“More Than One Witness”
Alma’s Labors in Melek
8:1 “..many things which cannot be written..” Grant Hardy calls this editorial interruption an “omission”
8:1, 4 “..order of the Church…holy order of God..” Is there a difference in these two orders? What does Mormon implicitly or explicitly mean in his use of the word “order”?
8:5 In Alma’s preachings in Zarahemla and Gideon, he mentions the need to be baptized and /or be born again. It is only in his visit to Melek that Mormon actually records baptisms. Is this because there was no previous church in the Land of Melek?
Alma’s Mission to Ammonihah: Alma 8:6-15:2
Failure in Ammonihah: Alma 8:6-11
8:7 “..now it was the custom of the people of Nephites..” This is an editorial interruption that Grant Palmer calls an “explanatory detail.”
8:10, 11 It appears that the Ammonihahites were not members of the “church” that Almahad established. This is indicated by Almas‘s desire to baptize them and the fact that the Ammonihahites stated they were not of Alma’s church. However, are we to assume all of the Ammonihahites were not part of the church? In the previous three cities in which Almahad preached, the church was established there; we know this despite his desire to baptize (what appear to be) people who were already members of the church.
“…according to your tradition…” Are the Ammonihahites speaking of the Nephite tradition? Or are they speaking of another tradition specific to Almaand his church? The former would actually make the Ammonihahites “Lamanites” according to Alma 3:11 .
An Angel commands Almato Return to Ammonihah: Alma 8:14-17
8:14, 15 Same angel that visited Almathat led to his conversion.
8:17 “..they do study at this time that they may destroy the liberty of thy people… which he has given unto his people..” First question I have: How does one “study” to take away someone else’s freedom? Second question: Who are Alma’s people? Are they the church? Are they the Nephite people? At one point the angel speaks of Alma’s people. He then speaks of God’s people. Are these necessarily two different groups? If not, why does the angel use a different possessive pronoun when speaking of them?
Amulek Joins Almain Preaching: Alma 8:18-32
8:18 Why did Almanot enter the south entrance in the first place if Ammonihah is north of Melek (Alma 8:6)? It would have made more sense.
8:20 “I am a Nephite..” Why would Amulek need to identify himself as a Nephite, unless the people of Ammonihah were not Nephites?
8:24 compare with Alma 8:1, 4 “…according to the spirit of revelation and prophecy..” vs. “…according to the holy order of God..” If the Ammonihahites were not Nephites and not members of the church while the people of Melek were. Would this explain the different language used in these two verses to explain how Alma preached? Is there something implicit or explicit that Mormon is trying to teach by using these two distinct idioms?
8:31 This sentence offers a preview of what will take place in Alma 14
The Unbelief of the People of Ammonihah: Alma 9:1-6
Notice the shift here from third-person to first-person narrative voice. Apparently Mormon is copying verbatim from Alma’s personal record. The first-person narrative voice ends at Alma 9:34.
9:1-6 Note that their arguments against Almaare different than the ones they previously used. Why would this be? Is it because with the second attempt (presumably unlike the first attempt) Almaactually got some of his message out?
9:4 This prophecy is unfortunately fulfilled in Alma 16:1-3; Alma 16:9-10
Alma’s Sermon at Ammonihah: Alma 9:7-9:30
AlmaRecounts Past Deliverances: Alma 9:7-12
9:8-30 Alma directly quotes King Benjamin’s speech. See Mosiah 2:9-4:30
9:12 The prophecy which was stated in Alma 9:4 is once again repeated.
9:12 “..in nowise inherit the kingdom of God…” This phrasing is found in First Corinthians and Galatians. It occurs nine times in the Book of Mormon, six of which are spoken by Alma (and tow other occurrences within a single sentence – are in the words of his missionary companion Amulek). See: Mosiah 27:26; Alma 5:51; 7:14, 9:12; 11:37 (2x, Amulek); 39:9; 40:26; 3 Nephi 11:38(Jesus); 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 15:50; Galatian 5:21
AlmaContrasts the Nephites and the Lamanites: Alma 9:13-24
9:13 “… keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land…” This saying first occurs in 1 Nephi 2:20-21 and is said some 20 times.
9:14 “…the Lord has been verified in this thing…” It is important for Almato be able to show that god is dependable. Because of his use of the Lamanites as an example, can we now safely assume that the Ammonihahites are not Lamanites?
9:16 For examples of the promises to the Lamanites see: 1 Nephi 13:31,38,39; Jacob 3:6; Enos 1:13-18
9:16,17 ” …traditions…” “Traditions of the Lamanites” and belief in the correct traditions of the Nephites seems to have been the most important criteria in deciding who was or was not a Nephite (apparently this acceptance of traditions was of more significance than actual lineage: see Alma 3:11), but only Zeniff goes to the trouble of specifying exactly what the “traditions of the Lamintes” were. See: Mosiah 1:5; Alma 3:8; 60:32; Helaman 5:51, 15:4)
9:18 This is now the third time that the prophecy of their destruction is being stated.
9:19 “…to destroy his people…might destroy all his people who are called the people of Nephi…” This is leading me more and more to believe that the Ammonihahites were indeed Nephites and not Lamanites.
9:20-23 With Almagiving a long list of Nephite blessings, he shifts the emphasis of his discourse from solely the transgressions of the Ammonihahites (we still don’t know what their transgressions were) to the impact that their unrighteousness will have on Nephite civilization.
9:22 “..after having been delivered of God…have been brought out of bondage…” This type of idiom is unique to Alma. No other Book of Mormon prophet seems to use this “captivity” idiom when speaking. See: Alma 5:6; Alma 29:12; 36:2; 36:29
AlmaQuotes an Angel: Alma 9:25-30
Compare 9:26 (“…patience, mercy, longsuffering…”) with the earlier passages about their destruction. These to points seemed to be summarized in the poetic form found in the last part of 9:29 where again Almatakes righteousness and its rewards and compares them to evil and its rewards.
9:26; Alma 5:50, 51 “…not many days hence the Son of God..” These ambiguous passages in which Alma is speaking obviously refers to a postresurrectoin appearance, but it is not clear whether it would be in the Old or New World.
The Reaction of the People of Ammonihah: Alma 9:31-33
9:31 “..hard-hearted and a stiffnecked people.” Alma never uses these exact words, but see Alma 9:5.
9:33 In chapter 14 they are cast into prison however.
Amulek Addresses the Crowd: Alma 9:34-10:11
9:34 “And now the words of Amulek are not all written…” This is an editorial interruption that Grant Hardy calls an “omission”.
10: 2 “..writing which was upon the wall of the temple..” Nothing more is known of this event. Was it the temple that Nephi built?
10:3 Here we learn of Lehi’s lineage.
Lawyers Attempt to Destroy Almaand Amulek: Alma 10:12-16
10:12 “…astonished, seeing there was more than one witness who testified …” Why would two witnesses make the Ammonihahites astonished?
Amulek Rebukes the Lawyers: Alma 10:17-23
10:23 “…if ye will cast out the righteous from among you…” The people of Ammonihah do precisely this in Alma 14:7 & Alma 15:1.
“…then ye shall be smitten by famine, and by pestilence,…” This prophecy is fulfilled in Alma 15:1-2
Amulek’s Words are Misconstrued: Alma 10:14-32
10:27 “…of your lawyers and your judges..” These judges must be different than the ones from Zarahemla. It shows that there is some independence among the Nephite city=states.
A Digression on the Nephite Legal and Monetary Systems: Alma 11:1-20
Notice that the word “coin” is never used when discussing the Nephite monetary system. It has been suggested that the mention of coins in the text is an anachronism. If the word “coin” was actually employed in the the Book of Mormon text itself, it would be anachronistic.
What was used as money in Mesoamerica? The cocoa bean. Was metal ever used as currency?
The Maya did have a currency system, and used cacao beans, gold, copper bells, jade, and oyster shell beads as forms of money. (http://tarlton.law.utexas.edu/exhibits/aztec/maya_commercial.html)
11:4 This is an editorial interruption by Mormon that Grant Hardy calls an “explanatory detail.”
11:7 Barley is anachronistic. It did not exist in Mesoamerica.
Zeezrom Questions Amulek: Alma 11:21-37
11:24 “Believest thou that there is no God?” The way that Amulek presents this question is very important logically. For he is asking a question about belief, not non-belief. To understand the significance of the question requires some exploration into the definition of atheism.
Atheism is the belief that God does not exist. This is different from lacking a belief in God, or saying one doesn’t believe in God. The latter is sometimes called “presumption of atheism”. It is the idea that if you cannot prove theism, then atheism is true by default. There is an important logical difference between believing that there is no God and not believing that there is a God. Compare this saying, “I believe that there is no gold on Mars” with saying “I do not believe that there is gold on Mars.” If I have no opinion on the matter, then I do not believe that there is gold on Mars. There’s a difference between saying, “I do not believe (p)” and “I believe (not-p).” Logically where you place the negation makes a world of difference.
There’s a history behind this. Certain atheists in the mid-twentieth century were promoting the so-called “presumption of atheism.” At face value, this would appear to be the claim that in the absence of evidence for the existence of God, we should presume that God does not exist. Atheism is a sort of default position, and the theist bears a special burden of proof with regard to his belief that God exists.
So understood, such an alleged presumption is clearly mistaken. For the assertion that “There is no God” is just as much a claim to knowledge as is the assertion that “There is a God.” Therefore, the former assertion requires justification just as the latter does. It is the agnostic who makes no knowledge claim at all with respect to God’s existence. He confesses that he doesn’t know whether there is a God or whether there is no God.
But when you look more closely at how protagonists of the presumption of atheism used the term “atheist,” you discover that they are defining the word in a non-standard way, synonymous with “non-theist.” So understood, the term would encompass agnostics and traditional atheists, along with those who think the question meaningless (verificationists). As Antony Flew confesses:
The word ‘atheist’ has in the present context to be construed in an unusual way. Nowadays it is normally taken to mean someone who explicitly denies the existence . . . of God . . . But here it has to be understood not positively but negatively, with the originally Greek prefix ‘a-’ being read in this same way in ‘atheist’ as it customarily is in . . . words as ‘amoral’ . . . . In this interpretation an atheist becomes not someone who positively asserts the non-existence of God, but someone who is simply not a theist. (A Companion to Philosophy of Religion, ed. Philip Quinn and Charles Taliaferro [Oxford: Blackwell, 1997], s.v. “The Presumption of Atheism,” by Antony Flew)
Such a re-definition of the word “atheist” trivializes the claim of the presumption of atheism, for on this definition, atheism ceases to be a view. It is merely a psychological state which is shared by people who hold various views or no view at all. On this re-definition, even babies, who hold no opinion at all on the matter, count as atheists! In fact, our dog counts as an atheist on this definition, since he has (to my knowledge) no belief in God. One would still require justification in order to know either that God exists or that He does not exist, which is the question we’re really interested in.
So why, you might wonder, would atheists be anxious to so trivialize their position? Here I believe that a deceptive game is being played by many atheists. If atheism is taken to be a view, namely the view that there is no God, then atheists must shoulder their share of the burden of proof to support this view. But many atheists admit freely that they cannot sustain such a burden of proof. So they try to shirk their epistemic responsibility by re-defining atheism so that it is no longer a view but just a psychological condition which as such makes no assertions. They are really closet agnostics who want to claim the mantle of atheism without shouldering its responsibilities. And, that is why Amulek’s question to Zeezrom is so very important.
Amulek Explains the Resurrection: Alma 11:38-46
11:38 “Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father?..Yea, he is their very Eternal Father in heaven…” This sounds very much like Abinadi’s theology. I explored this in Lesson 18. The following comes from my post on Book of Mormon Lesson 18:
Christ as the Father and the Son
Mosiah 15 contains some confusing verses. It has been argued by some that it contains a clear Trinitarian Doctrine suggesting that this was what Joseph Smith Jr. originally held to and that the different versions of the First Vision confirm this earlier Trinitarian belief.
To understand the Mormon view of God the Father and God the Son, it helps to understand the Trinitarian Doctrine and it’s history. The Council of Nicaea was held to determine how Jesus could be both divine and human and to determine how Jesus and God the Father are one. Two opposing views were presented. To understand the differences, we have to understand the two Greek words that were being discussed: homoousios and heteroosius. Homoousios means “of the same substance” while heteroosius means “of different substance.” The debate was whether Jesus was homoousios with the Father or heteroousios with the Father. Was Jesus begotten or created? Just like a child who is begotten of his parents, contains the same genetic material and therefore is of the same substance and nature, it was argued by the early church father Athanasius, that Jesus was begotten and thus of the same substance as the Father; cats beget kittens, dogs beget puppies. Arius (who was later decreed a heretic) claimed that Jesus was not begotten, but created by the Father. Thus he was not of the same substance. The difference would be an artist creating a painting (not of the same substance and nature as the artist) vs. the artist having a child (of the same substance and nature) . There was a third view that was also presented to the Council of Nicea; a sort of the middle road view. It claimed that Jesus was homoisos with the Father, or of “similar substance”. What’s the difference between homoisis and homoousios? The Greek letter “iota” . So when people use the idiom, “I don’t give one iota,” it is a reference to the Council of Nicaea and the debate that went on there. The view that won was that Jesus was homoousios with the Father and from that we get the Nicene Creed – one God, three different persons. This is theologically different from saying three distinct beings.
How does that differ from the Mormon view of the God Head? I would argue that Mormons hold to the view that Jesus is homoousios with the Father, but they are two distinct beings. Jesus was begotten in a pre-extence. I would argue that Mormonism teaches that all humans, to some extent, are also homoousios with our Father in Heaven. Our spirits were not merely created, but begotten as well. We existed in some kind of metaphysical form that was co-eternal with the Father called “intelligence.” We can see how logical our doctrine of deification would be with this view.
Here are some questions worth exploring within the realm of Mormon orthodoxy:
Why and how was Jesus God in a pre-existent state?
How does Mormonism’s view of the God Head fit in (or does it even need to?) with the classic Abrahamic monotheistic religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam?
When Jehovah condescended to become human, did He give up some of His divine attributes? Or, did He add humanity to His divinity? The former leads to some theological thickets. If He gave up some of His divinity, which parts? His omniscience? His omnipotence?
The view that God gave up part or all of His divinity to become human was actually a heresy that was condemned by the early Christian church. This view is called Kenotic Theology. It is derived from the Greek words “kenos” and “kenoo”. These words mean “to empty.” This view is rooted in Philippians 2:5-11:
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the afore of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in a fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is aLord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:7 The phrase “made himself of no reputation” comes from the Greek word “kenoo”, which means “to empty.”
Mosiah 15;1 I think we as Mormons sometimes forget that it was God Himself that atoned for our sins. That is God the Son
Mosiah 15:4 “The very Eternal Father” is restricted in its use to Abinadi’s discourse and to Alma 11:38,39.
“…very Eternal Father..” This title is restricted in its use to two parallel accounts appearing only in Mosiah 15:4; 16:15; Alma 11:38,39
11:40 “…redeem his people..” This phrase occurs nine times in the Book of Mormon; of those, five references belong to two narrative found in Mosiah 13:33; 15:1, 11; Alma 11:40. It is repeated again in Helaman 5:10, but that is actually a quotation of Amulek at Ammonihah.
11:45 “..that they can die no more..” Theologically this is an important statement. For it is the distinction between resurrection and re-vivification. The former means the person will never die again and the body will be a body of glory. The latter will die again.
AlmaAddresses Zeezrom: Alma 12:1-18
12:5 “…now this was the plan thine adversary…” Interesting statement in that he doesn’t say, “Now this was the plan of the adversary.”
AlmaAnswers Zeezrom’s Question About the Resurrection and Judgment: Alma 12:7-18
12:9 “…mysteries of God…” There are different definitions for this term, one of which is things that have not yet been revealed.
12:11 “..this is what is meant by ‘the chains of hell.'” Hmm…Zeezrom didn’t ask what “the chains of hell” meant.
Alma’s Answer to Antionah: Alma 12:22-13:20
AlmaExplains the Plan of Redemption: Alma 12:22-37
12:28 “…Then he saw that it was expedient that man should know concerning the things whereof he had appointed unto them…” This begs the question, when and how did God determine that man should know the things whereof he had appointed unto them? What are the things God has appointed to men?
12:31 Unlike animals, we have free will. We can determine whether to act or not to act. We are not determined by our instincts.
12:32 Because of our free will, God gives us commandments. Commandments are not given to creatures that do not have free will.
12:33-37 Much of the remainder of this chapter and the next is, like Hebrews 3:7-4:11, an explication of Psalms 95:8-11. Key phrases from Psalms 95 are the following: “harden not your hearts”; “I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest”; “as in the first provocation”
12:37 “…his second commandments…” For the first commandments see verse 31.
12:37 “…but let us enter into the rest of God, which is prepared according to his word.” This is perhaps a reference to Enos 1:27