After setting the Church in order in Zarahemla, Alma went to the city of Gideon. He found the people there to be more faithful than those in Zarahemla had been. Therefore, his message in Gideon was different from his message in Zarahemla. He encouraged the people to continually rely on the Lord and seek to apply His Atonement in their lives. He testified that the Savior would take upon Himself death and our sins, and that He would also take upon Himself our pains, afflictions, sicknesses, and infirmities, that He might know how to help us.
Suggestions for Teaching
Alma sets in order the Church in Zarahemla and goes to preach in Gideon
Before the lesson, invite a student to prepare to briefly share with the class some ways he or she has felt blessed for his or her efforts to attend church. To begin the lesson, ask this student to come to the front of the class and share the thoughts he or she has prepared. You might also share how you have been blessed through Church attendance.
Introduce Alma 6 by explaining that this chapter teaches how Alma and other priesthood leaders strengthened the Church in Zarahemla.
Invite a student to read Alma 6:4–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what members of the Church in Zarahemla did for those who did not know God. Invite students to report what they learn.
Write the following truth on the board: The Church is established for the welfare of all people. To help students think about how this truth can influence their lives, ask:
How do you think the Church today can bless those who do not know God?
Invite students to think of someone who needs to know God better. This person may be a member of the Church or a member of another faith. Testify of the blessings we receive because we are members of the Church, and encourage students to invite others to share in those blessings.
Alma prophesies of the coming of Jesus Christ
Divide the class into pairs. Ask each pair to discuss their answers to the following question:
What are some future events that you are excited about?
After the pairs have had time to discuss their answers to this question, ask a few students to share their responses with the entire class. Then explain that after Alma set the Church in order in Zarahemla, he went to the city of Gideon. He told the people there that of all things to come in the future, one thing was “of more importance than they all” (Alma 7:7). He taught principles that would help the people prepare for the blessings that would come because of this future event.
Invite a student to read Alma 7:3–6 aloud. Ask the class to look for the hopes Alma had concerning the people in Gideon. Then invite another student to read Alma 7:18–19 aloud. Ask students to describe what Alma learned by inspiration about the people of Gideon.
Invite students to read Alma 7:7, 9–10 silently, looking for the event Alma felt was most important for the people to know about.
According to Alma, what was the “one thing which [was] of more importance” than anything else that was to come? Why do you think the coming of the Savior is the most important event of all time?
Why do you think Alma would tell a people who already believed and had strong faith that they needed to repent?
Explain that Alma then taught why the coming of Jesus Christ was the most important event in all of human history. Ask a few students to take turns reading aloud from Alma 7:11–13. Invite the rest of the class to follow along and identify what the Savior took upon Himself for us. (You may need to explain that succor means to give relief or to go to someone’s aid.)
Point out that Alma 7:11–13 is a scripture mastery passage. You might want to suggest that students mark this passage in a distinctive way so they will be able to find it easily.
List students’ answers as headings across the top of the board. Answers may include pains, afflictions, temptations, sicknesses, death, infirmities (weaknesses or inabilities), and sins.
You may want to suggest that students mark the phrase “of every kind” in Alma 7:11. Ask them to name examples of each condition written on the board. As students give examples, write them underneath the corresponding headings. (For example, cancer might be listed under sicknesses, and physical disabilities could be listed under infirmities.)
Invite a student to read the following statement by Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy:
“The Atonement is not just for sinners” (“Beauty for Ashes: The Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Apr. 1990, 7). You may want to write this statement on the board and suggest that students write it in their scriptures next to Alma 7:11–13.
Based on what we have read in Alma 7:11–13, what do you think Elder Hafen meant when he said that “the Atonement is not just for sinners”?
Write the following truth on the board: Jesus Christ suffered to save us from sin and death and to help us through the challenges of mortality.
To help students further understand how they can rely on the Savior’s Atonement, read the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Are you battling a demon of addiction—tobacco or drugs or gambling, or the pernicious contemporary plague of pornography? … Are you confused with gender identity or searching for self-esteem? Do you—or someone you love—face disease or depression or death? Whatever other steps you may need to take to resolve these concerns, come first to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Trust in heaven’s promises. …
“This reliance upon the merciful nature of God is at the very center of the gospel Christ taught. I testify that the Savior’s Atonement lifts from us not only the burden of our sins but also the burden of our disappointments and sorrows, our heartaches and our despair. [See Alma 7:11–12.] From the beginning, trust in such help was to give us both a reason and a way to improve, an incentive to lay down our burdens and take up our salvation” (“Broken Things to Mend,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 70–71).
How can an understanding of Alma 7:11–13 help us when we face challenges?
To illustrate some of the ways we can receive help and strength through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, read the following situations. After reading each one, ask students to explain how Jesus Christ, through His Atonement, can help a person facing such a challenge.
A young woman was in an automobile accident that left her legs paralyzed.
A young man is ashamed of some bad choices he has made. He feels depressed and worthless.
A young man’s father recently passed away, and the young man has moved to a new town with his mother. He feels sad and lonely, and he can’t see how anything will ever be right again.
Share your testimony of the power of the Atonement and the extent of its reach. Then give students a few minutes to respond in notebooks or scripture study journals to one of the following questions. (You may want to write these questions on the board before class, prepare a handout with the questions, or read the questions slowly so students can write them.)
When has the Atonement helped you or someone you know in one of the ways mentioned in Alma 7:11–13?
What will you do to rely on the Atonement as you face challenges?
Invite a few students to share with the class what they have written. (Remind them that they do not need to share anything that is too personal or private.)
Alma encourages the people to continue along the path to the kingdom of God
To remind students how Alma described the spiritual condition of the people in Gideon, invite one of them to read Alma 7:19 aloud. Emphasize that the people were “in the path which leads to the kingdom of God.” Explain that Alma wanted to help them stay on that path.
To help students see that by living the principles of the gospel, we follow the path to the kingdom of God, draw a path across the board. At the beginning of the path, write Mortality. At the end of the path, write Kingdom of God. Divide the class into two groups. Invite one group to study Alma 7:14–16 and the other group to study Alma 7:22–24. Ask the groups to look for what we need to do and what we need to be in order to follow the path leading to the kingdom of God.
After students have had enough time to read, invite a few of them to come to the board. Ask them to write along the path the actions and attributes they have found that lead to God’s kingdom. You might consider asking students what some of the actions or attributes along the path mean to them. You might also ask them to think about how they can follow this path in their lives. Testify that when we live faithfully, we are “in the path which leads to the kingdom of God” (Alma 7:19).
Scripture Mastery—Alma 7:11–13
Because Alma 7:11–13 is a long scripture mastery passage, it may be difficult for students to memorize. Yet Alma’s language contains specific words that can help students remember throughout their lives the power and extensive reach of the Atonement. To help them memorize these key words, write the text of Alma 7:11–13 on the board before class, substituting spaces for the following key words whenever they appear: pains, afflictions, temptations, sicknesses, death, infirmities, sins, transgressions. (For example, your writing of Alma 7:11 would begin like this: “And he shall go forth, suffering … and … and … of every kind.”)
As you read Alma 7:11–13 aloud as a class, have students supply the missing words. After you have done this a few times, ask students if they can write on a separate piece of paper the words indicating what the Savior took upon Himself for them. Invite students to always remember what Jesus Christ has done for them, so that when they experience challenges they can have greater faith in “the power of his deliverance.”
Note: You may want to take few minutes at the beginning of your next class to see if students can still remember these key words regarding the infinite reach of the Savior’s Atonement.
Commentary and Background Information
Alma 6:6. Fasting and praying in behalf of “those who knew not God”
To emphasize that the blessings of Church membership are intended for all God’s children, you may want to read the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Everyone prays for the missionaries. May it ever be so. In that same spirit, we should also pray for those who are (or who need to be) meeting the missionaries. In Zarahemla, members were commanded to ‘join in fasting and mighty prayer’ [Alma 6:6] for those who had not yet joined the Church of God. We can do the same.
“We can also pray daily for our own personal missionary experiences. Pray that under the divine management of such things, the missionary opportunity you want is already being prepared in the heart of someone who longs for and looks for what you have. ‘There are many yet on the earth … who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.’ [D&C 123:12.] Pray that they will find you! And then be alert, because there are multitudes in your world who feel a famine in their lives” (“Witnesses unto Me,” Ensign, May 2001, 15).
Alma 7:1–5. The people in the land of Gideon
Alma 7 contains the teachings of Alma to the people who lived in the city of Gideon, which was located in the valley of Gideon, “being called after the man who was slain by the hand of Nehor with the sword” (Alma 6:7). Gideon was a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ who had been an instrument in the hands of God in delivering the people of Limhi out of bondage. He withstood the doctrine of Nehor with the word of God unto death. (See Mosiah 22:3–9; Alma 1:7–9.) The people who dwelt in the land that bore the name of this faithful man were also faithful (see Alma 7:17–20, 26). Alma was able to speak to them words of holiness with joy, knowing that they believed and had chosen to worship the true and living God (see Alma 7:6). Their faithfulness may have prepared them to receive Alma’s powerful lesson on the Atonement—that Jesus Christ would “take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people,” that He would “succor his people according to their infirmities,” and that He would “take upon him the sins of his people” (Alma 7:11–13).
Alma 7:10. Jesus was born “at Jerusalem”
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained the location of the Savior’s birth as declared by Alma:
“There is no conflict or contradiction in the Book of Mormon with any truth recorded in the Bible. A careful reading of what Alma said will show that he had no intention of declaring that Jesus would be born in Jerusalem. Alma knew better. So did Joseph Smith and those who were associated with him in the bringing forth of the Book of Mormon. Had Alma said, ‘born in Jerusalem, the city of our fathers,’ it would have made all the difference in the world. Then we would have said he made an error. Alma made no mistake, and what he said is true.
“Dr. Hugh Nibley, in his course of study for the priesthood for 1957, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, in Lesson 8, page 85, has this to say on this point:
“‘… One of the favorite points of attack on the Book of Mormon has been the statement in Alma 7:10 that the Savior would be born “at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers.” Here Jerusalem is not the city “in the land of our forefathers,” it is the land. Christ was born in a village some six miles from the city of Jerusalem; it was not in the city, but it was in what we now know the ancients themselves designated as “the land of Jerusalem”’” (Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 1:174).
Alma 7:11–13. “Pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind”
President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency offered the following insight regarding the comfort we can receive because of the Savior’s Atonement:
“It will comfort us when we must wait in distress for the Savior’s promised relief that He knows, from experience, how to heal and help us. The Book of Mormon gives us the certain assurance of His power to comfort. And faith in that power will give us patience as we pray and work and wait for help. He could have known how to succor us simply by revelation, but He chose to learn by His own personal experience” (“Adversity,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 24).
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that the Savior is able to help us with any kind of challenge we may face:
“Many carry heavy burdens. Some have lost a loved one to death or care for one who is disabled. Some have been wounded by divorce. Others yearn for an eternal marriage. Some are caught in the grip of addictive substances or practices like alcohol, tobacco, drugs, or pornography. Others have crippling physical or mental impairments. Some are challenged by same-gender attraction. Some have terrible feelings of depression or inadequacy. …
“The healing power of the Lord Jesus Christ—whether it removes our burdens or strengthens us to endure and live with them … —is available for every affliction in mortality” (“He Heals the Heavy Laden,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006, 6, 8).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote of Christ’s empathy and ability to help us:
“Christ walked the path every mortal is called to walk so that he would know how to succor and strengthen us in our most difficult times. He knows the deepest and most personal burdens we carry. He knows the most public and poignant pains we bear. He descended below all such grief in order that he might lift us above it. There is no anguish or sorrow or sadness in life that he has not suffered in our behalf and borne away upon his own valiant and compassionate shoulders” (Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon , 223–24).