Saturday, May 31, 2008

Authorial Influence: Alma the Elder and Alma the Younger

Alma and his son Alma the Younger both experienced conversions that changed the course of their lives. Later, as Alma the Younger articulates his conversion, he frames it using some of the same language his father used earlier to recount his own movement away from the court of King Noah. This is a wonderful literary phenomenon, and it is an interesting insight into Alma the Younger's respect for his father. What follows are just a few of the words, themes and phrases that link the conversions of both of these great men.

Bonds of iniquity

Alma the Elder uses the phrase ‘bonds of iniquity’ to describe being in bondage physically to King Noah and then uses it as a spiritual metaphor and a learning point as to why they don’t want a king.
Mosiah 23:13
13 And now as ye have been delivered by the power of God out of these bonds; yea, even out of the hands of king Noah and his people, and also from the bonds of iniquity, even so I desire that ye should stand fast in this liberty wherewith ye have been made free, and that ye trust no man to be a king over you.
Alma the Younger then uses this phrase several times to describe his own spiritual freedom from the bondage from sin, adding the words “gall of bitterness’ to the phrase.
Mosiah 27:29
29 My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more.

Alma 41:11
11 And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.

Mormon then uses this phrase twice in chapter eight of his book (Mormon 8:14, 31). However, besides the quote by Mormon, it is only used by the father-son combination of Alma the Elder and Alma the Younger. It shows that Alma the Younger absorbed the story of his father’s conversion and internalized some of the principles, applying them to his own conversion experience.

Redeemed of God

Alma the Elder uses the phrase ‘redeemed of God’ during his baptismal address in Mosiah 18.
Mosiah 18:9
9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life--

The only other person to use this phrase in the Book of Mormon is his Son, Alma the Younger, who references his own conversion experience:
Mosiah 27:24-25
24 For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.
25 And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;

Much tribulation

Alma the Elder tells us that his conversion experience entailed ‘much tribulation’:
Mosiah 23:10
10 Nevertheless, after much tribulation, the Lord did hear my cries, and did answer my prayers, and has made me an instrument in his hands in bringing so many of you to a knowledge of his truth.

The phrase is used only twice more in the Book of Mormon. In the first, Alma the Younger refers to the trials of his own conversion:
Mosiah 27:28
28 Nevertheless, after wading through much tribulations, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God.

The only other time it is used is by Mormon in paraphrasing the words of Alma the Younger about trials in his missionary service:
Alma 8:14
14 And it came to pass that while he was journeying thither, being weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people who were in the city of Ammonihah, it came to pass while Alma was thus weighed down with sorrow, behold an angel of the Lord appeared unto him, saying:

Mormon often adopts the words of the persons whose writings he is summarizing. Thus the phrase ‘much tribulation’ probably was used by Alma the Younger in his own text and merely carried over into the abridgment by Mormon.

I also find it interesting that Alma the Younger would use it only in the context of A) his own conversion, and B) his attempts toward the conversion of others. The two seem to be related as well in latter-day scriptures attesting to the fact that as we bring others to repent of their sins we are covering a multitude of our own, just as our own forgiveness is linked to our forgiveness of others.

1 comment:

Deeanna said...

ok, so Tom forwarded your blog to me (because I'm way into the Book of Mormon too.) Anyway, great comments. Have you ever heard about the Joseph Smith conference that was held at the Library of Congress in 2005? You can download video streams, or text on the BYU website. It was called the Worlds of Joseph Smith. I really loved listening to the various speakers. I hope you are all doing great. Thank you so much for all of your support over the years. Brenda is doing a super job of FRG. You should be proud!!! Also, all 4 of our kids are enjoying summer camp thanks to the grant money from OMK. Life's great on the homefront.
Take care!