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Episode 917: Alma 12:1–2
1 Now Alma, seeing that the words of Amulek had silenced Zeezrom, for he beheld that Amulek had caught him in his lying and deceiving to destroy him, and seeing that he began to tremble under a consciousness of his guilt, he opened his mouth and began to speak unto him, and to establish the words of Amulek, and to explain things beyond, or to unfold the scriptures beyond that which Amulek had done.
2 Now the words that Alma spake unto Zeezrom were heard by the people round about; for the multitude was great, and he spake on this wise:
Mormon wrote the text at the end of Chapter 11, and continues to write his own linking narrative here. Amulek had originally been called as a second witness to Alma, and Zeezrom will become a second witness to Amulek.
Chapter 11 ends with Zeezrom realizing his error: “and also Zeezrom began to tremble.” (Alma 11:46). Mormon tells us that there was more to what Amulek said, but that he chose not to write more. What he now chooses to write is Alma’s sermon to Zeezrom and the gathered crowd.
Episode 918: Alma 12:3–6
3 Now Zeezrom, seeing that thou hast been taken in thy lying and craftiness, for thou hast not lied unto men only but thou hast lied unto God; for behold, he knows all thy thoughts, and thou seest that thy thoughts are made known unto us by his Spirit;
4 And thou seest that we know that thy plan was a very subtle plan, as to the subtlety of the devil, for to lie and to deceive this people that thou mightest set them against us, to revile us and to cast us out—
5 Now this was a plan of thine adversary, and he hath exercised his power in thee. Now I would that ye should remember that what I say unto thee I say unto all.
6 And behold I say unto you all that this was a snare of the adversary, which he has laid to catch this people, that he might bring you into subjection unto him, that he might encircle you about with his chains, that he might chain you down to everlasting destruction, according to the power of his captivity.
Alma addresses Zeezrom first, but in verse 6 makes it clear that Alma intends this as a condemnation of all of those present. Just as Amulek has easily discerned the reason for the bribe, he understood the attempts to trap him with the types of questions asked. Alma declares that Amulek knew those things because God knows all and can communicate through His Spirit to His servants. Of course, that very fact declares Alma and Amulek as Jehovah’s divinely appointed servants.
Alma declares that Zeezrom and the people are under the spell of the adversary to God. The force opposing God led them to attempt to entrap God’s true representatives. They have been listening to the wrong source, and the source to which they have been listening will lead to their destruction.
Episode 919: Alma 12: 7–8
7 Now when Alma had spoken these words, Zeezrom began to tremble more exceedingly, for he was convinced more and more of the power of God; and he was also convinced that Alma and Amulek had a knowledge of him, for he was convinced that they knew the thoughts and intents of his heart; for power was given unto them that they might know of these things according to the spirit of prophecy.
8 And Zeezrom began to inquire of them diligently, that he might know more concerning the kingdom of God. And he said unto Alma: What does this mean which Amulek hath spoken concerning the resurrection of the dead, that all shall rise from the dead, both the just and the unjust, and are brought to stand before God to be judged according to their works?
Amulek’s words began Zeezrom’s conversion, and Alma’s words and power in the Spirit intensify the conversion. What becomes interesting is that both the pre-repentant and post-repentant Zeezrom asked questions. The difference isn’t in asking questions, but in the intent behind the questions.
There was little desire for an answer to the first questions asked; they were designed for other purposes. Now, however, “Zeezrom began to inquire of them diligently.” Upon strongly feeling the Spirit, the questions continue, but the nature of the questions changes. Now they are sincere attempts to understand.
Episode 920: Alma 12:9–11
9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.
This part of the exchange seems somewhat anomalous. Zeezrom asked about the resurrection and the final judgment, and rather than answer that question directly, Alma discourses on the fact that some are given to know, and some harden their hearts against what they could know. Alma will, in fact, answer the original question in the next verses, but why this interlude?
Zeezrom is a lawyer and should know the law. He has access to the scriptures and has the learning to understand them, yet he asks a question that Alma declares has already been taught. The unasked question is, therefore, why Zeezrom does not already know these things. To that unasked question, Alma answers that he, and those who have accepted similar ideas about God, have hardened their hearts so that they do not understand the word that has been given.
Episode 921: Alma 12:12–14
12 And Amulek hath spoken plainly concerning death, and being raised from this mortality to a state of immortality, and being brought before the bar of God, to be judged according to our works.
13 Then if our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for then we shall be condemned.
14 For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.
As Alma clarifies Amulek’s teachings for Zeezrom, he does not do it as a theoretical discussion of principles. He places Zeezrom and the people of Ammonihah at the very final bar of God, where they will be judged. He softens the blow slightly by including himself: “if our hearts have been hardened.” Alma can easily do this as he had such a hardened heart before his miraculous conversion. Nevertheless, the point is to make the discussion personal and immediate, rather than theoretical.
Alma has accused the people of Ammonihah of rejecting true principles, of having hardened hearts. Thus, “our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us.” The judgment at God’s hand is not based on external events or criteria, but rather on what we have become. If we have hardened our hearts and will not allow repentance to take hold of us, we are judged according to that hardening of our hearts. We will understand that, when we stand before God, our guilt will be our own and we cannot blame anyone else for our uncleanliness before God. Although on earth we might hide those feelings, perhaps in groups of like-minded people, before God all will be laid open for God to see.
Episode 922: Alma 12:15
15 But this cannot be; we must come forth and stand before him in his glory, and in his power, and in his might, majesty, and dominion, and acknowledge to our everlasting shame that all his judgments are just; that he is just in all his works, and that he is merciful unto the children of men, and that he has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance.
The first phrase, “but this cannot be”, refers to the previous verse where Alma declares that should the unclean come before God, that we will desire to hide from his presence. That cannot be: “we must come forth and stand before him in his glory.” The final judgment places us, and all that we have become, before God and his righteousness. At that final time, a division between good and evil will occur. If we have not become good, we cannot withstand his presence. In shame, the unjust enter the reward of the wicked.
The opposite is also true. Those who have repented through the power of the Messiah’s name, and have lived according to the true way, shall be judged good. They will not be ashamed to be in the presence of the Lord.
Episode 923: Alma 12:16–18
16 And now behold, I say unto you then cometh a death, even a second death, which is a spiritual death; then is a time that whosoever dieth in his sins, as to a temporal death, shall also die a spiritual death; yea, he shall die as to things pertaining unto righteousness.
17 Then is the time when their torments shall be as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever; and then is the time that they shall be chained down to an everlasting destruction, according to the power and captivity of Satan, he having subjected them according to his will.
18 Then, I say unto you, they shall be as though there had been no redemption made; for they cannot be redeemed according to God’s justice; and they cannot die, seeing there is no more corruption.
Although Alma briefly noted that there is repentance and the opportunity to stand clean before God, his emphasis is on the negative judgment, because that is what awaits the unrepentant people of Ammonihah. Alma has spent no time on the temporal death and resurrection, because that is simple. All receive the benefits of resurrection without condition.
The difference is that there is a second death. Alma defines that as a spiritual death rather than a physical death. By using the same term, however, he can more easily compare and contrast the temporal and spiritual deaths. Both can occur. The first is automatically overcome, but the second is conditionally overcome.
Alma explains that those who do not repent, who do not accept Christ’s name, will incur a final and complete separation from God. They will be under the “power and captivity of Satan.” In the black and white imagery that is often used in prophecy, there are only two options for the judgment, good or evil. Those who die the spiritual death have elected evil, and, hence, are subject to Satan, as the opposite of God.
The lake of fire and brimstone should not be seen as literal, but rather symbolic of the opposite conditions of living in the presence of God.
Modern Saints understand degrees of Glory and think about the question of whether there might be progression after entering those Glories. Those are not Alma’s concerns. His teaching shows only the two options. Once assigned to Satan’s domain, there is no change, as mankind does not die again in order to enable another change.
That should not suggest that there are no degrees of Glory, only that they were not the reason Alma preached this sermon. For this people, they had to choose repentance or destruction, and the destruction would be real. They really had only two choices: repent and survive, or remain unrepentant and be destroyed.
Episode 924: Alma 12:19–21
19 Now it came to pass that when Alma had made an end of speaking these words, the people began to be more astonished;
20 But there was one Antionah, who was a chief ruler among them, came forth and said unto him: What is this that thou hast said, that man should rise from the dead and be changed from this mortal to an immortal state, that the soul can never die?
21 What does the scripture mean, which saith that God placed cherubim and a flaming sword on the east of the garden of Eden, lest our first parents should enter and partake of the fruit of the tree of life, and live forever? And thus we see that there was no possible chance that they should live forever.
After Zeezrom (“silver guy”) not only fails to trap Amulek and Alma, he is replaced by Antionah (“gold guy”). The names not only identify the person, but also say something about the nature of the person. Thus, even before he speaks, we understand that he will do as Zeezrom began. He will ask questions designed to entrap, not to understand.
In this case, Antionah decides to go after the statement that all should rise from the dead to become immortal. He uses scripture to show that Adam and Eve were forbidden access to the Tree of Life after they were driven from the Garden, precisely so that they could not live forever. Therefore, Antionah suggests that what Alma says contradicts the scriptures.
Episode 925: Alma 12:22–24
22 Now Alma said unto him: This is the thing which I was about to explain. Now we see that Adam did fall by the partaking of the forbidden fruit, according to the word of God; and thus we see, that by his fall, all mankind became a lost and fallen people.
23 And now behold, I say unto you that if it had been possible for Adam to have partaken of the fruit of the tree of life at that time, there would have been no death, and the word would have been void, making God a liar, for he said: If thou eat thou shalt surely die.
24 And we see that death comes upon mankind, yea, the death which has been spoken of by Amulek, which is the temporal death; nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead.
Alma doesn’t explain the trap, but rather simply responds seriously to the question. First, he agrees with Antionah about the basic interpretation of the Garden story. Adam was driven from the Garden. Parenthetically, the general absence of women in the Book of Mormon is remarkably underscored by the absence of Eve in this story.
Alma also agrees that had Adam been able to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life, that he would have had continued life. He also notes that since God had declared that eating of the Tree of Knowledge would bring death, it was expedient that Adam be prevented from eating of the Tree of Life. So far, he is building his case by showing agreement with the scriptures as Antionah has cited them.
The difference between Alma and Antionah lies in the nature of death. That there is death in this world does not mean that God intended for death to be permanent. Living forever in mortality is a different condition that living forever as a resurrected being. Antionah made the mistake of limiting his vision of God’s plan.
Episode 926: Alma 12:25–27
25 Now, if it had not been for the plan of redemption, which was laid from the foundation of the world, there could have been no resurrection of the dead; but there was a plan of redemption laid, which shall bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, of which has been spoken.
26 And now behold, if it were possible that our first parents could have gone forth and partaken of the tree of life they would have been forever miserable, having no preparatory state; and thus the plan of redemption would have been frustrated, and the word of God would have been void, taking none effect.
27 But behold, it was not so; but it was appointed unto men that they must die; and after death, they must come to judgment, even that same judgment of which we have spoken, which is the end.
Alma lays out the basic plan of salvation. The first important point is that the plan of salvation was in effect before the foundation of the world. It preceded the Garden of Eden, and the events of the Garden are built upon the foundation of that promise of salvation, not the cause for its later implementation.
If Adam and Eve, and all humankind, were to live forever in the mortal state, there would be no division in time, no chance at a change of status. Thus, they would not have the opportunity of entering into God’s presence, for the would be forever linked to the temporal state. Death is an essential part of the plan of salvation.
This life is not meant to be permanent; it is meant to be a temporary training ground for something different, something indescribably better.
Episode 927: Alma 12:28–30
28 And after God had appointed that these things should come unto man, behold, then he saw that it was expedient that man should know concerning the things whereof he had appointed unto them;
29 Therefore he sent angels to converse with them, who caused men to behold of his glory.
30 And they began from that time forth to call on his name; therefore God conversed with men, and made known unto them the plan of redemption, which had been prepared from the foundation of the world; and this he made known unto them according to their faith and repentance and their holy works.
Life in this mortal state is not simply to be lived, but is an opportunity to improve our souls. Thus, humankind needed to “know concerning the things whereof he had appointed unto them.” That is, they needed to understand the greatness of the plan and how it extended beyond this morality.
To do so, Jehovah sent angels to deliver the message, and, therefore, the gospel became known. In terms the Nephites might more readily understand, the law of Moses was declared. This was not all, however, for there is also the possibility of spiritual death. That possibility also required a remedy through God’s plan, and that is the plan of redemption, or the Atonement. That was the part of the plan that depended upon agency, upon humankind acting “according to their faith and repentance and their holy works.”
Episode 928: Alma 12:31–32
31 Wherefore, he gave commandments unto men, they having first transgressed the first commandments as to things which were temporal, and becoming as gods, knowing good from evil, placing themselves in a state to act, or being placed in a state to act according to their wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good—
32 Therefore God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption, that they should not do evil, the penalty thereof being a second death, which was an everlasting death as to things pertaining unto righteousness; for on such the plan of redemption could have no power, for the works of justice could not be destroyed, according to the supreme goodness of God.
The act of partaking of the Tree of Knowledge did exactly as promised. It gave them knowledge, “becoming as gods.” That phrase, “becoming as gods,” indicates that the principle of agency is not only applicable to God, but an inseparable part of what defines God. Alma quickly teaches the lesson that Lehi had taught, that it is essential to act according to our own wills. Lehi taught that without that agency, and particularly without the knowledge of good and evil, which he termed an “opposition in all things,” there would be no purpose in the creation of this earth (2 Nephi 2:11, 12).
Agency was not the only important gift of God. With the ability to choose came the instructions in how to choose well. Hence “God gave unto them commandments.” We have not only been given the ability to choose, but also given the guidelines for making the choices that will lead us to stand blameless before God at the last day.
Episode 929: Alma 12:33–35
33 But God did call on men, in the name of his Son, (this being the plan of redemption which was laid) saying: If ye will repent, and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you, through mine Only Begotten Son;
34 Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest.
35 And whosoever will harden his heart and will do iniquity, behold, I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest.
The final piece of the divine plan was to provide for a way out of the mistakes and missteps that would surely come as we used our agency here on earth. God knew that we could not always choose well. Sometimes, we must learn from our mistakes. That is only possible if the mistakes do not have eternal consequences that would prevent us from overcoming them. That is the plan of redemption. That is calling upon the name of the Son, who is the coming atoning Messiah.
The promise is that those who repent and do not harden their hearts can receive divine mercy and forgiveness through their repentance as enabled by the Son’s atonement. However, Alma chooses his words carefully, for the people of Ammonihah are not repentant, and have hardened their hearts.
Thus, he ends by saying that those who do harden their hearts, those who are like the people of Ammonihah, will be destroyed. This time, it is not a temporal destruction that is promised, but an eternal one.
Lest that sound too harsh, we must remember that Alma is speaking in absolutes. It is true that if one does not repent, they are cut off from God. It might not be true for all in Ammonihah, and modern revelation helps us understand that the opportunity to repent is extended beyond this life. Still, that was not the message Alma was delivering. He was delivering an ultimatum that they choose between good and evil.
Episode 930: Alma 12:36–37
36 And now, my brethren, behold I say unto you, that if ye will harden your hearts ye shall not enter into the rest of the Lord; therefore your iniquity provoketh him that he sendeth down his wrath upon you as in the first provocation, yea, according to his word in the last provocation as well as the first, to the everlasting destruction of your souls; therefore, according to his word, unto the last death, as well as the first.
37 And now, my brethren, seeing we know these things, and they are true, let us repent, and harden not our hearts, that we provoke not the Lord our God to pull down his wrath upon us in these his second commandments which he has given unto us; but let us enter into the rest of God, which is prepared according to his word.
The final choice is theirs, as it should be. They can choose to harden their hearts and be cut off, or choose repentance and be permitted into the rest of God. Those are ultimately the only two choices any of us have. We may have longer than this life to make the choice, but eventually we will be with God, or not with God.
This is not the end of a chapter in the 1830 edition.
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