“Behold, the Ax Is Laid at the Root of the Tree”

Brant Gardner

Rhetoric: Alma alludes to his earlier warning that his people should “bring forth works of righteousness: so they would “not be hewn down and cast into the fire” (v. 35). Alma is reemphasizing his sermon’s major point: His people must change their actions.

Reference: This verse clearly echoes Matthew 3:10: “And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (see also Luke 3:9). The resemblance is so close that there can be no question that the New Testament source was the model for the Book of Mormon passage. However, the imagery of cutting down unproductive trees would have been familiar to a New World audience, and no doubt the plate-text had a metaphor similar in meaning.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 4