A serious and difficult situation is addressed in this chapter of the Book of Mormon. We learn in the opening verses that the rising generation, those who where not old enough to understand the words of King Benjamin, had not shared in the faith of their fathers. The narrator of this chapter even goes so far as to say that "they were a separate people as to their faith." (vs. 4)
The cause of this separation was noted simply:
And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened. (vs. 3)Both of these emphasized words also have footnotes attached to them in the original. Thus we see that knowledge of the things of God is predicated upon faith. For it is impossible to acquire a true understanding of those things that are true without first believing that they are true.
This becomes an issue of serious concern for two reasons: 1) these children of the rising generation were not joining themselves to the church, and 2) those that were within the church were being persuaded away from the church, being lead into divers sins. Alma himself was not personally aware of the situation until it was brought to his attention via others who were more directly affected.
The truly interesting case study in this chapter is the response and attitude of Alma when this issue is brought to his attention. The scriptures say that "there had not any such thing happened before in the church; therefore Alma was troubled in his spirit." Alma goes on to present the case before King Mosiah, that those guilty of offense could be judged according to their crimes. Yet, King Mosiah defers back to Alma to make a judgment. "And now the spirit of Alma was again troubled;" (vs. 13) and therefore being thus left to his own judgments, Alma inquired of the Lord because he feared doing wrong before God.
I find this facinating because being placed in this position of leadership, Alma had no other mortal being to whom he was accountable. Yet, Alma being honest and true, did not take this power unto himself. A full study of this response will be made in the next entry.