I want to make some observations on the interchange between Amulek and Zeezrom at Ammonihah in Alma 11, but I’m going to quote a lot verses from this chapter because I want you to get clear in your mind what happened first.
21 And this Zeezrom began to question Amulek, saying: Will ye answer me a few questions which I shall ask you? Now Zeezrom was a man who was expert in the devices of the devil, that he might destroy that which was good; therefore, he said unto Amulek: Will ye answer the questions which I shall put unto you?
22 And Amulek said unto him: Yea, if it be according to the Spirit of the Lord, which is in me; for I shall say nothing which is contrary to the Spirit of the Lord. And Zeezrom said unto him: Behold, here are six onties of silver, and all these will I give thee if thou wilt deny the existence of a Supreme Being.
23 Now Amulek said: O thou child of hell, why tempt ye me? Knowest thou that the righteous yieldeth to no such temptations?
24 Believest thou that there is no God? I say unto you, Nay, thou knowest that there is a God, but thou lovest that lucre more than him.
25 And now thou hast lied before God unto me. Thou saidst unto me—Behold these six onties, which are of great worth, I will give unto thee—when thou hadst it in thy heart to retain them from me; and it was only thy desire that I should deny the true and living God, that thou mightest have cause to destroy me. And now behold, for this great evil thou shalt have thy reward.
26 And Zeezrom said unto him: Thou sayest there is a true and living God?
27 And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God.
28 Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God?
29 And he answered, No.
30 Now Zeezrom said unto him again: How knowest thou these things?
31 And he said: An angel hath made them known unto me.
32 And Zeezrom said again: Who is he that shall come? Is it the Son of God?
34 And Zeezrom said again: Shall he save his people in their sins? And Amulek answered and said unto him: I say unto you he shall not, for it is impossible for him to deny his word.
35 Now Zeezrom said unto the people: See that ye remember these things; for he said there is but one God; yet he saith that the Son of God shall come, but he shall not save his people—as though he had authority to command God.
36 Now Amulek saith again unto him: Behold thou hast lied, for thou sayest that I spake as though I had authority to command God because I said he shall not save his people in their sins.
37 And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.
39 And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last;
40 And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else. (Alma 11:21-40)
Zeezrom’s first attempt to trap Amulek is, “Here are six ontis of silver that I will give you if you deny the existence of a Supreme Being.”
Now, our immediate assessment of Zeezrom would be, “This guy is an atheist, and he thinks Amulek is full of hooey. He thinks Amulek will drop it all if it is to Amulek’s financial advantage.”
However, Amulek, informed by the Spirit, knows otherwise: “Believest thou that there is no God? . . . Nay, thou knowest that there is a God, but thou lovest that lucre more than him.” (v24) Amulek pegs Zeezrom as a believer with a testimony who is masquerading as an atheist in order to get more money.
It is interesting to see how Amulek is inspired by the Spirit to give a spiritual assessment of Zeezrom’s condition so near the beginning of their exchange. There is no way that Amulek could have known all that about Zeezrom with just Zeezrom’s first attempt to trap him, bad as Zeezrom’s first attempt was. So Amulek’s assessment of Zeezrom is shown to be true throughout the rest of their conversation, and I suppose that becomes a witness to all who knew Zeezrom that Alma and Amulek were speaking the truth about Ammonihah as well.
Before this, though, Amulek calls Zeezrom a child of hell, which is totally accurate, since only a child of hell would tempt someone as Zeezrom tries to tempt Amulek. Especially when Zeezrom knows the truth.
The rest of Zeezrom’s plot, Amulek reveals, is that Zeezrom would have withheld the six ontis even if Amulek had fallen for the temptation. Zeezrom only wanted to get Amulek to deny God so that Zeezrom would have cause to destroy him. The cause by which Zeezrom would destroy Amulek remains unspecified, but if we remember that the Law of Moses forbade blasphemy with a punishment of stoning for offenders, then we might speculate that Zeezrom meant to drop his atheist act and put on an offended believer act, and then accuse Amulek of blasphemy in order to have him stoned.
Now, would an atheist have tried to destroy another atheist? Not very likely. So Zeezrom was definitely a believer who was trying to get Amulek to act like an unbeliever in order to destroy him.
If Zeezrom was a believer, then it was definitely true he had become more interested in money than in keeping the commandments, feigning unbelief in order to try to entrap a prophet. And we can see by the quality of his other questions that he asks Amulek that he has specific knowledge of Amulek’s beliefs and doctrines. It is knowledge at an unusually deep level for an unbeliever.
But eventually Amulek’s talk about the future judgment awakens Zeezrom to a consciousness of his guilt, and he begins to tremble and look for a way out of his sins.
Ultimately, Zeezrom’s problem was the problem of Ammonihah as well. They knew the truth, but they loved other things more.
I think there are several lessons from this exchange.
1) Never flirt with denying the truth for money.
2) If you believe, don’t ever start pretending you don’t just to gain material advantages.
The world is getting more secular. It is tempting to hide who we are, but it may be that Zeezrom shows us the end of that road. If he hadn’t been brought to realize his errors, he would have been destroyed with the others in Ammonihah.