Thursday, May 28, 2020

Church and State (Mosiah 29-Alma 4)


Mosiah’s sons, the princes, are all leaving Zarahemla to serve missions to the Lamanites leaving King Mosiah without an heir. 

READ Mosiah 29:11-17, 21-23
Why is monarchy the best and worst form of government?
Freedom to choose good or evil is dependent on "righteous" law.
The likelihood of a nation being governed by righteous law is strongly influenced by the righteousness of its lawmakers.
If lawmaking is just down to one person (an all-powerful King) and he is righteous, then the people will have freedom to choose righteousness (v13).
But if he/she is wicked, then they will remove God from the law and cause the people to commit sin (v16-17, 22-23).
This is taking a real risk - it is all down to the righteousness or wickedness of one person: if he is good and stays good, the people enjoy tremendous freedom but if he is wicked or becomes wicked, they are either brought into bondage or seduced by sin.

READ Mosiah 29:25-34
Is government by the voice of the people the fairest form of government?  Is it the safest?
The people select the judges in a vote or appointment, rather than through bloodline where chance seems to play a big role – regardless, it is out of the hands of the people (they are not accountable for selecting a king – and while they can depose a wicked king, it will be with much bloodshed and is a treasonous activity).
Better to increase the odds of getting a righteous judge by selecting multiple leaders by the voice of the people (v25-26, 39).
If the "voice of the people" is wicked, then that nation is ripening in iniquity and will be swept off in time, anyway (v27).
Liberty (a wider range of options) allows a fuller use of agency (your ability to choose between options); we always have agency but not as much liberty when in physical or spiritual bondage; regardless, all people in a society are responsible for their own choices and sins (v30-31, 38) but without liberty, they are far more constrained.
They are judging behavior against a standard or rule of law, instead of creating their own laws - their role is to judge and enforce law, not change it, except by the voice of the people (v25).
If they do not judge righteously, you have recourse (appeal to a higher court), so the chances of illegal influence, legal technicality, or circumstantial evidence is reduced (v28-29).
Is Mosiah recommending the Nephites adopt a democracy or republic?
In an American form of government (really a republic but we call it a democracy), we elect people who make laws and another person to enforce those laws and a third group, who are appointed, to judge cases against those laws...
But Mosiah is proposing something different: the Laws have already been given to the people by direct revelation from heaven to righteous kings; the judges were there to judge the people against those theocratic standards and enforce those laws accordingly.
If the voice of the people (majority) select evil men who do not judge as God would judge (i.e. fairly according to the divine laws), it is a sign that the people are wicked and headed toward destruction.
If those judges then go and change the divinely given laws at the request of the majority, the people are on the road to the fullness of iniquity and will eventually be destroyed – they are removing God from their laws.

"In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (see Judges 21:25). This verse does not signify that people could do whatever they wished without consequence. Instead, it implies that each individual made personal choices and accepted the consequences rather than being compelled to act according to the desires of a monarch.

Did the transition from kings to judges increase anyone’s agency?
No, but “government by the voice of the people” gives the people the greatest possible latitude to act out those choices which their God-given agency allows them to make; it increased their liberty.
And with it comes an equal weight of responsibility – they are accountable for a much wider range of possible behavioral choices!
Not only did each Nephite have the moral duty to keep the commandments of God, but each now also assumed the additional responsibility of preserving the laws of God. The Lord holds individuals under such governments "accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society" (see D&C 134:1).
Skipping ahead to the end of the Book of Mormon, why didn’t the Nephites’ story end well for them?
The voice of the people turned away from the worship of the God of this Land.
They changed the laws.
And eventually reached a fullness of iniquity and were swept off.
All due to the poor use of their own agency under a condition of maximum freedom of choice.
The more liberty you have, the more trouble you can get yourself into, as you are completely responsible for your behavior with all its inherent consequences – be it righteous or wicked deeds.
Would the Nephites have been in a better situation at the end of the Book of Mormon if they had retained monarchy, like the Lamanites did?
Perhaps, because the sins of a monarchy nation are caused or enabled by the wickedness of their kings (v31), so the sins committed by the people are answered upon the heads of those kings.
While it might have been left to the strength and guile of the respective armies, it is also possible that God may have protected the people to some degree from the full consequences of their actions as they had been imposed upon to be wicked. 

When King Mosiah died, Alma the Younger was appointed the Chief Judge, by the voice of the people…

READ Alma 2:2-7
Are contentions and dispute among the people “wonderful”?
In this case, yes – as they were political in nature, not doctrinal.
It is important to be able to share opposing viewpoints in a way that enables the truth to be brought to light.
We should never fear hearing the truth because if our perspective is wrong, understanding the truth will correct us; and if we are correct, we have nothing to fear from falsehood, as truth will win out. 
We should always be open to hearing all perspectives because we can guarantee that unless we are God Himself, we have more to learn – either our perspectives are flawed in some ways or incomplete, by definition. 

READ Alma 2:8-10
Which people is Amlici seeking to subjugate by going to war?
First, his own people.
Now that he has declared martial law, he can combine his kingly authority with fear to get his people to willingly lay down their lives to keep him in power.
Secondarily, he is looking to subjugate anyone he can defeat in war.
Did the principle of democracy or appointing by the voice of the people work in this case?
Yes, but they ended up having to go to war to defend their right.

READ Mosiah 29:42
Why did the people appoint Alma the Younger to be the first Chief Judge, when he was already the High Priest; wouldn’t this conflate “church and state” giving this man even more power than a king?
Being appointed by the voice of the people, the nation could at least choose to elect the High Priest to also be the Chief political leader – it is not a revolution or coup on the part of the Church – it is the choice of the people. 
They chose the man they thought would be most likely to uphold God’s laws and receive revelation in judging them (v43).
If he honored the law, they had a political check and balance with the lesser judges – however, if he had threatened them with eternal damnation via excommunication, it might have made him an even worse tyrant than a king, so yes – conflating Church and State outside of a theocracy led personally by the Lord Himself could be a problem, as no human is perfect.

People often express a desire for someone to protect and care for them, as if they were unable to care for themselves – remember the people had wanted a king (v5). Satan cleverly persuades them to relinquish responsibility for their lives—their innate right to exercise their agency within a free environment—to someone else, in exchange for anticipated security.  In the New Testament, Christ called out the Gentiles for this fault: their preference for “benefactors” to rule over them (see Luke 22:24-27). 

Is this idea of “benefactors” a purely political institution or does it also cross over into matters of religion and spiritual life and what does it look like there?
It does, otherwise Christ would not have counseled His apostles not to be like the gentiles.
It looks a lot like “follow the prophet, he won’t go astray” – stay in the Church, pay your tithing and follow the policies and “counsels” (or commandments) of the Brethren and in return, you will be saved in the Kingdom of God…


READ Alma 1:2-6, Alma 15:15, and Alma 21:4, 6-8
What is Nehor's doctrine and what is its affect?
Universalist - all mankind will be saved by God regardless (due to God’s greatness), so rejoice in what God has done for you (no godly sorrow = no broken heart = no covenant = no need for repentance); this eventually leads to sin and a lack of repentance because we are all saved in the end in some degree of glory so what's the big deal? - Alma 1:4.
Monotheist - he believes in God but not a Son of God.  He believes in one God only. 
Closed veil - no belief in prophesy; can't know of things to come, not because God doesn't know (as He already knows that He will save everyone) but because God does not reveal the future to men - it's about doubting prophesy but beyond that, doubting a direct connection to God is possible; but instead, any "super-natural" spiritual experiences were ascribed to the devil.
Paid ministry (incentivizes preaching what people want to hear - a "religious transaction") - Alma 1:3.
What is the implication of Nehor’s doctrine of believing that God will save us but not believing that a Son of God will be the instrument through which God saves us?
It is subtle but what is really being taught here is the definition of what “saving” means and who mankind really is.
If they do not believe in a Son of God, they do not believe in a plurality of Gods…
And if they do not believe in a plurality of Gods, they cannot believe that we can “grow up” to “learn to be Gods ourselves” – they don’t believe in Theosis, mankind’s ascension to become Gods.
And they don’t understand what it takes to be saved – they don’t realize that to be saved, we must be precisely as Christ and the Father are, and to be anything different is not to be saved (LoF 7:9, 15-16); they don’t realize that true salvation = exaltation.

READ Alma 1:12, 16, 19-24 and 2 Nephi 26:29
What is priestcraft?
Men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world…
That they may get gain and praise…
But they seek not the welfare of Zion.
Why would enforced priestcraft be the cause of the entire destruction of the Nephites?
It puts the priestly class or religious leaders between God and man, leading to dependence on men to be saved - which is an abomination and leads to damnation.
The rise of priestcraft leads to easy money and pride; eventually it leads to persecution of the humble members of the Church, and then to certain "humble" Church members fighting back and later being excommunicated and possibly destroying the Church of God...
Which would impact the Nephites survival (being a smaller group with larger enemies), which is dependent upon their worship of the God of their land, who is Jesus Christ (see Ether 2:12); in Priestcraft, it is the priest or religious leader who is worshipped and followed to salvation and in such a situation, God would leave the people to their own strength and they would be eventually overcome by their enemies.
Priestcraft could be "enforced" by either the sword or by ecclesiastical leaders who claim authority to enforce it through spiritual duress or by the "voice of the people" who enforce it culturally in return for flattering sermons.

READ Alma 1:25-28
What are the four things that distinguish this Church?
Steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God.
Bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them.
They had a lay ministry - the priests labored for their own support and were no different from those they taught - no modest stipends were given...
They look care of their poor and sick.

READ Alma 1:29-30
What happened when the Church members got "exceedingly rich"?
They did not set their hearts upon riches, so...
They did not send away the poor or sick but shared with them, regardless of their membership status or the reason they were in need.

Four years and a bloody civil war later…

READ Alma 4:6-12
What happened when the Church members got "exceedingly rich"?
They set their hearts upon riches, (v8) so...
They were "lifted up in pride" above all people (v9).
They focused their "industry" on creating wealth for themselves.
They began wearing very costly clothes and differentiating themselves from each other and from those who could not afford such clothes.
There was a great inequality among the Church members with regards to wealth itself and a mindset of despising others in need.
How would you explain the four-year difference – because in both circumstances the Church members became "exceedingly rich" but they reacted differently to the wealth - why?
It was determined by what they set their hearts upon – riches or loving God (see John 14:15; Matthew 19:16-21; James 1:27; Matthew 25:31-40).
They have supplanted God with something else at the center of their lives - which the definition of idolatry.
They begin to see God as something different from what He is and persecute all those who don't believe as we do (v8) to protect the lie we have invented about the nature of God.
Perhaps the war caused a large percentage of the people to lose their faith in God, meaning they chose to doubt God due to the great suffering and loss they experienced during the war years, rather than turning to Him and truly trusting Him regardless of their situation.  So when the war was over, they decided they were on their own and needed to protect themselves with material wealth because you can buy anything in this world with money, including security and safety…!
How do these members of the Church fall into apostasy?
Obedience leads to blessings and riches.
But they choose to keep their riches instead of seeking first the kingdom of God (making their calling and election sure) by giving them away to those in need (see Jacob 2:18-19), falsely thinking that they had earned the wealth through their industry and that it was "rightfully" theirs.
Which leads to falling in love with wealth and the material world (Alma 4:6).
And engenders pride with what one has achieved.
Pride leads to differentiation, then scorn, then persecution, then different values and beliefs or culture (Alma 4:8).
This leads to envy on the part of the poor and great contentions between the "haves" and "have-nots," both of whom are now out of covenant (Alma 4:9).
And all of this then leads to sin and wickedness as the Spirit departs and they are left unto themselves (Alma 4:10-11).

READ Alma 4:19-20
What can be done to reclaim these Church members?
Bare “pure testimony”, which implies knowing of what you testify…
Lots of ministering.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Church and State (Mosiah 29-Alma 4) QUESTIONS


Mosiah’s sons, the princes, are all leaving Zarahemla to serve missions to the Lamanites leaving King Mosiah without an heir. 

READ Mosiah 29:11-17, 21-23
Why is monarchy the best and worst form of government?

READ Mosiah 29:25-34
Is government by the voice of the people the fairest form of government?  Is it the safest?
Is Mosiah recommending the Nephites adopt a democracy or republic?
Did the transition from kings to judges increase anyone’s agency?
Skipping ahead to the end of the Book of Mormon, why didn’t the Nephites’ story end well for them?
Would the Nephites have been in a better situation at the end of the Book of Mormon if they had retained monarchy, like the Lamanites did?

When King Mosiah died, Alma the Younger was appointed the Chief Judge, by the voice of the people…

READ Alma 2:2-7
Are contentions and dispute among the people “wonderful”?

READ Alma 2:8-10
Which people is Amlici seeking to subjugate by going to war?
Did the principle of democracy or appointing by the voice of the people work in this case?

READ Mosiah 29:42
Why did the people appoint Alma the Younger to be the first Chief Judge, when he was already the High Priest; wouldn’t this conflate “church and state” giving this man even more power than a king?
Is this idea of “benefactors” a purely political institution or does it also cross over into matters of religion and spiritual life and what does it look like there?


READ Alma 1:2-6, Alma 15:15, and Alma 21:4, 6-8
What is Nehor's doctrine and what is its affect?
What is the implication of Nehor’s doctrine of believing that God will save us but not believing that a Son of God will be the instrument through which God saves us?

READ Alma 1:12, 16, 19-24 and 2 Nephi 26:29
What is priestcraft?
Why would enforced priestcraft be the cause of the entire destruction of the Nephites?

READ Alma 1:25-28
What are the four things that distinguish this Church?

READ Alma 1:29-30
What happened when the Church members got "exceedingly rich"?

Four years and a bloody civil war later…

READ Alma 4:6-12
What happened when the Church members got "exceedingly rich"?
How would you explain the four-year difference – because in both circumstances the Church members became "exceedingly rich" but they reacted differently to the wealth - why?
How do these members of the Church fall into apostasy?

READ Alma 4:19-20
What can be done to reclaim these Church members?

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Alma II’s Birth of the Spirit (Mosiah 25-28 and Alma 36)

READ Mosiah 25:1-4
Who were the people of Zarahemla?
They were descendants of Mulek, prince of Israel and son of King Zedekiah and his party, who the Lord had also led out of the Holy Land to the Americas (see Ezekiel 17:22-23), north of Lehi’s colony (see Helaman 6:10).
They had been discovered by King Mosiah I (father of King Benjamin and grandfather of King Mosiah II) when he was warned by God to take the Nephites and flee from their land (the Land of Nephi) because the Lamanites were coming to destroy or enslave them (see Omni 1:12-19).
They had been living in the Americas for over 300 years without the Nephites knowing about them.  But they had lost their language and the gospel, having not brought scriptures with them.
The Nephites and Mulekites had decided to combine their peoples into one under the leadership of King Mosiah I (although 100+ years later they were still separated into two groups – “people of Zarahemla” and “people of Nephi”); one could speculate that the Nephites were much more advanced a civilization than that of Zarahemla – albeit a smaller population because 1) the Mulekites only had an oral tradition and didn’t seem to write and 2) Mosiah I became their king without a conquering war – suggesting that it was obvious who the more advanced civilization was; it was a “win-win” though, because of the size of the population of Zarahemla’s people helped the Nephites protect themselves better against the Lamanites.
Why might the Lamanites have been over twice the population of the Nephites and Mulekites together?
Perhaps because they had intermarried with and/or conquered and integrated other “indigenous” groups that they had found in the Americas – most likely those who of Asian descent who had traveled across the land bridge from Russia to Alaska.
The Lamanites would not have cared about intermarriage with indigenous people like the Nephites would have – not for racist reasons but because the Nephites would not have wanted to marry outside the Gospel Covenant while the Lamanites had their own religion with evidently did not have the same constraints.
It is interesting that the reason was likely not polygamy, as the Lamanites did not practice it (see Jacob 3:5).

The Ministry of Alma the Elder in Zarahemla

READ Mosiah 26:1-4
What is implied by the fact that the rising generation rejected King Benjamin’s message because they were too young to hear or understand it when it was given by him – because we know it was recorded and could have been studied by them later as we do?
There was such spiritual power (“tongues of angels) accompanying Benjamin’s words when he spoke them that large numbers felt a massive outpouring of the Spirit and were humbled to the depths of humility by it – enough to offer the required sacrifice of their whole souls on the Lord’s altar, and culminating in a mass birth of the Spirit – similar to the Day of Pentecost or the Kirtland Temple dedication. 
Benjamin must have held the High Priesthood After the Order of the Son of God to speak with such power and have permission to basically seal the birth of the Spirit upon so many people. This speaks to the spiritual power of those who have rent the veil and speak a message given them by the Lord – like Abinadi, depending upon the state of the heart of the individual they either embrace it (King Benjamin’s people) or reject it (King Noah and his priests) but they cannot deny the message or the power with which it has been delivered to them. 
However, while a great many of King Benjamin’s people received the birth of the Spirit and “entered the Gate” leading to eternal life, it seems like not enough actually went on to stand in the presence of God to be sealed up to eternal life (instead, they lapsed into static “traditions” or policies or stories [see verse 1] instead of continuing on the path back to the Lord’s presence following a living, saving faith) – and when Benjamin was gone, no one was left to testify to the truth in power (until Alma in Mosiah 26:20) – shades of Joseph Smith…
Perhaps this is why Mosiah asked Alma to lead the Church (v8)?
Why did the rising generation not understand and believe his written words?
They had been too young to be born of God and missed the powerful oratory and outpouring of the spirit which accompanied King Benjamin’s speech.
They would not call upon God to soften their hearts or to understand the truth through the Spirit when they read it (1 Nephi 2:16) or they failed to read it at all.
As a result, they could not understand the truth – it was foolishness to them (see 1 Corinthians 2:14).
And so they believed in things that were untrue – i.e. unbelief – and did not believe the truth, and would not be baptized in faith unto repentance, never to experience the birth of the Spirit for themselves, and likely not even realizing what they were missing. 

READ Mosiah 26:5-6
How did the unbelievers grow in number?
They capitalized on the dissensions among the “brethren” – probably priests or leaders of the Church or possibly political divides (like those which led to Zeniff leaving for the Land of Nephi).
They used flattery to deceive Church members and get them to sin.

READ Mosiah 26:14-24
Why were Alma and his people blessed?
Alma was blessed because he alone recognized the voice of the Lord in Abinadi’s message and had the courage and faith to repent and risk death to follow Abinadi’s words.
Alma because he chose to risk further public humiliation and death going back and teaching others what he now knew to be true – and a “church” or gathering of believers resulted or was “established” (see Mosiah 25:21-23); note that Alma was not intending to “start a church” but to baptize those who wished to follow Christ so that they could have an authorized covenant with Him – and as a group of people chose to do that, a “body of believers” or church was the result (see Mosiah 18:8-17).
Alma because he is so hesitant about judging someone or compelling them – knowing that unrighteous dominion is a sure way to lose your priesthood (power and authority – see D&C 121:34-40) - that he goes to the Lord in great humility and meekness, asking what to do in the case where someone must make a judgment call and Mosiah has kicked the decision back to him (see Mosiah 26:13).
His people were blessed because they did the same thing with Alma’s words that Alma had done with Abinadi’s (“Alma’s words” were really Abinadi’s however the others didn’t recognize God in Abinadi when he first spoke them) to recognize God’s voice and word coming from an outcast without status; but repentance is a wonderful thing and they also risked their lives to follow their faith once they had received their own confirmations by the Spirit. 
His people are blessed because they are willing to take upon themselves the name of Christ – or in other words, to covenant with Christ that they might become His sons and daughters, if they will abide in the covenant; they are blessed to the degree that they themselves follow the path back to Christ – they are not “blessed” just because they are in a church, regardless of the truths taught therein…
What happens to Alma in verse 20?
He receives his calling and election through covenant direct from the mouth of the Lord; “Thou shalt (future tense) have eternal life”…
He must now exercise faith in the hope or promise that the Lord has just given him by doing the things the Lord will command him to do next (see 2 Nephi 32:6).
What is “Christ’s church” and is it different from Alma’s church?
Alma’s church is a fellowship of believers who have been repented, been baptized and, by so doing, covenanted to sacrifice their whole souls to Christ and to love and serve their fellowman, as a way to show their love for Christ; if they have entered this covenant in good faith, Christ will freely forgive them and accept their covenant by baptizing them with fire and the Holy Ghost.
Christ’s church is the Church of the Firstborn – which Alma has just been given membership into with his calling and election.  Those who are part of Christ’s church make and keep the covenants they entered into via ordinances – or in other words, they understand the ordinances are invitations to go and receive the “real thing” and they do just that – following the symbols and allowing those symbols to bolster their faith that they are on the correct path back to God - to the end that they follow the teachings or commandments back into God’s presence; they “know the Lord” or have received the Second Comforter and have entered into His rest or glory and have sat at His right hand (see John 17:3; Alma 13:12; D&C 84:23-24) and are called by His name (see Mosiah 5:9-10) or have been adopted into His family as sons and daughters of Christ - to be an “anointed one” or “Christ” themselves.

READ Mosiah 26:25-32
Are those who “never knew Christ” still part of Alma’s church?
He is not told to excommunicate those who are “not Christ’s sheep” or do not know Him; he only excommunicates those who will not repent of their sins… he is judging them on what they say and do, not who they are inside.
He is not told to withhold baptism from them (that would require Alma to discern their hearts and not just for the present moment but for their whole mortal probation); the Lord offers baptism to all who will “come and see”; he honors our agency in the moment.  Even if we turn away later, we may choose to repent and come back to the Lord before the end and His arms of mercy are stretched out wide to enable that “all the day long.” 
The Lord says “the same shall ye not receive into MY church, for Him I will not receive at the last day” meaning the Church of the First Born;  the question this posees is why the Lord says “shall YE not receive” because it is not for us to receive people into the Church of the Firstborn – Christ alone is the gatekeeper for that Church.  However, to the degree that saved mortals must be sealed to the “fathers in heaven” to avoid being utterly wasted, it is possible that the Lord is talking to Alma about the Law of Adoption here – sealing mortals to other mortals (the “fathers”) who have been sealed up to eternal life by being sealed to Christ and will become “father’s in heaven” unto whom “promises” of eternal life have been given, so that an unbroken “welding link” can be created between all those who are members of the Church of the First Born – also known as Sons and Daughters of God or the Family or House of God…
So yes, there are many in Alma’s church who “never knew Christ” – that is one of the reasons why the Lord is speaking with Alma right now – this is not a “missionary conversation” but a “current church member” conversation, with the goal of enabling as many as will come to become members of Christ’s Church of the Firstborn through their association with each other in Alma’s fellowship Church. 
Why are these good Church members not redeemed?
Because they “would not be redeemed” – it was completely their choice but they “self-selected” out – they would not “hear His voice when He called but chose not to come unto Christ (see D&C 121:34-40), even though they had the same opportunities as those who did choose to come (see Alma 13:5).
They never managed the faith (gained through sacrifice – see LoF 6:2-7, 10, 12) to rend the veil and know Christ for themselves or they couldn’t be bothered to try and are damned by their careless indifference (2 Nephi 32:4, 7).
And as a result, He “never knew them” or was never intimate with them as a father is with his children; or in other words, He never ministered to them - He never embraced them in a holy ceremony through which they could know Him with surety (see 3 Nephi 11:14-15), and as a result, He never knew them as His seed or family because they never came unto Him to become such (see Isaiah 53:10; 3 Nephi 14:21-23; Matthew 25:31-40; Matthew 25:1-12; Moroni 7:48; John 14:15-21).
Why are we to take the word of the sinner who says they have repented (v31)?
Because we are told that we will be judged by the same judgment with which we judge others.
Because we are told to only “judge righteously” or in other words, to only judge others precisely the same way that God would judge them.
Because as mortals, the repentance of another is really none of our business, as we cannot forgive sins – it is between them and their Lord; the only forgiveness we can grant is when someone has hurt us, and we are commanded to forgive all of those people anyway.
When does the Lord stop forgiving people for continued, repeated sinning?
He doesn’t stop forgiving them!  He is patient and pleading with them to come unto Him “all the day long”, until it is too late and their probation is over.
In fact, as soon as they come to Him with a broken heart and contrite spirit, confessing and forsaking their sins, He immediately forgives them (see Alma 34:31)!

Alma the Younger’s Conversion

READ Mosiah 27:8-10
How did Alma the Younger lead so many people away from the Church of God?
Through flattery and the influence that people gave him as a result of it.
Through his articulate arguments he sowed seeds of dissension and doubt.
Through his relationship building – he stole their “hearts”.
Through leading people to follow him in his wickedness – making it “cool”; clearly he was an “opinion leader” or “influencer” if even the princes of the king followed him.
Why did Alma try to destroy the Church instead of just enjoy his wickedness in the privacy of his own circle of friends?
The presence of a church with influence that teaches publically that what you are doing is wrong and sinful will cause individuals who live contrary to the church’s teachings to feel guilt and anger.
People want churches that tell them that they are righteous (see 2 Nephi 28:2-6, 11-14, 21; Mosiah 11:4-7; 4 Nephi 1:23-26).
His father led the church, which seems to have caused the son to rebel with more vitriol – perhaps he had issues with his father – but he still feared him or the law, as he did it secretly.

READ Mosiah 27:11-17
What does “rebelling” against God imply?
To some degree at least, they knew what they were doing.
They were sinning not just for enjoyment or even pride and control but out of spite against the Church and its leaders.
Why would an angel appear to a group of apostates like Alma and the princes?
Because of the prayers and faith of Alma and the members of the Church.
Because the Lord loves sinners; He gives us all opportunities to repent and come unto Him. 
Note: The Lord’s appearing to Paul on the Road to Damascus seems to be a different situation – while both were seeking to destroy the Church, Paul was not an evil man like Alma, but rather was seriously misguided in his zealous faith.
What does it mean that the angel “descended as it were in a cloud”?
“As it were in a cloud” does not mean he descended in an actual cloud
“As it were” means “like” – he is coming through a conduit from heaven which opened up and appeared as a cloud or veil – similar to how the Lord spoke with Ancient Israel, except in this case the angel parts the veil and appears to them (see Exodus 19:9, 16).
Did the earth actually shake with the angel’s voice?
Yes, the power of his voice and frequency of the light in his person caused a vibration in the earth on which they stood.
What is the only thing that will overthrow the Church of God once it is established on the earth?
The transgressions of the Church members – it is destroyed by the agency of those within it.
Outside influences can never destroy God’s church if those in the Church are true to the Lord.

READ Mosiah 27:18-22
Why were Alma and the princes so astonished at the angel?
They genuinely did not believe in angels – they were unbelievers that did not believe in a God.
This experience completely destroyed their view of how the world worked, what was true, and the meaning of life.
Why did Alma the Elder rejoice when his son was brought unconscious before him?
He knew that his prayers had been answered.
He trusted in the Lord to save his son, if anyone could.
If Alma the Younger were to die, his father was at peace with that but also realized that if his prayers could bring an angel to confront his son, that his fasting could bring him back from the edge of death.
He realized what a powerful testimony of God his son’s experience could be to the people that were leaving the Church, as well as those who had stayed – to know the goodness and glory of God and how He intercedes into our individual lives, even or especially those of vile sinners.

Alma II’s Testimony of Christ

READ Mosiah 27:30-31
Why will Christ make Himself manifest unto all?
That we may see for ourselves that He has (and/or will, depending upon when in time He manifested Himself) come and remembers/knows every creature He has created – having suffered an atonement to redeem them all; He “remembers” us, each individually (see 1 Nephi 21:14-16; Mosiah 14:10; Mosiah 15:10-17).
When will those who lived without God in the world be visited by the Lord and confess that He is the Christ?
At the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of Him.
When will those who lived with God in the world be visited by the Lord?
During their lives – they “lived with God” and He “took up His abode with them” (see John 14:16-23; TPJS 172:5; D&C 132:21-25).
Confessing Christ while mortal is one of the things which causes Christ to visit them.

READ Mosiah 27:32-37 and Alma 36:24-26
How were they able to bring many to the knowledge of the truth?
They taught truth gained from heaven and spoken with the tongues of angels – God’s words spoken with the power of His Spirit.
They opened the scriptures and prophecies to those who would hear.
They planted in the hearts of the people a witness with the Spirit that they (Alma II and the princes) had in fact been born of God and redeemed AND that the same thing could happen to any of them (the people), if they would repent and offer their whole souls as a sacrifice.
But all they could do was testify of their experience and invite others to go and receive the same experience – to be born of God themselves – but that testimony was accompanied by the Spirit in great power and many who heard it did just that.
What is the greatest desire of the hearts of Alma and the princes?
To get others to experience exactly what they had experienced – to be born of God.
To see “eye to eye” with as many others as would care to repent and find the Lord themselves – they did not desire to lead or rule over anyone, in fact, the four sons of Mosiah are about to renounce their claim to the throne so that they can go on 14 year missions to their enemies, the Lamanites.
They felt a need to repair the damage to the faith of those who had listened to them previously.
Why does it require the testimony of one who has been born of God to plant with power the truth of and desire for it in the heart of someone else?
Scholarship, even inspired learning and analysis is not enough – God’s ways are not our ways and entering the Gate through the baptism of fire has to be experienced personally to be taught with power – a conceptual understanding is not enough (see LoF 2:54-56).
The truth of having experienced it cannot be duplicated through study – Joseph Smith said that if you looked into heaven 5 minutes you’d know more than anyone ever knew who wrote about it – the same principle applies here (see TPJS 365:1).

Born of God

READ Mosiah 27:23-29
How did Alma learn about the need to be born again?
Directly from God – he is quoting God.
So it’s vitally important information…
What does “marvel” mean and why would God say not to marvel at His statement?
Marvel = a wonder; that which arrests the attention; something surprising.
God is saying, “don’t be surprised or wonder at what I’m about to tell you”.
Who must be born of God?
Everyone!  There are absolutely no exceptions.
Gender, nationality, race – this applies to all.
What does it mean to be “born of God” or “born of the Spirit”?
It is to be spiritually begotten by Christ - becoming His son or daughter; it is to become the offspring of God.
It is to be "born again to enter" the Kingdom - to enter the "Gate" of the path that leads back to Him, to redemption.
What are we changed from and to?
From: all of us are born into a fallen, Telestial world in a carnal state, separated from God, with sinful natures and subject to death.
To: a state where our natures are pronounced righteous by God.
It is to be forgiven of all sin - "snatched, and my soul is pained no more" (v29).
It is the mighty change of heart from the natural man to a "new creature".
It is to have no more disposition to do evil but to do good continually.
Who does the changing?
God – not us.
We must be changed (a passive word); we cannot change ourselves - it happens to us, not of our own merit but through the grace and merits of our Lord.
We must be rescued from our current state, as we have been born into a sinful state of separation from God which will end in death and permanent separation if not addressed (see D&C 76:112; 2 Nephi 9:9).
But we must invite Him in to change us – we still retain our agency and we must offer the sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit as the offering.
What does it mean to be redeemed of God?
To be returned to the literal presence of God while in the flesh (see Either 3:13; D&C 132:21-25).
Christ, as the redeemer, is the one qualified to define redemption, as He does to Alma and Mahonri (see Ether 3).
Christ pronounces us clean or righteous and formally accepts us as His son or daughter and heir (see D&C 88:75).
When are you truly a "child of God"?
Only after you have been born of God; being born of God makes you literally His child and part of His family
This is a new identity to those who have been born of God, as they were not His "children" before.
This begs the question: what are we before the birth of the spirit in relation to God if we are not his children?  There are many ways to start to think about this: is there a difference between a creator/created relationship vs a father/child relationship?  When we are born of God, which God are we born unto?  If a child is adopted, who is their father? 
How is a child of God different from all others?
They have been made a new creation through this birth of the Spirit.
They have a new nature, a new family, a new relationship with God.
They are animated by the Holy Spirit (mind of God) and their spirit/ghost (which animates them) has been made holy – they now have a holy ghost inside of them.
What does it mean that unless you are born of God in this life you will not inherit the Kingdom of God?
There is no other way to be saved.
You cannot receive the inheritance given by God to His children because you are not one.
Is being born of God a process or an event?
A birth is a definite event – after which a separate existence begins; born of a mother's womb or in this case, of God.
It is an event in that one has either entered the Gate and is in the Way or they are not; one is either born or they are not – they have a birthday.
There is no example in the scriptures of the birth of the Spirit being a process alone; there is always a culminating event – the actual “birth”.
Some people may have several big or even many small events in the process leading up the birth of the spirit – it is like filling a bucket; but at some point you can say the bucket (offering) is filled or complete and there was a last drop or event which filled the bucket, after which the bucket began to overflow.
But it is not a case of coming "closer" to God - the bucket is either full or it isn't - you've either offered your WHOLE SOUL or you haven't - filling the bucket (coming closer to God) is good if the process is eventually completed - there is no salvation in "being good" or even "Christ-like" on your own terms, you must come unto Christ in this probation and that begins by entering into the gate by receiving the birth of the spirit.
If you understand what it takes to obtain the baptism by fire/birth of the spirit---a total, unconditional submission to God---you would realize that such cannot be accomplished partially. It is a binary condition: you either meet the requirements or you do not.
What is the relationship between the Gospel of Jesus Christ and being born again?
The Gospel is the "good news" that a way of escape has been prepared.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ, then, is the path to redemption or the road map back to God's presence while in the flesh (see D&C 132:21-25).
Being born again happens when you follow the gospel road map, enabled by the Savior’s atonement, and actually enact the gospel in your own life. 
How is one Born of God?
By being baptized by Fire and the Holy Ghost.
Not of any worthiness of oneself (Alma 36:5).
By following the roadmap laid out in the Fullness of the Gospel of Christ.
Which tells us that we must accept a covenant extended to us by Christ by fulfilling its terms: offering one's whole soul as an eternal sacrifice, which requires complete repentance - a broken heart and contrite spirit.
When we have met the required terms by offering the sacrifice, we are baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost by God as a token that the sacrifice has been accepted and the covenant is in effect and we are born of God.
We must then follow the promptings of the Spirit in all things until the Lord makes Himself known unto us (see 2 Nephi 32:1-7).
What would cause an individual to want to offer such a sacrifice?
They are filled with godly sorrow.
Seeing things as they truly are: they understand their absolute and complete need for rescue from the state in which they find themselves (now realizing the impossible situation they are in) and finally willing to do anything to be rescued from it. 

READ Alma 36:12-16
What is godly sorrow and how does it differ from remorse and despair?
It is the "travail" or labor pains of your spiritual rebirth.
It is a spiritual gift from God - it cannot be manufactured by man.
It is the realization of what you have done from God's perspective - a full realization of your filthiness before him (see v14).
It is the realization of the effect of your sins on Christ - the pain it caused Him to suffer during the infinite atonement required to save you (13).
It is being "born to see" - that you are outside of the Kingdom and can NEVER come home again as the gulf between you is completely impassable (14).
Godly sorrow is not remorse; remorse comes from fear for one's life or livelihood, for one's reputation, for the ill effect of one’s behavior on another person; it comes from within the individual and is self-centered.
Godly sorrow is not despair; despair comes from Satan and is the false realization that nothing can be done to save you - you are beyond hope.
What does godly sorrow cause to happen?
A broken heart and contrite spirit - it is to be harrowed up like hard ground frozen in the winter that must be broken up before planting can begin in the spring.
Descriptors include (v12) racked with eternal torment, harrowed up to the greatest degree, (13) remember all my sins, I had rebelled against my God, (14) thought of coming into the presence of God caused "inexpressible horror", (15) become extinct, (16) pains of a damned soul.
Is godly sorrow only experienced by the “wicked”?
Yes, in that all are “wicked” or have sinned.
No, in that all of the truly “righteous” have experienced godly sorrow or they could not come unto Christ, as they would not be willing to live the terms and sacrifice their whole souls.  In this way you could say that it’s only experience by the truly righteous. 
Why would a loving God “torment” His child with the pains of hell and “rack” his soul with “inexpressible horror” to the point that He wishes He was extinct?
God is not imposing this punishment on Alma to either 1) “scare him straight” or 2) “give him what’s coming to him”.
In fact, God is not imposing this punishment at all.
All that is happening is that Alma is perfectly describing the pain and emotions that anyone who is unprepared to enter the presence of a just and holy being will feel in their presence – God is just being God and we recoil and react this way if we are unlike Him. 

READ Alma 36:17-22
Why does Alma’s cry after 3 days of torment lead to his salvation?
We must seek, knock and ask – the Lord honors our agency, despite His arms remaining wide open to receive us – He will wait for us to cry out to Him. 
He is “crying” unto the Lord – with real intent, with faith in Christ, desperate in his need, willing to do or offer or be whatever it takes to be saved.
Similar to the number of days the Lord remained in the grave, Alma had to walk through the valley of the shadow of death for three days.  When we say “had”, it’s not because God made him wait for three days to punish him, but that Alma’s situation (lack of light) required it of himself. 
He was saved because he asked and offered his whole soul to the Lord – he sacrificed all he had to offer that was really his own to give (the rest being given or loaned to him by God): his will or whole soul – but it took three days of suffering for Alma to get to that point of faith that (even) he could be saved by this Jesus Christ, a Son of God. 
What is the relationship between the level of despair and the level of joy Alma experienced during his birth of the Spirit?
Similar to Christ’s experience but on a lesser scale, to be led to salvation Alma must descend below so that he can ascend above (see D&C 88:6; TPJS 156:3).
We are here to become as the Gods, knowing good from evil, which means we need firsthand experience with both – the depth of Alma’s pain informs the sweetness of his joy; he comprehends the extent of the joy only because he was racked with the pains of a damned soul and saw no escape.  Suffering and joy are experienced in relation to each other, like points on a pendulum. 
Who does Alma see in his vision and what is its significance?
He sees God the Father on His throne in the Heavenly Temple during a ceremony of praise.
Even in vision, people don’t see the Father without receiving priesthood and blessings to enable him to abide the glory – Alma has received some kind of endowment of priesthood power.

The Holy Spirit and the Holy Ghost

What is the difference between the Light of Christ, the power of the Holy Ghost, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Spirit of Promise – and how are they connected?
Light of Christ = given to all things and is the power by which we live, move, breathe and exist; not just a moral conscience but something much greater; Christ had to ascend above and descend below all things to comprehend them, that He might be in and through them all so that He can be the light and life of them all (see D&C 88:6-13; 3 Nephi 11:11); this includes all of us (see D&C 88:11); Christ’s descent and ascension brings the light or intelligence that flows from the Father, who is the source of that light, to all things to create and sustain life.
Power of the Holy Ghost = if you allow the Spirit of God to enter your thoughts from time to time, you have felt the power of the Holy Ghost but it is an external experience still – you feel the separateness between you and it. 
The Gift of the Holy Ghost = If you allow the Spirit of God to continually guide and influence you, then you have received the “gift” of the Holy Ghost as your companion – your “ghost” has been sanctified by the Holy Spirit to the point that it has been fundamentally changed – it is now Holy and you are one with the Spirit. 
Holy Spirit of Promise = If you open yourself to receive the visions of heaven and behold the Father and the Son and have become their child of promise or have received a promise from God that you are to be an inheritor of all the Father has as His family member and heir, then you have received the Holy Spirit of Promise – a promise or hope that you will become a Son of God or a Daughter of God as you continue to ascend from grace to grace. 
Is the Holy Spirit “out there” or “within you”?
It proceeds forth from the presence of God the Father because it IS God’s own glory, light or intelligence (see D&C 88:12-13).
But it is already within you because you are completely sustained by it as you are reading this sentence – it is in and through all things and the means by which all things exist (see D&C 88:6-13; Mosiah 2:20-21).
In fact, it IS you because you are created of intelligence or light which is co-equal with the Father because it flows from Him in His exalted state (see D&C 93:29; TPJS 396:2-397:4);
And since it is already within you – if you allow it to influence you, you can be one with it or in other words, one with God (see John 17:20-23; Deuteronomy 30:9-14) – as God dwells within you in the form of His Holy Spirit, which is also called the mind of God – it is His intelligence, glory, light and spirit.
Then how do you “receive” something that is already within you?
You open your heart and mind to its influence.
As God honors your agency, you have to open yourself up – He will not compel you.
What is the “baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost”?
It is the same thing as being born of God or receiving the birth of the Spirit.
It is the result of living the terms of the Gospel Covenant: repenting, covenanting through baptism and offering one’s whole soul or broken heart and contrite spirit on the altar in sacrifice.
It is a witness to the one who received it that the gospel covenant is “alive” for them – because the sacrifice required of us in the covenant has been made and accepted.
It is how we “enter into the Gate” of the Gospel Covenant – the end of which is to receive the Son, through whose blood you are sanctified (see Moses 6:59-60); once sanctified you are prepared to for the presence of the Father and receive the fullness (see D&C 93:19-20).
What does the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost do to the one receiving it?
Purges you and removes all sin - it elevates you by fire, it quickens your frequency, and purifies or sanctifies you. 
You receive holiness through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. 
It works on the body and the spirit to preserve them as a living being or soul; it is to render indestructible the organism upon which it descends, as all other things in this telestial sphere will live, decay and die; it does this not by preventing earthly death but by allowing eternal life through the fire or glory or light or holy spirit bestowed upon the soul (see John 11:25-26 and Moses 6:61); and this “eternal life” begins now, in the flesh – living here as members of another assembly with whom you interact (the Church of the Firstborn) to pass from here to join them again there (see D&C 76:67); though they are men in the flesh, they are “gods, even the sons of God” (see D&C 76:58-60).
This in turn makes your own spirit “holy.”  Your spirit or the “ghost” within you is connected to heaven to such a degree through this process that you are in possession of a “holy spirit” or the “mind of God” within you (see LoF 5:2) – a Holy Ghost.
You become that “third member of the Godhead” who is “still in a probationary state”, and if you will “perform in righteousness, you may pass through the same or similar course of things that the Son has” (see “Words of Joseph Smith” by Andy Ehat, p 245)
What accompanies the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost?
Signs of the Spirit and fruits of the Spirit.
It always includes being enveloped in the glory, light, spirit or “fire” of God – and sometimes that fire is made visible to the one receiving it (see Helaman 5:36-37; 3 Nephi 17:23-25).
It allows you to speak with the tongues of angels (2 Nephi 31:13) – your knowledge reckons from heaven itself.
It opens the scriptures to your mind, that you read them with the same Spirit that inspired the writer when recording them (JSH 1:73-74). 
It shows you all things, as the Holy Ghost is a revelator. 
It usually includes the ministry of angels. 
Gifts of the Spirit (see D&C 46:11; 1 Corinthians 7:7)
What do the signs of purifying fire, prophesy, angels and revelation witness to the one who receives it?
That they have received the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.
These signs form a continuum – they need not all be present at the initial time of the reception of the gift, but some must be or the gift has not been given.


Due to some recent work and life changes, I'm taking a hiatus from the weekly blog.  I will leave the blog up for anyone who would like ...