Alma 34

 

The Lord Redeems His Covenant Children

      Alma 1 -- Alma 44


  

 

Alma 34:8 I Do Know:

 

     According to Wade Brown, on over 100 occasions Book of Mormon prophets expressed their beliefs by using such phrases as "I know." But Alma put special emphasis on his expression by stating "I do know." Alma used the word combination "I do know" a total of eight times in four entirely separate sections (Alma 5:46; 7:8; 34:8; 36:3, 26, 30; 40:9).

     No one else ever used it--except--his missionary junior companion Amulek. After working with Alma and hearing him say it many times, Amulek repeated the phrase "I do know" once himself. [C. Wade Brown, The First Page of the Golden Plates, p. 29]

     Note* It is interesting that King Lamoni, in his search for the truth, uses the phrase "I do not know" (Alma 18:25, 29) in addressing Ammon. It is also intriguing that in Alma's condemnation to the anti-Christ Korihor he uses the phrase "ye do not know" twice (Alma 30:24, 26). In his final verbal assault before he was struck dumb, Korihor says the following to Alma: "I do not deny the existence of a God, but I do not believe that there is a God; and I say also, that ye do not know that there is a God; and except ye show me a sign, I will not believe. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on the covenant phrase "I know" in 1 Nephi 3:7; 5:2, 5:5; 2 Nephi 33:4; 3 Nephi 14:23]

 

Alma 34:10 A Great and Last Sacrifice:

     

     According to John Welch, building upon the foundational testimony of Christ, each Book of Mormon prophet distinctively accented certain attributes of Jesus Christ. Judging simply from the names and titles that they used in referring to the Lord, we can see that each Book of Mormon prophet related to and testified of Jesus in his own personal ways, revealing to us things about Jesus Christ and also about the prophets who knew him.

     Amulek's testimony of Christ shines in the light of his background and experiences. He is the only one to ever refer to the atonement of Jesus Christ as the "great and last sacrifice" (five times--Alma 34:10,13,14). For Amulek it is the magnitude of the atonement that is impressive. Not once does he mention the suffering of Christ, for mortal suffering no matter how extreme is still of finite duration. Amulek, therefore, made no attempt to explain or depict the mechanics of the great, last, infinite, and eternal sacrifice to "atone for the sins of the world" (Alma 34:8; see also 11;40). To Amulek, who himself had been exposed to terrible risks of harm and torture, it was especially pertinent to describe the atonement as encircling people "in the arms of safety" (Alma 34:16), a phrase unique to him in all of scripture. [John W. Welch, "Ten Testimonies of Jesus Christ from the Book of Mormon," F.A.R.M.S., 1994, pp. 14-15]

     Note* The great sacrifice of all the believers in Ammonihah should not go unnoticed here. Also, the term "last sacrifice" is not found in the Bible. However, an interesting countercontext of a "great sacrifice" in the last battles with Gog and Magog is found in Ezekiel 39:17-22:

           And thou son of man, thus saith the Lord God; Speak unto every feathered fowl, and to every beast of the field, Assemble yourselves, and come; gather yourselves on every side to my sacrifice that I do sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh, and drink blood. Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fatlings of Bashan. And ye shall eat fat till ye be full, and drink blood till ye be drunken, of my sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you. Thus ye shall be filled at my table with horses and chariots, with mighty men, and with all men of war, saith the Lord God. And I will set my glory among the heathen, and all the heathen shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid upon them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day and forward.

[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Alma 34:10 Not a Sacrifice of Man, Neither Beast, Neither of Any Manner of Fowl:

 

     Critics of the Book of Mormon have pointed to the fact that while the book declares that they kept the law of Moses, there is nothing within its pages pointing to any type of sacrificial offerings at the temple like took place in the Old World. However, according to John Welch, four Book of Mormon passages link the Nephite observance of the law of Moses with the performance of sacrifice, one even implying daily sacrifice, all of which they understood as symbolizing the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Those four texts are as follows:

     1. (Mosiah 13:30-31): In describing the performances and ordinances of the law of Moses, Abinadi called it "a law which they were to observe strictly from day to day, to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him" and as "types of things to come." The phrase "from day to day" strongly suggests that the Nephites respected daily reminders and performance of the law of Moses. . . .

     It should be noted that Abinadi accused Noah and his priests of many things. If the priests of Noah had not been attending to the appropriate daily requirements of the law, it is reasonable to assume that Abinadi would have raised that point against them, because he specifically acknowledged the need to observe the law daily, and the priests told Abinadi that they taught and lived that law (see Mosiah 12:28).

     2. (Mosiah 2:3): King Benjamin's people "took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses." Firstlings were required under the law of Moses (see Deuteronomy 12:5-6, 19-20). Such sacrifices symbolized the sacrifice of God's first and only begotten son (see Moses 5:5-8).

     3. (Alma 34:10): Amulek taught that the great and last sacrifice of Jesus would not be a sacrifice performed by man, "neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl." By mentioning beasts and fowl, Amulek encompassed the two legally acceptable categories of blood sacrifices designated in Leviticus 1, namely beasts taken from the herds of cattle or the flocks of sheep or goats of the person offering the sacrifice, and birds, specifically turtledoves or pigeons (see Leviticus 1:3-17). Grain offerings were allowed, but only as a substitute, "as the poor man's burnt offering139

     It should be noted that if the Nephites no longer offered such sacrifices, it is unlikely that Amulek would have brought up this detail in speaking to his Zoramite audience who, only a short time earlier, had split from the Nephites precisely because the Zoramites refused to keep all the law of Moses (see Alma 31:9-10). Thus they would have probably used it against him.

     4. (3 Nephi 9:19): When the voice of Jesus spoke out of the darkness in 3 Nephi 9, he told the people, "Ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings." These words imply that the surviving righteous Nephites had themselves offered such sacrifices, which had been fully accepted until the law of Moses was fulfilled in Christ.

[John W. Welch, "The Temple in the Book of Mormon," in Temples of the Ancient World, pp. 306-308]

 

Alma 34:13 Then Shall the Law of Moses Be Fulfilled; Yea, It Shall Be All Fulfilled, Every Jot and Tittle:

 

     According the Brant Gardner, when Joseph Smith translated the ideas in Alma 34:13: "then shall the law of Moses be fulfilled; yea, it shall be all fulfilled, every jot and tittle," he was clearly influenced by the language in Matthew 5:18: "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." In particular, the "jot and tittle" phrase refers to markings for the vowels in the scriptural texts that were not present when Lehi left Jerusalem. It is doubtful that they would have been independently invented in the New World as the Hebrew appears to function as a classical language that is preserved but not a living, changing language. The "jot/tittle" insertion must be referencing the New Testament phrase rather than the specifics of the actual words that Amulek used, even though the meaning is preserved. [Brant Gardner, Book of Mormon Commentary, http://www.highfiber.com/ ~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/Alma34.htm, pp. 4-5]

 

Alma 34:33 The Night of Darkness Wherein There Can Be No Labor Performed:

 

     Amulek noted: "After this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed." (Alma 34:33; see also 3 Nephi 27:33) According to Rodney Turner, this statement is sometimes misinterpreted. The "night of darkness" is not death, but resurrection. (See Alma 41:5) The "day of this life" or, in other words, the "probationary state" or "preparatory state" in which we prepare for eternity (Alma 42:10) includes the postmortal sojourn in the spirit world. Were this not the case, there would be no purpose in preaching the gospel to the dead or in performing ordinances for them. Unlike water baptism, faith and repentance cannot be "performed" vicariously; only the immortal spirit can exercise faith unto salvation. Eternal life depends upon eternal obedience.

     Latter-day Saints commonly equate eternal life with exaltation in the celestial kingdom. However, the concept of multiple heavens or conditions of salvation, as revealed to Joseph Smith in Doctrine and Covenants 76, is not found in the Book of Mormon. Instead, it speaks in terms of absolutes; one is either saved in the presence of God or damned with the devil and his angels. (See Mosiah 16:10-11)140 Consequently, in the Book of Mormon, eternal life is in opposition to eternal death. (See 1 Nephi 14:7; 2 Nephi 1:13; 2:27-29; 10:23). However, eternal life is actually subdivided into "many mansions" or degrees of glory. This being the case, eternal life is tantamount to salvation as such. That is, every soul resurrected into any state of immortal glory enjoys a degree of eternal life. (See D&C 29:26-29, 88:21-24.) A fullness of eternal life is exaltation and the "continuation of the lives" (D&C 132:22). Any state of salvation less than this is a state of damnation or death insofar as spirit progeny or dominion is concerned. (See D&C 131:1-4; 132:25). [Rodney Turner, "Two Prophets: Abinadi and Alma," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, p. 252]

 

Alma 34:33 After This Day of Life . . . Then Cometh the Night of Darkness Wherein There Can Be No Labor Performed:

 

     In Amulek's testimony concerning the effects of the Atonement, he states, "do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed." Critics of the Book of Mormon assert that passages in the Book of Mormon such as Alma 34:32-34; Mosiah 15:26; and Moroni 8:22-23 forbid the modern LDS practice of baptism for the dead.

     However, according to Matt Roper, the first two passages are concerned with those people who "willfully rebel" against God after having had the opportunity to repent and receive the Gospel, and have nothing to do with proxy baptism for those denied an opportunity. Moroni 8:22-23 does not forbid baptism for the dead either, but merely says that those who die without the law are not under condemnation until they can receive the law. Someday all men will hear the gospel and have the chance to repent and receive any blessings which baptism offers, but they can't repent until they are taught.

     As for biblical support for the practice of baptism for the dead, LDS students of the scriptures usually turn to 1 Corinthians 15:29: "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? Concerning this verse, Roper notes that although critics might contend that 1 Corinthians 15:29 has absolutely nothing to do with proxy baptism, most biblical scholars today admit that this is exactly what Paul had reference to, although most will say that they don't know much about it. The Lutheran scholar and bishop Krister Stendahl states that "the text seems to speak plainly enough about a practice within the Church of vicarious baptism for the dead. This is the view of most contemporary exegetes."141 "The normal reading of the text," writes Gordon Fee, "is that some Corinthians are being baptized, apparently vicariously, in behalf of some people who have already died. It would be fair to add that this reading is such a plain understanding of the Greek text that no one would ever have imagined the various alternatives were it not for the difficulties involved."142 It seems that in Corinth," writes Raymond E. Brown, "some Christians would undergo baptism in the name of the deceased non-Christian relatives and friends, hoping this vicarious baptisms might assure them a share in the redemption of Christ."143 [Matthew Roper, Review of Weldon Langfield, The Truth about Mormonism: A Former Adherent Analyzes the LDS Faith. Bakersfield: Weldon Langfield Publications, 1991; 124 pp., in Review of books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 4, F.A.R.M.S., 1992, pp. 83-84]

 

Alma 34:35 [The Devil] Doth Seal You His:

 

     [See the commentary on Mosiah 5:15]

 

Alma 34:36 The Lord . . . Dwelleth Not in Unholy Temples:

 

     According to John Welch, Amulek draws upon temple imagery in his concluding comments to the Zoramite poor, who had been refused entry to the synagogue in Antionum to offer prayer on the Rameumptom. In contrast to that unholy place of worship, the holy temple fosters individual hearts of righteousness: "the Lord hath said he dwelleth not in unholy temples, but in the hearts of the righteous doth he dwell; yea, and he has also said that the righteous shall sit down in his kingdom, to go no more out; but their garments should be made white through the blood of the Lamb" (Alma 34:36). In this text, Amulek associates with the temple the concept of God's dwelling place, the reception of the righteous into God's kingdom, and the purification of one's garments. Having one's garments washed white through the blood of the Lamb was an important religious concept for the Nephites (see 2 Nephi 9:44; Jacob 2:2; Mosiah 2:28; Alma 5:21; 13:11; 34:36; 3 Nephi 27:19). It may well have had something to do with their temple ceremony, vividly typifying the purifying and cleansing power of the atoning blood of Christ. Likewise from Amulek's words it appears that entering into God's presence and symbolically sitting down in his kingdom may have been a part of the Nephite temple experience. [John W. Welch, "The Temple in the Book of Mormon," in Temples of the Ancient World, pp. 346-347]

 

Alma 34:38 Worship God, in Whatsoever Place Ye May Be in, in Spirit and in Truth:

 

     In their missionary journey to the Zoramites, after Alma had preached to the people on the hill Onidah, Amulek admonished them to "contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ . . . and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth" (Alma 34:38). If we view the Zoramites as being descendants of the tribe of Judah, then perhaps a significant parallel to a biblical story can be seen here in the situation of the poor people ("Zoramites"?) in the land of Antionum being "cast out" of the Zoramite synagogues where they were not permitted to worship because they were "esteemed as filthiness" (Alma 32:3). For we find that a similar scenario unfolded at the beginning of Jesus' missionary efforts. The reader should note that the manner of worshipping "in spirit and in truth" is a key part of both stories. (See illustration below)

     There happened a most famous biblical event in Sychar, which was near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph on the northern border of the lands of Ephraim and Manasseh in the kingdom of Israel. There Jesus had a conversation with a Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. The woman's question was about worshiping god in their local mountain (Gerazim) rather than at the temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans, a nation established through the intermarriage or grafting of Gentiles and Israelites (2 Kings 17:24), had been forbidden to worship at the temple in Jerusalem by the Jews in authority. The Jews claimed that the Samaritans had polluted their heritage by marrying Gentiles. Jesus answered her question on the manner of true worship by saying that all who worship must do so "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23). The Jews had much of the truth but apparently were not worshipping with the spirit. On the other hand, the Samaritans had the spirit of worship (the woman declared" "I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ") but lacked much of the truth ("when he is come, he will tell us all things"--v. 25). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]