Alma the Younger’s Church Was Wicked

As many folks know, I am creating a plain english version of the Book of Mormon. I have completed a first draft of the first half of the Book of Alma, and am in the process of revising it. Today I revised Alma chapter 2, and was very struck by it. I wanted to talk a bit about it.

As background, the Nephites had just had a large war with the former Nephites who are called Amlicites and the Lamanites, and everyone is grieving. The church pulls together during this hard time and works for each other’s benefit, and everyone becomes pretty well off as a result. Then verses 18-21 comes:

18 At the beginning of the 9th year, Alma the Younger saw the wickedness in the church and how it was a poor example to those who weren’t members of it; people who converted were just trading one wickedness for another. He believed that the church would help bring about the demise of the Nephites.

19 There was a great inequality among the people. Some believed they were better than others and hated those that weren’t as wealthy as them. These people turned their backs on those that needed help, clothing, food, water, and medicine. 20 This was cause for sorrow among the Nephites because the people who needed these things were being dehumanized. However, there were other people who helped those who needed help, including giving money to the poor and food to the hungry. These are the people who endured many hardships because they trusted in Christ, whom they believed would come as the prophecies foretold. They looked forward to the day they would be free from the mistakes they had made in life. 21 They were filled with great joy because the dead would one day be freed from the chains of death by Jesus Christ.”

I am pretty amazed. Alma the Younger, the prophet of his people, calls his own church wicked because they are being hateful, prideful, and greedy at the expense of the poor and needy. In fact, he believed that his own church was a net negative for his own society because of this greed.

I have been in churches where everything is always very self-congratulatory, and any criticism of the community from within the community is not tolerated. The fact that Alma/Mormon describe their church like this is bafflingly awesome. I think we should always strive to make our church better.