Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Alma 7: Alma's Stump Speech

This chapter contains Alma's speech to the town of Gideon.

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.

Pointless Detail
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.


  1. Excellent. Great points.

    God's commandments are not the only things that have changed. I just did a 10-second Google search and found sites that document 3,913 changes to the Book of Mormon since it was first published. Then there's FAIR that tries to rationalize them all away. They do a very crappy job of it too.

    1. "Among" the ancestors of American Indians..."pure" and delightsome...etc.

      I know the changes aren't all as significant as those, but the number 3,913 is pretty damning, I think.

    2. I agree, and the argument that Joseph made most of the changes makes it even worse. If it came out as we have been taught, it should have been perfect from the start with no need to change anything, not even a comma.

  2. Your "pointless detail" section reminds me of this verse:

    33 And that seer will I bless, and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise I give unto you; for I will remember you from generation to generation; and his name shall be called Joseph, and it shall be after the name of his father; and he shall be like unto you; for the thing which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand shall bring my people unto salvation. (Joseph Smith Translation, JST, Genesis, JST, Genesis 50)

    It comes from the Joseph Smith translation of Genesis 50:33. Notice that regular genesis 50 ends with verse 26. Narcissist Joseph had to add a prophesy about himself. Now people read this at church as if it's part of the actual bible and quote it as proof of Joseph Smith and the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

    1. It's also in the Book of Mormon:

      15 And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father. And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation. (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi, 2 Nephi 3).

      Hey, out of the mouth of two witnesses...

    2. Witnesses. Yeah. Like dressing up as someone else and testifying to exactly what the last witness said would fly in court!

      Somehow it flies in religion, though.