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Alma 9 starts the story of what happens in Ammonihah. The story goes through chapter 14, and includes Alma’s speeches and experiences with these people as he urges them to turn to the Lord.
In the last chapter, Alma rested at Amulek’s house, teaching him and preparing him to minister to the people. This chapter begins with their call to the mission field (verse 1). The people of Ammonihah still are not responding, however, asking Alma why he is so special that they should believe him (verse 2). They do not understand what they say (verse 3), because even besides the truth of his words, Alma is a prophet ordained by the priesthood and commanded by God to speak to them. So he is pretty special.
They also mock him, saying they still would not believe Alma even if he prophesied that the city would be destroyed (verse 4). This demonstrates an ignored knowledge of some past prophets, and is a direct mocking of the prophet speaking to them.
“Now they knew not that God could do such marvelous works, for they were a hard-hearted and a stiff-necked people” (verse 5).
Being a hard-hearted people means not being soft enough to let the goodness of God come in, and instead being “hard” with anger and bitterness.
Being a “stiff-necked” people means not humbling ourselves, so as not to submit to the will of God. It means doing things our way, right now when we want it, and being cranky when things don’t go our way or the way we think they should or as soon as we think they should. It means refusing to follow his laws, to bow to His authority, to live according to His plan.
“And they said: Who is God…?” (verse 6).
The people try to attack Alma, but they are unable (verse 7).
He boldly stands before them to testify of his message. First, he confronts them for forgetting who they are and what God has done for them (verse 8). Then he reminds the people of their ancestors, and how the Lord led them to safety (verse 9). Next he reminds them how the Lord delivered their ancestors “out of the hands of their enemies, and preserved them from being destroyed” (verse 10).
“Yea, and if it had not been for his matchless power, and his mercy, and his long-suffering towards us, we should unavoidably have been cut off from the face of the earth long before this period of time, and perhaps been consigned to a state of endless misery and woe” (verse 11).
Alma calls the people to repent (verse 12), not just of their wrong-doing, but to repent of forgetting their relationship with God. When we forget who He is and what He has done for us, and forget who we really are without Him, then we have turned away from Him. This puts us in danger as we remove ourselves from His provision and protection.
If we repent, and keep His commandments, we will prosper inasmuch – to the degree – that we are obedient (verse 13). This prospering is not just temporal (physical), but also spiritual: to prosper is to be in His presence, or to have access to His presence. We have His presence with us through the Holy Spirit. So as we are obedient, we become worthy of that Spirit, which does help us to become more obedient. This is our prospering, even our very spiritual progress.
But when we do not repent, we do not prosper and are cut off from His presence (verse 14). We cannot prosper, or progress, without His presence because without Him we are not righteous.
Either way, we will be judged (verse 15). Every choice we make has a consequence, both temporal and spiritual, regardless of whether it is a good choice or a bad choice. We will be judged by these choices, and the evidence of our choices will either testify for us or against us.
It is one thing, Alma says, to not know (verse 16).
But once we know, we are held accountable.
This is why we have prophets: to teach us, so that we may be held accountable, so that we may progress:
“And at some period of time they will be brought to believe in his word, and to know of the incorrectness of the traditions… for the Lord will be merciful unto all who call on his name” (verse 17).
He is waiting to grant us mercy.
But it requires our repentance, our turning to Him to accept His gift.
“But behold, I say unto you, that if ye persist in your wickedness… ye shall be visited with utter destruction” (verse 18).
Why the destruction? Because they are children of the covenant, and so should know better.
“For he will not suffer you that ye shall live in your iniquities… he would rather … destroy all his people who… fall into sins and transgressions, after having had so much light and so much knowledge given unto them of the Lord their God” (verse 19).
These people were a favored people (verse 20). They were favored enough that their ancestors were led to safety, escaping promised destruction to those rejecting the Lord (verse 22). They knew better, even having the Holy Spirit (verse 21) and other manifestations of true, deep faith – even gifts of the Spirit. These people had “waxed strong… that they might not be destroyed; having been brought out of bondage time after time, and having been kept and preserved until now…”. This is a multiplicity of blessings.
That’s why it’s a big deal for these people to be rejecting the Lord, now, after all that.
The consequences are big: “for has not the Lord expressly promised and firmly decreed, that if ye will rebel against him, that ye shall utterly be destroyed from off the face of the earth?” (verse 24).
But the Lord does not want to destroy the people, and that is why He has sent them a prophet (verse 25). The prophet is the warning, teaching the people how to repent. The prophet is the warning, letting the people know consequences are on the way.
They are also running out of time. This is only about 85 years before Jesus is born on the Earth, and so He will soon be visiting them. And they are not ready.
But the Savior is ready, and calls to them. He is “full of grace, equity, and truth, full of patience, mercy, and long-suffering, quick to hear the cries of his people and to answer their prayers” (verse 26). He wants the people to cry out to Him, so that He can quickly answer them! He wants to redeem them, those who will repent and be baptized (verse 27).
But without that repentance, without baptism, without the crying out to the Lord, “ye are a lost and fallen people” (verse 30).
These words are powerful, but the people’s hearts remained hard (verses 31). The people try to attack Alma, and try to throw him in prison (verse 33), but they cannot. Almulek joins Alma in the preaching as a second witness to Alma’s testimony (verse 34).