Talk:Alma 14:1-5

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References for "Plainness"[edit]

Here’s what I see in the small-plate references.

  • 1 Nephi 13 – Plainness associated with the “plain and precious things” which were “plain unto the understanding”.
  • 2 Nephi 9 – Plainness indicates harshness against sin, but this doesn’t lead to offense.
  • 2 Nephi 25 – Plainness makes prophesies clear
  • 2 Nephi 31 – Plainness gives light to understanding
  • 2 Nephi 32 – Great knowledge is given in plainness, even as plain as word can be.
  • 2 Nephi 33 – Plainness of truth is harsh against sin and offends no one except they have the spirit of the devil.
  • Jacob 2 – Jacob’s meaning is a little ambiguous, but the context is that he’s about to speak harshly against sin, and so plainly that it’ll be a little bit uncomfortable with the wives and children sitting there. Verse 9 could be read as plainness leading to offense, though not in the usual sense.
  • Jacob 4 – “Despised the words of plainness” could be interpreted as offense, especially in connection with killing the prophets. But here “plainness” is twice put in opposition to “things which they cannot understand” so that its meaning is primarily to indicate clarity of the prophets’ message.
  • Enos 1 – Plainness associated with harshness, but rather than leading to offense it keeps the people continually in the fear of the Lord.

The word is used nine places in the small plates. Five times it’s associated with harshness against sin, but only once is it explicitly understood to lead to offense. Arguably in every case it’s associated with making revelation clear. --Mike Berkey 21:50, 13 July 2011 (CEST)

1 Ne 1:19 - The manner of Lehi's preaching, it leads to a murder plot against him.
1 Ne 13-14 - The plain and precious are taken from the book, the implication being that it was precisely the plain things that were offensive to them.
1 Ne 16:9 - The manner of writing on the Liahona, and it scares Lehi to death.
1 Ne 19:3 - What Nephi is to write on the small plates (plain and precious); nothing shocking here.
2 Ne 1:26 - Laman and Lemuel have interpreted Nephi's plainness as sharpness; Lehi doesn't exactly deny it.
2 Ne 9:47 - Jacob effectively apologizes for being plain, the obvious implication being that it is harsh or offensive.
2 Ne 25 - Nephi opposes his own plainness to Isaiah's lack thereof; nothing shocking here.
2 Ne 26:33 - God does plain things; nothing shocking here.
2 Ne 31:2-3 - Nephi likes plainness; nothing shocking here.
2 Ne 32:7 - Nephi complains about people not even getting plain things; a curious verse, but too curious to exposit in a line.
2 Ne 33:5-6 - Plainness is harsh against sin and leads to offense if one is at all under the sway of the devil.
Jacob 2:11 - Jacob is again apologizing about his plainness, the implication being again that it causes offense.
Jacob 4:13-14 - Prophecy is plain, and that is what people despise, for obvious reasons.
Jacob 7:17-18 - Sherem speaks plainly; nothing shocking here.
Enos 1:23 - Plainness is harsh enough to keep a people about to run into destruction from being destroyed.
Now, let me be clear. I'm not suggesting that plainness equals offense (take a look at the current wording of the lexical note). I'm making clear that this text is not unique in its linking of plainness with offense. The pattern is clear in the BoM (especially in the small plates): plainness is harsh (yes, it is about revelation, but that's beside the point here), and that harshness, if one gives Satan an inch, leads directly to offense. This little formula is at work in almost all the references above. And I've now worked it into the lexical note itself. --Joe Spencer 15:18, 14 July 2011 (CEST)

Did believe on his words[edit]

Joe you call for a closer look at the roles of Alma and Amulek, and I think Alma 8:24-25,29 might be a good place to start. What I'm seeing there is that in v24 Alma speaks of his initial and more general commission to preach "among all this people" which he then remarks that he came to "this land" to do that as well. But in v25 he speaks of his more specific command to "prophesy unto this people... and to testify against them." In v29 Amulek receives the second command, but not the first.--Mike Berkey 15:22, 6 July 2011 (CEST)

Material from Verse 4[edit]

I nixed the following from the exegesis:

"In verse two, the people attempt to use a political argument against Alma and Amulek. They accuse the two of reviling “against their law” and “against their lawyers and judges.” However, these same people revile against the very government that they are claiming to support. In order to put Alma and Amulek away “privily” they must undoubtedly break their own laws. Either the lawyers and judges would have to ignore their actions or this group of people would have to find a way to do this without anyone knowing.

"Perhaps the people "sought" the lawyers and the judges, but could not convince them of their dishonest plan. Thus, the people chose to actually prosecute Alma and Amulek, rather than illegally execute them. Either way, it seems the people are acting in an ultimately hypocritical way. They are using the law as an excuse to push their own political (and perhaps spiritual) agenda. They call on the law for support only when it is to their own benefit. It seems, then, that the people are not really respecting their own laws. This duplicity, then, might be understood as symptomatic of the kind of "hardening of hearts" (cf. Alma 12:9ff) that the people are exhibiting."

My reasoning: given the exegetical comments now clarifying the relationship between verses 2 and 3, this interpretation doesn't make any sense. And I'm having a hard time trying to turn it into something meaningful. At this point, I suspect it's simply unworkable.

--Joe Spencer 15:09, 6 July 2011 (CEST)

Verse 3 Questions[edit]

What does "put them away privily" refer to? Is this a reference to a secret assassination plot, the first instance of a secret combination in Nephite history? Or might it refer, as in Matt 1:19, to a lawful but discreet process?

  • The connection with Matt 1:19 is interesting, but personally I'd guess it's nothing more than coincidence. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like you're speculating some particular legal process which would have been referred to by the Nephites as "putting away privily". The way I read v3-4 it sounds like Mormon expects the meaning of this phrase to be immediately obvious to his reader. With that in mind and the fact that Mormon conscientiously writing for a modern audience (Alma 8:7 as an example of Mormon explaining Nephite customs to the modern reader) I think Mormon would have explained a bit more if there was a more subtle meaning here. --Mike Berkey 02:23, 25 June 2011 (CEST)
  • The "secret assassination plot" came from an earlier contributor (Kirk Caudle, I think?) who seemed to take that reading for granted. I introduced Matt 1:19 by way of suggesting that it's not the only one. But in that suggestion I chose the phrase "lawful ... process" over "legal process" quite deliberately, to avoid the implication that you have taken up. I'm not suggesting at all that "putting away privily" is a term of art in Nephite law; quite the reverse, I'm concurring in the former contributor's assessment that "privily" means outside of formal legal process. I'm just dissenting from the conclusion that it implies illegally. I think they meant to go to Amulek's house and lean on Our Heroes. You raise good points about Mormon's care for his audience. Just bear in mind that the connection to Matt 1:19 is in the English phrasing, for which Mormon is not necessarily responsible. (I suppose it could have been him on the other end of the seerstone! But anyway.) For me the key word is "privily," in the same sense as modern "private sector, private collector, private ownership" rather than "secretly" as such, and "put them away" seems to be a quotation for Biblical style's sake, rather than the ominous murmur of a Nephite Godfather. Nathan E. Rasmussen 21:39, 15 August 2011 (CEST)

Verse 5 exegesis[edit]

Power Structures[edit]

Kim, clearly you're right that there's a reaction to protect the established power structure, but I don't know if that explains the extreme vitriol. For example, when Jesus threatened the Jewish and Roman power structures, they tried him privately and had him dead in less than a day, and they didn't really go after the rest of the disciples (until later in Acts). If this were only a matter of preserving power, wouldn't you expect them to follow the same sort of pattern, that is, knock off the head of the movement by putting Alma and Amulek away privily. Instead they drive the men out of town and stone them, they make Alma and Amulek watch as they burn not only the women and children, but also their scriptures. In fact, for some reason they decide not to kill Alma and Amulek, but to keep them in prison, bound and naked, and torture them, trying to get them to renounce their preaching. It seems their accusations about reviling against the law are just rationalization of actions that are really motivated by truly irrational hatred. It's this irrational hatred that interests me. What motivates it? --Mjberkey 19:11, 22 June 2011 (CEST)

But then, in Mosiah 17:12 it's the accusation that Abinadi had reviled against the king that got Noah to change his mind from releasing Abinadi to burning him. In Helaman 8:2 the judges use the same accusation against Nephi to try to incite the people. So, I guess this accusation has intense emotional connotations. --Mjberkey 19:35, 22 June 2011 (CEST)
Interesting question, Mike, for precisely the following reason: the tension between verses 3 and 4. Also, please continue to use the word "vitriol" regularly. I think their decision to take Alma and Amulek before the chief judge may be the key move. The chief judge is the one exercising the most "vitriol" against them, not the people. In fact, in the case of Abinadi, I think it's telling that the response came because of the offense caused to a figure with a LOT of authority, as the chief judge would be. --Kim Berkey 1:57 pm (MST)
You say it's the judges more than the people, but I don't know, everything up through verse 9 feels a lot more like mob violence than organized governmental oppression. The chief judge doesn't say or do anything until verse 14. While he condones the burning, there's no indication that he ordered it. And I feel like the "tension between verses 3 and 4" indicates that those in power were seeking to simply put Alma and Amulek away privily, but the mob preempted them. At least, that's how I'm reading verse 4 right now.--Mjberkey 02:53, 23 June 2011 (CEST)
Besides, once you already have a religious movement at work, causing people to believe and search the scriptures (v. 1) or even speak out vocally as Zeezrom did, simply letting Alma and Amulek quietly disappear wouldn't do the trick anymore. The religious movement has already started. --Kim Berkey 1:59 pm (MST)

Alma 8:12 definitely supports your reading that their focus is on power.

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 unto Nephihah; therefore thou art not the chief judge over us.

So does Alma 8:17

For behold, they do study at this time that they may destroy the liberty of thy people, (for thus saith the Lord) which is contrary to the statutes, and judgments, and commandments which he has given unto his people.

It sounds like some people in Ammonihah want to rule over all the Nephites.--Mjberkey 16:29, 23 June 2011 (CEST)