Alma 14:1-5, 8-9, 14-16, LeGrand Baker, The Contrast between Good and Evil

Alma 14:1-5, 8-9, 14-16, LeGrand Baker, The Contrast between Good and Evil

1 And it came to pass after he had made an end of speaking unto the people many of them did believe on his words, and began to repent, and to search the scriptures.
2 But the more part of them were desirous that they might destroy Alma and Amulek; for they were angry with Alma, because of the plainness of his words unto Zeezrom; and they also said that Amulek had lied unto them, and had reviled against their law and also against their lawyers and judges.
3 And they were also angry with Alma and Amulek; and because they had testified so plainly against their wickedness, they sought to put them away privily.
4 But it came to pass that they did not; but they took them and bound them with strong cords, and took them before the chief judge of the land.
5 And the people went forth and witnessed against them—testifying that they had reviled against the law, and their lawyers and judges of the land, and also of all the people that were in the land; and also testified that there was but one God, and that he should send his Son among the people, but he should not save them; and many such things did the people testify against Alma and Amulek. Now this was done before the chief judge of the land.

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8 And they brought their wives and children together, and whosoever believed or had been taught to believe in the word of God they caused that they should be cast into the fire; and they also brought forth their records which contained the holy scriptures, and cast them into the fire also, that they might be burned and destroyed by fire.
9 And it came to pass that they took Alma and Amulek, and carried them forth to the place of martyrdom, that they might witness the destruction of those who were consumed by fire.

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14 Now it came to pass that when the bodies of those who had been cast into the fire were consumed, and also the records which were cast in with them, the chief judge of the land came and stood before Alma and Amulek, as they were bound; and he smote them with his hand upon their cheeks, and said unto them: After what ye have seen, will ye preach again unto this people, that they shall be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone?
15 Behold, ye see that ye had not power to save those who had been cast into the fire; neither has God saved them because they were of thy faith. And the judge smote them again upon their cheeks, and asked: What say ye for yourselves?
16 Now this judge was after the order and faith of Nehor, who slew Gideon. (Alma 14:1-5, 8-9, 14-16-29)

There is an instructive pattern in Mormon’s writings that helps us understand his intent. That is, he frequently gives us a sermon by one of the Nephite prophets, then follows that by telling a story that expands upon, or illustrates his point. Alma 14 is an example of that pattern. In that chapter, he gives us a vivid conclusion to what Alma has been teaching.

Throughout chapters 12 and 13, Alma taught, in ever expanding examples, the contrast between good and evil. Chapter 12 focuses on the invitation we must accept in order to come into the presence of God, contrasted with the with the consequences of our refusing to accept that invitation. Chapter 13 begins at the Council in Heaven and shows the responsibilities of its members to help others. He contrasts the noble and great ones with those who were not in the Council, and shows that the differences were entirely of their own making.

4 And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.
5 Or in fine, in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren; thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts, being in and through the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared—

Alma then calls our attention to the earthly attributes of those who had the priesthood at the Council. He does this by discussing the reign and accomplishments of Melchizedek who was both king and high priest. However, Alma does not contrast that with those in this world who reject the principles of salvation and seek to become a law unto themselves (that is, they reject the law that is the Saviour’s gospel, and seek to find some sort of supremacy some other way).

It is Mormon who presents the contrasting example by showing the arguments and methods used by the apostates to subdue and discredit the prophets. Their actions demonstrate what the Saviour explained to Nicodemus, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” (John 3:20) Mormon gives us a vivid example of those who do not want their deeds exposed to the light. He tells us, “they were also angry with Alma and Amulek; and because they had testified so plainly against their wickedness…”

Their accusations against the prophets were consistent with their sidestepping the matter of their own apostasy. Those who had been challenged misrepresented the prophets’ words, “testifying that they had reviled against the law, and their lawyers and judges of the land, and also of all the people that were in the land; and also testified that there was but one God, and that he should send his Son among the people, but he should not save them”

Then they did the most heinous thing of all. They sought to prove Alma and Amulek were not true prophets by showing they did not have power to protect other people, or themselves. To do that, they drove the believing men from their homes and property, and “brought their wives and children together, and whosoever believed or had been taught to believe in the word of God they caused that they should be cast into the fire; and they also brought forth their records which contained the holy scriptures, and cast them into the fire also.”

Finally they turned on the prophets themselves. The chief judge “smote them with his hand upon their cheeks, and said unto them: After what ye have seen, will ye preach again unto this people, that they shall be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone?”

By telling this story, Mormon has drawn a sharp contrast between the righteousness of Melchizedek and the evil of Alma’s adversaries, showing that evil to be functionally extreme, but conceptually typical.

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In chapters 12-14, Alma and Mormon also introduced us to the answers to some of human philosophy’s most perplexing questions: What is the origin of evil? and why does God permit it?

Alma’s profound assurance in chapter 13 is one key to those answers: “in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren.” The other key is in B. H. Robert’s discussion about the most fundamental characteristics of an intelligence. He wrote.

He is called an “intelligence;” and this I believe is descriptive of him. That is, intelligence is the entity’s chief characteristic. If this be a true deduction, then the entity must be self- conscious, and “others-conscious,” that is, lie must have the power to distinguish himself from other things-the “me” from the “not me.” He must have the power of deliberation, by which he sets over one thing against another; with power also to form a judgment that this or that is a better thing or state than this or that. Also there goes with this idea of intelligence a power of choosing one thing Instead of another, one state rather than another.{1}

Their key ideas are these: At the beginning of our cognizance we were on an equal standing, and could tell the difference between “me” and “not me.” That knowledge of the difference between “me” and “not me,” imposed upon us our the first and most eternal dilemma: “What is in my best interest and how do secure that objective?”

One possible answer was “It is my best interest to make ‘not me’ subservient to ‘me.” I can use him for my purposes, to gratify my desires, to bring about my own aggrandizement.” If that was the premise on which one built his existence, then he had incorporated into himself the seeds of the most fundamental evil.

If, on the other hand, one aspires to this purpose: “As light, truth, love, and live fuse to produce joy in me, so do they produce joy in others—and the most efficient way of obtaining that joy is to lift others and to be lifted by them, therefore, I will expend my energies to lift others.” If that is the answer by which one seeks to define one’s Self, then he has discovered the way by which he may achieve the ultimate good—which is also the way to achieve ultimate joy.

Those examples are the two extreme ends of the spectrum, the supremely good and the profoundly evil. At one end is celestial glory, with its three degrees of goodness and purity. At the other is the telestial glory with its multiple degrees of fading light and increased darkness. Somewhere in between are the “honorable” people of the world—the terrestrial who are neither full of contempt nor full of love, but are suspended in a kind of disregard—perhaps indifference to others—an unconcern that neither rises to the law of consecration, nor descends into hurtfulness.

Because the powers of the atonement enable us to repent and turn from what we seem to be just now, to what we strive to be, we have the agency to reject mistaken attitudes and actions, and to ultimately become precisely what we choose to become. Therefore, in the end, each of us will become the eternal product of our own making. Examples of the differences are all around us, and are clearly given in the scriptures. Satan epitomized the one extreme when he said “surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor. give me thy glory.” (Moses 4:1-3.) Cane brought it to the practicalities of this world.

32 And Cain went into the field, and Cain talked with Abel, his brother. And it came to pass that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him.
33 And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands. (Moses 5:32-33)

In contrast, the Saviour epitomized the other end of the spectrum when he said, “and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.” (3 Nephi 27:13)

Shortly before his death, Peter explained that principle in simple terms, illustrating how one make his calling and election sure:

5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience reverence for others; {2}
7 And to reverence brotherly love; {3} and to brotherly love charity. (2 Peter 1:1-11)

Similarly, not long before his death, Mormon taught the same principles to his friends. “Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all,” (Moroni 7:46) And the Saviour summed it all up.

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Matthew 22:37-39)

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ENDNOTES

{1} B. H. Roberts, Seventy’s Course in Theology, Second Year (Salt Lake City, Skelton Publishing Co., 1908), 8-9. The following note appears on the title page: “Elder Roberts submitted the following paper to the First Presidency and a number of the Twelve Apostles, none of whom found anything objectionable in It, or contrary to the revealed word of God, and therefore favor its publication.-Editors.”

{2} The King James Version uses the word “godliness,” but the footnote in the LDS Bible suggests that “reverence” might be a more understandable term.

{3} In 2 Peter, the King James Version uses the phrase, “brotherly kindness,” but elsewhere the Greek word is translated as “brotherly love,” which is stronger than “brotherly kindness.”

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