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"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 by the law.
And because Nehor violated these laws by committing murder, he was brought to his "ignominious death" acknowledging that what he had taught the people was contrary to the word of God. (vs. 15)

There are some other statements of interest in Alma's remarks against Nehor.
  • "Were priestcraft to be enforced among this people it would prove their entire destruction." (vs. 12)
  • "Were we to spare thee his blood would come upon us for vengeance." (vs. 13)

Preistcraft Would Destroy the People

Preistcraft as it was taught by Nehor was the idea "that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people." (vs. 3)

The poison in the doctrine is that it creates inequality on this front. Ironically, it negates the very essence of freedom, creating in a smaller form or fashion a slave state. It is curious to consider that one's beliefs could cause one to be enslaved to another.  And yet the false doctrines that Nehor goes on to teach in verse 4 are the very beliefs which cause the people to be enslaved to Nehor. So much so that they began to support him with money.

This brings to mind Doctrine and Covenants 89:4 which reads "In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men... I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation." It is the idea that there are men and products and teachings abroad that by design are calculated to take away agency, even voluntarily, from those who embrace them. It all goes back to Lucifer's conspiring plan to destroy the agency of man. (see Moses 4:1-4)

The Vengeance of the Blood of a Righteous Man

I have long appreciated the accounts of Gideon as found in the Book of Mormon. I think one of the aspects of his accounts that I most admire is that Gideon is never the overall leader of the land. He is servant. He comes out of King Noah's wicked kingdom as one who opposed his wickedness, he goes on to be a great asset to King Limhi in providing strategic counsel for the welfare of his people, and now here at the end of his life, he found simply as a teacher of the people in his old age. And even still, in his old age, he is found valiantly in defense of truth and liberty, even if it meant the end of his life.

Alma's statement to Nehor, "And were we to spare thee his blood would come upon us for vengeance," (verse 13) underscores the significance of the life of Gideon in the sight of God. It is curious to me the value placed on his life. Nehor is not just being punished for murder of the innocent, though that would be enough. Alma frames it simply by observing that he could not spare Nehor and do right in the sight of God given all the good that Gideon had done for the people. 

What Alma understands from this account is that God does interact in the affairs of man, especially in regards to covenants and the righteous works of man. This truth is express also in the idea that the real history of the world, the history of the covenants of God with his children, is where the true purposes for our existence can be tracked and understood. God has always been close to his children who are bound by covenant to do good.