To help class members understand what it means to experience a change of heart and continue in the process of conversion.
Read, ponder, and pray about the following scriptures:
Alma 5. Alma exhorts the members of the Church in Zarahemla to live in such a way that they are prepared to experience a “mighty change” of heart.
Alma 6. Many people in Zarahemla humble themselves and repent of their sins. Alma and the people establish the order of the Church in Zarahemla.
Additional reading: “Beware of Pride” (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1989, 4–7; see also Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 3–7).
Suggestions for Lesson Development
As appropriate, use the following activity or one of your own to begin the lesson.
Draw two large hearts on the chalkboard. Explain that the heart is often used as a symbol of our desires and affections. Write the word Proud above one of the hearts.
What do proud people set their hearts on? (Have two class members read Alma 4:8 and Alma 5:53 aloud.) What are some examples of “vain things of the world”? (Write class members’ responses in the heart with the word Proud written above it.)
Write the word Humble above the second heart.
What do humble people desire? (Write class members’ responses in the heart with the word Humble written above it.)
Explain that when we humble ourselves before God, we are prepared to be “born of God” and experience a “mighty change in [our] hearts” (Alma 5:14). This lesson discusses the conditions under which the Lord can change our hearts.
Scripture Discussion and Application
Prayerfully select the scripture passages, questions, and other lesson material that will best meet class members’ needs. Discuss how the selected scriptures apply to daily life. Encourage class members to share appropriate experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.
1. Alma teaches the people how they can experience a “mighty change” of heart.
Read and discuss selected verses from Alma 5. Remind class members that Alma was the chief judge in the people’s government. As chief judge, he had the authority to enforce the laws of the land. He was also the presiding high priest in the Church. As high priest, he had the responsibility to preach the word of God. When he saw the wickedness of the members of the Church, he resigned as chief judge and “confined himself wholly to the high priesthood … , to the testimony of the word” (Alma 4:11–20). President Ezra Taft Benson taught why it became important for Alma to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ rather than serve as chief judge:
“The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. … The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 5; or Ensign, Nov. 1985, 6).
At the beginning of his address, Alma spoke of the previous generation, who had been delivered from physical and spiritual bondage (Alma 5:3–9). Why do you think it was important for the people to remember their fathers’ captivity and deliverance? (As class members discuss this question, you may want to have them read Alma 5:5–7.) How did Alma describe their fathers after the Lord “changed their hearts”? (See Alma 5:7–9.)
Have a class member read the three questions in Alma 5:10. What are the answers to these questions? (See Alma 5:11–13.) What was the message that led to “a mighty change [being] wrought” in the heart of Alma’s father? (See Mosiah 16:13–15.) What happened to the people who believed Alma the Elder when he taught them the gospel? (See Alma 5:13; see also Mosiah 18:1–11.) How can others’ testimonies of the Savior help us experience a change of heart?
Throughout his address to the people in Zarahemla, Alma spoke of experiencing a “mighty change” of heart and being “born of God” (Alma 5:14). We often use the word conversion when we speak of this experience. What does it mean to be converted? (See Mosiah 5:2; 27:24–26.) Is conversion a single event or a process?
Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “Except in … unusual circumstances, as with Alma (Mosiah 27), spiritual rebirth is a process. It does not occur instantaneously. It comes to pass by degrees. Repentant persons become alive to one spiritual reality after another, until they are wholly alive in Christ and are qualified to dwell in his presence forever” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 3:401).
As part of this discussion, you may want to read Alma 5:45–46 with class members. Note that even Alma, who had experienced a miraculous conversion, had “fasted and prayed many days that [he] might know these things.”
Explain that as Alma preached to the people in Zarahemla, he asked them a series of questions. We can use these questions to examine ourselves as we continue in the conversion process. Have class members take turns reading verses from Alma 5:14–21, 26–31. Invite them to discuss questions from these verses that are especially meaningful to them. You may want to use the following discussion questions to encourage participation and to help class members ponder how they can continue in the conversion process:
Alma spoke of having “the image of God engraven upon [our] countenances” (Alma 5:19). The word countenance refers to a person’s behavior or to the way a person’s face expresses his or her character. Invite class members to silently consider how they would answer the following question from Alma: “Have ye received his image in your countenances?”
How can it be helpful to imagine ourselves being judged by the Lord? (See Alma 5:15–19.)
Alma asked, “If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, … can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:26). Invite class members to silently consider how they would answer this question. Once a person has “felt to sing the song of redeeming love,” what might cause that feeling to diminish? What can we do to continue in the process of conversion?
How can we keep ourselves “blameless before God”? (See Alma 5:27, 50–51.)
After Alma asked these questions, he urged the people to repent of their sins (Alma 5:31–32). Then he reassured them that they could be forgiven through the Atonement of Jesus Christ (Alma 5:33–35). What invitation does the Savior extend to us? (See Alma 5:33–35.) How can this invitation give us hope?
To the unrighteous people in Zarahemla, Alma said, “A shepherd hath called after you and is still calling after you, but ye will not hearken unto his voice!” (Alma 5:37). Who is the shepherd Alma referred to? (See Alma 5:38.) How does the Savior call after us? What can we do to hearken to His voice?
What can we learn from Alma 5:43–49 about the calling of a prophet?
Alma warned the people that they should not persist, or continue, in their wickedness (Alma 5:53–56; note that Alma asked the question “Will ye persist?” four times). Why is forsaking sin a necessary part of repenting? (See Alma 5:56; see also Mosiah 16:5; D&C 58:42–43.)
Alma commanded his people, “Come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate” (Alma 5:57). How can we separate ourselves from wickedness while living in the world?
2. Alma and the people establish the order of the Church in Zarahemla.
Read and discuss selected verses from Alma 6.
After Alma’s discourse, many people repented of their sins and humbled themselves before God (Alma 6:1–2). Why were other people unwilling to repent of their sins? (See Alma 6:3. They were “lifted up in the pride of their hearts.”) How does pride prevent people from repenting? How can we overcome pride in our hearts?
President Ezra Taft Benson said: “The antidote for pride is humility—meekness, submissiveness (see Alma 7:23). … Let us choose to be humble. We can choose to humble ourselves by conquering enmity toward our brothers and sisters, esteeming them as ourselves, and lifting them as high or higher than we are. … We can choose to humble ourselves by receiving counsel and chastisement. … We can choose to humble ourselves by forgiving those who have offended us. … We can choose to humble ourselves by rendering selfless service. … We can choose to humble ourselves by going on missions and preaching the word that can humble others. … We can choose to humble ourselves by getting to the temple more frequently. … We can choose to humble ourselves by confessing and forsaking our sins and being born of God. … We can choose to humble ourselves by loving God, submitting our will to His, and putting Him first in our lives” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 6; or Ensign, May 1989, 6–7).
Alma and the people in Zarahemla “began to establish the order of the church” by ordaining priests and elders, baptizing new converts, and gathering together often in fasting and prayer (Alma 6:1–6). How does such order in the Church help us continue in the conversion process?
3. Alma testifies of Jesus Christ. He encourages the people in Gideon to follow the Savior.
Alma told the people in Gideon that there were “many things to come” but that the coming of Jesus Christ was of the greatest importance (Alma 7:7). What did Alma teach about the Savior’s mission on earth? (See Alma 7:10–13.) Why did the Savior take upon Himself our pains, afflictions, sicknesses, and sins? (See Alma 7:11–14. As appropriate, invite class members to share their feelings about the Savior’s power to understand their needs, trials, and sorrows and to take away their sins.)
In what ways was Alma’s message to the people in Gideon different from his message in Zarahemla? In what ways were the messages similar? Why did Alma preach repentance to the people in Gideon even though they were striving to live righteously? (See Alma 7:9, 14–16, 22, 26.)
Have a class member read Alma 7:23–25. Explain that these verses describe a person who has experienced the change of heart spoken of by Alma and who continues to “sing the song of redeeming love” (Alma 5:26). As we continue in the conversion process, we will be able to look forward to the day when we are received “in the kingdom of heaven to go no more out” (Alma 7:25).
As directed by the Spirit, testify of the truths discussed during the lesson.
Additional Teaching Idea
The following material supplements the suggested lesson outline. You may want to use this idea as part of the lesson.
If Book of Mormon Video Presentations (53911) is available, show “Can You Imagine,” a seven-minute segment. In this presentation, a young man asks himself some of the questions in Alma 5. You may want to preview the presentation to determine whether its treatment of these questions will be helpful for those you teach.