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Relationship to Alma. The relationship of Chapters 56-58 to the rest of Alma is discussed at Alma.
Story. Chapters 56-58 consists of ___ major sections:
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 56-58 include:
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- Alma 58:11: Insomuch and assurances. The OED defines the phrase "insomuch that" as meaning "to such an extent that, so that" (definition 3, designated "the most usual construction"). It seems that, in this case, "insomuch" is modifying the phrase "God did visit us with assurances," rather than the phrase that is more proximate ("that he would deliver us"). If this is indeed the case, then it would seem that insomuch casts the phrase "he did speak peace" as a kind of intensification of the "visit us with assurances" phrase. It is not clear, however, whether the following phrases, ("and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause . . . ") should be read under the sway of the "insomuch." These later phrases could, it seems, be read as further modifying the "did visit us with assurances" phrase, parallel to the phrase "he did speak to our souls"; or they could be read as statements that are distinct and relatively independent of the "visit us with assurances" and "he did speak peace" phrases. The theological implications of these various readings will be explored below in the "Exegesis" section.
- Helaman's thoughts might borrow from Deut. 28 (esp. verses 66-68), where the Lord issues a harrowing warning that if Israel does not follow him then it will "have none assurance of thy life."
- The word "insomuch" might indicate that what follows the semicolon elaborates what precedes. In this case, the "assurances" are mentioned briefly, then expounded as coming in the form of: "speak[ing] peace to our souls", followed by the granting of "great faith" in that intangible assurance, the result of which was a "hope for...deliverance." The pattern is: prompting → faith → hope. Alternatively, "insomuch" could indicate that peace, faith, and hope came as a result of the unspecified assurances they received. The way we read this also has implications for how we understand the progression of verbs: speak → grant → cause. A similar pattern might be profitably considered in light of its occurrence elsewhere—for example, in Alma 32 the word is first given (cf. 32:6, 14, etc., parallel to "speak" here), then faith comes subsequently (cf. 32:16), and finally a change is "caused" by the negative space of non-knowledge generated by the word and faith (cf. 32:18-19).
- Alma 58:13. Based on the limited geography in Alma_16:6-7, a narrow strip of wilderness, which marks the Nephite-Lamanite border, lies just south of the city of Manti. Thus, Helaman stationed his army in between Manti and Lamanite territory.
- Alma 58:18. By retreating into the wilderness, Helaman's army was heading further south; i.e., crossing into Lamanite territory (see note in verse 13). This would undoubtedly appear foolish from the perspective of the Lamanite army in Manti.
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Prompts for further study
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- Alma 56:6-10: Why were the People of Ammon willing to break their covenant with the Lord?
- Alma 56:6-10: Why would the People of Ammon allow their sons to defend their country by taking up their weapons of war (vs. 5), rather than teach their children to make the same covenants against raising arms that they had made?
- Alma 56:6-10: Why is Helaman willing to lead the two thousand sons of the People of Ammon, while he would "not suffer" the People of Ammon to take up arms?
- Alma 56:12: How would the Lamanites have known who were the chief captains? Were the captains perhaps dressed differently?
- Alma 57:6: Helaman tells us that sixty of the sons of the Ammonites joined the 2000 stripling warriors. Though we more often talk about the 2000 stripling warriors, the service these sixty young men gave was no less appreciated. Their faith was the same, and they were equally protected. These 60 young men provide a great example to us to always remember that it is not too late to begin to "fight" for the Lord. Like these 60, we may not get the same attention as the 2000 stripling warriors, but if we fight valiantly, the Lord will still watch over us and bless us equally.
- Alma 57:21: I believe we learn the reason here that the stripling warriors were spared. They put their trust in God and they followed the orders of Helaman with exactness. Helaman was a just and faithful man and God led him. They all had great faith.
- Alma 57:26-30: Why was ever single stripling warrior spared in every battle while many other righteous and faithful soldiers were not? What does the author tell us about these soldiers that distinguishes them from other soldiers by way of suggesting an answer to this question?
- Here you have an entire group described as all obeying every command with exactness. One of the main points of the war chapters is Alma is that dissension can deprive a group of divine protection. The stripling warriors are described as being of one identical mind with regard to obedience.
- Alma 58:13: Assurances. What form did the "assurances" take? Were they personal spiritual promptings given to individuals or outward evidences that a group of people would recognize?
- Alma 58:13: Speak peace. Was "speaking peace" the type of assurance they received, or was it the result of those assurances?
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