19 December 2014

Alma 36: Alma's Message To Helaman (Part 1)

In the last chapter we are promised details of the war, Alma's speech to the multitude, and then the details of his individual speeches to each one of his sons. From the first verse in Alma 36 it seems clear which one we are going to get: his speech to his eldest son, Helaman. This comprises chapters 36 and 37, but since it's long I'm going to split it into two posts. 

And in case you think these speeches are boring, they're not. Just look at this quote from John W. Welch, a professor of law at Jay Reuben Clark law school at Brigham Young University:

The speeches of Alma in the Book of Mormon are among the very richest chapters of the entire book. I think it is fair to call them a doctrinal epicenter of the Book of Mormon. Alma’s words bear repeated dissection, and they reward persistent pondering. I know that, like most of the Book of Mormon, the words of Alma will wear me out long before I wear them out. Source
I can agree with that. Thirty-seven chapters in, Alma's words are starting to wear me out. But, onward!

Alma begins by telling Helaman to listen up, because if you keep God's commandments, you'll prosper.
My son, give ear to my words; for I swear unto you, that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land. Alma 36.1
Alma wishes that his son believes this stuff right from the beginning, without having to go through the painful ordeal that he did. Remember back in Mosiah 16, when Alma was first convinced of the truth of God by Abinadi? Before that, he was running with the wrong crowd, and trying to take down the church with the rest of the sons of Mosiah. But then something amazing happened. They were visited by an angel!

Now, behold, I say unto you, if I had not been born of God I should not have known these things; but God has, by the mouth of his holy angel, made these things known unto me, not of any worthiness of myself; 36.5 
For I went about with the sons of Mosiah, seeking to destroy the church of God; but behold, God sent his holy angel to stop us by the way. 36.6 
And behold, he spake unto us, as it were the voice of thunder, and the whole earth did tremble beneath our feet; and we all fell to the earth, for the fear of the Lord came upon us. 36.7 
But behold, the voice said unto me: Arise. And I arose and stood up, and beheld the angel. 36.8

The angel told Alma that he could destroy himself if he wanted to, but that he had to stop trying to destroy the church.
And he said unto me: If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed, seek no more to destroy the church of God. 36.9
Alma fell down to the ground for three days, and he couldn't move. Apparently the angel kept talking to him, but Alma couldn't even hear what the angel was saying. He was racked with all of his sins and was "tormented with the pains of hell".
And it came to pass that I fell to the earth; and it was for the space of three days and three nights that I could not open my mouth, neither had I the use of my limbs. 36.10 
And the angel spake more things unto me, which were heard by my brethren, but I did not hear them; for when I heard the words—If thou wilt be destroyed of thyself, seek no more to destroy the church of God—I was struck with such great fear and amazement lest perhaps I should be destroyed, that I fell to the earth and I did hear no more. 36.11 
But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. 36.12 
Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments. 36.13
This 3-day punishment was because he had led so many of the people away from the church. Alma describes this as "I had murdered many of his children", but then he quickly clarifies that he actually just "led them away unto destruction". So he was scared to face God. But after three days, he decided to ask Jesus for forgiveness, and to stop with all the tormenting.
Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror. 36.14 
Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds. 36.15
And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul. 36.16 
And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. 36.17 
Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. 36.18
And, as luck would have it, Alma's pain went away the very second he asked Jesus! Nice.

And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. 36.19 
And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! 36.20 
Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy. 36.21

But, right before his limbs started working, Alma saw God! Or he thought he did, just for a second. He was hanging out with a bunch of angels up in heaven! But he didn't really get a good view, because all of the sudden he was healed and up on his feet.
Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there. 36.22 
But behold, my limbs did receive their strength again, and I stood upon my feet, and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God. 36.23
And those three days were more than enough to convince Alma. He worked tirelessly for the church for the rest of his days.
Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. 36.24
Alma finishes up his speech by telling Helaman all of the great things that God has done for him, and that he will do for Helaman, as long as he follows the rules.

And I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; yea, God has delivered me from prison, and from bonds, and from death; yea, and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me. 36.27 
And I know that he will raise me up at the last day, to dwell with him in glory; yea, and I will praise him forever, for he has brought our fathers out of Egypt, and he has swallowed up the Egyptians in the Red Sea; and he led them by his power into the promised land; yea, and he has delivered them out of bondage and captivity from time to time. 36.28 
Yea, and he has also brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem; and he has also, by his everlasting power, delivered them out of bondage and captivity, from time to time even down to the present day; and I have always retained in remembrance their captivity; yea, and ye also ought to retain in remembrance, as I have done, their captivity. 36.29 
But behold, my son, this is not all; for ye ought to know as I do know, that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land; and ye ought to know also, that inasmuch as ye will not keep the commandments of God ye shall be cut off from his presence. Now this is according to his word. 36.30

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