Annotated Book of Mormon
Evaluated According To My Current Knowledge

Alma Chapter 36

« Previous Next »

Book of Mormon Annotations

The commandments of Alma to his son Helaman.

Comprising chapters 36 and 37.

 

 

Chapter 36

Alma 36 is held out by some as one of the most remarkable examples of a Hebraic literary device called chiasmus.

Chiasmus, sometimes called an inverted parallelism, is a Hebrew literary form where words or ideas are arranged in a certain order and then repeated in reverse order. This repetition emphasizes important ideas and words. In addition, the writer’s main idea is often located at the center of the chiasmus” (Book of Mormon Student Manual for Religion 121-122 copyrighted 2009, p. 232). Because chiasmus is a Hebraic literary device, many believers see it evidence of ancient authorship of the Book of Mormon.

 

In this chapter I have bolded and underlined the parallels claimed in the Book of Mormon Student Manual. Each has a superscript letter matching it with its parallel. (Notice that 80% of the words of Alma 36 are ignored in order to make the chiastic structure work.) Where I have a comment about certain claimed parallels, the comment indicates the claimed parallel by referring to the superscript letter.

 

For a wonderful satirical piece on “Hebraicisms” like chiasmus, see “Hebraicisms, Chiasmus, and Other Internal Evidence for Ancient Authorship in Green Eggs and Ham” by Robert Patterson.

 

For a more thorough examination of the chiasmus of Alma 36 than I wish to go into, and based on a slightly different claimed matching of parallels, see (Critique of Alma 36 as an Extended Chiasm”).

1 My son, Agive ear to my words; for I swear unto you, that inasmuch as ye shall Bkeep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land.

A:  “Give ear to my words” is supposed to be parallel with “this is according to his word” in verse 30. The “his” in verse 30 means “God’s.” It seems to me the only real parallel one could claim in these phrases is “words” of verse 1 with “word” of verse 30. As if to highlight how unimpressive this claimed “hit” is, “word” or “words” is included three more times in this same chapter (verses 3, 11, and 26).

 

Also notice the prosperity gospel being preached in this verse.

2 I would that ye should Cdo as I have done, in Dremembering the captivity of our fathers; for they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it was the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and Ehe surely did deliver them in their afflictions.

C:  “Do as I have done” is supposed to be parallel with “know as I do know” of verse 30. Why? First of all the verbs are not the same. In addition, the command to “do” is to remember the captivity of their fathers, but the command to “know” is to know that if you keep the commandments, you’ll prosper.

3 And now, O my son Helaman, behold, thou art in thy youth, and therefore, I beseech of thee that thou wilt hear my words and learn of me; for I do know that whosoever shall put their Ftrust in God shall be Gsupported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be Hlifted up at the last day.

F, G, and H:

The order of these alleged parallels doesn’t match.

“F” of verse 3 matches “G” of verse 27,

“G” of verse 3 matches “H” of  verse 27, and

“H” of verse 3 matches “F” of verses 27 and 28.

However, in reviewing the Portuguese version of the Book of Mormon Student Manual, I noticed they changed what phrases were included in the parallels, and the changes seemed to fix this mismatch. Maybe this mismatch was just an error that didn’t get caught in the editing process.

4 And II would not that ye think that I know of myself—not of the temporal but of the spiritual, not of the carnal mind Ibut of God.

 

5 Now, behold, I say unto you, if I had not been Jborn of God I should not have known these things; but God has, by the mouth of his holy angel, made these things known unto me, not of any worthiness of myself;

 

6 For KI went about with the sons of Mosiah, Kseeking to destroy the church of God; but behold, God sent his holy angel to stop us by the way.

Alma 36:6-7

The miracle precedes the faith. This contradicts Ether 12:6, “dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.”

But, keep in mind that this is the same Alma who strikes Korihor dumb as a sign, which ultimately leads to Korihor’s ignominious death (Alma 30:49, 59).

 

Also K:

“I went about . . . seeking to destroy the church of God” (verse 6).

vs.

“I have labored . . . that I might bring souls unto repentance” (verse 24).

These parallels seem antithetical. Because Alma’s story is about his conversion, he refers to elements before and after the conversion that are contrasting as near opposites rather than matching parallels. I don’t know if that’s how it was done by ancient Hebrews, but I’ll give the benefit of a doubt that the parallel is that the subject of the parallel match is the same, even if what is happening to that subject is the opposite. This happens with L, M, N, and O also.

7 And behold, he spake unto us, as it were the voice of thunder, and the whole earth did tremble beneath our feet; and we all fell to the earth, for the fear of the Lord came upon us.

Annotation for Alma 36:6-7 above

8 But behold, the voice said unto me: Arise. And I arose and stood up, and beheld the angel.

 

9 And he said unto me: If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed, seek no more to destroy the church of God.

 

10 And it came to pass that I fell to the earth; and it was for the space of three days and three nights that I could not open my mouth, Lneither had I the use of my limbs.

Alma 36:10-11

Alma is another example of falling to the earth because of astonishment or fear.

 

Mosiah 27:23 says Alma received strength to move and could talk after two days and two nights of others fasting. Some critics think this contradicts Alma 36:10 because it says that Alma could not open his mouth for three days and three nights. I think the defense of this is robust. The people fasting for Alma wouldn’t necessarily have started fasting for Alma right away; they may have started a day after his mouth was shut. Likewise, though in Mosiah it says Alma could speak after they fasted, it doesn’t say that he could speak immediately after they ended their fast; it could have taken a day after the fasting and prayer stopped for him to speak again.

11 And the angel spake more things unto me, which were heard by my brethren, but I did not hear them; for when I heard the words—If thou wilt be destroyed of thyself, seek no more to destroy the church of God—I was struck with such great fear and amazement lest perhaps I should be destroyed, that I fell to the earth and I did hear no more.

Annotation for Alma 36:10-11 above

12 But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.

According to D&C 19:6-12 the words “endless” and “eternal” do not mean without end when it comes to “endless torment” or “eternal damnation”. These verses in the D&C explain that these words are used because, “it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men.” When people read these words in the Book of Mormon, how do they likely understand the words “endless” and “eternal”? Is this honest communication if D&C 19 reveals the actual meaning of these words?

 

In this instance, it is actually clear from the context in this verse that “eternal torment” does not mean torment without end.

13 Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.

 

14 Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.

 

15 Oh, Mthought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, Mthat I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds.

 

16 And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with Nthe pains of a damned soul.

 

17 And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was Oharrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, PI remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of Pone Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.

P:  The words “I remembered . . . one Jesus Christ, a Son of God” is the center of the chiasmus, paired with the “I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God” in the next verse. I don’t think it’s clear why “I remembered” and “I cried with my heart” are considered part of the parallel. In other words, there’s even less verbiage than claimed that might seem like a parallel.

18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, PI cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

 

19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was Oharrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

 

20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with Njoy as exceeding as was my pain!

 

21 Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.

 

22 Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and Mmy soul did long to be there.

 

23 But behold, Lmy limbs did receive their strength again, and I stood upon my feet, and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God.

 

24 Yea, and from that time even until now, KI have labored without ceasing, Kthat I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

K:

“I went about . . . seeking to destroy the church of God” (verse 6).

vs.

“I have labored . . . that I might bring souls unto repentance” (verse 24).

These parallels seem antithetical. Because Alma’s story is about his conversion, he refers to elements before and after the conversion that are contrasting as near opposites rather than matching parallels. I don’t know if that’s how it was done by ancient Hebrews, but I’ll give the benefit of a doubt that the parallel is that the subject of the parallel match is the same, even if what is happening to that subject is the opposite. This happens with L, M, N, and O also.

25 Yea, and now behold, O my son, the Lord doth give me exceedingly great joy in the fruit of my labors;

 

26 For because of the word which he has imparted unto me, behold, many have been Jborn of God, and have tasted as I have tasted, and have seen eye to eye as I have seen; therefore they do know of these things of which I have spoken, as I do know; and Ithe knowledge which I have is of God.

 

27 And I have been Hsupported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of Hafflictions; yea, God has delivered me from prison, and from bonds, and from death; yea, and I do put my Gtrust in him, and Fhe will still deliver me.

F, G, and H:

The order of these alleged parallels doesn’t match.

“F” of verse 3 matches “G” of verse 27,

“G” of verse 3 matches “H” of  verse 27, and

“H” of verse 3 matches “F” of verses 27 and 28.

However, in reviewing the Portuguese version of the Book of Mormon Student Manual, I noticed they changed what phrases were included in the parallels, and the changes seemed to fix this mismatch. Maybe this mismatch was just an error that didn’t get caught in the editing process.

28 And I know that he Fwill raise me up at the last day, to dwell with him in glory; yea, and I will praise him forever, for he has brought our fathers out of Egypt, and he has swallowed up the Egyptians in the Red Sea; and he led them by his power into the promised land; yea, and Ehe has delivered them out of bondage and captivity from time to time.

“Mainstream history and archaeology now consider the Exodus an entirely mythic and fictional narrative put together between the 8th and 5th centuries BCE”
(Evidence for the Exodus).

29 Yea, and he has also brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem; and he has also, by his everlasting power, delivered them out of bondage and captivity, from time to time even down to the present day; and I have always retained in remembrance their captivity; yea, and ye also ought to Dretain in remembrance, as I have done, Dtheir captivity.

 

30 But behold, my son, this is not all; for ye ought to Cknow as I do know, that inasmuch as ye shall Bkeep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land; and ye ought to know also, that inasmuch as ye will not keep the commandments of God ye shall be cut off from his presence. Now Athis is according to his word.

A:  “Give ear to my words” from verse 1 is supposed to be parallel with “this is according to his word” in verse 30. The “his” in verse 30 means “God’s.” It seems to me the only real parallel one could claim in these phrases is “words” of verse 1 with “word” of verse 30. As if to highlight how unimpressive this claimed “hit” is, “word” or “words” is included three more times in this same chapter (verses 3, 11, and 28).

 

C:  “Do as I have done” of verse 2 is supposed to be parallel with “know as I do know.” Why? First of all the verbs are not the same. In addition, the command to “do” is to remember the captivity of their fathers, but the command to “know” is to know that if you keep the commandments, you’ll prosper.

 

Also notice the prosperity gospel being preached in this verse.

« Previous     Alma 36 Next »