Tag Archives: Alma

Study group on headings in Alma

We are comparing the various headings that Mormon himself wrote into his text. We’re comparing them with each other, as well as with the printer’s manuscript. See the end of this post for the list of headings we’re working on. (I’ll update the conversation notes as we go along.)

  • What do these look like on the original and printer’s manuscript? Are they set off? Answer: some have underlines, markings, and some are set off in different type.
  • What about other headings in the Book of Mormon? How do they look: Answer: some are set off, some aren’t. It looks like Mosiah 9 is the first time in the Book of Mormon that the printer notices there are headings that aren’t at the beginning of a book. There is at least one heading before that that we think he misses, and that is 2 Nephi 6. Another would be Jacob 2.
  • Are there others in Alma that we are noticing that the printer didn’t? Answer: So far no. We noted the 2 passages in Alma (included below) where he talks about what he has written, but these passages do not have the same sound as the headings. We decided that headings usually do not have a verb (“An account…”) and they introduce material, rather than commenting on previously written material.
  • Are there headings after Alma that the printer didn’t see? Answer: We aren’t seeing any! It looks like the printer slowly figured out what was a heading in the text. (The heading for The Book of Zeniff seems to have clued him in — it’s a clear break, but not at the beginning of a Book, and then perhaps the printer watched for those kinds of things within the later books. Updated answer: the Book of Moroni is another question. These verses could serve as headings, easily: 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 5:1, 6:1, 8:1. Chapter 9 does have a heading. Ch. 8 is the first epistle, but that doesn’t have a heading —  but maybe it would have been an awkward heading because he talks about himself (first person) rather than third person in ch.9 (for which the printer does give a set-off heading). Does the heading of chapter 9 serve as a break between the two epistles, and that’s why it has a heading?
  • In printer’s manuscript there’s a clear distinction for a heading for Moroni chapter 9.
  • Side note — once in a while, there’s a question as to whether or not all of the original chapter breaks are perfect. 3 Nephi 27 is one question, Alma 13 is another. Often a dictation session went to the end of a chapter. But once in a while they paused, and maybe when they came back assumed it was a new chapter. Playing with an idea — that maybe Moroni chapter 9’s heading was one of these? That is, maybe chapters 8 and 9 were one chapter, with a note in the middle explaining when things switch to the next epistle, and that got treated as a chapter break but wasn’t really?
  • What are the headings doing in Alma? Answer: Well, let’s compare to Helaman first. The headings there are very tightly organized. Each sentence describes chapters; this includes the heading over (our) chapter 7. Are the headings in Alma that careful? Not necessarily.
  • All of the headings we found in Alma are at the beginning of original chapters. (But not every original chapter has a heading.)
  • Chapters 1-3 are a chapter; chapter 4 is where he lets go of the judgment seat. The heading for the book of Alma talks twice about him being chief judge. Is the heading over all of Alma meant to be a heading just for original chapter 1? The more we read this, the more it sounds like it! “A” war happens. War/Contentions among the people (Amlicites) and then a war between Nephites and Lamanites (because Amlicites go to Lamanites). Perhaps we’re on to something? 
  • Heading over all of Alma repeats that Alma is the first and chief judge. The heading over chapter 5 emphasizes that Alma is the high priest. (At that point, he has let go of the judgeship.) So perhaps this does signal that we’re on the right track.
  • What if the heading over all of Alma is actually 2 headings mixed together? The two parts would be: “The account of Alma, who was the son of Alma, the first and chief judge over the people of Nephi, and also the high priest over the Church.” And then secondly: “An account of the reign of the judges, and the wars and contentions among the people. And also an account of a war between the Nephites and the Lamanites, according to the record of Alma, the first and chief judge.” This might explain the repetition of first and chief judge. One was for the whole of the book of Alma, and the other part was for just the original chapter 1. That would mean the first mention of Alma being chief judge comes in the heading for all of the book of Alma, and the second mention comes in the heading for the first chapter.
  • Or, we might have 3 things mixed together, because we have three “accounts”: “The account of” “An account of” and “and also an account.” So, maybe three headings!
  • However, it seems like that first part of this heading would not cover all of the book of Alma. Not sufficient. But it might cover until our current chapter 16. Chapter 17 has a new “account of.” So maybe this gets us that far. It could also be that it is meant to go till the current 44, but there are other interruptions. There are nested accounts! A bit messy.
  • It’s strange that there is not a heading as we switch back after the story of the sons of Mosiah. So his might point to the first half of the heading over the book of Alma as meant to cover through 44, but the story of the sons of Mosiah is dropped in. That’s why there’s no update after their story, because it leads back into the main flow.
  • We’re noticing that there are a few headings where he doesn’t mention where he is getting the accounts from. However, these could be “nested” accounts. For example, the heading above our chapter 21 does not have that information, but perhaps the heading over our chapter 17 might be meant to cover that information. (The heading for chapter 17 says, “An account of the sons of Mosiah, who rejected their rights to the kingdom for the word of God, and went up to the land of Nephi to preach to the Lamanites; their sufferings and deliverance—according to the record of Alma.”) So perhaps it is assumed that when we get to chapter 21, we already know where this information is coming from. (It would be great for one of us to create an outline of all of these with indentations showing what’s nested!)
  • There are also other places where he talks about where he’s getting his material, and what he’s doing with it. For example, the 2 passages that Fred Axelgard added to the Facebook even page (Alma 9:34 and Alma 11:46).
  • Joe sees the whole book of Alma as being divided into two parallel parts — that is, the stories in the first half have a parallel in the second half. As we look at the headings, it seems that the headings also help point out these similarities! For example, each of the cities Alma preaches to gets a heading, and each of the sons he teaches gets a heading. (There are more, I just didn’t catch them.) (Joe’s reading of the book of Alma is quite detailed and quite good, by the way. A post for another time.) (Or read it in the JBMS — this isn’t free yet, but will be soon, on Maxwell website, after the next issue of JBMS is published.) This would help Mormon remember what part he is on that matches up with the parallel pattern?
  • But, why is there not a heading at chapter 30, which would parallel chapter 1?
  • Pause for a moment to look up all the original chapter breaks in Alma:
    • Chapters 1-3 were chapter 1
    • Chapter 4 was chapter 2
    • Chapter 5 was chapter 3
    • Chapter 6 was chapter 4
    • Chapter 7 was chapter 5
    • Chapter 8 was chapter 6
    • Chapter 9 was chapter 7
    • Chapter 10-11 was chapter 8
    • Chapter 12:1-13:9 was chapter 9
    • Chapter 13:10-15:19 was chapter 10
    • Chapter 16 was chapter 11
    • Chapters 17-20 were chapter 12
    • Chapters 21-22 were chapter 13
    • Chapters 23-26 were chapter 14
    • Chapters 27-29 were chapter 15
    • Chapters 30-35 were chapter 16
    • Chapters 36-37 were chapter 17
    • Chapters 38 was chapter 18
    • Chapters 39-42 were chapter 19
    • Chapters 43-44 were chapter 20
    • Chapters 45-49 were chapter 21
    • Chapter 50 was chapter 22
    • Chapter 51 was chapter 23
    • Chapter 52-53 were chapter 24
    • Chapter 54-55 were chapter 25
    • Chapter 56-58 were chapter 26
    • Chapter 59-60 were chapter 27
    • Chapter 61 was chapter 28
    • Chapter 62 was chapter 29
    • Chapter 63 was chapter 30
  • Page count for original chapters, to help us then see how much each heading would have covered (clarification – not every original chapter had a heading; this is just prep work):
    • Book of Alma starts on page 221 originally (1830 edition).
    • original Chapter 2 – starts on page 230, ends on 232
    • Chapter 3 – starts on 232
    • Chapter 4 – 238
    • Chapter 5 – 239
    • Chapter 6 – 242
    • Chapter 7 – 245
    • Chapter 8 – 248
    • Chapter 9 – 254
    • Chapter 10 – 259
    • Chapter 11 – 266-268
    • Chapter 12 – 269
    • Chapter 13 – 282
    • Chapter 14 – 289
    • Chapter 15 – 299
    • Chapter 16 – 304
    • Chapter 17 – 323
    • Chapter 18 – 330
    • Chapter 19 – 332
    • Chapter 20 – 340-347
    • Chapter 21 – 348
    • Chapter 22 – 362
    • Chapter 23 – 366
    • Chapter 24 – 370
    • Chapter 25 – 377-381
    • Chapter 26 – 382
    • Chapter 27 – 393
    • Chapter 28 – 398
    • Chapter 29 – 400
    • Chapter 30 – 405-407
  • The parallel parts of Alma actually have similar page lengths! That was a surprise. It is especially parallel for the first half of each part (so, first quarter and third quarter). The second half of each part (2nd and 4th quarters) aren’t equal. A lot more time is spent on the wars.
  • Side-note — interesting article: https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/book-mormon-treasury/almas-conversion-reminiscences-his-sermons by Kent Brown
  • Joe’s article (not free yet): https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.18809/jbms.2017.0116?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
  • How many years is covered by sons of Mosiah’s preaching versus wars in the end of Alma? Answer: 14 years for preaching, 21 years pass during those chapters (war within those chapters ends before those chapters are over – so the war takes 12 years itself). So the chapters are longer, and do cover 7 more years. But the preaching and the war are about the same length.  Actually, depending on how you count it, you could see it as 14 years. That scarily close! 😀
  • The first half is 15 chapters, and second half is 15 chapters!
  • There are two ways to group what is in the war chapters. For example, the original chapter 20 (battle of Zerahemna), could be included with “Alma war chapters” or not. The argument to not include it is that there is a major heading, Alma disappears, Helaman in charge, etc. Then that seems like there is a new war. But if you start with when Moroni comes onto the scene, then you do include chapter 20 in war chapters.
  • If you take Moroni as the marker, and include the original chapter 20, then quarters 1 and 4 have 11 chapters each, and quarters 2 and 3 have 4 chapters each.
  • If you include that original chapter 20, that’s when you get 14 years of war, and 14 years of preaching.
  • Mormon: Historian, Prophet, Mathematician! Wow!
  • 14 in Hebrew is the number for David’s name. (Important to Mathew when he gives the genealogy of Christ.)
  • We decided to stop at 14 minutes to 10:00pm! haha (Tyler’s suggestion).


Here’s the list of ones we’ve found:

The account of Alma, who was the son of Alma, the first and chief judge over the people of Nephi, and also the high priest over the Church. An account of the reign of the judges, and the wars and contentions among the people. And also an account of a war between the Nephites and the Lamanites, according to the record of Alma, the first and chief judge.


The words which Alma, the High Priest according to the holy order of God, delivered to the people in their cities and villages throughout the land.

Beginning with chapter 5.

The words of Alma which he delivered to the people in Gideon, according to his own record.

Comprising chapter 7.

The words of Alma, and also the words of Amulek, which were declared unto the people who were in the land of Ammonihah. And also they are cast into prison, and delivered by the miraculous power of God which was in them, according to the record of Alma.

Comprising chapters 9 through 14.

These are not quite the same, but still commentary on what he’s doing with the text/where he’s getting his sources, etc.

Alma 9:34 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.

Alma 11:46 Now, when Amulek had finished these words the people began again to be astonished, and also Zeezrom began to tremble. And thus ended the words of Amulek, or this is all that I have written.

An account of the sons of Mosiah, who rejected their rights to the kingdom for the word of God, and went up to the land of Nephi to preach to the Lamanites; their sufferings and deliverance—according to the record of Alma.

Comprising chapters 17 through 27.

An account of the preaching of Aaron, and Muloki, and their brethren, to the Lamanites.

Comprising chapters 21 through 25.

The commandments of Alma to his son Helaman.

Comprising chapters 36 and 37.

The commandments of Alma to his son Shiblon.

Comprising chapter 38.

The commandments of Alma to his son Corianton.

Comprising chapters 39 through 42.

The account of the people of Nephi, and their wars and dissensions, in the days of Helaman, according to the record of Helaman, which he kept in his days.

Comprising chapters 45 through 62.

Alma 7 – word, words

Hi! I have read Alma 7 twice in the past two days and been struck by the many times Alma talks about word, words, what the spirit saith, etc. For example:

“I attempt to address you in my language” v.1

“first time that I have spoken unto you by the words of my mouth” v.1

“I do not say that he will come among us at the time of his dwelling in his mortal tabernacle; for behold, the Spirit hath not said unto me that this should be the case” v.8

“this much I do know, that the Lord God hath power to do all things which are according to his word” v.8

“the Spirit hath said this much unto me…” v.9

[Note that the Spirit told him to prepare for God to come on the earth, and Alma knows that will be fulfilled, but what he doesn’t know is whether that means that God will come to them while he is on the earth or not. That is, I think verses 7 and 8 are dependent what he’s heard from the Spirit, which he lays out starting in verse 9.]

“for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven” v.14

“the same will remember that I say unto him, yea, he will remember that I have said unto him, he shall have eternal life, according to the testimony of the Holy Spirit, which testifieth in me” v.16

“the way that I know that ye believe them is by the manifestation of the Spirit which is in me” v.17

“I perceive that it has been made known unto you, by the testimony of his word…” v.20

“I have spoken these words unto you according to the Spirit which testifieth in me” v.26

Consecrating priests, Holy Order, in the Book of Mormon

I did just a quick search in the Book of Mormon for “consecrate” and noted how it was used in a sentence when it was talking about consecrating people. I noticed that it could be a king who was consecrating another king; it could be a people who were consecrating a leader; it could be a high priest who was consecrating other priests and teachers; it could be a person who simply had authority to consecrate priests and teachers. The word is also used to talk about other things: God consecrated the land for the inheritance of Lehi’s people, for example; also, Jacob’s afflictions will be consecrated for his gain. The general sense of the word is “given purpose” or “set apart” or “designated” or “changed in nature in order to be used for a new purpose.”

As far as priests and teachers go, which was my original question, it seems to me that “consecrate” means to “give a person authority to be a priest or teacher.” It designated them as people who could perform baptisms and could teach. Sometimes those stories I found mentioned priesthood, sometimes they did not. They almost always mentioned that the person who consecrated them had authority to do so, but it didn’t say whether or not that authority was priesthood. In fact, in some cases it seems that a person’s kingship was enough authority to consecrate new priests. King Noah is a prime example. It may be that he had some sort of priesthood, but that isn’t what the text focuses on. I think it was rather that his position as king gave him authority to designate who would be his priests in his court.

“Holy order” works a bit differently. First of all, it’s only talked about in 2 Nephi 6:2 (Jacob), in Alma, and in Ether 12:10 (Moroni’s discussion of faith). It really is something Alma has made a central issue of his teaching and thinking. But the fact that Jacob brings it up is interesting, and that Moroni talks about many people who were after this order. Also, Alma talks about the holy order not just when he is talking about who is ordained to preach, he talks about whole congregations “walking after” the holy order, and that they have been “brought into this church” by the holy order.

There are several places where it seems clear that the holy order is all-but equated with the high priesthood. Several times in Alma we get the words “the high priesthood of the holy order of God” and later in Alma 13 Alma says “Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood…”.

It could be that what happens to Alma the elder is exactly a restoration of the holy order, and that when Jacob’s priestly lined died out so did the holy order. It seems like Mosiah reveres Alma as having some authority to do Church-related things that he himself doesn’t. So it’s as if kings have had authority over religious life, and still do, and can still consecrate priests and teachers, but there is something else going on with high priesthood as well.

Having the kingship replaced by judges may have opened up some room for confusion about the high priesthood. With kings, it seems there was the government, and there were priests the government set up to teach religious things. Then when Alma comes, we have government, priests the government set up, and then a Church with some who claim another priesthood not set up by the government. When the kingship is dissolved and judges replace them, what happens to government-sponsored priests? Are there any? Or could it appear to many that the Church priests are now the government-sponsored priests? If the have taken that role on, then are they seen government-consecrated priests or as they something different?

Those sort of complex cultural question seem to me to form part of the backdrop for Alma’s speeches in Ammonihah. He spends so much time explaining the holy order and high priesthood that I can only assume this wasn’t well understood in that city. Though, it seems it was in the cities he visits previously — those who are walking after the holy order, as it says.

Anyway, interesting clues to Nephi society, and potentially helpful clues to better understand Alma 13. 🙂

Questions from my discussion with Joe yesterday about priesthood in the Book of Mormon

  1. Why does Helaman (the book, or the person) focus so little on Priesthood or regulating the affairs of the church, etc.?
  2. What about the timing of Amalickiah’s revolt? Did he wait until Alma was dead (the first non-king ruler) to make his move? And what is the connection between wanting to be a king and gathering against Helaman and his brethren? They weren’t the government rulers at the time, so why are they gathering against Helaman and not the chief judge?
  3. What about the baptism and church of Mosiah/Alma is so different from that in 3rd Nephi/Moroni?
  4. What does 4th Ne show us about the new order established by Christ?
  5. Is there a connection between the chapters of Malachi quoted and the resulting 4th Nephi life?
  6. Are the disciples in and after 3rd Nephi ever called priests?
  7. Why are there not 12 apostles/disciples before Christ? Nephi knows about that structure, but doesn’t implement it
  8. What does Nephi think about priesthood itself?
  9. Was Nephi a high priest and Jacob and Joseph were priests under him, like Alma and Alma the younger had priests under them? Or was Nephi the king without any spiritual, consecrated office?
  10. Abinadi seems to be a prophet but not a priest. Was Nephi the same?
  11. Is there really a change at all these steps: Nephi, Alma, Christ, Joseph Smith?
  12. Is Alma in borrowing the language of the “holy order” from the small plates? Is he rethinking his own priesthood in Alma 5-15 and that’s why we get the sermon in chapter 13?
  13. How is it possible to create a Zion city with so much internal political problems?
  14. But, as Joe pointed out, all of those problems seem to stem from priesthood.

Alma & Korihor

We just read Alma 30 yesterday, so I’ve been thinking a bit about how we usually talk about Alma’s confrontation with Korihor. I really like what Alma does here. Rather than “proving” that God exists, he calls Korihor on his own arguments, and also adds his testimony as well. I think it’s a great move. Korihor says that no one can know of things to come, yet, in order to know that Christ won’t come he would have to see the future to confirm that. Korihor says no one can believe in something they can’t see, and therefore there is no God, but in order for Korihor to prove that there is no God, he’d have to see into Heaven himself and see that. So regardless of who’s “right,” Korihor’s argument can’t hold up on its own. I think Alma’s right on when he says, “And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only.” It’s a good point. The only “evidence” that Korihor has is his word only, one person’s word. And Alma can counter that with his own testimony that he believes (even knows) that God is there and Christ will come. The part about the earth etc being signs is intriguing. It doesn’t hold up on its own as “proof” or “evidence” but, I think on Korihor’s own terms, they are signs. He wants a “sign” that God is there, but what does a “sign” actually prove? If you have a hint of belief already, then a sign might push you the other way. But if you were absolutely convinced that there was no God, what good would a sign do? It can’t force belief; you still have to choose to see the sign as something from God. So in that sense, I think Alma is right to say that he sees the earth, its motion, etc. as signs from God. They are no more or less a sign than anything else that Alma could “produce” as a sign, since anything he could do would also require some amount of faith. On a strict, definitional level, the earth is just as much a sign as whatever else we might think Korihor has in mind, be it lightning crashing down or whatever. The fact that he knows his dumbness must be from God shows that he already had some, even tiny, amount of faith. And, as soon as he writes, we learn that he “always knew that there was a God.”

Alma’s smart. Very smart. I don’t think we should, as is sometimes done, take Alma’s argument as somehow proof we can use to convince someone. It is a specific argument with a specific person. I think what he does is to un-do what Korihor has said, so that the possibility of faith still remains.

Just some thoughts for this mid-Wednesday morning. 🙂

In the Scriptures

So, it’s cool when I realize that something we often teach without the scriptures is actually talked about in the scriptures, and with greater force and clarity than our normal way of teaching it.

For example, this week’s lesson in YW in our ward it “Avoiding Dishonesty.” It is an interesting title; why use the word “avoid?” (See BN posts here and here on the lesson itself.) A good approach that was suggested along the way at BN was to talk about how we rationalize or self-deceive and commit other sins. As I was blogging a few thoughts at Beginnings New, I ended by a quick reference to Alma’s advice that “wickedness never was happiness, even though we think it will be worth it, once in a while.”

The more I thought about what I had said, the more I realized that this was actually not a bad usage of Alma’s words and his talk to his son in general. Corianton had “risked to commit sin.” And specifically, he had risked this, “upon those points of doctrine” (Alma 41:10). It begins to sound like Corianton is sinning by justifying his actions with a particular way of looking at some points of doctrine. He is rationalizing, just like we do. I love this line here, from Alma 42:1 “for ye do try to suppose that it is injustice that the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery.” Ye do try to suppose. In other words, Corianton didn’t really believe it, but he tried to believe that the sinner shouldn’t be punished. He lied to himself just enough to get by.

What he was lying to himself about, from looking at 41 and 42, is that because of restoration, there wasn’t any need for repentance, really. If Christ suffered for everyone and everyone was brought back to God, then how could God punish anyone? Thus Alma clarifies that “the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all” (Alma 41:15).

Anyway, the point for this YW lesson is that here we have Alma talking about rationalization and self-justification, something we’ll likely talk about during this YW lesson without ever thinking to go to the scriptures to talk about it. I love finding passages that are thinking something I want to think through. The work’s been half done for me and from a very interesting perspective! And it’s scripture, which is a fantastic common ground.

I just want to mention one more of these sorts of passages before I head back to getting the kids breakfast-

Often in Mormon feminist posts on modesty or chastity, those writing are very frustrated if we assume that the man couldn’t help himself from doing something bad if the woman dressed a certain way or whatever. Certainly I can agree that his sin is not on her, though she of course may also have her own sins as well. BUT, anyway, the point is, even though many consider the Book of Mormon to be out of touch with women’s issues (I don’t myself, but it is a common concern in the bloggernacle), Alma himself agrees with them:

” Yea, she did steal away the hearts of many; but this was no excuse for thee, my son. Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted” (Alma 39:4). This was no excuse, says Alma. Whether or not Mormon culture agrees with their point, the Book of Mormon does. And I wonder how many other times this might happen.

Anyway, I love the scriptures. Especially the Book of Mormon. And I think it’s always worth looking there first when we are trying to understand truth! 🙂

Alma & commandments

Quick post-

Alma 12-13 lay out a very simple (too simple?) view of the story of Adam and Eve and the connection with us.

1. Alma has to answer how we can get back to God’s rest after that angel with a sword is put there

2. Alma relates that Adam and Eve broke first commandments, therefore must die.

3. Didn’t eat tree of life in order to have a space of time to repent. But they are outside the garden.

4. Angels sent to teach commandments

5. Here is the simple part. What are the “Second commandments” in Alma’s speech? It says Adam and Eve could choose good or evil. The commandments from the angel are “don’t chose evil.”

6. This comes up in chapter 13, where Alma says that high priests were on the “same standing” as others, but they chose good. In other words, they lived up to the commandment of the angel. And now their job is to teach others, just as the angels did at first. Now high priests will teach as well.