Sunday School Lesson 19

May 18, 2004 | 13 comments
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Lesson 19: Mosiah 18-24

Chapter 18

Verse 1: Many of the conversion stories in the Book of Mormon are more detailed and more dramatic than this brief description of Alma’s repentance. (Compare Enos’s story and Alma the younger’s, for example.) Why might this story be told so briefly?

Verses 1-2: What has Alma learned from Abinadi’s sermons?

Verses 3-7: Alma hides by day and, evidently, preaches at night. Though he preaches in secret, a good many people hear his teaching. Yet, the king’s men cannot find him. What might this say about the relation of the king to the people?

Verses 6-7: Those who believed Alma went to the waters of Mormon to hear him. Evidently the teachings he gave in secret were fairly limited in scope. What might he have taught that motivated people to go to the waters of baptism to hear about repentance, redemption, and faith?

Verses 8-9: Notice the qualifications Alma lists for baptism:

1. That they desire to come into the fold of God
2. That they desire to be called God’s people
3. That they be willing to bear one another’s burdens that they might be light; i.e. that they might mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who need comfort
4. That they do these things so that they can stand as witnesses of God in all times and places until they die,
a. so that they may be redeemed and numbered in the first resurrection and
b. so that they may have eternal life.

The first two of these are explained fairly fully in King Benjamin’s sermon. The fourth obviously parallels what we have just seen Abinadi do. 4a and 4b (which may be the same thing) are obviously necessary to preaching repentance; we’ve seen them before. The third, however, is new in the Book of Mormon, though it anticipates what will be preached later. Why might Alma introduce this idea here?

Verse 10: He baptizes them so they can covenant to serve and obey the Lord and so the Lord can pour out his Spirit on them. Why can’t/won’t the Lord pour out his Spirit on them if they aren’t baptized?

Verses 21-29: Notice that these verses discussing the commandments that Alma gave them begin with the commandment to be one and end with a description of that unity. The theme of unity acts as parenthesis around the commandments. What might that tell us about our obedience and worship?

Chapter 19

Verse 17: What do the scriptures mean when they say that a person is just? Does “just” mean the same as “righteous”? (For comparison, look at the scriptures that use the phrase “just man”: Genesis 6:9; Proverbs 9:9; 20:7; 24:16; Ecclesiastes 7:15, 20; Matthew 1:19; 27:19; Mark 6:20; Acts 10:22; Enos 1:1; Omni 1:25; Mosiah 2:4; 19:17; Alma 63:2; 3 Nephi 3:12; 8:1; D&C 129:6, 7; Moses 8:27.)

Chapter 20

What does this chapter teach us about the Lamanites?

Chapter 21

Verses 2-12: What’s the difference between these people who fight for their freedom so unsuccessfully and the people of General Moroni’s time who fight for their freedom successfully?

Chapter 23

Verses 7-8: How do you explain Alma’s teaching here? On the one hand, he says if they had just men for kings, it would be good to have a king, implying that having a king can be a good thing. On the other hand, he tells them they shouldn’t have a king because they have been commanded that no one should think himself superior to another. Is it possible to have a king without that king thinking himself superior to his subjects? What would it take?

Verses 21-23: Notice the introduction that the writer gives to the Lamanties capture of the land of Helam. The Lord was chastening and trying his people, but those who trust the Lord will be delivered (for the Lord is the only one who can save). What’s the difference between this attitude and that which assumes that the bad things that happen to us are a punishment from the Lord?

Chapter 24

Verses 14-15: Does this have anything to do with the covenant of baptism described in Mosiah 18:9?

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13 Responses to Sunday School Lesson 19

  1. Ben S on May 18, 2004 at 7:49 pm

    Thought-provoking as usual.

    “The third, however, [That they be willing to bear one another's burdens that they might be light; i.e. that they might mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who need comfort ] is new in the Book of Mormon, though it anticipates what will be preached later. Why might Alma introduce this idea here? ”

    I suggest that Alma knows the situation they’re in- The king is trying to have him (them?) killed. I think Alma’s anticipating the problems they will have as an “outside” group by saying not to expect a bed of roses. Given the situation, the converts will need to pull together and help each other out in order to survive. They do, of course, literally “bear burdens” later when they are subject to Amulon and the Lamanites (Mosiah 24:14-15, 21)

  2. Jim F. on May 19, 2004 at 12:02 am

    Ben S: Thanks for the insightful comment. I like the way it gives the passage a couple of literal senses as well as the more figurative sense that we usually attribute to it.

  3. Kingsley on May 19, 2004 at 2:09 am

    Mosiah 23:21-23: Homeland invaded, city sacked, captured & enslaved by a bloodthirsty, alien culture, the Saints learn (1) that God still loves His people, (2) that the Church is still true, even when small & scattered, even when reduced to single secret prayers prayed from single frightened hearts, & (3) that deliverance for the faithful is assured. Contrariwise, some Saints today believe (1) that any attack on the homeland means God has forgotten His people, (2) that the Church, if it is to survive, had better unify behind whoever’s “toughest on defense,” & (3) that deliverance is dependent on not getting caught in the first place, i.e. preemptive war. A Commentary/National Review-type conservative myself, I am amazed by the fear, the absolute fear that paralyzes some of my politically like-minded LDS friends, who seem to forget that the Book of Mormon is the real deal, that the Church is here to stay, that no matter what happens to the country, no matter who wins the presidency, the Senate, the House, no matter how many Frenchmen hate us, “fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail; fear not, little flock, the kingdom is yours until I come.” Of course we get involved in politics; of course we “vote our consciences”; of course we are dead serious about threats to the country & the world. But we also remember the lessons of Alma & his little flock of Saints.

  4. Kingsley on May 19, 2004 at 1:52 pm

    I’m aware you can find arguments for a strong defense, preemptive attacks on terrorists, etc., in the Book of Mormon–& (again) politically I’m sympathetic to aspects of these policies; but what do you get, ultimately, when you come away from stories like Alma’s? Nations may fall, Empires may crumble, our enemies may do all sorts of awful things to us—God is still our Father & doesn’t give us the spirit of fear.

  5. Sheri Lynn on May 19, 2004 at 5:16 pm

    Thanks for that Kingsley. Sometimes we get all in knots and forget that while pessimism will get you through a car insurance claim, optimism will get you through eternity. The last few months before an election are not actually eternity, of course–but maybe it’s good practice in losing the spirit of fear!

    Half of this country will be in total despair come November no matter what the people who will make up their minds election eve decide. (The rest of us who pay attention and have principles have made up our minds already, and will not be swayed by short-term events. We might as well stay home, paired up as we are.)

    All of us will be nervous–unless we remember that the end times are not some accident happening despite God’s love for us. It’s part of the plan…yet it won’t be a picnic nor is it meant to be.

  6. Kingsley on May 20, 2004 at 1:13 am

    Sheri Lynn: I tend to have a uneasy reaction to the word “optimism,” given the cheap way it’s flung around these days, & esp. when it’s used in a gospel context. Like saying, “I’m choosing to focus on the positive side of Jesus’s victory over death!” Some issues just bypass the whole glass half empty vs. glass half full thing. When Latter-day Saints confuse Country with Church I don’t see them as pessimists or as glass half empty people, but as people ignoring (or forgetting) the living waters for that which cannot ultimately satisfy. & let me kick away the soap box by admitting that I do this 90% of the time.

  7. Sheri Lynn on May 21, 2004 at 1:18 am

    I have to struggle with a strong innate pessimism, the pessimism that drove the cynicism that caused me to wear out eight sets of missionaries before it “took.”

    But we as Saints are not Mel Gibson… I think we try hard to keep the pain and blood and misery of human life on the back burner and talk about apple pie and sunshine as much as we can.

    Raised an atheist, I have frequently been inactive due to poor health, and I come ill-prepared to discuss my religion at this level. I have much to learn. I admire the wonderful posts here. It does comfort me enormously to discover that people who have made more detailed study of the Church and our religion than anyone else I’ve met, who disagree on fundamental issues, nevertheless exhibit secure and strong testimonies.

  8. Tom Johnson on May 21, 2004 at 2:29 am

    Jim, you wrote, “The first two of these are explained fairly fully in King Benjamin’s sermon. The fourth obviously parallels what we have just seen Abinadi do. 4a and 4b (which may be the same thing) are obviously necessary to preaching repentance; we’ve seen them before. The third, however, is new in the Book of Mormon, though it anticipates what will be preached later. Why might Alma introduce this idea here?”

    Your notes suggest that Alma’s baptismal covenant borrows and incorporates teachings from King Benjamin, but if this is what you’re implying, you get some chronology wrong. The people of Limhi (and hence Alma) didn’t receive King Benjamin’s teachings until Ammon taught them to Limhi (see Mosiah 8:3). So all of these covenant ideas — while not all “new” in the Book of Mormon, as you say — were new to Alma and his people at that time. Not until Alma departs into the wilderness and Limhi charge is there any contact with Ammon from the Land of Zarahemla (where King Benjamin gave his sermon).

    By the way, for interesting parallels of covenant teaching, see Mos 5:1-9. Were the people of King Benjamin already baptized? Why does he give them a name as a covenant, where as Alma baptizes?

  9. Tom Johnson on May 21, 2004 at 2:42 am

    Ceremony? What’s the ceremony spoken of in Mos 19:24? Isn’t this an odd word choice?

  10. Jim F. on May 21, 2004 at 3:10 am

    Tom, thanks for pointing out my sloppiness regarding Alma. I did make it appear that Alma was using King Benjamin’s sermon when, obviously, that cannot be the case. I didn’t intend that implication, but I wasn’t careful enough.

    Thanks also for pointing out the parallels and differences between Mosiah 5:1-9 and Mosiah 18:8-10. It would be very interesting to compare and contrast the two ways of talking about covenant. In fact, I may use that as the center of my lesson this coming Sunday.

    Finally, thanks for the question about ceremony. That is indeed a strange word to use in that context and it is far from obvious to what it refers.

  11. Kingsley on May 21, 2004 at 1:22 pm

    Sheri Lynn: Sorry to nitpick, I just happen to have what amounts to a bad chemical reaction to the word optimist! Maybe because I was raised by sunny optimists, I don’t know. The only aspect of it I really object to is “There’s no sun right now, it’s true, but we can pretend there is if we’re positive enough!” & I know that’s not what you were getting after. So again, didn’t mean to be a bore–& believe me, I’m as ill-prepared as Bro. McConkie’s premordial slime-dwellers when it comes to posting here. Everyone seems to have a J.D. or a Ph.D. etc., some of them are my professors. Your point about half the country being in mourning come November is a apt one–it’s important to remember that there’ll be sad GAs & happy GAs, sad Saints & happy Saints, but that the GOOD NEWS is still very, very good indeed.

  12. Tom Johnson on May 22, 2004 at 1:51 am

    A quote on optimism and pessimism:

    “The optimist proclaims we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears this is true.”

    - James Branch Cabell

  13. Sheri Lynn on May 24, 2004 at 2:29 pm

    Thank you, especially Kingsley. I REALLY appreciate this particular weekly discussion. My family now attends meetings at a Spanish-speaking branch. My son and husband have some Spanish–my daughters and I have none. That will change (I hope!) as we continue to go to meetings. They are some sweet people and apparently their Relief Society meetings are far more fun than any I’ve been to before–there is much laughter! Can’t wait to be in on the jokes.

    But having read discussions of the lessons here before I go is making it much easier for me to follow what is going on and pick up more vocabulary. I feel much less insecure about what we’re trying to do than I would. I have refused help with translation so that I’ll hear more and learn faster. Translation is a crutch, I think, that would keep me ignorant longer.

    And I just want to say, just because we cannot see it doesn’t mean there is no sun. If there were no clouds there could be no life, and the sun itself doesn’t give a fig whether we have clouds between it and us or not. Still the clouds ARE there for very good reasons, and not just to obscure our view. I lived in Germany for long enough that when the sun WOULD come out we’d all pretend we never saw it before–”Wow, what’s that big bright thing?”

    Optimism in its purest form welcomes the tornado that takes out the house–it was probably going to burn down soon anyway, and nobody got hurt….