Alma2‘s Words to Helman2:   Alma 36:1-37:47

Alma2 Recounts His Conversion:  Alma 36:1-30

Alma and the sons of Mosiah’s conversion

Click here for Jared Anderson’s podcast that goes with this lesson.  There is extra learning material there as well as an outline of how he presents the material.  The audio for the podcast is now up.

Other accounts of this experience can be found in Mosiah 27:8-37; Alma 26:17-20;  38:6-8

As pointed out in last week’s post, but deserves revisiting:

Occasionally there is tension between Mormon’s desire to tell an edifying story and his commitments to accuracy. He believes the facts of history will demonstrate moral principles, but the messy details of the past can get in the way of clear, unambiguous lessons. Embedded documents offer one way of avoiding inconvenient truths while at the same time fulfilling his obligations as a historian. They allow him to present a few significant particulars without having to comment upon them directly.

[In the previous chapters and in this chapter, we have sermons] by Alma and Amulek, with the result that many of the poorer Zoramites repent and are consequently expelled from the city. They make their way to the land of Jershon, where they are welcomed and given land (Alma 32:1-5; 35:1-7). The Zoramites are so angered by the hospitality of the Nephites in Jershon that they form an alliance with the Lamanites to attack them (the very scenario that Alma’s preaching was intended to prevent). Next we read that “thus commenced a war betwixt the Lamanites and the Nephites…and account will be given of their wars hereafter” (Alma 35:13; note that the combined Zoramite/Lamanite forces are now simply referred to as “Lamanites”).

Mormon quickly observes that Alma and his companions returned home to Zarahemla and that their new converts were forced to take up arms to defend themselves (35:13), and then he begins a rather lengthy digression: “Now Alma, being grieved for the iniquity of his people, yea for the wars, and the bloodsheds and the contentions which were among the people, and having been to declare the word…among all the people in every city…therefore, he caused that his sons should be gathered together, that he might give unto them every one his charge” (35:5-16). After seven chapters copied from Alma’s personal record – consisting of Alma’s eloquent speeches of counsel to his three sons – Mormon tells us that Alma and his sons went out to preach again, and then he brings us back to the war that had begun so many pages earlier (Alma 43:3,4; notice again that the conflict has been reduced to Nephites and Lamanites, further obscuring the cause of the invasion).

In other words, Mormon inserts Alma’s instructions to his sons in the middle of the Zoramite War, where it represents a significant break in the narrative. But, since the war itself takes place entirely within the eighteenth year, with no discernible impact from the new round of preaching, Mormon could have recounted the Zoramite affair from the beginning to the end and then added Alma’s document without upsetting the chronology at all. In fact, under this arrangement, Alma’s teachings would have concluded his term as record keeper (Alma 44:24) and would have led quite naturally into his last words and death (Alma 45), the place where we typically would expect final words of fatherly wisdom (as in 2 Nephi 1-4). The surprising placement seems designed to disrupt a smooth reading of the Zoramite story, which, taken as a whole, did not go so well. By the time readers get back to the war, they may have forgotten the rather awkward truth that Alma’s preaching to the Zoramites not only did not prevent hostilities but was itself a major catalyst for the fighting (upon his return to the main narrative, Mormon quickly adds additional factors; Alma 43:5-8). Yet all the facts are there, even if the sequence of causation is obscured. Technically, Mormon acquitted himself as an honest historian, but he has also managed to divert our attention from some awkward details. (Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon,  Reader’s Guide, 148-150)

In a foot-note Grant Hardy states: One possible connection is that when Alma addresses his youngest son, Corianton, he speaks at length of death, judgment, and resurrection – issues that the rebellious Corianton had been worried about. This discourse is particularly poignant given that Mormon has placed it at the beginning of the Zoramite War; before the year is out, a large number of young men are going to be dead (Alma 44:21-24) (Hardy, Reader’s Guide, pg. 305, note 51)

Why would Mormon see a second version of Alma2‘s conversion narrative as contributing to our understanding? Grant Hardy notes:

Copying Alma’s account verbatim allows Mormon to claim historical specificity (i.e., this is  how Alma actually came to understand his own experience, with no tendentious paraphrases or prejudicial phrasing on my part), spiritual immediacy (in one of the most compelling expositions of the effects of the atonement to be found anywhere in the Book of Mormon), and literary quality (as will be seen in the care with which Alma has structured his account).  Alma 36 is a remarkable pice of writing and is not surprising that Mormon chose to embed it whole into his narrative.

[Alma 36] contains a vivid memorable account of conversion that completely overwhelms the rather generic doctrinal point (“trust in the Lord”) that it was intended to support.  In addition, although it features the appearance of an angel and an earthquake, the focus is on Alma’s psychological state rather than on the miraculous nature of his experience;  throughout the Book of Mormon angels are described in a fairly matter-of-fact manner.  The heavenly messenger here does not symbolically or metaphorically stand in for something else;  he is just part of the story, and that is at least part of what makes this a “realistic” or “history-like” narrative, despite its supernatural elements. 

It is true that Mormon cold have communicated these ideas through a paraphrased rendition (as he did in Mosiah 27), but by presenting Alma’s testimony in full, we can appreciate its form as well as its content.  Whether or not it represents valid evidence for ancient origins, Alma 36 does reflect a careful , deliberate arrangement of the story.  (Grant Hardypg. 138, 139, 141)

36:2 “…remember the captivity of our fathers…”  Compare to Alma 29:11, 12

36:3 The phrase “lifted up at the last day” appears at the beginning of Alma’s speech to Helaman.  Alma then retells his own conversion story, in chiastic form to illustrate the point.   The second appearance of the phrase “lifted up at the last day” near the end of his remarks, gives the speech a coherent focus.  The phrase “lifted at the last day” occurs seven more times in the Book of Mormon.  (Hardy, pg. 326, note 8)


It would be easy to become distracted by issues of fact and historicity,  even apart from the appearance of an angel.  One might casually regard this tale as a simple reworking of Paul’s transformation on the road to Damascus (though there are significant differences as well as similarities), or speculate on how it might reflect Joseph Smith’s own conversion experience, or observe how it mirrors other evangelical conversion narratives today, or note the presence of key phrases from the King James Bible.  Latter-day Saints, however, have been eager to demonstrate that what makes this particular account remarkable – and distinct from the other retellings of Alma’s conversion story – is the way Alma 36 is organized chiastically (Hardy, pg. 139)

a) My son give ear to my words (v 1)

Example of a Hebrew chiasmus found in Isaiah

b) Keep the commandments and ye shall prosper in the land (v 1)

c) Do as I have done (v 2)

d) Remember the captivity of our fathers (v 2)

e) They were in bondage (v 2)

f) He surely did deliver them (v 2)

g) Trust in God (v 3)
h) Supported in trials, troubles and afflictions (v 3)
i) I know this not of myself but of God (v 4)
j) Born of God (v 5)
k) I sought to destroy the church (v 6-9)
l) My limbs were paralyzed (v 10)
m) Fear of the presence of God (v 14-15)

n) Pains of a damned soul (v 16)

o) Harrowed up by memory of sins (v 17)

p) I remembered Jesus Christ, a son of God (v 17)
p) I cried, Jesus, son of God (v 18)

o) Harrowed up by memory of sins no more (v 19)

n) Joy as exceeding as was the pain (v 20)

m) Long to be in the presence of God (v 22)

l) My limbs received strength again (v 23)
k) I labored to bring souls to repentance (v 24)
j) Born of God (v 26)
i) Therefore my knowledge is of God (26)
h) Supported under trials and troubles and afflictions (v 27)
g) Trust in him (v 27)
f) He will deliver me (v 27)
e) As God brought our fathers out of bondage and captivity (v 28-29)
d) Retain in remembrance their captivity (v 28-29)

The reversing, balanced halves indicate that Alma had spent some time and effort organizing his memories of an event twenty years earlier into a rhetorically compelling, aesthetically pleasing form.  This experience obviously meant a great deal to him, and at the end of his career, when trying to provide guidance and counsel to his oldest son, he gives the story its most definitive, literary rendering.  (Hardy, pg. 141)

John W. Welch of BYU, relates an experience he had with the distinguished general editor of the Anchor Bible series:  “After Professor David Noel Freedman and I had read through Alma 36 together with the chiasmus in mind, he remarked to me, ‘Mormons are very lucky.  Their book is beautiful.'”  It was a kind and generous comment by a scholar who was willing to take a fresh look at someone else’s scripture.  Whether Joseph Smith worked by craftiness, by genius, or by revelation, the Book of Mormon is a remarkable text, one that is worthy of serious study.  It is better than it sounds. (John W. Welch, “What Does Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon Prove?” in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited:  The Evidence for Ancient Origins, ed. Noel B. Reynolds (Provo, UT:  FARMS, 1997), 206 – cited in Hardy, pg. 273)

click here to read more about chiasmus

click here to read an article challenging the chiasmus found in the Book of Mormon

Thanks to Jared Anderson for the above links.

36:5  “…not of any worthiness of myself…”   This is statement is in stark contrast to the standard narrative we often hear, in that Alma wasn’t “working’ to get an answer to a prayer.

36:14 “…the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul…”   Occasionally one will hear, “How could God be all loving and still send people to hell?”   Mormon theology clearly teaches us that we would be  uncomfortable in the presence of God if we have lived an unrepentant life and would rather live apart from God.

36:18   Just as his conversion to Christianity marked a major turning point in his life, so also his appeal to Jesus in verse 18, is quite literally , the pivotal moment in his narrative.  (Hardy pg. 141)

36:19 “a Son of God”  vs “The Son of God”    Why would Alma use the indefinite article “a” as opposed to the definite article “the”?

36:22  This is quoted exactly from 1 Nephi 1:8.  This shows either Alma2‘s familiarity with the Small Plates or it was a common story that was repeated in Nephite culture.

John Welch’s observation that Alma 36:22 is an attributed quotation that replicated twenty-one words from 1 Nephi 1:8 exactly, means that Smith dictated the later citation before the original source of the quotation. (John W. Welch, “Textual Consistency,”  in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, ed. John W. Welch (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS 1992),21-23 – cited in Hardy, pg. 321, note 18)

36:26 “…and have seen eye to eye…”  Have seen eye to eye with whom?

36:27 “…God has delivered me from prison…”   The story is found in Alma 14:26-29

It sounds as if Alma desperately wanted Helaman to take his words to heart, and [here] we get the most complete account of his conversion we have, as well as the one that focuses most intently on both the pains and joys that he felt.  By contrast, we see only an abbreviated version in his words to his second son, Shiblon, along with an acknowledgment of Shiblon’s faithfulness and diligence (Alma 38:2-3 there is no similar praise for Helaman in chs. 36-37(Hardy, pg. 143)

36:20 Direct quote from 1 Nephi 1:20 and  repeat of what he said at the beginning of the chapter in vs. 1. This is a constant refrain in the Book of Mormon that is repeated some twenty times (with variations) – 1 Nephi 2:20,21; 4:14; 17:13; 2 Nephi 1:9; 4:4; 5:20;  Jarom 1:9; Omni 1:6; Mosiah 1:7; 2:22; 2:31; Alma 9:13,14; 36:1; 36:30; 37:13; 38:1; 48:15; 48:25; 50:20

Alma’s public career begins with a war with the Amlicites (Alma 3:3) and it ends with a war with the Amlicites (Alma 44:21-22).  In this context, Alma’s carefully recorded admonitions to his sons in his old age represent the distillations of a life-long struggle against a particular set of false ideas;  it is no wonder that key passages highlight the need for repentance and the individualized nature of Christ’s atonement, as well as the certainty that all mankind will someday be raised from the dead to stand before God to be judged of their sins. (Hardy, pg. 308, note 28)

Alma2 Entrusts Helaman2 the Sacred Writings:  Alma 37:1-19

Perhaps Alma had a premonition about the literary abilities of this particular son. Helaman seems to have gotten off to a reasonable start – at least Mormon gives him some credit when he inserts a headnote at the beginning of Alma 45: “the account of the people of Nephi…according to the record of Helaman, which he kept  in his days” – but once he is swept up in the traumatic events of the Amalickiahite Wars as a major participant, it appears that he gets behind in his historiographical responsibilities.  Consequently, rather than abridging Helaman’s record for the years 66-62 BC, Mormon instead has to piece together the sequence of events himself, based on the primary sources, mainly letters, that he had at hand.  In other words, Helaman may have assembled notes and documents, but in the four years between the end of the war and his own death, when he was busy preaching and rebuilding the church (Alma 52:44-47), he apparently never got around to finishing his portion of the Large Plates of Nephi. (This would also explain why, contrary to convention in the Book of Mormon, Alma 45-62 was not made into a separate literary unit called “The first Book of Helaman” – it seems that the underlying source had been too meager and incomplete to stand on its own).   Usually, a clear transition of record-keepers merits independent status as a separate book.  We can see a deliberately demarcated transition at Alma 44:24, but Helaman2‘s actual contributions were probably minimal or fragmentary , like those of the record-keepers in the Book of Omni.  The Book of Helaman, as another counterexample,was considered from the first to last as jointly authored by Helamanand his sons; see the headnote to to the book as well as Helaman 16:25, with a transition implied, rather than specified, in Helaman 3:37.  Helaman is certainly an adequate letter writer, but the war chapters of the book of Alma, for which Helaman’s record would have been the source, have struck many readers as being relatively dry and uninspiring (though we shall see in Helaman Chapter 6, Mormon manages to make something wonderful of them).

A final indication of the of the unfinished nature of Helaman’s book is that he seems to have failed in his most important responsibility as record keeper – to ensure the smooth transmission of the plates in his possession.  By this time in the Book of Mormon, we have seen numerous instances of how this was supposed to be done:  before his death, Nephi entrusted his brother Jacob, with the words of counsel and warning (Jacob 1:1-5), and Jacob did the same with his own son (Jacob 7:27), as did Enos, Jarom, Omni, Amaron, Amaleki, Benjamin, Mosiah, and Alma.  By contrast, Helaman dies before he makes the traditional and proper arrangements (presumably because he still had more work to do):  “And Helaman died in the thirty and fifth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi.  And it came to pass in the commencement of the thirty and sixth year…that Shiblon took possession of those sacred things which had been delivered unto Helaman by Alma” (Alma 62:52-63:1). 

This is the only time in the Book of Mormon when the records go into probate, as it were, and a relative is forced to step in and take over the transmission process on his own authority.  Mormon is quick to add that Helaman “was a just man, and he did walk uprightly before God, and he did observe to do good continually” (Alma 63:2), but it is hard to miss the implicit comparison a few verses later when Shiblon, though only an interim figure, still manages to get the pattern right:  “it became expedient for Shiblon, to confer those sacred things, before his death, upon the son of Helaman, who was called Helaman, being called after the name of his father” (Alma 63:11).  And again, for added emphasis:  “these things were to be… handed down from one generation to another;  therefore, in this year, they had been conferred upon Helaman [that is Helaman3], before the death of Shiblon” (Alma 63:13).  Helaman’s son finally gets the records, but only after a detour through an uncle.  Helaman2 may have been a good, even a great man, but he was not a great record keeper, and Mormon’s inclusion of letters at the end of the Book of Alma seems to be an attempt to fill in the historiographical gaps that Helaman had left. (Hardy, pg. 143,1440, and footnote 45, pg. 305)

37:1  Alma was entrusted with the plates in Mosiah 28:20

The rest of Alma’s lecture to Helaman is a charge to receive, safeguard, and update the sacred records in his possession, so it comes as something of a surprise when we learn some fourteen chapters later, after Alma’s death, that Helaman had not been his first choice to be the next keeper of the records (see Alma 50:37-38) (Hardy, pg. 143)

37:2  “…keep all these things sacred…”  How has Alma been doing this?  We often speak of the temple endowment as being “sacred not secret” meaning we don’t speak of the ceremony outside the temple.  Is it safe to assume that those that kept the Nephite record, did so secretly, and did not speak of them, but only to a select few?   Hmm….?

37:3  It is interesting that Alma refers to the Plates of Brass as scripture, but the Nephite record is not  referred to as such.

37:4 The prophecy is contained in 1 Nephi 5:17-19

37:5  “…all the plates which do contain that which is holy writ.”    Here, it alludes to the idea that the Nephite record was seen as scripture.

37:8, 9 Of what record and plates is Alma speaking?  In Alma 18:36-38 and Alma 22:12-14  speak of Ammon and then Aaron  expanding scripture “…[beginning] from the creation of Adam…”   Are we to assume then that they were using the Plates of Brass exclusively or as Alma 18:38 suggests (“…he rehearsed unto them concerning the rebellions of Laman and Lemuel…”)  that they  also taught from the Nephite record?  Obviously they wouldn’t have been lugging around the actual, original Plates of Brass or of Nephi.  So they could have been rehearsing the stories from memory, or perhaps they carried with them small sections of the the Plates, written down (much like a Gideon Bible).   Could the lost 116 page manuscript (The Book of Lehi) have contained some of the earlier parts of the Pentateuch?

37:9 Compare with Alma 29:14-15.  It seems that even Alma is impressed with the success of the sons of Mosiah.

37:11  Of what mysteries is Alma speaking?  Is he referring back to verse 10 regarding whether the records “will be a means of bringing many thousands of …Nephites…to the knowledge of their redeemer”?

37:14  This is an interesting “slide of hand” that Alma does here.  In verse 1 it is Alma who commands Helaman to take the records (he doesn’t request that Helaman does it).  However, in verse 14, it is now God that is is entrusting Helaman with the records, not Alma.

37:18, 19   “…he would reserve these things…they shall be preserved…”  compare with verse 8 where Alma says God has “preserved”  the records.   How do these two different words carry a different meaning in the context of preserving/reserving the records?

37:20 “…I command you …keeping the commandments of God…”  Kind of weird to command someone to keep a commandment.   Did  Alma run this by the Redundant Department of Redundancy?

Alma2 Tells Helaman2 of the Twenty-four Plates:  Alma 37:21-31

These plates which contain a record of the Jaredites, were discovered by the people of Limhi (Mosiah 8:9;  28:11-19;  Ether 1:1,-2).  Notice that the indefinite article “a” was used for the record, not “the”,  for there were other records of the Jaredites that were discovered  (by the people of Zarahemla) that  were written on a stone and given to Mosiahto translate (Omni 1:20).

I found this on a web-site that talks about role-playing games. A little weird. A little funny:
“Another magical item from Mormonism (borrowed from ancient Israelite culture). A Urim and Thummim is a set of magical spectacles. They act as both read magic and read languages spells, thus allowing the user to read magical and foreign writings.
A Urim and Thummim can be a set of spectacles, two precious gems or stones set in a frame of silver or other precious metal, or a leather or metal breastplate, to which is attached a viewing apparatus.”
Prolonged use of a Urim and Thummim can cause blindness or temporary insanity, particularly when used by Fighters. For every 10 minutes of Urim and Thummim use, roll a d20. If the result is greater than the characters Intelligence or Wisdom (plus the character’s level, if a Magic-User or Cleric, or half the character’s level, if a Thief) the character suffers some mental affliction. For every 10 minutes of use, per day, after the first 10 minutes, subtract one from your combined attribute and level score.

37:21 The interpreters are first introduced in Mosiah 8:13 and Mosiah 18:20.

37:22 compare with Ether 11:12

37:23 It is unclear whether “Gazelem” is the name of the servant or the stone, but nothing further is known about either (Grant Hardy, The Book of Mormon, A Reader’s Guide, footnote pg. 358).

37:25 This reference is uncertain.

37:25 “…bring forth out of darkness unto light…”  occurs only in two other places in the Book of Mormon:  2 Nephi 3 and in Mormon 8.  This is one of several  phrases that occur almost exclusively in Mormon 8 and 2 Nephi 3

37:29 “Therefore, ye shall keep these secret plans…and only their wickedness and their murders, and their abominations shall ye make known unto them…”  This sounds like Alma is a proponent of  “faith-promoting history”.

37:30 see Ether 9:29;  11:5.

Alma2 Counsel Helaman2:  Alma 37:32-37

The words of Alma’s as he is giving advice to his oldest son, Helaman, on the momentous occasion of his handing over the sacred records to the next generation.  This transfer takes place at a time of national crisis, and there are indications elsewhere in the text that Alma has had concerns about this particular son, who is probably no longer a youth.  The speech is also the first of three that Alma addresses to each of his sons the year before his death.  At a higher narratological level, this quotation comes from a primary source document that was inserted by Mormon into a crucial juncture of his abridgment of Nephite history, between the preaching to the Zoramites that leads to a devastating war, and his account of the war itself.  And finally, we will see Helaman putting his father’s advice into practice just a few years later, when he is placed in command of an army of two thousand young Ammonite soldiers, despite the fact that his prior experience has been as a church leader rather than as a military man.  He reports to his superior, Captain Moroni, that “we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us” (Alma 58:10), and in the end Helaman and his troops enjoy astonishing success, surpassing even that of Moroni, a man who brought to the task an entire lifetime of military training and experience.  The Book of Mormon is as complex, sometimes perplexing text, but it is worth considering how such a narrative can infuse the lives of believers with meaning (Hardy, pg. 273).  

Alma2 Describes the Liahona as a Type:  Alma 37:38-47

37:40 See 1Nephi 16:10, 16, 26-39;  18:12, 21 

37:41  I wonder if it would read better like this:  “Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means which did show unto them marvelous works, they were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased.”

[End of Alma2‘s Words to Helaman2:  Alma 36:1-37:47]

Alma2‘s Words to Shiblon:  Alma 38:1-15

38:3  See Alma 31:7;  35:14

38:4  Nothing more is know of these experiences.

38:6  “Born of God”  occurs 9 times in the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 27:25,28;  Alma 5:14;  22:15(Lamanite King); 36:5, 23, 24, 26, 38:6. It never occurs in the Old Testament and occurs  6 times in the New Testament ( all occurring in 1 John) (Hardy, note 29, pg. 302)

38:8 This same conversion story was just told to Helaman:  Alma 36:6-24.

38:15 “Sit down in peace” and other variations i.e. “Sit down… in the kingdom of God/Heaven” originates  with Matthew 8:11 and Luke 13:29, but the phrase is not pervasive in the Book of Mormon; rather, it seems to have been a favorite of Alma’s (Alma 5:24;  7:25;  29:17;  38:15) (Hardy, pg. 135)

Alma2‘s Words to Corianton:  Alma 39:1-42:31

Corianton’s Sins:  Alma 39:1-14

39:1 Why is he referring to the righteousness of only one of his sons and to which one is he referring?  Alma 31:7 tells us that Helaman did not go with Alma to preach to the Zoramites.  So, the son Alma is referring to must be Shiblon.

Grant Hardy notes:

Despite the fact that these words immediately follow Alma’s admonitions to his sons Helaman and Shiblon, only one brother – Shiblon – is held up as an example.  Helaman’s character and behavior apparently did not merit the same unqualified approbation.  This is so surprising in the context that when Oliver Cowdery took the dictation for the original manuscript, he twice mistakenly wrote the plural “brothers”  in the passage before going back  to cross out the superfluous “s” (See Royal Skousen, Analysis of Textual Variants in the Book of Mormon, Part Four (Provo, UT:  FARMS, 2007), 2387-8) Cited in Hardy, pg. 304, not 44). But note that in 39:10, Alma urges Corianton to counsel with both his elder brothers;  he seems to expect that Helaman will do fine from this point on. 

Although Alma preached in at least five cities during the Nephite Reformation (Alma 4-16), we have extended reports – actually, embedded primary documents – for only three sermons:  Zarahemla (whose situation was morally ambiguous), Gideon (clearly righteous, with the shortest discourse), and Ammonihah (obviously wicked, with the longest speech).  The same  number, sequence, and relative length appear again in Alma 36-42 in another series of primary sources – Alma’s words of counsel to his three sons.  Helaman, with some evidences of moral ambiguity, comes first; then Shiblon, who is clearly righteous, gets the shortest discourse; and finally Corianton, who is reproved for his transgressions, receives the longest sermon.  There is even considerable overlap in content between the messages that Alma delivered to the city of Ammonihah and to his third son:  both focus on the themes of resurrection and redemption. Happily, however, Corianton, unlike Ammonihah, repents. [This] final observation [seems to show] that Alma, Mormon, or Joseph Smith have structured the first two-thirds of the Book of Alma according to a series of parallels (Hardy, pg.  304, note 44). 

39:2 See Alma 31:7; 34:14

39:3 Hurray!! We get a woman mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon!  Oh, wait…she’s a whore.  Damn it!

A Marigold/tapestry depicting Ichpuchtli (Xochiquetzal) Mayan/Aztec/Toltec goddess of Sacred prostitution, ruler of love, marriage, flowers, art, music, women, magic, spinning, fertility, sex, weaving, and changes.

39:5 “…save it be the shedding of innocent blood…”  I wonder if there is a better way of framing sexual transgression.  The following is  link  to a article by Michael Ash in Sunstone Magazine that looks at a way to interpret this scriptural passage differently than we normally do.  Click here to read.

Click here to read an article looking at scriptural lessons on chastity.   The part of the article that deals with Alma 39 starts on pg. 18.

Thanks to Jared Anderson for the above links.

39:9 “..cross yourselves…”  This is a weird idiom that I have only seen used in the Book of Mormon.  What does it mean?

39:9 The wicked “cannot inherit the kingdom of God”  phrasing is found in both First Corinthians and Galatians  ( Corinthians 6:9, 10;  15:50;  Galatians 5:21).  This expression is found in all three of Alma’s sermons given during the Nephite reformation.  In the Book of Mormon the expression occurs nine times, six of which are spoken by Alma (and two other occurrences – within a single sentence – are in the words of his missionary companion Amulek):  Mosiah 27:26;  Alma 5:51;  7:14;  9:12;  11:37 (2x, Amulek), 39:9; 40:26;  3 Nephi 11:38 (Jesus).

39:11 “Harlots”  Wait, there were more than just one?  Geez.

This is a detail from one of the famous Diego Rivera murals at Mexico Palacio Nacional in Mexico City. It depicts an Aztec prostitute, displaying the intricate tattoos on her legs to potential customers. One warrior offers her a human arm for her services.Rivera modeled this woman after his wife artist Frida Kahlo

The Mayans maintained several phallic religious cults, possibly involving homosexual temple prostitution.  Aztec religious leaders were heterosexually celibate and engaged in homosexuality with one another as a religious practice, temple idols were often depicted engaging in homosexuality, and the god Xochipili (taken from both Toltec and Mayan cultures) was both the patron of homosexuals and homosexual prostitutes.  The Inca sometimes dedicated young boys as temple prostitutes. The boys were dressed in girls clothing, and chiefs and headmen would have ritual homosexual intercourse with them during religious ceremonies and on holidays.  The conquistadores were horrified by the widespread acceptance of homosexuality, pedophilia, pederasty, and pedophilia among Central and South American peoples, and used torture, burning at the stake, mass beheadings, and other means to stamp it out both as a religious practice and social custom.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_prostitution 

39:14 “…return unto them, and acknowledge your faults…”  That would be incredibly  hard to do.

Alma2 Teaches about Death and the Resurrection:  Alma 39:15-19

 Here we see, after Alma calling his son to repentance, he gives Corianton hope that forgiveness can come.






Miguel is a Guatemalan-American Mormon living in the Northwest with his family. He is one of the proprietors of the Rational Faiths blog.

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