BMGD #30: Alma 40-42

July 30, 2012 | 2 comments
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CHAPTER 40

 1 Now my son, here is somewhat more I would say unto thee; for I perceive that thy mind is worried concerning the resurrection of the dead.

Remember that our context here is that Alma is speaking to his son Corianton, who has been guilty of sexual sin and apostasy.

Is Alma’s perception the result of inspiration?  Or what?  Is being able to read other people’s thoughts a common gift?

Is there any link between Corianton’s sin and his worries about resurrection of the dead?

What does “worried” mean here–does it just mean that he was unclear about doctrine, or that he was actively worried about it?  (If you were actively worried, maybe you wouldn’t be committing sexual sin.  On the other hand, if he is just unclear, then why does Alma use the word “worried”?)

As you read this chapter, think about what Alma is showing that you can model when you encounter people who have concerns with their testimony.

President Monson tells a story about using this passage to comfort someone who was about to die (see Oct 81 GC).  That seems like a much more natural setting for someone to be “worried concerning the resurrection of the dead” than Corianton’s sitation.

 2 Behold, I say unto you, that there is no resurrection—or, I would say, in other words, that this mortal does not put on immortality, this corruption does not put on incorruption—until after the coming of Christ.

So we are used to reading the “or . . . in other words” as “oops, I misspoke, and there is no way to erase these dang plates,” but there is still something shocking about “there is no resurrection.”  At the same time that I see this as an error that Alma immediately corrects, I see it as something with some measure of deliberateness, some intentional jarring. . .

Is “this mortal does not . . .incorruption” a definition of “resurrection”?  That seems to be logical, except that when Alma says, “or . . . in other words,” that sounds more like correcting a mistake than offering a definition.  What’s going on here?

What does the phrase “put on” tell you about immortality?  (I think we usually think of mortality and immortality as binary states, but this suggests that they co-exist, like a body and clothing.  What might that teach us about these concepts?)

Shouldn’t this be “the resurrection” of Christ and not “the coming” of Christ?  Perhaps Alma is referring of “the coming” not as the incarnation, but as the coming to the new world.  Of course, that isn’t technically true, either, since there is some resurrection before Christ comes to the new world.  How might we best understand Alma’s words here?

Thinking about v1-2 together, is it reasonable to conclude that Corianton thought that there was a resurrection before the coming of Christ?  If so, why might he have thought this and how might it have shaped his behavior?

1 Corinthians 15:42 (“42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption”) might be helpful here; most modern translations use (im)perishable instead of (in)corruption.  If you don’t make the link to 1 Cor 15:42, it is difficult, I think, to figure out how the resurrected body has “corruption” covered by “incorruption” using the usual meaning of that word.  Webster 1828 “corruption:”

1. The act of corrupting, or state of being corrupt or putrid; the destruction of the natural form of bodies, by the separation of the component parts, or by disorganization, in the process of putrefaction.

2. Putrid matter; pus.

3. Putrescence; a foul state occasioned by putrefaction.

4. Depravity; wickedness; perversion or deterioration of moral principles; loss of purity or integrity.

5. Debasement; taint; or tendency to a worse state.

6. Impurity; depravation; debasement; as a corruption of language.

7. Bribery.

8. In law, taint; impurity of blood, in consequence of an act of attainder of treason or felony, by which a person is disabled to inherit lands from an ancestor, nor can retain those in his possession, nor transmit them by descent to his heirs.

 3 Behold, he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead. But behold, my son, the resurrection is not yet. Now, I unfold unto you a mystery; nevertheless, there are many mysteries which are kept, that no one knoweth them save God himself. But I show unto you one thing which I have inquired diligently of God that I might know—that is concerning the resurrection.

What work is “my son” doing in the middle of this verse?

Does “but behold, my son, the resurrection is not yet” imply that Corianton thought that the resurrection (at least for some people) had already happened?  Crazy speculation alert:  the formative event in Corianton’s father’s life was seeing an angel.  Did perhaps Corianton think that was a resurrected being?  If so, then he might not think the atoning mission of Christ was necessary since people were already being resurrected, and this might explain why he became a libertine.  But I’m totally just making this up.

What does it suggest about mysteries to say that they can be “unfolded”?

How would Alma know if God has mysteries that haven’t been shared?  ;)  More seriously, it is one thing to say “I’m about to tell you a mystery” and another to say “and there are a bunch of other mysteries.”  Why does Alma mention the latter here?

Note that Alma draws a line between “mysteries I know” and “mysteries I don’t” and the dividing line is the ones that he as “inquired diligently” about.

Did Alma inquire as a result of Corianton’s worry, or was this unrelated?  (If unrelated, it is interesting that Alma was apparently confused/interested/worried about the very same topic.  If related, it is interesting that Alma got an answer for Corianton’s issue and Corianton didn’t get it himself [perhaps because of his unrighteousness?].)

Is there an implied rebuke here that Corianton hasn’t inquired diligently of God to know about this?  Why did Alma have to ask God but Corianton gets this knowledge dumped on him from his Dad, without even asking for it (as far as we know), and while he is mired in great sin?  Shouldn’t his sinful state prohibit him from gaining further light and knowledge?

What work is “that is concerning the resurrection” doing here–isn’t it obvious from the context that that is what Alma would be talking about?

What would be the purpose of mysteries known only to God?

Brant Gardner:

We are in a similar position where there is much of the ways of God that is not clear. We may also inquire diligently. God does not present us with all knowledge simply because we are members of the church. Indeed, he does not simply present information to a prophet and leader as great as Alma. We, as individuals, must do as Alma did, and inquire diligently. The same reward of understanding can be available to us, but we are required to put forth the same kind of effort that Alma did. Citation

4 Behold, there is a time appointed that all shall come forth from the dead. Now when this time cometh no one knows; but God knoweth the time which is appointed.

It seems odd to begin a lesson on the resurrection with “there is a time appointed” as opposed to some direct statements about the resurrection.  Why does Alma do this?

So in v3, I think Corianton was of the belief that time didn’t matter–that people had already been resurrected.  Here, we begin a discussion that suggests that timing doesn’t matter–people have not yet been resurrected, they all will be, but we don’t know the time(s), but the time(s) don’t matter.  Larger issue:  I see a paradox between Alma saying that the time does matter (=no one will be resurrected until Jesus comes) and time doesn’t matter (=people may be resurrected at different/unknown times).  How might we reconcile that paradox?

Does “a time appointed” mean that there is a big book with names scheduled, like at the doctor’s office?  (If so, why do different people have different times?  And what happened to “the morning of the first resurrection?)  If it doesn’t mean that, what might it mean?

There’s something else that has to do with timing that God knows that no one else does:  when Jesus will return.  Is that idea linked here?

Is this the “mystery”?  (If so, sorry Alma, it wasn’t all that exciting.)

 5 Now, whether there shall be one time, or a second time, or a third time, that men shall come forth from the dead, it mattereth not; for God knoweth all these things; and it sufficeth me to know that this is the case—that there is a time appointed that all shall rise from the dead.

Skousen reads “time appointed when.”

Note how Alma deals with his partial knowledge–what might you learn from his approach of managing uncertainty?  (Note that Alma can have and act on a testimony without understanding everything. Also, Alma is illustrating for Corianton that you can proceed living the gospel without knowing everything first.)

 6 Now there must needs be a space betwixt the time of death and the time of the resurrection.

“There must needs be” sounds more like the result of logic than revelation; is that the best way to interpret Alma’s phrasing here?

Why does there need to be a space between these times?  (Noting that the space ranges from a few days to a few millenia!)

 7 And now I would inquire what becometh of the souls of men from this time of death to the time appointed for the resurrection?

Who is Alma asking here?

I think the question mark makes it into a rhetorical question, but I think it could also be read as “this is the next item on my list that I plan on asking God.”  (But perhaps v9 suggests otherwise.)

Did Corianton worry about this question?  If not, should Alma really be introducing more tough issues into the life of someone who is already in trouble?

 8 Now whether there is more than one time appointed for men to rise it mattereth not; for all do not die at once, and this mattereth not; all is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men.

Alma has already delivered the “it mattereth not” line; why repeat it?  (My thought:  v6-7 were a tangent and here he is picking up the main thread of his argument again.)

Are you suspecting at this point that Corianton was getting hung up on the issue of the timing of the resurrection?  Why might that have been an issue to him?  (Is there a larger issue at stake?)  It seems so . . . irrelevant . . .to me; I wonder if there is an implicit commentary here on the idea that the intellectual puzzles that make people batty today just aren’t going to look that important in the future.

What does it mean to say that all time is as one day to God?  Does God not exist in time?  If that is true, can you please explain it to me slowly and using small words, because I can’t even begin to get my head around it.

Does God really not measure time, or is that a little poetic flourish?  How is it possible for God to simultaneously (1) not measure time and (2) have a time appointed for each person to be resurrected?

Does this verse imply that the time between death and resurrection doesn’t “count” for the people who experience it (because they are on “God’s [lack of] time” at that point)?

 9 Therefore, there is a time appointed unto men that they shall rise from the dead; and there is a space between the time of death and the resurrection. And now, concerning this space of time, what becometh of the souls of men is the thing which I have inquired diligently of the Lord to know; and this is the thing of which I do know.

So there’s two issues here:  there is a time for people to rise, and there is time between death and rising.  Why does this matter?  Why would Corianton have cared about it?

And this verse seems to bring us back to v7 (what with the inquiring re what happens between death and resurrection).  Does this bracketing make you read v8 differently?

Does this verse make you read v7 differently?

 10 And when the time cometh when all shall rise, then shall they know that God knoweth all the times which are appointed unto man.

I think “when the time cometh when all shall rise” kind of implies that all rise at the same time, no?

Alma told us that he knows already that God knows “all the times” and Alma hasn’t risen yet.  So why does Alma imply in this verse that knowing “all the times” is the result of having been raised?

This verse links knowledge to the resurrection.

Does this verse imply that while people are in the state between death and resurrection, they will not know this?

 11 Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.

Interesting–Alma here is relating an angelic visitation that we otherwise don’t know about, unless this is his “conversion angel,” in which case, we’ve heard about this angel three times, but never knew until know that he/she/it taught Alma about the time between death and resurrection.

Honestly, wondering about what happens to people between death and resurrection sounds like an how-many-angels-can-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin type question that an angel wouldn’t answer.  Why do you think Alma got this information?  Why is this important?

Presumably Corianton and the reader know that God “gave them life,” so why does Alma include that information here?

What are the implications of the idea that being taken to God is being “taken home”?

An article on Alma’s use of the word “state” here.

 12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.

Why is “happiness” the main descriptor here?

Note how the state of happiness is described here–what do you learn from this?

How does this verse mesh with statements from modern prophets that picture Very Busy people in the afterlife?

13 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.

What do you make of the binary classification of souls into righteous and wicked?  (I’d hate to be that 49%-er.)

Is the “and then it shall come to pass” just a flourish, or does it imply that the casting out of these people will happen *after* the receiving into happiness of the righteous?  (And how does Alma’s commentary on possibly multiple resurrections interplay with this?)

Are “part” and “portion” two separate things?

What work is “who are evil” doing here?  Isn’t it a given that the spirits of the wicked are evil, or does Alma feel the need to clarify for some reason?

“They have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord” would seem to be a vanishingly small group, would it not?

Does this verse imply that those who chose evil lost the portion of the Spirit of the Lord that they had?

Why “evil works” and not “evil thoughts” or “evil plans”?

Is Alma deliberately setting up “Spirit of the Lord” and “spirit of the devil” in opposition?  Is it useful for you to think about the two in these terms?

“Take possession of their house” seems to be an allusion to Mark 3:23-27:

And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.

If it isn’t an allusion, what do you make of the use of “house” where “soul” or whatever might have been expected?

Why is “outer darkness” a useful term?  What does it imply?  (Note that the only biblical usage of the term is in the Gospel of Matthew.)

Maybe we shouldn’t push the images too far, but is there a paradox between the idea of Satan evicting you and Satan leading you as a captive?  Why might Alma have used both of these images in this verse?

Do the images of rest and peace in v12 teach us more about what the weeping and wailing in this verse are all about?

A chronological reading of this verse would suggest that (1) people choose evil and then later (2) Satan takes over.  In other words, Satan is not the instigator of evil but a late arrival on the scene.  Is that the best way of interpreting this verse?

The last two phrases (“this because of their own iniquity” and “being led captive by the devil”) seem to be a paradox:  is the issue the person’s iniquity, or is it the devil’s actions?

 14 Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection.

Is darkness literal?  If it is symbolic, what does it symbolize?  (It is worth remembering how terrifying the dark would have been in an age before bright electric light.)

Interesting juxtaposition of darkness but looking for something . . .

Note that there problem in this verse isn’t the wrath of God; it is the anticipation of the wrath of God.

What is the “thus” going in this verse?  By which I mean:  How does it establish a causal relationship between what comes before it and what comes after it?

I’m curious about the interplay between (1) their anticipation of wrath and (2) their knowledge that they will soon be resurrected.

Notice the “thus” in this verse:  how does what comes before it cause what comes after it?  (I’m almost thinking that it is something about their anticipation that causes their awful state–that the point is that it is entirely self-inflicted.)

 15 Now, there are some that have understood that this state of happiness and this state of misery of the soul, before the resurrection, was a first resurrection. Yea, I admit it may be termed a resurrection, the raising of the spirit or the soul and their consignation to happiness or misery, according to the words which have been spoken.

Does the phrasing “state of happiness and state of misery” imply that this is all internal?

Does this verse imply that Alma uses “soul” and “spirit” interchangeably?

I’m curious about “happiness and misery”:  it seems to privilege human emotional states above every other consideration.

Alma seems to be reluctant to admit that this is a resurrection.  What should we learn from this? (Both from Alma’s reluctance to the fact that he deems that it is.)

Does this verse imply that “resurrection” need not have a physical component?

Who are the “some” who understand it this way?  (Was this something Corianton believed?  Was it misleading in some way that impacted his behavior?)

Why would “some” understand this as a resurrection?  In what sense is it a “raising”?

I’m kind of surprised that Alma concedes (maybe that isn’t the best word?) on this issue, because he’s granting that you can have a resurrection before Christ is resurrected, and that seems to really muddy the waters of what he is trying to do in this chapter.  (I think that confusion becomes really clear in the next verse, when “the first resurrection” means . . . something different than what it usually means.)

 16 And behold, again it hath been spoken, that there is a first resurrection, a resurrection of all those who have been, or who are, or who shall be, down to the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

17 Now, we do not suppose that this first resurrection, which is spoken of in this manner, can be the resurrection of the souls and their consignation to happiness or misery. Ye cannot suppose that this is what it meaneth.

Alma, you totally lost me with v16 and v17.  I have no idea what you mean.  (OK, I think he means that the “real” resurrection is not what he was talking about in v15.  But if that’s the case, he never should have granted that v15 could be called a resurrection, because now we have one word for two different things and that never ends well.  [See:  biweekly and cleave.])

Why can’t it be what it means?

Brant Gardner:

Alma argues that this understanding of resurrection, while perhaps possible, is nevertheless incorrect. The importance of this part of his discussion is that such reasoning would allow the religious philosophers proposing such a thing to declare themselves attached to tradition (the scriptures) but to deny the need for the Atoning Messiah. They would be able to say that the resurrection already occurs when the spirit lives, and thus there is no need for the future Atoning Messiah. Alma is not just arguing theology here, but he is continuing to remove the points Corianton would have used to justify his apostasy. Citation

 18 Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but it meaneth the reuniting of the soul with the body, of those from the days of Adam down to the resurrection of Christ.

I think modern LDS usage is spirit + body = soul, but that doesn’t appear to be how Alma is using the terms here.

Weird question:  why is the soul ever separated from the body?  What does that teach us about souls?  About bodies?

 19 Now, whether the souls and the bodies of those of whom has been spoken shall all be reunited at once, the wicked as well as the righteous, I do not say; let it suffice, that I say that they all come forth; or in other words, their resurrection cometh to pass before the resurrection of those who die after the resurrection of Christ.

What do you learn here about how Alma handles situations where he has only partial information?

How does this verse nuance everything above about Alma not knowing the timing of the resurrection(s)?

Does this verse imply that Alma thought that everyone who died before Christ died would be resurrected before everyone who died after Christ died?  (Is it possible Alma was just wrong about this?  Are there other ways to read this verse?)

Does it seem weird to you that wicked people are resurrected?

 20 Now, my son, I do not say that their resurrection cometh at the resurrection of Christ; but behold, I give it as my opinion, that the souls and the bodies are reunited, of the righteous, at the resurrection of Christ, and his ascension into heaven.

Again, why does he throw in “my son” here?

Note “I give it as my opinion.”  I love how he demarcates his presentation of knowledge.

So did Alma think that everyone who died before Christ would be resurrected at the ascension?  (Interesting to think about–any time we tried to dig someone up who had died before Christ, there presumably wouldn’t be a body there!  That would, I think have been a very powerful proof of the Christ’s power.)

I think the best way to read this verse is that Alma was just plain wrong.  Interesting that (1) he would signal his lack of surety and (2) that this would be included in the record.

 21 But whether it be at his resurrection or after, I do not say; but this much I say, that there is a space between death and the resurrection of the body, and a state of the soul in happiness or in misery until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works.

Why would the judgment not happen until body and soul were re-united?

Why is a judgment necessary at this point, when people have already been sorted into good and evil?

 22 Yea, this bringeth about the restoration of those things of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets.

What are “those things”:  bodies and souls?  (I think v24 tells us that the restoration is described in v23.)  We normally use restoration to mean the restoration of the gospel, not the restoration of the resurrection; I wonder if we might discover anything interesting by comparing the two.

Is “spoken  . . . prophets”  is meant to relate to “spoken” in v16 and v17?  (Is it significant that it is spoken and [apparently] not written?)

 23 The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame.

Skousen reads “their heads” here.

Is this just a poetic flourish, or is the soul being restored to the body a separate thing than the body being restored to the soul?  What might this mean?

Why mention the limbs and joints?  Wouldn’t that be a given?  Again, is this a flourish or does it mean something significant?

Presumably the point of the “hair of the head” reference is to point to the precision and totality of the resurrection. (Or, you know, to give special comfort to the bald.  Hey, maybe Alma was bald.)

“Proper” suggests to me that it is restored to what it used to be; “perfect” suggests re-created to its  best possible configuration.  These are not the same!  Ahem.

The parallelism of this verse would suggest that “limb and joint” are part of the soul (not the body) but that doesn’t sound quite right . . .

Is it correct to say that the restoration is more than just a resurrection, because it includes restoring the body not just to how it was at the moment of death but to its proper/perfect frame?

Why “frame”?  What does that word even mean?

 24 And now, my son, this is the restoration of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets—

Why would it have been important to Alma to showcase these teachings not just as true but as things that prophets had taught?

V22 and v24 are virtually identical–how do they frame (ha!) v23?

25 And then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of God.

Is the resurrection necessary for one to “shine forth”?

What precisely does “shine forth” mean?  Here’s a list of all of the scriptural uses of “shine forth;” many of them have interesting implications for this passage.  What does it imply about the relationship between the person who has been resurrected and light?

What does the word “kingdom” teach us about God’s abode?

26 But behold, an awful death cometh upon the wicked; for they die as to things pertaining to things of righteousness; for they are unclean, and no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God; but they are cast out, and consigned to partake of the fruits of their labors or their works, which have been evil; and they drink the dregs of a bitter cup.

Why is “death” a good word to describe what is happening here?  What did these people have in the time between death and resurrection that dies here?

Is it ironic to describe a resurrection as a death?

Aren’t they already dead as to things pertaining to righteousness?

Is “things pertaining to righteousness” just a fancy way to say “God’s presence,” or does it mean something else?

What does “inherit” suggest about the kingdom of God?

Note that this is a second casting out for these people.

Why “or their works”?  Was “of their labors” not clear?

Do the references to being cast out and fruits make this into a second (or third?) Fall?

What does the image of drinking the dregs of a bitter cup suggest to you?

Note that Christ also drank of a bitter cup . . . is that alluded to here?  (Perhaps in the inverse, or with the suggestion that there’s no need to drink of this cup because Christ already did it for them?)

Go back to v3:  What does the word “mystery” mean, now that you have seen Alma unfold one?

CHAPTER 41

1 And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the restoration of which has been spoken; for behold, some have wrested the scriptures, and have gone far astray because of this thing. And I perceive that thy mind has been worried also concerning this thing. But behold, I will explain it unto thee.

What does “wrested” mean?  How do we know if we are wresting?

Webster 1828 wrest:

1. To twist or extort by violence; to pull or force from by violent wringing or twisting; as, to wrest an instrument from anothers hands.

2. To take or force from by violence. The enemy made a great effort, and wrested the victory from our hands.

3. To distort; to turn from truth or twist from its natural meaning by violence; to pervert.

If the scriptures can be wrested, this means that they are not self-interpreting.  The correct interpretation is not patently obvious to everyone.

How can we know if we are using or misusing the scriptures?

What does the metaphor of “going astray” suggest to you about the use and misuse of scriptures?

Is it possible and/or useful to try to link Alma’s statement here to what we know of Nephite apostates (Nehor, etc.)?

2 I say unto thee, my son, that the plan of restoration is requisite with the justice of God; for it is requisite that all things should be restored to their proper order. Behold, it is requisite and just, according to the power and resurrection of Christ, that the soul of man should be restored to its body, and that every part of the body should be restored to itself.

Webster’s 1828 requisite:  “Required by the nature of things or by circumstances; necessary; so needful that it cannot be dispensed with.”

If requisite means “required,” then in what sense is the plan of restoration required by God’s justice?

Is this verse telling us three things that are “requisite” (that is:  the plan of restoration, all things being restored, and the soul of man restored) or is it repeating the same idea three times?

Again, I am curious about the fact that we usually use “restoration” to mean “of the gospel” but here it is “of the body;” I suspect there might be some interesting parallels between the two.

Can we reverse-engineer Corianton’s concern from what Alma says?  Did Corianton think restoring the body and soul was unjust in some way?  (Or, perhaps, from the next verse, that people are judged by their works?)

3 And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.

Up to this point, we’ve only been talking about works/labors.  This verse introduces the idea of “the desires of their hearts.”

Are you surprised by the emphasis on works (as opposed to faith, or as opposed to Jesus’ saving power)?

4 And if their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame—mortality raised to immortality, corruption to incorruption—raised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil, the one on one hand, the other on the other—

In the first sentence, what do the “they” and the “them” refer to?  (Are the evil works restored to the person?  Is the person restored to evil works?  Something else?)

What does the word “natural” mean in this verse?  Is it the same as the natural man who is an enemy to God?

Why would the “natural frame” of mortality be immortality?  Why would the “natural frame” of corruption be incorruption?

Not to be too difficult, but how is endless happiness possible?  Wouldn’t that happiness become your baseline, and then no longer constitute happiness?  (Or, as Bart Simpson said in his Sunday School lesson re how hot hell is:  Wouldn’t you eventually get used to it, like a hot tub?)

Again, what do you make of the binary nature of these choices?  (I think it is fairly clear that Alma did not have [or, perhaps, did not choose to share] the idea of multiple kingdoms.)

Comparing this verse with the one before it, what do you make of the absence to a reference to evil desires (note that good desires are mentioned in v3) in this verse where we might have expected it?  (But then note that it shows up in v5 . . .)

5 The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.

Skousen reads “restored to happiness” instead of “raised to happiness” here.

Note that we have now completely moved from works to desires.  What do you make of this shift? Why does Alma appear to have been preaching something different in the previous chapter?

Are “good” and “happiness” the same thing in this verse?

Are there really people who desire evil all day long?  (Or:  Are there people who do not realize that they desire evil all day long?)

What does the “night” symbolize in this verse?

What does “reward” suggest to you?

Note that for the atonement to have any role in the dynamic described in this verse, “good” cannot mean “never messes up” but must mean “repents when messes up.”  V6 makes this explicit.

6 And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness.

Note that the righteous are not sin-free, they are just penitent.

7 These are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that endless night of darkness; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil.

What does the word “redeemed” suggest to you?

What does it teach you about the devil’s kingdom to call it the “endless night of darkness”?

Presumably the “they” in “thus they stand or fall” refers to all people and not just the wicked.  Why is standing or falling a good metaphor for the judgment?

In what sense are we are own judges?  (And if we are our own judges, why were we brought into the presence of God to be judged in the last chapter?)  (I think the “whether to do good or to do evil” means that that is the point at which we are our own judges.)

8 Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved.

Given the transition from the law of Moses to the gospel (and at least one change of the law of Moses during its own time), given changes in the modern church, in what sense are God’s decrees unalterable?

Why does Alma mention the issue of God’s decrees being unalterable here?  How is that relevant to the larger discussion of justice?

Note the “therefore:”  what is the relationship between what comes before it and what comes after it?

What do you learn from the image of a road prepared by God that we must choose to walk?

9 And now behold, my son, do not risk one more offense against your God upon those points of doctrine, which ye have hitherto risked to commit sin.

Is Alma hinting that Corianton’s next sin might be unforgivable, or is this just boilerplate?

I’m fascinated by the idea of an “offense” arising from the fairly abstract points of doctrine that Alma has been teaching in the last few chapters, and I suspect that this verse might be an interpretive key to understanding what Alma is doing in his counsel to Corianton.  Thinking about what Alma has been preaching, what kinds of “offenses” might arise from not believing/following it?

10 Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.

I think we can reverse-engineer here and say that Corianton thought something like this:  “I can sin, but it will all work out OK, because goodness will be restored to me in the resurrection.”  Does that seem like a reasonable reading of Corianton’s position?  Why might he have thought this?  (Or:  What incorrect beliefs would have led to him thinking that?) If so, what was wrong with that viewpoint?

What do you think Alma would say to someone who told him that lots of types of wickedness can make you really happy?  (I find yelling at my children enormously cathartic, for example.)

And, Alma, of course, should know what he was talking about, being a convert after a life of trying to destroy the church.

Jim F.:  “We often quote “Wickedness never was happiness.” What does it mean in the context of Alma’s discussion of restoration?”  I’m going to answer Jim’s question:  I think we frequently wrest this scripture to say “sinning won’t make you happy.”  I don’t think that is what Alma was saying at all and I don’t think it is true–lots of sins will make you really happy!  What Alma is saying is that you can’t expect to be restored to happiness if you chose wickedness.  Sin might make you happy in the short term, not the long term.  I think we set kids up for disillusionment if we teach them to expect immediate happiness for keeping the commandments and immediate misery for breaking them.  It doesn’t work that way.  We need to teach them to look at a longer time horizon for those results, and to even expect the opposite results in the short-term.

D. Todd Christofferson:

A God of love does not leave us to learn by sad experience that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10; see also Helaman 13:38). His commandments are the voice of reality and our protection against self-inflicted pain. Apr 2010 GC

Theodore M. Burton:

My special assignment as a General Authority is to assist the First Presidency in bringing people who have committed serious sins back into the Church. I receive, organize, and summarize information for the First Presidency to use in making decisions. I must read the background material to make certain that all pertinent information is available to them. As I read the heartbreak contained in letters of people pleading for forgiveness, I realize the truth of Alma’s statement: “Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10.) My heart goes out to those sufferers in a spirit of forgiveness. And instead of dwelling on the wickedness and grief of those who have sinned, I rejoice to read how many have abandoned their sinful practices and are now on the road back to righteousness and happiness. People can and do change. Apr 1983 GC

Ezra Taft Benson:

I counsel you to live a morally clean life. The prophet Alma declared—and truer words were never spoken—“Wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10.) You cannot do wrong and feel right. It is impossible! Years of happiness can be lost in the foolish gratification of a momentary desire for pleasure. Satan would have you believe that happiness comes only as you surrender to his enticements, but one only needs to look at the shattered lives of those who violate God’s laws to know why Satan is called the Father of Lies. Oct 77 GC

Ezra Taft Benson:

“When I do good I feel good,” said Abraham Lincoln, “and when I do bad I feel bad.” Sin pulls a man down into despondency and despair. While a man may take some temporary pleasure in sin, the end result is unhappiness. “Wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10.) Sin creates disharmony with God and is depressing to the spirit. Therefore, a man would do well to examine himself to see that he is in harmony with all of God’s laws. Every law kept brings a particular blessing. Every law broken brings a particular blight. Those who are heavy laden with despair should come unto the Lord, for his yoke is easy and his burden is light. (See Matt. 11:28–30.) Oct 74 GC

11 And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.

 

What is this state of nature/carnal state?  Is it just the result of the Fall?  Or something else?

Jim F.:  “What does it mean to be in a state of nature? Since the Church does not believe the doctrine of original sin and that doctrine is the doctrine that we naturally desire to do evil, Alma must be saying something different here. What is he saying?”

Do you think of yourself as being in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity?  Should you?

Alma seems to be saying here that all people are without God in the world.  In what sense is this true?

I like “contrary to the nature of God.”  Not contrary to some arbitrary list of rules, but contrary to the nature of God.

Shuffling the terms in this verse, we get two lists:

–nature, carnal, bitterness, iniquity, without God

–nature of God, nature of happiness

12 And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature?

 

If what Alma just said in v11 is true, then isn’t it true that a perfected state is a state opposite to the nature of humans?

What do you make of Alma’s teaching technique here?  (I see a rhetorical question and a focus on the meaning of a word and the use of logic.)

13 O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.

Again, does it seem weird to you that evil would be restored?  Doesn’t that sound kind of contrary to the kind of thing we expect God to do?

How should this verse shape your behavior?  (I think v14 answers this.)

Are the paired terms in this verse (evil/evil, carnal/carnal, etc.) just a flourish, or are they significant in themselves?  Is it significant that three bad things (evil, carnal, devilish) are mentioned but four good things (good, righteous, just, merciful) are mentioned?  Do they line up (evil/good, carnal/righteous, devilish/just, —-/merciful)?  Are they 3 (or 4) different things or 3 (or 4) different ways of saying the same thing?

14 Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.

Why does Alma repeat the “good” phrases from v13 in reverse order?

I think a theme in v11-14 is that the afterlife is, in some senses, much like this life.  That’s an interesting thought, with interesting implications.

Note that each of the four items (mercy, justice, righteous, good) is mentioned twice in this verse.  Why might Alma have done that?

15 For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all.

Can v13-15 be read as a restatement of the Golden Rule?

How does the “therefore” work in this verse?  (That is, how does what comes before it cause what comes after it?)

In what ways does restoration more fully condemn a sinner?  (More fully than what exactly?)

CHAPTER 42

1 And now, my son, I perceive there is somewhat more which doth worry your mind, which ye cannot understand—which is concerning the justice of God in the punishment of the sinner; for ye do try to suppose that it is injustice that the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery.

Thus begins the third of Corianton’s doctrinal misunderstandings that Alma is seeking to clarify.

How do you think Corianton explained his belief that punishing a sinner was unjust?  How might people do the same thing today?

2 Now behold, my son, I will explain this thing unto thee. For behold, after the Lord God sent our first parents forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground, from whence they were taken—yea, he drew out the man, and he placed at the east end of the garden of Eden, cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the tree of life—

Skousen reads “drove out” instead of “drew out” here.

Note the very gender-neutral way that Alma discusses the Fall here at first:  no mention of names, no separate roles either before or after the Fall, both are sent to till, both were taken from the ground.  But then, in the middle of the verse, we have reference to “the man,” particularly interesting since it is singular where everything has been plural up to this point. What’s going on here?

Is it significant that Alma says “sent out” instead of the more common “cast out,” especially given the use of “cast out” in the last chapter to describe those cast out of God’s presence?

Does the material within the dashes restate the idea of “sending out our first parents,” or does it tell us what happened “after the Lord sent our first parents forth”?

Do you read the sword as literal or symbolic?

3 Now, we see that the man had become as God, knowing good and evil; and lest he should put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat and live forever, the Lord God placed cherubim and the flaming sword, that he should not partake of the fruit—

 

This verse defines “becoming as God” as “knowing good from evil.”  How does that relate to everything in the previous chapter about choosing good and evil?

The phrase “put forth his hand” seems unnecessary–why was it included here?

4 And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God.

 

The last time Alma was talking about time, it was the space between death and the resurrection.  Is that relevant here?

We’re all familiar with the content of v3 from Genesis, but the idea of v4 is not explicit there.  How does this explanation for barring access to the tree of life nuance your understanding of the creation/fall story?

What does the phrase “a probationary time” do to your understanding of the idea of repentance?

Why does Alma introduce the idea of serving God in this verse?  Would they have been unable to serve God had they eaten the fruit of the tree of life immediately?

If you truly viewed this life as a probationary state, what might you do/think/believe differently? (My thought:  This is not a toddler making you crazy and disrupting the plan.  This is a test of your patience and it IS the plan.)

Is the “thus we see” an indication that this is an editorial insertion by Mormon?  (And, if so, where does it end–this verse?  The next one?  V7?)

What about the previous verses actually led to the “and thus we see”?  I think what is happening is that we are being told that we should view the lack of access to the tree of life as symbolizing a time to repent.  If you think about it that way, what might you conclude?

Does the fact that this verse is here indicate that we should not necessarily have been able to see that without the assistance of the writer/editor?  Or should we have been able to suss that out on our own?

5 For behold, if Adam had put forth his hand immediately, and partaken of the tree of life, he would have lived forever, according to the word of God, having no space for repentance; yea, and also the word of God would have been void, and the great plan of salvation would have been frustrated.

Note how this verse explains the very counter-intuitive idea that banning access to the tree of life and being subject to death are very good things.

Brant Gardner:

Alma makes an interesting tie to his last discussion of the time between death and resurrection. He moves that imagery from the future to the past and applies it to Adam. Just as there is a time between death and resurrection, there is a time between Adam’s expulsion and death. Alma is suggesting that the interval time is important. In this case, it is important because it gives room for repentance. The logic of Alma’s statement is that without that space, there could be no repentance. Citation

6 But behold, it was appointed unto man to die—therefore, as they were cut off from the tree of life they should be cut off from the face of the earth—and man became lost forever, yea, they became fallen man.

Does this verse parallel the tree of life and the face of the earth?  If so, what might we learn from that?

In what sense were people “lost”?

Are “lost” and “fallen” the same thing?

Interesting that Alma just said that lack of access to the tree of life was a good thing because it gave people room to repent, but in this verse, it also means that they are lost and fallen.

Is this verse implying that access to the tree of life is necessary to avoid death?  If that is the case, what, then, does the tree of life symbolize?

What is the word “forever” doing in this verse?  Is it true that people are lost forever?

7 And now, ye see by this that our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own will.

Skousen reads “we see” instead of “ye see” here.

Note the shift from “man” back to “parents” here.  Is Alma just being a little sloppy (or:  does he consider the singular/plural shift insignificant) or is it deliberate?

Why describe Adam and Eve primarily in their parental role in this verse?

What in the previous verses would have led Alma to think it was obvious that Adam and Eve had been cut off both spiritually and temporally from the Lord?

Is it necessary to be cut off from the Lord to be subject to your own will?

What does “became subjects” mean?  (Did they become their own–instead of someone else’s–subjects)?

Why weren’t they able to follow after their own will before the Fall?  Didn’t the Fall itself require them to follow after their own will?

8 Now behold, it was not expedient that man should be reclaimed from this temporal death, for that would destroy the great plan of happiness.

Why?

Thinking for a minute about what we call “the plan:”  what effect does “plan of happiness” (actually, “the great plan of happiness”) have on you?  What else might we call it?

Boyd K. Packer:

Alma’s son thought that death was unfair. In his remarkable sermon on repentance, Alma taught his son about death, saying: “Now behold, it was not expedient that man should be reclaimed from this temporal death, for that would destroy the great plan of happiness.” (Alma 42:8.) Alma did not say that setting mortal death aside would merely delay or disturb the plan of happiness; he said it would destroy it. The words death and happiness are not close companions in mortality, but in the eternal sense they are essential to one another. Death is a mechanism of rescue. Our first parents left Eden lest they partake of the tree of life and live forever in their sins. The mortal death they brought upon themselves, and upon us, is our journey home. Oct 88 GC

9 Therefore, as the soul could never die, and the fall had brought upon all mankind a spiritual death as well as a temporal, that is, they were cut off from the presence of the Lord, it was expedient that mankind should be reclaimed from this spiritual death.

How does the “therefore” link v9 to v8?

Why is it that the soul could never die?

Does this verse define spiritual death as being cut off from the presence of God?

“Reclaimed” is an unusual word–why was it used here?

Jim F.:  “Verse 8 says “it was not expedient that man should be reclaimed from this temporal death.” Then verse 9 says “it was expedient that mankind should be reclaimed from this spiritual death.” Can you explain why each is true?”

Russell M. Nelson:

But there is another type of separation known in scripture as spiritual death. (See 2 Ne. 9:12Alma 12:16Alma 42:9Hel. 14:16, 18.) It “is defined as a state of spiritual alienation from God.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 2:217.) Thus, one can be very much alive physically but dead spiritually. Spiritual death is more likely when goals are unbalanced toward things physical. Paul explained this concept to the Romans: “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Rom. 8:13.) Apr 92 GC

Joseph Fielding Smith:

After he was driven out of the Garden of Eden the scene changed. Adam was banished because of his transgression from the presence of the Father. The scriptures say he became spiritually dead—that is, he was shut out from the presence of God (Alma 42:9Hel. 14:16D&C 29:41). From that time on Jesus Christ comes on the scene as our advocate, pleading for us as our mediator through his ministry and labors to reconcile us, to bring us into agreement with God, his Father. Oct 1953 GC

10 Therefore, as they had become carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature, this probationary state became a state for them to prepare; it became a preparatory state.

 

“By nature” usually refers to in-born things, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in this verse.

Are carnal, sensual, and devilish three things or three ways of saying the same thing?

I thought the Fall meant that they had become like God–now Alma tells us that it made them like the devil.  How do you explain this paradox?

In this verse, to “preparatory” and “probationary” mean the same thing?  (See also v13.)

How can people in a devilish state prepare for godliness?

Robert D. Hales

 All of us on earth are winners because we chose to come to this mortal probation, which Alma described as a preparatory state. (See Alma 12:24, 26Alma 34:32Alma 42:10, 13.) Understanding these concepts will give us eternal perspective when we have important choices to make. Apr 1990 GC

11 And now remember, my son, if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord.

What work does “laying it aside” do in this verse?

Are our souls miserable now?  (Aren’t we cut off from the presence of the Lord now?)  Wouldn’t the misery of the soul presume that you wanted to be in the Lord’s presence, and isn’t it pretty clear that lots of people don’t wan that?

12 And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience;

How can the Fall simultaneously make them like God but also be an act of disobedience?

13 Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.

Are you surprised that repentance is the condition mentioned for redemption and not Christ’s atonement?

Why is “conditions” plural when the only condition mentioned is repentance?

Why is repentance necessary for mercy to exist?  Why does repentance mitigate the requirements of justice?

Is Alma saying that God’s existence is conditional?  If so, what are the implications of that statement?  (My thought:  I think it points to the idea that “God” is more of a title [or maybe a calling, if you will] than a personal name.)  Does it point to some . . . force . . . or laws . . . or person . . . beyond God to whom God must answer?  (Compare Mormon 9:19 for a similar idea to the one here.)

I think one of the paradoxes of this section is that Alma teaches that the Fall does two things:  (1) makes our first parents like God and (2) opens our first parents up to punishment.  These seem not to fit together.  However, if God is subject to laws (or whatever), then I think this verse explains how those two consequences of the Fall might fit together.

14 And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence.

How is it that all mankind is fallen based on the decisions of two people?

This verse makes justice sound like a bad thing–is it?  (Kind of weird when it is called “the justice of God.”)

Was mankind not in the grasp of justice before the fall?

15 And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.

What does the phrase “God himself” teach you about Alma’s understanding of (what we would call) the Godhead?  Can you determine if his understand was the same as ours?

What work is “of the world” doing in this verse?

Justice seems to be personified in this verse. (See also v24.) Is it?  What is justice exactly.  (I almost think that if you had no background in Mormonism or biblical religion you would read this and think that justice was an over-god that God had to appease.)

Does “that God might be . . .” imply that the performance of the atonement had an effect on God?

16 Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul.

Why does repentance require a punishment?  (See v17, which, I think, shows that there are multiple intermediary steps between punishment and repentance.)

This verse seems to make a link between punishment and the life of the soul–one must be eternal if the other is.  Why?

Marion D Hanks:

Christ came to save us. His plan was called, by a prophet who understood it very well, a “plan of redemption,” a “plan of mercy,” a “plan of happiness” (Alma 42:13, 15–16).   Apr 79 GC

What I find interesting about that Elder Hanks quote is that he calls attention to the various titles used for the plan in this section.

Boyd K. Packer:

Alma spoke of the Atonement and said, “Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment” (Alma 42:16). If punishment is the price repentance asks, it comes at bargain price. Consequences, even painful ones, protect us. So simple a thing as a child’s cry of pain when his finger touches fire can teach us that. Except for the pain, the child might be consumed. I readily confess that I would find no peace, neither happiness nor safety, in a world without repentance. I do not know what I should do if there were no way for me to erase my mistakes. The agony would be more than I could bear. It may be otherwise with you, but not with me. Apr 88 GC

Spencer W. Kimball:

Do you remember what was said by the prophet Alma? “Now,” he said, “repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment.” (Alma 42:16.) Ponder on that for a moment. Have you realized that? There can be no forgiveness without real and total repentance, and there can be no repentance without punishment. This is as eternal as is the soul. Apr 75 GC

17 Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment?

Does sin really not exist in the absence of law? (Hypothetical:  A child is raised in a slum without parents.  He literally has never been told that murder is wrong.  If he kills someone, is that a sin?)

Is it true that there can’t be a law without a punishment?

Rearranging the material in this verse:

repentance requires sin

sin requires a law

law requires punishment

Therefore, per v16, repentance requires punishment.  Now we can see Alma’s logic.  But what is the point of this?  Why did Alma want to link repentance with punishment in Corianton’s mind?

18 Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man.

Is it the punishment or the law or both that brings remorse?  Or something else?

Is it genuine remorse if it is really just a fear of being punished?

19 Now, if there was no law given—if a man murdered he should die—would he be afraid he would die if he should murder?

We talk sometimes in Church about the “light of Christ” given to all people.  How can you reconcile that belief with this verse?  (Same with v20.)

20 And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin.

21 And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature?

 

We can see how justice would have a hard time dealing with a sinner in the absence of law, but why would mercy have a problem having a claim?

Why the word “creature” in this verse?  (Is it related to the recent discussion of the creation/fall?)

22 But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.

 

Again, is God’s existence predicted on justice?  On the choices God makes?

23 But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.

Is mercy personified here?

24 For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.

Note that justice gets a masculine pronoun but mercy gets a feminine pronoun here.  This may be a holdover from before the translation, but it is interesting that Joseph Smith kept it.

Is it significant that justice makes demands but mercy claims?

Note the limits of mercy’s power here:  she only gets those who are penitent.  Why?  (I think Alma will engage this question in the next verse.)

25 What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God.

26 And thus God bringeth about his great and eternal purposes, which were prepared from the foundation of the world. And thus cometh about the salvation and the redemption of men, and also their destruction and misery.

Are salvation and redemption two different things?  What about destruction and misery?  Is salvation : redemption :: destruction : misery?

27 Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds.

Why does Alma switch from abstract terms (justice, mercy, etc.) to poetic ones (waters of life) here?

How do the waters of life relate to the tree of life?

Why aren’t people compelled to come?  (I compel my children to do all sorts of things that they are too immature to realize are good for them; if parents didn’t compel, there would not be a single elementary-school aged boy in this country with brushed teeth.)

28 If he has desired to do evil, and has not repented in his days, behold, evil shall be done unto him, according to the restoration of God.

Does this verse picture God “doing evil” to people?  Are you OK with that?

29 And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance.

What do you learn from this verse about which things you should worry about?

30 O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.

Was Corianton denying the justice of God?  (And, if so, did that lead to his sexual sins?)

What I find ironic about this issue of the justice of God is that, because of the atonement, we are not judged according to what is just–we are treated with mercy.

How can justice and mercy have “full sway in your heart”?  (Wouldn’t it be one or the other?)

Why would allowing justice and mercy to have sway in your heart bring you to the dust of humility?

31 And now, O my son, ye are called of God to preach the word unto this people. And now, my son, go thy way, declare the word with truth and soberness, that thou mayest bring souls unto repentance, that the great plan of mercy may have claim upon them. And may God grant unto you even according to my words. Amen.

Are you surprised that, despite his sin and (at this point) incomplete repentance, Corianton is “called of God to preach”?

Remember that this chapter began with Corianton thinking that the punishment of the sinner was unjust.  Alma was going to explain it to him (see v2). Then Alma presents a lengthy discussion of the Fall.  How precisely does that address Corianton’s concern?

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General thoughts:

(1) Each chapter begins with Alma perceiving a different doctrinal misunderstanding on Corianton’s part that Alma then clarifies; specifically, Alma notes that he was concerned about the resurrection (40:1), the restoration of the soul (41:1), and the justice in God punishing a sinner (42:1).  What do these questions have in common?  How are they different?  Is the order significant?  How do they relate to each other? Why might they have bothered Corianton?  (Alma 42:30 might be helpful here.)  Note that in no case does Alma tell him to put his worries on the shelf, or chastise him for wanting to know more than he does, or tell him to learn to live with ambiguity, etc.

(2) Remember the big picture here:  Corianton has been guilty of sexual sin while a missionary.  Yet there is not one word about the law of chastity in Alma 40-42.  Instead, there is abstract doctrine, mostly focused on the resurrection and justice.  Why do you think Alma took this approach with Corianton?  I think we might be tempted to say someone who had sinned like this that they were not in any position to gain more light about deep doctrine until they had repented. President Packer famously said that “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior” (Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17).  However, even with that principle in mind, one might have suspected that the doctrine that Alma would have focused on here would have been the doctrine behind the law of chastity, not doctrine concerning resurrection, justice, and sin.  What’s going on here?

(3) One thing very striking to me about Alma 40 is the “degrees of certainty” that Alma uses to indicate how (un)sure he is about what he is preaching.  Paul does the same thing in 1 Corinthians 7.  Would that everyone did!  That said, I can imagine that if I had a child in this situation, the last thing that I would want to do when counseling him would be to reveal my own doctrinal gaps–I’d want to have a rock-solid presentation that would lead the child away from sin.  But that isn’t what happens here.

(4) Alma has a lot to say about the plan of salvation here.  I love Elder Maxwell’s thoughts on this:

The Lord has described his plan of redemption as the Plan of Happiness (see Alma 42:8, 16). Indeed, it is, but none of us is likely to be a stranger to sorrow. Conversationally, we reference this great design almost too casually at times; we even sketch its rude outlines on chalkboards and paper as if it were the floor plan for an addition to one’s house. However, when we really take time to ponder the Plan, it is breathtaking and overpowering! Indeed, I, for one, cannot decide which creates in me the most awe—its very vastness or its intricate, individualized detail. Citation

(5) Nice statement from George Albert Smith:

When I was about fourteen years of age, I read the fortieth chapter of Alma in the Book of Mormon in our Sunday School class. It made an impression on my mind that has been helpful when death has taken loved ones away. I will not take time now to read it, but it is one place in the scriptures that tells us where our spirits go when they leave this body, and I have wanted to go to that place called paradise ever since. Apr 49 GC

(6) Alma 40 makes a big to-do over the fact that Alma doesn’t know how many resurrections there will be.  First, why didn’t he know this?  Second, there’s presumably a whole bunch of things that Alma doesn’t know about the resurrection (see:  every grade-school boy’s question of whether a warrior will be resurrected with or without the arm he lost in battle), so why the ink spilled on the timing question as opposed to any number of other questions?

(7) Contrary to a common understanding of the atonement as being the means of paying the price for sin, Alma 41 talks about the atonement in terms of allowing a person to be restored to whatever it was they chose to become in life.  There are certainly multiple other ways to understand the atonement.  Which do you find helpful? Which do you find less-than-helpful?

2 Responses to BMGD #30: Alma 40-42

  1. Stephen R. Marsh on August 1, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Now, there are some that have understood that this state of happiness and this state of misery of the soul, before the resurrection, was a first resurrection

    combined with:

    Does this verse imply that “resurrection” need not have a physical component?

    It seems to me that Alma’s son saw the state of the soul after death as the resurrection, when all would have joy restored to them with the implicit resurrection = restoration; restoration = restored to the good. With any other result as unjust, thus his sins were not significant.

    I really enjoy these, I had to say that again.

  2. Julie on August 18, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Thanks as always Julie. I read these every week.

WELCOME

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