The first eight verses of Mosiah 15 are considered by many to be some of the most difficult to understand in the Book of Mormon, but they become easy to follow when one realizes that Abinadi was talking about Jehovah and Jesus and the tensions they had to overcome so that Jesus could accomplish the Atonement and keep the covenants made by Jehovah—for they are the same God:
1 And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself [Jehovah] shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. [“Redeem” in this context means to bring his people back into the presence of God—that is, to completely undo the effects of the Fall of Adam, so that we can return to the presence of God. (See Mormon 9:13; Ether3:13; 2 Nephi 1:15, 2:1-4; Alma 58:41).]
2 And because he [Jehovah] dwelleth in flesh [Jesus] he [Jesus] shall be called the Son of God [the Son of Elohim], and having subjected the flesh [Jesus] to the will of the Father [Jehovah], being the Father [Jehovah] and the Son [Jesus]—
3 The Father [Jehovah], because he [first as Jehovah and then again as Jesus] was conceived by the power of God [Elohim]; and the Son [Jesus], because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father [Jehovah] and Son [Jesus]—
4 And they [Jehovah-Jesus] are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.
5 And thus the flesh [Jesus] becoming subject to the Spirit [Jehovah], or the Son [Jesus] to the Father [Jehovah], being one God [Jehovah-Jesus], suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself [Jesus] to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people.
6 And after all this, after working many mighty miracles among the children of men, he [Jesus] shall be led, yea, even as Isaiah said, as a sheep before the shearer is dumb, so he [Jesus] opened not his mouth.
7 Yea, even so he [Jesus] shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh [Jesus] becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son [Jesus] being swallowed up in the will of the Father [Jehovah] (Mosiah 15:1-7).
There are few scriptures which touch the soul more deeply than that last verse. It exposes all the tensions: Jesus the man—with his natural aversion to physical pain and his desire to remain with the people he loved. Jehovah the God—whose covenantal love for his friends was even more powerful—informed and inspired Jesus’s determination to perform the Atonement. They are, as Abinadi said, one God, but it was Jesus—not just Jehovah—who had to decide.
One of the reasons that scripture is so important to us—and the reason the words were so important to Alma—is that it throws a burning light on each one of us—but a light that only we ourselves can see. Perhaps the easiest way to describe that light is to try to conceptualize its effect on Alma. It was bringing into focus and personalizing the chiastic balance of the cosmic myth.
Before he left his Heavenly Father’s presence, the premortal had made Alma covenants regarding his own mission here and what he would do to fulfill his mission. What Paul wrote to the Thessalonians was true of Alma and all of Heavenly Father’s other children also: “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). But now on this earth as a young, wealthy, demonstrably popular prince, Alma could no longer remember who he really was. His memory was darkened by the light his physical eyes could see. On earth, the expanse of his mind was limited by earthly things and his body limited through its knowledge of how to feel happiness, hunger, passion, weariness, pain, and exhilaration.
There was a time, before his memory fogged and his eyes and ears were closed, that Alma could look forward to this life and see his own purpose—when he could clearly understand his own desires. It was then, when he was fully cognizant, that he had made covenants about what he would do here. Then he was in the company of the premortal Jehovah. But now he could not remember that any more, and had come on this occasion to King Noah’s court to sit in judgment against the prophet. Abinadi, for his part, had come to answer questions that young Alma may not yet have asked, and to give credence to the things the Spirit would teach him about himself. It was Abinadi’s task to help the physical and cultural Alma, who sat in King Noah’s council, to understand that he must seek to become subjugated to the Alma who once sat in the Council of the gods. Abinadi understood that if Alma could achieve that quality of understanding and freedom, then with the tutelage of the Holy Ghost he could acquire the power to fulfill the covenants he had made. In short, the will of Alma’s present Self must be swallowed up in the will of his premortal, fully cognizant Self.