At this time of great sorrow, an angel appears to Alma! Quick cross reference before I dive into what the angel says. Mosiah 3:2-3. This is king Benjamin giving his speech. He had an angel appear to him as well! And he tells about it and what the angel told him. If you are interested, go read it. Actually, all of chapter 3 is what the angel told him word for word.
Anyway, an angel appears and says the following.
“Blessed art thou, Alma; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time thou receivedst thy first message from him. Behold, I am he that delivered it unto you.
And behold, I am sent to command thee that thou return to the city of Ammonihah, and preach unto the people of the city; yea, preach unto them, except they repent the Lord God will destroy them.
For behold, they do study at this time that they may destroy the liberty of thy people (for thus saith the Lord) which is contrary to the statutes, and judgments, and commandments which he has given unto his people.”
Ok. Guardian angels. I think that angels are given charge to protect us. Look at Alma. The same angel that appeared shaking and quaking the earth on his behalf, has now appeared 10-18 years later and is comforting him.
As I was reading this book on Abraham, it suggested that the angel that helped Abraham throughout his life was Enoch. The same Enoch that had the city Zion and was taken up because of righteousness. Enoch delivered him from the wicked priests sent to sacrifice him. Enoch stopped him from sacrificing his own son, Isaac. If that is true, it seems it would support the fact that the same angel really did appear to Alma again. Even if the theory about Abraham isn’t true, I still believe that the angel appeared to Alma again.
I like how the angel tells him to rejoice. Even though Alma was down, the angel tells him to be happy because ever since he first appeared to Alma, he has been faithful in keeping the commandments. I don’t think any other angel could have said this and made such an impact on Alma. I don’t think Alma ever forgot the experience with the angel in his youth. I think from that moment on, he tried to live in such a way that God and the angel would be proud. I think maybe when the angel came to the second time, it justified Alma’s efforts of trying to be as righteous as possible. I think that is why it lifted his spirits so much. But notice, the angel didn’t say, “Good job, you have been way righteous, Ammonihah is just a wicked city. You tried. It’s ok to go home.” It was, “You’ve come a long way and God is way proud of you, but we need you to keep going, here is your next assignment.” Look how far we’ve come, but see how much further we have to go. God demands everything of us. When we think we have nothing else to give, God’s all omnipotence sees what we can yet do, calls us to do it, and make available our hidden reservoirs of energy to accomplish the work we have been called to perform.
A Change in Plans
The second time that Alma goes to Ammonihah, the message has changed. It used to be normal proselyting inviting others to come unto Christ. Now it is repent, or God is going to destroy your city. They rejected the nice message, it’s time for the message that the stubborn will hear. I feel like God loves his missionaries. The people of Ammonihah bullied Alma and God isn’t happy about that. He is justifying Alma and defending him. Repent, or be destroyed. Your choice. God is telling Alma that he has his back. He is to go back and preach the things that come into his heart (Helaman 13:3).
One last thing before we move on with the story. It is concerning what the angel says in verse 17. The angel tells him that people are in the process of destroying the liberty of the people. That is contrary to the statutes and judgments given to the people. At first, I thought it was referring to the statutes and judgments of God that he has given to the world, but if you look at the footnotes, it references king Mosiah and the laws and system of government that was set up with the reign of the judges. I just noticed it also says that the commandments of God beneath that. Yes, the people are attempting to destroy the liberty, which is not only guaranteed by the laws of the land, but also by the God of the land. It says somewhere else in the Book of Mormon (maybe in D&C?) that whoever inherits the land (meaning America) should serve God if they want to prosper. This, after all, is a choice land.
Trouble in Ammonihah
It seems like something bad was cooking in Ammonihah. Let’s look at the pronouns in 17:
“For behold, they do study at this time that they may destory the liberty of thy people, (for thus saith the Lord) which is contrary to the statutes, and judgments, and commandments which he has given unto his people.”
I’ve bolded the pronouns. To know what all the pronouns (with the exception of the last two) refer to, you need to read verse 16. I’ll let you do that on your own. But I want to re-arrange the verse substituting the pronouns with what they are actually referring to.
“For behold, the people of Ammonihah do study at this time that they may destroy the liberty of the people of Zarahemla (for thus saith the Lord), which is contrary to the statutes, and judgments, and commandments which Mosiah and God (both are used) have given unto this people.”
The people of Zarahemla part is a bit of a logical leap but I think valid still because Alma did originate from Zarahemla. If that is true, in what way were they “studying” to destroy the liberty of the people? Was it a casual breaking down of municipal order? Was Ammonihah going to mount an insurrection? Or perhaps the wickedness was causing freedom to be lost. We have no way of knowing. I suppose it doesn’t matter entirely what the reason was. The fact remains that he went back. And went back because something bad was going to happen that would affect more people than just the inhabitants (in what way, shape, or form, I can only imagine) if he didn’t return. The city was going to be destroyed! Notice that the angel mentioned nothing of Amulek. Almas wasn’t going back because the angel told him there was actually one person who would listen. He went back to try and save the city. No longer was he strictly on a “proselyting” mission, but now a physical well-being mission. He went back to tell the people that the destruction of their city was coming and the only way they could avoid it was to repent.
Alma Returns to the City
Check out verse 18. After receiving this message, he returns speedily back to the city and enters through another way. The experience Alma has had with the angel must have been significant because only moments before, he was walking away from the city, heavy with sorrow, back turned on Ammonihah forever. Literally did an 180-degree turn, physically and emotionally I think the angel comforting him and also informing him of what need Ammonihah had, he felt obliged to return and try again. That is the best way to get people to do stuff, tell them you need help. An opportunity to aid another. Coupled with the comfort the angel gave resulted in what happened next.
The second part of this scripture was that he entered the city a different way. It doesn’t say from which part originally he entered (North, East or West) but this time he went South. The significance is that he didn’t try the same thing again. He probably would have gotten the same results. Being cast out. But he tried something new and got different results.
Amulek Takes in the Prophet
What happened is unexpected if you think about it. Alma enters the gate is way hungry. He has just spent who knows how long crying, not to mention he just saw an angel. Crying takes a lot of energy out of you. I’m sure being in the presence of an angel does as well. He no doubt is hungry and tired. It’s been a long day. Anyway, he asks a man if he will give a humble servant of God something to eat. Here is the unexpected part. I want you to imagine someone saying this to you after you have just asked this question, “I am a Nephite, and I know thou art a holy prophet of God, for thou art the man whom an angel said in a vision: thou shalt receive. Therefore, go with me into my house and I will impart unto thee of my food; and I know that thou wilt be a blessing unto me and my house.” Would that have thrown you off? It sure would have thrown me off. If after asking someone for food, they told me, “I know you are a missionary from God. An angel told me to let you in. Come to my house, I’ll give you food because I know you’ll be a blessing to my household.” What?! Ok. The next part would be a blur.
I wonder why Amulek identified himself as a Nephite to Alma. He was in Nephite lands, wasn’t he? Ultimately, we don’t have access to the reason. It could have been that the ethnic diversity of Ammonihah was such that Amulek felt like he needed to identify. Maybe saying he was a Nephite was a greeting or sign to let people know they meant no harm. Perhaps a custom to declare ethnicity when meeting for the first time? I don’t know. Suppose it doesn’t matter too much.
Cross reference Alma 10:7-9. This is the account of the angel that appeared to Amulek and told him exactly what to do. From it, we learn that the reason Alma was hungry was because he had been fasting several days. Cross reference 1 Kings 17:8-13. This is the story of Elijah and the widow. There is a great famine in the land and Elijah was told by the Lord to go way up North so this widow could feed him. She gives what she has and it is multiplied. Kind of a similar instance as recorded in the Book of Mormon. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Bread in the Scriptures
Alma and Amulek return to the house and Alma is fed with meat and bread. Is this the first recorded instance of bread being eaten in the Book of Mormon? I know that sounds like a stupid question. All the index entries under bread refer to the sacrament or are using bread as a symbol. Nothing was I able to find on just plain bread. Yes, this is the first instance. I found that out for sure in the topical guide. And it is referring to normal bread too! However, it is not the first recorded verse about bread in the scriptures. We have the Lord himself telling Adam and Eve by the sweat of their brow will they eat bread. That makes me wonder if they even knew what bread was. Because they had never worked to make bread and bread doesn’t grow on trees in gardens. God knew what bread was. Maybe he showed them? Why would he make reference to something that they wouldn’t understand? If that is true, they must have had bread in the Garden of Eden. Since they never had to make it, and since it doesn’t grow on trees, they must have received it from someone? Maybe it just appeared? Maybe Heavenly Father brought them a freshly baked loaf of bread a few times a…”week”?
Just thinking about bread across all of scripturedom, it’s pretty important and prevalent. It’s used in the sacrament, in the tabernacle, it fed the Israelites in the wilderness, Christ is the bread of life. Bread is something eternal, that transcends everything. It’s a staple of not only our physical well-being but also our spiritual well-being 🙂
Why Alma stayed so Long with Amulek and His Family
Alma tarried with Amulek and his family many days before going to preach unto the people. This seems strange to me at first. I would have been ready to go out, guns blazing, not hanging around at Amulek’s house. Thinking about it, though, it was good that Alma hung around. For a few reasons. Alma, if you remember, had just been thrown out of the city, everyone had rejected him. In his mind, there wasn’t one person that would listen. Yet, when he goes back, he finds someone that will .This family (Amulek’s) is probably the only family there that would listen. Of course, he is going to stay with them and teach them. They could be the only family he saves. Another reason he probably stayed is because of the potential Amulek had in helping him. I bet the spirit told Alma that Amulek would be his second witness to the things that were said.
During this time of teaching in the house of Amulek, the people of Ammonihah are becoming more and more wicked. If this were a movie, It would show Alma teaching Amulek and then whatever corrupt things that were happening in the city to show a contrast between good and evil and build the tension that these two forces were going to collide in the not too distant future.
What I wrote earlier about Alma having the spirit tell him about Amulek being his second witness, came true! Verse 29! This verse is worded similarly as verse addressed to individuals in the Doctrine and Covenants. I’ll try to find an example. D&C 51:1. the wording is close there. As well as in D&C 52 when the 12 apostles are given travel assignment. The Lord using similar wording to call people to the ministry is just another example of the truthfulness of the gospel and the church.
Back to Mormon’s Summary
Verse 30 and 31 are no longer the records of Alma. This is Mormon summarizing what happened next, an account is also given in chapters 9-14. The two things that it says they had were the Holy Ghost and power. These two things according to verse 31, allowed them to preach and prophesy. It’s because of this, that they couldn’t be confined in dungeons or be slain. We know about the dungeon story. Are there others where people tried to kill the? Assassination attempts? I don’t know. I think the most interesting part of the 30 and 31 is that they did not show forth their power until they were bound and cast into prison. Why? It says because the Lord was going to show forth his power in them. Just because you have power or the capacity to do something extraordinary doesn’t mean you should show it off to the world. Alma and Amulek had great power, but it wasn’t manifest “physically” per se until the prison came tumbling down.
One thought that came to mind was the significance of them not using their power till cast into prison. The reference for power is Alma 14:10. This is when the people are being burned. Amulek wants to use their power to save them. But Alma explains why they can’t. It is to bring about the purposes of God. Look at 14:13 for the verse. Maybe the reason that Alma and Amulek were able to use their power on the prison is because all the causes of God for that time, that could be done on their own, had stopped. Or were finished. In order for God’s plan for Alma and Amulek to move forward, the prison had to come down. It went from “passively” moving forward to “actively” moving forward. Something had to be done. The acting upon was finished.