Alma 5:10-15 — LeGand Baker — meaning of hope

Alma 5:10-15 — LeGand Baker — meaning of hope

Alma 5:10-15
10     And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved? Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation? What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell?
11     Behold, I can tell you — did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi? And was he not a holy prophet? Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them?
12     And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.
13     And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

In verses 10 to 13 Alma does two things that are independent, yet they are the same. He answers the question, “on what conditions are they saved?” then he repeats the question differently “what grounds had they to hope for salvation?” The significance of the latter is that he is not using “hope” to suggest uncertainty or just simply wishing really hard. Rather, he uses “hope” to represent their sure knowledge of their ultimate salvation. That usage is demonstrated by his clarification in the next two questions:

“What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also

[what was the cause of their being loosed from] the chains of hell?”

Let’s look at what he says first, that is, at his discussion of the conditions on which they were saved. After that, lets examine his use of “hope.”

Alma lays out the conditions of salvation in a simple logical form, with each idea building on, and presupposing the ones that go before it. He does that with rhetorical questions, but the questions do not get in the way of the logic.

ON WHAT CONDITIONS ARE THEY SAVED?

10     And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved? Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation? What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell?
11     Behold, I can tell you–did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi? And was he not a holy prophet? Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them?
12     And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.
13     And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.

Let’s analyze that closely. Alma II begins by describing the conversion of his father Alma I.

1a. my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi?

2a. according to his faith [pistis = making and keeping covenants]

3a. there was a mighty change wrought in his heart.

4a. he preached the word unto your fathers [Sharing the gospel is a part of the covenants, and therefore one’s receiving salvation is partly dependent on one’s sharing the gospel.]

Then Alma II repeats the sequence with reference to the fathers of the people in his audience. The sequence is the same, but some of the items are assumed rather than stated.

1b. [The first assumed point is that their parents believed the prophet, Alma I]

2b. [The next is that they made covenants at the waters of Mormon]

3b. a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts,

4b. [their covenant at the waters if Mormon had been that they would support each other and the kingdom. This they did by living the law of consecration in the wilderness, and by trusting God to deliver them from the Lamanites. Alma describes that sequence by saying:] and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God.

Then he draws a conclusion.

5     And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.

His statement: “they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved,” asks the question: How does one understand the word “end?” The phrase we usually use is to express that same idea is “endure to the end.”

“End “ has several meanings. The one we usually use means the conclusion, to finish, completion, closure. So we often equate the phrase “to endure to the end” to mean “to stick to it until one gets dead.” That works well, but may not always be correct. For one thing, one may have missions to perform after one gets dead. (An example is my friend who is well along in years who says he wants to die so he can get on with life.) But there is another reason it may not always be correct. “End” is a noun that means a plan or a design, as in, “We will work toward this end.” If that is the meaning, then “to endure to the end” would mean to stick to it until one has accomplished the plan — or until one has fulfilled one’s covenant assignments. Other meanings of “end” suggest the same thing. “End” may also mean purpose, goal, objective. In that case “to endure to the end” would mean to stick to it until one has fulfilled one’s objective — that is an equally precise way of saying until one has fulfilled one’s covenants. (Actually, I’m not at all sure how relevant that last bit is in describing one’s life in this world, because for the most part one’s getting the job done and one’s getting out of this world are pretty much equivalents.)

Since it seems clear that Alma was teaching that in this instance, their assurance of salvation came before they were dead, one may assume his statement, “they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved” is about this life, rather than their deaths. That brings us back to his other point in verse 10.

YEA, WHAT GROUNDS HAD THEY TO HOPE FOR SALVATION?

What does he mean by “hope.”

The answer seems to be in the next set of questions:

14     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?
15     Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?(Alma 5:14-15).

It seems to me that Alma is using “hope” the same way Mormon and Moroni use it at the conclusion of the Book of Mormon.

Mormon’s great discourse is about the transitional steps between being “the peaceable followers of Christ,” and becoming “the sons of God.” (Moroni 7:3 & 48) As such, it is a commentary on the Beatitude,”And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” (3 Nephi 12:9.)

Moroni 7 may be read many ways. For a teenager or a new member of the church it says one should believe in the Saviour (faith), believe that keeping his commandants will bring blessings (hope), and be nice to people (charity). As one grows in the gospel the words retain their meanings but they take on a maturity that gives them greater depth and spirituality, that informs both their attitudes and their actions.

However if one accepts that the word “faith” means the same thing in the Book of Mormon that it means in the New Testament — that it has the same meaning as the Greek “pistis,” which denotes the token of the covenant — then that sets Mormon’s sermon in a temple/covenant context — and in that context the language of the sermon is changed altogether. When one reads it that way, one also notices that the discussion of faith, hope, and charity is repeated three times as the epitome of the temple text that is the Book of Mormon: Ether 12, Moroni 7, and Moroni 10.

An example of “faith” as the token of a covenant, is the phrase “faith in Christ.” The Saviour is the personification of the Father’s covenant (Moroni 10:32-33), he is the fulfillment of that covenant, and he is also the token of that covenant. For that reason, when one acts or approaches the Father in the name of Christ, one is not only using the only name that brings salvation; but one is also evoking the only token that validates the covenants between one’s self and our Heavenly Father.

If one reads “faith” in Moroni 7 that way, then it also changes the language so that “hope” means exactly what Mormon says it means:

41     And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise. (Moroni 7:41)

Similarly, charity means just what Mormon says that means:

47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

I understand Mormon’s saying that “charity is the pure love of Christ,” is to say that charity is the love the Saviour has for us, and also that charity is the love we have for him, as well as the love we have for his children — and that all those things, though identifiably different, are in fact only one kind of love.

Mormon concluded his sermon by using hope the same way Alma used it, to mean an assurance of things to come:

48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen. (Moroni 7:47-48)

In that chapter, and elsewhere, I understand:

“Faith” to mean making one’s life a living token of one’s covenants.

“Hope” to mean one’s living one’s life as though the blessings of the covenants were already fulfilled.

“Charity” to be the love one shares with the Saviour and his children — that love is the ultimate eternal sealing power that binds one’s Self with God, and that also binds one’s Self to all the other people whom one loves. (As in the model I recently suggested that shows how each of us is connected with everyone else.)

If “hope” means living one’s life as though the blessings of the covenants were already fulfilled, then the question of whether they were first saved then died, or first died then saved, becomes a moot question. Whether they had finished the assignment they received at the Council, or still had a lot to do after they left this life, is also beside the point. If the Holy Ghost had taught them to hope, as the prophets use that word, then they were comfortable in the assurance of their salvation. And even if there were more assignments to be fulfilled in the next world it could still be said of them, “behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.”

If that is what Alma meant when he asked, “what grounds had they to hope for salvation?” Then the next questions he directed to his listeners take on a very literal meaning:

14     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?
15     Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?

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