You are here
Show Full Text
Episode 861: Alma 9: Header
The words of Alma, and also the words of Amulek, which were declared unto the people who were in the land of Ammonihah. And also they are cast into prison, and delivered by the miraculous power of God which was in them, according to the record of Alma.
Chapter 8 certainly appears to have been based on Alma’s personal record, so this header does not indicate a new source, but clarifies where the quoted material comes from. Although other chapter headers appear to cover only the chapter they head, in this case Mormon appears to give us a header that covers multiple chapters. Mormon notes that “they are cast into prison and delivered by the miraculous power of God.”
At the end of Chapter 9, in verses 32 and 33, Mormon tells us that an attempt was made to cast Alma and Amulek into prison, but that the people were unable to do so. That doesn’t fit the header’s description of being in prison and miraculously delivered. That does happen, but not until Chapter 14. Although Orson Pratt divided some of the intervening chapters, there were, nevertheless, two whole chapters in the 1830 edition, before the story occurs, that fits the information in this header.
Episode 862: Alma 9:1–3
1 And again, I, Alma, having been commanded of God that I should take Amulek and go forth and preach again unto this people, or the people who were in the city of Ammonihah, it came to pass as I began to preach unto them, they began to contend with me, saying:
2 Who art thou? Suppose ye that we shall believe the testimony of one man, although he should preach unto us that the earth should pass away?
3 Now they understood not the words which they spake; for they knew not that the earth should pass away.
Jehovah commanded Alma to take Amulek when he went to preach. Of course, he did. We learn why in verse two. The very first question asked was “Who art thou? Suppose ye that we shall believe the testimony of one man. . .?”
The answer will be that they will not have to believe one man. There will be two witnesses. God had already prepared the perfect answer for what God knew would be a principal argument that the people would put forth.
Verse 3 interjects the commentary that the issue of the earth passing away was perhaps a real one. The did not understand the prophecies that the earth would pass away. It is important for modern readers to understand that, although the story of Ammonihah is given to represent a people in rebellion against God, they may have had some legitimate questions. Likewise, there are those in the modern world who will question God’s representatives. They may question some of the statements, and the reason will still be “for they knew not.” Legitimate questions are not necessarily attacks on the faith, but opportunities to explain divine understanding.
Episode 863: Alma 9:4–6
4 And they said also: We will not believe thy words if thou shouldst prophesy that this great city should be destroyed in one day.
5 Now they knew not that God could do such marvelous works, for they were a hard-hearted and a stiffnecked people.
6 And they said: Who is God, that sendeth no more authority than one man among this people, to declare unto them the truth of such great and marvelous things?
Not all of the people’s comments were legitimate questions. In verse 4, it is not a question, but rather a declaration that they will not believe Alma’s prophecy. Alma makes allusion to Lehi in Jerusalem, but this is the situation that Lehi faced. Lehi preached to a people in Jerusalem who likewise did not believe the prophecies that their great city could be destroyed. The unstated parallel continues when we find that, like Jerusalem, Ammonihah was indeed destroyed.
The final section of this introduction to Alma and Amulek in Ammonihah is the repetition that the people need not believe if God “sendeth no more authority than one man among this people.” Although Alma will speak first, Amulek serves as the second witness.
The scriptural justification for the people of Ammonihah’s statement about one witness is derived from Deuteronomy 19:15: “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.” A single witness was not sufficient, just as the people of Ammonihah declare. Knowing the law, Jehovah had already provided.
Episode 864: Alma 9:7–11
7 And they stood forth to lay their hands on me; but behold, they did not. And I stood with boldness to declare unto them, yea, I did boldly testify unto them, saying:
8 Behold, O ye wicked and perverse generation, how have ye forgotten the tradition of your fathers; yea, how soon ye have forgotten the commandments of God.
9 Do ye not remember that our father, Lehi, was brought out of Jerusalem by the hand of God? Do ye not remember that they were all led by him through the wilderness?
10 And have ye forgotten so soon how many times he delivered our fathers out of the hands of their enemies, and preserved them from being destroyed, even by the hands of their own brethren?
11 Yea, and if it had not been for his matchless power, and his mercy, and his long-suffering towards us, we should unavoidably have been cut off from the face of the earth long before this period of time, and perhaps been consigned to a state of endless misery and woe.
The reaction of the people is to attempt to capture Alma. The result is reminiscent of what Alma’s father (Alma the elder) witnessed in the court of King Noah when they attempted to take hold of Abinadi. Abinadi had not delivered his message, therefore, they could not hold him. Alma the younger had not delivered his message, therefore, they could not hold him either.
Alma had begun his sermon in Zarahemla by referencing the captivity of the fathers in Lehi-Nephi (see Alma 5:4–6). In Ammonihah, he uses the same introduction, but shifts the captivity earlier to Lehi in Jerusalem. After that deliverance, we have verse 10 which moves to bondage in the new world. It has not been once that Jehovah has delivered them, but “many times he delivered our fathers out of the hands of their enemies.”
The point of this beginning is to speak to the people’s disbelief that they could be destroyed in a day. Alma points out many times that the Nephites have been close to destruction, but were delivered through Jehovah’s power. The point is that they are now facing a similar situation. They are bound for destruction, but, through repentance, it could be avoided.
Episode 865: Alma 9:12–14
12 Behold, now I say unto you that he commandeth you to repent; and except ye repent, ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. But behold, this is not all—he has commanded you to repent, or he will utterly destroy you from off the face of the earth; yea, he will visit you in his anger, and in his fierce anger he will not turn away.
13 Behold, do ye not remember the words which he spake unto Lehi, saying that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land? And again it is said that: Inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.
14 Now I would that ye should remember, that inasmuch as the Lamanites have not kept the commandments of God, they have been cut off from the presence of the Lord. Now we see that the word of the Lord has been verified in this thing, and the Lamanites have been cut off from his presence, from the beginning of their transgressions in the land.
The reason for highlighting previous close calls with bondage or destruction was to underscore the power of God to save. However, there is a requirement for such salvation. Alma reiterates the promise of the land given to Lehi. They will prosper upon principles of righteousness, but Alma also explicitly quotes: “Inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.”
Alma drives this lesson home by noting that it has been fulfilled among the Lamanites; “inasmuch as the Lamanites have not kept the commandments of God, they have been cut off from the presence of the Lord.” The clear message is that “we see that the word of the Lord has been verified in this thing.” The negative aspect of the promise of the land is real, and the Lamanites are the prime example of the fact that it has been invoked.
The example of the Lamanites proves that God fulfills the negative aspect of the promise of the land. Alma will continue to compare and contrast the people of Ammonihah with the Lamanites who have already been “cut off from the presence of the Lord.”
Episode 866: Alma 9:15–17
15 Nevertheless I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for them in the day of judgment than for you, if ye remain in your sins, yea, and even more tolerable for them in this life than for you, except ye repent.
16 For there are many promises which are extended to the Lamanites; for it is because of the traditions of their fathers that caused them to remain in their state of ignorance; therefore the Lord will be merciful unto them and prolong their existence in the land.
17 And at some period of time they will be brought to believe in his word, and to know of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers; and many of them will be saved, for the Lord will be merciful unto all who call on his name.
The Lamanites are the traditional enemies, and also the traditional example of the worst cases. When the people of Ammonihah are told that it “shall be more tolerable for them in the day of judgment than for you,” it is meant to be shocking. It is the same tactic Jacob used in Jacob 3:5. The intent was to say something that would be considered so far from the expected that the listeners would have to pay attention.
Alma explains how this is possible for Lamanites, who have been cut off from the presence of the Lord, that they are yet the recipient of promises in the future. There is an ultimate redemption for them. Alma explains that “at some period of time they will be brought to believe in his word.” Thus, there is hope for the currently unrepentant Lamanites.
Alma will explain how that differs from the currently unrepentant people of Ammonihah.
Episode 867: Alma 9:18–19
18 But behold, I say unto you that if ye persist in your wickedness that your days shall not be prolonged in the land, for the Lamanites shall be sent upon you; and if ye repent not they shall come in a time when you know not, and ye shall be visited with utter destruction; and it shall be according to the fierce anger of the Lord.
19 For he will not suffer you that ye shall live in your iniquities, to destroy his people. I say unto you, Nay; he would rather suffer that the Lamanites might destroy all his people who are called the people of Nephi, if it were possible that they could fall into sins and transgressions, after having had so much light and so much knowledge given unto them of the Lord their God;
The difference between the Lamanites and the people of Ammonihah lay in what they had been taught. In verse 17, Alma has indicated that the Lamanites had believed in false traditions of their fathers, and that explained their continued resistance to the gospel. However, the people of Ammonihah had been taught correctly, at least at one time. Therefore, they are now in rebellion against truth, and that invokes the negative aspect of the promise of the land.
The people had said that they didn’t believe that their city could be destroyed in a day. Alma lays out their sins which would justify the invocation of the negative aspect of the land’s promise. He had begun his discourse by speaking of Jehovah saving his people. Alma is indicating that Jehovah will not protect them. Although Alma hadn’t previously declared how the city would be destroyed, in verse 19, he appears to promise that the it will be at the hands of the Lamanites. Indeed, that is exactly what will happen.
Episode 868: Alma 9:20
20 Yea, after having been such a highly favored people of the Lord; yea, after having been favored above every other nation, kindred, tongue, or people; after having had all things made known unto them, according to their desires, and their faith, and prayers, of that which has been, and which is, and which is to come;
Even though the people of Ammonihah are in apostasy from the Nephite religion, Alma treats them as Nephites, and, therefore, inheritors of the blessings that have come to the whole of the Nephite nation. Thus, they have “been favored above every other nation, kindred, tongue, or people.” Although the people of Ammonihah certainly believed that this favor described their own city, it will be clear as Alma continues that he is speaking of the Nephites in general, rather than the people of Ammonihah specifically.
It is as Nephites that they have been taught “that which has been, and which is, and which is to come.” This phrase is intended to describe the gospel. The Nephites were taught that which was, because they have been taught of the prophets and prophecies from the brass plates. They are taught that which is, because the Nephite church continues those teaching and preaches them. They are taught of that which is to come, because they have been taught about the coming atoning Messiah.
Episode 869: Alma 9:21–23
21 Having been visited by the Spirit of God; having conversed with angels, and having been spoken unto by the voice of the Lord; and having the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and also many gifts, the gift of speaking with tongues, and the gift of preaching, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the gift of translation;
22 Yea, and after having been delivered of God out of the land of Jerusalem, by the hand of the Lord; having been saved from famine, and from sickness, and all manner of diseases of every kind; and they having waxed strong in battle, that they might not be destroyed; having been brought out of bondage time after time, and having been kept and preserved until now; and they have been prospered until they are rich in all manner of things—
23 And now behold I say unto you, that if this people, who have received so many blessings from the hand of the Lord, should transgress contrary to the light and knowledge which they do have, I say unto you that if this be the case, that if they should fall into transgression, it would be far more tolerable for the Lamanites than for them.
Although it is possible that there was something in the untold history of Ammonihah that fits the events that Alma discusses, it seems more probable that things like conversing with angels and having been spoken to by the voice of the Lord refer to prophets of the Nephite religious tradition. Nevertheless, Alma presents the Nephite tradition as the Ammonihahite tradition. In particular, Alma appears to invoke the long Nephite history under the monarchy, and Mosiah in particular, when he notes that the Nephites have had the gift of translation. Mosiah translated the plates of Ether, an event that would have been within the lifetime of many in the city of Ammonihah.
Alma reprises Jehovah’s power to save by mentioning Jerusalem again. The point of all of these advantages of living according to the covenants that Jehovah made with the Nephite people is to contrast the current position of the people of Ammonihah. As a people who have received all of these benefits, it is a greater sin to leave them behind than it is for the Lamanites, who had never had those advantages. This verse parallels verse 16 where Alma also indicated that it would be better for the Lamanites than the people of Ammonihah at the last day.
Episode 870: Alma 9:24–27
24 For behold, the promises of the Lord are extended to the Lamanites, but they are not unto you if ye transgress; for has not the Lord expressly promised and firmly decreed, that if ye will rebel against him that ye shall utterly be destroyed from off the face of the earth?
25 And now for this cause, that ye may not be destroyed, the Lord has sent his angel to visit many of his people, declaring unto them that they must go forth and cry mightily unto this people, saying: Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is nigh at hand;
26 And not many days hence the Son of God shall come in his glory; and his glory shall be the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, equity, and truth, full of patience, mercy, and long-suffering, quick to hear the cries of his people and to answer their prayers.
27 And behold, he cometh to redeem those who will be baptized unto repentance, through faith on his name.
The people had said that they did not believe Alma’s prophecy that they would be destroyed (see verse 4). Alma’s response has been to show that only Jehovah’s protection has prevented the Nephite destruction on many occasions. Now he reiterates that concept, but directs the blame directly upon the people of Ammonihah. It is no longer about the Nephites in general, but this city in particular. The promise is that they will be destroyed unless they repent.
Jehovah, in His mercy, is giving them another opportunity to repent. It is that opportunity that Alma offers them. It is important to note that a significant aspect of their repentance is to realize that “not many days hence the Son of God shall come in his glory.” One of the common traits of Nephite apostasy was the rejection of the doctrine of the coming Messiah. Therefore, Alma mentions it as an important part of repenting. Of course, Alma understands that repentance comes only through the atoning mission of the Messiah.
The final solution is to repent and be baptized into the church that the people of Ammonihah have rejected.
Episode 871: Alma 9:28–30
28 Therefore, prepare ye the way of the Lord, for the time is at hand that all men shall reap a reward of their works, according to that which they have been—if they have been righteous they shall reap the salvation of their souls, according to the power and deliverance of Jesus Christ; and if they have been evil they shall reap the damnation of their souls, according to the power and captivation of the devil.
29 Now behold, this is the voice of the angel, crying unto the people.
30 And now, my beloved brethren, for ye are my brethren, and ye ought to be beloved, and ye ought to bring forth works which are meet for repentance, seeing that your hearts have been grossly hardened against the word of God, and seeing that ye are a lost and a fallen people.
These verses end the sermon itself. Alma issues the call to repentance by noting that they should “prepare. . . the way of the Lord.” That is a reference to the coming atoning mission of the Messiah and is the teaching of that which is to come which Alma had mentioned in verse 20.
As Alma finishes, he declares that he speaks by authority of an angel of God. He minces no words, declaring that they have hardened their hearts against the word of God and are a lost and fallen people. Those conditions remove them from Jehovah’s covenant protection. Although he does not restate it here, these are the conditions that will lead to the destruction of the city.
Episode 872: Alma 9:31–34
31 Now it came to pass that when I, Alma, had spoken these words, behold, the people were wroth with me because I said unto them that they were a hard-hearted and a stiffnecked people.
32 And also because I said unto them that they were a lost and a fallen people they were angry with me, and sought to lay their hands upon me, that they might cast me into prison.
33 But it came to pass that the Lord did not suffer them that they should take me at that time and cast me into prison.
34 And it came to pass that Amulek went and stood forth, and began to preach unto them also. And now the words of Amulek are not all written, nevertheless a part of his words are written in this book.
Verses 31 through 33 are copied from Alma’s record. Alma himself provided the linking narration which will lead to the next copied sermon. After finishing his sermon, it is understandable that the people would be angry with him. He has rather severely criticized and condemned them, even though he offered them repentance. The people appear not to have believed that they needed repentance, but rather needed to be rid of Alma. They attempt to take him but are unable to.
In the header to this chapter, Mormon indicated that Alma and Amulek would be cast into prison and miraculously freed. This is not the occasion referenced in the header, because Alma was not taken to prison.
Verse 34 is Mormon’s transitional narrative. Mormon indicates that he is continuing to copy from the record of Alma, and that he is abridging it. Thus, he provides the direct link to the next included sermon, rather than writing everything that might have happened in between this sermon and the next one, which begins in the next chapter.
This chapter was retained just as it appeared in the 1830 edition. Thus, this ending is from Mormon’s plates, rather than from Orson Pratt’s revisions. It is possible that the chapter ends due to a chapter ending in Alma’s record. We will see that more clearly later in the material that Mormon copies about Alma and Amulek’s preaching.
Items in the BMC Archive are made publicly available for non-commercial, private use. Inclusion within the BMC Archive does not imply endorsement. Items do not represent the official views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of Book of Mormon Central.
Get the latest updates on Book of Mormon topics and research for free