23 January 2015

"Ye Cannont Be Saved in Your Sins," Alma 11:21-37

Alma 11:21-37

The premise for this very decisive debate between Amulek and Zeezrom, the lawyer, is found in the statement "I shall say nothing which is contrary to the Spirit of the Lord." in verse 22. In same verse, Zeezrom, the lawyer, states that he will pay Amulek six ontis of silver (see previous post) if he denies the existence of God.

Immediately in verse 23 and 24, Amulek makes a very bold set of accusations against the accusing lawyer. Perhaps, I shouldn't be looking at Amulek's statements as defensive accusations though. Rather, remembering that he is speaking by the power of the Spirit, these are statements of truth. (This isn't a name-calling competition.) So when Amulek declares Zeezrom to be "a child of hell" perhaps this is statement of realization, even on the part of Amulek. Maybe, the Spirit of the Lord is giving Amulek the words to say in the very moment that he is saying them, offering both instruction and perspective to Amulek as to why a lawyer would have just offer him so much money to deny God.

So the question becomes an issue of not how could Amulek have become so bold to have made such strong accusations. Rather, I think I am benefited as I read these verses to realize that Amulek was in fact guided by the Spirit of the Lord as he goes on to explain the nature of God, the consequences of sin, and the reality of the Resurrection.

There are a couple of key points of doctrine that are clarified in these verses by Amulek. Notable is the discussion on being saved in sin verses being saved from sin. Zeezrom tries to make it appear that Amulek has power to control God by manipulating his words. Amulek is quick to clarify that is the word of God that states "no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven," and hence, if one cannot be saved except they inherit the kingdom of heaven, then "ye cannot be saved in your sins." (vs. 37)

16 January 2015

"Behold, Here Are Six Onties of Silver," Alma 11:1-22

Alma 11:1-22

I finally arrive at chapter 11 of Alma. We have at the beginning of the chapter an explanation of the currency of the day among the Nephites. It is laid out as such:

Nephite Coinage Chart
Gold Silver Value
limnah onti (vs.22) Equal to a senine, a seon, and a shum of gold combined, or equal to a senum, an amnor, and a ezrom of silver combined. (7 senines, 7 senums, or 7 days of work) (vs. 10, 13)
shum ezrom 2 seons (4 senines) or 2 amnors (4 senums) (vs. 9, 12)
seon amnor 2 senines or 2 senums (vs. 8, 11)
antion 3 shiblons, which means it should be 1½ senine (vs. 19)
senine senum This is the base measurement from which all other coins are valued. A day's wages for a judge. Also, the worth of a measure of barley and every other kind of grain.(vs. 3, 7)
shiblon half a senum, half a measure of barley (vs. 15)
shiblum half a shiblon (4 shiblums = a senum) (vs. 16)
leah half a shiblum (8 leahs = a senum) (vs. 17)


In verse 20, we learn that the motivation for the lawyers to come out in open opposition to the servants of God is for financial gain. "...Because they received their wages according to their employ, therefore, they did stir up the people to riotings, and all manner of disturbances and wickedness... that they might get money "

What I learn in this exchange that follows and other accounts of the Savior is that money is of no consequence or real value in the kingdom of God. It doesn't affect the quantity or the quality of the administrations of the Kingdom of God. It is needed to manage basic needs. But it is of little value beyond that.

06 January 2015

"The Prayers of the Righteous," Alma 10:13-32

Alma 10:13-32

Immediately upon hearing the testimony of Amulek, some of those that were present saw an opportunity to profit financially from the situation. These were lawyers. The scriptures here detail the motives of those that sought to oppose Alma and Amulek.

Despite being able to manipulate public perception of the Lord's chosen servants according to their training and craft, what these lawyers did not know and what they did not expect was that Amulek was able to discern their thoughts and reveal their wicked intentions.(see vs. 17)

It is then recorded Amulek's response to his discernment of the lawyers' cunning devices and wickedness. What the people don't get yet is that Amulek's response is motivated by discernment. Rather they assume that he is bent on reviling against their written law.

What I find intriguing is that Amulek doesn't start out giving irrefutable evidence of his ability to perceive their thoughts. This doesn't come until much later. He starts out by explaining in more general terms the dangers of their chosen path.
Ye are laying plans to pervert the ways of the righteous, and to bring down the wrath of God upon your heads, even to the utter destruction of this people. (vs. 18)
 In verse 23, Amulek explains that the prayers of the righteous had preserved the people from utter destruction. I know that this is not the only place in the scripture that talks about this particular concept, but the truth of it is well spelt out: "if ye will cast out the righteous from among you then will not the Lord stay his hand." Destruction comes when God has no covenants to keep with His wayward children.

In verse 27, as if he couldn't be any plainer, Amulek says that their destruction is being laid by the paid profession of their lawyers. In other words, what they were paying for was for men to work unrighteousness amongst their people. I find that there is much of commerce and things that we pay for in this life that is unhealthy for us, and some which is plain bad. It is ironic that we pay for our destruction.

12 December 2014

"He Hath Blessed Mine House," Alma 10:7-12

Alma 10:7-12

After Amulek's introduction, in six verses he shares his personal witness of Alma as a prophet and a holy man. Amulek learns by what appears to be two separate angelic visitations 1) the character and office of Alma  (vs. 7) and 2) the validity of Alma's teachings to the people of Ammonihah (vs. 10).

I've always glossed over the second angelic visitation, lumping it together as one with the first. But Amulek specifically says that this visitation came while Alma was at his house. We know that Alma dwelt at Amulek's house for many days before they returned to the public square to address the people, and what seems to have happened here while Alma was in the house of Amulek is an intense period of personal ministry and training for both Amulek and his household.

While in verse 10, Amulek cites the angel's witness as validity of the things which Alma had taught. Amulek then goes further to explain that Alma had blessed every member of his household: himself, his women, his children, his father, his kinsfold, and all his kindred (extended family?). "The blessing of the Lord hath rested upon us according to the words which he spake." (vs. 11)

---------
There is in these verses a key to obtaining greater peace and happiness in family life by bringing the words of the living prophets into our homes and families. Amulek tried it, and it blessed every member of his household. 

10 December 2014

"I Knew Concerning These Things, Yet I Would Not Know," Alma 10:1-6

Alma 10:1-6

In these verses we have an introduction of Amulek, a self-described "man of no small reputation among all those who know me... [having] many kindreds and friends, and... acquired much riches by the hand of my industry." (vs. 4) So then Amulek, a man who is influential, well connected, and well to do in temporal means, immediately in the next verses makes a public confession:
Nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power. I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people.
Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; (vs. 5-6)
 What we have here in the words of Amulek, is a recognition of his own personal rebellion against God. In the open remarks of Amulek, he gives his genealogy or an account of his ancestral line pointing to some key
players such as Aminadi, whom he credits with "interpreted the writing which was upon the wall of the temple, which was written by the finger of God." (vs. 2) What Amulek seems to be getting at here is that there was a heritage of righteousness within his own family history, and that as such, he did have some knowledge already of the ways of God, the ways of righteousness, yet he didn't want to have any part in extending that family heritage down into his own life experience.

In this regard, Amulek is much like the rest of the people of Ammonihah, having a rich heritage of faith to build upon, but having had rejected it entirely.

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)