The people took Alma and Amulek to the place of martyrdom that they might witness the destruction of those that were consumed in the fire.
I remember one day, I was reading this chapter during language study in Sibu (a city in Malaysia) and the story seemed to flash before my eyes. I saw what happened more intensely than I ever had seen before. It was overwhelming and I felt the pain and sorrow, at least in part I think, of Alma and Amulek. I can only imagine what it must have been like to stand and be made to watch innocent men, women, and children be burned alive. I imagine some of those people may have been friends or acquaintances of Alma and Amulek.
The Place of Martyrdom
Imagine for a moment you are right there with Alma and Amulek. How would you feel? How are you feeling? I couldn’t help but be overcome with sorrow. I think this was one of the lowest parts of their mission. I think in that moment, Alma and Amulek got a sense of the reality of Satan. Satan was in the stone cold hearts of the murderers raging within them, stirring them up to fiery passions. Satan was in the fire that consumed the saints and blazed a lot hotter than normal upon the faces of the missionaries standing by, forced to watch.
Verse 10. It says that when Amulek saw the pain of the women and children in the fire, he also was pained. That’s an understatement. I imagine women and children being dragged to the fire, screaming. Children clutching for their mothers and crying. Being torn from them and tossed into an unrelenting and unmerciful bonfire. I imagine the screams and the silence that followed as they passed away. It’s amid this scene that Amulek cries out (yes, he was crying), “How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.” I’ve read these words a lot. I usually just quickly ride over them. Amulek says this in a monotone voice with a static fire burning in front. But today is different. It’s hard to write the details I’ve seen but I hope it paints the reality of what happened. What Amulek said was what any worthy priesthood holder would have said. He said what any father would have said. Alma, isn’t there anything we can do?
Listening to the Spirit Amidst Trials
What Alma says demonstrates the faith he had. He teaches a beautiful doctrine. I imagine Alma must have been just as overwhelmed as Amulek. It must have been so hard to say what he said. In that moment, It must have been hard to submit to the will of the Lord because I don’t know anyone that could watch the things they saw and not want to save them. I’ll copy in what Alma says. It is verse 11.
“The spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgements which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand against them at the last day.”
The dictionary says that “constraint” is to limit or force but I think there is a connotation of wanting to do something but being unable to because of being limited, forced or restricted. I think Alma wanted to save these people. If you are a missionary or have been, think about the people you’ve served. If they were the ones in place of the women, men, and children, you would want to save them. You would do anything to save them and make it stop. But the only reason Alma didn’t is because the spirit said no, this needs to happen so that the judgment that comes later is justified. Don’t worry, the people that have passed have been saved and are with God. What peace it must have brought amongst such a difficult trials. God didn’t stop the burning, he didn’t free Alma and Amulek from having to continue to watch the horror before them. What he did do is give them peace and strength to endure the trial at hand. It didn’t take away the sorrow but it gave them hope. It
What peace it must have brought amongst such a difficult trials. God didn’t stop the burning, he didn’t free Alma and Amulek from having to continue to watch the horror before them. What he did do is give them peace and strength to endure the trial at hand. It didn’t take away the sorrow but it gave them hope. I think they got this prompting at the beginning of the burnings, I don’t think Alma and Amulek could have watched long without asking this question Which means after they got this spiritual confirmation, they still had to pass through the fiery trial. Oftentimes, in our lives, we have to endure things. Hard things that make us ask God, isn’t there anything I can do to stop this? And then you get the feeling that it will be alright. You get peace. That doesn’t take away the hardship, the tears, the aches, and pains. But it makes them endurable because you got a witness from God that there is a light at the end of a very black tunnel.
The Book of Mormon Shows us There is Good and Evil in the World
Someone once told me, or perhaps I read it somewhere that reading the Book of Mormon with kids is a good thing. What it does is show them the consequences of good and bad choices in relation to following God. But it helps with something else too. What the Book of Mormon does is it shows children that there is evil in the world. That there are bad people who do bad things, even to good people. I don’t know what examples the author or person who told me had in mind but I think this could be one of those times. Going back to what I said about how the Book of Mormon reveals the tactics of Satan. As a kid, you can read this story and realize that God protects the righteous. That the evil and unrighteous will never win, no matter how much they or others think they will.
Cross reference Psalms 37:8-13 and Alma 60:13. The Lord will not suffer the wicked to get away with bad things. Maybe they won’t be punished in this life but God knows all our deeds and one day we will have to account for all of them.
God Protects us Until Our Work is Done
After Alma comforts Amulek, Amulek replies,”Behold, perhaps they will burn us also. ” I’m trying to imagine how Amulek said this. I think they must have been emotional before Alma said what he did. But I think that what Alma said earlier about the saints passing away was confirmed by the Lord and gave them strength to go on. I think they must have still been crying but not as bad as they had before.
Alma says, “Be it according to the will of the Lord. But, behold our work is not finished; therefore they burn us not.” This is an expression of hope and faith. Maybe the Lord in that moment didn’t tell them what was going to happen. But he told them their work wasn’t done. He gave them enough light to keep moving on. Alma and Amulek hadn’t done anything to deserve what happened. It was a trial that came to them as a result of others’ agency. There was nothing that said, “This trial is coming your way, hold on.” and there was nothing they could do to stop it from happening. It was simply a trial of life that came. I used to think that if you were righteous every day of your life that nothing overly bad would happen or tempt you. Until I had a trial that made me ask God, “Why is this happening to me? I’m trying to do the best I can. I haven’t done anything overly bad to deserve it.” What I learned from that was bad things happen. And sometimes you just have to go through t. Do the best you can and learn from it. Trust like Alma did that everything will turn out right because your work ain’t done.
The Chief Judge Mocks the Missionaries
After the fire had consumed everyone and the records as well, the chief judge approaches Alma and Amulek. I wonder how long those two were there? How many hours did they have to watch the fire burn? How long did they have to see burnt and tattered strips of scripture float into the sky? Even if it was a short amount of time, it must have felt like an eternity.
The chief judge of Ammonihah comes up to them and slaps them on the cheek. Then says to them, “After what ye have seen, will ye preach again unto this people, that they shall be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone?”
The slap wasn’t very nice.
Honestly, it probably didn’t bother them too much after what they had just witnessed. This is the first time though that fire and brimstone are mentioned. Cross reference 1 Kings 22:14-27. This is a story of another prophet getting slapped. His name is Michaiah. He gets slapped for telling the truth of what will happen to the wicked King Ahab, rather than following the other 400 prophets who predicted his success in battle.
The chief judge says more. I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll re-write what he says in its entirety using script form.
*Amid the ashes falling from the sky, in the evening of the day, the chief judge of Ammonihah approaches Alma and Amulek with his entourage of courtiers. He stops in front of them with a disgusted look and then slaps them both.*
Chief Judge: After what ye have seen, will ye preach again unto this people that they shall be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone?! Behold, ye see that ye had not power to save those who had been cast into the fire; neither has God saved them because they were of thy faith.
(Not getting a response from Alma and Amulek. Wanting to “wake them up” he slaps them again.)
What say ye for yourselves?!
I haven’t done that before in my notebooks. That was fun. I’ll have to try it again some other time. It helps the story come alive. One thought I’ve had writing about what happened is that the people really didn’t like the part about going to a lake of fire and brimstone. Therefore, in order to show their dislike for what Alma and Amulek were teaching, they (the wicked of Ammonihah) thought it would be clever to make their own “Lake of fire and brimstone” and instead throw all the believers in it. Then make Alma and Amulek watch. Maybe that is why the chief judge singled out that point of doctrine when asking them if they were going to be doing any more preaching in Ammonihah. I can see that being a possibility.
Verse 16 informs us that the judge was after the order and faith of Nehor, the same Nehor who slew Gideon. We haven’t heard about Nehor since the first chapter of Alma. After Nehor died, his doctrine and teachings did not die with him. The doctrine of being popular preachers, being supported by the people and that all mankind should be saved at the last day. We are going to be hearing about people after the order of Nehor till chapter 24. What one man put together in a year, had an effect on the people for about 13 years. Right now, it has been around 10 years since Nehor came around. I wonder if any of this had to do that is was the 10th anniversary year of when Nehorism began? Far stretch? I think so too. I was just wanting to put it out there for thought. I wonder how the order of Nehor evolved over those years.
Why Didn’t Alma and Amulek Answer the Chief Judge’s Questions?
After answering the chief judge nothing, he slaps them again and delivers them to prison. The chief judge slapped them before, during, and after he talked with them. No wonder they couldn’t talk, their mouths must have been quite achy. I wonder what was the reason for their silence. Was it because they were in shock and traumatized from what they had witnessed earlier? Was it because they didn’t want to incriminate themselves further, even though they did nothing wrong?
Cross reference Matthew 27: 12-14. Maybe this can give us a hint of perhaps why Alma and Amulek were quiet. This is Jesus standing before the governor when he is being asked questions. Jesus doesn’t answer either. I think that is Christ had answered it would have just started an argument. One in which he knew would be useless because he knew this was what was supposed to happen. Could Christ have defeated or talked his way out? Yeah, he was perfect. But doing so could have changed the Father’s plan for him. Applying this back to Alma and Amulek now. One might argue it is unfair to compare these three people because Christ is the Son of God and his mission was to perform the Atonement and that isn’t even close to what Alma and Amulek were doing so why didn’t they speak up? I could argue that what Christ did was missionary work on behalf of the universe and since Alma and Amulek were trying to save souls just like Christ. But I’m not going to.
I think the reason both of them stayed quiet is because they had received a witness that their work wasn’t done. They had received a witness that God was over all and was taking care of things. They had inner peace. And that speaking would only stir up a lot of commotion, without which, the plans of Heavenly Father would be brought to pass much more quickly and smoothly.