12 November 2014

"The Son of God Shall Come in His Glory," Alma 9:25-34

Alma 9:25-34

I've just reviewed my previous study notes on the earlier parts of this chapter and the spiritual significance  associated with these events. Coming to verse 25, the weight of Alma's statement is great. "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;" (emphasis added)

Angels are not to be trifled with. For they are one step away from God revealing Himself to the people, which thing the people could in no way withstand without being completely destroyed because of the greatness and glory of God. It is impossible for man in his wickedness to stand in the presence of the Holy God. So mercifully, He sends angels, messengers from his presence, to warn the people.

The next three verses are perhaps the most important verses in this chapter, and perhaps the most powerful. They are also, not coincidentally, the words spoken directly out of the mouth of the angel.
...Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is nigh at hand;
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.
And behold, he cometh to redeem those who will be baptized unto repentance, through faith on his name.
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.
Consider what the angel says. In essence, we are commanded to repent because the kingdom of heaven is coming soon. In Alma's time frame, it was less than 100 years before the birth of Christ. In a very literal sense, Christ was coming soon.

In verse 26, the angel declares that "the Son of God shall come in his glory," and then he explains what that glory will be:
  • 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
And then he adds: "And behold, he cometh to redeem those who will be baptized unto repentance, through faith on his name."

I don't want to gloss past this definition of glory, or the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father. When the Jewish nation looked forward to the coming of a savior, they looked for someone who was to be an external redeemer. Instead, the Savior Jesus Christ cam as an internal redeemer. Christ came not to save the nation, but to save the individual, through His glory, which here is defined as grace, equity and truth, then also the very personal attributes of patience, mercy, and long-suffering. These latter three attributes used to define the glory of Christ, stand out to me, perhaps, because these characteristics of His glory are the very things that are going to save me. And how reassuring it is to me that Christ not only possesses these, but also has them in fullness or perfection! This is the glory of Christ.

This takes us half way through the angelic declaration.

The next verse explains that the redemption of Christ only reaches to its fullest extent for those that are baptized unto repentance, through faith on His name. So in order partake of the glory of Christ, or in other words, in order to partake of the patience, mercy and long-suffering of Christ; in order to have our prayers quickly answered; or in order to be made perfect through Christ, we must first be baptized unto repentance.

The final verse of the angelic ministration is then an invitation to action, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." The angel declares this celestial law: that our salvation in and through Jesus Christ is predicated upon our righteous works. This is in harmony with the counsel of James from the New Testament. This is the great delusion of our day: that there is no difference between righteous and wicked works.

What we do, really does matter.  Alma concludes with this point of direct accusation so that the people of Ammonihah would understand what they could do to change course and come back unto Christ.

14 October 2014

"If Ye Will Rebel Against Him," Alma 9:18-24

Alma 9:18-24

Alma continues his primary discourse against the people of Ammonihah, explaining that iniquity should not, nay, cannot be an option amongst any of the people of Nephi, if they should expect to continue living peaceably in the land. Verse 19  reminds me that the people of Ammonihah were actually plotting to overthrow the entire nation of the Nephites. Alma states here that if they were to fall into sin and transgression in the face of so much light and truth, that the Lord would rather send the Lamanites upon them to "utterly" destroy them.

The light and knowledge to which Alma points has to do with the people's relationship with God and the root causes of their prosperity, namely, prophecy and revelation, the gifts of the Spirit, and deliverance from bondage of every kind: captivity,  famine, sickness, diseases of every kind and battle. All these are blessings from a merciful God.

Considering this, I have to ask myself, why do we when we are the recipients of abundant light and truth, then turn away from it? Shouldn't increased light and truth cause us or even prepare us to withstand temptation and sin?

Where is Christ in these verses?

This final question I feel is the most important one that could be asked about these verses. The answer is that He is everywhere. Christ is the light and truth that blessed the Nephite nation. The reason for their fall away from this light and truth is because of their failure to recognize the relationship between them and Christ. It wasn't just the things, or the blessings, that the Nephites should have had a relationship with. But their relationship was with Christ.

We cannot walk away from Christ without consequences. We cannot selectively choose when and in which seasons of our lives we will have a relationship with Christ, not without the consequences that inevitably will follow. Why would He be such a Jealous God, as to not let us come and go as we please? It is because in our relationship to Him, there is a tutelage of consistency.  If we are to become as Christ is, there is one attribute that must also be embraced: He is constant. He makes the sun rise on the wicked as well as the righteous. He sends rain on both the righteous and the wicked. Christ is constant in all that he does, and for us to establish an enduring relationship with him, we too must be constant to Him. We cannot walk in seasons of light and then voluntarily withdraw from Him to see what else there is without also loosing our way. We cannot become like Him unless we learn to be with Him always, in all things.

This seems to be what Alma is getting at when he finally asks: "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?" (vs. 24)

01 October 2014

"For the Lord Will Be Merciful unto All Who Call on His Name," Alma 9:14-17

Alma 9:14-17

This set of verses presents a interesting observation on the Lamanites in their ignorance. There is a contrasting here of the people of Ammonihah against the Lamanites. While the cause of the ignorance of the Lamanites was their parents' disobedience, which caused them to suffer a spiritual death (separation from God) as a people, their ignorance also was grounds for tolerance at the day of judgement.

We also learn something of the merciful characteristics of the Father in prolonging the days of the Lamanites, though they exist in a state of disbelief, until the time that they would believe and repent. Parenthetically, I find a parallel between the promises extended to the Lamanites and those covenants and promises extended to the House of Israel and the Jewish nation. 

Then at the end of this passage of scripture, there is this eternal nugget of truth: "Many of them will be saved, for the Lord will be merciful unto all who call on his name." (emphasis added) This verse swells within my breasts this morning as I contemplate it. It reminds me that any time, we can return to God. It also reminds me that anyone, anywhere, in any circumstance can find favor in the presence of God, if they but humble themselves and call on his name! This thing is true.

12 September 2014

"How Soon Ye Have Forgotten the Commandments of God," Alma 9:7-13

Alma 9:7-13

After the people's contest of Alma's authority, he immediately turns around and "boldly testif[ies]" against them.

After a very striking accusation of their wickedness, Alma gives the reason for the accusation directed towards them:
  • They had forgotten the traditions of their fathers (which were righteous traditions).
  • They had forgotten to keep the commandments of God. 
He then goes on to list five instances of God's kindness and mercy towards their ancestors and specifically towards them as a people. Alma draws a very strong case for God's mercy and long-suffering from their nation's family history.

Then in verse 12, Alma returns to his original theme of repentance and this time with a strong warning of destruction if they did not repent. What's interesting about these words is that if one goes beyond the superficial, these are fundamental statements of profound truth:
  • "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."  The wicked perceive this to be a chastisement of behavior, but this is actually a statement of fact. Only the penitent, humbled soul can receive the blessings of God's kingdom. (see Matt 5:3,5,10 )
  •  "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." I wonder actually how much love was required of Alma to make such a bold statement as this in such a hostile environment. 
Alma actually quotes Father Lehi in the following verse as the grounds for making that statement:
"Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land? ...Inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord."(vs.13)
It is easy for the natural man to read these verses and assume hostility in the words of Alma, but I have to believe that they are not hostile words spoken by Alma here. Rather, Alma is motivated by love and concern for this people, even in their stubborn state of disbelief. How much more compelling become these statements when I realize that these are the words of a charitable heart!


26 August 2014

"Who is God?" Alma 9:1-6

Alma 9:1-6

There is a very interesting pattern that is illustrated in these verses, and sets up the wickedness of this town. In just the first six verses of this chapter, the one thing that these verses illustrate clearly is that the people of Ammonihah do not have a relationship with God. That is the cause of their wickedness.

Hand in hand with with their failure to have any sort of relationship with God also comes a lack of knowledge of the truth and that which is true. This is hugely significant because it was on a foundation of error and  antagonism, or even animosity, towards God, that the people of Ammonihah had set themselves up for destruction.

The footnote on the question "Who is God, that sendeth no more authority than one man... ? " (see vs. 6) causes me to see that their questions of disbelief are on par with Cain, king Noah, and the Pharoah of Egypt. That kind of hard-heartedness demonstrates wickedness to its fullest extent. Though not mentioned anywhere in these verses, this kind of hardness of heart is what the Savior faced at sundry times throughout his ministry and at the time of his death.

13 August 2014

"The Spirit and Power Which the Lord Had Given Them," Alma 8:29-32

Alma 8:29-32

After many days, the word of the Lord came to Alma: "Go; and also say unto my servant Amulek, go forth and prophesy unto this people, saying—Repent ye, for thus saith the Lord, except ye repent I will visit this people in mine anger; yea, and I will not turn my fierce anger away."

In subsequent verses, we learn that Alma and Amulek accomplished this commandment of the Lord through "the spirit and power which the Lord had given them." (vs 32) So it is, that those that go about the work of the Lord when called of the Lord to do so, they are empowered to do it through the influence of the Holy Ghost. In other words, they are endowed with power, or they have power given them. Verse 31 takes pains to explain the evidence of that power, in that they weren't able to be confined or thrown in dungeons, nor could anyone kill them.

Now later in the account we learn that Alma and Amulek were thrown into prison (and verse 31 makes reference to this), and after many days, power was given to these two stricken men to break the bands and leave the prison unharmed. The full account says this: "the Lord had granted unto them power, according to their faith which was in Christ." (Alma 14:28).

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It is through this power and influence of the Holy Ghost that Alma and Amulek were able to do what they did. Though this short group of verses does not address it, the importance of qualifying for the blessings and powers of heaven cannot be under-emphasized and becomes apparent in accounts such as these.

Finally, though it is stated throughout, for me it is worth noting that this spirit and power comes from the Lord. The Lord has standards that qualify his servants for his power. It is for this very reason that obedience is such an important part of the Gospel of Christ. Seldom am I able to effectively testify of this to others; perhaps spelling this out for myself may help me to do so for others as well.

01 August 2014

"I Know that Thou Art a Holy Prophet of God," Alma 8:19-28

Alma 8:19-28

On the surface, this is a fairly simple exchange wherein Alma returns to Ammonihah by a different way and is taken in by Amulek. There are a couple of notes on these verses that I find significant. Of Amulek, it was required to exercise the Christ-like virtue of compassion and to feed the hungry. That may seem an insignificant side note given that he had also received direction and inspiration from an angel to entertain Alma, and yet I think this is at the very core of why the angel appeared to Amulek, and not someone else.

When Alma returns to Ammonihah, he is hungry. We later learn that Alma had actually been fasting for many days. (vs. 26) Upon petitioning an unknown stranger, Amulek identifies himself to Alma as a Nephite and goes further to say that he knows Alma to be a prophet of God.

Near the end of these verses, we learn two notable points in this story: 1) that Alma did not immediately return to the task of preaching the gospel, but spent some time in the house of Amulek, and 2) that the people of Ammonihah increased in their wickedness. I suppose that the time spent with Amulek was a period of prepartion for Amulek. This was accomplished in receiving gospel instruction but probably also afforded Amulek a period of time to become intimately acquainted with Alma on a personal level as a human being and as a servant of the Almighty. That the people increased in wickedness is not a mute point, but rather the catalyst for the Lord's judgments against these people.

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It seems to me that Alma is a strong type for Christ in these verses, meaning the things that Alma does and says in these verses are as if it had been Christ there ministering. Such is the calling and assignment of prophets. The words of Doctrine and Covenants 1:38 seem applicable here: "...whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." If Christ had been there, in pre- or post-mortal glory, the people of Ammonihah would have been utterly destroyed, because they wouldn't have been able to stand His presence.

As I consider it, it seem that glory must have been cloaked in our Lord's mortal ministry, so that others could stand to be in his presence though imperfect and sinful.  Without Christ present to minister to the people, there is a void between God and man that is only able to be filled by a prophet: a mortal being who has qualified himself to have the favors of heaven bestowed upon him. How important then is this particular assignment. What a dramatically significant blessing this is to have prophets living amongst us!