Even with Amulek backing up Alma, there were cunning men who sought to catch them in their words and thereby deliver them to the judges for punishment according to the law. Enter the lawyers.
The description of lawyers during the time of the Nephites is the same as it is today. Hired or appointed by the people to administer the law at times of trial, criminal or otherwise. They were learned in all the arts and cunning of the people. This enabled them to be skillful in their profession.
Earliest Mention of Lawyers?
This mention of lawyers is the earliest in the standard works. The next is during the time of Jesus about 100 plus years later. I looked in the Old Testament Manual to if there was a time possibly where lawyers could have been. When I think of rhetoric and debate, I think Romans. Like, Cicero. However, this is all before that. Now I’m thinking back to the Greeks. Men such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. These men predated the lawyers mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Lehi and his family left before their tie so this isn’t something they would’ve taken with them. Either the Nephites developed this system on their own. Or at least King Mosiah did since he started the reign of the judges, probably drawing from the reign of the judges in the Old Testament.
On Lds.org I read about DNA proof for the Book of Mormon. It was talking about migrations. It suggested that Lehi, Jared and Mulek’s groups may not have been the first or even the last people to be led by the Lord to the Americas. It suggests that in addition to the migrations made in the Book of Mormon, others were brought over time. Instead of three distinct migrations from the Old to New world, it has rather been a series of them that populated the continents of North and South America. If that theory is true, there is a slight possibility that even the rhetoric skills of the Greek and Romans made their influence in the Americas should the Lord have led people there. If lawyers were not an original part of the system, it could have been grafted in once the idea had been brought in. Ultimately, I have no evidence pointing either way.
How to Beat a Lawyer
The lawyers seek to question Amulek and cross him in his words. The only way you can beat a lawyer is if you know the law or whatever the subject is better than them. If you don’t, chances are the lawyer can get you to trip up in your words. I think Amulek knew this. Rather than plowing into a debate, which I’m sure he could have won, he sees past that and calls them out on their ulterior motives. To lay the foundations of the devil and set traps and snares for the Holy One of Israel. The only way Amulek could have done this is through having the Spirit with him and discerning their thoughts. He did this. It says in verse 17.
I think this is one of the benefits of being a missionary. You are a representative of the church, and because you are teaching the gospel to people, you are entitled to the revelation to accomplish your duties. Once you fully realize that the gospel encompasses all truth, you can answer any question because it’s all covered by the gospel.
I’ve always thought it was interesting that Amulek didn’t debate the lawyers. He just tells them that debating is the last thing he is going to do because they are of the devil and are probably going to play dirty. He doesn’t use those exact words, though. I just had an interesting thought. While Amulek and the lawyers may have been intellectually capable of handling each other, that doesn’t mean the people watching them were. Even though Amulek could have answered a question right, if one of the lawyers made it seem like he (the lawyer) was still correct, the people may still believe him. Perhaps he would make it easier to understand him, rather than Amulek. If that pattern were to persist, the people would favor the lawyers over Amulek and Alma. Just because they didn’t understand the two, even though they didn’t do anything wrong. See, there is a lot more at stake here than just an intellectual questioning between lawyers and missionaries. I think that is why Amulek doesn’t answer.
The Importance of the Spirit in Teaching
There is one facet of Alma and Amulek that sets them apart. They have the Spirit with them. Which means the Holy Ghost helps convey their message unto the hearers. As I have written so many times in these notebooks, the gospel is simple to the simplest of minds, but it can also challenge the most intellectual of us. I think Alma knew enough of the gospel and had enough of the Spirit with him to convey things in a way that all hearers could understand. Amulek is still a recent convert. That may have played a part in why he didn’t debate. Not that that is a bad thing. What Amulek did was the right thing. Alma had a little more experience and complemented what his companion had already done. We’ll talk about that in the next chapter.
The Prayers of the Righteous Keep the Destruction at Bay
Amulek tells the people that the only thing keeping them from destruction are the prayers of the righteous in the land. He doesn’t even say the righteous in the city! It’s the people outside the city that are keeping them from destruction. I’m reminded of Sodom and Gomorrah. God promised he would save the city if there was 10, 5, 1 etc..good people in the city. Kind of similar except its the people outside the city that are preventing it from being destroyed.
I’m reminded also of someone saying the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will be like a crutch the people lean on. We will be holding things together. Or maybe we are the only thing keeping the crippled world from falling? I don’t remember.
Cross reference Mosiah 27:14. This is when the angel appears to Alma the younger back in his rebellion days. The angel is telling him that he has appeared to him because of the many prayers of his father and others that he may be brought to a knowledge of the truth. He is appearing to him so that their prayers may be answered according to their faith. Applying that to Ammonihah’s situation, there were probably people in other cities pleading for their kin in Ammonihah to come to a knowledge of the truth and that perhaps the city might not continue down its wicked path. That’s when Alma showed up, that is also when Amulek came as well. Both these men could say, that they came preaching here to answer the prayers of their friends and family.
I wonder how it is with investigators that we teach? How many of them have family or friends that are praying for them? Or even, they themselves are praying for us? How many of those people could say we are sent here to answer your prayers? Perhaps a lot? I don’t know. I’d like to think every time someone accepts us, it is an answer to their prayers.
Destruction Will Come Through Familiar Means
Amulek makes a strong remark about the destruction of the people should they not repent. He says that it wouldn’t be like the flood in the days of Noah, but rather, famine, pestilence, and sword. Oh, I just had a cool thought! Their destruction wasn’t going to come by some extraordinary event such as the flood. Their destruction would come through means they were already acquainted with. Famine, pestilence, and sword. Interesting thought right? I don’t think God always destroys the wicked in creative ways. Probably often does it through natural means that we are already familiar with. Cross reference Deuteronomy 32:25. This is a nice description. The killing of the sword without and terror within brings the destruction of all.
Off Topic: I just had a completely off topic thought. I’d like to write it in here, though. The Old Testament takes place before Jesus came to Earth. In there he is called Jehovah. The Book of Mormon also takes place during Old Testament times. Everyone calls him Jesus Christ. Interesting connection and just another tidbit that proves the church is true.
Amulek tells the people of Ammonihah that the time is close at hand when the city will be destroyed if they don’t speedily repent. It’s not that wickedness kills, but failure to repent. If you are trying to repent, if you want to repent, that’s a good path to go down. God can work with a repentant sinner. He can’t work with prideful ones. I know that’s true. If you believe there is hope in your being forgiven, there is. Once you lose hope of being forgiven, even though you can always be forgiven, it’s hard to change that thought process.
After Amulek says all this, the people get mad him, calling him devil child and that he had spoken against the law. Amulek rebukes them telling them that he has not spoken against it but rather, for the law, to the peoples’ own condemnation.
How Amulek Spoke for the Law
First off, what law? He is referring to the system of judges that King Mosiah set up 10 years previous. It seems like that system wasn’t just for Zarahemla alone but for the entire nation of the Nephites. Which, if you think about it, is very impressive! You think about the founding fathers of America and the system of government they set up and how much time was taken to make that. Then you think of Mosiah doing the same thing and how impactful that was. I mean people started counting dates based off when he set up the judges. This was a lot bigger of an event than most realize. I bet King Mosiah discussed it with man people. For sure with the Lord. I wonder how many years or months this monumental event must have taken to plan. My guess is that he started thinking about it not too long into his kingship. Ultimately, I don’t know.
I diverge. Mosiah said that if the time came that the voice of the people chose wrong, that is when the judgments of the Lord would fall upon the people. Therefore, if the people are wicked, the judgments of God come. So how is Amulek speaking in favor of the law? Well, it’s twofold. The first part being that Mosiah set this government up with God in mind. Mosiah knew that if kings persisted, bad would eventually result. Therefore, the judges were instituted to promote righteousness, which will uphold the system of government of the righteous.
He Spoke Against Lawlessness
Secondly, Amulek is speaking in favor of the law because he is speaking against those who would seek lawlessness. He points out who is making the trouble. The unrighteousness of the lawyers and judges. There is corruption. Secret combinations. When lawyers and judges are willing to compromise their oaths to justly uphold the laws of the land in order to gain wealth and prominence through alleyway doors, the judicial system cannot be trusted. In reality, there are no fair trials occurring because the fate of the people lies in the corrupted individuals who are purchasing verdicts. Back in chapter 8, the angel told Alma that people in Ammonihah were studying to destroy the liberty of the people. If Alma hadn’t turned back, and the current state of wickedness had been allowed to continue, the governance could have fallen into a state of aristocracy in which the lawyers and judges executed, judged, and created the laws. It didn’t happen like that, so we don’t have to worry about “what ifs.”
I wonder how much of this sort of thing is going on in our own country, state, city, town etc…Where people are calculating the destruction of liberty? I would say more so now than before. Maybe not so much lawyer-judge relationships but secret combinations in general. I know I have already written a lot on secret combinations. I refer you to my Ether or Revelation notebooks (not published yet…). Those contain a lot of stuff on secret combinations.
One last comment on that before moving on. Cross reference Luke 11:46-52. Christ is talking to the lawyers and telling them that they lay heavy burdens on the people, but they themselves will not touch those burdens. I take that to mean, that through their profession, fines or punishments are bestowed upon their clients. Yet, they are not emotionally engaged with their clients to feel pity for what happens to them. They are emotionally detached from what happens to the people they defend.
To Get Gain
Verse 32. The object of the lawyers was to get gain and they got gain according to their employ. In other words, they got paid according to how many people hired them. Which means they had to be good at promoting themselves as well as actually being a lawyer. Notice though their objective was not to defend people or prosecute them. Their object was not to help justice be administered fairly. Their object was to get gain. People often say money is the root of all evil but the love of money is the root of evil. I think that the lawyers weren’t limited to monetary gain, though. I think any sort of gain to them was good. Whether that was money, fame, prestige, knowledge, trust, anything really I would think.
Sometimes I wish more was said about Nephites culture. Over the last few days as I have been reading the Book of Mormon, the story has really come alive for me. One day, I hope I will be able to learn more and then read the Book of Mormon with wondering awe as all the culture comes to life. One day man.
Every man who was a judge received wages according to the time he labored to judge those who were brought before him. It makes specific mention that this was a part of the law that Mosiah gave. They called it the law of Mosiah. Very similar in sound to the law of Moses. I wonder if anyone else made that connection? Do you think Mosiah was thought of in a similar fashion as Moses? Maybe not in the sense of the leader of the Exodus, but rather, as an equal in giving the law? Just a thought. I have no proof either way. It would be cool if it was true, though. The law of Moses affected millions of Jews throughout the centuries. Same with the Law of Mosiah. The effect it had on the Nephite civilization lasted for many many years.
Verse 2 gives an example of how the judges worked. If one man owed another and refused to pay, he complained to the judge. The judge would then execute authority and send officers to bring the accused before him. The man was then judged according to the law and evidence that was brought before him. If found guilty, he had three options:
- Compelled to pay
- Be stripped
- Be cast out from among the people as a thief and robber
I was unclear as to what the second one entailed. No details are given but the dictionary offered insight. I was thinking of it in the sense that you had something you possessed taken away from you. The dictionary also includes a title. Therefore, you refuse to pay, you could lose your reputation or possessions. So I guess to summarize, if you owed someone, refused to pay, and were brought before the judge, you could pay what you owed, pay in possessions or title, or be thrown out as a robber or thief. Paying it back is the easiest one.
This law reminds me of the law of consecration. At least the judgment part. I am no scholar but I do know that it talked about making restitution with the people. If you couldn’t do it monetarily, then property was considered. Not in a house or land sense, just possessions. Or you are cast out. I think this is a cool connection.