Alma 9:1-34

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Home > The Book of Mormon > Alma > Chapters 8-16 > Chapter 9
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Summary[edit]

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The relationship of Chapter 8 to the rest of Chapters 8-16 the book is discussed at Chapters 8-16.

Discussion[edit]

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  • Alma 9: Superscription. Before this point in the Book of Alma, Mormon is the dominant author of the text. He sometimes clearly copies over without much or any editing whole swaths of his source text (in, for example, Alma 5 and Alma 7), but he is always the narrator of the story. Suddenly, with 9:1 ("I, Alma"), Mormon is replaced by Alma. Introducing this change—as well as its somewhat odd lapse—is the superscription to chapter 9.
Like the superscription to whole Book of Alma, this superscription describes what follows as being "according to the record of Alma." But whereas this phrase in the earlier superscription seems just to indicate a source, here—at least once one reads "I, Alma" in verse 1—it seems to name the actual record being included in Mormon's text. At first, then, there seems to be a difference between Mormon's two uses of "according to the record of Alma."
When examined a bit closer, however, the problem seems to disappear. The phrase "according to the record of Alma" in the superscription to chapter 9 is attached less to what is now chapter 9 than to what is now chapter 14: "And also they [Alma and Amulek] are cast into prison, and delivered by the miraculous power of God which was in them, according to the record of Alma." Though one might quibble about punctuation, which (more or less) did not appear in the original dictated manuscript, there seems to be an indication here that it is specifically the narrative of Alma 14 that is "according to the record of Alma." And in Alma 14, Mormon seems to be following the same editorial practices employed in the larger Book of Alma: not borrowed narrative voice, but authorial abridgement.
In the first part of the superscription, Mormon describes what are now chapters 9-13: "The words of Alma, and also the words of Amulek, which were declared unto the people who were in the land of Ammonihah." Here no actual source is identified, and in those chapters Mormon not only draws on his sources in order to record parts of the sermons delivered by Alma and Amulek, but he also copies over, as already mentioned, parts of Alma's own narrative telling of the event.
It is thus important to note that there is some difficulty in determining where Alma's original narrativization ends and Mormon's abridging editorial work begins. The first unmistakable indication that Mormon is the narrator is to be found in Alma 10:12, where Alma and Amulek are referred to as "them." (Mormon's role as narrator is thereafter confirmed a number of times: the obviously non-contemporary explanation of weights and measures in 11:1-20, the emphasis on "all that I have written" in 11:46 and 13:31, the "Now Alma" of Alma 12:1, etc.) The question, though, is at what point between 9:33 (the last clear instance of Alma speaking in the first person: "the Lord did not suffer them that they should take me at that time") and 10:12 (the first clear instance of Alma being mentioned in the third person: "the spirit of prophecy which was in them [Alma and Amulek]"). Does the third person reference in 10:12 suggest that Mormon is the narrator from the beginning of chapter 10? Does Mormon's "takeover" begin as early as the last verse of chapter 9? Or does Mormon perhaps simply copy over Alma's words concerning Amulek for at least a few verses into chapter 10? These are questions that deserve attention in the respective commentaries on the relevant passages.
  • Alma 9:2. The although in verse 2 has confused some readers. To make sense of although here read it as even though (see the Oxford English Dictionary). Today we might say even if in place of even though. Under this interpretation the people are saying something like "do you expect us to believe something only one person tells us no matter how crazy it is?" See Mark 14:29 for another reference in the scriptures to where although is used to mean "even though" or "even if."
  • Alma 9:2: Who art thou? Some have considered Alma as returning somewhat in disguise, pointing to the moment when he tells Amulek who he is in Alma 8:23. However, this is likely mostly a carryover from the story of Abinadi, who was rejected and returned after 2 years in disguise (Mosiah 12:1). In Alma's story, the people are more likely to be saying "Who art thou?" not in sincerely asking who he is, but in asking Who are you to tell us such things? Interestingly, King Noah says something similar about Abinadi, even using his name: "Who is Abinadi, that I and my people should be judged of him, or who is the Lord, that shall bring upon my people such great affliction?" (Mosiah 11:27) The people knew who he was when he first arrived, and mocked him in his lack of judgmental authority: "And now we know that because we are not of thy church we know that thou hast no power over us; and thou hast delivered up the judgment-seat" (Alma 8:12).
  • Alma 9:11: Woe. According to Webster's 1828 dictionary, wo [sp] is a noun that means 1. grief; sorrow; misery; a heavy calamity, 2. a curse, and 3. is used in denunciation, and in exclamations of sorrow.
  • Alma 9:13: Prosperity and the Kingdom of God. In these verses, Alma seems to link the concepts of prosperity, inheriting the kingdom of God, and being in the presence of God. It is possible to read these verses as providing the following oppositions:
A) Inherit the Kingdom, B) In the presence of God, C) Prosper in the land

versus

D) Destroyed from off the face of the earth, E) Cut off from the presence of the Lord
By this reading, prosperity should be seen as more than the accumulation of material success, but a quality related to living in the presence of God here on earth.
  • Alma 9:18-19: Not suffer the wicked to destroy the righteous. Here Alma warns the peoplee of Ammonihah that, if they persist in attempting to destroy the Lord's people, then the people of Ammonihah will instead be destroyed. For more on the subject of when the Lord destroys the wicked, see the discussion of Hel 13:14 and also Alma 10:22-23.
  • Alma 9:21. This appears to be an early formulation of gifts of the Spirit.
  • Alma 9:21: Light and knowledge. There are only four uses of the phrase "light and knowledge" in all the scriptures. (Wouldn't you have thought it was a more common phrase?) See also Alma 39:6; Alma 45:12; D&C 77:4.
  • Alma 9:26-28: Countering the doctrine of Nehor. We know that the leaders of the people in Ammonihah were followers of Nehor, and in vs. 26-28, Alma counters point by point the teachings of Nehor as recorded in Alma 1:3-4.

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Prompts for life application[edit]

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Prompts for further study[edit]

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  • Alma 9:1: How did Alma view Amulek's role as his companion? Why does he speak of "tak[ing] Amulek?" Is this the language of God, or Alma's interpretation of it?
  • Alma 9:2: What does although mean here?
  • Alma 9:2: What are the people talking about here? Why are they talking about the earth passing away? Are they responding to something that Alma has said, or where does this come from?
  • Alma 9:2: Are the people suggesting that real prophets only come to prophesy of big and disastrous events? But even if Alma were to do that they would not believe it unless several prophets came to say the same thing?
  • Alma 9:3: What does Alma mean when he says that the earth should pass away? Why would he even record this little exchange with the people of Ammonihah?
  • Alma 9:4: Why wouldn't the people of Ammonihah believe Alma?
  • Alma 9:4: Why do the people say they won't believe Alma if he "shouldst prophesy that this great city should be destroyed in one day"? Was this a response to something Alma had said?
  • Alma 9:4: What if we read the "if" to mean: "if you are foolish enough to prophesy that this great city could be destroyed in one day, then you are an idiot and we won't believe anything else you say?" Is this a productive reading?
  • Alma 9:5: What does Alma mean by "hard-hearted" and "stiffnecked"? What scriptural precedences provide insight into these terms?
  • Alma 9:6-10: Prophets in the Book of Mormon often begin their calls to repentance by reminding the people of what the Lord has done for their ancestors. (For example, Alma the Younger did this in his sermon in Alma 5.) Why? Were a modern prophet delivering a sermon like this, to what might he refer to remind us of what the Lord has done?
  • Alma 9:6: What are the people saying here? What do they mean by "Who is God"? Are they belittling Alma's teachings about God? Do they seem to be mocking a god that would only send one messenger?
  • Alma 9:7: How did Alma avoid being grabbed by the people?
  • Alma 9:7: What does it mean for Alma to have "stood with boldness"
  • Alma 9:8: What does Alma mean by calling the people a "wicked and perverse generation"?
  • Alma 9:8: How is Alma using the word "generation"?
  • Alma 9:8: What about this generation was so wicked and perverse?
  • Alma 9:8: Did the people forget the tradition of their fathers, or did the actively reject it?
  • Alma 9:8: What is the connection between the traditions of the fathers and the commandments? How might that connection be broken? In modern terms, how is it that this generation didn't get their own testimonies of the gospel? How were the traditions passed down? Were there weaknesses in how it was transmitted from one generation to the next?
  • Alma 9:9: What does it mean to be brought "by the hand of God"? Is this just metaphorical, or is there something else going on here?
  • Alma 9:9: Why does Alma switch from "our father" in the first question, to "they...all" in the second question?
  • Alma 9:10: What does Alma mean when he says the people have "forgotten so soon"? It has been decades since the earlier generations, their "fathers", were brought out of bondage?
  • Alma 9:10: What incidents is Alma referring to here, where the fathers were "delivered" and "preserved...from being destroyed by...their own brethren"?
  • Alma 9:10: Who are the "our fathers" referred to here? Does this include Mulekite ancestors, or just literal descendants of Nephi?
  • Alma 9:11: Why does Alma refer to God's power as "matchless"?
  • Alma 9:11: What is the link between being "cut off from the face of the earth" and being "consigned to a state of endless misery and woe"?
  • Alma 9:11: What is the state of endless misery and woe that Alma refers to? Can we translate that into our modern understanding of the spirit world, or does it refer to something else?
  • Alma 9:11: What is woe? Does it mean the same as misery, or does it imply something more?
  • Alma 9:11: Are misery and woe a common couplet, or is there something beyond just a literary style here in their use?
  • Alma 9:12: What is the difference between being told to repent to "inherit the kingdom of God" or to avoid being utterly destroyed? Is Alma or the Lord trying to provide two different motivations to try and get the people to repent, or is there something else going on here?
  • Alma 9:12: What is the place for such hellfire and damnation preaching in the modern church?
  • Alma 9:12: What is the "fierce anger" of God mentioned here? How does this fierce anger jibe with our view of God as a patient and loving Heavenly Father?
  • Alma 9:12: What does it mean for God to visit "in his anger" and "not turn away"? Is there a point at which it is too late to repent and God cannot turn back consequences for our actions?
  • Alma 9:13: What is the nature of the promise to Lehi? Is this a covenant? How does this promise or covenant relate to land covenants in the Old Testament?
  • Alma 9:13: Why is the reward for obedience a tangible prosperity, while the penalty for not keeping the commandments to be "cut off from the presence of the Lord"? Does this imply something about prosperity that we don't normally consider (cf. Mosiah 2:22)? Might there be a connection between "inheriting the kingdom of God (vs. 13) and prospering in the land here? If so, does that imply that the kingdom of God is here, and consists of the opposite of being "cut off from the presence of the Lord"?
  • Alma 9:14: What does it mean that the Lamanites "have been cut off from the presence of the Lord"? What does that mean? Does this have anything to do with the literal presence of the Lord in the temple?
  • Alma 9:14: What does Alma mean by the "presence of the Lord"?
  • Alma 9:15: Why is the wording here so similar to this verse in the New Testament: "But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee" (Matt 11:24)?
  • Alma 9:16: Why are promises extended to the Lamanites? What are these promises?
  • Alma 9:16: Why does ignorance provoke mercy?
  • Alma 9:16: What does prolonging existence in the land have to do with the mercy or favor of God?
  • Alma 9:17: Alma says that someday the Lamanites will learn the truth and, therefore, of the falsity of their fathers’ traditions. To what traditions is he referring? Does this mean that Native Americans will give up their cultural traditions when they are converted?
  • Alma 9:17: What does Alma mean here by being saved?
  • Alma 9:17: What does it mean to "call on" the name of the Lord?
  • Alma 9:18: How does this statement by Alma about impending destruction manifest his preaching by the spirit of prophecy and revelation?
  • Alma 9:18: Alma says the people will be destroyed by both the Lamanites and the "fierce anger of the Lord". How do the actions of the Lamanites represent the anger of the Lord?
  • Alma 9:19: Why would the Lord prefer to have all the Nephites destroyed rather than allow them to continue in sin after he has blessed them? To unbelievers the Lord may sound petulant, like a “martyr-parent,” who says, “Since you are ungrateful after all I’ve done for you, I’ll show you.” How would you explain this to someone who saw these verses that way?
  • Alma 9:19: What is the "light and knowledge" given unto the Nephites? Does this have anything to do with the further light and knowledge found in modern temple ceremonies?
  • Alma 9:20: What does it mean to have been "highly favored people of the Lord"?
  • Alma 9:20: In what way were the Nephites "favored above every other nation, kindred, tongue, or people"?
  • Alma 9:20: What great blessings did the Nephites enjoy?
  • Alma 9:20: How were "all things made known" unto the Nephites. Does this have anything to do with seership (cf. Mosiah 8)?
  • Alma 9:20: What is the relationship between desire, faith, and prayer, and how do they lead to knowledge?
  • Alma 9:21-25: How do these prophecies and Alma's teaching reflect the promise given to Lehi in 2 Ne 1:9-12?
  • Alma 9:21: What does it mean to have been "visited by the Spirit of God"?
  • Alma 9:21: How widespread was the visitation of angels in Nephite society?
  • Alma 9:21: How were the people "spoken unto by the voice of the Lord"?
  • Alma 9:22: How were the people delivered "by the hand of the Lord"? Is this just another way of saying that the Lord did it, or is there something else referred to here?
  • Alma 9:22: How were the people "saved from famine, and from sickness, and from all manner of diseases of every kind"? Is this referred to elsewhere in the Nephite record?
  • Alma 9:22: How does Alma refer to both spiritual and temporal blessings? What is the relationship between spiritual and temporal blessings? Is there a difference?
  • Alma 9:23: What does it mean to "transgress contrary to the light and knowledge" that you have? Don't we all do this sometimes?
  • Alma 9:24: What does it mean to "utterly be destroyed from off the face of the earth"?
  • Alma 9:25: Alma says that the Lord sent an angel to many people to tell them to come to this people and cry repentance. Does this "many" refer to more than Alma and Amulek? Does this have anything to do with the criticism the people make in verse 6 that God only sent one person?
  • Alma 9:26: What is the glory of God? Is that the same as the "glory of the Only Begotten of the Father"? What does it mean for the Son of God to come in the "glory of the Only Begotten of the Father?
  • Alma 9:26: What does it mean to be "full of" grace, equity, truth, patience, mercy, and long-suffering?
  • Alma 9:26: In what ways is the Lord "quick to hear the cries of his people and to answer their prayers"? Who are "his people", members of the Church? In modern terms there a difference between how quickly he answers prayers of members of the Church ("his people") and others?
  • Alma 9:27: How does Alma's teachings here about who the Lord will redeem compare with the teachings of Nehor (which the people of Ammonihah follow) found in Alma 1:3-4?
  • Alma 9:27: What does it mean to have "faith on [the Lord's] name"?
  • Alma 9:28: What is the way of the Lord? How are the people supposed to prepare the way?
  • Alma 9:28: How does this teaching about rewards for works compare with the teachings of Nehor in Alma 1:3-4?
  • Alma 9:28: What is the "power and captivation of the devil? How is that contrasted with the "power and deliverance" of Jesus Christ?
  • Alma 9:28: What is the "damnation of...souls"?
  • Alma 9:29: Alma claims that these teachings come from "the voice of the angel". Why is it important for Alma to declare that? In our modern preaching and teaching, how important is it for us to say where our message comes from?
  • Alma 9:30: Why does Alma call these people his "brethren"?
  • Alma 9:30: Why does he call them "beloved brethren" and then call them a "lost and a fallen people"?
  • Alma 9:30: What does it mean for the people to have hearts that are "grossly hardened against the word of God"?
  • Alma 9:31: If the people were going to be "wroth" with Alma for doing so, why did he call them hard-hearted and stiffnecked? When is it appropriate to hammer people with such unflattering portraits of their behavior? When is it inappropriate?
  • Alma 9:32: Alma has really ticked these people off. Why did he have to say such harsh things against the people? Is there any sense in which this might have been counter-productive?
  • Alma 9:33: How did Alma avoid being taken into captivity if everyone was trying to "lay their hands upon [him]"?
  • Alma 9:34: Why weren't more of the words of Amulek written? To what degree should we take the teachings of Amulek, a recently converted missionary, as scripture for our day? What does taking his words as scripture imply about our own teachings in similar situations?

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