Conceding Credit to God
Alma begins by mentioning that the reason he hasn't come to Gideon to grace its citizens with his speechifying until now is that he was too busy being the chief judge and didn't have time. And then he says this:
And even I could not have come now at this time were it not that the judgment-seat hath been given to another, to reign in my stead; and the Lord in much mercy hath granted that I should come unto you.He uses the passive voice to describe the transfer of power and then attributes his sudden availability to the mercy of God. Except it was all him. He abdicated the judgement seat voluntarily and hand-picked his successor. It wasn't the mercy of God. It was him finally deciding that he couldn't handle two jobs at the same time.
Render unto Alma that which is Alma's.
Alma begins prophesying about Jesus, explaining his birth, life, and purpose. But he also says some stuff that shouldn't be relevant to ancient Americans. The most baffling example, to me, is "he will be born of Mary."
Why does the name of his mother matter? This is a prophecy for the people of a civilization that's half a world removed from the locations in question. Nobody in the audience is going to be at Jesus's birth to say, "Wow! Her name really is Mary! Truly he is a prophet of God!" Why would Alma bother sharing unverifiable details that aren't central to the purpose of Jesus's role as a savior?
And I think the way Alma tells the townspeople the name is bad writing on Joseph Smith's part. If you're talking about someone your audience doesn't already know, you don't just drop the name in passing ("he will be born of Mary"). You generally offer some kind of introduction ("he will be born to a woman named Mary"). Unless you're that coworker of mine who expects me to have the names of all her cousins memorized and gets confused when I don't know who Meredith is and why I should understand her importance to the story. Anyway...that phrasing sounds too much like the product of a bad writer who is already familiar with Mary and knows that his modern audience is too.
Tell Me More About Your God's Consistency
Alma makes the dubious claim in verse 20 that God does not "vary from that which he hath said." Let's examine that for a moment.
Thou shalt not kill. (Exodus 20:13)
And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban. ...It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief. (1 Nephi 4:10,13)Another example?
Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord. ...For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none; For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. (Jacob 2:25,27)
...I the Lord justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines.... (Doctrine and Covenants 132:1)I could go on. Even if I believed Mormonism were true, the claim that God's commandments are unchanging would still be just plain absurd. Yet people still try to make it. It's like they've never read their own scriptures.