Friday, May 24, 2013

The Greatness of Alma

We first meet Alma, one of the greatest figures in the Book of Mormon, as one of evil King Noah’s priests (Mosiah 17:2), at the conclusion of the prophet Abinadi’s “trial.” These priests, Alma among them, who were described as being “lifted up in the pride of their hearts” (Mosiah 11:5), These priests are also described as being lazy, idolatrous, committing whoredoms, forcing the people to work exceedingly to support their iniquity (Mosiah 11:6), which people become idolatrous as a result of the king and his priests (Mosiah 11:7). However, when Alma heard Abinadi testify before king Noah and his priests, he believed the prophet’s words, he believed him “therefore he began to plead with the king that he would not be angry with Abinadi, but suffer that he might depart in peace” (Mosiah 17:2).
But king Noah became angry with Alma and had him cast out from among he and his priests, then sent his servants after Alma to kill him (Mosiah 17:3). Alma, touched by the message of Abinadi, had a change of heart and repented of his sins and iniquities (Mosiah 18:1)
Born about 173 B.C., Alma was a young man when he became one of the several corrupt priests who served King Noah in the City of Nephi, which was in the Land of Nephi. When Alma was about 25, a prophet Abinadi was arrested and brought before the king, where he proclaimed the wickedness of the king and his priests. Of all who heard him, Alma was the only one touched by the spirit as he heard Abinadi’s words (Mosiah 18:1), and when he fled from the king, Alma went into hiding and wrote down all that Abinadi had said. Boldly, Alma began teaching people in secret what Abinadi had preached (Mosiah 18:3), which emphasized the need for repentance and faith in Christ.
Fearful of being caught by the king’s servants who still sought his life, and drawing attention to himself and his many followers within the city, Alma hid himself outside the city in the borders of the land in an area called the place or land of Mormon (Mosiah 18:30), a name given the area by the king (Mosiah 18:4). And in this land was a forest and a body of water that Alma used to baptize his converts (Mosiah 18:16).
Now Alma received his authority from God (Mosiah 18:18), and ordained priests and teachers, and was commanded by God (Mosiah 18:29) to teach everyone the commandments, rules and life style the Lord required. At one point, the king’s army discovered Alma and his people, but Alma was warned and he led his new converts, about 450 in number, into the wilderness (Mosiah 18:34).
Some years later, in an area Alma called Helam after the first man Alma baptized, in which he and his people had settled and founded a city they also called Helam, an army of Lamanites appeared (Mosiah 23:25). The people were frightened, but Alma stood among them and exhorted them to have faith in the Lord for he would deliver them (Mosiah 25:27). As the Lamanites took over the land, Alma and his brethren surrendered and were put under the control of a Nephite named Amulon (Mosiah 23:39), the former chief priest of king Noah, who had joined the Lamanites along with the other surviving priests, and who was angry with Alma (Mosiah 24:9).
The Lord told Alma that he would lead him and his people into the wilderness and would deliver the people out of bondage (Mosiah 24:16-17), and warned Alma to hasten his people once away from the Lamanites, who had awakened and were after them (Mosiah 24:23). Their arrival in the city of Zarahemla twelve days later was heralded with much joy by Mosiah and the Nephites, with Limhi and his people desiring to be baptized after hearing Alma’s stirring testimony and the account of his experiences (Alma 26:17).
King Mosiah gave Alma, the high priest (Mosiah 26:7) and referred to as Alma the Elder in the scriptural record, authority over the church (Mosiah 26:8), and the right to judge the people (Mosiah 26:12), and the Lord blessed Alma (Mosiah 26:14-17) for all his work and efforts. The Lord told Alma exactly how to judge his people, and he wrote down the words the Lord spoke to him. And Alma walked “in all diligence, teaching the word of God in all things, suffering all manner of afflictions, being persecuted by all those who did not belong to the church of God” (Mosiah 26:38).
Alma’s faith in the Lord, and his willingness to accept what the Lord required of him is a great testimony of this man who walks so prominently through the pages of the scriptural record in this last century B.C., and who the Lord talked to and personally dealt with throughout his life. Because of his conversion, Alma stands at the head of a large posterity, including at least six prophets down to Amos, the last of his line of which we know before the time of Mormon, which included Alma the Younger, Helaman and his son Helaman, Nephi and his son, the disciple Nephi. Mormon wrote of Alma that he “lived to fulfill the commandments of God” (Mosiah 29:45)
This is the man that walked the land, who knew where and in which direction the many cities of the Land Southward were located. He lived in an agrarian society and knew where the sun came up and went down throughout the year, who spoke with the Lord and was guided by the Spirit. He tells us that he entered Ammonihah through a south entrance (Alma 8:18); inquired of the Lord for Zoram to know where to go to intercept the Lamanite army and was told by the Lord that “the Lamanites will cross the river Sidon in the south wilderness, away up beyond the borders of the land of Manti. And behold there shall ye meet them, on the east of the river Sidon, and there the Lord will deliver unto thee thy brethren who have been taken captive by the Lamanites” (Alma 16:6), thus giving Alma two relevant directions; Alma tells us that he journeyed southward away from the land of Gideon to the land of Manti (Alma 17:1); and also tells us that the people said, “we will give up the land of Jershon, which is on the east by the sea, which joins the land Bountiful, which is on the south of the land Bountiful; and this land Jershon is the land which we will give unto our brethren for an inheritance” (Alma 27:22-emphasis mine); and that the seashore was south of the land of Jershon, which bordered on the south wilderness” (Alma 31:3); and that Moroni’s army was on the east and south of the hill Riplah (Alma 43:31); and that Capt. Moroni named all the land which was south of the land Desolation, and all the land on the north and on the south (Alma 46:17); and that Moroni drove the Lamanties in the east wilderness into their lands, which were south of the land of Zarahemla (Alma 50:7), and that he also placed armies on the south in the borders of their possessions (Alma 50:10); named the East Sea and was on the south by the line of the possessions of the Lamanites (Alma 50:13); and that he had established armies to protect the south and the west borders (Alma 52:15); described a Lamanite army on the West Sea, south (Alma 53:8 22); described the wilderness on the south and in the borders by the wilderness on the east (Alma 62:34); etc., etc., etc.
The point is, this erstwhile prophet and his son, whose miraculous conversion that was no less extraordinary than his father’s, both walked the land, new where places were and wrote about them using directions that, again, according to John L. Sorenson and all the Mesoamerianist Theorists, claim are inaccurate because the Nephites used a different system of directions than we do today—and that the Spirit who testified to Joseph Smith of the accuracy of every single translation sentence, must also have been wrong, in order for their east-west Mesoamerica Land of Promise can fit in a north-south descriptive land given us in the scriptural record.

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