Alma 7

Alma 7:1 having had much business that I could not come unto you

In a society which emphasizes the importance of having a career, sacrificing a great job for anything seems absurd. Alma was the chief judge-that would mean he was the most powerful judge and lawyer in the land. Yet being top dog had kept him from ever visiting the people of Gideon. Alma did what few would think wise. He gave up a position of great legal and political power because he felt like he was neglecting his spiritual responsibility as high priest. The same principle can be seen today in the lives of those saints who have given up promising careers to tend to their spiritual stewardships-often their families.

"Mel Blasi, one of Illinois' top golfers, and head golf coach at Western Illinois University...has decided to leave his clubs and golf greens behind for an even greener field: for the next two years he will serve a full-time mission. A recent convert to the Church, the 25-year-old athlete will enter the Missionary Training Center Sept. 5 for the Nevada Las Vegas Mission.

"Under his direction, the WIU golf team won its home tournament this year and broke the Bradley University Invitational Tournament record by eight shots.

"...In an area where the Church has come under persecution, specifically in earlier days when the saints were driven out of western Illinois, Blasi was expecting most people to react negatively to his decision to quit his coaching job for an LDS mission. But instead many people were supportive and more understanding than he had ever expected.

"'I don't think they fully understand what I'm doing, but they seem to think I have a lot of courage,' he said." (Church News, 08/18/90)

Alma 7:10 he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers

It is apparent to the believer that Alma did indeed have the Spirit of God with him. He knew of the angel's declaration to Benjamin that the name of Christ's mother would be Mary (Mosiah 3:8), and was given to know the details of her miraculous conception. He must have wondered how a mortal could give birth to Jehovah. He learned through the Spirit that it would happen by the power of the Holy Ghost, and [she would] bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.

To the unbeliever, this verse is used to criticize the Book of Mormon. Everyone knows, they argue, that Jesus was not born in Jerusalem but in Bethlehem. Therefore, the Joseph Smith got it wrong and the whole Book of Mormon must be false. The explanation for this apparent incongruity is rather simple.

We must remember who the audience is for Alma's sermon. Since it was 517 years since Lehi left Jerusalem, it is doubtful that the people of Gideon knew much about the Old World geography. If they barely knew the location of Jerusalem, they are not going to know about the small town of Bethlehem located 6 miles to the south. An individual born in the suburbs of a well-known city will usually give the larger city as their place of origin, especially if their audience is unfamiliar with the smaller community. Similarly, it is in deference to his audience that Alma gives the name of the larger area.  Alma's rendering of this phrase does not mean that neither he nor Joseph Smith knew that the Savior was born in Bethlehem. President Smith speaks to this attack on Alma 7:10.

Joseph Fielding Smith

"This question has in recent weeks come from several sources. It is from the promptings of enemies of the Church who spend their time in a futile endeavor to discredit the Book of Mormon, attempting to make it the product of the mind of Joseph Smith the Prophet or some other person in collusion with him. These religious persons who sponsor this question may well be compared to the scribes and Pharisees of old, and the Savior's description of them, as recorded in Matthew, Chapter 23, fits these modern Pharisees and scribes admirably. They attempt to show that the Book of Mormon is of modern authorship, and this attempt has been going on for one hundred and twenty-five years and is farther away from effectiveness than in the beginning. It has utterly failed.

"Joseph Smith and those associated with him when the Book of Mormon was translated knew perfectly well that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. If the Book of Mormon had been the production of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, or anyone else connected with this restoration, it would have stated plainly that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, for they were well aware of this fact. There has been an effort to make it appear that the Prophet was a very ignorant man who did not know where Jesus was born. In this they display their bitterness and hate and add to their confusion, for an ignorant man unacquainted with the fact of the birth of Jesus Christ could not have written the Book of Mormon. The fact that it is written in Alma as it is, indicates plainly that it is an expression coming from the Hebrew; for this is purely a Hebrew expression, in full accord with their manner of speech.

"...There is no conflict or contradiction in the Book of Mormon with any truth recorded in the Bible. A careful reading of what Alma said will show that he had no intention of declaring that Jesus would be born in Jerusalem. Alma knew better. So did Joseph Smith and those who were associated with him in the bringing forth of the Book of Mormon. Had Alma said, 'born in Jerusalem, the city of our fathers,' it would have made all the difference in the world. Then we would have said he made an error. Alma made no mistake, and what he said is true.

"Dr. Hugh Nibley, in his course of study for the priesthood for 1957, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, in Lesson 8, page 85, has this to say on this point:

'. . . One of the favorite points of attack on the Book of Mormon has been the statement in Alma 7:10 that the Savior would be born 'at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers.' Here Jerusalem is not the city 'in the land of our forefathers,' it is the land. Christ was born in a village some six miles from the city of Jerusalem; it was not in the city, but it was in what we now know the ancients themselves designated as 'the land of Jerusalem.' Such a neat test of authenticity is not often found in ancient documents."

(Answers to Gospel Questions, vol. 1, pp. 173-5)

Hugh Nibley

"When we speak of Jerusalem, it is important to notice Nephi's preference for a non-Biblical expression, 'the land of Jerusalem' (1 Nephi 3:10), in designating his homeland. While he and his brothers always regard 'the land of Jerusalem' as their home, it is perfectly clear from a number of passages that 'the land of our father's inheritance' (1 Nephi 3:16) cannot possibly be within, or even very near, the city, even though Lehi had 'dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days' (1 Nephi 1:4). The terms seem confused, but they correctly reflect actual conditions, for in the Amarna letters we read of 'the land of Jerusalem' as an area larger than the city itself, and even learn in one instance that 'a city of the land of Jerusalem, Bet-Ninib, has been captured.' It was the rule in Palestine and Syria, as the same letters show, for a large area around a city and all the inhabitants of that area to bear the name of the city. This was a holdover from the times when the city and the land were a single political unit, comprising a city-state; when this was absorbed into a larger empire, the original identity was preserved, though it had lost its original political significance...This arrangement deserves mention because many have pointed to the statement of Alma 7:10 that the Savior would be born 'at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers,' as sure proof of fraud. It is rather the opposite, faithfully preserving the ancient terminology to describe a system which has only been recently rediscovered." (Lehi in the Desert, And the World of the Jaredites, pp. 6-7)

Alma 7:10 Mary...a precious and chosen vessel

We probably do not spend enough time honoring this precious and chosen vessel. Could any calling in mortality be greater than to give birth to and raise the Son of God? Certainly, Mary was given the most noble of callings among women and possibly the greatest calling among all mortals. These are the adjectives which are used in the scriptures to describe her, precious, chosen, beautiful, exceedingly fair, white, highly favoured, blessed, and the Lord is with thee (Alma 7:10, 1 Ne 11:13-15, Lu 1:28).

Bruce R. McConkie

"We cannot but think that the Father would choose the greatest female spirit to be the mother of his Son, even as he chose the male spirit like unto him to be the Savior." (D. Ludlow, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 863)

Alma 7:10 conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost

"Jesus was the son of Mary, a mortal woman.  And he was the son of Elohim, the Eternal Father.  He was not the son of the Holy Ghost, as some have supposed from the New Testament account (Matthew 1:18).  'If [the New Testament passage] is interpreted to mean that the Holy Ghost is the Father of our Lord,' Elder Bruce R. McConkie has written, 'we can only say the record has come down to us in a corrupted form, for the Holy Spirit and the Father are two separate personages.  But providentially there are parallel passages that clarify and expand upon the paternity of Him whom Mary bore.'  These passages are, of course, in the Book of Mormon, particularly here in Alma 7. Continuing, Elder McConkie stated:

"Jesus, thus, is the Son of God, not of the Holy Ghost, and properly speaking Mary was with child 'by the power of the Holy Ghost,' rather than 'of the Holy Ghost,' and she was, of course, 'overshadowed' by the Holy Spirit, in a way incomprehensible to us, when the miraculous conception took place." (Promised Messiah, pp. 463-64; see also Mortal Messiah 1:314-15.)

(McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, p. 51)

Alma 7:11-13 he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people

Alma makes an indirect reference to the words of Isaiah 53 (See commentary for Mosiah 14), he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows...he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities (Isa 53:4-5). But these beautifully written words are more than just poetic. They carry the message of a cruel reality-that the great Jehovah would have to suffer every kind of suffering for his people. His great omniscience in the Spirit could not compensate for the personal experiences of the flesh. In this, there is a pattern for all of us. We may have understood and appreciated the importance of obedience in the spirit world but to be tried as a mortal is something altogether different.

Although no mortal can full comprehend the infinite atonement, this does not mean we should not spend the rest of our lives trying. In our meager mortal attempts to understand its vast width and depth, we should examine all that Christ took upon himself as listed in this chapter. We are told that he suffered pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind. He took upon himself the sicknesses of his people. He took upon himself death itself-the great and tragic consequence of the Fall. In essence, he took upon himself all things, both physical and spiritual, which keep men away from God. The incomprehensively infinite experience gave Him a perfect understanding of every kind of physical pain, spiritual suffering, emotional anguish, and sumptuous temptation.

Howard W. Hunter

"We are indebted to the prophet Alma for our knowledge of the full measure of His suffering:

   '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.

   '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.' (Alma 7:11-12.)

"Think of it! When his body was taken from the cross and hastily placed in a borrowed tomb, he, the sinless Son of God, had already taken upon him not only the sins and temptations of every human soul who will repent, but all of our sickness and grief and pain of every kind. He suffered these afflictions as we suffer them, according to the flesh. He suffered them all. He did this to perfect his mercy and his ability to lift us above every earthly trial." (Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, pp. 6-7)

John Taylor

"There came upon Him the weight and agony of ages....Hence His profound grief, His indescribable anguish, His overpowering torture, all experienced in the submission to the eternal fiat of Jehovah and the requirements of an inexorable law....Groaning beneath this concentrated load, this intense, incomprehensible pressure, this terrible exaction of Divine justice, from which feeble humanity shrank, and through the agony thus experienced sweating great drops of blood, He was led to exclaim, 'Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.' (Matt 26:39)" (Tad Callister, Infinite Atonement, p. 124)

Alma 7:12 that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people

"While the Savior knew all things in the Spirit (Alma 7:13), he also knew the pains, infirmities, and temptations of man as experienced in the flesh. He never allowed godly power to insulate pain and affliction and weakness of man traverse and engulf his physical frame. Paul observed that he became 'like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest' (Hebrews 2:17). The refiner's fire of human experience confirmed in his godly nature the tenderness of heart, the softness of soul, that made the Savior not only just but merciful, not only omnipotent but compassionate.

"Elder Neal A. Maxwell gave this insight into the relationship between the Atonement and the Savior's succoring powers: 'His empathy and capacity to succor us-in our own sickness, temptations, or sins-were demonstrated and perfected in the process of the great atonement.' He also said, 'The marvelous atonement brought about not only immortality but also the final perfection of Jesus' empathetic and helping capacity.'"

"...No mortal can cry out, 'he does not understand my plight for my trials are unique.' There is nothing outside the scope of the Savior's experience. As Elder Maxwell observed, 'None of us can tell Christ anything about depression.' As a result of his mortal experience, culminating in the Atonement, the Savior knows understands, and feels every human condition, every human woe, and every human loss. He can comfort as no other. He can lift burdens as no other. He can listen as no other." (Tad Callister, Infinite Atonement, pp. 207-9)

Neal A. Maxwell

Can we, even in the depths of disease, tell Him anything at all about suffering? In ways we cannot comprehend, our sicknesses and infirmities were borne by Him even before they were borne by us. . . . .We have never been, nor will we be, in depths such as He has known. Thus His atonement made perfect His empathy and His mercy and His capacity to succor us. (Even As I Am, pp. 116-17.)

Gerald N. Lund

That is an astonishing concept.  Not only did He make infinite payment for all the wrongs and injustices on earth, but He also gained infinite empathy for each of us.  Somehow, in a way that is unfathomable to us, He knows exactly what [we have] endured.  He knows what it is like to suffer with terminal cancer.  He knows the loneliness of depression.  He understands the feelings utter hopelessness that can come with some mental illnesses.  There is no burden, no sorrow, no suffering that He doesn't fully understand.  And because of that, there is nothing we can take to Him that brings a response of, "I'm sorry.  I don't understand." ("Come Unto Me," Brigham Young University Idaho Devotional, September 23, 2008)

Alma 7:15 lay aside every sin which easily doth beset you

The dictionary explains that the word "beset" means "to surround, hem in, or continually harass." This is precisely what sins do.  They surround our thoughts and feelings of self-worth. They hem us in and keep us from our personal potential and the presence of God. They continually harass us until the spiritual cancer has festered to our destruction. From the above, one might think that the power of sin to beset us is greater than our power to resist.

Yet Alma uses an interestingly casual phrase to describe our response to sins-we are to simply lay them aside. Can we lay aside sin as easily and casually as we discard garbage, throw out the weeds, or remove roadblocks? Apparently, we have more than enough power to resist all the fiery darts of the adversary (DC 3:8). This concept is encapsulated in the word of the Lord to Satan, "you shall have power to bruise his heel, but he shall have power to crush thy head." The individual who is born again has no more desire to do evil (Mosiah 5:2). Therefore, they have the power through their own agency to discard those besetting sins. Alma's imagery is appropriate because it is these sins which act as roadblocks on the strait and narrow path. We must lay aside everyone of them so that we can move forward.

Alma 7:14-16 he shall have eternal life

Eternal life is the greatest of all the gifts of God. These verses give a simple formula for gaining eternal life. We must have faith (v. 14), repent, (v. 15), be baptized (v. 15) and then keep the commandments of God from thenceforth. If these four items are done, the word of the Lord is that he shall have eternal life. Does this seem too simple? Shouldn't there be other qualifications? Didn't Alma mean to include a few more requirements? Apparently not. The Lord has promised us eternal life if we do these four things.

The problem is that the fourth element requires a great deal of effort. It encompasses the concept of obedience to all of God's commandments and the concept of enduring to the end. It was this part of the formula which Nephi was speaking of when he said, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life (2 Ne 31:20).

Bruce R. McConkie

"Sometimes someone will say: 'Well, I have been baptized into the Church; I am a member of the Church; I'll just go along and live an ordinary sort of life; I won't commit any great crimes; I'll live a reasonably good Christian life; and eventually I will gain the kingdom of God.'

"I don't understand it that way. I think that baptism is a gate. It is a gate which puts us on a path; and the name of the path is the straight and narrow path. The straight and narrow path leads upward from the gate of baptism to the celestial kingdom of heaven. After a person has entered the gate of baptism, he has to press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, as Nephi expresses it, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men; and if he endures to the end, then he gains the promised reward." (Conference Report, Oct. 1950, p. 16 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p.34)

Alma 7:20 his course is one eternal round

This phrase reminds us that the Lord doesn't change, his plans don't change, his gospel doesn't change, his purposes cannot be frustrated (DC 3:1). His work is so filled with unity and conformity that it is described as one eternal round. Moroni said, For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing? (Mormon 9:9). The Lord's couse is "round" because the cycle repeats itself over and over again. Neal A. Maxwell said, "there is, in fact, divine delight in that 'one eternal round' which, to us, seems to be all routine and repetition. God derives His great and continuing joy and glory by increasing and advancing His creations, and not from new intellectual experiences." (All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience, p. 14).

Elder Rudger Clawson

'...God's work is everlasting, and with Him it is one eternal round. He uses the words 'firstly' and 'lastly,' in order that we by our finite minds may be able to understand: but to Him there is no beginning of his works; there is no end to them. It is a beautiful thought, isn't it? It gives you the idea at once of eternal life, something that continues and never ends. It is a tremendous thought, and quite beyond our comprehension. There is no man in this room, there is no woman in this assembly, that can comprehend, can begin to grasp the idea of eternal life. We can feel it. We just feel it in our very bones. We feel that we are destined to live forever.  We feel that, but we cannot explain it." (Conference Report, p. 54)

Alma 7:23-24 be humble, and be submissive and gentle

The Law of Moses contained a group of commandments which focused on controlling one's actions. They are the "thou shalt not" commandments. Today, we spend a lot of time on "thou shalt not" commandments. We shouldn't drink, smoke, watch "R" rated movies, break the Sabbath, wear revealing clothes, swear, cheat, lie, etc. Yet if we focus on these commandments, it indicates that we have not advanced passed a "Law of Moses" mentality.

The Lord taught a higher law. Part of that higher law was that the desires and thoughts of the individual should be raised to greater heights. Alma is addressing this subject exhorting the brethren to develop qualities of character:  humility, submissiveness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, temperance, diligence, gratitude, faith, hope, and charity. These are the qualities of godliness, and if we are ever going to approach perfection, these qualities need to be the subject of our active pursuits. Obedience to the "thou shalt not" commandments should become second nature to us so that the more important characteristics can be the subject of intense focus.

Peter was trying to get the saints to focus on these important qualities when he exhorted them:

   '...giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

   And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

   And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

   For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

   But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

   Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall' (2 Pet 1:5-10).

Neal A. Maxwell

"Being perfect is not a vague, generalized condition, but the acquiring of key attributes.  Our Father is described not only as omnipotent and omniscient, but also as having ultimate capacity in justice and mercy.

 "These qualities, therefore, are those we are either to acquire or to develop much more deeply.  C.S. Lewis observed that we must realize that God 'wants a people of a particular sort,' not just obedience to a set of rules." (We Will Prove Them Herewith, p. 62)

Joseph B. Wirthlin

"Consider President McKay's comments regarding the many little things that build our spirituality: 'Every noble impulse, every unselfish expression of love, every brave suffering for the right; every surrender of self to something higher than self; every loyalty to an ideal; every unselfish devotion to principle; every helpfulness to humanity; every act of self control; every fine courage of the soul, undefeated by pretence or policy, but by being, doing, and living of good for the very good's sake-that is spirituality.'

 "President McKay also taught us that 'spirituality is the consciousness of victory over self, and of communion with the Infinite. Spirituality impels one to conquer difficulties and acquire more and more strength. To feel one's faculties unfolding and truth expanding the soul is one of life's sublimest experiences.'

 "These little things-which, in reality, become such big things-bring perspective to our lives as we learn to conquer them one by one in our effort to gain strength. And this we do in a spirit of humility and gratitude to our Heavenly Father. Alma expressed it best when he said: (quotes Alma 7:23.)"  (Finding Peace in Our Lives, p. 70)

Alma 7:25 ye may at last be brought to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

The scriptures tell us of so many great blessings which await the righteous in the Millenial Day. One of those is that they may be brought to sit down with the great prophets of previous ages. While Alma's generation may have imagined sitting down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, many of our generation have wondered what it would be like to meet the prophet, Joseph Smith, or his successor, Brigham Young. Will we ever get such an opportunity? The Lord reveals to us that the day will come when the righteous will sit down with all the prophets of all ages. This will happen at the great feast of the Lord. Joseph Smith is promised that he will some day drink of the fruit of the vine with the Lord, Moroni, Elias, John, Elijah, Joseph, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Adam, Peter, James, and John (DC 27:5-12). In verse DC 27:14, the Lord tells Joseph that he will also drink of the fruit of the vine with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world. As Alma explains, if our garments are spotless even as their garments are spotless, then we have the right to this great privilege. The privilege to sit with these prophets is not limited to this one time feast but is a privilege of exaltation as evidenced by Hel 3:30 and DC 124:19.

Bruce R. McConkie

"Our Lord's Church is the kingdom of God on earth. Faithful members of that Church, those who adhere to the standards of the kingdom, are the children of the kingdom. (Matt. 13:38.) They are followers or disciples of the Master because they believe the gospel of the kingdom. Special blessings are reserved for them (D. & C. 41:6), and they are commanded to bring forth fruit mete for the Father's kingdom. (D. & C. 84:58-59.) Children of the kingdom eventually 'shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.' (Matt. 8:11-12.)" (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 126-7)