Book of Mormon Lesson 23 (Alma 8–12).
ALMA & AMULEK IN AMMONIHAH
Alma Begins His Missionary Journeys
Alma had delivered up the judgment seat to Nephihah and begun his missionary journeys, attempting to reclaim the people from their materialism and wickedness. He sought to accomplish this by preaching true principles and by bearing down in pure testimony” (Alma 4:19).
“Alma then [went] to the major cities of the land to accomplish his purpose—to Zarahemla, Gideon, Melek, Ammonihah, Sidom, among the Zoramites, and eventually to Jershon. Much of Alma’s record is composed of the great doctrinal discourses preached by Alma and his companions in their efforts to reclaim this people. It was a labor of many years and demanded the utmost of Alma’s faith and perseverance.”1
THE MISSION TO AMMONIHAH
Alma Is Rejected at Ammonihah
When Alma finished teaching in Gideon, he rested and then went briefly to Melek (Alma 8:1–7). From there he went on to the wicked city of Ammonihah, about 3 days journey north of Melek (Alma 8:6–7). This was at the commencement of the tenth year of the reign of judges, approximately 82 BC. Like many other Nephite cities, Ammonihah bore the name of the most prominent person who first inhabited it—in this case, evidently, a man named Ammon (v. 7).
Dr. Hugh Nibley said, “A large proportion of Book of Mormon names end in -iah and -ihah. The same ending is peculiar to Palestinian names of Lehi’s time but not so prevalent other times” (An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd ed. , 3rd ed. , 3rd ed. , 3rd ed. , 283). “At the time of Lehi, there was a new revival movement begun in Israel led by Josiah. These names that ended in -ihah in Israel at that time are Jehovah names. . . . Ihah is another form of the name. . . . You find it in Aramaic too.”2
Alma was reviled and rejected in Ammonihah and departed toward the city of Aaron (Alma 8:8–13). Ammonihah was dominated by people who were of the “order of Nehors”—the same philosophy that had led to Nehor’s death for committing murder (Alma 1:1–20) and the deaths of Amlici and his followers when they rebelled against Nephite government (Alma 2:1–31). Alma “labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance” (v. 10).
The people knew who Alma was—the high priest of the Church—but they were “not of thy church, and we do not believe in such foolish traditions” (v. 11). They also knew that he was the former chief judge, but since he had given up that seat to Nephihah “therefore thou art not the chief judge over us” (v. 12). They reviled him, spit on him, and cast him out of their city (v. 13).
An angel appeared to Alma and commanded him to return to Ammonihah and warn them of their destruction unless they repent. He returned “speedily” to the city that had only recently rejected him (Alma 8:13–18).
Alma Meets Amulek in Ammonihah
Alma met Amulek in the city, who had been commanded by an angel to receive him. He fed him and offered him shelter (Alma 8:19–22). Amulek later told his side of the story (Alma 10:7–11). Alma dwelt awhile at Amulek’s home where he blessed his family and prepared Amulek to be his missionary companion (Alma 8:27–32).
Alma Prophesies Ammonihah’s Destruction
The people rejected Alma’s warnings because he is only “one witness” (Alma 9:1–6). Alma reminded the people of Ammonihah of the history of their own people. God had preserved Lehi’s family in the wilderness, but had also warned his descendants of destruction if they became wicked (Alma 9:7–11). Alma warned that if the wicked Nephites of Ammonihah did not repent, the day of judgment would be “more tolerable” for the Lamanites than for them (Alma 9:12–24; D&C 82:1–3).
— They had received knowledge about the past, present, and future (v. 20).
— They had been visited by the Spirit of God (v. 21).
— They had conversed with angels, heard the voice of the Lord, and had the spirit of prophecy (v. 21).
— They had received many gifts of the Spirit (v. 21).
— They had been spared time after time by the Lord (v. 22).
— They had been blessed with material possessions (v. 22).
How might we compare to these Nephites? Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “We are the Lord’s people, his Saints, those to whom he has given much and from whom he expects much in return. We know the terms and conditions of the plan of salvation—how Christ died for our sins and what we must do to reap the full blessings of his atoning sacrifice. We have covenanted in the waters of baptism to love and serve him, to keep his commandments, and to put first in our lives the things of his kingdom. In return he has promised us eternal life in his Father’s kingdom. We are thus in a position to receive and obey some of the higher laws which prepare us for that eternal life which we so sincerely seek. . . . Now, I think it is perfectly clear that the Lord expects far more of us than we sometimes render in response. We are not as other men. We are the Saints of God and have the revelations of heaven. Where much is given much is expected (D&C 82:3; Luke 12:48).”3
Alma challenged the people to repent in preparation for the judgments that would occur at the time of the Lord’s coming among the Nephite people—less than a century away (Alma 9:25–29).
Amulek—A Second Witness
Amulek reminded the people that he is one of them—a citizen of “no small reputation.” This should have made him an impressive witness (Alma 10:1–4).
— We do not know who Aminadi was, nor do we have any record of this incident concerning the finger of the Lord writing on the temple wall (v. 2)
— We learn here that Lehi was a descendant of Manasseh (v. 3).
— Like other proud Ammonihah residents, Amulek had gloried in his accomplishments as a “self-made” man (v. 4).
From Amulek’s comment that he “was called many times and would not hear” we can conclude that he may have received but ignored spiritual impressions. It is possible to shut out the Spirit by not listening (Alma 10:5–6). President Joseph F. Smith said, “I believe there are tens of thousands of people who have heard the truth and have been pricked in their hearts, but they are seeking every refuge they possibly can to hide themselves from their convictions of the truth.”4
Things the Prophet Joseph Smith Might Have Taught Us
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “There are a great many wise men and women too in our midst who are too wise to be taught; therefore they must die in their ignorance, and in the resurrection they will find their mistake. Many seal up the door of heaven by saying, [Only] so far God may reveal and I will believe.”5
The Prophet continued, “There has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock [tree] knots with a corn-dodger [pancake] for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle [hammer]. Even the Saints are slow to understand. I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen.”6
The Prophet said toward the end of his life, “Would to God, brethren, I could tell you who I am! Would to God I could tell you what I know! But you would call it blasphemy, and there are men upon this stand who would want to take my life . . . If the Church knew all the commandments, one-half they would reject through prejudice and ignorance . . . When God offers a blessing, or knowledge to a man, and he refuses to receive it, he will be damned.”7
Amulek’s powerful “second witness” astonished the people (Alma 10:10–12). But the lawyers who questioned Amulek were not interested in truth, only in trapping him in his words so they could destroy him (Alma 10:13–16). Amulek rebuked the lawyers and warned that they were laying the foundation of the destruction of the people (Alma 10:17–21, 27).
The Prayers of the Righteous
Amulek spoke of the effect that the prayers of righteous people have upon a nation (Alma 10:22–23). This same principle kept the Nephites from being destroyed 22 years later during the days of Captain Moroni. (Alma 62:40; Helaman 13:12–14).
President Spencer W. Kimball said, “Our world is now much the same as it was in the days of the Nephite prophet who said: ` . . . if it were not for the prayers of the righteous . . . ye would even now be visited with utter destruction’ (Alma 10:22). Of course, there are many upright and faithful who live all the commandments and whose lives and prayers keep the world from destruction.”8
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “I do not know that things were worse in the times of Sodom and Gomorrah. . . . We see similar conditions today. They prevail all across the world. I think our Father must weep as He looks down upon His wayward sons and daughters.”9 “We live in a season when fierce men do terrible and despicable things. We live in a season of war. We live in a season of arrogance. We live in a season of wickedness, pornography, immorality. All of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah haunt our society. Our young people have never faced a greater challenge. We have never seen more clearly the lecherous face of evil. And so, my brothers and sisters, we are met together in this great conference to fortify and strengthen one another, to help and lift one another, to give encouragement and build faith, to reflect on the wonderful things the Lord has made available to us, and to strengthen our resolve to oppose evil in whatever form it may take.”10
AMULEK CONTENDS WITH ZEEZROM
The Nephite Monetary System
As part of explaining how much the lawyers were paid, Amulek described the Nephite monetary system (Alma 11:3–19). It was based on a barley standard (vv. 7–10). Their basic units (“coins”) had values of 1, 2, 4, 7. As it turns out, this the most efficient numbering system known to man, since no other combination will require fewer “coins” for any sum paid or received.
John W. Welch said, “The beauty of this mathematical configuration is its simplicity. The values of 1, 2, 4, and 7 can be expressed with the use of a single piece, and the values 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, and 14 can be achieved with only two, while values of 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, and 18 can all be formed by using only 3 in combination. Not until one exceeds 13 does one need two of the same weights.”11
In our modern age, computer calculating systems have been built around the values of 1, 2, 4, and 7. Joseph Smith did not and could not have simply guessed the efficiency of this system. And a similar system of weights and measures, utilizing four small cups that fit inside one another, is still in use today in Mesoamerica in the local markets.12
The Dialogue Between Zeezrom and Amulek (Alma 11:21–40)
Zeezrom tempted Amulek with money if he would deny God’s existence, but Amulek condemned him for his dishonesty (vv. 21–25). He knew full well that Zeezrom was lying and would not pay him; it was a trick. Zeezrom then tried to show contradictions in Amulek’s teachings (vv. 26–35).
Amulek said we cannot be saved “in our sins” because no unclean thing can dwell with God. We must be redeemed from sin (vv. 36–37). Having lost those points, Zeezrom changed the subject back to the nature of God. He asked if the Savior is the “Eternal Father.” Amulek said that He is the “father of heaven and earth.” But he made it clear that he was speaking of the Savior who will come to earth to redeem us (vv. 38–40).
The First Presidency has explained, “Jehovah, who is Jesus Christ the Son of Elohim, is called ‘the Father,’ and even ‘the very eternal Father of heaven and of earth’ because he is the Maker, the Organizer, the Creator of the heavens and the earth.”13
Amulek’s Teachings Concerning Redemption and Resurrection (Alma 11:40–45)
Regarding redemption, Amulek taught that the unrepentant wicked cannot be redeemed from sin (vv. 40–41).
Regarding the resurrection, Amulek taught that all people (wicked and righteous) will be resurrected, and they will all will stand before God in their bodies to be judged (vv. 41–42, 44). Amulek also taught that our bodies will be restored to their “perfect frame.”
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Death is a purifying process as far as the body is concerned. We have reason to believe that the appearance of old age will disappear and the body will be restored with the full vigor of manhood and womanhood. Children will arise as children, for there is no growth in the grave. Children will continue to grow until they reach the full stature of their spirits.”14
President Joseph F. Smith said, “Deformity will be removed; defects will be eliminated, and men and women shall attain to the perfection of their spirits, to the perfection that God designed in the beginning.’ . . . The physical defects, some of which may have resulted before birth, are defects which are due to some physical and mortal condition and not an inheritance from the spirit world.”15
Amulek said we will have a “bright recollection” of all our doings in this life (v. 43).
President Joseph F. Smith said, “May I say to you that in reality a man cannot forget anything? He may have a lapse of memory; he may not be able to recall at the moment a thing that he knows, or words that he has spoken; he may not have the power at his will to call up these events and words; but let God Almighty touch the mainspring of the memory, and awaken recollection, and you will find then that you have not even forgotten a single idle word that you have spoken! I believe the word of God to be true, and, therefore, I warn the youth of Zion, as well as those who are advanced in years, to beware of saying wicked things, of speaking evil, and taking in vain the name of sacred things and sacred beings. Guard your words, that you may not offend even man, much less offend God.”16
Finally, Amulek taught that reunited spirits and bodies will never die again (vv. 44–45).
Alma Condemns Hard-Heartedness
After Amulek had answered Zeezrom’s contentions, Zeezrom “began to tremble.” Seeing this, Alma began to speak to support what Amulek had just taught concerning the Atonement (Alma 11:46–12:2). Satan sometimes deceives one person in order to bring many people to destruction. Recognizing this, Zeezrom began to fear for his own salvation (Alma 12:3–8).
How Revelation and Understanding Are Given
Much of what Alma and Amulek were teaching had been given to them by revelation. Alma observed that we must be careful to keep sacred some of the revelations we receive (Alma 12:9).
Elder Boyd K. Packer said: “A teacher must be wise also in the use of his own spiritual experiences. I have come to believe that deep spiritual experiences are given to individuals for the most part for their own instruction and edification, and they are not ordinarily to be talked about. I heard one member of the First Presidency [Marion G. Romney] say once, ‘I do not tell all I know. I have not told my wife all I know. I have found that if I tell everything I know and explain every experience that I have had, the Lord will not trust me.’ There is also a scripture that says: ‘Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.’ (Matthew 7:6). Sacred personal experiences are to be related only on rare occasions.”17
Alma also taught that revelation and understanding comes gradually over time—“line upon line”—and therefore, “he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word” (Alma 12:10). People who apostatize lose the understanding that they once had (Alma 12:11). The Savior taught this same principle when he gave the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:12).
The Wicked on the Day of Judgment
Alma explained the basis on which we will be judged: (Alma 12:12–14)
— By our words
— By our works
— By our thoughts
The wicked will wish to be extinct rather than face God (Alma 12:14–15). Alma himself had felt this way many years earlier when the angel had shown him his sins (Alma 36:15). Alma taught that the wicked will inherit a “lake of fire” (Alma 12:16–18), and by this he meant the tremendous remorse of conscience for wickedness that will be like a never-ending torment in a lake of fire.
The Plan of Redemption
Alma spoke next concerning the Fall of Adam and the plan of redemption (Alma 12:22–35). There is, perhaps, no other place in all of scripture where these principles are as plainly explained as they are here in Alma’s summary.
—The Fall of Adam: Adam fell by partaking of the forbidden fruit and thereby created a lost and fallen state into which all mankind was born (v. 22).
—A time of probation: As part of God’s plan for fallen man, “there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state. . .” (vv. 24–26) We have the same opportunity in our own lives (D&C 29:41–44).
—Death: The plan of redemption was made before the earth was made, and death and resurrection were always part of that plan As a result “death comes upon mankind . . . the temporal death” (vv. 23–25).
—Resurrection and judgment: God saw to it that death would not be the final end of men, by providing a resurrection. And after that resurrection, “they must come to judgment” (vv. 25, 27).
—Revelation and knowledge: God knew “that it was expedient that man should know concerning the things whereof he had appointed unto them.” (v. 28). To provide this knowledge, “he sent angels to converse with them, who caused men to behold of his glory” (v. 29). But man’s ability to receive this revelation was only “according to their faith and repentance and their holy works” (vv. 28–30).
—Agency: Having given commandments to Adam and Eve “as to things which were temporal” (regarding the fruit and its effect upon their bodies), they chose to partake of the fruit anyway. By so doing they became “as Gods, knowing good from evil, placing themselves in a state to act . . . according to their wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good” (v. 31).
—Choices: Agency is useless unless there are choices, and for Adam and Eve there would have been no such choices if God had not given them commandments. Now, after the Fall, having received new commandments from God, they were truly free to choose (v. 32). They had sufficient experience to know the difference between good and evil and could therefore make an informed choice.
—Justice and mercy: Under these conditions, there is equal treatment of all of God’s children under the plan of redemption (v. 32). This is the principle of justice. At the same time, God said: “If ye will repent and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you, through mine Only Begotten Son” (v. 33)—the principle of mercy.
Alma then concluded his admonition to the people of Ammonihah (Alma 12:36–37).
1. Alma, the Testimony of the Word, Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr., eds.,, 3.
2. “Teachings of the Book of Mormon— Semester 1,” Transcripts of Lectures Presented to an Honors Book of Mormon Class at Brigham Young University [1988–1990], 263.
3. “Obedience, Consecration, and Sacrifice,” Conference Address, April 5, 1975, Ensign, May 1975, 50–51.
4. Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 360–361.
5. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 309.
6. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 331.
7. In Elder Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball , 322–323.
8. “Voices of the Past, of the Present, of the Future,” Ensign, June 1971, 6.
9. “Standing Strong and Immovable,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, 10 Jan. 2004, 20.
10. “Living in the Fulness of Times,” General conference Address, October 2001, Ensign, Nov. 2001, 4–5.
11. “Weighing and Measuring in the Worlds of the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Volume: 8, Issue: 2 , 36–46.
12. Joseph L. Allen, Sacred Sites: Searching for Book of Mormon Lands , 52.
13. In James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. [1965–75], 5:27.
14. Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–64:185, 187, 189.
15. Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 23–24.
16. “A Sermon on Purity,” Improvement Era, May 1903, 503–504.
17. Teach Ye Diligently , 326.