“Why Persecutest Thou the Church of God?”

Brant Gardner

Text: The similarity to Paul’s experience is that “persecution” is part of the divine message in both cases. In Saul’s case, however, it is Christ who is persecuted and in Alma2’s it is the church. The fact of persecution exists in both cases; but in the New World, Alma2’s persecution precedes Jesus’s coming in the flesh. Thus, in one sense, there was no person with which the church might be directly identified and against whom one might persecute as in the New Testament example.

Alma2’s version of apostasy was almost certainly like that of Noah and his priests in which he accepted much of the competing religion but also held some beliefs of the Mosaic law. In this case, Alma and the sons of Mosiah could not have understood a declaration like that given to Saul because they would not have believed that they were persecuting Yahweh himself, only those who believed in the future Atoning Messiah. Nevertheless, the messenger declares that the church was equated with Yahweh. Alma and the sons of Mosiah were not persecuting people who believed in a nonexistent being, but they were directly persecuting their own God.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 3