Anti-Mormon attack on “Alma” in BoM

A strange letter surfaced on the message boards of CARM in late 2007 in which the fictional author was writing to a LDS missionary asking him some questions about the Book of Mormon that he thought indicated that the book might not be what it purported to be.

I wrote rebuttals to the first 3 points in the letter, then discontinued the effort. Noone replied to my rebuttal of the first one, and so I went on to rebut the second point. Noone replied to the second rebuttal that I gave, so I went on to the third one. Shortly thereafter I determined to cease my efforts on the CARM message boards due to reasons explained in other posts here at Lehi’s Library.

 Here and in the next post I copy and paste my rebuttals to the first 2 points in the letter. I do not post my rebuttal to the third point because I don’t feel it was very thoroughly done.

Dear Friend,

I am of course happy to respond to your challenge. I affirm that the gosepl of Jesus Christ which I preach every day is indeed the only true gospel of Jesus Christ found on the earth today. I would not however have you believe that I think all other sects of Christianity are devoid of truth. There is much truth to be found in all sects of Christianity. Our message is that the original gospel delivered by Christ has been restored along with the authority to administer it.

I hope you do not mind if I only answer one of your challenges at a time. I think this is the best way to make sure all doubts are thoroughly examined.

The word Alma is a Hebrew word which means ‘young virgin woman.’ So why are two male figures within the book of Mormon each called ‘Alma?’ Is this a joke which those people without a grasp of basic Hebrew will miss, but those with some Bible knowledge will immediately grasp? So as it isn’t possible for a man to be an Alma; this must be a joke!

This has been a popular challenge by many critics of the Book of Mormon. Walter Martin has said:

“Alma is supposed to be a prophet of God and of Jewish ancestry in the Book of Mormon. In Hebrew Alma means a betrothed virgin maiden-hardly a fitting name for a man.” – “Dr.” Walter Martin, The Maze of Mormonism (Santa Ana, California: Vision House, 1978), 327.

This issue is really quite easily settled.

In 2001 Matthew Roper presented a paper at the FAIR conference entitled “Right on Target: Boomerang Hits and the Book of Mormon”. Of this issue he said the following:

As can be seen, critics have had a lot of fun with the name Alma, however, in the 1960s Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin discovered a land deed near the Dead Sea dating to the early second century A.D. and rendered the name of a Jew mentioned therein as “Alma ben Yehuda” showing for the first time in modern history that the name Alma was an authentic Hebrew male name.28 Additional research in Ebla, in what is modern Syria, has also turned up this name showing that it goes back to nearly 2200 B.C.2928 Yigael Yadin, Bar-Kokhba (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1965), 176.
29 Terrence L. Szink, “Further evidence of a semitic Alma” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999): 70.

So my friend you can rest a little easier tonight knowing that the Book of Mormon does not err in this regard. What once was a flaw now appears to be evidence. What is the likelihood that Smith would have chosen a name that was commonly known to be a latin female name? What are the chances that it would be discovered much later that it is actually an appropriate semitic male name? The likelihood is not very high.


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6 comments on “Anti-Mormon attack on “Alma” in BoM

  1. Great post. What’s so funny about many of the critics’ problems is that they have been resolved time and time again for a very long time, yet they never pay attention.

  2. Allen says:

    And the Aramaic for Alma means eternal.

  3. jr says:

    I am sure that most know that Alma in Spanish means soul.

  4. Prove it. Where is the Yadin’s report? I seek and find only references at Mormon sites. The best hypothesis,if you use Occam’s razor, is that Smith took the name of contemporary records. Hugh NIbley, I think, cites many of them.

  5. James says:

    Hello kaltrumGustavo. In the original post I provide the source for Yadin’s report:

    “Yigael Yadin, Bar-Kokhba (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1965), 176.”

    I did a little digging (~5 minutes of online searching, not too much to ask) and found a “snippet view” of the book which shows the relevant paragraph. Unfortunately I don’t more context for it:

    I personally don’t think we need to find the name “Alma” among Hebrew records. The two individuals named “Alma” in the Book of Mormon (father and son) were ancient Mesoamericans, hundreds of years removed from their Israelite forefathers, and certainly were the product of hundreds of years of linguistic, cultural, and biological intermingling with (or more likely absorption into) the native peoples. Therefore, the name “Alma” is simply Joseph Smith’s effort at rendering into English characters an ancient Mesoamerican name.

    Regarding Occam’s razor, I believe that the simplest explanation for the Book of Mormon as a whole is the story that Joseph Smith gave for it. All others are too convoluted for me.

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