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Alma 14

Posted by robf on June 25, 2011

For those of us working on the Alma 14 wiki project, what are some of your thoughts or insights as you work through this chapter?

20 Responses to “Alma 14”

  1. Mike Berkey said

    There’s no mention of Alma or Amulek saying or doing anything in v1-9. This is mainly a picture of the people’s reaction to their preaching, and what a reaction! Those that repent immediately turn to the scriptures (but aren’t baptized, which I’m still wondering about). The reaction of the unrepentant is incoherent. They think about killing them, but change their mind and instead bring them to court. Zeezrom tries to defend them so they turn on him, kick him and the rest of the believing men out and burn the women and children. Like, where did that come from? I thought Alma and Amulek were on trial.

    I’ve tried to develop a model in which this reaction might make a bit more sense. I’ve based it on Alma 8:17. In that scripture Alma has turned his back on Ammonihah, but an angel has sent him back with a specific mission to warn them that if they don’t repent they’ll be destroyed. But in v17 the angel kind of gives a reason why Ammonihah is in so much trouble. He says that even at this moment they’re plotting to destroy the liberty of the Nephites. This is the only justification I’ve found (before Alma 14 that is) for the Lord’s intent to destroy Ammonihah.

    This is the situation in Ammonihah when Alma and Amulek are preaching. The people are on the verge of some kind of revolt to gain power over the rest of the Nephites. This would explain their focus on power that Kim has pointed out. Burning the believers and their records is a way of exerting their power over Alma and Amulek, putting them in their place. “Don’t tell us that we’ll be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone. Anyone you convert, we’ll cast into fire and brimstone. We’ll make you watch on, helpless and powerless to save them!” These guys have an intense desire for power and it’s kind of terrifying what it drives them to do.

  2. Robert C. said

    I think the “incoherent” reaction by the unrepentant that Mike mentions is very important to figure out. That is, I think there’s a pretty common psychological phenomenon at work here. And I think Alma 12:9ff offers a pretty good way for understanding this.

    If you’ve read Terry Warner’s Bonds That Make Us Free, he nicely outlines the way that resistance to a certain idea can quickly escalate (and that is consistent with the teaching of Alma 12:9ff, that resisting the truth can lead to a kind of “captivity” as 12:11 puts it, or “bondage” in Warner’s language).

    Obviously, this effect has reached a kind of extreme stage among the people of Ammonihah, and it’s occurred at a group level in a way that seems to go beyond what Alma 12:9ff and Warner focus on. However, I still think that the mechanism at work (which can also be conceived as a kind of Girardian mimetic rivalry, where the rivalry is initiated by differing reactions to a given word/teaching) is a very common, even mundane one. And this, I think, is crucial to recognize.

  3. Mike Berkey said

    I’ve also found several connections between the Noah-Abinadi story and this story.
    1) Accusation of reviling against the law/king
    2) Putting the righteous to death specifically by fire
    3) Alma the elder and Zeezrom are parallel characters. Both are introduced as, “one among them.” (Mosiah 17:2 and Alma 10:31) Alma “knew concerning the iniquity which Abinadi had testified.” Zeezrom “knew concerning the blindness of the minds, which he had caused” (Alma 14:6). Alma “began to plead with the king that he would not be angry with Abinadi.” Zeezrom “began to plead for them from that time forth.” King Noah “caused that Alma should be cast out from among them, and sent his servants after him that they might slay him.” The Ammonihahites “cast [Zeezrom] out from among them… and sent men to cast stones at them.”
    4) The official charge against Abinadi turns out to be that he taught that “God himself should come down among the children of men.” (Mosiah 17:8) The Ammonihahites testify in court that Alma and Amulek had taught that God “should send his Son among the people, but he should not save them.” (Alma 14:5)
    5) Abinadi held in prison three days before being confronted again (Mosiah 17:6). Alma and Amulek are held in prison for three days before being confronted again (Alma 14:17-18).
    6) After Noah is killed and his priests are scattered (as prophesied in Mosiah 17:16-19), the people of Noah meet the people of Gideon who tell them “all that had hapened to their wives and their children.” After Ammonihah is destroyed (as prophesied) Alma and Amulek tell the men who fled the city “all that had happened unto their wives and children.”
    7) Alma Sr. establishes a church and baptize many who say it’s “the desire of our hearts.” (Mosiah 18:11) Alma Jr. establishes a church and baptizes many who are “desirous to be baptized.” (Alma 15:13)
    8) Noah sees that the “lamanites were within the borders of the land.” Later the “began to slay them” and they take others captive.” (Mosiah 19:6-15) Alma 15 records that “the armies of the Lamanites had come… into the borders of the land… and began to slay the people…” and they took “others captive.”

  4. Uh, can I answer one of the questions you posed in the Wiki? One of you wrote for the questions on verse 3:

    Since we are told in v2 that the people were angry with Alma and angry with Amulek, why are we told here that they were “also angry with Alma and Amulek”? Is there a way to punctuate this verse to make it more clear?

    Here are verse 2 and 3 with the answer to your question about verse 3:

    But the more part of them [the people] were desirous that they [the people] might destroy Alma and Amulek; for they [the people] were desirous that they [the people] might destroy Alma and Amulek; for they [the people] were angry with Alma, because of the plainness of his words unto Zeezrom; and they [the people] also said that Amulek had lied unto them [the people], and had reviled against their law and also against their lawyers and judges. (verse 2)

    And they [the lawyers and judges] were also angry with Alma and Amulek; and because they [Alma and Amulek] had testified so plainly against their [the lawyers’ and judges’] wickedness, they [the lawyers and judges] sought to put them [Alma and Amulek] away privily. (verse 3)

    Sorry ahead of time if I took away the fun of figuring that one out…

  5. Ah, reading down further on the Wiki I see that one of you attempted to explain verse 3’s question away by Oliver miscopying the manuscript or inserting an extra “and.” Lmao!

  6. Sorry for the multiple posts, but as I read down the Wiki to verse 4’s exposition, the same errors found in verse 3’s expostion are perpetuated. May I suggest that you erase all of what you wrote for verse 3 and 4 and start again with the understanding that there are two groups of people being spoken of, the people on one hand and the lawyers and judges on the other, and that the lawyers and judges comprise the conspiratorial group that wanted to secretly assassinate Alma and Amulek? What you have written there can only serve to confuse the hell out of people. About the only thing you got right there is that the mob’s clamor to bring the missionaries before the chief judge thwarted the assassination conspiracy of the lawyers and judges.

  7. One more thing and then I’ll end. The commentary on verse five assumes the “of” is wrong. But my understanding is that it does work grammatically. The construction should be understood as follows:

    “they had reviled against the law”
    “they had reviled against…their lawyers and judges of the land”
    “they had reviled…also of all the people that were in the land”

    The construction “they had reviled of all the people that were in the land” is correct English. Look up the word “of” in a good, comprehensive dictionary. You’ll find that it makes perfect sense.

    The verse is not meant to be read as “they had reviled against of all the people.” You are supposed to drop the “against” and just combine “reviled” with “of” to get the proper meaning. If you don’t believe me, call up any high school English teacher. They’ll set you right.

    • BrianJ said

      Your contributions are appreciated and helpful. Thank you for adding them.

      I question your apparent tone, however. Is it intended to belittle or discourage those working on the wiki page?

      • Brian, no offense was meant, at all. I say you guys are engaged in a good work. I don’t discourage you and am not trying to belittle anyone. I don’t know how wikis work and have never worked on one before, which is why I thought I’d give my impressions of what I saw over there here. If there is a place to give feedback over there, I do not know how to do it. Please take no offense, none was intended. I wanted to give you candid, frank feedback, is all. Those were my instant impressions as I read through the material on that page.

        I can see the benefit of the wiki and I look forward to seeing what you come up with for Alma 14.

      • BrianJ said

        LDS Anarchist: for my part, I was not offended. I’ve been a slacker so none of the Alma 14 work on the wiki has been mine :)

        My concern was on behalf of those working on the wiki. Some are, like you, brand new to it, so I’d hate to see their first experience go poorly. I also recognize the limitations of online communication, where “tone” is difficult to determine—and even more-so, intent. Hence my question about your intent. I am happy to hear that you meant no harm by it.

        And, to be clear, I really do appreciate your contributions to the discussion.

    • Karen said

      Perhaps these are exactly the right kinds of comments for the discussion page on the wiki?

      • BrianJ said

        Yes, they are. But we understand that not everyone wants to use the wiki interface; some prefer blogs. So we’ll take helpful comments however we can get them :)

  8. kirkcaudle said

    Just because a question is brought up on the Wiki does not necessarily mean that the answer is unknown to the person that composed it. I try and write questions that are thought provoking for someone trying to study, not one’s that are impossible to answer. Therefore, if you think that you have an answer, then great. However, I see no reason to put down others for #1 bringing up the question, or #2 attempting to think about the answers. Comments such as “Sorry ahead of time if I took away the fun of figuring that one out” and “What you have written there can only serve to confuse the hell out of people” are unproductive and really don’t help anyone as they think about the text.

    • Kirk, I am not one who is familiar with how wikis work. I’m just a passer-by, who happened upon the wiki and gave my impressions as I was reading it, not after I had read it. I tried my hand at answering verse 3’s question before I knew that someone had already written commentary which attempted to answer it. This is why I wrote, “Sorry ahead of time if I took away the fun of figuring that one out.” I say ask all the questions you can ask. That is a good strategy. I wasnt’ trying to put anyone down, I was trying to answer a question which I thought no one yet had attempted to answer.

      Later, when I saw the commentary, I saw that there was a misunderstanding of who a particular “they” were, and it was this misunderstanding that caused the commentary to take a turn in the wrong direction. My impression was that instead of clearing the issue up, the commentary actually made the issue more confusing. All the discussion about the people seeking to privily put them away, yet how could the people privily put them away if they are all privy to it, etc. It was confusing as hell. Personally, I would think you would want to know if commentary is confusing to people reading it. I would think that would be productive, helpful feedback.

      I realize I wrote quite frankly, giving honest impressions. And I realize that thick skin is needed when someone is so honest in their impressions about something you have written. But none of it was intended as insult.

    • robf said

      Agreed the questions can be thought of as study questions, things to ponder in usefully reading the verse in question. In the case of the verse in question, there are several ways to read it, so questioning the verse is the first step in teasing out possible readings.

  9. joespencer said

    LDS Anarchist,

    A word just of advice, offered in what I hope is the kind of honesty you say you’ve used: be much more careful about how you describe others’ work on the wiki. The reason we’ve attempted this project is to try to make people feel comfortable using the wiki and trying to do work on scripture. To respond to someone’s attempt, however misguided, to make sense of a text with “Lmao” or with something as clearly condescending as “If you don’t believe me, call up any high school English teacher. They’ll set you right,” is not to encourage but to belittle. That isn’t honesty (unless it is meant to convey the honest conviction that you think your interlocutors are simply fools); it’s arrogance—at least in words.

    So, the advice: contribute and/or encourage, and where there is a better way of reading the text, say so without suggesting—however implicitly or “honestly”—that those are you trying to produce something are idiots.

    That said, I very much appreciate the readings and criticisms, though I don’t appreciate the spirit in which they have apparently been given. I would more than encourage you to continue adding thoughts on the text, but I would encourage you even more strongly to do so with charity, hoping to help rather than aiming to establish your own apparent intellectual superiority.

    • Joe,

      I’m sorry that I have offended you. Please forgive me. I will not try, yet again, to explain what I meant by what I wrote. I could explain the offensive “lmao” and “call up a HS English teacher” comments, but I won’t. I see now that wtiting over and over again in multiple comments that I meant no offense by what I wrote and that none of it was intended as an insult is not sufficent for you. Okay. So, then I will just appologize for what I wrote. Please don’t let my words discourage anyone from working on this wiki. I take all my feedback, corrections and impressions about the wiki commentary back. If I could, I would erase those comments. It wasn’t my intention to create a stir amongst you all. Do not change a thing in the wiki. Leave the wiki commentary just as it is. It’s perfect the way it is now. And I assure you, I will make no further attempt to correct anything I see on the wiki as erroneous.

      FwiwI never called anyone an idiot, nor did I suggest that any of you were idiots, but because you got the impression that I was suggesting that you were all idiots and that I was establishing my own intellectual superiority, I again appologize. Although you say that you appreciate the criticisms and comments, I think the safest bet is just for me to keep my mouth shut if I see something that I believe is erroneous, at least as far as the wiki and this blog is concerned. I see now that I have ruffled too many feathers here and perhaps discouraged people from applying themselves to this wiki work.

      Okay, back to your scheduled programming.

  10. joespencer said

    LDS Anarchist,

    Thanks for your apology. For what it’s worth, I wasn’t offended (your criticisms weren’t about anything I wrote at the wiki anyway); I was frustrated because of the strong possibility that your tone would drive people from the project.

    In the meanwhile, the wiki is anything but perfect as it is, and we certainly don’t plan to leave it as it is. My comments had only to do with tone: I would hope that you add your thoughts, but I would hope that you could do so in an encouraging and thoughtful tone.



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