Enduring Unrighteous Judgment and Unlawful Imprisonment

This post is about Alma and Amulek’s prison experience. After three days of being there, lawyers, judges, priests, teachers, and all of the profession of Nehor come and question them. Nevertheless, the missionaries answer them nothing.

Here we get more into the plague of Ammonihah. It wasn’t just the chief judge that was of the order of Nehor, but lawyers, other judges, priests, and teachers. So you have no only the administrative side of the city under Nehorism, but also the “religious” side as well. Those that had the most influence in the society were advocating becoming popular due to teachings, being supported by the people, and that all mankind should be saved at the last day. Materialism mixed with religion. 

Remember the Trouble Nehor Caused?

Imagine back to Alma chapter 1 and the disturbance Nehor caused. In Alma chapter 1 it talks about how Nehor’s teachings were pleasing unto the people and they began to support him and give him money. Even wearing costly apparel due to the teachings. The people were funding their own destruction. Did they know it? Maybe some did. Others probably felt it was a good way to live and didn’t consider the long-term consequences this would have on the people. Luckily, Alma and the people put a stop to it and hung him. Unfortunately, this problem continued to swell in Ammonihah. I have two quotes I want to copy in. One is from the Book of Mormon Institute Manual that is no longer used. The other from the New Testament institute manual.

The first quote comes from Ezra Taft Benson:

“As people of the free world, we are increasingly upholding many of the evils of the adversary today. By court edict godless conspirators can run for government office, teach in our schools, hold office in labor unions, work in our defense plants, serve in our merchant marines, etc… As a nation, we are helping to underwrite many evil revolutionaries in our country.”

And the quote from the New Testament manual. This is from Joseph Fielding Smith:

“Satan has control now. No matter where you loook, he is in control. Even in our own land. He is guiding governments as far as the Lord will permit him. That is why there is so much strife, turmoil, and confusion all over the Earth. One mastermind is governing the nations. It is not the President of the United States; it is not Hitler; it is not Mussolini; it is not the King or government of England or any other land; it is Satan himself.”

Hopefully, those both gave you food for thought. In short, whether the people knew it or not, Satan was running Ammonihah.

Alma and Amulek are Mocked

Even though the missionaries didn’t answer, one judge steps forward and asks, “Why do ye not answer the words of this people? Know ye not that I have power to deliver you up unto the flames?” He commands them to speak but they continue to remain silent. Let’s examine how this judge words the question.

First off, I bet this was the same judge that sentenced these two to watch the fire. That’s why he’d bring it up again. Anyway, at first he says, “Why don’t you answer the words of this people” Maybe I’m misunderstanding this, it is possible, I’ve done it before. It seems to me the judge is attempting to speak on behalf of the people. As far as I know, Alma and Amulek have answered all the questions put to them by the people. It was only after watching the martyrdom they quite talking and since then, only officials have talked to them. Not the general populace. He is exaggerating the circumstances to attempt to make them feel in the wrong and begin talking. Fortunately, his tactic doesn’t work. As we discussed in the last post, it would have just made things harder.

The judges and others depart but come and do the same thing the next day. If they have time to come every day and do this, they aren’t running the city for sure. Not that they care. This around, their visitors say, “Will ye stand again and judge this people and condemn our law? If ye have such great power why do ye not deliver yourselves?”

How to Judge Righteously

I know I’ve written on judging before but I’ll do it again because it has been a long time. The JST of the New Testament verse Matthew 7:2 says to judge righteous judgment. Did Alma and Amulek judge righteously? You bet. They were intervening on behalf of the spiritual welfare of the city because God was about to rain down his judgments upon them.

It may prove helpful to use two examples to illustrate what exactly righteous judgment is. I think it was either Dallin H. Oaks or Robert D. Hales that spoke on this during conference once. He talked about how we have to judge people every day. But these should only be intermediate judgments, not final judgments. Christ will be the one dishing out final decisions. The example he used was a person coming towards you with a gun. You would judge that person to be unsafe and proceed to flee in order to protect your life. Intermediate judgment, not a final judgment. The example I have and came up with myself is that you can judge people as long as you don’t let that judgment shape your vision of who they are or who they can become. Intermediate judgments don’t restrict, merely allow us to continue on with our course in life.

In addition, to thinking Alma and Amulek are judging them, the city officials imply they are self-righteous as well. Mocking them by saying, “Oh, if you are so high and mighty and righteous, why don’t you have the power to deliver yourselves?” When people are like this I just want to slap them and say, “Really? Nincompoop. Why are you being like this?” But of course, I don’t do or say those things. People just misunderstand. And their misunderstanding gets in the way of them understanding. That’s probably how Heavenly Father feels all the time with us. But he’s patient with us so I’ll be patient with others.

The Mockers Gnash Their Teeth at the Prisoners

The people gnash their teeth and spit and ask them, “How shall we look when we are damned?” I like to translate gnash as snarled. Like a dog. But I just looked up snarl in the dictionary and it is synonymous with bark. As much as I would like to think they were dogs, I don’t think they were barking. My translation isn’t fitting and I need to a better word. Maybe they exhibited their teeth? Displayed them? Paraded them around? That last one had a funny mental image. I think I’ll just have to stick with they gnashed their teeth. That seems to capture the scene the best.

I imagine this scene in a very interesting way. When they are being taunted I imagine everyone looks like little devils coming up to them making faces and asking them the question of how they’ll look when they are damned. I imagine it in a comical way, but also in a not so comical way. I imagine this is what Hell would be like if someone wandered there into Ammonihah or in this case, was sent to preach there. They are not only rejected but locked up and made fun of for their beliefs. Talk about great and spacious building people.

Talk about great and spacious building people.

No One Knows What to Expect When They Leave on a Mission

The city officials mocked them, withheld food and water from them, took their clothes off, and bound them with strong cords for many days.

Their missionary call letter stated none of this. Granted, most missionaries don’t go through what these two did. Nevertheless, one cannot fully comprehend the things he has to bear during a mission at the time of submitting papers. I’ve been rained on, flooded on, burned in the sun, hit by vehicles, had doors slammed in my face, people running away from me, people telling me to go home, sought out by the government to cast me out, and more. None of that was in my call packet!

At the same time, though, it doesn’t list all the good things that have happened. The call letter doesn’t talk about the amazing people you will meet. It doesn’t talk about the testimony you will build, or the friends you will make, or the skills you will learn. It doesn’t convey fully the joy you’ll have. Or all the funny times. And you know, for all the bad times you have, you always remember the good times. I bet for Alma and Amulek, even this experience faded into the background, replaced by joyous memories.

A Season for These Trials in Prison

They were in prison for many days but on the 12th day of the 10th month in the 10th year of the reign of the judges, something different happened. If they are using the ancient Jewish calendar, the 10th month would be Tebeth, which is from halfway through December to half way through January. I don’t know if the days match up but if they do and the ancient Nephites were going by this system, then we could be talking anywhere from Christmas time to New Year’s our time. Which makes all these trials a lot more difficult to endure since it’s winter time in America. I don’t know if, well I guess not. I was going to write this would be hard to go through because it’s Christmas time and all the Nephite families would be gathered together for Christmas. But I realized Christmas didn’t exist.

That was disappointing.

I want to say there was something special about this time of year or pre-Christmases but I don’t know. Maybe it was a special time. I’m sure Alma saw forward to Christ’s day and ahead to people celebrating Christ’s birth. Maybe it was a family tradition for Alma because he knew what was coming. If it was me, I would have told everyone about Christmas.

The Loneliness of Joseph as a Parallel for Alma and Amulek

But I digress. Joseph Smith was put in Liberty Jail on the first of December 1838. He spent months there under harsh conditions. Section 121 details some of the thoughts, prayers, and prophecies he had while being held there. I’m going to copy in some verse from 121.

“Oh God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea, thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?

Yea, oh Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened towards them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion towards them? O Lord God Almighty, maker of Heaven, Earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controlleth and subjecteth the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol–stretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy pavilion be taken up; let thy hiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine heart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion towards us.

Let thine anger be kindled against our enemies; and, in the fury of thine heart, with thy sword avenge us of our wrongs. Remember thy suffering saints, O our God; and thy servants will rejoice in thy name forever.”

That is D&C 121:1-6. Words which Joseph Smith penned and felt. I think these words convey the depth of his sadness and loneliness. Even a prophet gets sad sometimes. I think the words of Joseph Smith may describe the feelings of Alma and Amulek not only as they watched the innocent saints burn, but also as they spent their time in prison. The prayer that Joseph Smith said, may have been similar to a prayer that Alma and Amulek said. I’m going to continue copying what the Lord says to Joseph in reply because I think a similar response may have been given to Alma and Amulek. This is D&C 121:7-25.

“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.

Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job.

And they who do charge thee with transgression, their hope shall be blasted, and their prospects shall melt away as the hoar frost melteth before the burning rays of the rising sun; and also that God hath set his hand and seal to change the times and seasons, and to blind their minds, that they may not understand his marvelous workings; that he may prove them also and take them in their own craftiness; also because their hearts are corrupted, and the things which they ar willing to bring upon others, and love to have others suffer, may come upon themselves to the very uttermost; that they may be disappointed also, and their hopes may be cut off; and not many years hence, that they and their posterity shall be swept from under heaven, saith God, that not one of them is left to stand by the wall.

Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine annointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinner when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them.

But those who cry transgression do it because they are servants of sin, and are the children of disobedience themselves.

And those who swear falsely against my servants, that they might bring them into bondage and death– wo unto them; because they have offended my little ones, they shall be severed from the ordinances of mine house.

Their basket shall not be full, their houses and their barns shall perish, and they themselves shall be despised by those that flattered them.

They shall not have right to the priesthood, nor their posterity from generation to generation.

It had been better for them that a millstone had been hanged about their necks, and they drowned in the depths of the sea.

Wo unto all those that discomfort my people, and drive, and murder, and testify against them, said the Lord of Hosts; a generation of vipers shall not escape the damnations of Hell.

Behold, mine eyes see and know all their works, and I have in reserve a swift judgment in the season thereof, for them all; for there is a time appointed for every man, according as his works shall be. “

I think this fits really well if you think of it in the context of Alma and Amulek’s experience in Ammonihah. I bet God said something similar to this to Alma while they were forced to watch the martyrdom. Maybe that’s why he said that their work wasn’t finished and that the people would burn them not. I imagine this scripture brought a lot of peace to Joseph Smith while he was in prison and I’m sure that what God spoke to Alma and Amulek brought peace.

The Difference Between the Peace God Gives and the Peace Man Gives

A thought just came to mind. How is it that you can get peace from something God tells you but not peace from someone else who says the same thing in the same circumstances? That sounds a little confusing.

Let me illustrate

If you were locked up in prison and your friend says, “It is going to be ok (by the way, he is locked up with you.)” It may be hard to take comfort in that, perhaps, at least, long-term speaking. But if God told both of you that everything would be ok, even though you both were in prison, you would be comforted till the trial was over. Why is that?

Here is what I think.

In Lectures on Faith, it talks about one prerequisite to having faith is understanding correctly the nature of God. In this instance, I think God’s attributes of omniscience and omnipotence are helpful. Knowing that God is all powerful would allow you to believe that he had the power to deliver you from prison. Know that he was all knowing would allow you to believe that you were going to be delivered. You could believe 100% there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Because He who has all power and all knowledge of things past, present, and future said so. Whereas on the flip side, if your friend said the same thing, you couldn’t be sure because you wouldn’t know how to get out or when you were going to be let out. And the guarantee isn’t there. Now that I think about it, the only difference is the guarantee or not. If God says it will happen, it will. If your friend says it will be ok and that you’ll get out, you hope it will be so but there is no guarantee. Therefore, if we know the attributes of God, we can begin to have faith in him.

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