Featuring the continuation of Amulek’s part of the sermon, his tangling with Zeezrom, and his teachings on the resurrection and final judgment.
A considerable part of the first half of the chapter is given over to a discussion of the payment of judges of lawyers, and the respective measures of gold and silver. Some observations:
- I notice that the chapter header now reads “the Nephite monetary system is set forth”. It used to state “Nephite coinage set forth”. I’m guessing this was changed in the 2013 edition, although the Doubleday edition also changed this. This is a good thing. As mentioned before, the chapter headings are just aids are are not scripture, and in this particular case critics had used this to attack the Book of Mormon as claiming the use of coins in the Americas in this time period, which is unlikely. The actual text, however, doesn’t mention coins. The proper comparison for the senines and senums and so on that we find here is with shekels and talents, which while used as measures of wealth and trade were weights.
- The Nephite system seems pretty unusual. 2 senines = 1 seon, 2 seons = 1 shum, and a limnah “was the value of them all”, which it seems some readers interpret as meaning 1 limnah = 1 senine + 1 seon + 1 shum, or 7 senines (and the same true for the silver senum, amnor, ezrom and onti). The values below a senum seem more logical: 1/2, then 1/4 then 1/8 (does the fact they’re specified relative to a senum of silver, and not a senine, mean they were silver too?). Then there’s the antion “of gold” (again, this specificity in contrast suggests the shiblon, shiblum and leah were silver) is the odd man out being equal to 3 shiblons, or in other words 1 1/2 senines or senums. Not important, but fun to think about.
- This passage can seem like an unnecessary digression, but I think we should always resist dismissing passages on that basis. There’s a reason it was included, possibly more than one, and we should be alert to looking for them. For instance, it makes clear that, an antion being the “top” of the monetay scale, that Zeezrom’s attempted bribe of Amulek wasn’t a trifling amount. Being sandwiched between specifying how the judges were paid for their time, and that the motives of the judges and lawyers in stirring the people up against Alma and Amulek were financial, the concentration on such matters serves to almost emphasise their concern with money, which forms an important contrast with Amulek’s rejection of Zeezrom’s bribe, making clear that it was not part of his – nor should it be any of the righteous’ – motivations: “knowest thou that the righteous yieldeth to no such temptations?” (v. 23).
- One possible feature that may be worth noting is the connection between some of the names here, and names we’ve just come across or about to come across. Thus we find an ezrom and an antion mention on the list of measures. And we were just introduced at the end of last chapter (and he has a starring role in this) to one Zeezrom, and in Alma 12 we will be introduced to one of the chief rulers of Ammonihah, one Antionah. This may not be coincidence: there may be a deliberate playing with names to make their connection with money clear.</li
Verses 28-29 and 38-40 are of interest:
Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God?
And he answered, No.
Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father?
And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last;
And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.
These passages might be confusing to some; I’ll refer once again to the discussion on Mosiah 15. The reference to Christ here as the Eternal Father seems to be both in the creative sense mentioned in the 1916 doctrinal exposition by the First Presidency (“the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth”) and in the sense I discussed relative to Mosiah 15 of referring to his divinity (notice the mentions of his eternal nature in verse 39, and of course his entering the world to redeem us in verse 40).
It’s the reference to “one God”, and the denial that there is more than one God, that may particularly cause some confusion. But this isn’t the only place in the Book of Mormon that makes statements like this. Thus 2 Nephi 31:21 speaks of “the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end” and likewise Mormon 7:7 speaks of the saved singing praises “unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God”.
As said before, the Book of Mormon isn’t too concerned with giving a complete description of the relationship of the members of the Godhead, rather prioritising teaching both the divinity of Christ and his unity with the Father. And it’s that latter concept that I think is vital to understanding how the members of the Godhead can be correctly thought of as one God. The relationship of the Father and the Son, and of the Holy Ghost for that matter, is not that of a polytheist pantheon where they are independent – or even competing – powers. Rather they are in complete harmony, and work in complete unity. It is true that they are distinct beings, and distinct persons, but they are one God, for there is only one truly divine force at work. There are no divine forces independent of this (and certainly not any idolatrous deities, which is what Amulek may have been particularly aiming his denial at).
Alma 11 is often quoted, of course, for its emphatic teaching of the physical resurrection:
The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.
Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.
The physical resurrection is a basic doctrine of Christianity as a whole, but one that I suspect many have moved away from, conceiving of the afterlife in less physical terms (although figures like N. T. Wright have sought to reemphasise it). The Book of Mormon’s emphatic teachings on the subject are thus timely. Once again we find the teaching of the resurrection closely tied to the teaching of the final judgment, as it is on multiple occasions (indeed, Hebrews 6 in its summary of the “foundation” of the gospel likewise ties the two together, speaking “of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment”, Hebrews 6:2). I also find it interesting that the resurrection is tied once again to the phenomenon of memory: in 2 Nephi 9:14 Jacob speaks of the wicked at the resurection having a “perfect knowledge of all our guilt” and the righteous “a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment”. Here Amulek teaches likewise that it is upon the resurrection and the judgment that we shall have “a bright recollection of all our guilt”. I believe these statements are worth bearing in mind when we consider what we might remember and know (including of pre-mortal memories) post-death as spirits, compared to what we will post-resurrection.