Sunday School Lesson 29

July 26, 2004 | 7 comments
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Lesson 29: Alma 36-39

Alma 35:15-16 explains why Alma says the things in these chapters to his sons, Helaman, Shiblon, and Corianton: because he grieved for the hardness of the hearts of the people to whom he and others had been sent as missionaries. (See Alma 31:6-7.) How does that explain what he says, especially since one of the three sons to whom he speaks, Helaman, was not part of that mission?

Chapter 36

Verses 1-2: Why does Alma begin by asking Helaman to remember the captivity of their fathers? What captivity do you think he has in mind? (Compare Mosiah 27:16.)

Verse 3: Alma tells Helaman the principle he wishes him to learn. Why is this principle so important that it required gathering the sons together and these individual admonitions to them?

Verses 6-30: In a separate file, I have created a side-by-side comparison of the three accounts of Alma the younger’s conversion. Compare them and ask yourself how to explain the differences between them. What does each do that the others do not?

Verse 14: Why do you think that Alma describes what he had done as murder? Compare Alma 5:23 and Matthew 10:28—what does it mean to destroy both soul (i.e., spirit) and body in hell?

Verses 18-19: Why does Alma’s cry in verse 18 bring the results in verse 19? How is this connected to King Benjamin’s teaching in Mosiah 4? Is it significant that Benjamin delivered that address to a people who were diligent in keeping the commandments but that it also seems to apply to someone like Alma who has openly rebelled against those commandments?

Verse 19: Since Alma is here telling us about the pains he experienced, what can he mean when he says “I could remember my pains no more”?

Verse 22: Why does Alma have a vision of Lehi at this point?

Verse 28: Is this verse parallel to verse 2? Why would Alma begin and end the account of his conversion by reminding Helaman of this scriptural type?

Verse 30: How are verses 28-29 (and, therefore, also verse 3) a type for what Alma says in this verse?

Chapter 37

Verses 1-4: In chapter 36, Alma described his own salvation, then that of the Israelites, then that of the Lehites. Now he follows those stories with a command for Helaman to keep the records. How does recounting these stories of salvation lead to that command?

Verse 5: Of what is this verse a prophecy? As used here, what does “brightness” mean?

Verses 6-7: Why might Alma have thought it necessary to tell Helaman this?

Verses 8-9: What does it mean to enlarge a people’s memory? How has doing so convinced people of the error of their ways? Why were they essential to the conversion work that Ammon and the other missionaries did? How do we enlarge our memory?

Verses 10-12: Does Alma understand what the ultimate purpose of the Book of Mormon will be? If not, why not? What might your answer to that question suggest about our understanding of things?

Verses 21-22: What 24 plates is Alma referring to? (See Mosiah 8:9.) Why are those plates so important to the Nephites? How is that the same or different as the way in which the Book of Mormon is important to us?

Verse 25: These interpreters have been made available so that God can “bring forth out of darkness unto light all their secret works and their abominations.” Why must those things be revealed? Why isn’t it enough to reveal the truths of the Gospel?

Verses 27-29: If the abominations are to be revealed, why not also the covenants, agreements, signs, and wonders that went with those abominations? What have verses 25-29 to do with us today? Anything?

Verses 32-34: Helaman is not supposed to teach his people the secrets on the Jaredite plates, though it appears that he is to teach them about the abominations of the Jaredites. Instead, he is supposed to teach the people to respond to evil by (1) teaching them to hate evil, (2) preaching repentance, (3) teaching them to be humble, (4) teaching them to resist temptation with faith, (5) teaching them to be unwearying in doing good works, (6) and teaching them to be meek. First, are 2 and 6 the same? If so, why is it repeated? If not, how are they different? More important, what does this say to us about how we are to respond to evil? How, for example, can we be meek and humble, and hate evil? What form would our hatred take? How are good works a response to evil?

Verses 35-37: These verses are beautiful and often quoted. Why does Alma seem to equate wisdom with learning to keep the commandments (verse 35)? Why do you think he followed “keep the commandments” with “cry unto God for all they support”? Is Alma using hyperbole when he says “let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord” or is there some way that this is really possible? If there is, what is it? What are the affections of our hearts? What does it mean to place our affections on the Lord?

Verses 43-46: Alma sees the world and its history in terms of types and shadows. How does that help him understand the work of the Lord? Do we understand the world in the same way? Can we? How?

Chapter 38

Verse 4: What does this verse suggest about our knowledge of the history of the descendants of Lehi?

Verses 6-8: Why do you think Alma explains his conversion so briefly to Shiblon but explained it at length to Helaman?

Verse 9: How does Alma’s conversion story show us that we can be saved only in and through Christ?

Verses 10-14: Do you think that Alma gives this counsel to Shiblon because he knows what things tempt Shiblon? What kind of intemperance do you think Shiblon might find tempting? Are there any suggestions in these verses? Why must we bridle the passions in order to be filled with love? What does it mean to bridle the passions? All passions or particular ones? If particular ones, which ones? Why is it important to acknowledge our unworthiness before God at all times? How do we do so?

Chapter 39

Verses 2-4: What sins is Corianton guilty of?

Verse 5: Notice that when Alma speaks of the severity of Corianton’s sins he says “these sins.” To what is he referring, to Corianton’s sexual sins (verse 3) or to those sins and his pride (verses 2-3)?

Verse 6: Is Alma using “deny the Holy Ghost” and “murder against the light” as synonyms in this verse? See if you can explain the teaching of this verse in your own words. Why did Alma think it necessary to explain this to Corianton? How is it relevant to us?

Verse 7: What does it mean to harrow up a person’s soul? When is it good for a soul to be harrowed? Think about what a harrow does. How do we do that to a soul? Who has the right to harrow another’s soul?

Verse 9: How is the phrase “lusts of the eyes” significant? (Compare Isaiah 3:16, 2 Peter 2:14, 1 John 2:16, 1 Nephi 16:38, and D&C 56:17 and 68:31.) Twice Alma tells Corianton to cross himself. What does that mean? The 1828 edition of Webster’s dictionary of American English had these possibly relevant definitions: “To erase; to cancel”; “To pass from side to side; to pass or move over”; “to thwart; to obstruct; to hinder; to embarrass”; “to counteract; to clash or interfere with; to be inconsistent with”; “to counteract or contravene; to hinder by authority; to stop”; “to contradict”; “to debar or preclude.” Do any of these help us think about what Alma is telling Corianton?

Verse 11: What does “vain” mean? What does “foolish” mean? What kinds of vain or foolish things might we be led away by? In addition to the personal consequences of sin, what are some of the other consequences?

Verses 12-14: What pieces of advice does Alma give Corianton? What do these have to do with the sins he has committed? How will this advice help him overcome those sins?

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7 Responses to Sunday School Lesson 29

  1. Ian Roberts on July 27, 2004 at 10:12 am

    When pondering motive and intent, I often find it helpful to see the passage in the context of a larger story. Consider the entire book of Alma, and more specifically, consider one of its running contrasts….the word and the sword. (or persuasion and force)

    I. Alma 1 to 4 is recounts division and strife, and the resulting bloodshed of war. After 3 or 4 separate battles, peace ensues, they prosper and begin to get prideful, and Alma knows where things are heading. Having tried the Sword, at the end of Ch.4 he commits himself to the preaching of the Word, which is of course ultimately more powerful than the sword (Alma 30:5).

    II. Alma 5 to 42 relates Alma’s preaching and reliance on the Word. Many of the Doctrinal Gems of the BOM are therein. We see the great results and power of the Word in many of the missionary accounts.

    III. Alma 43 to 63 is a return to the Sword. The preaching of the word having been rejected (or the Word having been insufficiently nourished), the righteous must reach for the Sword in defense. Although self-defense becomes a moral imperative, bloodshed again leads to further bloodshed and misery.

    Now consider the passage from Alma 35 is the above context. It is the very end of II. Alma can sense where things are going, and I think that is why he is pensively “grieved”. When efforts to persuade those who have the propensity to aggressively use force fail, then you can bet the only recourse will be the defensive use of force. Notwithstanding his efforts, the people are hardening, and I think Alma knows of the great boodshed that is to shortly come to pass.

    The following chapters (36 to 42) are lessons to his family, which obviously had some issues of their own. These chapters are his last real effort with the Word. One can see in Chaps. 36 and 37 the Laws of Obedience and Sacrifice (or Faith and Repentance), Chap. 38 has aspects of the law of the Gospel, Chap. 39 covers the Law of Chastity, and 39 to 42 are the Resurrection (i.e. being presented to the Lord).

    This reading is perhaps a characterization, and is more obviously just council that each individual child needed to hear depending on where they were in the development of their discipleship. Either way, the chapters reveal Alma’s commitment to the principle of Alma 30:5…the Power of the Word. Another lesson is that when things get scary, reinforce Zion within the walls of your own home.

    p.s. I am knew to T&S. This site is fabulous.

  2. Jim F. on July 27, 2004 at 1:19 pm

    Ian Roberts, thanks for your reflections on the lesson. Since the idea is to provide teachers with materials they can use for their lessons, your additional perspective is very useful.

  3. Julie in Austin on August 5, 2004 at 6:54 pm

    Anyone know anything about ‘Gazelem’ in Alma 37:23. Here are the references to it at lds.org, all two of them:

    “The memo says President Woodruff made some spontaneous comments to Elder James E. Talmage “in relation to the seer stone known as ‘Gazelem,’ which was shown of the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith to be some thirty feet under ground, and which he obtained by digging under the pretence of excavating for a well, as related in his own history.” ”

    and

    “In the Doctrine and Covenants many readers have puzzled over the code words used to disguise references to people and places, such as references to Joseph Smith as Enoch or Gazelem, or to Kirtland as the City of Shinehah”

    The first one doesn’t make sense for Alma, where the referent seems to be (?) to a person, not an object; I suppose the second is possible.

    Anyone? Anyone?

  4. diogenes on August 5, 2004 at 7:25 pm

    Hi Julie –

    Gazelem, meaning “a stone” was one of the titles or offices by which Joseph Smith was designated in early revelations — those references are now stripped out of the current D&C edition (pity — they’re probably important). Alma 37 uses the term in reference to seers — note that Peter was also designated a “stone,” and cross-reference Matthew 17:15-19.

  5. diogenes on August 5, 2004 at 7:33 pm

    Oh, and cf. Rev. 2:17, Ether 3:1-6 and portions of the endowment that we can’t really discuss here.

  6. obi-wan on August 6, 2004 at 6:02 pm

    Y’know, every once in awhile, when I read this sort of thing — and I hasten to add, that I think Diogenes’ comment is absolutely right, dead on the mark — I sit back and reflect that we belong to a really, really weird religion.

  7. diogenes on August 6, 2004 at 6:13 pm

    You would prefer believing in the Trinity? Or virgin birth? Or transubstantiation?

    Seer stones seem to me fairly plausible by comparison.