Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016, LDS Doctrine, Missionary work

Gospel Doctrine 2016 – Lesson 23 – More Than One Witness

1. Alma calls the people of Ammonihah to repentance, but they reject him.

Alma 8:10 Wrestling with God

“Wrestling with God? Does God resist you? Do you have to resist him? No, you have to put yourself into position, in the right state of mind. Remember, in our daily walks of life as we go around doing things, we’re far removed…You have to get yourself in form, like a wrestler having to look around for a hold or get a grip, as Jacob did when he wrestled with the Lord. You have to size yourself up, take your stance, circle the ring, and try to find out how you’re going to deal with this particular problem. You’re not wrestling with the Lord; you’re wrestling with yourself. Remember, Enos is the one who really wrestled. And he told us what he meant when he was wrestling; he was wrestling with himself, his own inadequacies. How can I possibly face the Lord in my condition, is what he says.

“…It takes great mental effort to confront the Lord in all seriousness. We do it at various shallow levels, by routine. We have a prayer here because we feel we should. If we’re going to make it really serious, we have to work on it harder…and very few people are willing to do it, but it really pays off because you know exactly what you want and where you stand.” (Hugh Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, lecture 47, pp. 301-2)

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Alma 8:11 We do not believe in such foolish traditions

“When we read about the anti-Christs of former days, we marvel at how perverted their thinking became, and we marvel at how successful they were in deceiving men and women. We also wonder why some of the people were so gullible – so easily misled. And with all this marveling and wondering, we tend to niche the anti-Christs in some corner of ancient history and go about our unguarded ways. This is dangerous. It could result in loss of faith; and, in a spiritual sense, it could put us out of existence.” (Carlos E Asay, Church News, 02/22/92, p. 14)

Alma 8:15 Thou hast been faithful

“‘Do your duty; that is best. Leave unto the Lord the rest’ [‘The Legend Beautiful’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow].

“Should there be anyone who feels he is too weak to change the onward and downward course of his life, or should there be those who fail to resolve to do better because of that greatest of fears—the fear of failure—there is no more comforting assurance to be had than these words of the Lord: ‘My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them’ [Ether 12:27].

“Miracles are everywhere to be found when priesthood callings are magnified. When faith replaces doubt, when selfless service eliminates selfish striving, the power of God brings to pass His purposes” (Thomas S Monson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1999).

Alma 8:18 He returned speedily

‘Isn’t that interesting, brothers and sisters? It says, “He returned speedily.” Maybe his earlier experience with the angel caused him not to tarry or question, but to react immediately. But I believe he was motivated by love for the Lord and his desire to be obedient. Alma’s reaction and attitude to this request has been of great strength to me as I strive to serve the Lord.’ (Robert B Harbertson, General Conference, October 1984)

Alma 8:19 Will ye give to an humble servant of God something to eat?

‘The story of Alma meeting Amulek is intentionally cast to remind the reader of Elijah (ca. 875 B.C.) and Zaraphath, a reminder that Yahweh deals with his children in similar ways, even on different continents. Alma may well have been familiar with this story from the brass plates. Just as Elijah was commanded to enter a city and find someone who would give him food (1 Kgs. 17:8–16), so Alma is commanded to find a person in the same way.

The point of both stories is that the Lord performed the miracle of matching two complete strangers in a strange city when he wanted them to meet. It is not surprising that the sign of that match would involve food, for sharing food is a very intimate experience, an important ritual in virtually all societies. Even in modern America, the invitation to share a meal implies some kind of accepting and well-intentioned relationship.

So it was with both Elijah and Alma. The act of asking for and offering food not only identified both prophet and disciple, but also identified the disciple’s sympathy with the prophet and openness to inspiration. He was not just a charitable person, but a companion in the gospel. This important connection is part of what was symbolized by the offer of food.

Elijah’s story continues with the miracle of the replenishing supplies, a theme not duplicated in Alma’s story. Thus, Alma is not merely a copy of the Elijah story, but a paralleling of the theme from 1 Kings to highlight his divine calling.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

‘When Alma returned to Ammonihah, he asked a stranger, “Will ye give to an humble servant of God something to eat?” He was surprised by the man’s answer, since he said that he had known Alma was coming – an angel told him in a vision that a holy prophet of God would be coming to his home that day. Sometimes meetings with other people and the intertwinings of our lives in mortality are more than chance – they are heaven-sent blessings. Elder Parley P. Pratt described the “sympathetic affinity” we feel around such people: “In the presence of such persons, one feels to enjoy the light of their countenances, as the genial rays of a sunbeam. Their very atmosphere diffuses a thrill, a warm glow of pure gladness and sympathy, to the heart and nerves of others who have kindred feelings, or sympathy of spirit. No matter if the parties are strangers, entirely unknown to each other in person or character; no matter if they have never spoken to each other, each will be apt to remark in his own mind, and perhaps exclaim, when referring to the interview – “O what an atmosphere encircles that stranger! How my heart thrilled with pure and holy feelings in his presence! What confidence and sympathy he inspired! His countenance and spirit gave me more assurance, than a thousand written recommendations, or introductory letters.” (Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, p.100-102.) (Jeffrey Marsh, Meridian Magazine)

Alma 9:2 Suppose ye that we shall believe the testimony of one man?

‘The last time Alma preached in Ammonihah, he did it alone. The wisdom of the Lord’s plan to have Amulek provide a second witness now becomes evident. The trap they set for Alma backfired because of Amulek’s testimony, when Amulek had spoken these words the people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness (Alma 10:12). The Lord hereby demonstrates that his wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil (DC 10:43).

The tone of the question asked of Alma implies that the people understood that every word should be established at the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses (Deut 17:6), but they had no real intention of believing the testimony regardless of how many witnesses there were. This demonstrates that they were willfully rebellious, knowing the letter of the law but ignoring the Spirit.’ (Bryan Richards, gospeldoctrine.com)

Alma 9:15 It shall be more tolerable for them

“…one who fails to live up to his covenants tries to hide first by looking for loopholes in the language of the endowment. Brigham Young has commented on the futility and hypocrisy of this procedure; there is no way, he observes, by which one can possibly misunderstand or wrest the language of the covenants, no matter how determined one is to do it. We can rationalize with great zeal-and that is the next step-but never escape from our defensive position.” (Donald W. Parry, Temples of the Ancient World, p. 610)

2. Amulek preaches to the people of Ammonihah.

Alma 10:3 Lehi…who was a descendant of Manasseh

“The Prophet Joseph Smith informed us that the record of Lehi was contained on the one hundred sixteen pages that were first translated and subsequently stolen, and of which an abridgment is given us in the First Book of Nephi, which is the record of Nephi individually, he himself being of the lineage of Manasseh; but that Ishmael was of the lineage of Ephraim, and that his sons married into Lehi’s family, and Lehi’s sons married Ishmael’s daughters, thus fulfilling the words of Jacob upon Ephraim and Manasseh in the 48th chapter of Genesis [verse 16] which says: ‘And let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.’  Thus these descendants of Manasseh and Ephraim grew together upon this American continent, with a sprinkling from the house of Judah, from Mulek descended, who left Jerusalem eleven years after Lehi, and founded the colony afterwards known as Zarahemla found by Mosiah — thus making a combination, an intermixture of Ephraim and Manasseh with the remnants of Judah, and for aught we know, the remnants of some other tribes that might have accompanied Mulek.  And such have grown up upon the American continent.” (Erastus Snow, Journal of Discourses, vol. 23, pp. 184, 185)

Alma 10:6 I would not hear

‘The difference between this Amulek and the one his listeners thought they knew is that now he will hear. Not only was evidence for Yahweh all around him, but he “was called many times.” Indirectly, he is also telling his audience that they are in his position—meaning that they also are responsible for their disbelief.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Alma 10:10 I know that the things whereof he hath testified are true

‘Amulek adds his personal testimony of Alma and Alma’s message. The message is thus validated by two, one an outsider, the other an insider.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Alma 10:12 More than one witness

;Miraculous things happen when members join with missionaries and share pure testimony with those who are not members of the Church. For example, while many people were touched by Alma’s testimony in the land of Ammonihah, when Amulek stood and added his testimony to Alma’s, “the people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness who testified”  Alma 10:12 The same thing can happen with us today. As we stand together the Lord will help us find many more of His sheep who will know His voice as we unitedly share our testimonies with them.’ (M Russell Ballard, General Conference, October 2004)

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Alma 10:16-17 Amulek could know of their designs

‘Catching Amulek in a contradiction would let the lawyers discredit Amulek and, therefore, also discredit Alma, thereby defending the status quo against two men who were trying to change it. Alma and Amulek posed a serious threat because they fulfilled a social requirement about two witnesses. Alma alone was easy to dismiss and did not attract the lawyers’ attention.

Amulek “perceived their thoughts,” possibly because he was familiar with them and their tactics and possibly because of the Spirit’s inspiration. In either case, he publicly exposed their strategy, not only countering their approach but serving notice to the assembly that this was not a simple case of the lawyers defending the city. His attack, which associated the lawyers with the devil, invited the people to think twice about accepting the lawyers too trustingly.’ (Brant Gardner, Secnd Witness)

Alma 10:22 The prayers of the righteous

“Our world is now much the same as it was in the days of the Nephites prophet who said: ‘…if it were not for the prayers of the righteous…ye would even now be visited with utter destruction’ (Alma 10:22). There are many upright and faithful who live all the commandments and whose lives and prayers keep the world from destruction.” (Spencer W Kimball, Ensign, June 1971)

Alma 10:32 Now the object of these lawyers was to get gain

‘The people were astonished at the testimony of this second witness (see Alma 10:12), but many of them were not repentant. Among those were the lawyers of Ammonihah, whose object, Mormon tells us, “was to get gain; and they got gain according to their employ” (Alma 10:32). Their conduct shows us a portrait of a group of people more concerned with winning than with being right. Hyrum Smith spoke of corrupt lawyers in March of 1844.
President Hyrum Smith arose and made a few remarks. He compared the lawyers to polliwogs, wigglers, and toads. He said they would dry up next fall. “Those characters, I presume, were made in gizzard making time, when it was cheaper to get gizzards than souls; for if a soul cost $5, a gizzard would cost nothing: like tree toads, they change color to suit the object they are upon. They ought to be ferreted out like rats. You could describe them as you would a hedgehog: they are in every hedge, stinking like the skunk (History of the Church, Vol.6, Ch.10, p.240).
The issue with these lawyers of Ammonihah is not occupation of course, but preoccupation. Any man who believes that his salvation is assured regardless of his conduct (as did these disciples of Nehor), and whose overriding aim is to make money would act as these men acted.’ (Ted L Gibbons, LDSliving.com)

3. Amulek contends with Zeezrom and testifies of Christ.

Alma 11:21 Zeezrom

“The account of the dialogue between Zeezrom and Alma and Amulek in the eleventh chapter of the book of Alma provides additional insight into Zeezrom’s worldly self-assurance. He has an audience to play to, and he intends, with his practiced sophistry and cunning, to make a game of his denigration of the two missionaries. After all, the audience is completely prejudiced in his favor, and he relishes the opportunity to add to his reputation among his peers. His questions to Alma and Amulek reflect his courtroom skills. They are designed for entrapment.” (Dean L Larsen, Heroes From the Book of Mormon, p. 113-4)

‘The Book of Mormon proper name Zeezrom may follow a naming pattern parallel to the Hebrew zeh Sinai, “he of Sinai” (i.e., God) (cf. Judges 5:5; Psalm 68:8) and may have the meaning “he of the Ezrom.” Ezrom/Ezrum is a Nephite word mentioned in Alma 11:6, 12, as a unit of silver measure. As a silver measure (which, in Hebrew, is kesep, “silver; money”), it may be the equivalent of money as well, indicating the meaning “he of silver, money,” suggesting Zeezrom’s early obsession with money or his willingness to resort to bribing Alma and Amulek with money to have them deny their belief in God (Alma 11:22). Happily, however, Zeezrom underwent a powerful conversion, forsook his sins, and became, with Alma and Amulek, fervent missionaries and ardent exponents of the faith.’ (Stephen D Ricks, A Nickname and a Slam Dunk: Notes on the Book of Mormon names Zeezrom and Jershon)

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Alma 11:34 Shall he save his people in their sins?

‘Zeezrom knows that the Son of God will come to redeem the people from their sins not in their sins. This is obviously a trap. At first, Zeezrom thinks he has his prey tangled in his wicked web but Amulek is not to be confounded, proclaiming that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven…Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins (v. 37). ‘ (Bryan Richards. Gospeldoctrine.com)

Alma 11:40 He shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe

‘There is often a misunderstanding in Alma 11:40—some people have thought that Amulek was teaching that Christ suffered only for those who believe and repent. This is not correct. The scriptures tell us that the Savior “suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children” (2 Nephi 9:21; see also Mosiah 4:7). If mankind will not repent, however, the Savior indicates that “my blood shall not cleanse them” (D&C 29:17). Clearly, what Amulek was intending to convey is the fact that the Atonement in part may go unused when the wicked choose not to repent—not that the Savior only suffered for those who would repent.’ (Bookj of Mormon Institute Manual)

Alma 11:42-43 All shall be raised from this temporal death

‘In the Book of Mormon we find Alma discoursing upon the resurrection of the dead, and also Amulek, and they both testify that the bodies we lay down in the grave will come forth again, that every part will be restored to its perfect frame; both those Prophets declare that every limb and joint will be restored, (Alma 11:42-43,  Alma 40:23) though the body crumble back to mother earth, and the bones—the most solid portions of the human system, will be dissolved and return again to the dust. They declare that the materials will be brought together and reconstructed, that bone will come to its bone, and that the flesh that now clothes these bones, and the sinews and skin which cover the flesh will also be restored. Ezekiel the Prophet, in the 37th chapter of his prophecy, says that bones and flesh, sinews and skin will all come forth and be made out of the dust into a perfect tabernacle, and everything will be restored to its perfect frame; (Ezek. 37:3-10) and so particularly do the Prophets Amulek and Alma discourse upon this subject, that they declare that not even one hair of the head shall be lost. (Alma 11:44,  Alma 40:23)’ (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses)

Alma 11:44 The resurrection of little children

“Joseph Smith declared that the mother who laid down her little child, being deprived of the privilege, the joy, and the satisfaction of bringing it up to manhood or womanhood in this world, would after the resurrection, have all the joy, satisfaction and pleasure, and even more than it would have been possible to have had in mortality, in seeing her child grow to the full measure of the stature of its spirit. If this be true, and I believe it, what a consolation it is … It matters not whether these tabernacles mature in this world, or have to wait and mature in the world to come, according to the word of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the body will develop, either in time or in eternity, to the full stature of the spirit, and when the mother is deprived of the pleasure and joy of rearing her babe to manhood or womanhood in this life, through the hand of death, that privilege will be renewed to her hereafter, and she will enjoy it to a fuller fruition than it would be possible for her to do here. When she does it there, it will be with certain knowledge that the results will be without failure; whereas here, the results are unknown until after we have passed the test.

“Children will come forth from the grave as children, be raised to maturity by worthy parents, and be entitled to receive all of the ordinances of salvation that eventuate in the everlasting continuation of the family unit.” (Robert Millet, Joseph Fielding McConkie, The Life Beyond, pp. 118-9)

4. Alma further explains Amulek’s words and warns against hard-heartedness.

 Alma 12:1 He opened up his mouth and began to speak to him

‘The context for this section is important: whereas in chapter 5 we saw Alma preaching to an audience of people in the city of Zarahemla who were primarily members of “the Church” (i.e., baptized into Nephite religion) but had not been living up to its precepts, here he is in the city of Ammonihah—a city that may have been founded explicitly by people who wanted to have nothing to do with Nephite religion. Alma has already been there to preach, and it didn’t end well; he might not have tried returning had he not been directly instructed by an angel to do so (Alma 8:14–16). On his second visit, he finds a kindred spirit in a righteous Ammonihah resident named Amulek, who agrees to help him in his missionary work. In Alma 12 and 13, Alma offers some of the Book of Mormon’s most important teachings on the judgment day, the purpose of life, and the plan of salvation.’ (Jana Reiss, The Book of Mormon: Selections Annotated and Explained)

Alma 12:3 Thy thoughts are made known unto us by his Spirit

“Being in charge of the Endowment House, while the Temple was in the process of construction, Heber C. Kimball met with a group who were planning to enter the temple for ordinance work. He felt impressed that some were not worthy to go into the temple, and he suggested first that if any present were not worthy, they might retire. No one responding, he said that there were some present who should not proceed through the temple because of unworthiness and he wished they would leave so the company could proceed. It was quiet as death and no one moved nor responded. A third time he spoke, saying that there were two people present who were in adultery, and if they did not leave he would call out their names. Two people walked out and the company continued on through the temple.” (Spencer W Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness)

Alma 12:9, 10 The mysteries of God

“The Lord has promised to reveal his mysteries to those who serve him in faithfulness. … The Gospel is very simple, so that even children at the age of accountability may understand it. Without question, there are principles which in this life we cannot understand, but when the fulness comes we will see that all is plain and reasonable and within our comprehension. The ‘simple’ principles of the Gospel, such as baptism, the atonement, are mysteries to those who do not have the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 vols. [1953], 1:43).

“Learning the mysteries of God and attaining to what the apostle Paul called ‘the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13) requires far more than learning a specified body of facts. It requires us to learn certain facts, to practice what we have learned, and, as a result, to become what we, as children of God, are destined to become.

“…(referring to DC 130:18-19) Note that intelligence is something more than knowledge. And note also the implication that knowledge is obtained by diligence and intelligence is obtained by obedience. Admittedly, the two methods are not mutually exclusive. But we come close to an important mystery of the gospel when we understand that the intelligence God desires us to obtain is much more than knowledge, and it cannot be obtained without obedience and revelation. That is the Lord’s way, and it is far beyond the ways of the world.”(Dallin H Oaks, The Lord’s Way, p. 43)

Alma 12:14 For our words will condemn us

‘This is the state of the hard-hearted who come before God. Because of their hard hearts, they will have done and said things contrary to the gospel, and those actions will condemn them. Alma shows that this condemnation is more a self-judgment than God’s pronouncement. It is the person before God who dares not look upon Him. It is not God who exercises condemnation but the individual.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Alma 12:15 The judgment day

“The judgment day is one of the things that really will be. The ‘future shock’ of that judgment and the events to precede it will be without parallel. The dramatic day described so powerfully by Alma will be a highly compressed and collective moment of truth. This will be the day when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus is the Christ. (Philippians 2:10–11.) No mortals will be standing that day. Those who were cruelly used by the adversary will see that awful reality. Nephi said the unrepentant guilty would ’remember [their] awful guilt in perfectness, and be constrained to exclaim: Holy, holy are thy judgments, O Lord God Almighty—but I know my guilt; I transgressed thy law, and my transgressions are mine; and the devil hath obtained me, that I am a prey to his awful misery.’ (2 Nephi 9:46.) Jesus, who purchased us and who owns us, will require this owning up. They who transgressed divine law will openly admit that their transgressions are their own and cannot be laid at someone else’s door.” (Neal A Maxwell, Things As They Really Will Be, p. 111)

Alma 12:24 A probationary state

“We are being tested every minute of the day by the choices we make, by the reactions we have, by the things we say, by the things we think about. It’s like the ancient Christian doctrine of the two ways, the way to the right and the way to left, whichever they are. You must make the choice, and you may have made the wrong choice every day of your life up until now, but as long as you are here it is still not too late. You can still make the right choice-every minute you can make the right choice. It’s never too late to make the right one…We have a time to repent; ‘therefore this life became a probationary state.’ Well, it can’t be anything else; it’s a time to prepare to meet God. That’s why we need the gospel here.” (Hugh Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Lecture 48, p. 327)

Alma 12:32 God gave unto them commandments

‘It is interesting to note the sequence in the teaching process. Our Heavenly Father first taught Adam and Eve the plan of redemption, and then He gave them commandments.

This is a great truth. Understanding the plan will help people keep the commandments, make better decisions, and have the right motivation.’ (Rafael E Pino, General Conference, April 2015)

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