Alma 4

Alma 4:3 they were awakened to a remembrance of their duty

The cycle which is repeated over and over again in the Book of Mormon is evident in the events of Alma 3-4. After tens of thousands of deaths in one year, the Nephites finally decide to humble themselves. They correctly remembered the prophecy given to Nephi, They (the Lamanites) shall be a scourge unto thy seed (the Nephites), to stir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction (2 Ne 5:25). Indeed it is a fair conclusion that at those times when the Nephites were warring with the Lamanites, it is because the Nephites were not sufficiently righteous but were in need of repentance. Hugh Nibley, remarks, "The moral is that whenever there is a battle, both sides are guilty." (The Prophetic Book of Mormon, p. 491) The people finally came to the same conclusion determining that it was indeed the judgments of God sent upon them because of their wickedness and their abominations.

Alma 4:6 the people of the church began to wax wear very costly apparel

Remarkably, it had been just over two years since the Nephites had buried their many dead. So many had been killed that every soul had cause to mourn (v. 3). Yet the Nephites are quick to forget the commandments of the Lord. They have established an amazing democracy based on egalitarianism, but the wicked heart doesn't like the concept that all men are created equal as sons and daughters of God. The wicked heart likes superiority. If only in worldly attainments and fashionable clothing, the proud soul must establish its own preeminence. The attitude is encapsulated in the absurd sounding epithet, "I am better than you because my clothes cost more."

"Symbols have only the meaning that people give them. Some symbols have been given inordinate value. For many, costly cars, extravagant homes and expensive clothes are symbols of worldly success. In some cases, these tangible objects have been given more meaning than almost everything else.

"All ages are affected by symbols, but the young are especially vulnerable. Lacking maturity and good judgment, some young people choose their friends by using certain fashion symbols as criteria. They look for specific labels on shoes, shirts and jackets. If 'right' labels aren't there, they are hesitant to consider forming a friendship...Too young and immature to see how shallow their thinking really is, they inflict emotional wounds on others and, at the same time, deprive themselves of what could be rewarding associations.

"Without a good sense of self-esteem, the young often bring pain upon themselves as they agonize over what's in fashion and whether they can afford it. To them, fashion labels are more important than function, fit or even comfort.

"The very young aren't the only ones who lack perspective. In some circles, friends and associates become symbols that individuals have been accepted in a particular social class. Unscrupulous individuals feign mutual interests, use flattery, compromise beliefs and principles, and turn away from those who could be true friends. Their ulterior motive is to be accepted by those who might help boost their careers or social lives." (Church News, June 23, 1990)

Orson Pratt

"But there is danger...if we become lifted up in the pride of our hearts and think, because we have gathered an abundance of the wealth of this world, that we are a little better than our poor brother who labors eight or ten hours a day at the hardest kind of labor. Any person having the name of Latter-day Saint who feels that he is better than, and distinguishes himself from, the poor and supposes that he belongs to a little higher class than they, is in danger." (Journal of Discourses 17:31, as taken from Pure In Heart, p. 98)

Alma 4:8 the set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world

Dallin H. Oaks

"The Book of Mormon tells of a time when the church of God 'began to fail in its progress' because 'the people of the church began to . . . set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world' (Alma 4:8,10). Those who set their hearts upon the things of the world usually focus on some combination of that worldly quartet of property, pride, prominence, and power. When attitudes or priorities are fixed on the acquisition, use, or possession of property, we call that condition materialism.

"In descending order of intensity, materialism may be an obsession, a preoccupation, or merely a strong interest. Whatever its degree, an interest becomes materialism when it is intense enough to override priorities that should be paramount.

"From the emphasis given to this subject in the scriptures, it appears that materialism has been one of the greatest challenges to the children of God in all ages of time. Greed, the ugly face of materialism in action, has been one of Satan's most effective weapons in corrupting men and turning their hearts from God." (Pure In Heart, p. 73)

"President Ezra Taft Benson called pride 'the universal sin, the great vice.'  Further, he said, pride is 'the great stumbling block to Zion.'

"'The central feature of pride,' President Benson explained, 'is enmity- enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowman.  Enmity means hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition. It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.  Pride is essentially competitive in nature.  We pit our will against God's.'  In addition, 'the proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others.'  President Benson warned:  'God will have a humble people.  Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble.'" (CR, April 1989, pp. 3-7 as taken from McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, p. 20)

Alma 4:11 the example of the church began to lead those who were unbelievers on from one piece of iniquity to another

This is an interesting verse because it shows the effect of the members on the unbelievers. One might think that the actions of church members would have had no effect on the general population, but their bad example set the lead in matters of spirituality. Unfortunately, things haven't changed much since the days of Alma. Members of the church today, on occasion, set a bad example for potential investigators. They often underestimate how far the ripples travel when they jump in the pond of sin. How many times have you heard someone say, "the church is perfect, but the members aren't"? Or, "you can't judge the church by its members"? These sorts of statements try to keep investigators from judging the church based on the actions of its members. Obviously this argument is important only when the members of the church are setting a bad example.

But how else can an investigator determine the benefits of membership? To tell an investigator that the church should not be judged by the actions of its members is just not doctrinally correct. The Savior has said, by their fruits ye shall know them (Matt 7:20), and By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love, one to another (Jn 13:35), and Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matt 5:16). The members of the church should be living lives which are so in tune with the Spirit and the commandments that we could say to investigators, "you can judge the church by the actions of its members. We are confident that you won't find anything in their behavior which is at odds with the will of God."

George F. Richards

"We are judged, as a people, largely, by the conduct of the adherents to this faith, and the doctrines of the gospel; so that no man claiming a standing in the Church is at liberty to disregard the commandments of the Lord, to be a drunkard, or to be immoral, or otherwise set a bad example. The lives of those who profess to be Saints should conform strictly to the precepts of the gospel, should be in complete harmony therewith. When people see those whose lives are not in harmony and not commendable, I would have them know, whether they be in the Church or out, that it is due to the weaknesses and fallibilities of mortal men and women, and no action or conduct of any individual, however high he may be in authority, can affect the infallibility of the Gospel, change the truth, or make the truth a falsehood, or render any ordinance of the gospel unnecessary. People ought not to reach wrong conclusions in judging the work of the Lord, and the people of the Lord, because of the unrighteous conduct of some individuals. It may be asked, why do you retain them as members of the Church? The only answer I have to make is this: Our mission is to save and not to destroy; and while they are members of the Church, we will labor for their reformation with a hope of bringing them, sometime, to repentance, and faithfulness in serving the Lord. That is our mission." (Conference Report, Apr. 1911, p. 43)

Ezra Taft Benson

"One of our best missionary tools is the sterling examples of members who live the gospel. This is what the Lord meant when he said to the Church, 'Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness....Zion must put on her beautiful garments' (DC 82:14). (Ensign, May 1985, p. 7 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 252)

Spencer W. Kimball

" much easier it is to understand and accept if the seeker after truth can also see the principles of the gospel at work in the lives of other believers. No greater service can be given to the missionary calling of this Church than to be exemplary in positive Christian virtues in our lives." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 555 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 252)

Alma 4:15-19 Alma...seeing all their inequality, began to be very sorrowful

For eight years, Alma had acted in Zarahemla as the chief judge, commander-in-chief of the Nephite armies, and high priest of the church. Unable to adequately nurture the church with all his other responsibilities, he was weighed down in the Spirit. As few leaders are capable of doing, he was able to recognize that he couldn't do it all. He wisely and successfully delegates the demands of secular authority to a righteous man named Nephihah so that he can tend to his scattering flock.

The ability to wisely delegate responsibility is a quality of every great leader. When Harold B. Lee set apart Spencer W. Kimball as the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve, he counseled:

"...we admonish you, our beloved brother, to husband your strength, and to exercise the right you have to delegate responsibility, and divest yourself of the many details that otherwise would not give you the overview one should have of the whole work." (Spencer W. Kimball, by Edward and Andrew Kimball, p. 388)

Richard L. Evans

"I pray that we may each of us sense our responsibility in the world and in the Church, and that we who have responsibility for any part of the work may learn to delegate detail as occasion requires and trust these men, our brethren, and these women, our sisters, to do their part in pushing forward the things that need to be done, and to feel a sense of responsibility as concerns carrying forward this work." (Conference Report, Oct. 1949, p. 42)

Ezra Taft Benson

"At the time of delegation there is usually excellent opportunity to get close to people, to build them up and give them needed counsel and direction. Theodore Roosevelt said, 'The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.'

"Remember that you are the coach, not the quarterback on this great team. When you get a man to assume his duties, you have not only blessed his family and done the world a favor, but you have helped him to develop and grow." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 380)

Alma 4:19 no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them

When donning the armor of God, one realizes that there are different roles for each piece of the armor. The shield represents faith, the helmet represents salvation, and the sword represents the Spirit and the word of God (Eph 6:16-17).  Interestingly, the sword represents both the Spirit and the word of God. More descriptively, one could say that it represents the word of God as taught by the Spirit, or in other words, pure testimony.

Of all the many pieces of armor, this is the only offensive weapon available to the soldier in the Lord's army. All the other pieces of armor are defensive. We should not find it surprising that Alma is going on the offensive with the only weapon available to him-the Spirit and the word of God of his pure testimony against them. All great missionaries have used this most effective and useful weapon in the fight against wickedness.

Orson F. Whitney

" long as we have boys (acting as missionaries), striplings, who can speak by the power of God, who can testify by the Holy Spirit, we need not despair. Mormonism has in its hand the mightiest weapons that man can wield, divine authority and the power of pure testimony that cuts like a keen two-edged sword. Argument has its mission, and God can inspire an argument just as readily as He can a testimony; but there is something peculiar about the power of testimony. It is a pioneer. Argument may come afterwards and fill up the gaps, build the bridges and the cities; but testimony goes before into the wilderness blazing a trail, and marking out the way. Joseph Smith said, 'I saw and I heard,' and who can gainsay it, especially when the words are accompanied by the mighty power, the convincing power of the Holy Ghost? No argument can stand against it, and there is enough force and virtue in such a testimony to bring the whole proud world under condemnation if they reject it." (Conference Report, Apr. 1912, p. 47)

Bruce R. McConkie

" remains our responsibility, I think, to teach the doctrines of the kingdom, to expound the principles of salvation to the world. Our time is too important to teach ethical platitudes. We are expected to give all men to whom we have opportunity to give it, the message of salvation, the glad tidings of the restoration, the fact that God has spoken in this day, and the assurance that there is peace and joy and happiness by living the gospel here and now, and an eternal reward in the world to come.

"Then after we have taught people the principles of the gospel, after we have let our light shine before them, it remains for us to seal that witness with pure testimony, as moved upon by the Holy Ghost, that we as individuals know that these things are true." (Conference Report, Oct. 1948, p. 47)

Joseph Smith

"Faith comes by hearing the word of God, through the testimony of the servants of God; that testimony is always attended by the spirit of prophecy and revelation" (Teachings, p. 148)"

Alma 4:20 Alma...confined himself wholly to the high priesthood of the holy order of God

The high priesthood of the holy order of God is the Melchizedek priesthood. This is evident when compared to the full name of this priesthood as revealed to Joseph Smith, the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God (DC 107:3). In Old Testament times, the only people who held the Aaronic Priesthood were of the tribe of Levi. Therefore, the Nephites, who were descendents of the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Judah, would not have been entitled to the Aaronic Priesthood and therefore, the priesthood operative among them was the Melchizedek.