Book of Mormon Lesson 29 (Alma 32–35)
NOURISHING THE WORD WITH FAITH
How to Exercise Faith
The poor among whom Alma had been teaching were humbled through their afflictions (Alma 32:1–7). Alma taught them that this was a blessing because humility prepares our hearts and minds to hear and believe the truth (Alma 32:8–16, 24–25).
President Spencer W. Kimball said, “Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, longsuffering, and self-mastery.”1
Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge, but to believe and to hope (Alma 32:17–18, 21). The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “[Faith is] the assurance which men have of the existence of things which they have not seen, and the principle of action in all intelligent beings.”2
The Prophet Joseph Smith also said that God literally controls the universe through his faith. “Had it not been for the principle of faith the worlds would never have been framed, neither would man have been formed of the dust. It is the principle by which Jehovah works, and through which he exercises power over all temporal as well as eternal things. . . Who cannot see, that if God framed the worlds by faith, that it is by faith that he exercises power over them, and that faith is the principle of power? And if the principle of power, it must be so in man as well as in the Deity.”3
Alma invited the people to remember that God is merciful and kind. He wants you to succeed (Alma 32:22–23). And he gives revelation to men, women and children.
Alma also advised them to be patient, because nobody can know perfectly at first. It takes time (Alma 32:26).
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “Patience is tied very closely to faith in our Heavenly Father. Actually, when we are unduly impatient, we are suggesting that we know what is best—better than does God. Or, at least, we are asserting that our timetable is better than his. Either way we are questioning the reality of God’s omniscience. . . .
“Patience is a willingness, in a sense, to watch the unfolding purposes of God with a sense of wonder and awe rather than pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstance. Too much anxious opening of the oven door and the cake falls instead of rising! So it is with us. . . .
“Clearly, without patience, we will learn less in life. We will see less. We will feel less. We will hear less. Ironically, rush and more usually mean less. The pressures of now, time and time again, go against the grain of the gospel with its eternalism . . . Patience is, therefore, clearly not fatalistic, shoulder-shrugging resignation; it is accepting a divine rhythm to life; it is obedience prolonged.”4
An Experiment with a “Seed” (The Word)
Alma next gave a masterful sermon on how to exercise faith, which is one of the most well-known sermons in the Book of Mormon. These are the steps to faith that he advised:
1. Be willing to try. Desire to believe if you can do nothing more. Give place in your hearts for the word of God to be planted (Alma 32:27).
2. You will begin to feel swelling motions in your breast if two conditions are met:
—If you do not cast the seed out through disbelief, and . . .
—If you do not resist the Spirit (through unworthiness, etc) (Alma 32:28).
3. A growing confirmation will come that the seed (the word) is good (Alma 32:29–33).
4. Continue to be patient. Do not expect your understanding or faith to be perfect at this point (Alma 32:34–36).
5. Nourish your “seedling” (the word) and it will grow and strengthen. If you do not nourish it, it will die (Alma 32:37–40).
6. The seed becomes a tree if we are diligent and patient in nourishing it, and we can “pluck the fruit [eternal life] thereof” (Alma 32:41–43).
7. Along the way, our burdens will be made light through faith in Christ (Alma 33:23).
ALMA’S TEACHINGS CONCERNING CHRIST
Principles of Proper Worship
The people asked how they should exercise their faith (Alma 33:1). Alma answered them, but not until verse 23. First, he dispelled two false beliefs:
—That they could worship only in a synagogue, and . . .
—That there was no Christ.
Alma quoted the prophet Zenos to show that God can be worshiped anywhere and anytime (Alma 33:2–11). He established the reality of the Lord through the testimony of Zenos, Zenock, and Moses (Alma 33:14–16). And then he instructed them to believe in the Redeemer, his atonement, and the ultimate judgment that we all will face (Alma 33:19–22).
While teaching these things, Alma spoke of a brass serpent that Moses made and raised in the wilderness (v. 19; see also Numbers 21:9). The serpent was a type, or symbol, of Jesus Christ (see also John 3:14–15; Helaman 8:13–15).
Alma taught that along the way of our lives, our burdens will be made light through faith in Christ (Alma 33:23). He also taught that eternal life is within the grasp of every child of God (Alma 33:23).
Christ says we will obtain eternal life if we endure to the end (D&C 14:7). The great question is this: “Is salvation through Christ or something else?” (Alma 34:1–5).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “The issue is not whether men shall worship, but who or what is to be the object of their devotions . . . There is no salvation in worshiping a false god. It does not matter one particle how sincerely someone may believe that God is a golden calf, or that he is an immaterial, uncreated power that is in all things; the worship of such a being or concept has no saving power. Men may believe with all their souls that images or powers or laws are God, but no amount of devotion to these concepts will ever give the power that leads to immortality and eternal life.”5
Amulek’s Teachings Concerning Christ
Amulek testified concerning Christ’s nature and mission and our need to develop faith in him (Alma 34:8–10). He called Christ’s atonement an “infinite and eternal sacrifice” (Alma 34:13–16). Had I been anything else, it could not have saved us.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Man cannot resurrect himself; man cannot save himself; human power cannot save another; human power cannot atone for the sins of another. The work of redemption must be infinite and eternal; it must be done by an infinite being; God himself must atone for the sins of the world.”6
Amulek’s sermon summarizes the main points concerning the Savior’s sacrifice:
— The Savior’s atonement brings “salvation to all those who shall believe on his name” which was the intent and purpose of it from the beginning (v. 15).
— Through this atonement, “mercy . . . overpowereth justice,” providing a means by which we may have faith in Christ and repent (v. 15).
— As we do so, “mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles [us] in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole . . . demands of justice” (v. 16).
— Therefore, although Christ suffered for all men, “only unto him that has faith unto repentance” is redemption made (v. 16).
Acquiring the Attributes of Godliness
To be with God we must be like Him. And according to the Prophet Joseph Smith, in order to become like Him we need two things:7
— A correct understanding of His character and attributes, and
— The acquisition of those same character traits in our own lives.
The Prophet then proceeded to list the following six attributes of God and the scriptures which show them:
— Knowledge (Acts 15:18; Isaiah 46:9–10)
— Faith or power (Hebrews 11:3; Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 14:24, 27)
— Justice (Psalm 89:14; Isaiah 45:21; Zephaniah 3:5; Zechariah 9:9)
— Judgment (Psalm 89:14; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 9:7; Psalm 9:16)
— Mercy (Psalm 89:14; Exodus 34:6; Nehemiah 9:17)
— Truth (Psalm 89:14; Exodus 34:6; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 31:5).
Amulek listed some of the same attributes of godliness, and added others:
— Faith. Exercising the kind of faith that leads to repentance (Alma 34:17).
— Prayer. We can and should pray everywhere about all of our needs (Alma 34:18–28; see also 1 Thess. 5:17, where Paul told the Thessalonian saints to “pray without ceasing”).
— Charity. This is the “royal law” upon which all other blessings depend (Alma 34:28–29).
— Humility and Gratitude (Alma 34:37–38).
— Prayerfulness (Alma 34:39).
— Forgiveness (Alma 34:40). The Lord said: “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men” (D&C 64:10).
— Patience and Hope (Alma 34:40–41). Elder Orson F. Whitney said, “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God, . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.”8
Amulek continued his sermon by saying that we must bring forth the “fruit” of repentance” (Alma 34:30–31). Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet explained, “Neither the profession of faith nor the confession of sin supplants the need for works of righteousness. As the tree is known by its fruits, so the repentant soul is known by its deeds.”9
Amulek also emphasized that the “day of this life” is the time to repent (Alma 34:31–34). Elder Alvin R. Dyer said, “The day of this life is from the day of mortal birth until the end of the period of the spirit world. It is not at the end of this mortal life. This is why we preach the gospel in the spirit world so that the work can be done for people vicariously here upon the earth, within the recognized day of this life.”10
In Amulek’s closing words to the Zoramites (Alma 34:37–41) he told them that to obtain eternal life they must . . .
— Receive the Holy Ghost and take upon them the name of Christ (v. 38).
— Humble themselves (v. 38).
— Worship God wherever they were (v. 38).
— Live in thanksgiving daily (v. 38).
— Pray continually (v. 39).
— Bear their afflictions with patience (vv. 40–41).
The Results of Their Preaching
The “more popular part of the Zoramites” cast out the people who believed in the words of Alma and his brethren (Alma 35:1–7).
The people of Ammon (Anti-Nephi-Lehies) received the Zoramites who were cast out (Alma 35:8–9).
The Zoramites allied themselves with the Lamanites and made war on the Nephites (Alma 35:10–13).
Alma and his missionary companions returned to Zarahemla (Alma 35:10–15) while those who had apostatized were “offended by the word” (v. 15).
1. Faith Precedes the Miracle , 98.
2. Lectures on Faith , 1:9.
3. Lectures on Faith, 1:15–17.
4. Address to BYU students, November 27, 1979; Ensign, October 1980, 28–31.
5. In Conference Report, Oct. 1971, 167.
6. A New Witness for the The Articles of Faith, 12th ed. , 111–112.
7. Lectures on Faith, 4:1–10.
8. Improvement Era, March 1966, 211.
9. George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 3:100.
10. The Meaning of Truth, ed. , 69.