As always, use the official Gospel Doctrine Lesson Manual in your preparation. Here are some supplemental ideas that I hope might be helpful:
Mosiah 29 – Mosiah initiates the “reign of the judges”
8-10 – “let us be wise and consider these things” The sons of Mosiah have undergone a miraculous change of heart, and have since gone up to the land of Nephi to preach the gospel. King Mosiah has no successor, and contemplates a new form of government.
Elsewhere in the Book of Mormon, we are warned that kings often lead to bondage. When the Jaredites desired a king, the Brother of Jared remarked, “Surely this thing leadeth to captivity” (Ether 6:22). King Mosiah shares the same concern with his people.
13 – “if it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings” In other words, if men were perfect, a king would not be a bad idea. King Benjamin was a righteous King, as was Mosiah, but righteous kings are hard to come by. When the Savior comes again, we will have a righteous king.
26-27 – “Do your business by the voice of the people” Since the majority will normally choose the right, let the majority rule. However, if the times comes that the majority chooses iniquity, brace for impact! Notice the footnote to Helaman 5:2:
For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.
28-29 – “your lower judges … shall judge your higher judges” We are not given all the details on this system, such as the specific number of judges, but the intent to provide a mechanism to enable the government to control itself is clear. We might call this a system of “checks and balances” within the judge system.
44 – “Alma was the first chief judge” While Alma’s former companions are now serving missions among the Lamanites, Alma remains and becomes the first chief judge. However, he will step down after about 8 years to preach among the Nephites (see Alma 4:18).
Alma 1 – Nehor introduces priestcraft, is executed for slaying Gideon, persecutions spread.
3-5 – “preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God” Here’s a summary of Nehor’s Theology:
- No lay ministry – priests should become “popular” (or supported by money from the populace)
- All mankind should be saved at the last day
- They need not fear or tremble
- The Lord created all men
- The Lord has redeemed all men
- In the end, all men should have eternal life
Elder L. Tom Perry: Nehor’s words appealed to many of the people; they were easy words because they required neither obedience nor sacrifice. As we face many decisions in life, the easy and popular messages of the world will seem appealing. But … it will take great courage to choose the right. – Living With Enthusiasm, 108-109.
9 – “[Gideon] was slain by the sword” There was no “let’s just agree to disagree” on Nehor’s part. Evidently, if you believe that God will redeem all men and give them eternal life no matter what you do, you are not afraid to murder someone.
12 – “Priestcraft” For a definition of priestcraft, notice the footnote to 2 Nephi 26:29:
He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.
One of my religion professors, Joseph Fielding McConkie, often compared a “solar eclipse,” which is when the moon gets in front of the sun, to a “spiritual eclipse,” which is when a leader/teacher gets in front of the “Son of God.” Priestcraft gets in the way and says, “I am the light” rather than getting out of the way and saying, “He is the light.”
15 – “He suffered an ignominious death” “Ignominy” means personal disgrace or dishonor. Although Nehor was gone, his movement was far from over. The residents of Ammonihah followed Nehor’s philosophy, and their demise will later be referred to as the “desolation of Nehors” (Alma 16:11).
17 – “The law could have no power on any man for his belief” Freedom of thought or freedom of belief was part of the system of judges. This kind of freedom allows for a wide diversity of opinion. Korihor also worked within this system as mentioned in Alma 30:7-8:
Now there was no law against a man’s belief; for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds. For thus saith the scripture: Choose ye this day, whom ye will serve.
24 – “Many withdrew themselves” Pride, hard-heartedness and contention eventually lead many to leave the church, so that they were “remembered no more” among the people of God, because their names were “blotted out.”
27 – “They did not wear costly apparel” Costly apparel is the outward show of wealth, or what we might call in the latter-days, “conspicuous consumption.” The description of the clothing worn by the righteous, on the other hand, was referred to as “neat” and “comely” (comely means attractive, agreeable, suitable).
29 – “Because of the steadiness of the church” The Church’s steadiness led to prosperity, confirming the oft repeated promise, “if you keep the commandments you will prosper in the land.” The danger of such prosperity, as we have seen in the “pride-cycle,” is that the Nephites, after enjoying prosperity for a time, too often began to set their hearts on their riches instead of setting their hearts on the being who blessed them with the riches. This is exactly what happens very shortly in Alma 4:8.
Alma 2 – Amlici seeks to be king and is defeated, the Amlicites and Lamanites combine and attack the Nephites, the Nephites are forced to defend their freedom
1 – “He being after the order of the man that slew Gideon” Amlici was a “Nehorite” or after the order of Nehors. It is interesting that ever since the reign of the judges was initiated, there were repeated attempts to going back to having a king.
4 – “his intent to destroy the church” Amlici’s intent was to deprive the people of their freedom of worship. The Book of Mormon is very careful to identify the intents of people’s hearts when approaching a war footing since a Christian must know under what conditions it is approved of God to take up arms.
7-10 – “voice of the people came against Amlici” Although the people’s will was sought and received, rather than uniting with the people, Amlici and his followers decided that if they couldn’t gain power by a free election, they would seize power by force.
16 – “At the head of his armies” Alma did not stay a few miles behind the front line, but led his armies into battle.
18 – “the Lord did strengthen” Does the Lord take sides in a war? It depends. Here, the Nephites are clearly fighting to defend their freedom, and the Amlicites are fighting to take it away. In such circumstances, the Lord not only takes sides, but strengthens those who are fighting for a righteous cause. The phrase “in the strength of the Lord” (or something similar) often appears in these cases (see verse 28).
24 – “The Amlicites have joined [the Lamanites]” Alma’s spies return with chilling news, that the armies arrayed against them have dramatically increased in size.
29 – “Alma fought with Amlici … face to face” I sure hope we get to see the video of these events someday. Alma was the chief judge and high priest over the church, and was also a warrior.
Alma 3 – the aftermath of the battle
1 – “the number of the slain were not numbered” These are very sobering words. Although it is clear the Lord helped them in their battles, their continued freedom came at a price. We are reminded of the saying, “Freedom isn’t Free.”
4 – “they had marked themselves” The Amlicites marked themselves with red on their foreheads. The forehead was symbolic of loyalty (see Revelation 13:16, 14:1).
Some have speculated that perhaps the Amlicites, who were Nephites by birth, wanted to make sure their new Lamanite allies did not confuse them with Alma’s Nephites who were now their common enemy (see Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 3:59-60.)
8 – “a curse upon them because of their transgression” There is an important difference between the curse and the mark of the curse.
Book of Mormon Student Manual: There is a difference between the mark and the curse. The mark placed upon the Lamanites was a dark skin (see Alma 3:6). The curse was not the dark skin but being “cut off from the presence of the Lord” (2 Nephi 5:20). Notice that in both Alma 3:7 and Alma 3:14 the conjunction and is used between the curse and the mark. This implies that they are not the same thing. The people brought the curse upon themselves: “And even so doth every man that is cursed bring upon himself his own condemnation” (Alma 3:19). Through righteousness the curse may be removed, but the mark may remain as it has with the Lamanites. – Book of Mormon Student Manual (2009), 174.
19 – “They brought upon themselves the curse; and even so doth every man” Every man is blessed or cursed depending on his own choices.
26-27 – “According to the spirit which they listed to obey” Because “we are free,” we determine which set of consequences we experience based upon which set of laws, or which spirit we choose to follow. Every man receiveth “wages” from the principles or spirit he obeys. To quote the apostle Paul, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). (A comedian named Paula Poundstone said, “the wages of sin is death, but after taxes are taken out, it’s just sort of a tired feeling.”)
Speaking of wages, in the April 1988 General Conference, President Ezra Taft Benson quoted this little poem:
Who does God’s work will get God’s pay,
However long may seem the day,
However weary be the way.
No mortal hand, God’s hand can stay,
He may not pay as others pay,
In gold, or lands, or raiments gay,
In goods that perish and decay;
But God’s high wisdom knows a way,
And this is sure, let come what may—
Who does God’s work will get God’s pay.
Alma 4 – The people are humbled after the war, the church prospers but pride enters in, Alma steps down from the judgment seat to devote himself to the ministry
3 – “awakened to a remembrance of their duty” The Nephites weren’t perfect, but it appears the Lord was on their side because they were fighting for their families and their freedom.
6-9 – “the people of the church began to wax proud” Sadly, it only takes three more years, and pride enters into the hearts of the people. Pride and materialism take a spiritual toll on the church, and we have received the same warning numerous times in the latter-days: “Beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old” D&C 38:39).
11 – “the example of the church” The bad examples of those in the church was a stumbling-block to those not in the church. Someone once said, “be careful how you act, you may be the only standard work some people will ever read.”
12 – “great inequality among the people” Since Zion means of one heart, and of one mind with no poor among them (see Moses 7:18), a “great inequality” would describe the very opposite of Zion (See also 3 Nephi 6:12).
13-14 – “retaining a remission of their sins” Exercising charity towards their fellowmen, and suffering afflictions for Christ’s sake helped them retain a remission of their sins. We are reminded of braces and a retainer. Braces straighten our teeth, but a retainer keeps them straight. Elder David A. Bednar spoke of the idea of “retaining” a remission of our sins in the April 2016 General Conference.
15 – “The Spirit of the Lord did not fail him” A beautiful phrase and a reminder that the Spirit of the Lord will not fail us either! President George Q. Cannon taught:
When we went forth into the waters of baptism, and covenanted with our Father in heaven to serve Him and keep His commandments, He bound Himself also, by covenant to us, that He would never desert us, never leave us to ourselves, never forget us; that in the midst of trials and hardships, when everything was arrayed against us, He would be near unto us and would sustain us. (Gospel Truth, 1987, 134)
19 – “Pure testimony” Alma retains the office of high priest, but passes the judgment seat to Nephihah. While the four sons of Mosiah were laboring in the land of Nephi, Alma begins his mission among his own people, the Nephites. He must preach among those who are already familiar with the teachings of the gospel, but have need to be “[stirred] up in remembrance of their duty.”
Regarding the bearing of “pure testimony,” notice the footnote to Alma 31:5: “And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just – yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them – therefore Alma thought that is was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.”