Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson 22 “Have Ye Received His Image in Your Countenances" Alma 5–7

Book of Mormon Lesson 22 “Have Ye Received His Image in Your Countenances"   
Alma 5–7 

Alma 5 

The etymology of Nephihah  and Alma 

Alma has given up the judgment seat as chief judge, handing it over to another faithful Nephite named, Nephihah.  The name Nephihah is likely a name conjugated from two words/names: "Nephi" and "ihah".  That Nephi is logically from the first main Nephite prophet is easy to see.   
According to Matthew Bowen, the name Nephi possibly comes from the Egyptian term "nfr" (in Lehi's time pronounced "NEH fee") meaning "good" or "goodness".  (Note: the Egyptian language was not understood at the time the Book of Mormon was written. That Joseph Smith could "guess" using a name that is tied to Reformed Egyptian such as Nephi, is quite amazing). 

The term "ihah"  is possibly a Nephite converted Hebrew name ending, such as "Jah" or "iah" (Elijah, Jeremiah) which are short for Jehovah.   So, combining the terms, the second chief judge's name would be "The goodness of Jehovah". 

Alma's own name is interesting in regards to archaeology.  For over a century after its publication, unbelievers scoffed that Joseph Smith would use the name "Alma" in the Book of Mormon.  First off, it is a Latin word for "soul".  Secondly, every American knew it was a common name used for women. The scoffing can now end.  The name Alma was found in the mid twentieth century in the Bar Kokhba letters, a series of documents hidden up in the Judean wilderness at the time of the second revolt (known as the Bar Kokhba revolt against Rome about 135 AD).  In the letters, a man named Alma was involved in land transactions.  Since then, the name Alma was also found in the 4000 year old Ebla texts, 8 times in 6 documents.  These texts are Semitic (related to Akkadian) and clearly talk of men by that name.   

Here we see two evidences from names in the Book of Mormon where there were no known names available to Joseph Smith to use if such were a fraud.  In fact, there are about 40 names in the Book of Mormon that have since been found to be valid names from the Ancient Near East.  Statistically, that is highly unlikely to ever occur by chance. 

Alma's Discourse in Zarahemla 

Alma understands that Zarahemla has not fared well spiritually.  His preaching will try and reawaken in them the testimony they learned from their fathers.  Perhaps a key word one can use in regards to his discourse is "remember".   It is a concept that is very useful and important in a day when things become dated and old in Internet time.  There was a time when people were amazed at what computers could do for them, and that excitement would linger for more than just a few months until the new cool thing came out.  We have no recollection of history, because there are so many things propelling us quickly into the future without a chance to glance back to see what we have learned (or should have learned).  For example, we have seen what works and doesn't work in marriages and parenting.  We have thousands of years of experience, and many quality studies and books available on such ideas.  This being true, why do so many marriages fail and so many children end up dropping out of school or in prison?  Our current economic collapse and Great Recession occurred from issues that have occurred before in history: land speculation, over-extension of money, artificial bubbles created by government, etc.  So, why did it occur again?  Because people were solely focused on instant and future gains on their returns, rather than studying the past events to avoid major system failure. 

"have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your  fathers? Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his  mercy and long-suffering towards them? And moreover, have ye  sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?" (Alma 5:6). 

For Alma, the system failure was in forgetting the history of King Noah, Amulon, the captivity of Limhi's people, Abinadi, and the Lord liberating his people once they repented and believed on Him once more. 

"Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep  sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of  darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the  everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them" (Alma 5:7). 

In their great punishment of slavery, they awoke to God, who then caused a mighty change of heart in them. With this change, they were then eligible to be rescued.  

"And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell  which encircled them about, were they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they  were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love. And I say unto you that they are saved" (Alma 5:9). 

Alma explained that Abinadi taught faith in Christ.  Alma's father believed the words of Abinadi, and "according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true" (Alma 5:12). 

As one trained in teaching, I have often looked at the teaching techniques used by different prophet in the scriptures.  Here, Alma uses a technique known as "Asking and Answering".  In asking questions about the past, it forces the listener to review in his/her mind the details and contents of that event.  In discussing several events in this way, Alma is able to tie them all together, and in doing so, show a pattern in the past that can benefit them now: sin leads to captivity and righteousness leads to liberty. 

Once again, in the Book of Mormon, we see the importance of faith - another key point taught by Alma in this discourse.  Without faith, people sin.  Once there is faith, a mighty change of heart may occur.   As with the people of King Benjamin,  

"...we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we  know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord  Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts,  that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually" (Mosiah 5:2). 

Here we see a pattern: when we do not believe enough in Christ to have a mighty change of heart, we drift towards sin, which eventually leads to captivity and destruction.  When we do exercise faith unto repentance, then the Holy Spirit may work the miracle of rebirth within us, making a new person of us.  And so we see Alma teach: 

"And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?" (Alma 5:14). 

In the rebirth of baptism, which Alma the younger clearly taught, we symbolically can imagine putting on a clean white garment. This has connotations (as we will see) with the temple endowment and our own personal theophany (being in the presence of God). Speaking to the sinners of Zarahemla, Alma teaches them that the wicked will have a horrifying experience at the judgment bar of God. They will stand before him in firty clothing, realizing they cannot hide their  filth from Him: 

"... there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified  until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of  whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his  people from their sins. And  now I ask of you, my brethren, how will any of you feel, if ye shall  stand before the bar of God, having your garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness?" (Alma 5:21-22) 

LDS scholar Professor Hugh Nibley explained,  

Being  guilty of the blood and sins of your generation, you may not “have a  place to sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, with Isaac, and  with Jacob, and also all the holy prophets, whose garments are cleansed  and are spotless, pure and white.” (Alma 5:24.) This is nothing less than the yeshivah, literally “sitting down” in the presence of God.    
Note  that there are two kinds of blood-stained garments here—the one showing  the blood and sins of this world, the other attesting (for Alma  expressly states that “these things testify”)  that Aaron and his sons have completed the sacrifice of the Lamb and  thus cleansed the people of their defilements, and their garments are  white. The blood that washes garments clean is not the blood that  defiles them, just as the serpent that healed the people in the  wilderness was not the serpent that killed. (See Num. 21:9.)

Alma teaches that we can either stain our garments with the sins of the world, or we can be like the temple priests, performing the annual cleansing sacrifice of the temple and the people, which removed spiritual stains from the garments of the priests.   The importance of sitting with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in God's presence is again, as noted in several of my lessons on the Book of Mormon, the most important key to the Book of Mormon. Its purpose is to teach us how to return into the presence of God, to have our own theophany, to experience God and be like him (even as the great Patriarchs are God-like).  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob symbolize the Godhead or Trinity: three divine beings who are one.   To sit down with them is to sit down in council with them, even as Nephi counseled with Lehi as "my father dwelt in a tent" that symbolized their mobile tabernacle or temple of God, and also as Isaiah counseled with the Lord and divine seraphim in Isaiah 6,  

" The names of the wicked shall not be mingled with the names of my people;  For the names of the righteous shall be written in the book of life, and unto them will I grant an inheritance at my right hand" (Alma 5:57-58).  

To sit down in the presence of God at his right hand is to stand with Christ on the right hand of God.  One becomes holy and divine through the atonement of Jesus Christ. 

Alma 7 

To the righteous people of Gideon, Alma does not need to focus on the basics of repentance and faith, and so goes into deeper detail regarding the life and ministry of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. 

"...behold, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth. 
And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God" (Alma 7:91-10). 

As with Nephi's vision of the Tree of Life, Alma chooses to begin with Christ's birth  and describe Mary in detail and by name.  For Mormons, we should consider this significant.  While we do not adore Mary to the level of traditional Catholics, we should also give her great works more consideration and appreciation than many Protestant religions do.   LDS believe that God is the father of Jesus Christ in his flesh, and he is.  Perhaps we should note more the involvement of the Holy Ghost  in that occurring, as well. 

The important thing to understand here is that Mary was considered a "precious and chosen vessel" or servant through whom God could perform the greatest miracle of all, the salvation of mankind by God becoming man himself. 

"And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. 
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose  the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him  their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according  to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities" (Alma 7:11-12). 

One thing many Christians do not understand is that the atonement does so much more than just cleanse us from sin and make us holy.  It also allows Jesus to take our pains and sicknesses upon himself.  He can succor us, because he has experienced our pain.  He also can heal us of our mental and emotional anguish. 

This is perhaps one of the key things about the atonement that we overlook.  Many people think that with the death and resurrection of Jesus, the atonement is all completed.  We will all resurrect and all may have our sins washed away is true, but we miss out on how the atonement is an on-going event.  People hurt. Now.  People experience tragedy and pain. Now.   People suffer with drug, alcohol, and sexual addictions now. People are traumatized by war, rape, violence. Now.  People feel lost, lonely, confused, embarrassed, sad, fearful. Now.  

It isn't enough to look back two thousand years and think Jesus did some things for me way back then, and now is quietly watching from his throne.  We need to know that Christ is the one constant in our lives. He actively looks upon us, understanding our pain, because he has already felt it in spades. He can then send down angels, the Holy Ghost, and miracles, to help ease the pain - even to comfort us as we heal.   He is the perfect physician, because he knows exactly what our maladies are, and how to cure them.  Sometimes the cure is quick. Sometimes he gently and carefully heals us so we do not die from the cure.   Often he will send someone to comfort and strengthen.  Always, we can find hope in His eternal promises that he will heal us entirely either now or in the next world, and the rewards we'll receive for having faith through our trials will be one hundred fold. 

Alma discusses the importance of keeping our bodies as temples, clean and holy.  In conjunction with this, he discusses returning into the presence of God, and the holy order of the priesthood (Alma 7:21-25).   Again he encourages them to sit with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the presence of God, having their garments cleansed of all iniquity.  Alma desires that the people of Gideon also have the hope that he instilled in the people of Zarahemla: to have a yeshiva or sitting down with God. 

As Alma asked a lot of questions, I'll end with some as well:    Do we have enough faith to cause a mighty change in our own hearts? Have we been reborn?  Are we ready to enter into the heavenly temple of God with clean garments and sit down with  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the Godhead, and be like them? 


"Internal Textual Evidence for the Egyptian Origin of Nephi's Name" by Matthew Bowen:  http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/insights/?vol=22&num=11&id=301 

The name Alma in Bar Kokhba letters and Ebla tablets: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=8&num=1&id=189&cat_id=454 

"The Atonement of Jesus Christ - part 3", Hugh Nibley: http://www.lds.org/ensign/1990/09/the-atonement-of-jesus-christ-part-3 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson 21- “Alma … Did Judge Righteous Judgments” Mosiah 29, Alma 1-4

Book of Mormon Lesson 21- “Alma … Did Judge Righteous Judgments”  
Mosiah 29, Alma 1-4 

Mosiah 29 

Several issues combine to cause a major change in governance among the people of Nephi. 

First, the sons of Mosiah have left on a mission to the Lamanites of indeterminate length.  There is no one for Mosiah to leave the throne to.  Traditionally, the kingdom had always been ruled by a direct descendant of Nephi (Mosiah 25:13).  Nephi was given the power to rule by God. Now, however, there were other possible claimants to the throne.  Mulekites were direct descendants of King Zedekiah of Israel, and therefore direct descendants of King David.  They may have believed they also had a divine right to rule, now that Mosiah had no heir apparent.    

It is possible that children of King Limhi may also have felt they had a right to the throne.   It may be that other non-Nephite groups that were under Nephite rule also desired to gain the throne.  One of these groups probably were Jaredites that escaped with the people of Zarahemla from the final Jaredite wars.  From the point where King Mosiah I discovered Zarahemla and on, we see Jaredite names and tactics enter into the Nephite story.  Jaredites often sought to overthrow the governments and kings of the nation, and we'll see their secret combinations, priestcrafts, and wickedness spring up in the Nephite realm in the Book of Alma and later. 

For King Mosiah II, he had to find a solution that satisfied the various factions by giving them some power, but leaving the government in the hands of trusty Nephite leaders.  He developed a system of judges, where lower levels of judges were elected by the people.  So, Mulekite people could have their own local leadership, while Limhites or Jaredites could also have their own.  Meanwhile, the chief judge was appointed to the position by King Mosiah.  This specific position was given to Alma the younger, a descendant of Nephi and a proven faithful follower of God. 

That the majority of the people appreciated this additional freedom and personal power is evident from the Nephite record.  Still, there is an underlying current of dissatisfaction from some groups with the strict Nephite rule.  Remember in the last lesson that King Mosiah mandated special dispensations to Alma's churches that do not seem to have been given to any other churches or groups.  How does one create a state religion? By mandating its existence, giving it preference over all other religions, and ensuring it is not persecuted. 

In Egyptian history, there was a period when one Pharaoh rejected the multiplicity of gods and focused worship throughout the kingdom on just one god.  The Pharaoh Amenhotep IV rejected the God Amun (whom he was named for) and renamed himself Akhenaten ("Living Spirit of Aten"). He moved away from the Egyptian capitol, where all the gods had temples, and built a new city in the desert called Amarna, where only the worship of Aten was allowed.  This religion grew greatly in his lifetime rule of 17 years. However, after his death, Aten worship was no longer protected nor nurtured, and the older religions quickly returned to fill the vacuum.  Akhenaten and Aten were removed from the face of temples and statues everywhere.  The city of Amarna was buried and the secret remained buried for almost 3000 years. 

Here we see a similar issue for King Mosiah.  He knew once he was gone, other forces would attempt to grab the power and bury the Christian faith forever.  It would require skillful politics to keep the Christian faith and Nephite rule in power.  In giving limited power to the other groups ensured the continuing of Nephite rule for at least another generation.  However, that new freedom would open up new problems for Alma as he became both prophet and chief judge. 

Alma 1 

Alma's first challenge as chief judge and prophet come in the first year of the judges.  Nehor was a descendant of the Jaredites, culturally, if not literally.  His name is Jaredite in origin (Ether 7:4-9), and the religion he preaches is reminiscent of Jaredite philosophy.   

"And he had gone about among the people, preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God, bearing down against the church; declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people. 
And he also testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life" (Alma 1:3-4). 

Here is a clear distinction between Alma's and Nehor's teachings.  Alma gave strict direction that priests should labor for themselves; that not all would be saved, only those that exercised faith unto repentance.  Nehor is teaching that no matter what a person does in this life, God will save him or her.  His teachings justified a form of anarchy against the government, as well as anarchy against Alma's established religion.  For Nehor, his preachings encouraged people to commit sexual sin, to not be humble or repent, nor believe in the coming Savior to save people from their sins.  Instead, his teachings taught that they would be saved regardless, and so they may as well live riotous lives and toss out all rules.  Nehor tested the current system by killing Gideon.  When Nehor was not able to convince Gideon with words, he went to other resources in his anarchic toolbox.  Since all would be saved, murder was justified. 


In future lessons, we will study secret combinations and priestcrafts.  One of their main goals is to do whatever necessary to get gain and power. For Nehor, gaining religious and political power required him to slay his Gideon.  We will see that in the future, most wicked men will murder only in secret, avoiding the death that Nehor would face for breaking the laws of the land. 

"Alma said unto him: Behold, this is the first time that priestcraft has  been introduced among this people. And behold, thou art not only guilty  of priestcraft, but hast endeavored to enforce it by the sword; and were  priestcraft to be enforced among this people it would prove their entire destruction" (Alma 1:12). 

We will see that priestcraft, or secret combinations, will eventually destroy the Nephite and Jaredite peoples.  Interestingly, it isn't the existence of priestcrafts or sin that cause the destruction of a people, but the enforcement of such wickedness upon the people that causes the destruction.  In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, for example, it isn't that the cities were dens of sexual iniquity that ripened them for destruction, but that the citizens sought to enforce their wickedness on others, such as seeking to rape Lot's visitors.  If in our day, we get to a point where such great sins are enforced by government or the majority of the people, we may also see ourselves ripened for destruction, as well. 

Nehor's Death 

That Nehor was killed for murder is not newsworthy. What is interesting is the description of his death: 

"And it came to pass that they took him; and his name was Nehor;  and they carried him upon the top of the hill Manti, and there he was  caused, or rather did acknowledge, between the heavens and the earth,  that what he had taught to the people was contrary to the word of God;  and there he suffered an ignominious death." (Alma 1:15) 

Why take him to the top of a hill to slay him?  Why would it be considered an "ignominious death"?  If current LDS scholarship is correct and places the main events of the Nephite record in Central America, it is possible that the hill Manti was actually am active volcano.  Imagine being carried to the top of the hill, and with the heat  of the lava in your face, being forced to confess.  The ignominious death would have been tossing the person into the volcano, as an example to others.  Another possibility is that the hill refers to a special hill used for human sacrifice, where enemies of the state would be sacrificed.  

It may be that by the time the Nephites had lived among the natives for 5 centuries, they began to use some of their methods for killing those who broke their laws. For example, we find that ancient Mayans used a variety of methods in human sacrifice:   

"The common method for human sacrifice seems to have been for the "ah  nacom" (a functionary) to extract the heart quickly, while 4 people  associated with Chac, the rain/lightning god, held the struggling  victim's limbs. Human sacrifices seem to have been made, as well, with  arrows, by flaying, decapitation, hurling from a precipice, and throwing  the victim into a limestone sinkhole." 

Nehor's Influence on the Nephites 

So what comes of Nehor's time among the people?  His religion gets a strong foothold among the people. While they are not allowed to break the laws of the land, they are free to believe as they choose.  Many push the limits of the law, as they seek to live without boundaries set by man or God: 

"For those who did not belong to their church did indulge themselves in sorceries, and in idolatry or idleness, and in babblings, and in envyings and strife; wearing costly apparel; being lifted  up in the pride of their own eyes; persecuting, lying, thieving,  robbing, committing whoredoms, and murdering, and all manner of  wickedness; nevertheless, the law was put in force upon all those who  did transgress it, inasmuch as it was possible" (Alma 1:32). 

And what of the Church of God? 

"And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich,  having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need—an  abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and also  abundance of grain, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things,  and abundance of silk and fine-twined linen, and all manner of good homely cloth. 
And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked,  or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that  had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need. 
And thus they did prosper and become far more wealthy than those who did not belong to their church" (Alma 1:29-31). 

The Church actually prospered more than the world did.  While they cared for the poor and needy, they were also worked hard to make for a good living, and trusted in God.  God made them prosperous.  Some wonder why such a small church of just 14 million people can have so much power in the world today, perhaps it is because Mormons have also learned these principles and God is generally prospering the LDS Church today.   As to our own work ethic and our caring for the poor and needy, the above verses should be our guide today, compared to the empty words given by those who are caught up in the worldliness of things today. 

In the Church of God, we see the Doctrine of Christ (unity) compared with the Doctrine of Satan (contention), as we've studied before in 2 Nephi 31, and will study again in 3 Nephi.   Those outside the church begin to contend with one another, a variety of beliefs appear, and they embrace chaos as a way of life.  The Church offers order and a strong foundation. 

Alma 2 

Amlici is a man "after the order of Nehor", someone who believed in the religion and priestcraft of evil men.  Note the terminology used here to describe Amlici: "after the order of Nehor".  In LDS teaching, we use the term "after the order of" most frequently to denote true authority and power from God (after the order of the Son of God/Melchizedek/Enoch).  We can get a feeling of a system, first religious and now political, that seeks to displace and replace the true order, after the order of Nephi. 

Amlici believed he should be king.  This great politician had the flattering tongue of the televangelist.  He realized that Nehor could not have full power, as long as Mosiah's laws remained in place.  Therefore, not only the religious, but also the political order had to be changed.  It would be according to the voice of the people if they were to change the rule of judges, after only 5 years, with a new king. 

"the people assembled themselves together throughout all the land, every  man according to his mind, whether it were for or against Amlici, in  separate bodies, having much dispute and wonderful contentions one with  another" (Alma 2:5). 

It seems that politics, as with religion, created huge contentions back then, even as it does today. While the rule of judges continued, the voting seems to have been very close.  Clearly, there were many people, perhaps many of the non-Nephites, who desired a king.  Politicians can often offer huge bribes, often things they will do for the people once they get into office.  Unfortunately, such bribes and benefits require the loss of freedom.  The people would have given up their ability to choose judges and vote had they chosen a king to rule over them. 

Amlici was still anointed king by his followers, and took up arms to overthrow the government established by Mosiah.  This is exactly how events occurred among the Jaredites.  Wicked men desired to be king, and so started insurrections to overthrow the current government.  While the wicked often succeeded among the Jaredites, this time Amlici failed in his violent bid to rule. 

While the Nephite army handily beat Amlici's army on the first day, the surprise counter attack included a Lamanite army to supplement Amlici's troops.  It reminds me of the Korean War, where North Korea invaded the South, but was pushed back.  When the war was thought to soon be over, the North Korean army was suddenly reinforced by millions of Chinese soldiers flowing over the border, seeming "as numerous almost, as it were, as the sands of the sea" (Alma 2:27).   Only fierce combat allowed South Korea and the Nephites to regain the edge and win the day. 

Alma 3 

Those Amlicites, who escaped into the Lamanite territories, marked themselves with a red mark on their foreheads, so as to distinguish them from the Nephites. We must note this is not a black mark, nor a skin of darkness, that was upon them, but a red one.  The only curse upon them was one they placed upon themselves. They could also remove the curse. However, instead of being viewed as followers of Christ, they intentionally marked themselves as enemies of God and his people. 

Today, it is interesting to see the many ways people mark themselves to signify which group(s) they belong with.  Tattoos, rings, hair cuts, clothing styles, etc., all become external evidence of what is often going on inside the individual.  Having worked as a hearing officer/judge inside a state prison system for several years, I've come to recognize the tattoos many of the offenders wear, and which gang each tattoo is connected with.  There are tattoos for skinhead white supremacists, tattoos for a variety of black gangs, tattoos for Mexican gangs, etc.   Even those who get tattoos unaffiliated with a gang, often do so to make a statement, often to separate the person from the norm or to express individuality (even though everyone else may also be doing it in their associated group). 

Interestingly, Isaiah warned the daughters of Zion for doing this very thing of wearing a variety of styles and "walking haughty" as leading to their eventual downfall.  "it shall come to pass, that instead of  sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and  instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding  of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty" (Isaiah 3:16-26, 2 Nephi 13:16-26). 

So, how should we look? In the next lesson, Alma will explain that we should have Christ in our countenances.  When people see us, they should clearly see a follower of Christ.  Our outward expression should show forth our inner expression of faith. 

Alma 4 

After the many wars, the Nephite people were humbled.   They realized that only with God's help were they able to overcome the massive forces of the Lamanites.  Because of their humility, they survived. However, because of their former sins, the Lord allowed tragedy to strike, so they would learn to be humble. 

"And so great were their afflictions that every soul had cause to mourn;  and they believed that it was the judgments of God sent upon them  because of their wickedness and their abominations; therefore they were awakened to a remembrance of their duty" (Alma 4:3). 

With such tragedy, many were baptized into the Church.  We see such a cycle often in the Book of Mormon.  1. The people are humble and faithful. 2. The people are blessed by the Lord and prosper.  3.  The people get too comfortable and forget God, returning to their former sins.  4. Destruction occurs, causing them to be humble.   This Pride Cycle continues unless it is broken.  Either the people must remain humble and faithful, or the destruction becomes complete, so that there are no more people to continue in the Pride Cycle. 

We will note that when the people turn to the Lord, peace and joy seem to be the terms used to describe them.  However, as the people become wicked, contention often becomes the main problem. 

And so, after just a few years of peace, the non-believers return to their life of pride and contention, leading many in the Church to also stumble and struggle.  Alma cannot rule the land and guide the church at the same time.  He has no choice but to leave behind either politics or religion.  Choosing to remain chief high priest, Alma appoints his replacement in the government, with the people sustaining the choice (no direct elections). 

For several generations, the ruler was also the chief religious leader.  Now, the people will learn how to deal separately between politics and religion.  Alma will leave the government in stable Nephite hands, and go forth preaching the gospel. 


Akhenaten at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akhenaten 

"Human Sacrifice Among the Mayan", by N.S. Gill: http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/deathafterlife/qt/012709MayaScrfc.htm