Hidden Truths

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In Alma 45 we read of a beautiful exchange between Alma (the Younger) and his son Helaman.

“Alma came unto his son Helaman and said unto him: Believest thou the words which I spake unto thee concerning those records which have been kept? And Helaman said unto him: Yea, I believe. And Alma said again: Believest thou in Jesus Christ, who shall come? And he said: Yea, I believe all the words which thou hast spoken. And Alma said unto him again: Will ye keep my commandments? And he said: Yea, I will keep thy commandments with all my heart. Then Alma said unto him: Blessed art thou; and the Lord shall prosper thee in this land.” (Alma 45:2-8).

Before passing on the responsibility of keeping the scriptures and before adding other responsibilities to his son, Alma interviews Helaman to assess his testimony in the Savior and the teachings of the prophets. In many ways, this was similar to our modern temple recommend interviews or personal priesthood interviews in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After Helaman bore his testimony, Alma continues on to prophesy of things to come, acting in his role as seer. Prophecies of the future (or past) are not unique in the scriptures – there are many such prophecies; what is unique, or at least explicitly stated is that Alma prophesied things to Helaman that Helaman was not to reveal to anyone else; he was to record it upon the records but not tell anyone else. Why the secrecy? What was this important prophecy and why, if it was important, keep it from general knowledge?

Keeping revelations and prophecies and doctrine secret or, rather, sacred, has been the practice of prophets from the beginning. Christ taught this in the Sermon on the Mount: “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.” (Matt. 7:6). We also know there is a sealed portion of the Book of Mormon that has not yet been revealed to the world. There are prophecies of the brother of Jared and John the Beloved that are not widely revealed. Sometimes these are kept from the world because the prophecies are so great that most people are not ready for them. Isaiah taught of the importance of solidifying foundations before grasping at straws of doctrines beyond current comprehension: “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:10) and “But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.” (Isaiah 28:13). What Isaiah meant is made clear in the Book of Mormon: “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (2 Nephi 28:30).

This reminds me of working with my oldest daughter on mathematical concepts and problems. She is young enough that she is still learning arithmetic; while I am constantly trying to push the boundaries of what she knows, we cannot jump ahead to trigonometry or calculus or even much algebra because she does not have all the basics of mathematics learned yet. This does not mean I cannot or do not teach her pre-algebra (I do) or introduce more complex concepts of mathematics but most of what I could teach her is not possible for her to understand – she doesn’t know enough of the basics to understand more and her brain is physically/physiologically/neurologically not capable of comprehending these higher order concepts of mathematics yet; these concepts require complex abstractions that a very young brain cannot process. Thus, my daughter’s understanding is not just limited by a lack of knowledge (ignorance) but also a lack of physical development.

Gospel and spiritual knowledge are the same way. We cannot comprehend greater light and knowledge without understanding the foundations of the gospel – the doctrines of Christ – faith, repentance, resurrection, the Atonement, charity, and so forth. In a like manner, we might not be able to understand “higher” doctrines simply because we are spiritually undeveloped – our spirit brains, if you will, are not yet matured. This spiritual maturation comes from learning, accepting, and living the gospel over time. Without such development, we cannot understand what some call deeper doctrines.

This is why Alma asked about Helaman’s testimony; this is why many prophecies remain hidden to us (and this specific prophecy of Alma remained hidden until the coming forth of the Book of Mormon) – many people who might hear them or read them are not ready for them. So what did Alma tell Helaman?

“Behold, I perceive that this very people, the Nephites, according to the spirit of revelation which is in me, in four hundred years from the time that Jesus Christ shall manifest himself unto them, shall dwindle in unbelief.” (Alma 45:10)

Not only will Christ appear to the Nephites following His resurrection but also there will come a time of general apostasy among the Nephites and Lamanites. This apostasy mirrors that of the Old World among the Jews and early Christians. When Moroni wrote his last words on the plates of gold and sealed up the record it was around 421 AD. Christ appeared to the Nephites around 30 AD (plus or minus 6 years or so), which means that by the time 400 years had passed, the Nephites were all extinct. Alma continued:

Yea, and then shall they see wars and pestilences, yea, famines and bloodshed, even until the people of Nephi shall become extinct—Yea, and this because they shall dwindle in unbelief and fall into the works of darkness, and lasciviousness, and all manner of iniquities; yea, I say unto you, that because they shall sin against so great light and knowledge, yea, I say unto you, that from that day, even the fourth generation shall not all pass away before this great iniquity shall come. And when that great day cometh, behold, the time very soon cometh that those who are now, or the seed of those who are now numbered among the people of Nephi, shall no more be numbered among the people of Nephi. But whosoever remaineth, and is not destroyed in that great and dreadful day, shall be numbered among the Lamanites, and shall become like unto them, all, save it be a few who shall be called the disciples of the Lord; and them shall the Lamanites pursue even until they shall become extinct. And now, because of iniquity, this prophecy shall be fulfilled.” (Alma 45:11-14).

So the day will come when the Nephites will all be destroyed or will no longer be called Nephites, having joined the Lamanites (this makes it clear that Nephite and Lamanite are mainly political terms rather than strict references to genealogy). Further, the few righteous disciples will be hunted down and killed. Why would knowing the timeline of the destruction of the Nephites be hidden knowledge? Knowledge brings accountability. This prophecy was also not essential for the Nephites and Lamanites to know. How would it benefit their salvation? How would it increase faith in Christ? It wouldn’t. It was the type of knowledge reserved for a few righteous individuals, those with solid spiritual development. What this means is that people were not ready for the revelation. This was like the revelation of the brother of Jared – specific revelation about future events; we still do not know what is contained in that revelation. Why do we not have access to that revelation? We are not ready and at this point it is not important for us. What is important for us to do is to have faith and do what is right. Light and knowledge will come as we demonstrate our faith over time.

The Problem of Korihor

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In a time of relative peace, a man called Korihor went among the Nephites in the land of Zarahemla. He started preaching against Christ and the prophecies of the prophets and thus was called Anti-Christ. His being anti-Christ was not just because he preached against Christ and God but also because he did so dishonestly (I’ll expound on this later).

The Nephites were living in a time with considerable political freedom. Instead of kings, the Nephites were ruled by judges who were not appointed with lifetime tenures. They served for a time and then retired. The judges received compensation for their time but it is likely that at least a substantial portion of them worked other jobs (including running their farms) to have the necessary resources for survival. In other words, at this point the judges did not receive outlandish amounts of money for their time. This will be an important point later.

In this society with considerable political freedom, there was the freedom for people to believe and worship what they wanted to. A person was only punished for immoral and otherwise wicked behavior and crimes: “But if he murdered he was punished unto death; and if he robbed he was also punished; and if he stole he was also punished; and if he committed adultery he was also punished; yea, for all this wickedness they were punished. For there was a law that men should be judged according to their crimes. Nevertheless, there was no law against a man’s belief; therefore, a man was punished only for the crimes which he had done; therefore all men were on equal grounds.” (Alma 30:10-11). However, with the freedom of this society came the potential for great abuse. Having the freedom to believe and do wrong gives us the greater responsibility to believe and do right.

Now that we have context, let’s move on to Korihor. I’m going to take Korihor’s arguments and counter them, poking holes in his logic; this is not something that any of the judges to whom Korihor was taken did (and is not usually recommend in similar situations – it can just lead to arguing), although Alma corrected Korihor on one point; Alma responded to everything else by bearing his testimony to Korihor.

Korihor said, “O ye that are bound down under a foolish and a vain hope, why do ye yoke yourselves with such foolish things? Why do ye look for a Christ? For no man can know of anything which is to come.” (Alma 30:13). What’s wrong with this? First, Korihor commits the informal logical fallacy of begging the question when he assumes that hoping for Christ is “foolish”, “vain”, and a “yoke.” He offers no proof that such a hope (faith) is vain, foolish, and a burden. What is worse is that Korihor makes the following statement a foundation of his arguments, “no man can know of anything which is to come.” If this statement is true, the Nephites could not know if Christ would later come but more importantly, Korihor could not state that Christ will not come because that means that he (Korihor) knows of something to come (i.e., that Christ will not come to earth). He destroys his argument himself.

Korihor goes on to attack the prophecies in the scriptures, calling them “foolish traditions” (verse 14). This is not a new argument, just a continuation and restating of his previous one.

His next argument is one of the foundational philosophies of modern science (I’m not attacking science; I am a scientist): “ye cannot know of things which ye do not see; therefore ye cannot know that there shall be a Christ.” (Alma 30:15). This is materialism – if we can’t see (or measure) something, it cannot exist. What about the other senses? They are implied in his statement but not stated. Even so, his statement is still untrue. There are many things we cannot see that still exist (e.g., gravity, atoms, sounds, smells – not all these were known in Korihor’s day but his argument still is not valid). Korihor also makes the assumption that we cannot see Christ (something that we know is not true – we all did see Him before our mortal lives and many people have seen Him at various times). Even if we do not believe that people have seen Christ (or ever will see Him), Korihor’s logic is, at best, incomplete (and that’s being generous).

Next Korihor gives what is a common argument – that faith and religion (seeking for a remission of sins) are nothing but the “effect of a frenzied mind” or the result of the “derangement of your minds” (Alma 30:16). This is a viewpoint that I read frequently in online discussions where religion comes up. Sigmund Freud put it this way, “Religion is an attempt to get control over the sensory world, in which we are placed, by means of the wish-world, which we have developed inside us as a result of biological and psychological necessities. […] If one attempts to assign to religion its place in man’s evolution, it seems not so much to be a lasting acquisition, as a parallel to the neurosis which the civilized individual must pass through on his way from childhood to maturity.” (Source). In other words, religion is an infantile neurosis that hopefully people will outgrow. Freud believed that if people only understood the world (science, naturalism, and materialism) then they would give up on using religion to explain things they do not understand. Korihor essentially made the same argument – religious beliefs are nothing but a “frenzied mind” – a neurosis. Religious people are therefore deranged. The problem with this argument is that labeling someone as crazy or neurotic or suffering from unresolved psychological problems just because you do not agree with their beliefs does not make your beliefs about others correct. What is worse is that I’ve already shown that the foundation of Korihor’s argument up to this point is fatally flawed so at best he is condemning others for using faulty logic that is different from the faulty logic he uses (although matters of faith do not always rely on logic; I have to add that that being said, I’ve yet to find anything as logically consistent and complete as the gospel of Jesus Christ as found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

I want to interject something Alma taught that counters what Korihor taught. Even though Alma was not responding to Korihor (he was dead at this point), his sermon that we have starting in Alma 32 seems like a general response to Korihor’s teachings. One thing he said is particularly pertinent at this point: “O then, is not this [faith and spiritual knowledge] real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?” (Alma 32:35). Alma directly counters Korihor’s belittling of faith; Alma states that faith is real and it is discernible. While we might not always see faith directly, we can understand it in a way that is at least as good as and usually better than sight.

Now back to Korihor. Korihor then moved into the realm of philosophy called humanism and its cousin relativism (not relativity): “And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men [again, what an interesting statement to make given that Korihor said that we cannot know the future], but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength [humanism]; and whatsoever a man did was no crime [relativism].” (Alma 30:17). While there is much to commend about humanism – it’s a philosophy that people can and should improve themselves – the problem of humanism is that there is no room for God in it. People do well because they do well on their own, not because they have a Father in Heaven who blesses them. Humanism is found in many other philosophies and fields – psychology, political science, sociology, literature, business. For example, a particularly extreme form of humanism is Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. The problem of humanism is that it is ultimately self-centered and selfish. Korihor also taught relativism (this could also be a form of moral nihilism) – that there is no sin, there are no set rights and wrongs – “whatsoever a man [or woman] did was no crime.” How common both these philosophies are today!

Then Korihor (who was particularly a hit with women – see verse 18) continued with his form of nihilism: “when a man was dead, that was the end thereof” (Alma 30:18). Korihor preached against morality and meaning in life. People were to live life however they wanted to and then die, which was the end of their existence. Korihor would have got along splendidly with some of the major philosophers of the 20th century.

We’ll skip ahead a bit. Korihor finds some successes in his preachings but he is taken before local judges in a couple of the lands (the Anti-Nephi-Lehis would have none of his teachings nor would most of the people in the land of Gideon). Then Korihor, before the judge Giddonah, just becomes confrontational, saying essentially, “You say this but I say this instead. You say you are free, I say you are in bondage” and so forth. He also shows his conceit: “Ye say that those ancient prophecies are true. Behold, I say that ye do not know that they are true.” (Alma 30:24). He said, “You think you know this but you really don’t.” He had the audacity to tell Giddonah what he did or did not believe.

Korihor then goes back to one of his favorite arguments (it’s getting old by this point): “[You believe in] God—a being who never has been seen or known, who never was nor ever will be.”(Alma 30:28). So much for not being able to know of things to come! That’s quite a prophecy that Korihor makes: “No one has ever or could ever see God and no one ever will. In fact, He doesn’t exist!” It’s impossible to defend a universal negative categorical proposition like that though. So Korihor demonstrated that at no point in the universe is there a being who exists who we refer to as God? Of course he didn’t! That’s one of the problems with universal negatives of that nature.

Eventually Korihor is taken before Alma because no one else knows what to do with him. Korihor starts getting angry, going on and on about how the judges and priests “glut themselves” upon the labors of the people; he basically says they are like the wicked king Noah (who really did that). But they are nothing like Noah, especially Alma. Korihor starts blaspheming and then verbally abusing Alma and the other political and religious leaders. This is where Alma directly refutes what Korihor is saying. Korihor says that Alma and the other religious leaders are becoming wealthy by living off the people. Further, those who are judges are also doing the same.

Alma replies: “Thou knowest that we do not glut ourselves upon the labors of this people; for behold I have labored even from the commencement of the reign of the judges until now, with mine own hands for my support, notwithstanding my many travels round about the land to declare the word of God unto my people. And notwithstanding the many labors which I have performed in the church, I have never received so much as even one senine for my labor; neither has any of my brethren, save it were in the judgment-seat; and then we have received only according to law for our time. And now, if we do not receive anything for our labors in the church, what doth it profit us to labor in the church save it were to declare the truth, that we may have rejoicings in the joy of our brethren? Then why sayest thou that we preach unto this people to get gain, when thou, of thyself, knowest that we receive no gain?” (Alma 30:32-35).

There is not much to say more than this. Korihor was lying about Alma (and other church leaders) – it was an obvious lie – so Alma countered Korihor on this point.

After this, Alma and Korihor go back and forth a bit. Korihor denies there is a God. Alma doubts his assertion and bears his testimony of God and Christ (which is the best thing to do in circumstances like this). Korihor remits a bit, stating that he will believe Alma if Alma shows him a sign. Alma states that God gives enough signs if only we take the time and effort to see them.

Now we start to see changes in Korihor. He goes from being atheist to agnostic (he’s still lying though, as we will discover): “Now Korihor said unto him: I do not deny the existence of a God, but I do not believe that there is a God; and I say also, that ye do not know that there is a God; and except ye show me a sign, I will not believe.” (Alma 30:48).

So Alma consents; he’ll give Korihor a sign: “This will I give unto thee for a sign, that thou shalt be struck dumb, according to my words; and I say, that in the name of God, ye shall be struck dumb, that ye shall no more have utterance.” (Alma 30:49). It’s not usually wise to ask for a sign because you might just get one and you might not like it! Korihor was struck dumb, not being able to speak any more (thus also not being able to lead away more people in wickedness).

Now comes the great confession from Korihor – the confession that shows why he is called Anti-Christ. In writing or sign, Korihor admitted: “Yea, and I always knew that there was a God. But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.” (Alma 30:52-53). So Korihor always knew there was a God. He deliberately preached against this knowledge. He stood out in the light of the sun and denied its existence. That is why he was Anti-Christ. He preached against God and Christ. He saw Satan and listened to him, teaching what he said instead of what he knew was right. After teaching it enough, Korihor started believing it himself but he had gone against the light.

Korihor then begs the curse be taken from him. Alma refuses saying that he brought it upon himself and that Korihor had not repented. Korihor was cast out and went house to house begging for food. People took care of him until he wandered over to the land of the Zoramites, who it turns out had apostatized from the church. The righteous Nephites treated Korihor well; the wicked, not so much: “As [Korihor] went forth amongst them, behold, he was run upon and trodden down, even until he was dead. And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.” (Alma 30:59-60).

We can see the callousness of the Zoramites – they trampled him to death. Our faith in God is manifest in how we treat others – the Zoramites were wicked. But Korihor’s ignominious death at the feet of the Zoramites served as an object lesson of Satan’s character. He’ll have someone help him with his work and then will cut them off as soon as they are no longer useful. All he wants is for more people to be miserable with him. He will do whatever it takes to hurt others in the worst way possible – to get them to knowingly sin against God. Satan is a coward and without loyalty. He doesn’t even care that his arguments are often so full of holes that if they were buckets, we’d call them colanders. He only needs to get people to believe him as mindless followers (which is not what God wants – mindless followers; God wants faithful followers but not mindless). Korihor’s tragic death shows that Satan does not care for his supporters, all he cares about is how to do the most harm to the most people.

Thus ended Korihor! A long chapter is devoted to him, which might indicate its importance for us to understand. His teachings are alive and well in our day. We need to recognize the Korihors around us and not follow their insidious doctrines. We need to recognize these philosophies of men (and Satan) for what they are and listen to and heed the living prophets of God.

Church Organization in The Book of Mormon

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In Mosiah 18 and Mosiah 25 we learn much about the proper organization and role of Christ’s church. Let’s set the context. An off-shoot of the Nephites were under the reign of a wicked man named Noah. The king ordained priests who shared his love of wickedness. A righteous man, a prophet, Abinadi came among the people and testified of their wickedness. He fled for his life and then later came back in disguise to preach more. Abinadi was taken before King Noah and his priests. He testified against their wickedness boldly. He also taught the gospel of Christ in power and purity. Abinadi was killed for his beliefs but one of the wicked priests believed his teachings. This priest – Alma – fled for his life but began to teach the people in secret after he repented of his sins. So the setting for Mosiah 18 is a wooded area where there is a fountain of pure water (how very appropriate for a setting for Alma’s teachings about the Source of Living Water, even Jesus Christ).

What did Alma teach and what do we learn about the organization of Christ’s church? Alma started teaching “repentance, and redemption, and faith on the Lord” (Mosiah 18:7). Those are the foundational principles of the gospel – faith in Christ and repentance (which is made efficacious through the reception of the Savior). In verses 8-10 we read about baptism and the reception of the gift of the Holy Ghost.

“8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?”

What’s important is in these verse we learn the covenant that those who are baptized make. Those who are baptized and confirmed members of Christ’s church are “called his people” – they take upon themselves the name of Christ (or at least are willing to and Christ puts His name upon them in their worthiness). Then we read of the responsibilities of the baptized members of Christ’s church:

  1. Bear one another’s burdens
  2. Mourn with those who mourn
  3. Comfort those who need comfort
  4. Testify of God in all things and times (particularly through the example of their lives)

Those in the church have a primary responsibility to take care of each other. Our devotion to God and our discipleship of Christ is evident in what we do and how we serve others. This sentiment echoes what the Savior taught His disciples on the eve of His death – “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35).

As we continue through Mosiah 18 we understand more about the true nature of Christ’s church. Before Alma performed an ordinance (baptism), he prayed for the Lord’s Spirit to be with him (verse 12). Then Alma baptized a man – Helam – “having authority from the Almighty God.” (verse 13). He did not receive authority of himself, it was given to him by God (either his ordination to the priesthood under the direction of Noah was valid or he was ordained and given authority by a heavenly messenger after that time {I believe that the former is true though, which could lead to an interesting discussion about the priesthood}). The priesthood authority is something you cannot receive but from God (“And no man taketh this honor [ordination to the priesthood] unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” Hebrews 5:4).

Then Alma baptized Helam who was then filled with the Spirit (Alma also baptized himself, which is done only in this special circumstance; normally, it is not possible to baptize oneself; UPDATE: a statement by Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith was brought to my attention; Pres. Smith stated that the self-baptism was merely symbolic {http://seminary.lds.org/manuals/book-of-mormon-seminary-student-study-guide/bm-ssg-05-mos-8-12.asp}. This brings up a whole point I did not initially bring up about where Alma’s priethood authority came from. Was his ordination as one of Noah’s priests valid (my guess is yes, it was)? Was he ordained secretly under the hands of Abinadi before Abinadi’s death? Did he already have the priesthood before being raised to the level of one of King Noah’s priests? Was he ordained by an angel? These are all unanswered questions and not entirely pertinent to this post, which is why I did not bring them up initially. However, if Alma’s baptism was symbolic, it means he was previously baptized by the proper authority). As Alma baptized more people, he did not go under the water again – one baptism is enough. These verses show that entrance to Christ’s church is dependent upon baptism and reception of the Holy Spirit: “And they were called the church of God, or the church of Christ, from that time forward. And it came to pass that whosoever was baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his church.” (Mosiah 18:17).

Next, to get the church set up further, Alma ordained priests over the people (initially about 4 – one for every 50 church members; there were 204 individuals baptized at that time). What did these priests do? Teach the people “nothing save it were the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets. Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord, who had redeemed his people.” (Mosiah 18:19-20). They were commanded to teach only the basics of the gospel as taught by the prophets.

The people of the Lord were then commanded to be unified and without contention (verse 21). The church members were also commanded to preach (to one another and to others) – they were to be missionaries (verse 22). They were also commanded to keep the sabbath day holy and thank the Lord in all things (verse 23). Related to this, the church members were to meet together one day a week for church services but also meet together as often as they could.

Next we get to something important – Christ’s church had a lay ministry (“he also commanded them that the priests whom he had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support” – verse 24). This was also important in the context of King Noah and his priests who were supported by taxes of their people. Alma did command church members to be free with their substance, to give freely to support those in need; the needy could be the priesthood leaders but they were not otherwise supported: “And thus they should impart of their substance of their own free will and good desires towards God, and to those priests that stood in need, yea, and to every needy, naked soul.” (verse 28). The lack of coercion is important – the giving needs to be freely done. This support was both temporal and spiritual (verse 29).

Doesn’t this sound like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today? I think there are great reminders for us in Mosiah 18 about our responsibilities and duties as members of Christ’s church.

In Mosiah 25 we learn a little more about the nature of Christ’s church. It was divided into multiple congregations (we call these wards today):

“And Alma did speak unto them, when they were assembled together in large bodies, and he went from one body to another, preaching unto the people repentance and faith on the Lord…And it came to pass that king Mosiah granted unto Alma that he might establish churches throughout all the land of Zarahemla; and gave him power to ordain priests and teachers over every church. Now this was done because there were so many people that they could not all be governed by one teacher; neither could they all hear the word of God in one assembly; Therefore they did assemble themselves together in different bodies, being called churches; every church having their priests and their teachers, and every priest preaching the word according as it was delivered to him by the mouth of Alma. And thus, notwithstanding there being many churches they were all one church, yea, even the church of God; for there was nothing preached in all the churches except it were repentance and faith in God.” (Mosiah 25:15,19-22).

Alma was given authority by King Mosiah (who was also the prophet). Mosiah held the priesthood keys, he authorized Alma to direct and organize the different congregations. Alma essentially acted as an apostle under the keys of Mosiah. He traveled to the different conjugations to teach them the gospel. Even though there were different congregations, they were all one church. This is just like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Wherever you go in the world, there is likely to be a congregation (there are many places the LDS Church is not but it is spreading). All of these different congregations are part of Christ’s church. They are different bodies of people but all are one.

While this church structure as found in the Book of Mormon is not novel to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it was when Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon. It served as an important guideline in conjunction with revelation for Joseph Smith to use to set up Christ’s restored church.

Experiment Upon the Word, Part 1

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“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words” (Alma 32:27; emphasis added).

The prophet Alma taught the poor on the hill Onidah about faith. He told those who were struggling with their faith to experiment upon the word. The word experiment is only found in the scriptures 5 times. One of those is in the New Testament but its use is not how Alma used it in his teachings (see 2 Cor. 9:13). The other 4 uses of the word experiment are all found in Alma’s teachings to the Zoramites (actually, Amulek used the word once when he referred to what his missionary companion – Alma – taught about experimenting upon the word). Alma launched into an analogy of faith as a seed as he taught the Zoramites. Alma talked about planting the seed of faith in your heart, nurturing it, and watching it grow.

This may sound like a science experiment but this faith experiment differs from science experiments in a number of key ways.

One of the tenets of modern science is to seek to discover facts that lead to truth. Scientists study facts, which may or may not be true, while at the same time assuming that facts are Truth. Scientists only study that which can observed or at least indirectly measured. If something is esoteric like love, for example, then scientists have to create a working definition of love – things that are observable and quantifiable – in order to measure and manipulate it. The problem is that a particular working definition (e.g., kisses, hugs, time spent conversing, time spent holding hands, etc.) might not be a good representation of love. Further, if something cannot easily be quantified, it’s at best left alone and at worst, attacked as non-existent and not important.

Alma and Amulek as Types of Christ, Part 5

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After the fall of the prison many came running to see what caused the commotion. When they saw Alma and Amulek walking out unscathed and filled with the power of God they “fled from the presence of Alma and Amulek even as a goat fleeth with her young from two lions” (Alma 14:29). The righteous of the Lord who are of the House of Israel “shall be among the Gentiles, yea, in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest” (3 Ne. 21:12; see also Mormon 5:24 and 3 Ne. 20:16). Christ is compared to a lion in the scriptures and was born into a house of lions (see Gen. 49:9). Indeed, He is “the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David” (Rev. 5:5). Those who fled from Alma and Amulek fled as goats. Goats are often used in the scriptures as an analogy for the wicked: “And before him [the Son of Man] shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left…. Then shall he say…unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:32-33,41). The Good Shepherd calls His sheep and they follow Him. The goats, those who will not hear His voice and follow Him, flee from before His presence just as they did from before Alma and Amulek.

As we study the scriptures we can learn many things and see many parallels with the life of the Savior. We may even see some parallels in our own lives.

Alma and Amulek as Types of Christ, Part 4

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After many days Alma and Amulek were once again visited in prison by the chief judge as well as teachers and lawyers. The chief judge hit them again and taunted, “If ye have the power of God deliver yourselves from these bands, and then we will believe that the Lord will destroy this people according to your words” (Alma 14:24). Throughout his crucifixion the Savior received similar taunts (see Luke 23:35; Mark 15:31-32; Matt. 27:42). After all the people visiting Alma and Amulek in prison had hit them and taunted them, Alma cried forth saying, “How long shall we suffer these great afflictions, O Lord? O Lord, give us strength according to our faith which is in Christ, even unto deliverance” (Alma 14:26). In His infinite agony, the Savior cried similar words on the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mark 15:34; see also Matt. 27:46). After this cry, Alma and Amulek “broke the cords with which they were bound” (Alma 14:26). The Savior broke the cords of death, “And the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death” (Alma 11:42).

When Alma and Amulek broke their bonds, those who came to taunt and torment were afraid and started to flee (see Alma 14:26-27). Some (although they were not wicked), when seeing the empty tomb and hearing the angels proclaim Christ’s resurrection, had the same feeling of fear: “And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed…for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). Those who fled from Alma and Amulek were so afraid that they “fell to the earth, and did not obtain the outer door of the prison” (Alma 14:27). Just as these wicked people did not make it out of the prison, the wicked who reject Christ remain in spirit prison. The prison then fell down around Alma and Amulek, “The earth shook mightily, and the walls of the prison were rent in twain”; those who were in the prison taunting Alma and Amulek “were slain by the fall [of the prison]” (Alma 14:27). At Christ’s death there were earthquakes in the Old World as well as the New: “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent” (Matt. 27:51; see also 3 Ne. 8). Those who reject the Lord suffer spiritual death just as those at Alma and Amulek’s prison suffered physical death.

Alma and Amulek “came forth out of the prison and they were not hurt; for the Lord had granted unto them power, according to their faith which was in Christ…[for] they were loosed from their bands; and the prison had fallen to the earth” (Alma 14:28). Christ came forth from the prison of Death through the power of God, “And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power” (1 Cor. 6:14); “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17-18). “And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins [and death]” (Hel. 5:11). Christ opened the prison doors for all that we will have power over death and be resurrected. He also opened the prison doors for others to be saved from spiritual death and hell through faith in His name.

Alma and Amulek as Types of Christ, Part 3

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Alma and Amulek, like the Savior, showed poise amid provocation, “And the Judge smote them again upon their cheeks, and asked: What say ye for yourselves?…And it came to pass that Alma and Amulek answered him nothing” (Alma 14:15,17). Before Herod, the Savior likewise said nothing, “He [Herod] questioned with him in many words; but [Jesus] answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9). After Alma and Amulek’s refusal to speak, the chief judge “smote them again, and delivered them to the officers to be cast into prison” (Alma 14:17). Jesus faced a similar experience, “And when [Pilate] had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified” (Matt. 27:26). The Savior was delivered unto crucifixion and the prison of death, which prison He would overcome and destroy. “And when [Alma and Amulek] had been cast into prison three days” (Alma 14:18) their incarceration was interrupted by more questioning from lawyers, judges, and church leaders. Unlike Alma and Amulek, the Savior rose and was freed from His prison, from the grave, on the third day (John 19:40-42; 20:1,9; Luke 24:46). Alma and Amulek, again like the Savior (see Mark 15:3), did not respond to the questions of the disingenuous and wicked civic and religious leaders (see Alma 14:18-19).

Many people “came forth also, and smote them” (Alma 14:20), just as the Savior was repeatedly smitten. Again, Alma and Amulek were mocked by those asking them why they did not save themselves. Alma and Amulek were further abused, “And many such things did they say unto [Alma and Amulek], gnashing their teeth upon them, and spitting upon them, and saying: How shall we look when we are damned?” (Alma 14:21). The Savior experienced all these same abuses. “The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth [meaning that they insulted the Savior and gnashed their teeth at Him]” (Matt 27:44). The High Priest and others “spit in [Jesus’] face, and buffeted him; and other smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?” (Matt. 26:67-68).

Alma and Amulek spent more days in prison suffering mocking and derision. Their captors “did withhold food from them that they might hunger, and water that they might thirst; and they also did take from them their clothes that they were naked” (Alma 14:22). The Savior suffered similar thirst, “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth” (John 19:28-29; see also Mark 15:36). [This also leads to an interesting aside about prophecies. The Savior knew the scriptures about Himself: “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Psalm 69:21) and He acted upon this knowledge to fulfill this prophecy. Prophecies often require effort to be fulfilled – they are not usually independent of human action. The other thing we learn from the scripture in Psalm 69 is that the Savior also was hungry and probably was offered something very unpleasant to eat, even though it is not mentioned in the Gospels. This further strengthens the relationship between Alma and Amulek’s sufferings and the Savior’s because Alma and Amulek were denied food and drink]. Also like Alma and Amulek, the Savior was stripped of His clothing: “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part” (John 19:23). Alma and Amulek, once stripped of clothing, “were bound with strong cords, and confined in prison” (Alma 14:22). The Savior, once crucified, likewise was bound with the cords of death and confined in the prison of the grave.

Alma and Amulek as Types of Christ, Part 2

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The narrative continues: “And the people went forth testifying against them – testifying that they had reviled against the law…and [had stated] that there was but one God, and that he should send his Son among the people, but he should not save them…. Now this was done before the chief judge of the land” (Alma 14:5). The Savior faced a similar experience: “Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days… And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy” (Matthew 26:55-66).

When forced to watch the awful burning of the innocent women and children, Amulek stated (after he had asked if they could save those being burned), “Behold, perhaps they will burn us also.” Alma replied, “Be it according to the will of the Lord” (Alma 14:13). The Savior made a similar statement in submitting His will to the Father’s in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). Alma continued, “But, behold, our work is not finished” (Alma 14:13). The Lord had stated earlier in His life, “My time is not yet come [my work is not finished]” (John 7:6) but when he was crucified, His mortal work was finished (John 19:30).

Alma and Amulek were taken before the chief judge of the land, who “smote them with his hand upon their cheeks” (Alma 14:14). The Savior likewise was smitten, “And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him” (Luke 22:63). “And when he [the Savior] had thus spoken, one of the officers [of the High Priest] which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand” (John 18:22). The chief judge, when seeing that Alma and Amulek did nothing to save the women and children stated, “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” (Alma 14:15). The Savior was similarly mocked, “And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. And the soldiers also mocked him…saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself…. And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us” (Luke 23: 35-37,39). What those who mocked the Savior did not understand was that through His death He was bringing salvation from death for all and salvation from hell for all who follow Him.

Alma and Amulek as Types of Christ, Part 1

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The scriptures are rife with people whose experiences and characteristics serve as types and foreshadows of Christ’s life and sufferings. There were two missionaries who preached among a wicked people. One was a prophet and the other his recently-converted companion. Some of the clearest and most powerful teachings in the Book of Mormon are found in the teachings of this companionship. However, their most powerful sermon was not given to the crowd of lawyers and judges; it was not given to Zeezrom. Their most powerful sermon was given while they were in prison; it was given with few few words but powerful actions. Alma and Amulek were thrown in prison for speaking plainly against the wickedness of the people. The ensuing events closely parallel the final hours of the Savior’s life as well as his death and resurrection.

Lies were told about Alma and Amulek. Some said they were seditious – speaking against the laws and judges. These same lies were told of the Savior’s teachings: “And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King” (Luke 23:2; compare to Luke 20:25). The lawyers wanted to get rid of Alma and Amulek in secret, to “put them away privily” (Alma 14:3). The Savior also had a secret and illegal initial trial, “Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover…. Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death” (John 18:28,31). Just as the religious leaders not able to put the Savior away privily in the end and had to have him condemned in a very public manner, neither were Alma and Amulek put away silently. Instead, the civic rulers took Alma and Amulek and “bound them with strong cords, and took them before the chief judge of the land” (Alma 14:4). Of the Savior, it is written: “And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes” (Mark 14:53). “AND straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate” (Mark 15:1). So both the Savior and Alma and Amulek were taken before the leaders of the land to receive their judgments.