From Feast upon the Word (http://feastupontheword.org). Copyright, Feast upon the Word.
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 Verse 6
- Was Zeezrom "astonished at the words which had been spoken" by "the people" in v5 or by Alma and Amulek in the previous chapters?
- Zeezrom caused the people to have "blindness of the mind" due to his lying words. Does this mean that the people were weakminded, or does it mean something else?
- What are the pains of hell?
 Verse 7
- What is it in Zeezrom's confession/testimony in v7 that may have provoked the people to cast out or burn the believers?
- When Zeezrom declares himself as guilty is he volunteering to take the punishment for the “crimes” committed by Alma and Amulek?
- Is there a religious significance to the casting of stones in this verse?
- What is the connection between what the people do to Zeezrom here (revile, spit, cast out) and what they did to Alma when he first went to Ammonihah? (revile, spit, cast out: see Alma 8:13) Is this a ritual in their city?
 Verse 8
- Verse 7 records that Zeezrom and all those who believed in the words which had been spoken were exiled from Ammonihah, yet v8 says their wives and children were rounded up to be burned. Is this second group more extensive, because it contained "whosoever had been taught to believe in the word of God," or was it less extensive, because other believers had already been cast out or stoned?
- How plentiful were copies of the “holy scriptures”?
- What physical form did scripture take? This verse implies that they can be burned. Is carbon-based material (paper, parchment, or other similar materials) evident elsewhere in the Book of Mormon? Were scriptures bound, rolled, kept on animal skins, printed on textiles?
 Verse 9
- Both v8 and v9 suggest that both the location and means of execution may have been previously established in Ammonihah: for example, use of "the fire" without any description of fire-building or site selection, and reference to "the place of martyrdom" as if this was well known. Did the actual place bear this designation, "the place of martyrdom", and if so, was it already so designated before v8, or did the place only take on this designation historically because of this event?
- Why it is important to the people of Ammonihah that Alma and Amulek "witness the destruction"? More generally, why is it important that we become witnesses to suffering, injustice, and the pains of others? Does their use of "witness" as a verb rather than a noun make a difference here?
- How does the use of "fire" in this verse compare with other uses of the word in scripture? How do these burnings compare with Mosiah 17:13, Mosiah 19:20, Alma 25:11, or even perhaps Hel 5:23?
- What affect might watching this gruesome scene have had on Alma and Amulek? Are the people trying to break down Alma and Amulek psychologically? How might this experience influence the their future preaching?
 Verse 10
- Why is Amulek only seeing women and children being burned in the fire? Verse 8 states that “whosoever believed or had been taught to believe in the word of God they cause that they should be cast into the fire.” Are Alma and Amulek standing next to other men while they watch this scene, or were all the men driven out in v7 and only women and children cast into the fire?
 Lexical notes
- Verse 6: Regarding Zeezrom's soul being harrowed up: harrowing as an agricultural term is quite distinct from plowing, which digs a single deep trough. A harrow is a long, multi-tined instrument that disrupts the top layers of the soil, breaking up clumps and rendering the surface ready for planting (See Websters 1828 dictionary entry). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, use of the term to refer to lacerating or wounding the feelings; to vex, pain, or distress greatly (rarely with up) apparently dates in English to the early 1600s, and is first attributed to Shakespeare (1603) Hamlet i. v. 16, "I would a tale unfold, whose lightest word Would harrow up thy soule." Harrowing is mentioned 13 times in the LDS scriptures, 10 times in the Book of Mormon--the only source for verses discussing the harrowing up of souls.
See also Christian beliefs about Christ's "Harrowing of Hell" (Greek: Anastasis) between his death and resurrection. Wikipedia
 Zeezrom's Conversion
Zeezrom's change of heart begins when people testify falsely against Alma and Amulek. His range of emotions begins with "astonishment" at the "blindness of the minds," which leads to a sense of his own complicity and guilt about the collective unwillingness to acccept truth, and then to being "harrowed up" and "encircled by pains of hell," and finally: public confession.
 Burning the believers
The reaction of the wicked to burn the believers is entirely shocking. Indeed, it may be the most extreme reaction by the wicked to preaching recorded in scripture. It is surprising for a couple reasons.
- It seems to come out of nowhere. In the preceding verses and chapters, the wickedness of Ammonihah seems to be pretty typical of all wicked cities. No particular mention of their sins is made (besides Alma 8:17) except to say that they're wicked and they reject Alma's teachings. By contrast, Mosiah 11 gives specific attention to the wickedness of King Noah, making a case against them, before introducing Abinadi. Ammonihah feels like your run-of-the-mill prideful city, until you get to v8 and realize just how awful these guys are.
- It's unprecedented. Typically in situations like this, those in power (the king, the chief judge, the governor, etc.) act primarily in the interest of preserving their power and will seek to knock off the head of the movement (e.g. the prophet) that is disturbing the balance of power. There may be some persecution against the believers as well, but not typically this extreme. That seems to be the pattern this story was following until v5. In v5, Alma and Amulek are on trial, suggesting they prefer to keep up a facade of legality and justice. But what is the outcome of the hearing? To burn the believers! But they weren't on trial so what was the point of holding one? It makes no sense. A possible explanation for this sudden turn may be the interposed testimony of Zeezrom.
- It's blatantly illegal. Ammonihah is still accountable to the broader laws of the land, and they must expect some kind of retribution for the execution of women and children who weren’t even on trial in v5. These burnings don’t just represent a rejection of Alma’s preaching, but a rejection of association with the rest of the Nephites. Between this verse and Alma 8:17, it’s clear that these people were already planning some kind of rebellion when Alma came to Ammonihah in ch8, though it isn’t revealed in their actions until this moment.
- It's extremely sarcastic. Since Alma had previously quoted scriptures to the people of Ammonhihah about a time when the wicked's "torments shall be as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever" Alma 12:17, perhaps the wicked leaders are seeking to enact this prediction, throwing it in the face of Alma and Amulek. The wicked leaders will later sarcastically enact another of the prophesies about the damned--by "gnashing their teeth upon them" and specifically mocking them by asking "how shall we look when we are damned?" Alma 14:21.
 Power Structures
The significance of burning the believers' records may possibly be explained in terms of the power structures discussed above. Because records are a crucial part of any power structure, especially those that are elite/educated (courts and religions and education, constituted of judges, laywers, priests, and teachers), it may be that these scriptural records were recognized as the binding and unifying force for this upstart religious group. Burning the records, then, especially in such a way as to warrant such strong language ("that they might be burned and destroyed by fire") might be aimed at cutting down this threatening power structure at its very roots.
In addition, it should be remembered that it was Alma and Amulek's reinterpretation of scripture that lead to the mass conversion. Alma 14:1 indicates that the new converts "began to repent, and to search the scriptures." Perhaps the ruling class had a particular interpretation of scripture that they taught (likely similar to the Nehor doctrines discussed elsewhere in the Book of Mormon) and if the people were to take Alma and Amulek seriously and read for themselves, the Nehor fallacies would be discovered and their power as leaders and teachers lost.
Further evidence that this chapter is steeped in the language of judicial procedure comes in Zeezrom's introspective statement. As Zeezrom realizes his own error and watches the court-room drama unfolding between God and the people of Ammonihah, he exclaims, "Behold, I am guilty, and these men are spotless. He frames his repentant statement in terms of guilt vs. innocence. Immediately after proclaiming his own guilt, he is eliminated from the system, "reviled" and "cast . . . out from among them" in company with the other believers (v. 7).
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