This is going to be a growing post of my thoughts on Alma 13. I’m working them out here so my post at dewsfromheaven won’t be so scattered and rambly! 🙂
Yesterday, I decided to take some time and work through the last part of Alma 12 and then all of 13 and look for connections within the text. I get so easily bogged down in the first half of Alma 13 that I felt like it was wise to step out and get some fresh air. — The theme of some receiving messages from God and then imparting them to others, while others do not receive messages because they harden their hearts, is not new with Alma 13. Alma 12:9-10 introduce the idea already:
And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
Also, he compares this dichotomy to the final judgment:
…judged according to our works. Then if our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for then we shall be condemned.
I find that same pattern in the rest of Alma 12 and 13. Sometimes he is talking about the final “rest of the Lord,” and sometimes he is explaining why some are priests in this world and some aren’t.
Alma 12 could be talking about just Adam and Eve. Verse 21 first parents, 22 Adam, 23 Adam, 26 first parents, 27 men, 28 man/them, 29 them/men, 30 they/men/them/them/their, 31 men/they/first commandments/placing themselves/their, 32 them, 33 men. Then Alma applies this to Ammonihah. There is no mention of “a people” here like there is in Alma 13, for what it’s worth. Chapter 13 wants to cite our minds forward, but even with our previous reading it’s still a little sticky. Here, the Lord God gives commandments “unto his children.” Who is considered to be in this group? That seems an odd title for Adam and Eve (who have always so far been described as parents, not children). Could it be that “his children” actually does mean a time later than Adam and Eve?
Alma 13:1 is also the first time we get the idea that there will be someone to teach “the people.” In chapter 12, we always had “them” or “men” but never “the people.” Does this mark a time in history when there was a sizable group? The time of the Exodus is an obvious possibility. I like that one because of God calling them “his children.” That was one moment in history where God became God to a specific group of people, by covenant and everything. Let me lay out why the time of Moses 5-6 would also be a good choice. The text said there had been many children born to Adam and Eve, and these children were old enough to divide two & two and have their own families (Moses 5:2-3). It’s after that detail that the angel comes to teach Adam about why he offers sacrifices, etc. Then, after that, we get Cain, Abel, and soon Seth and Enos. By the time we get the first mention of priesthood in Moses 6:7, there is definitely a group we could call “the people.”
But, of course, some of the details of Alma’s story don’t entirely match Moses 4-6. Wish as I might that scripture was less sticky, well, here we are. 🙂 But I do think that the time of Adam-Seth-Enos shouldn’t be thrown out anyway. Alma 13:1’s words of citing forward may mean jumping from the time of Adam and Eve to the time of Adam’s grandson, likely several hundred years later in the story (I should go do the math shouldn’t I…).
The discussion of choosing good or evil in verse 3 is obviously connected to Adam and Eve and the fall, but I found another detail that interested me. When chapter 12 starts to talk about the way commandments were given and that there was a choice between good and evil, it never finishes the story. It jumps to the time of Ammonihah and the choice they have to harden their hearts or to repent. The story never finishes. Did men choose good? Would we have been talking about Adam and Eve and their choices in light of further commandments?
We are left hanging. So in Alma 13:3, when we get the talk of “left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good…” it could very well be picking up from the story in chapter 12.