First, I want to note that there are a lot of connections between Alma 5 and other chapters in the Book of Mormon. There are some references to 1 Nephi 8 (Lehi’s vision). (Alma also quotes Lehi (1 Ne 1:8) in Alma 36 “methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw.”) The language of captivity, light/dark, etc. create lots of tangles with Alma 36/Mosiah 27 especially. There are also connections to both Nephi and Jacob in Alma’s use of “death and hell” and “sleep” (see for example 2 Ne. 2: 29, 2 Ne. 9: 10, 12, 19, 26, Jacob 3: 11).
verse 3. I never recognized before that Alma is laying out the authority he has. He got it from his father Alma, “he having power and authority from God to do these things.” Then he develops the story of the founding of the church, which is the beginning of the very church he’s preaching to there in Zarahemla. This also helps me understand why Mormon took up so much space with the Zeniff/Noah/Limhi story. It is the beginning of that very church that lasts from the reunion of (the elder) Alma’s people with the Nephites all the way through Christ’s visit to the end of the Book of Mormon. It becomes a foundational story.
Verses 4/5. Alma talks about their fathers, using “they” or “your fathers” until verse 5 – suddenly the pronoun “we” appears. Does this imply that Alma and the people he is preaching to were born during the Lamanite bondage and after?
6. Talking about their physical, historical bondage becomes both literal and figurative example of God’s power to deliver. Note that in Mosiah 27, the angel tells him to remember the captivity of his fathers. This captivity is a constant metaphor throughout the chapter. It seems like the angel was also setting up a parallel. Or at least Alma catches the parallel and runs with it – but either way, it was set up from the beginning. There was an association with spiritual captivity and physical captivity.
7. “deep sleep” – interesting words to use; reminds me of two other “deep sleeps” in Alma’s history: 1, when he was asleep for three days, and 2, when God caused a “deep sleep” (Mosiah 24:19) to come upon the Amulon/Lamanites so they could get away.
7. “deep sleep” is also used by Nephi (see 2 Ne. 1: 13 and 2 Ne. 27: 5). It applies to anyone not “born again” but it also really does sum up the situation under King Noah, where the priests were teaching them to do evil things. Also used by Isaiah (Isa. 29: 10): “For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.” And of course other places in scripture 🙂 – link to search results here.
7. “midst of darkness” – 1, alludes to Lehi’s dream (also alluded to in verse 34). 2, alludes to darkness during Alma’s three-day sleep (esp with “light” mentioned next in verse). (Although I should note the difference of “mist” in Lehi/Nephi and in the “midst” of darkness here.)
7. chains/bands – obviously tying spiritual captivity to physical captivity. (There is similar language in many other chapters in the book of Alma.) It really is a striking image, though. Being without this conversion is like your soul being tied up. Its natural state is to be happy, free, singing redeeming love. But for a time, it is bound and asleep.
7. destruction awaited them – as it did for Alma, during his three-day sleep: “I was struck with such great fear and amazement lest perhaps I should be destroyed…” (Alma 36:11)
9. “sing redeeming love” – as Alma’s soul did long to be with the choirs above (Alma 36:22, after quoting Lehi)
10. A very good theological question – “on what conditions are they saved?” The answer will follow in verses 11-13.
10. Part of the question is how they can be loosed from the bands of death, when they have not already died… I like the question!
11. Abinadi was a prophet and spoke the words of God. Alma heard them and believed them.
12. According to Alma’s faith, there was a “mighty change” wrought in his heart. (Wrought can mean “Shaped by hammering with tools. Used chiefly of metals or metalwork.”)
12. “Behold I say unto you this is all true.” Alma becomes the angel or the prophet here, delivering a word they must take on faith. “I say unto you this is all true.” No way to prove it, but I will tell you it is true anyway.
13. Alma (his father) preached it to others (their fathers) and a mighty change happened to them too. They put their trust in God and were faithful to the end. (This sounds like we can assume that most or all of that generation had passed away by now.) “Therefore, they were saved.”
14. Now the focus is: Are you like your fathers?
14. “image of God.” Also in verse 19. Verse 19 is more complex, I’ll get to that there. But for now, the best reference I see is to Adam and Eve. Is he suggesting that by sin and natural world we sort of lose that image?
Why use the idea of an “image” in talking about whether or not they have been saved? An image is usually something on the outside, but here it is connected to a change of heart, something very inward. Even if it was a product of something inward, Alma is asking them if they have received it, which would imply Alma can’t see it from the outside.
2 Ne. 13: 9 says “The show of their countenance doth witness against them” which is interesting, but might not be the same sort of thing Alma is talking about.
14. “born again.” Is this why we receive God’s image? Is this a “spiritual image” just like we are “spiritually born of God”? We look like our parents physically, and now we will look like God spiritually?
14/15. “created you” – refers to Adam and Eve and/or being reborn?
15. do you exercise faith, like Alma and your fathers?
15. can you see with the eye of faith? v. 16 asks if you can imagine. Similar question, but probably some important distinctions:
15. can you see the resurrection and following judgment scene with the eye of faith?
16-18. can you imagine these various interactions with God?
16. God speaks to you, you hear. 17. You speak a lie to God. 18. You remember, and no one speaks.
19. You look.
15. “eye of faith” – what if you can’t see this judgment scene? would you care about the next few verses? This may be slimming down the readership at this point
16/17. I loved seeing how 16 and 17 are almost the same, but in verse 16 is God telling you that your works have been works of righteousness, but in 17, you are lying and telling God your works have been works of righteousness. It’s interesting on two levels: 1, It’s not that in the first scenario, you are telling God your works have been good and you are honest and right, it’s that God tells you that they have been good. 2, It’s like the second person has heard what God said to the first and is trying to say all the right things to look the same as the righteous one.
18. Here, no one talks. 16, God talks, 17, you talk, 18, no one talks. Here someone simply remembers their guilt, but everyone is silent. No lying, but still no approbation
18. This is, of course, exactly how Alma described his feelings in Alma 36
18. “perfect remembrance” of guilt – also mentioned in 2 Ne 9:14
19. “image … engraven” – isn’t a graven image usually a bad thing?? Interesting to use these words together here. In verse 14, receiving his image seemed to refer to a new birth or a new creation. Here, it is engraven, made, changed, manufactured, etc. The image on a face seems connected to the word “look” – when God and the person look at each other, they have the same image, like a mirror (something like 1 Jn. 3: 2: “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is”).
19. Another positive use of “graven” and “image” is in Isa. 49: 16: “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.”
19. To have this image “engraven” onto you almost sounds like a mask, or something worked over on top of your normal face. Kind of a weird idea? “Engraven” also reminds me of the word “wrought” Alma used in verse 12, which meant: “Shaped by hammering with tools. Used chiefly of metals or metalwork.” Was your body was the material that became an image like God’s? Or am I reading too much into this word?
20/21. Having white garments does not mean never doing anything wrong, but it means having them washed white by the blood of Christ. If you are a subject of the devil, it means you are serving someone who can’t clean you, and someone who will get you to sin more and add more stains to your garments.
21. “his garments must be purified” – not the person, but the garments. Another “outward” symbol. The person’s sins are represented on the garment, something worn on the outside. Is this another way of saying that when we are brought to the judgment seat, everything will be obvious? You can’t hide sin anymore? v.22: “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…? ”
22. “blood and all manner of filthiness.” To use blood as a symbol for sin reminds me of Isaiah 1:18. Interesting that he says blood and all manner of filthiness.
23. does the blood on the garments actually connect to their sins of murder?? yuck.. A bit graphic, but it would get the point across. You can’t hide what you’ve done.
24. You won’t fit in.
25. It will be pretty obvious which kingdom they belong to. Sounds like Matt. 25: 32-33 too.
26. “can ye feel so now?” Such a good question. He is talking to a group of people who are either mostly or all second generation church members. Their fathers were delivered from bondage (either from Amulon et al or from the Lamanites.) They certainly have been taught the gospel. This is a group who would understand his message up to this point, and people who could look with the “eye of faith” to the judgment. This is a people who need a reminder of where they are headed, and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
27. Have ye “endured to the end” basically. Have you kept yourself blameless, etc
28-30. “pride, envy, persecutions…” Chapter 4 related some of these problems:
8 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.
9 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.
33/38. Always ready and waiting for us to repent. Always.