Alma 3

Alma 3:4 the Amlicites...had marked themselves with red in their foreheads

The Amlicites had no interest in being associated with the Nephites. They wanted to set themselves apart from their blood relatives because they disagreed so vigorously on politics and religion. This may seem strange to us but it shouldn't. We often see youth or wayward adults mark themselves with certain hairstyles, clothing, tattoos, etc. with the intent to set themselves apart. Their appearance alone becomes an immediate reminder that they do not subscribe to the mainstream institutions. They immediately become defensive if anyone is critical of the "mark" they have placed on themselves. They declare that it just represents freedom of expression and their personal individuality. What is concerning is the underlying motive not the green hair or the tattoo. The individual who feels strongly that they need green hair, like the Amlicites, may be trying to set himself or herself apart from church and family.

Paul H. Dunn

"It is not an unusual thing for young people to rebel.  Every new generation has its rebels.  But a rebellion of sad young people with little confidence in their own rebellion is something quite unique.  One needs only to have a brief exposure to a university environment to witness the demonstrations of rejection against proven values. Beards, long hair, grubby clothes, sit-ins, and the lack of restraint in matters of alcohol, chastity, and drugs are merely the symptoms of the problem that is, at its deepest level, a spiritual problem." (Conference Report, Oct. 1967, p. 124)

Alma 3:6 the Lamanites were dark...which was a curse upon them

In a today's racially sensitive society, this may seem like an unpleasant doctrine. It may be that in Book of Mormon times the dark skin was a curse, but today the descendants of the Lamanites can be proud of their dark skin. It is no longer a curse but a mark of distinction because it signifies that they are of the house of Israel and specifically from the tribe of Joseph through Manasseh. It signifies that they will be the recipients of the great promises given specifically to them in the Book of Mormon and also all the great promises given to the house of Israel in the last days.

Alma 3:8 that they might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions

If God's work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39), it is in this context that we must examine his reasons for separating the Lamanites from the Nephites. To any serious student of the Old Testament this doctrine will not be surprising. The Old Testament is filled with instances in which the advice of the prophets or the commandments from the Lord are to not intermarry with the heathen nations around them. The reason for this is not to engender racism but to keep these interfaith marriages from destroying the religion of the children of Israel.

Therefore, as the Israelites were settling in the land of Canaan, they were commanded to drive out the nations which were already in the land. This is because of the great wickedness of these nations (see commentary for 2 Ne 5:21). Had the Israelites made a regular practice of marrying with these peoples it would have proved their destruction. The typical pattern is that the heathen and idol worship practices of the one partner overcome the faith and good intentions of the worshiper of the Lord. This is why the Lord commanded them to drive them out of Canaan, with the warning:

   if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you:

   Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you. (Josh 23:12-3)

The Lord understands the great influence a wicked and idolatrous spouse can have on a righteous individual. With all the wisdom Solomon had, he was not wise enough to stay faithful to the Lord when his many idolatrous wives began to influence him, when Solomon was old...his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God (1 Kings 11:4). It would have been just the same if the Nephites had not been physically separated from the Lamanites. The Lamanites would have turned away their hearts after their incorrect traditions.

Alma 3:9 whosoever did mingle his seed...did bring the same curse upon his seed

Genetically speaking, this means that the dark skin was a dominant trait.

Alma 3:10-11 whosoever...believed those records...and also in the tradition of their fathers...were called the Nephites

These verses redefine who are Lamanites and Nephites. Previously in the Book of Mormon, the division was a racial one. With the experience of the followers of Amlici, it became clear to the Nephites that their enemies could come from within. Therefore, the definition of Lamanites and Nephites changed. The distinction now becomes primarily religious. Those who believe in Lamanite traditions, whether of Nephite or Lamanite descent, are called Lamanites. Those who believe in the God of the Nephites, whether light skinned or dark skinned, are considered Nephites. This remains the pattern for the rest of the Book of Mormon. This religious definition can be seen again after the Savior's ministry and the peace which followed. About 194 AD, a small part of the people...had revolted from the church and taken upon them the name of Lamanites; therefore there began to be Lamanites again in the land (4 Ne 1:20, italics added).

"Originally, the Lamanites were the children of Laman, Lemuel, and some of the family of Ishmael; but as the centuries passed there were many defections in both nations, when the dissatisfied would join the opposing race and affiliate and intermix with them, so that the two names at last became more an indication of religion and civilization than of birth." (George Reynolds, A Complete Concordance of the Book of Mormon, p. 395 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 248)

Alma 3:14 these are the words which he said to Nephi

Verses 14-17 contain the word of the Lord as given to Nephi. What is remarkable is that these words are not found in either 1 Nephi or 2 Nephi. Apparently, Nephi must have recorded this prophecy somewhere else, possibly on the large plates. At any rate, it is important to notice this pattern because it is such a rarity in the Book of Mormon.

In the Bible, this happens all the time. The apostles make reference to all sorts of prophecies that are not extant in our Old Testament. One of the most important is spoken of in Acts, the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began (Acts 3:21). Certainly, a doctrine as important as the restitution of all things is important enough to be found in the Old Testament, but a specific Old Testament prophecy which approximates the words of Acts 3 cannot be found. For more examples, see Lu 1:1, Jn 13:18; 15:25 and Topical Guide, Scriptures, Lost.

Alma 3:19 they brought upon themselves the curse; and even so doth every man that is cursed bring upon himself his own condemnation

The curse upon the Amlicites was not the curse of dark skin. Therefore, we are to understand that the curse is more a spiritual curse than a curse of skin color. The Amlicites had brought this upon themselves by willingly rejecting the Lord and his good mercy so that they could have a red mark in their foreheads and a wicked king.

So it is with the wicked. They are forced to admit to their everlasting shame that all his judgments are just (Alma 12:15). They will know this of themselves because in the resurrection they will have a bright recollection of all [their] guilt (Alma 11:43). It is then that they will fully understand that every man that is cursed [brings] upon himself his own condemnation.

Neal A. Maxwell

"On Judgment Day, not only will every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ but also, as elaborating Book of Mormon prophets tell us, everyone, including those who have lived without God in the world, will also openly acknowledge that God is God and will confess before God that His judgments are just and merciful (see Mosiah 16:1; 27:31; Alma 12:15). Part of the basis for demonstrating the perfection of God's justice and mercy will thus be the cumulative record which we ourselves will have made (see Alma 41:7). Out of this we can be justly judged." (Lord, Increase Our Faith, p. 75)

Alma 3:26-27 every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey

Elder John H. Vandenberg

"We are, in a very real way, our own creators. We reap that which we have sown, and we receive our wages of 'eternal happiness or eternal misery, according to the spirit which [we] listed to obey, whether it be a good spirit or a bad one. For every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey. . . .' (Al. 3:26-27.) In other words, we decide by our day-to-day actions what our harvest will be. As with the farms I saw in the Magic Valley of Idaho, it can be a bounteous harvest or it can be a patch of weeds.

"May we sow only righteousness, while continuing to rid our lives of the weeds of evil, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen." (Conference Report, Oct. 1968, p. 34)

Elder Milton R. Hunter

"Alma, one of the great Book of Mormon prophets, taught: 'For every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey.' (Alma 3:27.) If we list to obey Jesus Christ, as our Master, we walk in the light: we receive peace, happiness, prosperity and the other good blessings of this life, and in the world to come, eternal life in our Father's kingdom. If we choose to follow Lucifer as our master, we shall receive the wages which are his to bestow upon us. On certain occasions those who obey Satan receive as their wages misery, unhappiness, sorrow, and disappointment in this life; and, one might say, on all occasions, they experience the loss of their eternal rewards in the world to come." (Conference Report, Apr. 1952, p. 123)