26 February 2014

Alma 10: The Evil Lawyers of Ammonihah

Amulek then hops on the soapbox. He tells his story, beginning with his fascinating genealogy. Then he explains how until a few days ago, he was just like them.
Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart, even until the fourth day of this seventh month, which is in the tenth year of the reign of the judges. 10.6
But then he was visited by an angel. The angel told him to go home and keep his eyes peeled for a prophet. It was his duty to take the prophet into his house for a few days and to feed him.
As I was journeying to see a very near kindred, behold an angel of the Lord appeared unto me and said: Amulek, return to thine own house, for thou shalt feed a prophet of the Lord; yea, a holy man, who is a chosen man of God; for he has fasted many days because of the sins of this people, and he is an hungered, and thou shalt receive him into thy house and feed him, and he shall bless thee and thy house; and the blessing of the Lord shall rest upon thee and thy house. 10.7
Amulek listened to the angel. As he was journeying home he saw the prophet (which was Alma, of course) and invited him inside.
And it came to pass that I obeyed the voice of the angel, and returned towards my house. And as I was going thither I found the man whom the angel said unto me: Thou shalt receive into thy house -- and behold it was this same man who has been speaking unto you concerning the things of God. 10.8
The people were pretty impressed with Amulek's story. When one person tells a story, they might be lying... but if their friend corroborates their story, it's probably true.
And now, when Amulek had spoken these words the people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness who testified of the things whereof they were accused, and also of the things which were to come, according to the spirit of prophecy which was in them. 10.12
But everyone wasn't convinced. There were these crafty people called "lawyers" who started asking Amulek and Alma all kinds of questions to see if their story held up to scrutiny.
Nevertheless, there were some among them who thought to question them, that by their cunning devices they might catch them in their words, that they might find witness against them, that they might deliver them to their judges that they might be judged according to the law, and that they might be slain or cast into prison, according to the crime which they could make appear or witness against them. 10.13 
Now it was those men who sought to destroy them, who were lawyers, who were hired or appointed by the people to administer the law at their times of trials, or at the trials of the crimes of the people before the judges. 10.14 
Now these lawyers were learned in all the arts and cunning of the people; and this was to enable them that they might be skilful in their profession. 10.15  
And it came to pass that they began to question Amulek, that thereby they might make him cross his words, or contradict the words which he should speak. 10.16
Alma deflected the questions by threatening the people in the city, and with ad hominem attacks against the lawyers.
Now they knew not that Amulek could know of their designs. But it came to pass as they began to question him, he perceived their thoughts, and he said unto them: O ye wicked and perverse generation, ye lawyers and hypocrites, for ye are laying the foundation of the devil; for ye are laying traps and snares to catch the holy ones of God. 10.17 
Ye are laying plans to pervert the ways of the righteous, and to bring down the wrath of God upon your heads, even to the utter destruction of this people. 10.18
The people take the bait, and get angry with Amulek for insulting their just laws and their wise lawyers.
And now it came to pass that the people were more angry with Amulek, and they cried out, saying: This man doth revile against our laws which are just, and our wise lawyers whom we have selected. 10.24
Amulek fires back with more of the same arguments
But Amulek stretched forth his hand, and cried the mightier unto them, saying: O ye wicked and perverse generation, why hath Satan got such great hold upon your hearts? Why will ye yield yourselves unto him that he may have power over you, to blind your eyes, that ye will not understand the words which are spoken, according to their truth? 10.25 
And now behold, I say unto you, that the foundation of the destruction of this people is beginning to be laid by the unrighteousness of your lawyers and your judges. 10.27
Then right before the chapter ends we are introduced to Zeezrom, one of the Ammonihahite lawyers. He is the cleverest of the bunch, and I'm guessing he's going to be a major character in the next few chapters of Alma.
And there was one among them whose name was Zeezrom. Now he was the foremost to accuse Amulek and Alma, he being one of the most expert among them, having much business to do among the people.10.31
PS, in case you hadn't realized yet, dear reader, lawyers are greedy, greedy people. What a funny way to end the chapter!
Now the object of these lawyers was to get gain; and they got gain according to their employ. 10.32

23 February 2014

Alma 9: Alma Speaks Again to the People of Ammonihah

In the last chapter, Alma was visited by an angel who told him to return no Ammonihah and preach to them again. He returned to the city, met a friend (Amulek), and worked his nerve up to preach to the people again.

When Alma started to preach the second time to the people of Ammonihah, he wasn't very successful. The people didn't listen to him. They kept saying things like: "God is going to destroy this whole city in a single day, and all he sends as warning is YOU?" They just didn't believe that Alma was a prophet. I guess they wanted proof or something. 
And again, I, Alma, having been commanded of God that I should take Amulek and go forth and preach again unto this people, or the people who were in the city of Ammonihah, it came to pass as I began to preach unto them, they began to contend with me, saying: 9.1 
Who art thou? Suppose ye that we shall believe the testimony of one man, although he should preach unto us that the earth should pass away? 9.2 
And they said also: We will not believe thy words if thou shouldst prophesy that this great city should be destroyed in one day. 9.4 
And they said: Who is God, that sendeth no more authority than one man among this people, to declare unto them the truth of such great and marvelous things? 9.6
Alma responds by reminding them how many times God has helped them in the past, especially how many times God helped them in battle. And he reminds them again how God will destroy them if they don't straighten up and fly right.
Behold, O ye wicked and perverse generation, how have ye forgotten the tradition of your fathers; yea, how soon ye have forgotten the commandments of God. 9.8 
Do ye not remember that our father, Lehi, was brought out of Jerusalem by the hand of God? Do ye not remember that they were all led by him through the wilderness? 9.9  
And have ye forgotten so soon how many times he delivered our fathers out of the hands of their enemies, and preserved them from being destroyed, even by the hands of their own brethren? 9.10 
Behold, now I say unto you that he commandeth you to repent; and except ye repent, ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. But behold, this is not all -- he has commanded you to repent, or he will utterly destroy you from off the face of the earth; yea, he will visit you in his anger, and in his fierce anger he will not turn away. 9.12
In  fact, it will be even worse for the Ammonihahites than for the Lamanites, unless they repent of their sins and stop living wicked lives.
Now I would that ye should remember, that inasmuch as the Lamanites have not kept the commandments of God, they have been cut off from the presence of the Lord. Now we see that the word of the Lord has been verified in this thing, and the Lamanites have been cut off from his presence, from the beginning of their transgressions in the land. 9.14 
Nevertheless I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for them in the day of judgment than for you, if ye remain in your sins, yea, and even more tolerable for them in this life than for you, except ye repent. 9.15
God will also send the Lamanites after them if they don't repent.
But behold, I say unto you that if ye persist in your wickedness that your days shall not be prolonged in the land, for the Lamanites shall be sent upon you; and if ye repent not they shall come in a time when you know not, and ye shall be visited with utter destruction; and it shall be according to the fierce anger of the Lord. 9.18
You see, Jesus is coming soon. And he's a really nice guy.. he's full of grace, and truth; he's patient, merciful and kind. But if you don't repent before he gets here, then he'll throw you all in hell.
And now for this cause, that ye may not be destroyed the Lord has sent his angel to visit many of his people, declaring unto them that they must go forth and cry mightily unto this people, saying: Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is nigh at hand; 9.25 
And not many days hence the Son of God shall come in his glory; and his glory shall be the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, equity, and truth, full of patience, mercy, and long-suffering, quick to hear the cries of his people and to answer their prayers. 9.26 
Therefore, prepare ye the way of the Lord, for the time is at hand that all men shall reap a reward of their works, according to that which they have been -- if they have been righteous they shall reap the salvation of their souls, according to the power and deliverance of Jesus Christ; and if they have been evil they shall reap the damnation of their souls, according to the power and captivation of the devil. 9.28
Then Alma called the Ammonihahites a "lost and fallen people". That really made them mad, because they were hard-hearted and stiffnecked. They tried to throw Alma in prison, but God wouldn't let them.
And now, my beloved brethren, for ye are my brethren, and ye ought to be beloved, and ye ought to bring forth works which are meet for repentance, seeing that your hearts have been grossly hardened against the word of God, and seeing that ye are a lost and a fallen people. 9.30 
Now it came to pass that when I, Alma, had spoken these words, behold, the people were wroth with me because I said unto them that they were a hard-hearted and a stiffnecked people9.31 
And also because I said unto them that they were a lost and a fallen people they were angry with me, and sought to lay their hands upon me, that they might cast me into prison. 9.32 
But it came to pass that the Lord did not suffer them that they should take me at that time and cast me into prison. 9.33
After that, Alma stopped speaking and let his friend Amulek give it a try. Maybe he would have better luck.
And it came to pass that Amulek went and stood forth, and began to preach unto them also. And now the words of Amulek are not all written, nevertheless a part of his words are written in this book. 9.34
In the next chapter we get to hear the abridged version of Amulek's speech.

22 February 2014

Behold, The Bridegroom Cometh

This video is featured at the LDS.org website, which seems somehow appropriate, given the church's recent apology for its polygamous past.

But what the hell was Jesus thinking when he came up with this parable? Can you imagine a modern religious leader using this story to illustrate a point, whatever that point might be? I can't.

Jesus's parable implicitly approves of things that we all (well most of us, anyway) disapprove of today -- a man having ten wives, all necessarily virgins, submissive to a husband who is their lord and master.

I love the video, though -- especially the expression on Jesus's face when he says, "The Kingdom of Heaven can be likened to ten virgins." He almost seems to wink to all the guys out there, saying, "You know what I'm talking about."

18 February 2014

Alma 8: Alma, the Door-to-Door Salesman

After finishing up in Gideon, Alma returned to his home in Zarahemla to rest. A year or so later he decided to go preach in Melek. Melek was in the West, across the Sidon river, on the edge of the wilderness.
And now it came to pass that Alma returned from the land of Gideon, after having taught the people of Gideon many things which cannot be written, having established the order of the church, according as he had before done in the land of Zarahemla, yea, he returned to his own house at Zarahemla to rest himself from the labors which he had performed. 8.1 
And it came to pass in the commencement of the tenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, that Alma departed from thence and took his journey over into the land of Melek, on the west of the river Sidon, on the west by the borders of the wilderness. 8.3
Alma was very successful in Melek. People came from far away to hear his sermons, and he baptized just about everyone in the vicinity of Melek.
And he began to teach the people in the land of Melek according to the holy order of God, by which he had been called; and he began to teach the people throughout all the land of Melek. 8.4 
And it came to pass that the people came to him throughout all the borders of the land which was by the wilderness side. And they were baptized throughout all the land; 8.5
When he decided his work was done in Melek, Alma traveled north to the city of Ammonihah. Unfortunately for Alma, Satan had already beat him there. The people there had hard hearts and wouldn't listen to Alma's teachings. They called his religion "foolish traditions".
So that when he had finished his work at Melek he departed thence, and traveled three days' journey on the north of the land of Melek; and he came to a city which was called Ammonihah. 8.6 
Now Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people of the city of Ammonihah; therefore they would not hearken unto the words of Alma. 8.9 
Nevertheless, they hardened their hearts, saying unto him: Behold, we know that thou art Alma; and we know that thou art high priest over the church which thou hast established in many parts of the land, according to your tradition; and we are not of thy church, and we do not believe in such foolish traditions. 8.11
Alma tried really hard to convert the Ammonihahites. He "labored much in the spirit" and even tried "wrestling with God in mighty prayer," but nothing worked. (What a waste of a good God-wrestle! He didn't even get a new name or anything...)

The Ammonihahites knew that Alma wasn't chief judge anymore, and that had no real power over them. Even back then people understood the value of separating church and state!
Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance. 8.10 
And now we know that because we are not of thy church we know that thou hast no power over us; and thou hast delivered up the judgment-seat unto Nephihah; therefore thou art not the chief judge over us. 8.12
Then they got rude. They spit on Alma and kicked him out of the city. He decided to travel north and try his luck in the city of Aaron.
Now when the people had said this, and withstood all his words, and reviled him, and spit upon him, and caused that he should be cast out of their city, he departed thence and took his journey towards the city which was called Aaron. 8.13
On his way he was stopped by an angel of the Lord. The angel told him to return to Ammonihah and try again. Yea, he told him to try again (see verse 16). The angel told him that the people of Ammonihah would eventually destroy his people unless they were converted.

The angel made no promises about his luck, but Alma obeyed and ran back to the city. He snuck in through the southern entrance.
And it came to pass that while he was journeying thither, being weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people who were in the city of Ammonihah, it came to pass while Alma was thus weighed down with sorrow, behold an angel of the Lord appeared unto him, saying: 8.14
Blessed art thou, Alma; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from him. Behold, I am he that delivered it unto you. 8.15
And behold, I am sent to command thee that thou return to the city of Ammonihah, and preach again unto the people of the city; yea, preach unto them. Yea, say unto them, except they repent the Lord God will destroy them. 8.16    
For behold, they do study at this time that they may destroy the liberty of thy people, (for thus saith the Lord) which is contrary to the statutes, and judgments, and commandments which he has given unto his people. 8.17  
Now it came to pass that after Alma had received his message from the angel of the Lord he returned speedily to the land of Ammonihah. And he entered the city by another way, yea, by the way which is on the south of the city of Ammonihah. 8.18
Alma was getting hungry (an hungered) so he decided to take his chances and ask someone there to feed him. He got lucky and ran into a nice guy named Amulek who took him in and fed him. He ended up staying with Amulek for "many days" before getting his nerve up to speak to the people.

And as he entered the city he was an hungered, and he said to a man: Will ye give to an humble servant of God something to eat? 8.19  
And the man said unto him: I am a Nephite, and I know that thou art a holy prophet of God, for thou art the man whom an angel said in a vision: Thou shalt receive. Therefore, go with me into my house and I will impart unto thee of my food; and I know that thou wilt be a blessing unto me and my house. 8.20
And it came to pass that the man received him into his house; and the man was called Amulek; and he brought forth bread and meat and set before Alma. 8.21 
And it came to pass that Alma ate bread and was filled; and he blessed Amulek and his house, and he gave thanks unto God. 8.22 
And after he had eaten and was filled he said unto Amulek: I am Alma, and am the high priest over the church of God throughout the land. 8.23  
And behold, I have been called to preach the word of God among all this people, according to the spirit of revelation and prophecy; and I was in this land and they would not receive me, but they cast me out and I was about to set my back towards this land forever. 8.24
But behold, I have been commanded that I should turn again and prophesy unto this people, yea, and to testify against them concerning their iniquities. 8.25  
And now, Amulek, because thou hast fed me and taken me in, thou art blessed; for I was an hungered, for I had fasted many days. 8.26  
And Alma tarried many days with Amulek before he began to preach unto the people. 8.27
In the meantime, the situation in Ammonihah was just getting worse and worse. The people there were more wicked than ever. Alma was spoken to again by the angel, and the angel told him to recruit Amulek to help him preach to the people--and to get started and quit dilly-dallying.
And the word came to Alma, saying: Go; and also say unto my servant Amulek, go forth and prophesy unto this people, saying -- Repent ye, for thus saith the Lord, except ye repent I will visit this people in mine anger; yea, and I will not turn my fierce anger away. 8.29
So they started preaching. This time Alma wasn't letting himself get pushed around. The spirit gave them the power to break bands (like Samson), escape from dungeons, and not be killed. They didn't show off their powers right away, though. First they waited until they got thrown in prison, and then they escaped, so they could show the Lord's power.
And they had power given unto them, insomuch that they could not be confined in dungeons; neither was it possible that any man could slay them; nevertheless they did not exercise their power until they were bound in bands and cast into prison. Now, this was done that the Lord might show forth his power in them. 8.31 
And it came to pass that they went forth and began to preach and to prophesy unto the people, according to the spirit and power which the Lord had given them. 8.32
 I bet everyone was pretty impressed.

17 February 2014

Alma 7: Jesus is Coming

In the last chapter, Alma left Zarahemla to go visit the new city of Gideon, and preach to the people there. When he arrives, he starts his speech by explaining why he hadn't visited already. You see, he was a little preoccupied before because he was both high priest and chief judge.
Behold my beloved brethren, seeing that I have been permitted to come unto you, therefore I attempt to address you in my language; yea, by my own mouth, seeing that it is the first time that I have spoken unto you by the words of my mouth, I having been wholly confined to the judgment-seat, having had much business that I could not come unto you. 7.1
Alma then explains to them the problems of Zarahemla, and how he hopes that they have avoided similar problems in Gideon.
And behold, I have come having great hopes and much desire that I should find that ye had humbled yourselves before God, and that ye had continued in the supplicating of his grace, that I should find that ye were blameless before him, that I should find that ye were not in the awful dilemma that our brethren were in at Zarahemla. 7.3 
 But blessed be the name of God, that he hath given me to know, yea, hath given unto me the exceedingly great joy of knowing that they are established again in the way of his righteousness. 7.4 
And I trust, according to the Spirit of God which is in me, that I shall also have joy over you; nevertheless I do not desire that my joy over you should come by the cause of so much afflictions and sorrow which I have had for the brethren at Zarahemla, for behold, my joy cometh over them after wading through much affliction and sorrow. 7.5 
But behold, I trust that ye are not in a state of so much unbelief as were your brethren; I trust that ye are not lifted up in the pride of your hearts; yea, I trust that ye have not set your hearts upon riches and the vain things of the world; yea, I trust that you do not worship idols, but that ye do worship the true and living God, and that ye look forward for the remission of your sins, with an everlasting faith, which is to come. 7.6
Then things get interesting! Alma predicts the coming of Jesus:
For behold, I say unto you there be many things to come; and behold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all -- for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people. 7.7
But behold, the Spirit hath said this much unto me, saying: Cry unto this people, saying -- Repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord, and walk in his paths, which are straight; for behold, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth. 7.9
He goes into detail, explaining how Jesus will be born to Mary, in Jerusalem-- how it's going to be a virgin birth, and how Jesus will be the son of God.
And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God. 7.10
He predicts Jesus' death, and how he will sacrifice himself so that people can live forever in heaven. But only if they repent. Alma knew all this stuff beforehand. He was a pretty cool dude.
And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. 7.11 
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. 7.12
Alma tells the Gideonites that they need to repent in order to live forever. And they better do it soon, too, because Jesus was coming quickly. But overall, they were doing a pretty good job (especially compared to the Zarahemlites).
Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness. 7.14 
And now my beloved brethren, do you believe these things? Behold, I say unto you, yea, I know that ye believe them; and the way that I know that ye believe them is by the manifestation of the Spirit which is in me. And now because your faith is strong concerning that, yea, concerning the things which I have spoken, great is my joy. 7.17 
For as I said unto you from the beginning, that I had much desire that ye were not in the state of dilemma like your brethren, even so I have found that my desires have been gratified. 7.18 
For I perceive that ye are in the paths of righteousness; I perceive that ye are in the path which leads to the kingdom of God; yea, I perceive that ye are making his paths straight. 7.19
Then he gives some holy directions. How do you get to heaven? Walk straight, not crooked. Don't walk to the right or the left, and go in a big circle.
I perceive that it has been made known unto you, by the testimony of his word, that he cannot walk in crooked paths; neither doth he vary from that which he hath said; neither hath he a shadow of turning from the right to the left, or from that which is right to that which is wrong; therefore, his course is one eternal round. 7.20
That's about everything of interest in this chapter. Alma finishes up his speech with the usual stuff: be good, be thankful to God, don't wear fancy clothes, and have faith.
And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive. 7.23 
And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works. 7.24

15 February 2014

Alma 6: Alma Goes to the City of Gideon (in the Valley of Gideon, There Having a City Built, Named for Gideon, Who Was Slain By the Hand of Nehor With the Sword)

After Alma finished his speech, he reorganized the church a little bit. He ordained priests and elders, and allowed church membership to anyone who wasn't yet in the church, so long as they repented of their sins and were baptized.
And now it came to pass that after Alma had made an end of speaking unto the people of the church, which was established in the city of Zarahemla, he ordained priests and elders, by laying on his hands according to the order of God, to preside and watch over the church. 6.1 
And it came to pass that whosoever did not belong to the church who repented of their sins were baptized unto repentance, and were received into the church. 6.2

But he also kicked out church members who didn't repent of their sins (especially the prideful ones!).
And it also came to pass that whosoever did belong to the church that did not repent of their wickedness and humble themselves before God -- I mean those who were lifted up in the pride of their hearts -- the same were rejected, and their names were blotted out, that their names were not numbered among those of the righteous. 6.3
Alma told everyone to be good, and pray often, because he was leaving to go preach somewhere else. He was heading over to the newly built city of Gideon. (It was named after the Gideon guy who was killed by Nehor. The Book of Mormon explains it succinctly in verse 7).
Nevertheless the children of God were commanded that they should gather themselves together oft, and join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God. 6.6 
And now it came to pass that when Alma had made these regulations he departed from them, yea, from the church which was in the city of Zarahemla, and went over upon the east of the river Sidon, into the valley of Gideon, there having been a city built, which was called the city of Gideon, which was in the valley that was called Gideon, being called after the man who was slain by the hand of Nehor with the sword. 6.7
So Alma went and preached in Gideon.
And Alma went and began to declare the word of God unto the church which was established in the valley of Gideon, according to the revelation of the truth of the word which had been spoken by his fathers, and according to the spirit of prophecy which was in him, according to the testimony of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who should come to redeem his people from their sins, and the holy order by which he was called. And thus it is written. Amen. 6.8

13 February 2014

Alma 5: Repent! (Or ye shall be cast into the fire)

Now that Alma is a full-time preacher, he had time to give the long speeches that he had always wanted to give, but never had the time for. He went all over Zarahemla, and throughout all the land, and spoke to the people.

He reminded them of all of the things that God had done for them, and how ungrateful they were.
Now it came to pass that Alma began to deliver the word of God unto the people, first in the land of Zarahemla, and from thence throughout all the land. 5.1 
And behold, I say unto you, they were delivered out of the hands of the people of king Noah, by the mercy and power of God. 5.4 
And behold, after that, they were brought into bondage by the hands of the Lamanites in the wilderness; yea, I say unto you, they were in captivity, and again the Lord did deliver them out of bondage by the power of his word; and we were brought into this land, and here we began to establish the church of God throughout this land also. 5.5 
And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell? 5.6
(Much more of the same:) 5.7-21
He really tries to make them feel guilty. My favorite line is:
And now I ask of you, my brethren, how will any of you feel, if ye shall stand before the bar of God, having your garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness? Behold, what will these things testify against you? 5.22
I would think that Jesus would be proud of their bloody clothes, since his own robes were dipped in blood. But you never know.

There's not much else of note in this speech. In verses 52 and 56, there is a nice description of Hell:
And again I say unto you, the Spirit saith: Behold, the ax is laid at the root of the tree; therefore every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire*, yea, a fire which cannot be consumed, even an unquenchable fire. Behold, and remember, the Holy One hath spoken it. 5.52 
And finally, all ye that will persist in your wickedness, I say unto you that these are they who shall be hewn down and cast into the fire except they speedily repent. 5.56
A lot of this chapter is "borrowed" from the gospels of Matthew and John--which is interesting, because this is taking place before they were written. God works in mysterious ways. But other than that, there isn't much going on this chapter. God is great, you are wicked, repent, repeat. If you want to read Alma's preaching in it's entirety, you can do so here. I already did, and I wouldn't recommend it :)

*And now also the ax is laid untothe root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Matthew 3:10

12 February 2014

Alma 4: Alma Appoints Nephihah

The Nephites began to enjoy peace in the sixth year of the reign of the Judges. They were still recovering from the nasty war, in which so many of their people had died and much of their economy was destroyed (flocks, herds, fields of grain, etc.)
Now it came to pass in the sixth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, there were no contentions nor wars in the land of Zarahemla; 4.1 
But the people were afflicted, yea, greatly afflicted for the loss of their brethren, and also for the loss of their flocks and herds, and also for the loss of their fields of grain, which were trodden under foot and destroyed by the Lamanites. 4.2
Everyone decided that God must have sent the destruction upon them because of their bad behavior. It made sense--he was always doing stuff like that. For a while everyone was on their best behavior. Many new church members were added during this time, and it was a time of peace and prosperity.
And so great were their afflictions that every soul had cause to mourn; and they believed that it was the judgments of God sent upon them because of their wickedness and their abominations; therefore they were awakened to a remembrance of their duty. 4.3
And it came to pass in the seventh year of the reign of the judges there were about three thousand five hundred souls that united themselves to the church of God and were baptized. And thus endeth the seventh year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi; and there was continual peace in all that time. 4.5
But, one short year later, the people became proud. You see, everyone managed to get REALLY rich in the three years since the war. They had abundance of fine-twilled linen, and silks, and silver, and gold, and flocks... They had all manner of precious things.

And as if being proud wasn't bad enough, they started wearing costly apparel.
And it came to pass in the eighth year of the reign of the judges, that the people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches, and their fine silks, and their fine-twined linen, and because of their many flocks and herds, and their gold and their silver, and all manner of precious things, which they had obtained by their industry; and in all these things were they lifted up in the pride of their eyes, for they began to wear very costly apparel. 4.6
All of the usual things follow: Some of the people resist the urge to be proud and wear fancy clothes, and they took care of the needy and continued to be good people.
Now this was the cause of much affliction to Alma, yea, and to many of the people whom Alma had consecrated to be teachers, and priests, and elders over the church; yea, many of them were sorely grieved for the wickedness which they saw had begun to be among their people. 4.7
For they saw and beheld with great sorrow that the people of the church began to be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure. 4.8
The whole situation was getting so bad that the church members were actually becoming more wicked than the nonbelievers. That doesn't happen too often!
And thus, in this eighth year of the reign of the judges, there began to be great contentions among the people of the church; yea, there were envyings, and strife, and malice, and persecutions, and pride, even to exceed the pride of those who did not belong to the church of God. 4.9
And thus ended the eighth year of the reign of the judges; and the wickedness of the church was a great stumbling-block to those who did not belong to the church; and thus the church began to fail in its progress. 4.11
Alma decided to appoint someone else as Chief Judge, so he could focus all of his energy on preaching. He selected a wise elder of the church named Nehpihah. Alma retained the position of High Priest for himself.
And he selected a wise man who was among the elders of the church, and gave him power according to the voice of the people, that he might have power to enact laws according to the laws which had been given, and to put them in force according to the wickedness and the crimes of the people. 4.16 
Now this man's name was Nephihah, and he was appointed chief judge; and he sat in the judgment-seat to judge and to govern the people. 4.17

Now Alma did not grant unto him the office of being high priest over the church, but he retained the office of high priest unto himself; but he delivered the judgment-seat unto Nephihah. 4.18

Will Alma be able to save the people from their pride, wickedness, and fancy clothes? You'll just have to wait to find out.

A Darwin quote for Darwin Day

For Darwin Day, I thought I'd (re)post one of my favorite Darwin quotes. Here it is:
I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice. -- From a letter to Asa Gray, 22 May 1860

The Ichneumonidae is a family of wasps. A very big family. It is, in fact, one of the largest families in the largest class of animals, the insects. There are over 60,000 species of ichneumonid wasps, each one, according to creationists, specially designed by God. My question for them is the same as Charles Darwin's: Why? Why would a beneficent and omnipotent God do such a thing?

To understand the question, it is necessary to know a bit about the ichneumonids. First of all, most are parasitoids, which means that their larvae develop inside the body of a living host, which they slowly eat alive. Eventually, when the wasp larvae pupate, they erupt out of the body of the host that they have gradually consumed, tormented, and destroyed as larvae.

It is easy to see how such a thing could exist from an evolutionary standpoint. The body of a caterpillar is good food for larvae. It's not surprising that some organisms have evolved to take advantage of it. But what kind of a God would purposefully design it to be that way?

I have heard five different answers:

  1. God originally made everything good; there was no suffering or death until the fall of Adam. Then all hell broke loose. Animals immediately began to kill and eat each other, and predators, parasites, parasitoids, and pathogens roamed the earth. (Creation Ministries)

  2. God made things nasty right from the start just to show us how important we are to him. He knew that Adam would sin, so he made nature cruel to show us the serious nature of sin. (Dembski's Defective Design Inference)

  3. God made everything good and then Satan messed everything up. (Gregory Boyd's Cosmic Warfare Theodicy)

  4. God likes it just fine the way it is. He created it that way for is own pleasure. He likes to watch things suffer. (David Snoke)

  5. God couldn't help it and had nothing to do with it. He would have liked to create a kind and peaceful world, but he had to let things play out according to the laws of nature, over which he had no control. So the ichneumonid wasps just evolved, along with everything else, over millions of years while God sadly watched from a distance, unable to affect the outcome. (Ken Miller)

For each of these answers, though, I have a question.

  1. How did things change so quickly? Were the 60,000 ichneumonid species specially created by God the moment Adam sinned? Or did God magically turn 60,000 butterfly species into parasitic wasps? Or did they all evolve (super)naturally in a few thousand years?

  2. How do the ichneumonids teach us about sin? Until about the time of Darwin no one (except God) even knew they existed? Yet God created them just for us, just to teach us a lesson?

  3. So Satan created the Ichneumonids? Along with scorpions, spiders, snakes, and sharks? He must have been a busy guy!

  4. How could a kind and loving God create things just to watch them suffer?

  5. A God who can't create or control anything isn't a God at all.

Here are some cool videos about the Ichneumonids.

The first one is from David Attenborough's marvelous "Life in the Undergrowth."

And here's one showing a Ichneumonid wasp (Megarhyssa sp.) drilling through the bark of an oak tree to deposit an egg in the tunnel of the siricid wood wasp, whose larva the Maegarhyssa lava will eat alive from the inside in the traditional Ichneumonid fashion (just like God intended it to be).

06 February 2014

Alma 3: God Set a Mark Upon Them

The war was over. The Nephites buried their dead quickly, where they died, without even counting them. There were too many to count.
And it came to pass that the Nephites who were not slain by the weapons of war, after having buried those who had been slain -- now the number of the slain were not numbered, because of the greatness of their number -- after they had finished burying their dead they all returned to their lands, and to their houses, and their wives, and their children. 3.1
When the soldiers returned home, things had changed. Many of their wives and children were dead, the crops were trampled, and even some of their flocks were killed.
Now many women and children had been slain with the sword, and also many of their flocks and their herds; and also many of their fields of grain were destroyed, for they were trodden down by the hosts of men. 3.2
But that's enough about the Nephites for now. Let's talk about the Amlicites and Lamanites a bit more. How do you know one when you see one? That's easy: the Amlicites put a mark on their heads, and they don't shave their heads. Lamanites shave their heads, and don't wear any clothes besides leather loincloths and armor.
And the Amlicites were distinguished from the Nephites, for they had marked themselves with red in their foreheads after the manner of the Lamanites; nevertheless they had not shorn their heads like unto the Lamanites. 3.4
Now the heads of the Lamanites were shorn; and they were naked, save it were skin which was girded about their loins, and also their armor, which was girded about them, and their bows, and their arrows, and their stones, and their slings, and so forth. 3.5
Lamanites also have dark skin. God cursed them and turned them dark because their ancestors (Laman and Lemuel) rebelled against their brothers: Nephi, Jacob, Joseph and Sam.
And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men. 3.6
And their brethren sought to destroy them, therefore they were cursed; and the Lord God set a mark upon them, yea, upon Laman and Lemuel, and also the sons of Ishmael, and Ishmaelitish women. 3.7
The mark is also intended to keep the Nephites from "mixing" with the Lamanites.
And this was done that their seed might be distinguished from the seed of their brethren, that thereby the Lord God might preserve his people, that they might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions which would prove their destruction. 3.8
God will mark any children resulting from Nephite/Lamanite sex. He will also mark anyone who is otherwise "Led away" by the Lamanites.
 And it came to pass that whosoever did mingle his seed with that of the Lamanites did bring the same curse upon his seed. 3.9 
Therefore, whosoever suffered himself to be led away by the Lamanites was called under that head, and there was a mark set upon him. 3.10 
All of these things are reiterated many times. I'm guessing this will be on the test.
Now we will return again to the Amlicites, for they also had a mark set upon them; yea, they set the mark upon themselves, yea, even a mark of red upon their foreheads. 3.13
Thus the word of God is fulfilled, for these are the words which he said to Nephi: Behold, the Lamanites have I cursed, and I will set a mark on them that they and their seed may be separated from thee and thy seed, from this time henceforth and forever, except they repent of their wickedness and turn to me that I may have mercy upon them. 3.14
 And again: I will set a mark upon him that mingleth his seed with thy brethren, that they may be cursed also. 3.15
 And again, I say he that departeth from thee shall no more be called thy seed; and I will bless thee, and whomsoever shall be called thy seed, henceforth and forever; and these were the promises of the Lord unto Nephi and to his seed. 3.17
Are there any questions? Good. Okay, back to the story.

A few days after their big defeat, the Lamanites decide they want to try again. They send another army to the same battlefield that the Amlicites first fought in, and are quickly defeated again. Shucks!
Now it came to pass that not many days after the battle which was fought in the land of Zarahemla, by the Lamanites and the Amlicites, that there was another army of the Lamanites came in upon the people of Nephi, in the same place where the first army met the Amlicites. 3.20 
But he sent up a numerous army against them; and they went up and slew many of the Lamanites, and drove the remainder of them out of the borders of their land. 3.23
So there was peace in the land again. For "a time".
And then they returned again and began to establish peace in the land, being troubled no more for a time with their enemies. 3.24
Probably until the next chapter.

03 February 2014

Apparently God has changed his mind about the Seahawks

I guess it shouldn't surprise us anymore. God has changed his mind about lots of things.

In the 19th century, he changed his mind about slavery; in the 20th century, he changed his mind about women's rights; in the 21st century, he seems to be changing his mind (or perhaps "evolving") on the topic of homosexuality. And now, in 2014, he has changed his mind about the Seahawks.

It's hard to make predictions with such a changeable god.

As I pointed out in my failed Super Bowl prophecy, God hates the Seahawks. Or at least he did when he said these words:

And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls ... they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray. Leviticus 11:13. ("Ospray" in the KJV refers to the osprey or "Sea Hawk.")

And yet the Seahawks won the Super Bowl 43:8.

How could this happen?

The answer lies (somehow) in Isaiah 43:8.

Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.

Sometimes you have to look at a verse just right, while cocking your head just so, until it's meaning becomes clear. And when you do that with this verse while applying it to yesterday's Super Bowl Game, you get Seahawks 43, Broncos 8 (with the chapter and verse number corresponding to the score, and the book to Isaiah Kacyvenski, a former linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks).

For as Jesus supposedly said to someone, "Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear."

Or something like that.

9 Feb 14 update: As Roland points out in the comments, the Seahawks have a deaf fullback on their team named Derek Coleman, which perfectly completes this amazing post-hoc Bible prophecy. The Bible predicted the exact score of this year's Super Bowl! It just goes to show that the Bible never fails to predict every event. You just have to have the proper faith and look hard enough after the event occurs for the hidden message buried beneath the much more obvious absurdities and contradictions.

01 February 2014

Biblical Super Bowl Prophecy: Broncos 21, Seahawks 17

There's an interesting Christian Post article entitled Fifteen Bible Verses that suggest the Denver Broncos will win the Super Bowl.

And the article is right about that: the Bible predicts that the Broncos will win. But does it also predict the score? I think it does, and here's how.

The outcome of the game is fairly obvious, since the Bible tells us how God feels about broncos and seahawks. And on that there is simply no contest. God hates seahawks and loves broncos.

How do we know that God hates seahawks? Well "seahawk" is one of the nicknames for the osprey (Pandion haliaetus). And here's what God said about the osprey ("ospray" in the King James Version):

And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls ... they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray. Leviticus 11:13.

Okay, but how about broncos? Well, the Bible doesn't use the word "bronco" but it does talk about horses. And in the Bible, God seems to like them. Here's what he says about them in the Book of Job.

Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible ... He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted. Job 39:18-22

So the Bible says that broncos are strong, brave, glorious, and fearless; ospreys are abominations. So it seems there's really no need to play tomorrow's game. The Broncos will win, if God has anything to say about it. (And God has something to say about every football game.)

Okay, so the Bible predicts a Bronco win. But by how much?

Well, that's easy. We just count up the number of verses that favor each team.

Here are the verses that favor the Seahawks.

  1. Dan [Tony McDaniel] shall be a serpent ... that biteth the horse heels. Genesis 49:17

  2. When thou goest out to battle ... and seest horses ... be not afraid of them. Deuteronomy 20:1

  3. Be not afraid because of them ... thou shalt hough their horses. Joshua 11:6, 9

  4. They arose and fled in the twilight, and left ... their horses ... and fled for their life. 2 Kings 7:7

  5. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle. Psalm 32:9

  6. An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. Psalm 33:17
    (Is this verse referring to Rahim Moore, the Bronco's safety?)

  7. He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. Psalm 147:10

  8. A whip for the horse. Proverbs 26:3
    [The Broncos will get whipped?]

  9. Their horses ... shall become as women. Jeremiah 50:37

  10. They are cruel, and will not shew mercy: their voice shall roar like the sea, and they shall ride upon horses. Jeremiah 6:23, 50:42
    [The roaring sea-like voice refers to Seattle's 12th man, and the Seahawks will ride the Broncos as though they were horses.]

  11. With thee will I break in pieces the horse. Jeremiah 51:21

  12. I ... have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils. Amos 4:10

  13. Shall horses run upon the rock? Amos 6:12
    [An obvious reference to Bobby Wagner, the rock of the Seahawks' defense.]

  14. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that I will cut off thy horses. Micah 5:10
    [When the Broncos come to pass, the Legion of Boom will cut it off.]

  15. In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment ... and will smite every horse .. with blindness. Zechariah 12:4

  16. And he answered, saying, My name is Legion [of Boom]: for we are many. Mark 5:9, Luke 8:30

  17. These ... shall give their power and strength unto the beast. Revelation 17:13

And here are the verses that favor the Broncos.

  1. Behold, there appeared ... horses of fire. 2 Kings 2:11

  2. The LORD had made ... a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host. 2 Kings 7:6
  3. The horse is prepared against the day of battle. Proverbs 21:31

  4. Their horses' hoofs shall be counted like flint. Isaiah 5:28

  5. That led them ... as an horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble. Isaiah 63:13

  6. His horses are swifter than eagles [or Seahawks]. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled. Jeremiah 4:13

  7. The snorting of his horses was heard ... the whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of his strong ones. Jeremiah 8:16

  8. How canst thou contend with horses? Jeremiah 12:5

  9. Harness the horses ... and stand forth with your helmets. Jeremiah 46:4

  10. Come up, ye horses; and rage ... let the mighty men come forth. Jeremiah 46:9

  11. At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his strong horses.... Jeremiah 47:3

  12. The horses to come up as the rough caterpillars. Jeremiah 51:27

  13. No ... foot of beast shall pass through it. Ezekiel 29:11
    [The Bronco defense will stop the Beast (Marshawn Lynch).]

  14. Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves. Habakkuk 1:8

  15. Thou didst walk through the sea[hawks] with thine horses. Habakkuk 3:15

  16. The LORD of hosts ... hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle. Zechariah 10:3

  17. And I saw, and behold a white horse ... and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. Revelation 6:2

  18. The heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. Revelation 9:17

  19. And I saw ... them that had gotten the victory over the beast. Revelation 15:2
    [The Broncos will get victory over the beast (Marshawn Lynch) and the Seahawks.]

  20. And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse. Revelation 19:1

  21. The armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses. Revelation 19:14

So the final score will be: Broncos 21, Seahawks 17.