GD BoM Lesson 23, Alma 9:5-6
Posted by BrianJ on June 24, 2008
If you’re preparing a lesson or studying for one, there are already some very good notes available; I see no need to duplicate. For my notes, I’ll focus on just two verses.
When Alma goes to preach in Ammonihah, we hear again and again how awful, wicked, iniquitous, etc. the people there were. But we never really get a detailed picture of their sin until after Zeezrom’s conversion. And yeah, the people are really horrible, murdering their fellow citizens because of religious belief. Rewind a bit, however, and ask what was the big problem when Alma first arrived? Why was Alma convinced that this city was so wicked?
I don’t think we can really say without hefty speculation. Some might say that the fact that they rejected Alma’s message is evidence of wickedness, but I’m not so ready to condemn every non-believer in the world.
In chapter 9:5 we read one of the specific criticisms:
Now they knew not that God could do such marvelous works, for they were a hard-hearted and a stiffnecked people.
If I wanted to give them the full benefit of the doubt, I’d say they were merely ignorant of God—and surely ignorance is not the same as hard-heartedness. It’s the next verse, though, that really caught my attention (emphasis added):
And they said: Who is God, that sendeth no more authority than one man among this people, to declare unto them the truth of such great and marvelous things?
Where else do we find that question in the scriptures? By asking, “Who is God?” the Ammonihahites join a dubious crowd:
- Pharaoh – “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go?” (Exodus 5:2)
- Nebuchadnezzar – “[If you don't worship the idol,] who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? (Daniel 3:5)
- King Noah – “Who is the Lord, that shall bring upon my people such great affliction?” (Mosiah 11:27)
- Agur – “Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord?” (Proverbs 30:9)
- And lastly, Cain – “But behold, Cain hearkened not, saying: Who is the Lord that I should know him?” (Moses 5:16)
Yikes! Not a group I want to emulate (except Agur, of course). What do all of these people have in common—besides asking this question—that would shed light on the Ammonihahites?
Agur’s prayer is especially interesting. He paints a series of events that would lead up to this question, with this question being set up as sort of the Ultimate Act of Sin. His main concern seems to be that if he has everything he needs (materially), that he will be tempted, out of pride or self-satisfaction, to deny his dependence on the Lord. This the question, “Who is the Lord?“—or, in other words, “What use is the Lord to me?“
I think the other people on the list could be seen in the same way. Cain seems to be asking, “Why should I bother with the Lord—what’s he got to do with my crops?” The three kings all ask the same question, “How am I affected by the Lord? How is he going to change my plans one bit?”
Could this be the key to understanding the people in Ammonihah? More importantly, could this be the key to placing ourselves in Alma’s audience and seeing how we, sometimes, ask the same prideful question? Lastly, if we think of this as the “main sin” of Ammonihah, how does that influence the way we interpret Alma and Amulek’s message?