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"Hearken unto the Voice of the Good Shepherd," Alma 5:26-42

Alma 5:26-42

I am surprised as I read in this particular part of the chapter to notice how much Alma's words sounded like those of the Savior himself. I don't know why it should have surprised me, given the clarification found in Doctrine and Covenants 1:38, "Whether by my own voice or the by the voice of my servants, it is the same," (emphasis added). However, it is striking how much Alma's words sound like the Savior's own words, using phrases such as:

"Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life." (vs. 28)

Compare with Matthew 4:17 - "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

"Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely;" (vs. 34)

Compare to John 6:58 - "This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as you…

"A Place to Sit Down in the Kingdom of God," Alma 5:20-25

Alma 5:20-25

In a more serious tone, Alma reminds his brethren of the need to be saved and the requirements of salvation. These verses pick up with the topic of purity and its necessity to enter into God's kingdom:

...For there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins. (vs. 21, emphasis added)Alma in verse 22 poses a question that causes me to consider my own personal worthiness. "How will any of you feel, if ye shall stand before the bar of God, having your garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness?"

Alma then goes on to accuse them of having blood stained garments, calling them murderers and being guilty of all manner of wickedness. On the one hand, this seems like an extreme accusation.  Where these people of Zarahemla actually guilty of murder…

"Having the Image of God Engraven upon Your Countenances," Alma 5:15-19

Alma 5:15-19

Picking up where we left off yesterday, Alma goes through another set of probing questions designed to till the ground, turn over the dirt that had grown hard to allow for increased growth among the people. Of course, I speak figuratively, drawing a parallel to gardening.

The reality that Alma is illustrating in the minds of the people is the eventual judgment before the tribunal of God. He reminds the people of their resurrected and perfected state in which they will have a perfect knowledge of all their guilt. But he doesn't start into this group of questions that way.

In verses 15 and 16, the questions that Alma poses are actually optimistic and upbeat. Yet that almost has the effect of being more condemning and of greater cause for self-interrogation. Consider these questions:
"Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you?""Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption ra…

"Have Ye Received His Image in Your Countenances?" Alma 5:14

Alma 5:14

After completing a brief review of the terms of salvation that were extended to the previous generation of Saints, Alma goes on to ask three very direct questions in succession :
Have ye spiritually been born of God?Have ye received his image in your countenances?Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? Now the first and the third questions, I can find references to elsewhere in the scriptures to broaden my understanding of what Alma is asking. For example, the first question ("Have ye spiritually been born of God?") sounds very similar to the Savior's conversation with Nicodemus. "How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?" (John 3:4)

The third question ("Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?") also has meaning elsewhere. King Benjamin's people exclaimed that "because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us…

"Have You Sufficiently Retained in Remembrance," Alma 5:1-13

Alma 5:1-13

There is a lot of good doctrine to cover in this chapter. I recently have been reminded of the need for appreciation (gratitude) in my comings and goings. Alma seems focused similarly in his introduction to the people of Zarahemla. The history of the previous generation of the Church, of their oppressions and deliverance, is the topic of Alma's introduction. Alma first discusses their physical captivity, but then goes on to ask if the people had also remembered that the Lord had delivered their souls from hell. (vs. 6)

Then in verses 7-9, Alma explains how it was that their redemption (deliverance from hell) was made possible:
The Lord "changed their hearts" The Lord did awaken them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God.  "Their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word"The bands of death were broken, and the chains of hell loosed, and their souls did expand to sing songs of redeeming love. Alma then states that their souls are…

"That He Might Preach the Word of God," Alma 4

Alma 4

(It is curious how that even in making a chronological study of the scriptures, the Lord is able to line up my life experiences with where I am at in the Book of Mormon.)

The wars, of which were made mention of in the previous chapter, led to a considerably dearth of resources among the Nephites in the following year, for they had lost men (brethren), flocks and herds, and fields of grain. But this caused the people to be humble, so much so that they were made to be aware of their duty. This attending to their duty meant that "they began to establish the Church more fully," and consequently, thousands had joined themselves to the Church of God.

So in the seventh year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, there were some 3,500 persons baptized into the Church and the people of Nephi enjoyed peace in their land. The very next year, the people, because of this freedom (blessing) given them of the Lord, began to be prideful. The cause of their pride was their …

"Every Man Receiveth Wages of Him Who He Listeth to Obey," Alma 3

Alma 3

(I've started reading this chapter by asking myself, "What does this chapter have to contribute to my testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ?" I've discovered this to be a good practice when I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around the key points of the chapter.)

This chapter emphasizes the point of agency, or our complete freedom to choose, in the Gospel plan. There is also some discussion on the purpose and weight and reality of covenants. Additionally, there are some unique insights into social dynamics.

The catalyst for discussion in this chapter is the curse or marking that the Amalicites voluntarily administered to themselves (see verses 4, 13). The author's purpose in including this particular historical point is to illustrate how it was that the covenants of the Lord were fulfilled, which were originally given to Nephi and which were given as a protection for the people of Nephi  (see verses 5-8, 14-17). Within that covenant was a curse to anyon…

"When Alma Had Said These Words," Alma 2

Alma 2

Just a few thoughts on what appears to be accounts of civil process and war. I am first reminded that nothing is included in the Book of Mormon unless there are spiritual ramifications attached to it. On a different note, it is interesting to me that there was an exact count (vs. 19), at the first encounter on the battle field, of exactly how many souls had perished, suggesting that every life lost was known to God. The final thought, and this is almost harder to pull out because of the circumstances (they were in the middle of a war), is that when we are on the Lord's side, we are entitled to the enabling and strengthening power that comes from God to do the impossible. (vs. 27-33)

"And Thus They Did Prosper," Alma 1:16-33

Alma 1:16-33

We learn here in the remainder of this chapter that priestcraft did not come to an end among the people of Nephi at this time. Yet there was a distinct separation between those who were steadfast in the church verses those who separated themselves from the church and followed after preistcraft.

It is that separation or distinction between the people of the church and those that did not belong to the church that occupies these verses. There actually appears to be two points of division that take place.

First, it is a distinction between those inside, and those outside the church -- those that were more humble being persecuted by those who did not belong to the church or would not take upon themselves the name of Christ.(vs. 19)  What was the cause of their persecution? Or what motivated those outside of the church to be so concerned about what those inside of the church were doing? Those of the church were not proud, and they would impart the word of God without money and wi…

"Obliged to Abide by the Laws," Alma 1:1-15

Alma 1:1-15

There is a premise introduced in these verses that I feel that I have overlooked in past readings of the account of Nehor. The premise is this: King Mosiah, being a righteous king, had established a form of government with laws that had been acknowledged by the people. "Therefore they were obliged to abide by the laws which he had made." (vs. 1)

I suppose that I have never given much personal consideration to the obligation on my part to obey the laws of the land as a means of ensuring my liberties and freedoms. Yet this is the very reason for why organized government should exist: to preserve and ensure freedom.

The account goes on to explain the account of Nehor, his priestcraft and his crimes, and then in verse 14, Alma explains the violation of the law which Nehor had committed:
Therefore thou art condemned to die, according to the law which has been given us by Mosiah, our last king; and it has been acknowledged by this people; therefore this people must abide …

"Exceedingly Rejoiced Because of the Liberty," Mosiah 29:39-47

Mosiah 29:39-47

Verse 39 states that the people "were exceedingly rejoiced because of the liberty which had been granted unto them." I've looked up the footnote on liberty, and it has brought me to review and consider a couple of passages from the New Testament teachings of Paul.

1 Corinthians 8:9 - This is Paul's teaching on "Christian Liberty," a reminder to be careful of the freedoms afforded us, lest they be misinterpreted by those around us and become a "stumbling block" for them.

Galatians 5 - In this chapter, the purpose of God-granted freedom is afford us the ability to learn to walk after the Spirit. Verse 16 of this chapter reminds me to "Walk in the Spirit."

Something that I had missed in previous days of studying these verses is that the deeper feelings of appreciation and love that the people felt towards king Mosiah was a result of putting into practice his recommendations to change the government over to a system of judges. I…

"Consider the Cause which Ye Are Called to Consider," Mosiah 29:1-38

Mosiah 29:1-38

A unique milestone in the history of the Nephite nation is addressed in an epistle to the people from King Mosiah, for they were desirous to continue under the leadership of a king.  King Mosiah, though being the third king from King Mosiah (his grandfather, see Omni 1:12-13) to lead the people under righteousness, presents the people with an alternative form of government.

An interesting side thought is the reason for this change. The rightful heir to the throne, Aaron -- the son of Mosiah, has rejected the throne because of his desires to serve as a missionary. The decision to reject the throne was a radical decision based on righteous motives. The blessing that resulted to the benefit of the people was of greater good than anything that he could have done for the kingdom as king. Missionary work blesses both those directly and indirectly involved in it.

In verse 11, after presenting an interesting yet not entirely improbable scenario of rebellion,  Mosiah proposes that…

"By Means of Those Two Stones," Mosiah 28:10-20

Mosiah 28:10-20

(Such are the mercies of the Lord upon me when I do not feel worthy to receive the instruction that He sends me, yet He does it anyways.)

I'm not sure how to get from point A to point B in this explanation, however there are important truths found in the footnotes of this section. I should also preface this study with a reminder that I have recently been impressed with the importance of the heart in discerning spiritual matters, for the Spirit of God communicates through the mind and the heart working together. (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2)

As was mentioned back in Mosiah 21 in the conversation between Ammon the scout and king Limhi, "king Mosiah had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret... engravings."At this point in the record, we learn that king Mosiah had no one to confer the kingdom upon because all of his sons had gone off to preach to the Lamanites. This caused him to prepare the records that he had in his possession to be transferred.

The recor…

"Desirous," Mosiah 28:1-9

Mosiah 28:1-9

These verses cause me to consider in greater earnest "the virtue of the word of God." (see Alma 31:5)

The sons of Mosiah set a precedence in the history of missionary work upon their successful completion of their ministry among the Nephites. It strikes me that as these missionaries had observed the power of the word of God amongst the Nephites, there was born within the sons of Mosiah a desire to extend its influence to the Lamanite people also. But perhaps there's a slightly different reason for their motivation.

No one had ever taken the word of God this far before with the hope to convert an enemy nation to the ways of God.This zealous pioneering spirit was born of out of the desire "that salvation should be declared unto every create." (verse 3) I find in the sons of Mosiah's desire the manifestation of the Spirit of Christ, or in other words, that pure love which motivates one to do good.

Consequently, the sons of Mosiah sought their father…

"Zealously Striving to Repair," Mosiah 27:32-37

Mosiah 27:32-37

This captures my attention immediately, that from the point of their conversion onward --or that from the moment that they had put into practice in their own lives the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ-- they began to teach it unto others.

A line at the end of verse 32 says that they were "greatly persecuted by those who were unbelievers." I've often times feared the unbelievers because of their anger and hatred towards those that do believe. However, as I read it this morning, it strikes me that the conversion that Alma and the sons of Mosiah underwent caused them to face the unbelievers with love and faith, perhaps even with the hope that they too would convert to the Gospel of Christ. It is that it was so present in the minds of their minds (Alma and the Sons of Mosiah) their prior state of darkness that they understood all too well the hatred, confusion, and guilt that those that don't beleive are feeling.  Understanding the cause of their pe…

"It Was the Power of God," Mosiah 27:18-31

Mosiah 27:18-31

An interesting exercise in these verses is take the phrase "power of God" and substitute it with the word "priesthood." Not so much to change the meaning of the passage, but to give further understanding to the nature of the priesthood. I keep doing it, almost compulsively. Presently, I am left to consider how "nothing save the power of God that could... cause it to tremble." (verse 18) That thought that keeps impressing me is that the priesthood has the power to do this.

Then there is the question of signs and how it is an "adulterous generation" (Matt. 12:39) that seeks after signs. If we are not to seek after signs and miracles, then what part do these things play in the work of the Lord? That the priesthood has power over earthly elements has been illustrated time and time again in the scriptures, especially in the Old Testament. Their purpose is not to give signs to the wicked but rather to facilitate the work of the righteous…

"The Angel of the Lord Appeared unto Them," Mosiah 27:8-17

Mosiah 27:8-17

These verses contain the account of an angel that came to stop Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah on their course of destruction against the Church. The main question that I have as I read these verses is: what about this scenario merited the intervention of an angel? Angels are not the usual form of communication from heaven.

There are several reasons that I feel angelic intervention was merited in this instance. Verses 8 through 10 explain how they were rebelling against the church in secret. Given the family dynamics, that both parents of Alma and the son of Mosiah were the heads of the church and the state, it gave them all the more power to destroy what their fathers were trying to build and protect. 

Verse 14 offers another reason when the angel explains that Alma, the elder, had been praying for his son that he might "be brought to the knowledge of the truth." It wasn't just Alma that had been praying for this though, and just because Alma was hi…

"There Should Be an Equality among All Men," Mosiah 27:1-7

Mosiah 27:1-7

These first verses of this chapter are given more as a setup to what follows. However, I've taken a moment to contemplate the law that was enacted and the purpose for which it was given. As a result of persecution by the unbelievers towards those that did believe, King Mosiah had been petitioned to take action.

Consequently, a command was enacted to dissolve persecutions and to protect the equality of all his people. The details of that command included that there was to be no pride or haughtiness that would disturb their peace, that every man should esteem his neighbor as himself, and that all should be industrious or labor with their own hands for their support. (see vs 2-4)

The result of this command or law was that there was increased peace and prosperity. I am amazed that it appears to have been so simple, that the king issued a command after consulting with his priests and then that the effects were that of general increased peace and prosperity.

Oh, how the times …

"To Prosper Exceedingly in the Affairs of the Church," Mosiah 26:34-39

Mosiah 26:34-39

Studying the previous verses in both English and Spanish, I was impressed with the truth that only a disciple of Christ could be asked to makes judgments on behave of others. That is, only someone who truly understands and sees that it is Christ that leads this great work and not themselves (that will walk circumspectly and humbly before God) has the perspective to deal with such weightier matters as judgment and mercy (see Matt 23:23). These verses don't directly state that such was the case with Alma, but it is absolutely impossible to conclude otherwise and the reminder is so very important on this topic in particular.

To be excommunicated or cut off from the Church and kingdom of God on the earth is not a trivial matter. I have always understood it to be a tool designed to aide in the repentance process. In these verses, it not only allowed those who would not repent to be separated from the Church, it created a distinction by which others could recognize that th…