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Episode 873: Alma 10:1
1 Now these are the words which Amulek preached unto the people who were in the land of Ammonihah, saying:
Mormon provided the text that ended the previous chapter. He provides a simple sentence that narrates the beginning of this inserted sermon. Since Mormon told us that there was an attempt to put Alma in prison and that there were many things written that he didn’t use for his abridgment, we should assume that this sermon took place at a different time, perhaps at a different place. What Mormon has done is give us the first witness, Alma, and now gives Amulek as the second witness. Thus, Mormon shows conformance to the Deuteronomic law of witnesses.
Episode 874: Alma 10:2–4
2 I am Amulek; I am the son of Giddonah, who was the son of Ishmael, who was a descendant of Aminadi; and it was that same Aminadi who interpreted the writing which was upon the wall of the temple, which was written by the finger of God.
3 And Aminadi was a descendant of Nephi, who was the son of Lehi, who came out of the land of Jerusalem, who was a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by the hands of his brethren.
4 And behold, I am also a man of no small reputation among all those who know me; yea, and behold, I have many kindreds and friends, and I have also acquired much riches by the hand of my industry.
As Alma stood before the people of Ammonihah, their first recorded question to him was: “Who art thou?” It was a question about why they should listen to him.
As Amulek begins, he answers the same questions. Perhaps it was explicitly asked. Perhaps it was implicit. Mormon doesn’t give us that information. Nevertheless, Amulek declares who he is. The first, and, in the ancient world, the most important, information concerns his family. He gives information about his father and grandfather, then the more distant relatives. The closer relatives could have been known in the city, but the ancestors tie him to an inherited image.
He mentions his ancestor Aminadi, “who interpreted the writing which was upon the wall of the temple.” This is several generations back, and, therefore, probably from before the time the Nephites left the land of Nephi. We know nothing more of this incident, but the way Amulek uses it, he expects that those who hear it will know the story and respect both it and him as a descendant of an honorable lineage.
The genealogy continues to Nephi and then Manasseh. Thus, Amulek traces his lineage to the Old World, providing what must have been a respected and ancient lineage that was used to trace Nephite political authority.
In addition, Amulek declares that he, himself, is known among the people. Perhaps his mention of acquiring riches is due to the respect that the people of Ammonihah gave to wealth and status. Through all of this introduction, Amulek suggests that he is a man to whom the people should listen.
Episode 875: Alma 10:5–6
5 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.
6 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; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart, even until the fourth day of this seventh month, which is in the tenth year of the reign of the judges.
Perhaps the people should listen to Amulek due to his lineage or wealth, but Amulek also understood that such circumstances might not allow everyone to relate to him, even should they listen. Therefore, he tells them the important information that they could relate to. He is like they are.
Even though Alma had declared that the people of Ammonihah had received the gospel teachings, Amulek personally knew that not all who had the opportunity to hear would have heeded what they heard. He was one of those who had not been very interested in “the ways of the Lord.” Modern readers might see this as a declaration that he hadn’t been a religious person, although we should remember that our modern perception doesn’t replicate the ancient situation.
Even more importantly, Amulek says that “I was called many times and I would not hear.” This places him in the position of standing for all of the people of Ammonihah. Alma had accused them of being called, but not hearing. Thus, Amulek puts himself forward as the model of such a person of the city.
Alma had promised that the people of the city could repent. Amulek models that repentance. He tells his story, and places it firmly in a time that everyone could understand. It was recent. If we can accept the accuracy of the statement that it was on the “fourth day of this seventh month,” it would appear that the seventh month had not yet ended when Amulek told this story.
Episode 876: Alma 10:7–9
7 As I was journeying to see a very near kindred, behold an angel of the Lord appeared unto me and said: Amulek, return to thine own house, for thou shalt feed a prophet of the Lord; yea, a holy man, who is a chosen man of God; for he has fasted many days because of the sins of this people, and he is an hungered, and thou shalt receive him into thy house and feed him, and he shall bless thee and thy house; and the blessing of the Lord shall rest upon thee and thy house.
8 And it came to pass that I obeyed the voice of the angel, and returned towards my house. And as I was going thither I found the man whom the angel said unto me: Thou shalt receive into thy house—and behold it was this same man who has been speaking unto you concerning the things of God.
9 And the angel said unto me he is a holy man; wherefore I know he is a holy man because it was said by an angel of God.
Mormon previewed this story when he introduced Amulek in Alma 8:20, but he left the details to be expanded in Amulek’s sermon. The first interesting phrase in this story is that the appearance of an angel came as Amulek was journeying to see a “very near kindred.” He doesn’t define who that was. There is evidence in the Book of Mormon that kindred tended to live together. However, that wouldn’t require journeying. It is also typical for the wife to move to the land of the husband. Thus, a reasonable speculation is that he was going to see a near female relative who lived among her husband’s kin.
The angel tells Amulek that a prophet will ask him for food, which is precisely what we learned in Alma 8:19. Here the question isn’t repeated, only that he met the man and took him to his house. As a good storyteller would, Amulek builds the story before revealing that the holy man was Alma, “this same man who has been speaking unto you concerning the things of God.” Amulek testifies that Alma is a man of God, and that he knows this because an angel declared it to him.
Episode 877: Alma 10:10–11
10 And again, I know that the things whereof he hath testified are true; for behold I say unto you, that as the Lord liveth, even so has he sent his angel to make these things manifest unto me; and this he has done while this Alma hath dwelt at my house.
11 For behold, he hath blessed mine house, he hath blessed me, and my women, and my children, and my father and my kinsfolk; yea, even all my kindred hath he blessed, and the blessing of the Lord hath rested upon us according to the words which he spake.
This is the conclusion of the story. Amulek identified himself both through his ancestry and his current position. He likened himself to those in Ammonihah by declaring that he, too, thought little of the things of God. However, he introduces his repentance through the presence of first an angel, then of a holy man.
These two verses speak of the blessing of having Alma dwell in his house. The purpose of this declaration is to testify that because Alma is that holy man declared by an angel, that he might bless the people of Ammonihah, just as he blessed Amulek and all his household.
The listing of kin in verse 11 is historically interesting, for it gives us a glimpse into the construction of social units in Ammonihah. Amulek states that Alma blessed his house. That does not mean the building, but the people of Amulek’s immediate kin. In later Aztec terminology, there was an indication of the people of the house, who were typically kin, but might include others. It is the group for which Amulek was responsible. This appears to conclude all that Amulek had intended to say.
Amulek defined who the people are in his house. First himself, and then “my women.” Given the other people mentioned, it appears possible that part of the apostasy of the people of Ammonihah might have been the adoption of polygamy. It is possible that Amulek had more than one wife. This is strengthened by the next category in the list, which are the children, and only after the children do we get his father. Thus, while “my women” might be his wife, mother, and perhaps sisters, the nature of progression through the different kin lends credence to the reading of multiple wives. Of course, this is in a city that has already declared that it has left the Nephite religion. We saw in the kingdom of Noah that a similar process occurred where the apostasy from the Nephite religion included not only the rejection of the Messiah, but also multiple wives.
Episode 878: Alma 10:12–15
12 And now, when Amulek had spoken these words the people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness who testified of the things whereof they were accused, and also of the things which were to come, according to the spirit of prophecy which was in them.
13 Nevertheless, there were some among them who thought to question them, that by their cunning devices they might catch them in their words, that they might find witness against them, that they might deliver them to their judges that they might be judged according to the law, and that they might be slain or cast into prison, according to the crime which they could make appear or witness against them.
14 Now it was those men who sought to destroy them, who were lawyers, who were hired or appointed by the people to administer the law at their times of trials, or at the trials of the crimes of the people before the judges.
15 Now these lawyers were learned in all the arts and cunning of the people; and this was to enable them that they might be skilful in their profession.
These three verses are part of the narrative transition from Amulek’s initial testimony into the public exchange that will be quoted next. Although it is possible that Mormon wrote this linking narrative, it is also possible that it was just what Alma had written as the transition on his own record. The next quoted material appears to have come right after the termination of the testimony and as part of the same event. Thus, both Mormon and Alma would need to provide a transition. Without any more evidence than preference, it would appear more parsimonious to suggest that Alma wrote this intervening text.
The point of the text is to set up the conflict to come. Therefore, there is an explanation that the lawyers stepped in to attempt to find a reason to take them to a judge. Modern readers should not assume that the word “lawyers” represents our understanding of lawyers. They were those who were expert in the law, but the law included the law of Moses. Hence, they were religious as well as legal experts. In Ammonihah, the interrogation is from religious experts called lawyers. In the case of Abinadi, the experts were called priests. They functioned similarly.
Episode 879: Alma 10:16–18
16 And it came to pass that they began to question Amulek, that thereby they might make him cross his words, or contradict the words which he should speak.
17 Now they knew not that Amulek could know of their designs. But it came to pass as they began to question him, he perceived their thoughts, and he said unto them: O ye wicked and perverse generation, ye lawyers and hypocrites, for ye are laying the foundations of the devil; for ye are laying traps and snares to catch the holy ones of God.
18 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.
It is possible that Amulek understood the lawyers’ motivations through the Spirit, but it is also probable that he knew them well enough to easily discern that they did not have earnest and heartfelt questions. It is important to remember that this is Amulek who will powerfully combat the lawyers’ questions. Alma will yet speak, but Amulek’s purpose was not solely to be the sidekick who testified to Alma’s greatness. Amulek himself spoke in power. The Lord called him to perform, not to sit on the sidelines.
Amulek points out exactly what the lawyers are doing. They are hypocrites in that their questions might appear to be seeking truth, but they were actually seeking to entrap Amulek. Amulek declares that it is this type of behavior that will bring destruction upon the people.
Episode 880: Alma 10:19–21
19 Yea, well did Mosiah say, who was our last king, when he was about to deliver up the kingdom, having no one to confer it upon, causing that this people should be governed by their own voices—yea, well did he say that if the time should come that the voice of this people should choose iniquity, that is, if the time should come that this people should fall into transgression, they would be ripe for destruction.
20 And now I say unto you that well doth the Lord judge of your iniquities; well doth he cry unto this people, by the voice of his angels: Repent ye, repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
21 Yea, well doth he cry, by the voice of his angels that: I will come down among my people, with equity and justice in my hands.
Amulek invokes King Mosiah. One of the cautions that was given at the time of the change to judges was that it was possible that a people might choose evil over good. Mosiah declared that when that happened, the people having made that choice were ripe for destruction. Amulek declares that the people of Ammonihah are in that exact position. They have chosen to leave the protective covenant. Alma had promised that destruction would come unless they repent, and Amulek underlines that prophecy. Although repentance is possible, the lawyers’ questions show no true sign of repentance.
When Jehovah declares that “I will come down among my people, with equity and justice in my hands,” it means a just destruction for this people. There could be other results for the repentant, but those who reject the covenant of the Nephite religion face the promised, but just, destruction.
Episode 881: Alma 10:22–23
22 Yea, and I say unto you that if it were not for the prayers of the righteous, who are now in the land, that ye would even now be visited with utter destruction; yet it would not be by flood, as were the people in the days of Noah, but it would be by famine, and by pestilence, and the sword.
23 But it is by the prayers of the righteous that ye are spared; now therefore, if ye will cast out the righteous from among you then will not the Lord stay his hand; but in his fierce anger he will come out against you; then ye shall be smitten by famine, and by pestilence, and by the sword; and the time is soon at hand except ye repent.
The Ammonihahite apostasy was deep enough, and had been in place long enough, that they already qualified for destruction. Amulek declares that it would have happened by now had it not been that there were righteous people praying for them. The implication is that this last opportunity to repent, although by the word of a prophet of God, Alma, was the last chance they would be given.
Therefore, “the time is soon at hand except ye repent.” They are being given their last chance.
Episode 882: Alma 10:24–27
24 And now it came to pass that the people were more angry with Amulek, and they cried out, saying: This man doth revile against our laws which are just, and our wise lawyers whom we have selected.
25 But Amulek stretched forth his hand, and cried the mightier unto them, saying: O ye wicked and perverse generation, why hath Satan got such great hold upon your hearts? Why will ye yield yourselves unto him that he may have power over you, to blind your eyes, that ye will not understand the words which are spoken, according to their truth?
26 For behold, have I testified against your law? Ye do not understand; ye say that I have spoken against your law; but I have not, but I have spoken in favor of your law, to your condemnation.
27 And now behold, I say unto you, that the foundation of the destruction of this people is beginning to be laid by the unrighteousness of your lawyers and your judges.
The people are understandably angry. None of us likes to be publicly called out for our transgressions. The people’s response is also interesting. They invoke the voice of the people, and how they have chosen their lawyers and their laws. This selection by the voice of the people was the very mechanism that Mosiah had suggested would be most effective. Amulek had appealed to King Mosiah, and so, therefore, do the people. The difference is that Amulek had referenced the caution Mosiah gave about when the people would choose evil over good. By saying that their laws were just, the people are suggesting that they are also good, and that they, therefore, have chosen good rather than evil.
Amulek clarifies. He does not dispute that the law is good. He does not dispute that selecting the lawyers by the voice of the people can be good. Amulek declares that the problem is not in the laws, but in the actual people who hold important positions. The voice of the people had chosen unrighteous people.
Episode 883: Alma 10:28–31
28 And now it came to pass that when Amulek had spoken these words the people cried out against him, saying: Now we know that this man is a child of the devil, for he hath lied unto us; for he hath spoken against our law. And now he says that he has not spoken against it.
29 And again, he has reviled against our lawyers, and our judges.
30 And it came to pass that the lawyers put it into their hearts that they should remember these things against him.
31 And there was one among them whose name was Zeezrom. Now he was the foremost to accuse Amulek and Alma, he being one of the most expert among them, having much business to do among the people.
Unsurprisingly, the people who chose unrighteous leaders continue to support those unrighteous leaders. Since Amulek has spoken against them, it is Amulek who is not only wrong, but is “a child of the devil.”
Verse 31 introduces the next important player in the game, Zeezrom. He is presented as “one of the most expert among [the lawyers]”. It is probable that Mormon uses the name Zeezrom as a metonym. That is, it is a name that represents something about the quality of the man. Having done this, however, Mormon appears to realize that his readers won’t understand the metonym without further information. Therefore, he will interrupt his quotation of this event to add information that seems to serve multiple functions, one of which is to explain the name Zeezrom as well as other names that Mormon will use.
Episode 884: Alma 10:32
32 Now the object of these lawyers was to get gain; and they got gain according to their employ.
There is no chapter break at this point in the 1830 edition. Orson Pratt created a new chapter here because what follows in our Chapter 11 is a discussion of weights and measures that doesn’t seem to fit the sermon as laid out in Chapter 10. Pratt was correct that the discussion of weights and measures doesn’t really belong. It is Mormon’s insertion into Alma’s text, and as noted in the comments on the previous verses, is probably entered because Mormon had just given his readers the name Zeezrom, which required some explanation that Mormon understood that his audience would need.
The interruption is bracketed by repetitive resumption. Verse 32 is the opening bracket. The repetition of this information comes in the next chapter, Alma 11:20. That verse, as well as the repeated text in Alma 11:20 are Mormon’s text, then he will return to copying from Alma’s personal record.
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