SMPT Teaser: A Close Reading of Alma 32

soil-typeI’m presenting this Saturday at the conference in Provo. I’ve kicked some of these ideas around for a while, but only started work on them in earnest recently. I’m addressing conceptions of faith and knowledge in Alma 32 through close reading. For me, that process entails creating a bibliography to see what’s been done, and working through the chapter closely and slowly, looking for patters and connections, textual issues, and logical flow.

The bibliography for Alma 32 is almost non-existent: Brant Gardner’s excellent commentary, an old BYU Studies article, RSC book chapter, and the Alma 32 seminar. Step 2 is creating a document and writing a paraphrase, which gets revised as I work through it again and again. Over the summer, I experienced the power of close group-reading and critique both in my Seminar and the weekly sessions at Joe Spencer’s house. And so below, I present a work-in-progress for discussion, critique, and ideas.

Specifically, I’m looking for clues to understand how Alma understands the difference between faith and knowledge in terms of certainty.  Forms of “know” appear 22x, and in significant passages, it’s “perfect knowledge.” What’s the force of “perfect” in modifying “knowledge”? Is degree of certainty the difference between faith and knowledge? (I don’t think it is, for Alma.) If not, what is?

General Observations

Working through Skousen’s text-critical volume, there are no major text-critical issues that obscure or enlighten my questions.

Alma 32 makes a highly rhetorical argument.

  • Rhetorical questions appear in vv. 10, 11, 14, 18, 19, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35 (2x)
  • Alma constructs hypothetical conversations with an opponent, e.g. 17, but also repeatedly says (against this opponent?) “I say”, “I said,” “I ask”, and “I would ask.”
  • The entire chapter is heavy on logical-flow filler words like “then,” “now,” “needs” (in “must needs be”)
  • twice Alma appears to get off-track and must resume by saying “Now as I said concerning faith…”

 I’ve italicized words in the 1981 text with commentary attached.

1981 Text of Alma

My paraphrase


16 Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe. 16 So, fortunate are those who humble themselves through choice rather than circumstance. Or, perhaps better said, whoever believes in God’s word and is baptized, freely, without complicated argument or intellectual wrestling, is favored.


“Blessed” in the KJV OT represents either be bar?? (passive, “blessed”) or ’ašr?y (“happy, fortunate, blessed” e.g. Psa 1:1) “[W]hen barak is used the initiative comes from God. God can bestow his blessing even when man doesn’t deserve it. On the other hand, to be blessed (’ashrê), man has to do something.” (TWOT)


For Israelites, at least, the heart was the center of conscious thought and intention as well as emotion.


One must logically know in the sense of “be acquainted with” the word before believing it.

17 Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe. 17 But lots of people say, “if you show us a heavenly sign, then we’ll be really convinced; then we’ll believe.”


Alma gives voice to a hypothetical opponent who equates three things: seeing a sign, knowing for certain, belief. On the other hand, Korihor had recently said, “ye do not know that there is a God; and except ye show me a sign, I will not believe.” Alm 30:48


“of a surety” translates ’umnam in G 18:13.

18 Now I ask, is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it.


18 Now is that really faith? Look, I don’t think so. If someone knows something, they have no reason to believe, because they know it.


“Now” appears 25x in this chapter. It begins every verse between 18 and 24. Webster, “4. now sometimes expresses or implies a connection between the subsequent and preceding proposition; often it introduces an inference or an explanation of what precedes. 5. After this; things being so.”


Faith and belief seem to be interchangeable for Alma. 17 “believe”, 18 “faith” “believe.” Faith is the noun, believe is the verb. “Belief” does appear elsewhere (14x), sometimes synonymous with “faith” (Mos 25:18), sometimes


Cause– Webster’s 1828 “2. That which produces an effect; that which impels into existence, or by its agency or operation produces what did not before exist; that by virtue of which any thing is done; that from which any thing proceeds, and without which it would not exist…3. The reason or motive that urges, moves, or impels the mind to act or decide.”

Mos 16:2, Alm 4:3, 8:15 cause= “reason, motive”


The idea is that knowing supersedes believing, because the cause is removed. Knowing has no cause?

Hel 9:2-5, where they see then believe.

19 And now, how much more cursed is he that knoweth the will of God and doeth it not, than he that only believeth, or only hath cause to believe, and falleth into transgression? 19 Isn’t the person far more in trouble who knows God’s will and doesn’t do it, than someone who only believes or has reason to believe and comes up short?


“Cursed” is the natural pair to “blessed” in 16, with a similar variety of shades.


Is “have cause to believe” a restate, a parallel of “to believe”? Or does it indicate that you progress from having “cause to believe” to “believing” (by accepting the evidence of that cause?), to knowing?

20 Now of this thing ye must judge. Behold, I say unto you, that it is on the one hand even as it is on the other; and it shall be unto every man according to his work.


20 It’s on you to decide that. But look, I say the same rule applies everywhere, and everything will be fair.


21 And now as I said concerning faith– faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true. 21 Now, as I was saying about faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; so if you have faith, you hope for things you have not seen, things which are true. Alma gets off track twice, here and five verses later in 26, and must repeat the phrase “Now as I said concerning faith…”


Strong echoes of Heb 11:1 KJV. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

22 And now, behold, I say unto you, and I would that ye should remember, that God is merciful unto all who believe on his name; therefore he desireth, in the first place, that ye should believe, yea, even on his word.


22 So, look, I’m telling you, and I want you to remember, God is merciful to all who believe in him; so a priori, he wants you to believe, and in what? His word.


Is there a difference between believing “in” and believing “on” something here? “Believe in the word of god” (v. 16) vs. “believe on… his name” (v.22)


“word” is always singular in connection with God in Alma 32. Does it mean something concrete, like “scripture”? Or more intangible?

23 And now, he imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women also. Now this is not all; little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned.


23 Fortunately, he gives his word through angels to men, but not just men; women too! He does not stop there. Small children often have words given to them that boggle the wise and educated.


24 And now, my beloved brethren, as ye have desired to know of me what ye shall do because ye are afflicted and cast out— now I do not desire that ye should suppose that I mean to judge you only according to that which is true


24 And now, dear friends, since you’ve wanted to know my views on what you should do because you’re in bad shape and excommunicated from the synagogue (don’t think I intend to judge you by anything other than the truth) Brant Gardner thinks Mormon has misinterpreted the historical record here. See Second Witness, 445-6.


Royal Skousen, Analysis of Textual Variants, “there is a need here in the standard text for a comma before only in order to get the right meaning of ‘except.’ In this passage, none of the printed editions have ever had a comma before only.”

25 For I do not mean that ye all of you have been compelled to humble yourselves; for I verily believe that there are some among you who would humble themselves, let them be in whatsoever circumstances they might. 25 For I certainly don’t mean that all of you have been humbled through circumstance; indeed, I actually believe some among you would be humble regardless of circumstance.
26 Now, as I said concerning faith– that it was not a perfect knowledge– even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.


26 Anyway, I had said that faith is not a perfect knowledge, and that’s just how it is with my words. You can’t verify them completely at first, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.


27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.


27 But look, if you can get yourselves out of your mental rut so far as to put my words to the test, trusting (me?) a tiny bit, even if you just barely want to believe, cultivate that vague want so you can believe enough to make mental space for some of my words.


Neither “arouse” nor “faculties” appear in the KJV. However, awake/arise are a poetic pair (Jdg 5:12, Psa 7:6, 44:23, others). Webster’s 1828 says of arouse, “To excite into action, that which is at rest; to stir, or put in motion or exertion that which is languid; as, to arouse one from sleep; to arouse the dormant faculties.”


“Particle” does not appear in the KJV, and is a hapax legomenon in the BoM. “Exercise” never appears with “faith” in the KJV, rather “authority” (3x), “lordship” (2x), “myself” (2x), “dominion” (1x). Google’s Ngram Viewer shows that the phrase “exercise faith” first appears in the late 1600s and peaks strongly around 1831.



28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves– It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.


28 OK, let’s say the word is a seed.   If you make room to plant the seed in your heart and provided it really is a seed and it’s still good, and you don’t throw it out because of distrustfulness (i.e. resisting God’s spirit), it will start to swell up within you. When you feel that, you’ll start saying, “well, it must ipso facto still be a good seed, because it’s starting to grow my soul, to increase my understanding, and I’m starting to really like it!”



Here I assume a “true seed” means “truly a seed” and a “good seed” (in connection with 32) as “a seed capable of growing,” not too old or too dried out or whatnot.


“Needs” in “it must needs be” is adverbial, i.e. “necessarily.”

29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge. So, really, wouldn’t that increase your faith? It really would! Sure. But! It hasn’t yet grown into a complete knowledge. Faith is a stepping stone to perfect knowledge.
30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow. 30 But look! While the seed germinates, and sprouts, and starts to grow, you have to admit that it’s a good seed, because it’s germinating, sprouting, and growing. Won’t that confirm your trust? It will indeed. You’ll say, “I can tell this is a good seed, because it’s sprouting and growing.”


31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.


Now are you certain the seed is good? I say yes, because every seed grows into its own kind.


“Bring forth” in the KJV often relates to production and reproduction, e.g. Gen 1:11, 20, 24, 3:16, 18, 9:7.


I don’t understand the relevance of this phrase, something like… You are now certain that this is a viable seed, because you’ve seen it sprout. Presumably it’s sprouted enough that you can recognize that what is growing is the same kind of thing as the seed you’ve planted.

32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away. 32 So, if a seed grows, it’s good. If it doesn’t grow, then it’s not good, and thrown away.


This verse elaborates on the previous phrase, as to what it means to be a good seed.
33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.


33 So then, since you’ve put my words to the test, planted the seed, and it’s germinating, and sprouting, and growing, it follows that you now know the seed to be good.


As rendered in v. 27, where the identical phrase appears.
34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.


34 So… is your knowledge perfect? Indeed, your knowledge is perfect, (at least) in that thing, and your faith sleeps, because you know; you know that the word has swelled your souls. You also know that it has sprouted, that your understanding starts to be enlightened, and your mind is starting to expand.


Elsewhere, it’s said to “enlarge” souls.


Your knowledge is complete within that limited domain.   What is it you now know? Your observations of what the seed has done.


35 O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect? 35 Therefore, isn’t this real? Yes, because it is light, and whatever is light is good, because it is perceptible. It follows, then, that you know it is good. Now, after you have tasted this light, is your knowledge perfect?


In the BoM, “O” is most often a vocative, followed by “Lord” (55x), “ye” (31x), “house” (29x, mostly “house of Israel” but also “house of Jacob” and “house of David”). “O then” appears 11x, and seems to be an elevated or rhetorical equivalent of “therefore,” often preceding a rhetorical question. (1Ne 17:46, 2Ne 4:26, 9:41, Jac 4:9, 6:11-12, Mos 4:21, Hel 8:20, Mor 9:6, 27.)


“Real” appears once in JS-H (1:6 “converts… more pretended than real”) and 2x in D&C (123:2 “real property” and 124:70 “real value” ). Webster- “1. Actually being or existing; not fictitious or imaginary; as a description of real life… 2. True; genuine; not artificial, counterfeit or factitious;… 3. True; genuine; not affected; not assumed.”

36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.


36 Listen, no, it’s not. And you also can’t set aside your trust, because you’ve only trusted so far as to plant the seed, to determine if it was good.


37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.


37 When the tree starts to grow, you’ll say, “Let’s nourish it carefully, so it will grow up and produce fruit for us.” And if you do that, it will take root, and grow up, and produce fruit.


38 But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out. 38 But if you neglect the tree, and aren’t proactive about its care, it just won’t take root. When heat of the sun comes and scorches it, it will wither because it’s rootless, and you’ll rip it out and throw it away.


39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.


39 But that doesn’t happen because it wasn’t a good seed, or because its fruit isn’t really good; rather, it’s because your ground isn’t fertile, you won’t care for the tree, so, you can’t have its fruit.


40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.


40 Therefore, if you won’t nourish the word, anticipating its fruit based on trust, you can never harvest the fruit of the tree of life.


41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life. 41 But! If you will nourish the word, (by which I mean the tree), as it starts to grow, by your faith, with great diligence, and patience, anticipating its fruit, the tree will take root and become a tree springing up with everlasting life as the result.


“Springing up” is also used in connection with the tree in 33:23 and then again, independently in Helaman 3:9
42 And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst. 42 Because of your persistence, your faith/trust, and your patience with the word in nourishing it to it can put down roots in you, eventually you will harvest its fruit, which is invaluable, sweetest of all, whitest of all, and purest of all. You can feast on this fruit until full, without hunger or thirst.


Is the implication that because it doesn’t reward you immediately, you must patiently


Although “by and by” in both the KJV (Mat 13:21, Mar 6:25, Luke 17:7, 21:9.) and Webster’s 1828 means “immediately,” it’s clear in the Book of Mormon that the phrase means “eventually, in due time” (Alm 55:11, 14; 3Ne 27:11; Eth 5:1.)


Is this eschatological? Evocative of Isaiah 29:18, 49:10?

43 Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you. 43 And then, my friends, you will receive the payoff of your trust, hard work, patience, and endurance, in waiting for the tree to produce fruit for you.



13 comments for “SMPT Teaser: A Close Reading of Alma 32

  1. While this is for the Greek ‘makarios’ (blessed), it might be worth pointing out that this was a word ascribed to the gods, who were free from the frailties and misfortunes of human life. (It was also used to the describe the dead, the rich, and the wise). In essence, ‘makarios’ was the divine life. The Septuagint often used this to translate the Hebrew ‘asre’, meaning “Oh the happiness of the one” and describing those with divine approval due to proper religious behaviors or attitudes. Unfortunately, this experiential understanding of the word is lost in the English “blessed.” As one pair of biblical scholars explains, “Consequently, we often interpret [Matt. 5:9] to mean, “If you are a peacemaker, then God will bless you.” But this isn’t what Jesus meant. Jesus meant, “if you are a peacemaker, then you are in your happy place.” It just doesn’t work well in English” (E. Randolph Richards, Brandon J. O’Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2012, 75).

    I don’t know if this view of “blessed” changes the way you approach that verse at all.

    See also D.E. Garland, “Blessings and Woes,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship, ed. Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, I. Howard Marshall (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 78-79.

  2. Ben, your analysis might benefit from a review of Alma’s other sermons and discourses, which are rife with a kind of epistemic modesty that has drawn my attention lately. That is, Alma is striking in the way he reports to his listeners what he does know, what he doesn’t know, and how he does or doesn’t know what he does or doesn’t know. When he knows something by the Spirit, he transparently says as much. But there several times in which he then goes on to report the limits of that knowledge, i.e., ‘but I do NOT know X, because the Spirit has NOT told me that.’

    This makes Alma one of the most trustworthy characters in the Book of Mormon, in my eyes. Other writers in the book (and many who speak by authority in today’s church) are less clear regarding these divisions, and their sources of knowledge. For example, Mormon intuits various things based on other evidence, and sometimes deduces various things as well. This leads a reader to wonder whether Mormon’s logical deductions carry the imprimatur of prophetic pronouncement, or whether the reader’s own logical faculties, which may sometimes run counter to Mormon’s, can be given equal weight. The ramifications for life in today’s church are significant, since some leaders testify based solely on direct inspiration received, while others rely on an amalgamation of inspiration, second-hand truths (inspiration given to others), logic, opinion, culture, and other sources of knowledge.

    Anyway, I’ve been very interested in analyzing Alma’s rigour with respect to what he does and does not know, and I admire it greatly. Alma 32 is of course directly relevant to these tendencies of Alma’s, so a close reading of that text may well benefit from studying more generally what he thinks about knowledge, belief, and the reliability of reason. There’s lots of this stuff in his early travels (beginning in Alma 5) and in his later discourses (i.e, to his sons).

  3. Ryan. Another place to look for this is Jack Welch’s article on Melchizedek from By Study and Also By Faith (FARMS, 1990). In that, he shows where Alma likely got his sources for Alma 13, another place where he tells us what he knows, but kind of leaves out what he doesn’t know.

    Ben S. Sorry I’ll miss your presentation, but this is an excellent taste that I will ponder(ize).

  4. Re: your paraphrase and the commentary on verse 24: Here’s an alternate reading that assumes the “missed” comma isn’t needed:

    “I don’t want you to think that I intend to answer your question based solely on the fact that you were thrown out of your prayer houses.”

    Taking into account the next clause in the sentence (found in what we have as verse 25), this reading assumes that Alma’s reference to “that which is true” points to the contingent truth of his audience’s circumstances (i.e., the truth that they were afflicted by and cast out of their religious community) and not simply to some general truth (i.e., the moral truth against which Alma would judge their actions).

    Which is to say that Alma’s response to the Zoramite poor seems to be based on more than the conspicuous truth that they were forced into humility; rather it also takes into account the possibility that some of them would choose to be humble notwithstanding their circumstances. This suggests that Alma, as a sensitive rhetor, is considering the dynamic context of his audience’s experience. By acknowledging the diversity of this context in his sermon, he allows for the varieties of experience that would likely exist in the audience and shows that he’s not lumping all members of the audience into a single category (i.e., humble-because-compelled). Alma’s rhetorical move further shows that he’s really trying to understand where these people are coming from them and that, as such, he’s someone they can trust and respect.

    Anyway. Something to consider.

  5. It seems odd that the bibliography for this chapter is so sparse. This is a rather well-loved chapter of the Book of Mormon, isn’t it? Even if there are few treatments of the chapter as a whole, I’d expect many of the BoM commentaries to have a few things to say about it (and you include Gardner’s commentary, so I figure the others are worth looking at, even if they’re less likely to be very analytical in their approach, right?). Plus, it seems like it should be ripe fodder for General Conference talks and Ensign articles. If those things are all outside the scope of the project, that’s fine, but it might be worth making that clear.

  6. I haven’t looked at the Ensign or scripture citation index yet, on the assumption that most coverage there will be proof-texty/homiletic, instead of analytic. I’d love to be wrong, and I will be looking at it.

    Interesting reading Tyler. Have to think about that.

  7. I’d be careful pushing individual words too far. I think the most likely view is that the Book of Mormon is a fairly loose translation. That implies word choice may be a matter of good enough. At a minimum we don’t know what language Alma was speaking in, how writing to the plates affected that, and then what Mormon had to do to put it in the type of writing he was doing. Throw in the final translation and I get a bit skeptical of pushing careful semantics too far.

    I’d mentioned it over at my blog a few weeks ago and at LDS-Herm, but I’ve really enjoyed Hazony’s The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture even if the political parts are a bit more questionable. Hazony notes that for the Hebrews truth is a property of things rather than language. It’s interesting that Alma 32 fits Hazony’s thesis to a tee. So when Alma says, “things which are not seen, which are true” he’s talking about the things themselves being the types of things that they present themselves as. More or less something similar to Aristotelian essences but put into a more process conception rather than the static conception our language tends to adopt. For us truth is a property of propositions and they are usually indexed to a particular time, for the Hebrews for Hazony, truth is a property of things and they show themselves to be reliable as these things over time. So truth is essentially a kind of unveiling of things.

    For Hazony it matters in the prophetic tradition that prophesy only shows itself over time. One of the examples Hazony gives is Abraham’s servant setting out to Mesopotamia. (I give the full quote at my blog) “When he first sets foot upon this road, there is no way for him to know that the road is true. All he has is a hope as to what this road can do: He hopes that it will bear him safely through the wilderness, and that it will bring him to the successful completion of his mission. But it is only after these things have come to pass that he actually comes to know that the road was true.”

    In this then Alma’s presentation is very much explaining a traditional Hebrew conception. It’s possible that he does this because already there has become a grave cultural alienation between the Hebrew traditions and scripture and the people who have been living in America for centuries – most likely adopting the indigenous culture.

    The metaphor Alma uses is very much a traditional one. You see in in say Jer 2:21 among other places. What’s interesting is that Alma then ties the notion of a true seed (a seed that has as its “essence” to grow up as say a tasty grape vine) with context. Even a true seed can only yield fruit if the farmer does what it is supposed to do.

    Again in our language this is hard to make sense of. But when you think in terms of process and essences (to use the best contemporary language that fits) then all of this makes perfect sense.

    When applied to prophetic utterance then this is the traditional question of testing the words. Hazony suggests that the word davar which is sometimes translated thing but which isn’t really separable from the thing. (This may be the word that underlies Alma’s use of “thing” in 18 – 21 — assuming Alma had some priestly knowledge of Hebrew and Hebrew scripture) Hazony notes that in “the biblical conception, then, it would seem that the truth or falsity of the spoken word cannot be known until it has proved itself reliable in the course of investigation, which is to say, in the course of time.” For Hazony the davar is something like the object as understood. This lines up with Alma where this understanding comes from use and inquiry.

  8. Oh on Bibliography while it primarily focuses on Zenos’ allegory the book The Allegory of the Olive Tree discusses both directly and indirectly Alma 32. The question of how influenced Alma is by Zenos is a good one. His application of the metaphor seems different but I think the same notion of “truth” is at play in both.

  9. I have always loved verse 31. When Alma says “behold are you sure” I have interpreted that Alma is speaking to the crisis of faith that so many of us have when we are new to the faith. I have seen many “are ye sure” experiences with new members, and it seems to me that those who are successful remember the good experiences/impressions they have already received (thus good seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness).

  10. Alma seems like a poor spokesman for faith – he saw an angel! He didn’t have to live faithfully for years before receiving confirmation; the confirmation came in earth-shaking angel form and literally knocked him out.

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