Alma 5:1-13

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Home > The Book of Mormon > Alma > Chapters 4-7 > Chapter 5 > Verses 5:1-13
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  • Alma 5:1-5: Establishing an Abinadite Heritage for the Church in Zarahemla. Alma’s audience is the people of Zarahemla, who are a mix of Mulekites and Nephites, most likely with few if any Zeniffites among them. Thus, these are people who were raised in the state religion of Benjamin and Mosiah. They may believe in Christ more because Christianity is the inherited state religion of all who live in the land than because each of them have personally chosen it as individuals. So part of Alma’s rhetorical task is to fully move his audience from the old state religion to a committed, voluntary membership in the church started by his father, Alma. To be sure--as verses 2 and 14 indicate--many if not most of the people listening to Alma are already affiliated to one degree or another with the church founded at the Waters of Mormon. But the identity and authority of that church is apparently not fully established in the minds and hearts of the listeners. Thus, Alma places great emphasis on the restoration through his father and Abinadi while wholly ignoring the restoration through Benjamin. What Alma is doing is analogous to what we do when we tell new converts the story of the First Vision and of the pioneers crossing the plains. We are helping them embrace as their own the narratives that are foundational for the church in our day. Though their ancestors were generally not involved in these stories, the stories become an essential part of their heritage and identity when they become a latter-day saint.
Alma's emphasis on the founding of the church in the land of Nephi and the captivity of his father in the land of Helam is rooted in a very specific charge he received from the angel that visited and first called him to repentence. The last thing the angel said to him was that he should remember the captivity of his fathers (Mosiah 27:16). Alma later begins his sermon to his son Helaman with the same charge he received from the angel and here gives the people of Zarahemla--to remember the captivity of his fathers (Alma 36:1-2). Alma clearly took that angelic message to heart and never tires of sharing it with others.
  • Alma 5:6: Importance of Remembering Our Spiritual Heritage. In this verse, Alma emphasizes the importance of remembering the founding narratives of the faith. Our faith and determination to persist in upholding and building the kingdom is strengthened if we recognize that we have a rich spiritual heritage that is now entrusted to us as a precious legacy that we, in turn, must pass on. Those who have gone before should become our models as we strive to be faithful in our day. And our example, in turn, should become a foundation for the faith of those who follow us. This focus on what we inherit from those who have gone before and what we pass on to those who follow us finds its highest expression in the sealing ceremonies of the temple, where priesthood power binds the generations together in multigenerational eternal families. We are strengthened in our faith that we can follow Christ if we know that our ancestors have already followed him. What they have done, we too can do. And we are strengthened in our determination to be true to our covenants when we anticipate, as Abraham did, that our righteousness can benefit our decendants for many generations yet to come.
This call to faith is made more powerful by the repetition of the phrase "have you sufficiently retained in remembrance." As is true throughout this sermon, the second person "you" adds greatly to the force of the rhetoric by drawing us in and making us the audience. We must remember Alma the Elder and Abinadi, for they are our spiritual ancestors just as they were spiritual ancestors of these Mulekites who, like us, were not related by blood to Alma the Elder or Abinadi.
  • Alma 5:7: Personally Relevant Metaphors. The metaphors Alma uses in this verse may have had special resonance for his father and him. Alma the Elder, a priest in King Noah's court, was spiritually asleep until Abinadi awakened him from his dogmatic slumbers. Later in the city of Helam when he and his people were captives of the Lamanites and Amulon, the chief of Noah's priests who was their most bitter enemy, this metaphor took literal effect as Alma and his people literally awoke and escaped from Helam while Amulon and the Lamanites literally remained in a deep sleep. The righteous are awake and see the light while the wicked are in darkness, as if spiritually asleep, inert, dead.
For Alma the younger, the metaphors of darkness, bands of death, and chains of hell recall the experience he recounts in Mosiah 27:10-31 and Alma 36:1-30 of being in hell until he remembers his father's teaching of Christ and is born again unto the light.
  • Alma 5:8-9: Artful and Effective Rhetoric. Alma uses repetition and balance to make his words memorable and intelligible. The arrangment below partially highlights the pattern:
And now I ask of you, my brethren, [were they destroyed]?
Behold, (I say unto you), Nay, they were not.
And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed?
(I say unto you), Yea, they were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love.
And (I say unto you) that [they are saved].
  • Alma 5:10: More Effective Rhetoric and THE QUESTION. In this verse, Alma heightens the emotional intensity and urgency of his words by repeating in rapid succession a series of short questions.
  • And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved?
  • Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation?
  • What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell?
The critically important question, What grounds had they to hope for salvation? is the basis of Alma's sermon. How could these men know they were saved? Was their rejoicing in vain? Is there a test that we can use to determine if we are saved? The answer is found in the following three verses.
  • Alma 5:11-13: THE ANSWER. A mighty change. These verses answer the question posed in verse 10: how can we trust that we have been saved? Alma the younger uses his father's experience as proof that salvation is real and measurable.
  • First, Alma believed -- He heard the true words of a prophet of God, and was stirred to action. He exercised faith in the message.
  • Second, Alma's heart changed -- As he tried the word (see Alma 32:28), he experienced God first-hand and became a different man because of it.
  • Finally, Alma's message changed others -- As Alma preached what he had learned, the same mighty change took place in everyone that put faith in it.
This equation has been reduced to its basic components. The fruits of the spirit (humility, faith) are a potent indicator that the message is good (see verse 40), and those that put their trust in it have a real reason to hope for salvation.
These verses also succinctly and powerfully summarize the spiritual heritage of these people, a heritage all members of the church, then and now share: Abinadi's testimony and martyrdom, Alma’s conversion and ministry. The conversion and salvation of these, our spiritual progenitors bears and implicit message: it is our heritage to be likewise saved.
  • Alma 5:13: Figurative Fathers. As noted in the overview for this chapter, most if not all of the people in the land of Zarahemla have no blood relationship with Zeniff and his followers, a group who left Zarahemla, went back to the land of Nephi, learned hard lessons, then returned and settled in the land of Gideon. The literal descendants of the Zeniffites in the land of Gideon will receive their sermon, a sermon adapted to their great faithfuness, in chapter 7. So when Alma says "he [Abinadi or Alma the Elder, it's ambiguous] preached the word unto your fathers," the fathers must be metaphorical fathers of the restoration these people have been adopted into, not literal fathers.

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  • Alma 5:1-7: Alma begins as he seems to begin each of his sermons, with a reference to the type of bondage and deliverance. (Verse 6 captures both parts of the type: have you remembered the captivity of your fathers and their deliverance?) Sometimes the specific instance of that type is Moses and Israel in Egypt. In this case it is Noah and the people of Nephi. Why do you think the type, bondage and deliverance, has such power for Alma the Younger? Is it or ought it to be an important type for us?
  • Alma 5:6: Is there a difference between "my brethren" and "you that belong to this church"?
  • Alma 5:6: What does it mean to "sufficiently" retain in remembrance? Is there a minimum standard or level at which the things Alma speaks about must be remembered?
  • Alma 5:6: Why is it important for the Nephites to remember "the captivity of your fathers"? Which captivity is this? Egypt? Land of Helam? Land of Nephi?
  • Alma 5:6: What is the value of remembrance here? What is specifically to be remembered? How is this remembrance to take place? Is it just a mental remembrance, or something else?
  • Alma 5:6: What does it mean to remember?
  • Alma 5:6: What is it about the Lord's "mercy and long-suffering" that the Nephites are to remember? Do we need to remember the same thing?
  • Alma 5:6: What does it mean to have your soul delivered from hell? Is this something that happens in this life? How does it require faith to see this deliverance?
  • Alma 5:6: In our Latter-day discussions, we don't talk much about hell. What is the hell that Alma is referring to here?
  • Alma 5:7: What does changing hearts or awakening from a deep sleep have to do with having a soul delivered from hell (vs. 6)?
  • Alma 5:7: How is it that the Lord can change a heart? How does this happen? What does a person have to do in order for the Lord to change his or her heart?
  • Alma 5:7: What is the deep sleep that Alma is talking about here? How is one awoken from this deep sleep?
  • Alma 5:7: What does it mean to awake unto God?
  • Alma 5:7: What does it mean to be "in the midst of darkness"?
  • Alma 5:7: What is "the light of the everlasting word"? How does it illuminate souls?
  • Alma 5:7: What are the bands of death? Are they the same as the "chains of hell"? How does one become "encircled about" by these bands?
  • Alma 5:7: What is "everlasting destruction"?
  • Alma 5:8: Why weren't the people destroyed?
  • Alma 5:8: Why is Alma asking so many questions here?
  • Alma 5:8: Why does Alma say "and now I ask of you"?
  • Alma 5:8: Why does Alma answer his own questions? How effective is this rhetorically?
  • Alma 5:9: How are "bands of death broken"? Is this the same thing as loosening the chains of hell? What does it mean to have these things broken or loosed?
  • Alma 5:9: What does breaking bands and loosening chains have to do with souls expanding?
  • Alma 5:9: What does it mean for a soul to expand?
  • Alma 5:9: What does it mean to "sing redeeming love"?
  • Alma 5:9: What does expanding souls and singing redeeming love have to do with being saved? What does Alma mean here by being saved?
  • Alma 5:10: What is mean by "conditions" of salvation?
  • Alma 5:10: What is the difference between being saved and having grounds for hope for salvation?
  • Alma 5:10: What does it mean to "hope for salvation"? Is this hope enough to loosen the bands of death or chains of hell? What is the connection between having a hope for salvation and having the bands of death or chains of hell loosened?
  • Alma 5:11: Alma announces his theme, the conditions of salvation. Compare this sermon to King Benjamin’s sermon in Mosiah 4. How are they different? How the same?
  • Alma 5:11: To what cause of salvation does Alma first refer? Why is that particular cause so important? What does it mean to him? to us?
  • Alma 5:11: What does it mean for the words to be delivered "by the mouth of Abinadi"? Were these words read? Recited? What does it mean for them to be delivered?
  • Alma 5:11: Why does Alma call Abinadi a "holy prophet" rather than just a prophet? Why the emphasis on holy?
  • Alma 5:11: What is meant here by speaking the words of God?
  • Alma 5:11: What does it mean that Alma believed the words of God?
  • Alma 5:12: Verse 11 tells us that Alma the Elder heard and believed the words of Abinadi. What does this verse describe as the result? Why does Alma II say that the mighty change was something that happened to his father, Alma I, rather than something that he did?
  • Alma 5:12: What is the relationship between belief (vs 11) and faith? Is it the same? If faith is a gift from God, what does it mean for Alma to "have" faith? Is it appropriate to talk of Alma "having" faith, or is there some other way we should describe this?
  • Alma 5:12: How does faith lead to "a mighty change" of heart?
  • Alma 5:12: What do we have to do to get this mighty change as well?
  • Alma 5:13: Why is it enough to say that the people “humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God” and that they “were faithful until the end” to explain their salvation? Why doesn’t Alma include such things as baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost or keeping the commandments in his description of salvation?
  • Alma 5:13: What does it mean for the change of heart to be mighty? For it to be wrought?
  • Alma 5:13: What does it mean that they "humbled themselves"? Is this something that we have to do for our selves, or does God somehow make it possible?
  • Alma 5:13: What does it mean that they "put their trust" in God?
  • Alma 5:13: What is meant by referring to God as "true and living"?
  • Alma 5:13: What does it mean that "they were faithful until the end"? What constitutes being faithful? What does "until the end" mean? Is that just to the end of their lives, or does it mean something else?

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