As always, use the Gospel Doctrine manual in your preparation. Here are some supplemental ideas that may be helpful:
After successfully preaching in both Zarahemla and Gideon, Alma sets up the Church in Melek and then journeys to Ammonihah. The events that transpire in Ammonihah occupy Alma 8 – 14.
Alma 8 – Alma’s brief ministry in Melek, and his stuggles in Ammonihah, Alma sees an angel and meets Amulek.
9 – “Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people” Just as our physical hearts are important to our bodies, our spiritual hearts are central to our spiritual progress and are mentioned throughout scripture. Our hearts represent our desires, our intents and our motives, as in “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). And, we can be sanctified by the Holy Ghost by “yielding [our] hearts unto God” (Helaman 3:35). It is as if good and evil are engaged in a tug a war with our hearts – we are “enticed” by both, but we cast the deciding vote – we must “[yield] to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” (see Mosiah 3:19).
10 – “Wrestling with God in mighty prayer” Even after wrestling with God, Alma’s teaching could not penetrate the hearts of the people. Alma clearly did all he could. He will not be accountable for the negative reaction to his message. Missionaries may set goals to contact and teach, but all of our prayers and efforts to achieve our goals cannot overrule the agency of others. Elder Dallin H. Oaks reported:
In the summer of 2001, Sister Oaks and I were in Manaus, Brazil. I spoke to about 100 missionaries in that great city on the Amazon …. I reminded the missionaries that some of our most important plans cannot be brought to pass without the agency and actions of others. A missionary cannot baptize five persons this month without the agency and action of five other persons. A missionary can plan and work and do all within his or her power, but the desired result will depend upon the additional agency and action of others. Consequently, a missionary’s goals ought to be based upon the missionary’s personal agency and action, not upon the agency or action of others. (“Timing,” Ensign, October 2003).
12-13 – “thou art not chief judge over us” The people in Ammonihah knew that Alma no longer had any civil authority over them, and no coercion could be brought to bear by virtue of his priesthood, so they reviled him and even “spit upon him.”
14 – “Anguish of soul because of the wickedness” Alma’s reaction to his initial rejection in Ammonihah is a testament to his righteousness (I’m no where near as righteous as Alma – if people had spit on me, I wouldn’t feel anguish for them, I’d have probably asked God to send down fire and consume the place). Elder Robert D. Hales taught, “The pain most frequently spoken of in the scriptures is the pain and anguish of the Lord and His prophets for the disobedient souls” (Ensign, November 1988, 15).
15 – “thou hast great cause to rejoice” Alma could have responded to the angel, “what possible reason do I have to rejoice? They hated me, they spit on me. I have had no baptisms in Ammonihah.” The angel’s response is helpful to missionaries in our day: “for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from him.” In other words, you can rejoice because you’ve kept the commandments! Mission success is not dependent on converts only. When I send notes to missionaries, I often include a “P.S.: Alma 8:14-15.” I’m hoping they will see that if they keep the mission rules, which are the commandments for them, they have “great cause to rejoice” regardless of their success in baptisms or converts.
15 – “Behold, I am he that delivered it unto you” I am grateful that this last sentence was included in this verse. The angel lets Alma know that he is the same angel who visited him earlier (and knocked him flat) in Mosiah 27. The angel’s first visit was one of warning and condemnation – the angel’s second visit was one of comfort and encouragement. President John Taylor taught:
God lives, and his eyes are over us, and his angels are round and about us, and they are more interested in us than we are in ourselves, ten thousand times, but we do not know it. (Journal of Discourses, 23:222.)
Is it any wonder that Alma later expresses, “O, that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart…” (Alma 29:1)? Perhaps Alma was reflecting how much an angel had helped him.
19 – “Will ye give an humble servant of God something to eat?” This man was once the chief judge, and now he is begging for food. When Alma stepped down from the judgment seat to teach the gospel, he went from leader to servant. Similarly, church service often puts us in a position where any prestige from our occupation, our social circles or our education mean nothing (PhDs and CEOs stand alongside junior high and high school students and put away the chairs after Priesthood Conference).
20 – “thou wilt be a blessing unto me and my house” Alma did bless the home of Amulek, at least for a time. However, by the end of this story, Amulek will have been forsaken by “those who were once his friends and also by his father and his kindred” (Alma 15:16). This reminds us of the painful reality of individual agency, and that sometimes those we love will choose not to accept the gospel and remain steadfast. Jesus taught:
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household (Matthew 10:34-36).
24 – “I was about to set my back towards this land forever” Evidently, Alma was about to give up on the people in Ammonihah, but the Lord wanted to give them one more opportunity. This time, however, Alma would return with a companion, or a “second witness,” since the Lord tells Alma to take Amulek with him (verse 29).
Alma 9 – Alma returns to Ammonihah, prophecies their destruction unless they repent, and bears testimony of the coming of Christ.
2 – “Who art thou?” The inhabitants to Ammonihah appear to be asking Alma, “who do you think you are? Why should we listen to you?
6 – “Who is God?” Two great questions, if only they had listened to the answers – who are thou, and who is God? Evidently, the people were unaware that Alma had a companion with him at this point, since they asked “who is God, that sendeth no more authority than one man among this people?”
8 – 10 – “how have ye forgotten” Watch for the words “forgotten” and “remember” in these verses. We recall that President Spencer W. Kimball observed that “remember” could be the most important word in the dictionary.
12 “behold, this is not all” Not only will ye not inherit the kingdom of God, but you’ll be destroyed from off the face of the earth.
16 – “many promises which are extended to the Lamanites” No one is held accountable for the disbelief of their fathers.
20-22 – “after having been such a highly favored people of the Lord” These verses contain quite a list of all the things the Lord had done for the people. They really were highly favored!
23 – “transgress contrary to the light” We will be judged based on what we have done with the light we have received. Those who have had little light and knowledge will be judged differently than those who have been “highly favored.”
25-26 – “the Son of God shall come in his glory” This is the testimony of Christ which Alma came to share.
27 – “he cometh to redeem” The more we read the Book of Mormon, the more we appreciate Article of Faith 4. Notice that three of the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are mentioned in this verse.
30 – “ye are my brethren, and ye ought to be beloved” Alma does not view them as adversaries. His motive is not to show them who is right, but what is right. The gospel of Jesus Christ can be and should be a unifying force, reminding us all that we are brothers and sisters in the family of our Father in heaven.
Alma 10 – Amulek recounts his call, begins to teach
2 – “A descendant of Aminadi” We don’t know the details of this interesting story, perhaps it is included in large plates. Mormon often reminds us throughout his abridgment that he cannot include “a hundredth part” of everything that happened among the children of Lehi.
3 – “Lehi … was a descendant of Manasseh” We learn from earlier chapters that Lehi was a descendant of Joseph, but only in this verse are we told that Lehi came from Joseph through Manasseh.
4-6 – “I was called … and I would not hear; … I knew… yet I would not know” There is a monumental difference between “could not” and “would not.” Amulek, in his humility, admits that he was called, and chose not to hear – he further admits that he knew, yet he would not know (illustrating that it is possible to suppress a testimony). We might say that Amulek was living beneath his spiritual privileges. President Brigham Young observed:
There is no doubt, if a person lives according to the revelations given to God’s people, he may have the Spirit of the Lord to signify to him His will, and to guide and to direct him in the discharge of his duties, in his temporal as well as his spiritual exercises. I am satisfied, however, that in this respect, we live far beneath our privileges. – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 12:104.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “[Amulek] is a classic case of an essentially good man being out of touch with the great spiritual realities; … because, though he was basically good, he was preoccupied with the cares of the world (Meek and Lowly, 12). Isn’t it wonderful that the Lord chose someone like Amulek to accompany Alma?
10 – “As the Lord liveth” This phrase is an oath, which is the most emphatic language possible. It says, “if this is not true, then God does not live.” Watch for this phrase throughout the scriptures, because it means what follows is very important. In the sermon on the mount, and the sermon at the temple in Bountiful, Jesus taught that practice should be discontinued, and men should just say “yes” or “no” and mean it (See Matthew 5:33-37, 3 Nephi 12:33-37).
12 – “the people began to be astonished” Alma’s message could have been dismissed as the ramblings of a fanatic, but now Amulek testified of the same things of which Alma testified. It is also possible that the people in Ammonihah knew Amulek, he being a man “of no small reputation” (Alma 10:4).
16 – “They began to question Amulek” There is nothing wrong with questions; questions are good! But those who began to question Alma and Amulek had an evil motive – not to learn, but to trap the Lord’s messengers in their words, just as Jesus’ accusers sought to trap him in his words.
19 – “If the voice of this people should choose iniquity” This same warning was given when the reign of the judges was instituted. When the majority chooses wickedness, watch out (footnoted are Mosiah 29:27 and Helaman 5:2).
22-23 – “Were it not for the prayers of the righteous” This verse and similar verses are a testimony that prayers matter and make a difference. The warning against “casting out the righteous” ultimately comes to pass when Ammonihah is destroyed (Alma 16:10). A similar story involving Abraham and his righteous relatives in Sodom and Gomorrah is referenced in the footnote to Genesis 18:23-33.
26 – “I have spoken in favor of your law, to your condemnation” Some try to manipulate good law to do bad things, and Zeezrom calls them on it.
Alma 11 – Amulek contends with Zeezrom
4 – “pieces of their gold” Those using paper scriptures printed before 2013 may notice the italicized synopsis under the chapter heading says “Nephite coinage set forth,” while newer versions refer to the “Nephite monetary system.” This change was made because the scriptural text does not mention “coins,” but “pieces,” which implies a monetary system of various weights and measures.
20 – “for the sole purpose to get gain” Our motives and the desires of our hearts are important to the Lord. The motives of these particular lawyers was not to promote justice, not to bring about peace among the people, but to “stir up the people against Alma and Amulek.”
22 – “if it be according to the Spirit” In other words, “I’ll answer if the Lord wants it answered.”
22 – “here are six onties of silver” The lengthy explanation of the Nephite monetary system in previous verses serves to illustrate that six onties is a very large amount of money. Since money was a motivating force for those in Ammonihah, they assumed it would be motivating to Amulek. A similar situation occurs later in the book of Helaman when unrighteous judges attempt to bribe Nephi son of Helaman: “Behold, here is money … if thou wilt tell us…”(Helaman 9:20).
28 – “is there more than one God?” Zeezrom’s questions were doctrinally clever. Is there one God? Yes, Jehovah. Robert L. Millet and Joseph F. McConkie have written:
This is a discussion-a question-and-answer session-that could be difficult to follow. Zeezrom, in his eagerness to trap Amulek in his own words, asks whether there is more than one God. Amulek answers that there is not. Amulek is, of course, speaking entirely of the Savior, of the Lord Jehovah; he is not making reference to our Father in Heaven or to the Godhead. (Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 3:76.)
39 – “he is the very Father of heaven and earth” One of the ways in which Jesus is referred to as the Father, is in his role as Creator, or the Father “of heaven and earth.”
45 – “the whole becoming spiritual and immortal” A resurrected body is a physical body, but it is referred to as a “spiritual body.” There is a difference between spirit bodies and spiritual bodies. Spirit bodies are what we had in the pre-mortal existence. The bodies we have in mortality might be referred to as blood bodies, or bodies quickened by blood. President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:
After the resurrection from the dead our bodies will be spiritual bodies, but they will be bodies that are tangible, bodies that have been purified, but they will nevertheless be bodies of flesh and bones. They will not be blood bodies. They will no longer be quickened by blood but quickened by the spirit which is eternal, and they shall become immortal and shall never die (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:285).
Another clarifying scripture is D&C 88:27: “For notwithstanding they die, they also shall rise again, a spiritual body” (see also 1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
Alma 12 – Alma contends with Zeezrom
5 – “the plan of thine adversary” Notice that Alma refers to the devil not as “the adversary,” but “thine adversary.” He is against all the children of God on the earth, including Zeezrom. Zeezrom failed to realize that he was working for his adversary.
8 – “Zeezrom began to inquire of them diligently” Again, questions are good. Zeezrom’s questions became sincere, and sincere inquiry is encouraged. Jesus taught, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).
14 – “our words will condemn us” This is one of the most sobering verses in the Book of Mormon. Our words, works, and even our thoughts are all recorded and will condemn us to the point that we will wish we could crawl under a rock, or “command the rocks and mountains to fall upon us.” This is the “bright recollection of all our guilt” spoken of by Amulek in Alma 11:45. Jesus taught the “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36). These verses give us great motivation to repent, but also fill us with gratitude for the mercy of the Savior who gives the opportunity and repeatedly extends the invitation to repent.
17 – “torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone” A simile is defined as a comparison using the words “like” or “as.” Notice the word “as” in this verse indicating that the torment of the wicked is not a literal lake of fire, but it is “as” a lake of fire.
20-21- “there was no possible chance they would live forever” This is a great question! Why is there a promise of immortality if God prevented Adam and Even from gaining immortality? To Antionah, it appears that God prevented Adam and Eve from partaking of the tree of life precisely so that they would not live forever. But Antionah’s statement, that “there was no possible chance they would live forever” omits three words: “…in their sins.” We will all live forever no matter what, since our spirits are immortal. God placed the guardians around the tree of life so that Adam and Eve would not partake and live forever in their sins. Therefore, in order that we might be saved from our sins, this life became “a probationary state,” or a time to repent and be saved from our sins (verse 24).
32 – “after having made known the plan of redemption” The sequence here is vital: teach the plan, then teach the commandments. Teaching the commandments without the plan might make the gospel sound like nothing but a long list of “dos” and “don’ts” without any overall purpose. Adam and Eve were first taught the plan of redemption, then the commandments were explained in the context of the overall plan. President Boyd K. Packer taught:
Without a knowledge of the gospel plan, transgression seems natural, innocent, even justified. There is no greater protection from the adversary than for us to know the truth — to know the plan! — Our Father’s Plan, p.27.
33-34 – “though mine only begotten son” these verses encompass the merciful gospel message and remind us of perhaps the most well-known verse of the Bible, John 3:16:“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
35 – “enter into my rest” The word rest is used four times in these closing verses. We could substitute the word “rest” with “presence.”
37 – “these his second commandments” The “first commandments” were those given to Adam and Eve (see verse 31), and these “second commandments” are given for our probationary state.