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TitleAlma 26
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsGardner, Brant A.
Book TitleBook of Mormon Minute
PublisherBook of Mormon Central
CitySpringville, UT
KeywordsAlma (Book)

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Alma 26

Alma 26:1–4

1 And now, these are the words of Ammon to his brethren, which say thus: My brothers and my brethren, behold I say unto you, how great reason have we to rejoice; for could we have supposed when we started from the land of Zarahemla that God would have granted unto us such great blessings?

2 And now, I ask, what great blessings has he bestowed upon us? Can ye tell?

3 Behold, I answer for you; for our brethren, the Lamanites, were in darkness, yea, even in the darkest abyss, but behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God! And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work.

4 Behold, thousands of them do rejoice, and have been brought into the fold of God.

Comments

This part of the record is copied from Alma’s personal record. Even though Alma recorded it, Mormon still had to decide to put it into his record. This chapter is a discourse that Ammon gave “to his brethren.” It was given to more than his brothers, as he begins “My brothers and my brethren. . .” Ammon is speaking to some gathered group of Anti-Nephi-Lehies, as well as to his brothers. He reflects on the results of the brothers’ mission to the Lamanites.

Their mission was far more successful than they could have imagined, and Ammon notes that when he states: “could we have supposed when we started from the land of Zarahemla that God would have granted unto us such great blessings?” Few of us are able to see God’s full plan for us before it completely unfolds. Small events, and what appear to be simple circumstances, can add up to major changes in our lives, and we can recognize God’s hand only in retrospect.

One of the reasons that Mormon includes this particular discourse is that it allows him to provide confirmation for his theme that the Lamanites are redeemable and can become very righteous. This is confirmed when Ammon notes that the Lamanites “were in darkness,” but were “brought to behold the marvelous light of God.”

Alma 23:9–12 listed four named lands and three named cities which had been converted. Now, in verse 4, we are told that “thousands of them do rejoice, and have been brought into the fold of God.” It is unlikely that there had been a distinct count, but if that many cities and lands had every inhabitant converted, we would expect perhaps tens of thousands, rather than only thousands of converts. There were clearly a very large number of converts, but likely less than all the inhabitants of those lands and cities.

Alma 26:5–7

5 Behold, the field was ripe, and blessed are ye, for ye did thrust in the sickle, and did reap with your might, yea, all the day long did ye labor; and behold the number of your sheaves! And they shall be gathered into the garners, that they are not wasted.

6 Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them.

7 But behold, they are in the hands of the Lord of the harvest, and they are his; and he will raise them up at the last day.

Comments

Verse 5 underscores that the translation of the Book of Mormon was not only into English, but that it was a translation that converted certain concepts, as well as words, from one language to another. Verse 5 invokes a very specific agricultural metaphor that can be found in Revelation 14:15: “And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”

This is an image that relates to a people very familiar with the harvesting of grain, and certainly by Joseph Smith’s time would have been comparable to the harvesting of wheat. Neither that grain, nor the sickle used to harvest it, was part of New World agricultural activities. There existed an important maize (type of grain) crop, but sickles were not used. Even the verb “harrowed up” refers to an implement that turns over the soil. While that is a powerful image, it was not available to the original writers of the Book of Mormon. What that means is that, in addition to giving us a text in English, the Book of Mormon converted cultural metaphors into language that would be understood by modern readers, rather than replicate a metaphor that the original writers might have understood, but which would have less meaning for the modern audience for whom it was translated. This is not an unusual feature of some styles of translation.

Nevertheless, the idea that wheat, or even maize, might be beaten down by storms is a very understandable metaphor for both ancient writers and modern readers.

Alma 26:8–11

8 Blessed be the name of our God; let us sing to his praise, yea, let us give thanks to his holy name, for he doth work righteousness forever.

9 For if we had not come up out of the land of Zarahemla, these our dearly beloved brethren, who have so dearly beloved us, would still have been racked with hatred against us, yea, and they would also have been strangers to God.

10 And it came to pass that when Ammon had said these words, his brother Aaron rebuked him, saying: Ammon, I fear that thy joy doth carry thee away unto boasting.

11 But Ammon said unto him: I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.

Comments

In verse 10, Aaron says what many modern readers might be thinking: “I fear that thy joy doth carry thee away unto boasting.” It does appear to be a version of “aren’t we great?” There is a difference between suggesting that such a great success was due to Ammon and his brothers’ actions and declaring that it was the hand of the Lord. Ammon makes it clear that he understands the difference. He says that “I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom.” Ammon understands that he and his brothers have been instruments that the Lord used for His own purposes. The conversion of so many was through the Spirit, not through the sons of Mosiah.

This discourse of Mormon reminds his readers that God cares for all, even those who have at one time fallen from their covenants to the house of Israel. When those who had been lost have the opportunity to be touched by the Spirit, they may enter the covenant again, and be exemplary members of the house of Israel.

Alma 26:12–15

12 Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.

13 Behold, how many thousands of our brethren has he loosed from the pains of hell; and they are brought to sing redeeming love, and this because of the power of his word which is in us, therefore have we not great reason to rejoice?

14 Yea, we have reason to praise him forever, for he is the Most High God, and has loosed our brethren from the chains of hell.

15 Yea, they were encircled about with everlasting darkness and destruction; but behold, he has brought them into his everlasting light, yea, into everlasting salvation; and they are encircled about with the matchless bounty of his love; yea, and we have been instruments in his hands of doing this great and marvelous work.

Comments

Ammon continues to emphasize that the conversion of the Lamanites was God’s work, and that he and his brethren “have been instruments in his hands of doing this great and marvelous work” (verse 15).

The imagery used in the translation of verse 13 echoes terms with which people in Joseph Smith’s time would have been familiar. The idea of “singing redeeming love”, as well as “loosed from the pains of hell”, were phrases that were familiar in sermons of the era. That does not suggest that there was no translation, but only that, in a similar way to the presence of western european wheat agriculture imagery, some of the language used in translation was familiar.

The meaning behind the words represents the heart of Nephite teachings. The coming Messiah would redeem His people from both spiritual and temporal death. An early Christian document describes Christ coming to Hell to break down the gates that kept humankind trapped in death. That is the image here. The coming Messiah will redeem us from death and Hell.

In 2 Nephi 9:8–9 Lehi had taught that if there were no atoning Messiah: “O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself.”

That is the teaching that is behind verse 15, when it says that the Lamanites were “encircled about with everlasting darkness and destruction.” It was not that they were irredeemably in that state, but rather, without a proper understanding and faith in the coming Messiah, that would become their fate.

Alma 26:16–20

16 Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.

17 Who could have supposed that our God would have been so merciful as to have snatched us from our awful, sinful, and polluted state?

18 Behold, we went forth even in wrath, with mighty threatenings to destroy his church.

19 Oh then, why did he not consign us to an awful destruction, yea, why did he not let the sword of his justice fall upon us, and doom us to eternal despair?

20 Oh, my soul, almost as it were, fleeth at the thought. Behold, he did not exercise his justice upon us, but in his great mercy hath brought us over that everlasting gulf of death and misery, even to the salvation of our souls.

Comments

In verse 15 Ammon had noted that the Lamanites had been: “encircled about with everlasting darkness and destruction; but behold, [God] has brought them into his everlasting light.” Ammon understands that sense of redemption on a very personal level. Just as the Lamanites had fought against the Nephites, Ammon and his brothers had fought against the Nephite religion. He and his brothers had gone “forth even in wrath, with mighty threatenings to destroy his church.”

The mercy that Jehovah had shown the Lamanites was an extension of the very same mercy that He had shown to Alma the Younger and to the sons of Mosiah. The conversion of those friends had not come through their prior repentance, but rather in the depths of their rebellion. In that sense, the Lamanites had been in a better position to receive mercy, for Alma and the sons of Mosiah had willfully rebelled against their religion, a religion intimately connected to their righteous fathers.

Ammon understood that their redemption was exceptional. It can teach modern readers that God sees very few as being beyond hope, but our hope may be more similar to the Lamanite redemption. Few people see an angel to turn them around. Many more, like the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, did not have a direct experience, but were touched in a way that allowed them to believe in the words of another. Doctrine and Covenants 46:14 explicitly describes the ability to believe on the words of others as a gift of the Spirit.

Alma 26:21–22

21 And now behold, my brethren, what natural man is there that knoweth these things? I say unto you, there is none that knoweth these things, save it be the penitent.

22 Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance.

Comments

The phrase “natural man” occurs in 1 Corinthians 2:14: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

We see it again in Mosiah 3:19: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

Both of those verses use the term “natural man” as the opposite of the “spiritual man.” The concept has nothing to do with a person’s nature, only that it is possible to exist as either one who has been touched by the Spirit, or one who has not.

In this context, the Lamanites had been “natural men,” in that they did not know God. The sons of Mosiah had been “natural men” in that they did not recognize God correctly. How then can one move from being a “natural man” to a “spiritual man”? Ammon declares “there is none that knoweth these things, save it be the penitent.” One must repent.

Note in verse 22 that Ammon does not say that one must “have” faith. Rather, one must “exercise” faith. True faith motivates us to act according to gospel principles and laws. True faith moves us to “bring forth good works.”

Alma 26:23–26

23 Now do ye remember, my brethren, that we said unto our brethren in the land of Zarahemla, we go up to the land of Nephi, to preach unto our brethren, the Lamanites, and they laughed us to scorn?

24 For they said unto us: Do ye suppose that ye can bring the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth? Do ye suppose that ye can convince the Lamanites of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers, as stiffnecked a people as they are; whose hearts delight in the shedding of blood; whose days have been spent in the grossest iniquity; whose ways have been the ways of a transgressor from the beginning? Now my brethren, ye remember that this was their language.

25 And moreover they did say: Let us take up arms against them, that we destroy them and their iniquity out of the land, lest they overrun us and destroy us.

26 But behold, my beloved brethren, we came into the wilderness not with the intent to destroy our brethren, but with the intent that perhaps we might save some few of their souls.

Comments

Ammon provides information about the decision that the sons of Mosiah made to leave the land of Zarahemla and that Mormon did not give us when describing that event. Mormon told only of their petition to their father (see Mosiah 28:1–3). In this account we learn that their decision was more openly discussed and that there were many who did not believe that it was a wise decision. “They laughed us to scorn.”

The Nephite hatred of the Lamanites was reciprocated by the Lamanites toward the Nephites. The clear enmity suggested that there would be no expectation of success. The Nephite “suggestion” was that, rather than preach to them, the sons of Mosiah should “destroy them.” None of that information was part of the original story as Mormon told it.

Alma 26:27–29

27 Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.

28 And now behold, we have come, and been forth amongst them; and we have been patient in our sufferings, and we have suffered every privation; yea, we have traveled from house to house, relying upon the mercies of the world—not upon the mercies of the world alone but upon the mercies of God.

29 And we have entered into their houses and taught them, and we have taught them in their streets; yea, and we have taught them upon their hills; and we have also entered into their temples and their synagogues and taught them; and we have been cast out, and mocked, and spit upon, and smote upon our cheeks; and we have been stoned, and taken and bound with strong cords, and cast into prison; and through the power and wisdom of God we have been delivered again.

Comments

Modern readers focus on the success that the sons of Mosiah achieved. Ammon is clearly focusing on their successes, but Ammon understands that the successes did not arrive without trials. Ammon notes that “our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back.” Only here do we clearly hear the voice of the brothers’ despair. We hear of the degradations that three of the brothers suffered in Middoni, but we read about that only after the miraculous success Ammon had with King Lamoni. For those brothers, however, it was the opposite of success.

Even when those brothers are released from prison and learned of King Lamoni’s conversion, they had little success. It was only after going to the overking that their fortunes changed. Up to that time, it was all disappointment.

Perhaps modern readers would be wise to read this part of Ammon’s message more frequently. Perhaps there is an important lesson about the nature of hope in Christ that could support us when our hearts are depressed. God promises redemption through our hope in Christ, but even Paul noted that “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:19). We can have success in our earthly labors. Sometimes they will appear to come quickly and miraculously, as Ammon’s story seems to say. Sometimes we may be more like the brothers who were thrown in prison, and who “were about to turn back” because of the lack of success.

Nevertheless, Ammon declares that there is light after the darkness of depression. He doesn’t promise when, nor that, there would be no pain; only that the light will come.

Alma 26:30–34

30 And we have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some.

31 Now behold, we can look forth and see the fruits of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay, they are many; yea, and we can witness of their sincerity, because of their love towards their brethren and also towards us.

32 For behold, they had rather sacrifice their lives than even to take the life of their enemy; and they have buried their weapons of war deep in the earth, because of their love towards their brethren.

33 And now behold I say unto you, has there been so great love in all the land? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, there has not, even among the Nephites.

34 For behold, they would take up arms against their brethren; they would not suffer themselves to be slain. But behold how many of these have laid down their lives; and we know that they have gone to their God, because of their love and of their hatred to sin.

Comments

Ammon notes that when they began their mission, they had hopes of converting a few. Perhaps after the difficult times mentioned in the preceding verses, a few might have been optimistic. Nevertheless, they were able to convert large numbers, far beyond what they had expected.

The most important statement is found in verse 33, that these converted Lamanites, now known as the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, showed greater love for God than even the Nephites. This is an important theme for Mormon, as he is writing at a time when he knows his Nephites will be destroyed. He knows that it will be future Lamanites who will read what he writes. He wants those future Lamanites to see themselves similarly to the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, who were able to turn to repentance after a long history of traditional teachings, and not only accept the Nephite teaching of the gospel, but do so in such a way that they could be seen as more righteous than the Nephites.

Alma 26:35–37

35 Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name.

36 Now if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo. Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of this people, who are a branch of the tree of Israel, and has been lost from its body in a strange land; yea, I say, blessed be the name of my God, who has been mindful of us, wanderers in a strange land.

37 Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen.

Comments

Ammon ends his discourse by reflecting on the accusation that he was boasting. His statement is: “now if this is boasting, even so will I boast.” Ammon has declared that it was not through individual merit that the mission succeeded, but it was because of God’s plans. It is also important that Ammon understands that this story of the conversion of the “natural man” Lamanites into the “spiritual man” Anti-Nephi-Lehies can be a lesson for all the earth: “God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth.”

Ammon ends with the testificatory Amen. That is the trigger that ended this chapter. As an Amen ending, it did end a chapter in the 1830 edition.

Scripture Reference

Alma 26:1-37