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 you go 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 hard-heartedness is what the Savior faced at sundry times throughout his ministry and at the season 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!

11 July 2014

"Thou Hast Great Cause to Rejoice," Alma 8:14-18

Alma 8:14-18

An angelic communication is received by Alma in these verses. What was the purpose of an angel being sent to Alma? First, it was to bring him comfort. Alma took quite seriously the wickedness of the people of Ammonihah. It weighed him down to the point that he felt "an anguish of soul." (see vs. 14) The angel commands Alma to be of good cheer, stating that Alma had been "faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from him." Then the angel adds an extra bit of encouragement by saying "Behold, I am he that delivered it unto you." (vs. 15)

The second reason the angel was sent to Alma was to command him to return to Ammonihah to declare repentance to the people. There was a very specific reason though that was outside of the scope of just the people of Ammonihah that Alma was being sent to Ammonihah. In verse 17, the angel explains, "For behold, they do study at this time that they may destroy the liberty of thy people." The undermining of the Nephite nation, and a people that were bound by covenants to the Lord, is at the very heart of the motives of the people of Ammonihah. Suddenly, it's not an issue of letting wicked people just be and exist in their wickedness (which was hard enough for Alma), but now it is a issue of national security, and more importantly, the means by which the judgments of God may be rightly executed on behalf of the liberty and protection of those that do believe and follow the commandments of God.

Because He is a merciful and infinitely just Being, God will not execute judgments upon any of his children, without first sending messengers to warn them of the pending destruction which awaits them.

Returning to verse 15, and the angel's declaration: "Thou has great cause to rejoice." The implications of this statement are deep. The reason for the angel's reassurance is because of Alma's extended period of perfected faithfulness to the commandments of God. Prolonged obedience brings great stores of personal peace and integrity. That an angel sent from the presence of God gave Alma this reassurance gives me greater confidence (amidst humility) that when we are obedient to the commands of God, we will always be right.

23 June 2014

"Satan Had Gotten Great Hold upon the Hearts," Alma 8:7-13

Alma 8:7-13

There are two corollary lines of thought that I find very interesting, which this passage reminds me of: Works and Knowledge.

In verse 9, the scripture observes "Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people." There's a footnote on the word "hold" that leads me to consider the reality of satan's opposition. In terms of knowledge, he discourages people from knowing him, while God encourages us to know Him (God the Father and His Son).

In regards to works, the works of the devil oppose the works of righteousness. In fact, one of the more diabolical tactics employed by the devil is to say that no work is needed to draw closer to God. Similarly, he lies to others by telling them that there is no need to work in Zion. (see 2 Nephi 28:19-22 )

There  is actually a third line of thought which results in understand one of satan's most effective tactics: contention, to "stir them up to anger against that which is good." (2 Nephi 28:20) "For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another." (3 Nephi 11:29)

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Back in Alma 8, we read in verse 7, that when the city of Ammonihah was established, it was established after the traditions of the Nephites, meaning that they were probably inclined to the traditions of Nephites, including traditions that were probably righteous traditions. Hence, Alma feels it appropriate to enter in among them to preach the word of God, to what he hopes will be a receptive people. (Verse 7 seems to suggest this.)

Verse 9 holds that much more weight and depth, because "Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people of the city of Ammonihah; therefore they would not hearken unto the words of Alma." What we see here then is evidence of the work of wickedness that the devil had accomplished among the people of Ammonihah since its founding. Is there no work going on here? Satan knows as well as God that in order to accomplish anything, we must be industrious about the course we wish to pursue. We can accomplish nothing without work.

Subsequently, as we look at verse 10, we see how hard Alma is working in response to the wickedness and the work that has already been accomplished among this people.

Because of the work that Alma did to try to preach to the people, and because of the response of the people to his preaching, Alma withdraws himself from among them to move on elsewhere, to where his preaching would be better received. This is good doctrine and council: that we do not dwell among those that would not receive us, as long as we have the confidence that we have given everything that we have to give. (see vs 13)