Alma 16

Alma 16:5 Zoram...desired of him to know whither the Lord would that they should go

This Zoram should not be confused with the leader of the Zoramites described in Alma 30:59. All we know of this man's life and military career is that he had the wisdom to ask the prophet Alma for guidance. Zoram hereby demonstrates possession of what is an unusual quality among military commanders-humility. If, by his pride, he had ventured out with his own plan for recovering the prisoners, there is no way that his mission would have been as successful. Because he inquired of the Lord through Alma, they recovered all the prisoners and not one soul of them had been lost (v. 8).

Alma 16:9 the people of Ammonihah were destroyed; yea, every living soul...and also their great city

Because of the chronology of the Book of Mormon can be confusing, it is hard to remember what events had led up to this vicious attack on Ammonihah. The background of the story is told in Alma 24. The people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi were Lamanites who had made a covenant that they would no longer participate in wars or shed any man's blood (Alma 24:17). Incited by the Nephite dissident leaders among them (who ironically were also of the order of the Nehors), a Lamanite army attacked the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi who had prostrated themselves before them to the earth, and began to call on the name of the Lord (Alma 24:21). The Lamanite army killed 1005 helpless, unarmed believers. This had a remarkable effect on them. They were disgusted that they had taken the lives of their fellow Lamanites and vowed from that time that they would take vengeance upon the Nephites (Alma 25:1). This vengeance was fully exacted upon the people of Ammonihah (Alma 25:2).

It should be evident from the preceding chapters that the Ammonihahites deserved the punishment they received. In case you've forgotten, let's review what they had done to deserve this fate:

  1. They reviled, spat upon, and cast out Alma when he first came to them (Alma 8:13).
  2. They tried bribery to get Amulek to reject the Lord (Alma 11:22)
  3. They had rejected warnings and cries of repentance from both Alma and Amulek (Alma 9:15,18; 10:19).
  4. They spat upon and cast out the repentant Zeezrom (Alma 14:7).
  5. They stoned and cast out the male believers (Alma 15:1).
  6. They burned the wives and children of the believers in order to mock the power of Alma and Amulek (Alma 14:8-10).
  7. They mocked, bound, and tortured Alma and Amulek (Alma 14:14-24).

In spite of all this wickedness, they retained an attitude of rebellion which is best encapsulated in their defiance of Alma when they said, We will not believe thy words if thou shouldst prophesy that this great city should be destroyed in one day (Alma 9:4). But behold, in one day it was left desolate; and the carcases were mangled by dogs and the wild beasts (v. 10).

Alma 16:11 Desolation of Nehors

The term, Desolation of Nehors, uses the word, "desolation," in the same sense as it is used in the term "Desolation of Abomination." A desolation is a punishment from God for wickedness. Millet and McConkie explain:

"The desolation of the city of Ammonihah is an important part of the message of the Book of Mormon.  Ammonihah and Nehor are symbols-history as prophecy.  Ammonihah and Nehor were to the nation of the Nephites what the Book of Mormon is to us-a warning voice!  They were types casting shadows upon the cities of Zarahemla, Moroni, Moronihah, Gilgal, Onihah, Mocum, Jerusalem, Gadiandi, Gadiomnah, Jacob, Gimgimno, Jacobugath, Laman, Josh, Gad, and Kishkumen, all of which, like Nehor, had the blood of the prophets and the Saints upon their hands, and all of which were destroyed before the coming of Christ to the Nephites in the meridian dispensation (see 3 Nephi 8, 9).

"How perfect the type-Ammonihah, a city pretending religion, a religion perfectly tolerant of any action save it be the preaching of the gospel of repentance!  To preach repentance, to testify of Christ, to speak of the necessity of good works-these were sins too grievous to be borne.  Their effect was to unite in wrath and bitterness the diversified factions within the congregations of this ever-tolerant religion.  These missionaries of righteousness must be mocked, ridiculed, beaten, and imprisoned.  Their adherents must be stoned, driven from the community, or burned at the stake.  Such were the seeds they planted and such was the harvest they reaped in the desolation of Nehors.  We are left to wonder to what extent Ammonihah is a prophetic foreshadowing of that which the scriptures denominate as the 'desolation of abomination' (D&C 84:114, 117; D&C 88:85), events that will precede and attend the coming of our Lord and Master that will bring again that peace once known to the faithful of the Nephite nation." (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, p.119)

The Desolation of Abomination is prophesied to occur twice. The first occurrence took place when the Romans sieged Jerusalem in AD 70. The second Desolation of Abomination will occur prior to the Second Coming when Jerusalem is again taken siege by her enemies. The ensuing battle will be so great that the dead will leave a great odor on the land, just as occurred with the Desolation of Nehors. Ezekiel describes it as follows, I will give unto Gog a place there of graves in Israel, the valley of the passengers on the east of the sea: and it shall stop the noses of the passengers: and there shall they bury Gog and all his multitude: and they shall call it The valley of Hamon-gog. And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them, that they may cleanse the land (Ez 39:11-12).

Alma 16:13 temples, sanctuaries, and synagogues

The Nephites used many words to describe their meeting places. The word, "church," is not one of them. In the Book of Mormon, the word, "church," is used to describe the organization but not the building. Thus, members of the church met not in churches, but in sanctuaries and synagogues. We know little of the difference between Nephite sanctuaries and synagogues. Both were apparently places of common worship. In this verse, we learn that they were built after the manner of the Jews, and in the last chapter, we learned that they had altars in their sanctuaries which were used for worship (Alma 15:17).

Alma 16:16 there was no inequality among them

When it comes to inequality, the latter-day saints could learn lessons from the Book of Mormon saints. As part of the dispensation of the fullness of times, the Lord restored every righteous principle, but not all of these principles are still practiced in the Church. One of these principles is the United Order. Through Joseph Smith, the Lord revealed, it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another (DC 49:20), That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things. For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things; For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you (DC 78:5-7).

Although the reasons for the temporary rescinding of the United Order are beyond the scope of this discussion, it is useful to note that the Book of Mormon saints had no inequality among them. Whether this means that Alma's people had all things in common or not is debatable, but the point is that they were living the essence of celestial law of consecration. Apparently, they were less attached to their material possessions than we are today.

It is no coincidence that the Lord responded to their equanimity by pouring out his Spirit on all the face of the land. The Lord has revealed that the converse is also true-from those who are not equal in earthly things, the Spirit is withheld, In your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld (DC 70:14).

Alma 16:20 they were taught that he would appear unto them after his resurrection

It is not hard to imagine that this teaching originated with Alma. Yet, five years prior, Alma was not quite sure how or when the Lord would manifest himself unto his people. At that time, he said, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people. Behold, 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. Now as to this thing I do not know (Alma 7:7-8). Apparently, Alma subsequently learned through the Spirit that he would appear after his resurrection.

This time among the Nephites was a time to prepare their hearts to receive the word which should be taught among them at the time of his coming (v. 16). The doctrine of His impending visit seems to be essential to that preparation. Appropriately, this the people did hear with great joy and gladness.