Alma 14

Alma 14:2 they also said that Amulek had lied unto them, and had reviled against their law

The wicked frequently attack the prophets on legal grounds. Abinadi was accused of sedition (Mosiah 11:28) and lying (Mosiah 12:14), when the priests and Noah were angry because he so plainly spoke of their iniquities. Joseph Smith was arrested over 40 times on trumped up charges of treason, disorderly conduct, etc. The Savior was accused of blasphemy for saying that he was the Son of God (Jn 10:30-33). In each of these instances, like with Amulek, the accusers are angry because they have been appropriately called to repentance. Rather than repent, they respond with anger and frivolous legal charges in order to destroy the servants of God.

Alma 14:7 Behold, I am guilty

Dean L. Larsen

"An important lesson seems to emerge from the experiences of Zeezrom and the other repentant transgressors who have been mentioned. It is never safe for us to judge a person to be beyond the reach of the Lord's merciful hand. Even those whose lives have been tainted by corruption and apparent rebellion against the things of God can, through sincere repentance, become forces for great good in the accomplishment of the Lord's purposes.

"We do know that Zeezrom's life was dramatically redirected. It appears that in spite of his having yielded to the influence of the environment in which he had gained notoriety, a spark of spiritual light must have endured in his soul." (Heroes From the Book of Mormon, p. 116)

Alma 14:8 they brought their wives and children together...that they should be cast into the fire

An ancient practice of the wicked is to destroy the family of the enemy before their eyes. Accordingly, Zedekiah was forced to watch the murder of his sons before his eyes were gouged out (2 Kings 25:7). Yet in Ammonihah, this display of unbelievable cruelty is not designed for the eyes of the fathers who believed, for they had been stoned and cast out of the city (Alma 15:1). This wicked display of barbarity is designed specifically for Alma and Amulek, that they might witness the destruction of those who were consumed by fire (v. 9).

Alma had prophesied to them about their fate if they did not repent. He warned them of a lake of fire and brimstone (Alma 12:17). These wicked men were determined to show Alma that it is the believers who are cast into a lake of fire (v. 14). While they hoped to demonstrate the weakness of Alma and Amulek who were seemingly unable to save the people, all that they really demonstrated was their own wickedness-that indeed their deeds qualify them for the torments which are as a lake of fire and brimstone.

Alma 14:11 The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand

One of the oldest arguments for atheism is that if there were a god, he would not allow so many terrible things to happen. Like the atheists, the people of Ammonihah expect that if there is a God, he will save his people from destruction by fire. The very presence of tragedy and suffering, in their view, argue against the existence of God. But their argument does not comprehend the importance and meaning of the agency of man (Moses 4:3).

The death of the righteous in Ammonihah is a great example of why God does not often use his almighty power to change the natural course of events. It is not, as some suppose, that God does not care enough about his children to save them from disaster but that he has placed us in a state to act according to [our] wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good (Alma 12:31). Therefore, the consequences of the unrighteous use of agency must be unaltered by his mighty hand. He does this that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just.

Hugh Nibley

"I went on a mission quite shortly after World War I, of all times, in German towns, and everybody had the same story. Nobody would believe anything. They wouldn't accept religion because God would not allow that [the atrocities of war] to happen. Their sons were in the war. Where I stayed first, Mrs. Bauer had a seventeen-year-old boy who was killed in the war. She said, 'Why? What was he guilty of? Why should God [punish him]?' They said, 'There is no God; he would never allow that sort of thing.' Would he allow the holocaust? Would he allow the fire raids and things like that of World War II? Well, it is not God who is being tested here. It is men who are being tested here. We say he has failed to pass our test. We are not giving tests to him. That's after we have refused again and again all his pleas. He has pleaded with us to do this, but we wouldn't have anything to do with it...He [Alma] should not save them, but he is certainly wrestling here. " (Teachings of the Book of Mormon, 2:345)

Spencer W. Kimball

"Now, we find many people critical when a righteous person is killed, a young father or mother is taken from a family, or when violent deaths occur. Some become bitter when oft-repeated prayers seem unanswered. Some lose faith and turn sour when solemn administrations by holy men seem to be ignored and no restoration seems to come from repeated prayer circles. But if all the sick were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the Gospel, free agency, would be ended.

"If pain and sorrow and total punishment immediately followed the doing of evil, no soul would repeat a misdeed. If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil -- all would do good and not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency, no controls.

"Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death; and if these were not, there would also be an absence of joy, success, resurrection, eternal life, and godhood. ("Tragedy or Destiny," Improvement Era, March 1966, pp. 180, 210 as taken from Daniel Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 206)

M. Russell Ballard

"I can understand why someone who lacks an eternal perspective might see the horrifying news footage of starving children and man's inhumanity to man and shake a fist at the heavens and cry, 'If there is a God, how could he allow such things to happen'...God has put his plan in motion. It proceeds through natural laws that are, in fact, God's laws. Since they are his, he is bound by them, as are we....The Lord can control the elements. For the most part, however, he does not cause but he allows nature to run its course. In this imperfect world, bad things sometimes happen...[However], much adversity is manmade....Much adversity has its origin in the principle of agency....Often overlooked is the fact that choices have consequences....At times we will be affected adversely by the way other people choose to exercise their agency. Our Heavenly Father feels so strongly about protecting our agency that he allows his children to exercise it, either for good or for evil....But if we know and understand Heavenly Father's plan, we realize that dealing with adversity is one of the chief ways we are tested." (Ensign, May 1995, p. 23 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 271)

Marion D. Hanks

"The right question to ask is not why good people have trials, but how shall good people respond when they are tried?...God does not deny us the experience we came here to have. He does not insulate us from tribulation or guarantee immunity from trouble. Much of the pain we suffer and inevitably impost upon others is self-induced through our own bad judgment, through poor choices... But much that happens to us in this life we cannot control; we only respond." (Ensign, Nov. 1992, p. 64 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 269)

Alma 14:13 behold, our work is not finished

Alma demonstrates a great sensitivity to the spirit of prophecy. He knows his time is not yet up. Again, there is a pattern in this. The Lord is able to protect his servants from any of Satan's powers. Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ was not killed until his time had come. The prophet Joseph Smith's life could not be cut short until his work was finished. While struggling with hardship in Liberty Jail, the prophet was told, Thy days are known and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever (DC 122:9). In administering to an ailing Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff gave him a similar promise, "'I told him in the name of the Lord that he should live and not die, for he had not finished his work in the flesh.' He began at once to improve, and in a few days was able to attend meeting." (Mathias F. Cowley, Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life & Labors, p. 428)

The challenge for us is to live our lives as if our work was as important as that of Alma, Amulek, Joseph Smith, or Orson Pratt. If we remind ourselves that our work is not finished, we will be more likely to be anxiously engaged and less likely to idle away our valuable time in mortality (DC 60:13).

Elder Melvin J. Ballard

"...the work of God is not finished in the earth. It has only partly completed what God ordained it to do. And those of us who remain must seize the banner and carry this work off victorious, to glorify the names of those who have been identified with this work in the days that are past, and to receive honor and place and position with them in the eternal world, and vindicate the word of our Father in his blessings and promises to those who would enter into sacred covenants to keep the commandments of the Lord." (Conference Report, June 1919, p. 73)

Alma 14:17 Alma and Amulek answered him nothing

"One of the most difficult feats of self-subjugation is that of holding one's tongue when righteous judgment otherwise requires one to speak. To stand unmoved and mute while facing wicked accusations is the supreme test of self-control. Just as God had withheld the hand of Justice during the burning of the innocent women and children, (Verse 8) so He now constrained Alma to withhold his hand a little longer, in order that iniquity's cycle might run its full course.

"It is out of the impact of evil upon good, like sledge upon anvil, that the qualities of saintliness are forged, and hammered into shape. Alma was being tried as have few of history's other saints, but the result of the impact of these frightful experiences upon this great man 'were good.'" (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, p. 221)

Alma 14:21 How shall we look when we are damned?

There is probably nothing that Alma would have rather done at this trying time than to show the wicked exactly how pitiful and dreadful they would look suffering in their personal lake of fire and brimstone. Yet, Alma was able to show remarkable constraint, keeping the attitude, let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds (DC 64:11).

Heber C. Kimball got a look at what the spirits of the damned look like. He was attacked by evil spirits and later gave a vivid description of their appearance:

"I was struck with great force by some invisible power, and fell senseless to the floor. The first thing I recollected was being supported by Elders Hyde and Richards, who were praying for me...Elders Hyde and Richards then assisted me to get on the bed...when a vision was opened to our minds, and we could distinctly see the evil spirits, who foamed and gnashed their teeth at us. We gazed upon them about an hour and a half (by Willard's watch). We were not looking towards the window, but towards the wall. Space appeared before us, and we saw the devils coming in legions, with their leaders, who came within a few feet of us. They came towards us like armies rushing to battle. They appeared to be men of full stature, possessing every form and feature of men in the flesh who are angry and desperate; and I shall never forget the vindictive malignity depicted on their countenances as they looked me in the eye...We distinctly heard those spirits talk and express their wrath and hellish designs against us. However, the Lord delivered us from them, and blessed us exceedingly that day" (Smith and Sjodahl, D & C Commentary, p. 514)

Alma 14:26 how long shall we suffer these great afflictions, O Lord?

In the preceding 12 verses, Mormon records that Alma and Amulek were struck by their accusers on at least 7 different occasions. Yet, they had suffered in complete silence. They had been mocked, humiliated, stripped of their clothing, spat upon, bound, confined, and suffered hunger and thirst. Their question, 'how long shall we suffer?' is a fair one to ask. The Lord's answer is evident from the subsequent events-they had suffered long enough! While in Liberty Jail, Joseph Smith asked the same question but received a different answer, see DC 121.