"There is so much more in the Book of Mormon than we have yet discovered. The book's divine architecture and rich furnishings will increasingly unfold to our view, further qualifying it as 'a marvelous work and a wonder' ...The Book of Mormon is like a vast mansion with gardens, towers, courtyards, and wings. All the rooms in this mansion need to be explored..."
-Neal A Maxwell

Monday, November 12, 2012

Paul vs Alma the Younger

Those who find the Book of Mormon to be merely a pastiche of Biblical narratives and other literature may well cite as 'Exhibit A' the conversion story of Alma the Younger and its similarities with Paul's experience on the road to Damascus, as well as their subsequent journeys defending the faith they had persecuted earlier. Indeed, even Mormon academic Terry Givens notes, "Alma’s account reads more like the Book of Acts than Kings or Chronicles, detailing missionary journeys, the growth of the church, and miraculous conversion stories." [1] 

While there are many similarities between the two accounts, there are also some interesting—and sometimes very precisecontrasts as well. The following comparison is by no means comprehensive (expect an update or two to this chart). Contrasting elements are highlighted in gray: 

Alma the Younger
“...at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem...” (Acts 8:1)“...the persecutions which were inflicted on the church by the unbelievers became so great that the church began to murmur...” (Mosiah 27:1)
“...after the most straitest sect of our religion I [Paul] lived a Pharisee.” (Acts 26:5)“...[Alma] became a very wicked and an idolatrous man.” (Mosiah 27:8)
Saul openly persecuted the saints under full sanction of the law. (Acts 26:10-12Alma and his companions went about in secret to destroy the church, contrary to the decree of the king. (Mosiah 27:10)
Saul was “more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of [his] fathers.” (Galatians 1:14)
Alma rebelled against his own father (Mosiah 27:8
“And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord...” (Acts 9:1)
“...I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction...” (Alma 36:14)
“Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4)
“Alma... why persecutest thou the church of God?” (Mosiah 27:13)
“...it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 9:5
“...If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed, seek no more to destroy the church of God.” (Alma 36:9
“...Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6)
“...O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me...” (Alma 36:18
“And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but [unlike Paul] they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.” (Acts 22:9)
“...the angel spake more things unto me, which were heard by my brethren, but I did not hear them...” (Alma 36:11)
“And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.” (Acts 9:9)
“...it was for the space of three days and three nights that I could not open my mouth, neither had I the use of my limbs.” (Alma 36:10)
Paul sees the Lord again in a vision in the temple, is told to “make haste” and leave the city he's in (Jerusalem). (Acts 22:18)Alma is revisited of the angel, and is told to return to the city he had just left (Ammonihah); he “speedily” does so. (Alma 8:16-18)

I particularly like the fourth-to-last comparison in this chart, representative of the two things each of us must ask of the Lord following our own conversions. It calls to mind the verse in 2 Nephi, "we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do (2 Nephi 25:23)."

[1] Givens, Terryl L. (2002-03-14). By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion (p. 52). Oxford University Press. 

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