Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016

Gospel Doctrine 2016 – Lesson 21 – Alma Did Judge Righteous Judgements

1. Mosiah teaches principles of good government.

‘With the departure of the four sons of Mosiah on a mission, Mosiah was left without an heir to the throne, and he therefore determined to change the Nephite government from kings to judges.  In his explanation to his people, we can find a wonderful discussion of good government.  Consider the following verses and ponder what they teach about the kind of government that “will make for the peace of the people” (Mosiah 29:10).
-[Mosiah 29:11] Appointed “wise men” to positions of leadership. (See D&C 98:10)
-[Mosiah 29:11-14] Established laws that rested on a foundation of the commandments of God and promoted peace, security, and happiness.
-[Mosiah 29:16-24] Since wicked leaders “pervert the ways of all righteousness,” their power was limited.
-[Mosiah 29:25-27] Decisions were to be made according to “the voice of the people.”
-[Mosiah 29:28,29,31] Officials were to be made accountable for their decisions and actions. (See D&C 134:1)
-[Mosiah 29:32] Laws were to provide that “every man may enjoy his rights and privileges.” (See D&C 98:5)
-[Mosiah 29:30,34,38]  “Every man [was expected to] bear his part” and “answer for his own sins.”‘ (Ted L Gibbons, ldsliving.com)
Mosiah 29:13,18 Two kings
Mosiah contrasts two kings – Benjamin and Noah.
Mosiah 29:16-18, 21-23 Consequences of a wicked leader
‘Mosiah described the consequences of having a wicked leader. He cited abuse of power, promotion of iniquity, disregard of law, unjust and immoral practices, and possible perversions of justice as possible or probable consequences. So, Mosiah suggested that the people establish a system of judges to replace the rule of kings.’ (www.neumanninstitute.org)
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2. Alma the Younger serves as chief judge and combats priestcraft.

Alma 1:1 Having warred a good warfare

“King Mosiah had fought against wickedness and battled Beelzebub all his days.  He had been true and faithful to his trust to lead his people in paths of truth and righteousness.  He had passed the tests of mortality.  His salvation was secure.  He was like his colleague on another continent, Paul the Apostle, who said just prior to his death: ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing’ (2 Timothy 4:7-8).” (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, p. 3)

Alma 1:3-4 False doctrine

‘Nehor’s words appealed to the people, but his doctrine, while popular to many, was incorrect. As we face the many decisions in life, the easy and popular messages of the world will not usually be the right ones to choose, and it will take much courage to choose the right.’ (L Tom Perry, General Conference, October 1993)

Alma 1:5-6 They began to support him and gave him money

‘All religions are supported by money, but the immorality of it (as Plato shows in the Protagoras and the Gorgias) is when you start giving it to individuals. When you have a line veto that it be used for this [person] or that [project], then you are not giving it at all. If I give money to the church specifying that it can only be used for this, I’m not giving it to the Lord or trusting him at all. I don’t specify what it’s for; I just pay my tithing and that’s that. If it’s misused that’s none of my affair; I’ve done what the Lord requires of me. . . . One might also wonder, What is wrong with winning souls [and money] for Jesus? The answer is that it requires rhetoric. This type of missionary must be a crowd pleaser. Truth tellers are something else, as we learn from Samuel the Lamanite, Abinadi, and people like that. We wouldn’t need prophets at all if they told us only what we wanted to hear. We wouldn’t need the scriptures if they told us only what we wanted.’ [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, pp. 217-218]

Alma 1:8-9 Gideon

‘Gideon was a Nephite patriot who gained prominence in the Book of Mormon during the reigns of King Noah and King Limhi (see Mosiah 19:4–8, 18–24; 20:15–22). It was Gideon who proposed the way for King Limhi’s people to successfully escape from Lamanite bondage (see Mosiah 22:3–9). The Nephites apparently thought so highly of Gideon that they named both a valley and a city after him (see Alma 2:20, 6:7).’ (Institute Student Manual)

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Alma 1:12, 16 Priestcraft

“The Book of Mormon applies this principle (priestcraft) to those who seem to be serving the Lord but do so with a hidden motive to gain personal advantage rather than to further the work of the Lord: ‘Priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion’ (2 Nephi 26:29; see also Alma 1:16).

“Priestcraft is the sin committed by the combination of a good act–such as preaching or teaching the gospel–and a bad motive. The act may be good and visible, but the sin is in the motive. On earth, the wrong motive may be known only to the actor, but in heaven it is always known to God.

“…During my lifetime, I have seen more than a few persons in positions of responsibility in various churches whose activities in the ‘work of the Lord’ seemed to be motivated predominantly by personal interest. The commandment to avoid priestcraft is a vital challenge to religious persons in every age of time.” (Dallin H Oaks, Pure in Heart, pp. 16-18)

‘Focusing on the needs of the students, a gospel teacher will never obscure their view of the Master by standing in the way or by shadowing the lesson with self-promotion or self-interest. This means that a gospel teacher must never indulge in priestcrafts, which are “that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world”  (2 Ne. 26:29) A gospel teacher does not preach “to become popular”  (Alma 1:3) or “for the sake of riches and honor”  (Alma 1:16) He or she follows the marvelous Book of Mormon example in which “the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner”  (Alma 1:26) Both will always look to the Master.’ (Dallin H Oaks, General Conference, October 1999)

3. Amlici seeks to be king but is rejected by the voice of the people.

Amlici

Alma 2:1-7 This was alarming to the people of the church

‘As we face increased pressure to bow to secular standards, forfeit our religious liberties, and compromise our agency, consider what the Book of Mormon teaches about our responsibilities. In the book of Alma we read of Amlici, “a very cunning” and “wicked man” who sought to be king over the people and “deprive them of their rights and privileges,” which “was alarming to the people of the church.”[See  Alma 2:1–4 They were taught by King Mosiah to raise their voices for what they felt was right. [See  Mosiah 29:25–26 Therefore they “assembled themselves together throughout all the land, every man according to his mind, whether it were for or against Amlici, in separate bodies, having much dispute … one with another.” Alma 2:5

In these discussions, members of the Church and others had the opportunity to come together, experience the spirit of unity, and be influenced by the Holy Ghost. “And it came to pass that the voice of the people came against Amlici, that he was not made king.” Alma 2:7

As disciples of Jesus Christ we have a responsibility to work together with like-minded believers, to raise our voices for what is right. While members should never claim or even imply that they are speaking for the Church, we are all invited, in our capacity as citizens, to share our personal witness with conviction and love—“every man [and woman] according to his [or her own] mind.”  Alma 2:5

Said the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination [as for a Mormon]; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves.

“It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul—civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race.”

(Robert D Hales, General Conference, April 2015)

Alma 2:16 The chief judge and the governor of the people

‘The Hebrew word shophet, rendered “judge” does not necessarily denote one who “judges,” though this may have been one of the minor duties, but more rightly denotes one who governs. The Book of Mormon reader will note that the judges replaced the Nephite king, so that when Mosiah2 declared to the people that, “I will be your king the remainder of my days; nevertheless, let us appoint judges, to judge this people according to our law” (Mosiah 29:11), he obviously meant more than to have these judges only sitting in a court of law. Indeed, Mosiah 29:41 states that “it came to pass that they did appoint judges to rule over them, or to judge them according to the law; and this they did throughout all the land.” (cf. Alma 4:17) In Alma 2:16 we find that the chief judge was also called “the governor of the people of Nephi.” Moreover, in the same verse (Alma 2:16) we find that Alma, as “chief judge and the governor of the people of Nephi” also “went up with his people, yea, with his captains, and chief captains, yea, at the head of his armies, against the Amlicites to battle.” Thus the judges were leaders of the people in many ways. ‘ [John A. Tvedtnes, Book Review in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 4 1992, pp. 225-226]

Alma 2:28-31 Strengthened by the hand of the Lord

‘Previously the Lord had promised the Nephites that He would sustain them against the Lamanites if they were righteous (see 2 Nephi 5:25). Consequently, in the time of their greatest need, the Nephites called upon God and were “strengthened by the hand of the Lord” (Alma 2:28). During the same battle, God “strengthened” Alma with the ability to defeat his enemies, in response to his faith (see Alma 2:30–31).’ (Institute Student Manual)

4. The Church prospers but becomes prideful. Alma resigns the judgment seat to devote himself to the ministry.

Alma 4:2 The people were afflicted

‘During the respite from contentions and wars, the people of Zarahemla nevertheless suffered the consequences of the past year’s contentions and wars. In addition to natural sorrow for their slain loved ones, they suffered directly because of the destruction of their grain due to the army’s maneuvers. Thus, when the war was over, they had an inadequate supply of food for the next year.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Alma 4:3 Every soul had cause to mourn

‘In Alma 4:3 we are informed that because of the war, “every soul had cause to mourn; and they believed that it was the judgments of God sent upon them because of their wickedness and their abominations.”

Now the Nephites are supposed to be the victors here, so why is every soul mourning? And why do they believe their are being judged of God because of their wickedness and abominations? What wickedness and abominations. The answer might lie at the root of the contentions. The reader should not assume that every person who had sympathies for the Amlicites had joined them. There were probably a number of those in the land of Zarahemla who had a desire for many of the things espoused by the Amlicites. This is most likely the nature of their abomination and wickedness. But if “every soul had cause to mourn, what about the righteous Nephites? What was their sin? The answer is noted by Mormon in what they did (implying what they had not done). Mormon writes that the people “awakened to a remembrance of their [covenant] duty” and that “they began to establish the church more fully.” How do you “establish” a church more fully? The answer, at least in part, is that every member becomes a teacher and a missionary. In other words, part of the covenant responsibility of the Nephites was to take that gospel to those who did not understand it well or did not even share in it. To “establish a church more fully” implies that the Nephites finally awakened to their covenant responsibility to share it. This not only involved strengthening those within the church, but teaching those without, thus overcoming the precise ideas espoused by the Amlicites which caused the contention in the first place. In other words, the righteous Nephites repented by sharing the gospel and the unrighteous Zarahemlaites repented by accepting the gospel.’ (Alan C Miner, Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon)

Alma 4:6 Very costly apparel

“Symbols have only the meaning that people give them. Some symbols have been given inordinate value. For many, costly cars, extravagant homes and expensive clothes are symbols of worldly success. In some cases, these tangible objects have been given more meaning than almost everything else.

“All ages are affected by symbols, but the young are especially vulnerable. Lacking maturity and good judgment, some young people choose their friends by using certain fashion symbols as criteria. They look for specific labels on shoes, shirts and jackets. If ‘right’ labels aren’t there, they are hesitant to consider forming a friendship…Too young and immature to see how shallow their thinking really is, they inflict emotional wounds on others and, at the same time, deprive themselves of what could be rewarding associations.

“Without a good sense of self-esteem, the young often bring pain upon themselves as they agonize over what’s in fashion and whether they can afford it. To them, fashion labels are more important than function, fit or even comfort.

“The very young aren’t the only ones who lack perspective. In some circles, friends and associates become symbols that individuals have been accepted in a particular social class. Unscrupulous individuals feign mutual interests, use flattery, compromise beliefs and principles, and turn away from those who could be true friends. Their ulterior motive is to be accepted by those who might help boost their careers or social lives.” (Church News, June 23, 1990)

Alma 4:9-10 Set their hearts upon riches

‘It is small wonder that the church faltered when its newest members had become even more worldly than non-church-men. No longer driven to humility by the famine, they had ceased to see anything in the church of value. However, it will also become clear that, while these newly converted might logically have been the first to succumb to the temptations, they were not the only ones to begin to prefer the trappings of wealth. For all of these status-aspiring church-men, riches and prestige were more easily obtained outside the church, since it officially frowned on such accumulations.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Alma 4:15-18 Delegation

“I pray that we may each of us sense our responsibility in the world and in the Church, and that we who have responsibility for any part of the work may learn to delegate detail as occasion requires and trust these men, our brethren, and these women, our sisters, to do their part in pushing forward the things that need to be done, and to feel a sense of responsibility as concerns carrying forward this work.” (Richard L Evans, Conference Report, Oct. 1949, p. 42)

Alma 4:19 Preach the word of God

‘In this period of Book of Mormon history there were men who had great political power, but used it righteously and did not seek for more power. Seeing the unrighteous actions of the people, Alma relinquished his position as chief judge, the political head of state, in order to “go forth among his people . . . that he might preach the word of God unto them” (Alma 4:19).’ (Institute Student Manual)

 

 

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