Alma 33

 

The Lord Redeems His Covenant Children

      Alma 1 -- Alma 44


  

 

Alma 33:2 Ye Ought to Search the Scriptures:

 

     According to Brant Gardner, when Alma states that his listeners ought "to search the scriptures," it is an interesting allusion to the possible literacy of this population. It would be surprising in the ancient world to have a total farming population that was sufficiently literate to read the scriptures, however that may not be Alma's meaning here. We may have a phrase that is used more as an expression than as a literal indication of complete literacy. Alma may expect that they understand the scriptures, even from having heard them, which is the standard way in which such populations would have experienced the scriptures. In regards to this oral communication process, it is interesting to note that Alma does not pull out his pocket plates to read the passages of Zenos and Zenock which he will use, but rather cites them from memory. [Brant Gardner, Book of Mormon Commentary, http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/ Alma/Alma33.htm, pp. 2-3]

 

Alma 33:3 Zenos:

 

     [Refer to the commentary on 1 Nephi 19:10; Jacob 5]

 

Alma 33:4-11 (The Prayer of Zenos):

 

     [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 4:16-35]

 

Alma 33:11 It Is Because of Thy Son That Thou Hast Been Thus Merciful unto Me:

 

     Robert Millet notes that Alma and Amulek were preaching to the poor people of the Zoramites who had been cast out of the synagogues so they felt their could not worship (or pray). Alma responded in the same way that all the great teachers in the Book of Mormon do. They stand up, introduce the subject, then they go back and cite the ancient prophets, and then they bear their own witness. Anyway, Alma declared:

           Do ye remember to have read what Zenos, the prophet of old, has said concerning prayer or worship? For he said: Thou art merciful, O God, for thou hast heard my prayer, even when I was in the wilderness . . . when I did cry unto thee in my field . . . And again, O God, when I did turn to my house thou didst hear me in prayer . . . And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee in all mine afflictions, for in thee is my joy; for thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son. (Alma 33:3-11)

 

     Notice that Alma is not only drawing upon the teachings of Zenos to establish that you can pray anywhere--that is important--but notice what he does. We discover in the brass plates a concept of godhead that is very much like the concept we have. What is the concept of godhead that we find in our present Old Testament? Jehovah. You don't know anything about Father and Son in our present Old Testament. Here we find from the brass plates a Father and a Son, and the Father turns away his judgment because of the atoning sacrifice of the Son. Let me give you a quote on the brass plates from Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

           From various Book of Mormon references we gain a glimpse of what is on the brass plates. They contain the record of the Jews down to the days of Zedekiah, including . . . the prophecies of the holy prophets . . . They contain books of holy scripture of which the world does not dream, including the writings of Zenock, Neum, and Zenos. But what interests us more than the books included on the brass plates is the tone and tenor and general approach to the gospel and to salvation that they set forth. They are gospel oriented and speak of Christ and the various Christian concepts which the world falsely assumes to have originated with Jesus and the early apostles. (Bruce R. McConkie, "The Doctrinal Restoration," in The Joseph Smith Translation, the Restoration of Plain and Precious Things, ed. Monte Nyman and Robert L. Millet, Provo, 1985, 17.)

 

     Remember, that one of the major purposes of the Book of Mormon was to establish the essential truthfulness of the Bible (see 1 Nephi 13:40). For many years, you know, we have approached this in the wrong direction. We have gone out trying to prove the Book of Mormon from the Bible. The Lord never intended that. The Lord's purpose is that he knew there would come a time when the Bible itself would be in question. So he raises up a prophet, restores to him ancient records, gives him power to translate them, and they come forth and help establish essential truthfulness. That is why the Lord would say, in the 20th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, that the Book of Mormon is given for the purpose of proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true. [Robert L. Millet, "The Prophets of the Brass Plates," Video Transcript, FARMS, 1996, pp. 10-12, 3-4] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 11:21; 13:40; Helaman 8:17]

 

Alma 33:13 Zenos:

 

     In Alma 33:12-13, Alma tells the people, "Do ye believe those scriptures which have been written by them of old? Behold, if ye do, ye must believe what Zenos said; for, behold he said: Thou hast turned away thy judgments because of thy Son." According to Hugh Nibley, Zenos was an outcast prophet who lived between Moses and Elijah. About 1906 in a work called the Pseudo-Philo the writings of this Zenos were discovered. Nibley wrote quite a bit about them in Since Cumorah. There was a prophet called Zenos. He was cast out and he wrote a long allegory on the olive tree. When Jacob gave his long story of the olive tree, he said he was quoting Zenos. He was a real person, a prophet who was lost and was found again in the early twentieth century. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 448]

 

Alma 33:15 Zenock Zenoch Also Spake of These Things:

 

     According to Royal Skousen, several witnesses to the translation process claimed that Joseph Smith sometimes spelled out names to the scribe. And we find evidence in the original manuscript in support of this process. Frequently the first occurrence of a Book of Mormon name is first spelled phonetically, then that spelling is corrected; in some instances, the incorrect spelling is crossed out and followed on the same line by the correct spelling, thus indicating that the correction is an immediate one. For example, in Alma 33:15 the text of the Original Manuscript reads as follows: "for it is not written that Zenos alone spake of these things but Zenock Zenoch also spake of these things."

     Oliver Cowdery first wrote Zenock using the expected ck English spelling for the k sound when preceded by a short vowel. But then Oliver crossed out the whole word and immediately afterwards, on the same line, wrote Zenoch, thus indicating that the spelling agrees with the biblical name Enoch. This example also suggests that Joseph Smith spelled out the ch sound rather than with the correct k sound in order to help Oliver get it down right. . . .

     Emma Smith and David Whitmer claimed that Joseph Smith sometimes spelled out, in addition to names, English words that were difficult to pronounce:

     

Emma Smith (Edmund C. Briggs interview, 1856):

           When my husband was translating the Book of Mormon, I wrote a part of it, as he dictated each sentence, word for word, and when he came to proper names he could not pronounce, or long words, he spelled them out . . . (See Welch and Rathbone, "The Translation of the Book of Mormon," p. 8)

 

David Whitmer (Chicago Tribune interview, 1885):

           In translating the characters Smith, who was illiterate and but little versed in Biblical lore, was ofttimes compelled to spell the words out, not knowing the correct pronunciation . . . (Cook, David Whitmer Interviews, p. 174)

 

     However, there appears to be no firm evidence in what remains of the Original Manuscript to support this claim of Emma Smith and David Whitmer [that Joseph spelled out words in addition to names] . . . [Royal Skousen, "Translating the Book of Mormon, Evidence from the Original Manuscript," in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited, pp. 75-77]

 

Alma 33:22 Begin to believe in the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people . . . (Illustration): Chart: "Consistent Elements in Nephite Declarations of Faith." Alma 33:22 is not the only place in the Book of Mormon where its seven principles of Nephite faith in Jesus Christ are revealed. Eight other important compact doctrinal passages list many, if not all, of these seven principles. Source: John W. Welch, "Ten Testimonies of Jesus Christ from the Book of Mormon," in Doctrines of the Book of Mormon: The 1991 Sperry Symposium, ed. Bruce A. Van Orden and Brent L. Top (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 223-42. [John W. & J. Gregory Welch, Charting the Book of Mormon: Visual Aids for Personal Study and Teaching, F.A.R.M.S., Chart #43]

 

Alma 33:23 I Desire That Ye Shall Plant This Word in Your Hearts:

 

     John Welch writes that all Book of Mormon prophets taught "more or less" (Mosiah 13:33; cf. Jacob 4:5) the same "word" of belief in Jesus Christ.138 In visions, public speeches, and personal statements they typically declared (1) that Jesus is the Son of God, (2) who would come down to earth to live as a mortal, (3) to heal the sick, cast out devils, and suffer physically and spiritually, (4) to take upon himself the sins of the world and redeem his people, (5) to be put to death by crucifixion and rise from the dead, (6) to bring to pass the resurrection of all mankind, (7) to judge all people in the last day according to their works.

     For example, when Alma invited the Zoramite poor to plant that seed of faith in their hearts, the specific "word that he wanted them to plant appears to epitomize the basic Nephite testimony embracing these seven points:

           [1] Believe in the Son of God, [2] that he will come to redeem his people, and [3] that he shall suffer and die [4] to atone for their sins; and [5] that he shall rise again from the dead, [6] which shall bring to pass the resurrection, [7] that all men shall stand before him to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works.      

           And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts.

 

     The prophets of the Book of Mormon regularly referred to these points when they testified of Christ. Accordingly, on another occasion, Alma essentially rehearsed the same seven points in the city of Gideon and expressly identified them as the "testimony in me" (see Alma 7:13). Indeed, it is reasonable to assume that Alma's "word" of faith in Christ represented a standard Nephite testimony that was regularly used in Alma's day.

     No doubt these points of testimony were distilled from the words of the Nephite prophets who had preceded Alma. All seven elements can be found scattered throughout the writing of Nephi (1 Nephi 11:31-33; 19:9-10; 2 Nephi 25:12-13), Jacob (2 Nephi 9:5-15), Abinadi (Mosiah 15:5-9), and Benjamin (Mosiah 3:5-10). It appears that Alma molded them into a concise statement of belief that was especially useful in the newly-established churches in the land of Zarahemla over which he presided. This observation is corroborated by the fact that Amulek's testimony is quite similar to Alma's:

           Yea, [1] he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, and the first and the last; and [2] he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and [4] he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else. Therefore the wicked remain as though there had been no redemption made, except it be the loosing of the bands of death; for behold, [6] the day cometh that all shall rise from the dead and stand before God, and [7] be judged according to their works. (Alma 11:39-41)

 

     This basic patter persisted to the end of Nephite civilization, as is reflected in one of Moroni's last testimonies of Christ:

           And because of the fall of man [2] came Jesus Christ, [1] even the Father and the Son; and [4] because of Jesus Christ came the redemption of man. And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord; year this is wherein all men are redeemed, [3] because the death of Christ [6] bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep, from which sleep all men shall be awakened by the power of God when the trump shall sound; and they shall come forth, both small and great, and [7] all shall stand before his bar, being redeemed and loosed from this eternal band of death, which death is a temporal death. And then cometh the judgment of the Holy One upon them. (Mormon 9:12-14)

 

     Building upon this 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. [John W. Welch, "Ten Testimonies of Jesus Christ from the Book of Mormon," F.A.R.M.S., 1994, pp. 1-3]

 

Alma 33:23 Plant This Word in Your Hearts . . . It Will Become a Tree Springing up in You unto Everlasting Life:

 

     In a sermon to the poor in heart of the Zoramites, Alma discusses nourishing the word, partaking of the fruit of the tree of life, and having the word spring up unto everlasting life (Alma 32:27-41; 33:23). Alma will also use this same imagery of a tree in words of wisdom to his son Corianton concerning the ultimate death and life of man, of our first parents and the tree of life in the garden of Eden, and of resurrection (Alma 42).

     According to Allen J. Christenson, sacred trees, representing the power of life to grow from the underworld realm of the dead, are a common motif in the art and literature of the ancient Maya of Mesoamerica. Such trees are similar in concept to the tree of life described in the Book of Mormon, as well as to the mythic traditions of many other contemporary world cultures. Hieroglyphic inscriptions and sixteenth-century highland Maya texts describe a great world tree that was erected at the dawn of the present age to stand as the axis point of the cosmos. In its fruit-laden form, it personified the god of creation who fathered the progenitors of the Maya royal dynasty. . . . [Allen J. Christenson, "The Sacred Tree of the Ancient Maya," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 6/1 1997, p. 1]

 

Alma 33:23 Plant this word in your hearts . . . it will become a tree (Illustration): The ceiba is an ideal symbol for this conception of the world tree. It is one of the tallest of trees indigenous to southern Mesoamerica. In areas of dense tropical rain forest, such as the Peten region of northeastern Guatemala, the ceiba soars to the very top of the jungle canopy, attaining heights of 175 feet or more. The trunk is remarkably straight, and its branches extend at nearly right angles high above the ground, reminiscent of the cross-shaped trees seen in the art of Palenque. The ceiba tree is still revered by the modern Maya as a manifestations of the world tree. Many villages have a carefully tended ceiba tree growing in their main plazas. This tree marks their homeland as the center place of the world. [Allen J. Christenson, "The Sacred Tree of the Ancient Maya," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 6/1 1997, pp. 11-13]

 

Alma 33:23 Plant this word in your hearts . . . it will become a tree (Illustration): Sarcophagus lid of Lord Hanab-Pakal II, Palenque. [Allen J. Christenson, "The Sacred Tree of the Ancient Maya," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 6/1 1997, p. 9]