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Experiential Knowledge and the Covenantal Relationship in Alma 7

TitleExperiential Knowledge and the Covenantal Relationship in Alma 7
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsEllis, Godfrey J.
JournalInterpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship
KeywordsAlma the Younger; Atonement; Chiasmus; Covenant; Knowledge; Salvation

A favorite scripture of many faithful saints is Alma 7 where it describes how the Savior came to Earth to understand, in the flesh, not only human sin, but human suffering. He did this in order to succor and heal us. Despite its obvious appeal, two points may seem curious to some readers. First, the doctrinal power of verses 11–13, which form a chiasm, has as its apex not the “mercy in succoring us,” as might be expected, but the “in the flesh” detail. Why? Upon closer examination, it appears that, in addition to performing the Atonement, Christ needed a mortal experience in order to add a complete experiential knowledge to his omniscient cognitive knowledge. That could only be obtained, in its fulness, “according to the flesh,” hence the emphasis in the chiasm. A second possible curiosity is that Alma ends his beautiful teaching with his brief testimony, which lends an air of closure. Then, the topic appears to change completely and seemingly inexplicably to a discussion of repentance and baptism. Again, why? Closer examination reveals that the next two verses (14–15) form a second chiasm. If the first chiasm can be viewed as a statement of what Christ offers us, the second may be viewed as what we offer Christ. He runs to us in 7:11–13; we run to him in 7:14–15. When viewed together, the two chiasms form a two-way covenantal relationship, which Alma promises will result in our eternal salvation.

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Scripture Reference

Alma 7:11-15