Chapter 5 comprises the words which Alma says to people in the cities and villages of the land of Zarahemla. Notice how Alma is following the correct pattern for preaching repentance. He is first cleansing the “inner vessel” by preaching in Zarahemla, then going out and preaching to the other cities and villages. Plus, Alma is already righteous so his inner vessel personally has already been cleansed. Now he is in a position to help others get the same.
Alma’s Own Record
Alma speaks to the church in Zarahemla and chapter five is his discourse to them according to his own record. The record is on how to gain salvation, how Christ calls us, evil works = child of the devil and name of the righteous are written in the book of life. Interesting right? Notice how it says that this is following his own record. This is pure Alma. Copy and paste from the record of Alma. Makes it so much more exciting. This is pretty much the same thing as a conference talk, just nearly 2100 years ago.
Alma’s Speech to the People of Zarahemla
Alma begins by introducing himself, where his authority came from and then recounting briefly how the church came to be established in Zarahemla. Alma the elder was delivered from king Noah by God. A church was established in the land of Mormon. Then, in the wilderness, they were brought into captivity by the Lamanites. Again, from which, God delivered them. They were then brought to the land of Zarahemla and the church has since been established in the land. All this happened a little less than 40 yeas ago. I bet there are people in the crowd who were around during the time that he is explaining.
The Importance of Remembering
Alma the younger then poses three questions after telling the history.
- Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers?
- Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance His mercy and longsuffering towards them?
- Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?
There is a lot I want to say about this. It reminds me of Helaman 5. When Helaman is talking to his sons, Nephi and Lehi and tells them to remember their namesakes. In that chapter “remember” is significant as I believe it is here. And not just remembering, but remembering sufficiently. How is that done? I think what is meant is that you don’t have a passive remembrance. I think sufficiently remembering is remembering that something happened, being grateful that the lord showed mercy and longsuffering and doing something about it. Like allowing it to motivate you. In the case of this scripture, I think Alma is wanting them to remember the sacrifices that were made by their fathers and mothers in order to establish the church in a place that was safer and more secure than where it first was established. He wants them to remember that and that the Lord was behind it all. He led their parents through tribulation to the “promised land” of Zarahemla.
I think when you remember those things, it is a lot easier to trust in God. You have stories and testimonies to back it all up. I think it is the same with the early saints and going to Utah. They went through a lot of trials and tribulations, being delivered multiple times from the hands of their enemies. They were led to a land where they would establish the church that was safer than the place where it began. I think the same questions that Alma asked could be asked of us. Do we remember the captivity of our fathers and the role God had in delivering them from bondage and hell? For me personally, I could do a lot better. I don’t remember them every day. I don’t remember them enough to ask myself, am I honoring them by my acts to justify all the sacrifices they made so I could be here?
Remembering our Heritage
It’s funny that I read this scripture yesterday because during our Thanksgiving celebration (22 Nov 2014) I was able to watch Ephraim’s Rescue, a movie about Ephraim Hanks’ life. This movie helped me do what the scripture I read that morning exhorts us all to do, remember. My heart swelled with gratitude. Not only for Ephraim Hanks, but also for all the people that sacrificed to move across the plains in order to follow the prophets. I wish I had more stories available to me. I’m sure there are stories out there, people that I’m descended through, that could lift and inspire me.
Remembering as a Means to Spiritual Growth
Another scripture that Alma 5:6 reminds me of is the Book of Mormon promise in Moroni 10:3-5. part of that promise is to remember how great and merciful God has been to man. From the time of Adam and Eve, down to the present. It seems to me, that when you remember and then act on that remembrance, you are able to receive answers to your prayers and grow spiritually.
The sacrament prayer is significant in this instance as well. That we may always remember Him that we may have His spirit to be with us. Remembering and honoring that remembrance by acting accordingly brings His spirit.
I’m reminded of a story John Bytheway told about a rock climber who fell from a great height and was saved by his buddy moments before hitting the ground. the man who was saved asked his friend how he could repay him. His friend said, “Remember what I did.” I think that is the best way to honor someone. Remember what they did and act accordingly.
Being Delivered From Spiritual Bondage
Alma, after briefly explaining how they were delivered from physical bondage, explains how the people are in spiritual bondage and how they were delivered. God awakened them (the people and alma the elder) out of a deep sleep. they realized they were in the midst of darkness, they were encircled by the bands of death and the chains of hell. An everlasting destruction awaited them.
Looking back on what was going on around the reign of king Noah, the people weren’t very righteous. King Noah was wicked. His priests were wicked, and they were leading others to do wickedly. Alma wasn’t exaggerating. I’m wondering if the record we have in the Book of Mormon doesn’t say everything that was happening. Nevertheless, despite the darkness around them, they were illuminated in their souls by the light of the everlasting word. I was just wondering how this was done because Alma didn’t have scriptures. I went back and received the story of Alma a bit. After he (Alma) petitioned for the life of Abinadi to be spared, he was cast out and hunted after. In hiding, Alma wrote all the words of Abinadi. That’s what he taught out of. Wait a second! Brain blast! I wonder if Mosiah 12-16 is what Alma wrote down? Or maybe part of it? that would be pretty cool. The teachings of Abinadi are the “everlasting word” that is in Alma 5:7 and can also be found in Mosiah 12-16.
Alma asks if they were destroyed. No! The bands of death were broken and the chains of Hell that encircled them were loosened. All because they held on to the word of God, given them by a prophet and turned to God. As a result of this, what happened? Their souls did expand and they did sing redeeming love. I like the phrase, “their souls did expand.” Cool, picture in my mind. Have you ever felt your soul expand? I have. I’ve had times in my life where my happiness seemed to burst beyond the bounds of my body.
Alma has described how they were in bondage and the fact that they were delivered. Now he goes into why they were delivered. Through the use of Abinadi’s words, they developed faith, because of their faith, it led to a mighty change of heart, as we know from the story, the believers were baptized (probably received the Holy Ghost once they got to Zarahemla) and it says in verse 13 that they were faithful till the end. There you go. The entire gospel of Jesus Christ right there. Faith, change of heart (repentance), baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.
Soul Piercing Questions
Alma is really turning up the heat. The next long set of questions is rhetorical but piercing nonetheless. I’ll list them out for you.
- Have ye been spiritually born of God?
- Have ye received his image in your countenance?
- Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?
- Do you exercise faith in the redemption of Him who created you?
- Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been one in the mortal body?
- Can you imagine yourselves hearing the voice of the lord, saying unto you in that day: come unto me, ye blessed, for behold, your works have been works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?
- Can you imagine yourselves lying unto the lord and saying-lord, our works have been righteous was upon the face of the earth -and that he’ll save you?
- Can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness? Yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?
- Can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands?
- Can ye look up having the image of God engraved upon your countenance?
- Can ye think of being saved when ye have yielded yourselves to become subjects to the devil?
I’ll stop there. There are more questions coming but he throws in few comments so this is a good place to put a few things in. Wow! Those questions! Very to the point! Very introspective. Good thing those aren’t the baptismal interview questions.
Analysis of the Speech From a Debate Perspective
This is where the debater in me comes out. This is very solid speech. Let’s examine what he has talked about thus far. He started out establishing his own authority to teach (being consecrated by his father Alma) Then he recounts a brief history of how the church was established in the land of Zarahemla. He then asks them if they have sufficiently remembered where they came from and how their parents were in physical bondage and how God was merciful and delivered them. Then he tells them how their parents were in spiritual bondage and how it was through the gospel of Jesus Christ that they were freed. He then goes into these rhetorical questions by implying that if you do remember these things, have you done this or that? Have you lived up to what you are supposed to be doing? After the questions have them conscious of their guilt, he explains that no unclean thing can enter into heaven. Then he goes back and asks a few more rhetorical questions, ending with if you have felt the song of redeeming love in the past, can you feel it now?
To sum that up, authority to preach, history , specific details of history (physical and spiritual bondage and deliverance), introspective questions that stir the guilty conscious, clarifications that you must be clean to enter heaven, more questions to logically explain why, and how you feel now? I’m sorry. I’m getting ahead of myself but this is much fun, I’ll come back to where I left off in a second. Alma then goes on to ask if the multitude has become blameless before God if they have stripped themselves of pride, envy, and brother mocking. He then calls them to repent and talks about how Christ is the good shepherd and he will receive you if you allow him and repent. He then bears testimony of how he knows it’s true. Finishes it off by asking the people if they can persist in their current state? Then he speaks unto those that desire to change and ends with a final call to repent.
Asking Questions Leads to Learning
Now I’ll go back to where I left off. I’m just looking over what I wrote. There isn’t much more to be said. Although I would like to point out one aspect of this talk. Notice how many questions he asks. Five of the 14 points have to do with asking things. Totaling 16 verses of just asking questions. That’s quite a bit. It actually reminds of a roleplay I sat in on in Johor Bahru. My companion at the time was teaching the Restoration to another elder. It was a 45 min lesson where my companion just asked questions. And then built off the answer by asking another question. By the end, the “investigator” had done nearly 100% of the talking and had made all the connections himself. I was pretty impressed. That sole event helped me remember the importance of asking questions. Thanks to this elder! You know who you are!
Referencing Teachings of the Past
Verse 34 is Alma inviting the people to come and partake of the fruit of the tree of life. I think this is cool when later Book of Mormon people make reference to things talked about earlier in the Book. Cross reference 1 Nephi 8:11, 15:36. It’s when Lehi and Nephi have the vision of the tree of life. It brings to reality the fat that these people had access to the same scripture, or records, that we do. Verse 35 is the same. It’s talking about whoever doesn’t have good works will be hewn down and cast into the fire. that comes from Zenos’ allegory of the olive tree, found in Jacob 5. Zenos lived during or around the time of Abraham. Later, in Mathew 3 and 7 both John the baptist and Jesus talk about this. Interesting connection.
That’s it for today. Tune in next week!