 "that there should be an equality among all men" This phrase suggests that among the persecutions leveled against the church members, there might have been something of social or socioeconomic discrimination or class prejudice.
4 That they should let no pride nor haughtiness disturb their peace; that every man should esteem his neighbor as himself, laboring with their own hands for their support.
5 Yea, and all their priests and teachers should labor with their own hands for their support, in all cases save it were in sickness, or in much want; and doing these things, they did abound in the grace of God.
verses 4-5 Notice here how Alma emphasizes the need for equality in the church. This is, of course, a clear contrast to the practices of King Noah and his priests (Mosiah 11:6; Mosiah 11:14).
verse 5 The expression "much want" may be alternatively rendered "extraordinary need."
6 And there began to be much peace again in the land; and the people began to be very numerous, and began to scatter abroad upon the face of the earth, yea, on the north and on the south, on the east and on the west, building large cities and villages in all quarters of the land.
verse 6 "The people began to be very numerous, and began to scatter abroad upon the face of the earth . . . in all quarters of the land" This refers to the land of Zarahemla. It is interesting that Book of Mormon writers commonly spoke of their land as being divided into four quarters ("north," "south," "east," and "west"-see also Alma 43:26; Alma 52:10; Alma 56:1; Alma 58:30). They similarly thought of the earth as being divided into four quadrants (see 1 Nephi 19:16; 1 Nephi 22:25; 2 Nephi 10:8; 2 Nephi 21:12; 3 Nephi 5:24; 3 Nephi 5:26; 3 Nephi 16:5; Ether 13:11). Research by Diane E. Wirth and Steven L. Olsen has shown that similar ideas existed in pre-Columbian America and also in the Old World. For details of this concept see the article, "Four Quarters" in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch, pages 145-47.
7 And the Lord did visit them and prosper them, and they became a large and wealthy people.
verse 7 "And the Lord did visit them" When the Lord "visits" a people, he exerts his influence over them and exercises his will among them. This may be for the purpose of blessing them (as it is in this verse); for comforting them (Alma 17:10); for judging them (Omni 1:7); or for expressing his anger at them (Ether 14:25).
"and prosper them" This may refer to material prosperity and/or spiritual prosperity.
"they became a large and wealthy people" How do you interpret the adjective "large"? The previous verse has already mentioned that they had become "numerous." Perhaps "large" refers to manifesting an ideal nutritional state and being healthy and strong.
verses 8-37 Here is the Book of Mormon's first of three accounts of the conversion of Alma and the sons of Mosiah. Alma will later recount his conversion story on two additional occasions, to his son Helaman in Alma 36:4-26 and to his son Shiblon in Alma 38:6-8.
John W. Welch in his article "Three Accounts of Alma's Conversion" (Reexploring the Book of Mormon, 150-53) has made some interesting observations as he compared these three texts. He points out that it is apparent that all three accounts originated from the same man. Evidence for this includes the fact that the accounts contain the same distinctive phrases such as "destroy the church of God," "lead astray,"
"rebelling against God," "he spake as it were with a voice of thunder," "fell to the earth," "born of God," "the gall of bitterness," "marvelous light," "racked with eternal torment," and "pained no more." Also the details of the three accounts are remarkably consistent. "Even what superficially appears to be a difference is not. Alma 36:16 states that Alma was racked for three days and three nights. Mosiah 27:23, however, says the priests fasted for two days and two nights in pleading with the Lord for the soul of Alma. This disparity is easily explained. According to the Nephite practice, the fast would not have begun until the morning of the next day after the decision to fast, and Alma had suffered for a day before the fast began (Helaman 9:10)."
The account here in Mosiah 27 gives more emphasis to the sons of Mosiah than do the other two accounts. This is likely because king Mosiah is the one reporting the events in Mosiah 27, whereas Alma is speaking in the other accounts.
"The three accounts also consistently reflect different vantage points in Alma's life. In Mosiah 27, Alma is a young man, spontaneously overwhelmed by the power of the angel and terrified by the prospect of the day of judgment (see verse 31). Later in Alma's life, it is clear that the older man has faithfully and successfully served his Lord and his people all the rest of his days (see Alma 36:26-27) so that he now emphasizes his longing to be present with God (see Alma 36:22)" (Ibid.).
The first person here is obviously the prophet Mormon. He is telling the story, using as his resource, records written by, most probably, the younger Alma himself, though Mosiah or the senior Alma may have also written on this event.
8 Now the sons of Mosiah were numbered among the unbelievers; and also one of the sons of Alma was numbered among them, he being called Alma, after his father; nevertheless, he became a very wicked and an idolatrous man. And he was a man of many words, and did speak much flattery to the people; therefore he led many of the people to do after the manner of his iniquities.
verse 8 Just how wicked were the younger Alma and the sons of Mosiah? Obviously they were more than simply rebellious youngsters passing through a temporary period of defiance of authority. Here Alma is described as "a very wicked and an idolatrous man," and the sons of Mosiah will later be described as "the very vilest of sinners" (Mosiah 28:4). The experience of these four men should give hope to those today who feel hopelessly mired in sin.
The word "nevertheless" is a poignant one here, particularly for those of us who have reared children who have not been responsive to the gospel teachings. The younger Alma was reared in the home of one of the world's great prophets and was even named after him. "Nevertheless, he became a very wicked and an idolatrous man."
The younger Alma was obviously charismatic, persuasive, and had exceptional personal power and influence. He is described as "a man of many words, and did speak much flattery to the people." For a discussion of the various forms of the word flatter, see the commentary for 2 Nephi 28:22.
The names of Alma's mother and any siblings are unknown. He himself might have been born in the colony established by his father in the land of Helam or even earlier (see Alma 5:5).
"he being called Alma, after his father" See the commentary on "patristic names' in the supplemental article, Names in the Book of Mormon.
9 And he became a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church of God; stealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his power over them.
verse 9 This is the only instance in all the scriptures where Satan is referred to with the specific phrase "enemy of God."
10 And now it came to pass that while he was going about to destroy the church of God, for he did go about secretly with the sons of Mosiah seeking to destroy the church, and to lead astray the people of the Lord, contrary to the commandments of God, or even the king-
verse 10 Alma and the four sons of Mosiah were not only guilty of breaking the commandments, they were also engaged in activities forbidden by King Mosiah's proclamation mentioned in verse 2. They were guilty of breaking the law of the land.
11 And as I said unto you, as they were going about rebelling against God, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto them; and he descended as it were in a cloud; and he spake as it were with a voice of thunder, which caused the earth to shake upon which they stood;
verse 11 "the angel of the Lord appeared unto them" We obviously do not know the name of this angel, but it is provocative that he is referred to as "the angel" rather than an angel.
One might well ask the questions: Why were these apostate sinners granted the privilege of a miraculous heavenly manifestation? Is there a danger that this remarkable story might teach those who read it the wrong lesson? Are we to learn that if a young person who has misgivings about the truth of the gospel gives vent to his doubts by actively and maliciously campaigning against the church, then he will be rescued by a heavenly manifestation from a merciful God? Perhaps it is not entirely appropriate to even ask these questions. Who are we, after all, to question our God and his agenda? Why was the apostle Paul, for example, so honored on the road to Damascus? Obviously there was a far-reaching purpose for this remarkable experience had by Alma and the sons of Mosiah. While there may be no simple answer to these questions, consider the following thoughts:
1. We certainly can assume that Alma and his brethren were among the very spiritually elect of those who have come to earth. They likely were valiant in the pre-existence as evidenced by their mortal performance after their conversions. It is to their eternal credit that they were indeed converted by this experience. It is obvious that not all of those who are favored with extraordinary spiritual experiences like this one will be completely converted by them. Consider for example Laman and Lemuel (1 Nephi 3:29) and even some individuals from our own dispensation such as Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, or David Whitmer.
2. We are also given to ponder the potential power of the earnest and persistent prayers of a loving parent (James 5:16). We can be sure that the senior Alma and King Mosiah were praying fervently and daily for their wayward sons (see verse 14).
12 And so great was their astonishment, that they fell to the earth, and understood not the words which he spake unto them.
verse 12 It is interesting that the angel had to repeat his message to make himself understood. It seems likely that the recipients of this divine manifestation were initially so distracted by the experience itself, that they were not receptive to the message. A similar situation will occur at the time of the Lord's personal appearance to the people in the land Bountiful following his resurrection (3 Nephi 11:3-6).
13 Nevertheless he cried again, saying: Alma, arise and stand forth, for why persecutest thou the church of God? For the Lord hath said: This is my church, and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people.
verse 13 Among those who were traveling about and persecuting the church, Alma was singled out and addressed by the angel. It seems likely that he was the ring leader in this group of dissenters.
"why persecutest thou the church of God?" Paul was asked a similar question on the road to Damascus-"Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" (Acts 9:4).
"the Lord hath said: This is my church" The Lord had previously made it clear, in speaking to the elder Alma, that the church was his-it belong to the Lord (Mosiah 26:22).
"nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people" This seems to be an important principle which has held true since the earth began. The church is not vulnerable to destruction by external influences so long as its people are diligent and righteous. Only corruption and error within the Church is capable of destroying it.
14 And again, the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.
15 And now behold, can ye dispute the power of God? For behold, doth not my voice shake the earth? And can ye not also behold me before you? And I am sent from God.
16 Now I say unto thee: Go, and remember the captivity of thy fathers in the land of Helam, and in the land of Nephi; and remember how great things he has done for them; for they were in bondage, and he has delivered them. And now I say unto thee, Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, that their prayers may be answered, and this even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off.
verse 16 "Now I say unto thee: Go" Here, again, is that heavenly command, alternately "Go to," which might be interpreted as "Go to it" or "Get to work."
"remember the captivity of thy fathers" The angel refers to the previous captivity of the two major divisions of the Zeniffites-those who followed Alma to the land of Helam and those who remained behind in the land of Nephi under the leadership of Limhi.
"and remember how great things he has done for them" The interesting expression "how great things" is found elsewhere in the scriptures (1 Samuel 12:24; Mark 5:19; Mark 5:20; Luke 8:39; Acts 9:16) and is also found in other Book of Mormon verses (2 Nephi 1:1; Alma 62:50; Ether 4:14; Ether 6:30).
"and this even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off" Here the angel delivers to Alma a naked threat. He says, in effect, "Cease this campaign to destroy the church even if you yourself leave the church and are cast off eternally." The implication to Alma must have been a sobering one. It was, "We don't particularly need you in the church, but you will stop trying to destroy it for others, or else."
17 And now it came to pass that these were the last words which the angel spake unto Alma, and he departed.
verse 17 The angel departed with his threat ringing in Alma's ears.
18 And now Alma and those that were with him fell again to the earth, for great was their astonishment; for with their own eyes they had beheld an angel of the Lord; and his voice was as thunder, which shook the earth; and they knew that there was nothing save the power of God that could shake the earth and cause it to tremble as though it would part asunder.
verse 18 "Alma and those that were with him" We are never told exactly who was with him. We know that four of them were the sons of Mosiah-Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni. Verse 34 of this chapter implies that there may have been others as well who were blessed with this marvelous spiritual experience.
"asunder" From Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, we read the definition of asunder: "Apart, into parts; separately; in a divided state."
19 And now the astonishment of Alma was so great that he became dumb, that he could not open his mouth; yea, and he became weak, even that he could not move his hands; therefore he was taken by those that were with him, and carried helpless, even until he was laid before his father.
verse 19 "he became weak, even that he could not move his hands" The verse suggests that in fact he couldn't move any of his extremities! It is of interest that only Alma was so profoundly afflicted physically, or at least there is no mention of the others' being so affected.
20 And they rehearsed unto his father all that had happened unto them; and his father rejoiced, for he knew that it was the power of God.
21 And he caused that a multitude should be gathered together that they might witness what the Lord had done for his son, and also for those that were with him.
verse 21 Father Alma was quick to recognize an incomparable teaching moment.
22 And he caused that the priests should assemble themselves together; and they began to fast, and to pray to the Lord their God that he would open the mouth of Alma, that he might speak, and also that his limbs might receive their strength-that the eyes of the people might be opened to see and know of the goodness and glory of God.
verse 22 Fasting under these circumstances may be referred to as petitionary fasting. A precedent for this petitionary fasting is found in the Bible as when David "fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth" as he prayed to the Lord to spare the life of his first son with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:16-23; cf. Nehemiah 1:4; Psalm 69:10; Psalm 69:109:24; Daniel 6:18; Daniel 9:3).
Perhaps some further comments about the habits of fasting in the Book of Mormon are appropriate. Fasting is mentioned in a few settings and apparently was used for a few different specific purposes. These include (1) fasting to mourn the death of a public figure (see the commentary for Helaman 9:10); (2) fasting in association with petitioning the Lord for certain blessings as in this verse; (3) fasting in preparation for receiving certain blessings or gifts from the Lord (see the commentary for Alma 17:3; and (4) fasting as a religious exercise or rite (see the commentary for 3 Nephi 27:1).
As the reader turns to these appointed verses, he will note that there is a biblical precedent for each of these types of fasting and that the settings in the Book of Mormon in which fasting is mentioned are wholly appropriate.
23 And it came to pass after they had fasted and prayed for the space of two days and two nights, the limbs of Alma received their strength, and he stood up and began to speak unto them, bidding them to be of good comfort:
verses 24-31 These verses have been considered a "psalm of Alma."
24 For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.
verse 24 As we consider the experiences of both the younger Alma and Saul of Tarsus, it would seem that the only scriptural account in any way tantamount to their experience was the experience of the Savior in Gethsemane and at Calvary. Apparently the Lord has the ability, just as the Father will later manifest in Gethsemane and Calvary, to pointedly produce, in the life of a mortal, the same suffering which might be produced by a specific adverse experience, or even a series of adverse experiences. In other words he can cause suffering, in an individual, that corresponds to any adverse experience he chooses? This is the "suffering of sanctification" discussed in the section titled "How might we categorize adversities and sufferings?" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3, chapter 1, Adversity and Suffering. Pay particular attention to the discussion of type 3 suffering-that suffering orchestrated deliberately by the Lord for the purpose of schooling us. This is the same type of suffering the Father imposed upon his firstborn Son during the atoning experience. Please also read and understand The Essence of the Lord's Atonement, volume 1, chapter 19 of Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine.
Now let us consider some important questions regarding this type of experience orchestrated by the Lord Jehovah and the Father. First, was the experience forcibly imposed upon Alma and Paul? Or, did they have some say in the matter? It seems clear that Deity would not, nor indeed could not, neglect or override the agency of any individual and force them to experience the suffering associated with this experience. Just as Jesus agreed to his awful atoning experience ("not as I will, but as thou wilt"-Matthew 26:39), so must Alma and Paul have agreed to experience this suffering. They first experienced a personal epiphany from a divine personage, either an angel or the Lord himself. Undoubtedly their spiritual plight was explained to them. There can be no question that both Alma Paul were exceptional in the premortal world and were foreordained to a great work here in mortality. But both had lost their way. Now they needed rescuing, and perhaps there was only one way back. They had to voluntarily suffer (see Alma 36:17-18).
Another important question is: What was accomplished by their suffering? Simply stated, as they suffered well the imposed sufferings, they "earned," and the Lord mercifully granted them, by personal revelation, gifts of the Spirit including the perquisite gifts associated with those gifts. These perquisites resulted in the conversion of Alma and Paul. Please see the section "Perquisite Gifts of the Spirit" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 8, The Blessings of Spiritual Gifts.
The result was their conversion to the Lord and to his gospel in the fullest sense of the word. Alma will later utter eloquent evidence for his conversion: "Behold . . . I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy" (Alma 36:19-21).
Alma and Paul were also inducted into what Paul will call "the fellowship of his [Christ's] suffering" (Philippians 3:10). Please see the section entitled "The Atonement Principle" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3, chapter 2, The Roles of Suffering in Our Lives. An important effect of this suffering, aside from the conversion to the Lord and his purposes, is empathy and charity for all mankind.
We may assume that the four sons of Mosiah shared in a similar experience with their friend Alma, and evidence for their impressive empathy is found in Mosiah 28:3: "Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble."
"I have . . . been redeemed of the Lord" Obviously it is only because of the Savior's eventual atonement, in addition to the suffering which he himself experienced, that Alma was able to be forgiven of his sins. Again, we see an illustration of how the atonement benefited those in Old Testament times even hundreds of years before the event of Christ's suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross.
25 And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;
26 And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
verses 25-26 People must be "born again . . . born of God . . . changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness . . . [changed] to new creatures." At this point, please reread the commentary for Mosiah 3:19 on the "natural man." Read also the section "Baptism of Fire and of the Holy Ghost in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 18, Baptism, the Ordinance that Brings Spiritual Growth.
Every man is a "natural man" and in bondage to the flesh. In order for a man to have a chance at exaltation, it is necessary that he be repeatedly justified and sanctified by the Holy Ghost. By the Spirit's influence, the sins of the obedient are forgiven (justification). Then increments of the iniquity, carnality, sensuality, and every other evil thing can be "burned out" of the repentant soul as if by fire. Also he receives an increment of the pertinent gifts of the Spirit. These two events comprise the phenomenon of sanctification. The person who has been thus cleansed (justified and sanctified) becomes a "new creature" of the Holy Ghost. It may be said of him that he is "born again." Such a man is fundamentally and profoundly changed.
27 I say unto you, unless this be the case, they must be cast off; and this I know, because I was like to be cast off.
verse 27 "I was like to be cast off" Alma was about to be cast off. In light of modern revelation, we might be tempted to interpret the phase "cast off" here as meaning that the individual is no longer a considered candidate for exaltation in the celestial kingdom. The actual meaning is more likely that Alma felt he was about to be cast off into hell or everlasting fire as a son of Perdition (see verse 28). Keep in mind the simplified doctrine of the post mortal life taught in the Book of Mormon: Man will be exalted in heaven or be cast into outer darkness with Satan. By virtue of the added insight afforded us by modern revelation, we know that the younger Alma, in spite of his "wickedness," in all likelihood, would not have qualified to be cast into outer darkness. He might certainly, however, have been "cast off" temporarily into hell-the spirit prison.
28 Nevertheless, after wading through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God.
verse 28 "repenting nigh unto death" Punishment must be commensurate with the gravity of the sin. It is obvious that Alma's sins had been grievous. And he had to suffer commensurate with those sins.
"to snatch me out of an everlasting burning" To snatch is to seize hastily or abruptly. It is a bit ironic to note that here the label "everlasting burning" is used to describe a place akin to hell or to outer darkness. We know also that the phrase "everlasting burnings" is also a name for the place God dwells (JD, 4:54; DHC, 6:366).
29 My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more.
verse 29 "gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity" Gall is a bitter and poisonous herb. "Its juice is commonly thought to be the 'hemlock' poison which Socrates drank" (Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible). When the word is used in the Bible, it is usually interpreted to mean poison. In the Old Testament gall is often mentioned in association with wormwood which is a plant with a bitter taste. It is interesting that the specific phrase "gall of bitterness" is found in only one scriptural verse outside the Book of Mormon-Acts 8:23. Perhaps both Alma and Paul were quoting the phrase from an unknown Old Testament period source. Here the phrase "gall of bitterness" seems to refer to the embittered spirit that Alma had held regarding the church.
Alma's "eternal torment" lasted only about seventy-two hours. We learn in modern revelation that "eternal" and "endless" are names given to God. Therefore "eternal" or "endless" punishment is simply God's punishment. "Eternal" here says nothing about its duration. Eternal or endless punishment does not go on forever (D&C 19:6-12).
"the darkest abyss" An abyss is a vast, immeasurable void often associated with hell, darkness, and misery. The term signifies a state far from God and his light. The gospel of Jesus Christ redeems repentant individuals from the abyss of rebellion and apostasy as well as that of ignorance and false traditions (cf. Alma 26:3).
"I am snatched" The verse footnote commentary in the 1989 version of the Book of Mormon points out that the word "snatched" likely comes from the Hebrew word natzal which means to snatch away from danger, to save. Notice that the same verb was also used in verse 28.
30 I rejected my Redeemer, and denied that which had been spoken of by our fathers; but now that they may foresee that he will come, and that he remembereth every creature of his creating, he will make himself manifest unto all.
verse 30 A careful reading of this verse leaves one wondering about the meaning of the phrase "but now that they may foresee that he will come." The meaning is clearer if the phrase is rendered, "but now I understand that they truly are able to foresee that he will come." Here Alma states that he had previously rejected the Savior and the messianic prophecies and testimonies of all the Nephite prophets. But now, following his harrowing process of conversion, he understands that Christ will indeed come and that the Nephite prophets foresaw and spoke of that blessed event.
"he remembereth every creature of his creating, he will make himself manifest unto all" Here is an important principle. Every person born into the world is provided with the necessary tools and exposure to the Spirit to enable them to accept Christ. Each person is thus responsible for his own eternal destiny. No competent member of the human family will be kept sufficiently ignorant as to give them a valid excuse for not accepting Christ. It certainly is true that many on the earth may not have an opportunity to learn about his church or to hear the teachings of contemporary prophets, but the "light of Christ" exists within all of us. "And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit" (see D&C 84:46; see also Moroni 7:16 and the commentary for that verse).
31 Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God; then shall they confess, who live without God in the world, that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them; and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his all-searching eye.
verse 31 "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess before him" Review the discussion of this phrase in the commentary for Mosiah 16:1. Can you imagine the drama which will surround this event? It will likely occur after all have been resurrected, even those destined to go with Satan into outer darkness. Then will each and every member of the human family kneel and acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Savior and concede that his judgments are just (D&C 84:104). Certainly a few will either refuse to confess or make this concession grudgingly and through clenched teeth. For these, this will be less a real confession of Christ, and more a grudging acknowledgment of who he is. These few will therefore remain "filthy still" (D&C 88:35).
Those "who live without God in the world" are those who never respond to the light of Christ within them. They never heed the subtle promptings which try to teach them of their eternal identity. Most have long since choked off that small divine pipeline by their worldliness.
"then shall they confess, who live without God in the world" In biblical Hebrew the relative clause (usually introduced by who or which) often follows, rather than precedes the word or phrase to which it refers. This unique aspect of the Hebrew language is seen in this particular phrase which has the relative clause following the word confess. More common English would be "then shall they who live without God in the world shall confess." Another example is found in 1 Nephi 17:27 where we read, "The Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea, who were the armies of Pharaoh" instead of "The Egyptians who were the armies of Pharaoh were drowned in the Red Sea."
"the glance of his all-searching eye" Christ's knowledge of us is intimate and complete. He comprehends our every strength, failing, and motive. He understands our every desire, both noble and ignoble. He knows our hearts completely. No one can escape his insight.
32 And now it came to pass that Alma began from this time forward to teach the people, and those who were with Alma at the time the angel appeared unto them, traveling round about through all the land, publishing to all the people the things which they had heard and seen, and preaching the word of God in much tribulation, being greatly persecuted by those who were unbelievers, being smitten by many of them.
verse 32 "Alma began from this time forward to teach the people, and those who were with Alma at the time the angel appeared unto them" This passage introduces a little-known mission to the Nephites by Alma and Mosiah's sons, seemingly between one and eight years in duration.
"being greatly persecuted by those who were unbelievers" Again, persecution of the saints is inevitable (see the commentary for verse 1 of this chapter). Now it's the turn of the younger Alma and the four sons of Mosiah to be persecuted.
33 But notwithstanding all this, they did impart much consolation to the church, confirming their faith, and exhorting them with long-suffering and much travail to keep the commandments of God.
verse 33 "confirming their faith" Undoubtedly these five or more missionaries told the story of their miraculous conversion many times. Undoubtedly the story was a source of strength to the members of the church.
"exhorting them with long-suffering and much travail" Apparently it was the missionaries themselves who exercised "long-suffering" and who experienced "much travail" as they traveled about doing their missionary work. Travail is painful labor; severe toil.
34 And four of them were the sons of Mosiah; and their names were Ammon, and Aaron, and Omner, and Himni; these were the names of the sons of Mosiah.
35 And they traveled throughout all the lands of Zarahemla, and among all the people who were under the reign of king Mosiah, zealously striving to repair all the injuries which they had done to the church, confessing all their sins, and publishing all the things which they had seen, and explaining the prophecies and the scriptures to all who desired to hear them.
verse 35 It is sound doctrine that the diligent proclaiming of the gospel and the bearing of testimony is one way in which a sinner can be forgiven of his shortcomings. In D&C 84:61 the Lord said, "For I will forgive you of your sins with this commandment-that you remain steadfast in your minds in solemnity and the spirit of prayer, in bearing testimony to all the world of those things which are communicated unto you" (see also James 5:20).
"Himni" For commentary on the Hebrew origins of the name Himni, see the supplemental article, Names in the Book of Mormon.
36 And thus they were instruments in the hands of God in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, to the knowledge of their Redeemer.
37 And how blessed are they! For they did publish peace; they did publish good tidings of good; and they did declare unto the people that the Lord reigneth.
verse 37 As we have learned previously (see the commentary for Mosiah 12:21) "peace" and "good tidings of good" are all terms that refer to the good news of the everlasting gospel. To "publish" is to announce, proclaim, or promulgate.