Lesson 90: Alma 32

Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual, 2012


Introduction

After witnessing the Zoramites’ apostate form of worship, Alma and his companions began preaching the word of God to the Zoramites. They began to experience some success among the people who were poor and who had been cast out of their synagogues. By comparing the word of God to a seed, Alma taught the people how to receive the word of God and increase their faith.

Suggestions for Teaching

Alma 32:1–16

Humble Zoramites show that they are prepared to hear the word of God

Invite students to imagine that you are a friend who has asked them how you can know if the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. Ask them what they would say to help you receive a testimony.

After students share their thoughts, write on the board How to receive and strengthen a testimony. Tell students that throughout the lesson, you will list the principles and insights they discover about how to receive and strengthen a testimony.

Remind students that Alma and his brethren had observed the false worship of the Zoramites, an apostate group of Nephites. Because of his sorrow for the wickedness of the people, he had prayed for comfort and for strength to be able to teach them. (See Alma 31.)

Invite a student to read Alma 32:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to look for which group of Zoramites showed interest in the missionaries’ message. Ask them to report what they find.

  • According to Alma 32:3, in what ways were these people poor? (“They were poor as to things of the world; and also they were poor in heart.”)

  • What do you think it means to be “poor in heart”?

To help students answer this question, invite several of them to take turns reading aloud from Alma 32:4–12. (Students might suggest that being poor in heart includes being humble, repentant, and ready to hear the word of God.)

  • How does the question in Alma 32:5 show that the Zoramites were poor in heart?

  • How did poverty lead to blessings for this group of Zoramites?

  • What do these verses teach about receiving and strengthening a testimony? (As students share different principles, write them under the heading on the board. Make sure they identify the following principle: Humility prepares us to receive the word of God.)

  • Why is humility essential in the process of receiving and strengthening a testimony?

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Alma 32:13–16. Ask the class to look for two different ways people may become humble. (People may choose to be humble, or they may be compelled to be humble.)

  • What can we learn about humility from these verses? (Help students identify the following principle: we are more blessed when we choose to be humble than when we are compelled to be humble.) Why do you think it is better to choose to be humble?

  • What do you think it means to humble yourself “because of the word”? (Alma 32:14). How might this apply to our attitudes in church, seminary, or family scripture study?

Alma 32:17–43

Alma teaches the Zoramites how to increase their faith

Explain that Alma identified a false idea that many people have about obtaining a testimony. Ask a student to read Alma 32:17–18 aloud while the class identifies this false idea.

  • What false idea did many of the people have about obtaining a testimony?

  • What is wrong with demanding a sign before believing? (You may want to remind students of the example of Sherem in Jacob 7:13–16 and the example of Korihor in Alma 30:43–52. You might also have them read Doctrine and Covenants 63:9 to emphasize that signs are a product of faith, not something we should demand before we have faith.)

Explain that Alma taught the people what faith is. Invite students to read Alma 32:21 silently, looking for Alma’s definition of faith. Point out that this verse is a scripture mastery passage. You may want to encourage students to mark it in a distinctive way so they will be able to locate it easily.

Ask students to read Alma 32:22 silently, looking for counsel on how to receive and strengthen a testimony. Invite them to report what they discover.

Add Remember the mercy of God and Believe God’s word to the list on the board.

  • Why are these actions important in the development of our faith?

Explain that to help the Zoramites understand how to believe in the word of God, Alma suggested that they conduct an experiment.

  • Why do people conduct scientific experiments? (To find out if a theory or idea is true.)

Ask students to describe experiments they have performed in science classes or other settings. Help them see that experiments require action, not just guesses, on the part of the researcher. The process of receiving or strengthening a testimony also requires action.

Have a student read Alma 32:27 aloud. Ask the class to look for the experiment Alma invited the Zoramites to conduct. Add Experiment upon the word to the list on the board.

  • What do you think Alma meant when he said to “experiment upon [his] words”?

  • What do you think Alma meant when he said to “awake and arouse your faculties”? (You may need to explain that the word faculties refers to our ability to think and act and accomplish things. Alma was inviting the people to act on his words. You may want to add Awake and arouse your faculties to the list on the board.)

  • What do you think it means to “exercise a particle of faith”?

To help students discover how they can begin to perform this experiment in their lives, invite them to read Alma 32:28 silently.

  • What did Alma compare the word of God to? (A seed.)

  • What are some sources of God’s word? (Answers should include the scriptures, the teachings of latter-day prophets, and personal revelation from the Holy Ghost.)

  • What did Alma say we must do with this “seed”?

List students’ answers on the board. You may want to write them under Experiment upon the word, which you wrote earlier. The list might include the following elements:

  1. 1.

    Give place for the word (or seed) to be planted in your heart.

  2. 2.

    Do not cast out the word by your unbelief.

  3. 3.

    Recognize the growth of the word within you.

To help students understand what they have read about the experiment, ask the following questions:

  • How is the word of God like a seed that can be planted in our hearts? (Answers may include that it can grow, that it can strengthen us, and that we need to nurture it.)

As students discuss the comparison of the word of God to a seed, invite them to read Alma 33:22–23 silently. Before they read, ask them to look for Alma’s explanation of “this word.” Help them see that it refers to Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

  • What do you think it means to “give place” for the word to be planted in our hearts? (See Alma 32:28. Answers may include that we need to open our hearts and that we need to make room in our lives for scripture study.)

  • What do you think it means to feel that the word of God is “swelling” within you? If the word of God is swelling within you, then what is happening to your testimony and faith?

  • When has the word of God enlarged your soul and enlightened your understanding?

Ask a few students to take turns reading from Alma 32:29–34. Invite the class to follow along, looking for words and phrases that describe what we learn about the word of God. Then ask students to read the words and phrases they have found and explain why they have chosen them. Ask:

  • Why would our faith not yet be perfect after performing this experiment? What more do you think we need to do to receive a lasting testimony of the gospel?

  • How is the process of helping a tree grow similar to the process of strengthening a testimony?

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Alma 32:35–40. Ask the class to look for Alma’s counsel about how to complete the experiment.

  • According to Alma 32:37–40, what must we do so our faith in the word of God will continue to grow? (Add Nourish the word to the list on the board.)

  • What can we do to nourish the word? (Answers may include that we can study the scriptures every day, pray for guidance as we study, look for ways the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets apply in our lives, and share what we learn.)

  • What happens when we neglect a tree or fail to nourish it? What happens when we neglect the word of God that has been planted in our hearts?

Ask students to write in notebooks or scripture study journals what they have learned from Alma 32 about how to receive and strengthen a testimony. You might also suggest that they write these summaries in their scriptures near Alma 32:37–43.

Invite students to share what they have written. As they share, make sure they express that if we diligently nourish God’s word in our hearts, our faith and our testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel will grow.

Ask students to read Alma 32:41–43, looking for Alma’s description of the tree and the fruit.

  • Where else does the Book of Mormon include a description of a tree with fruit that is “sweet above all that is sweet”? (You may need to remind students of the description of the tree of life in 1 Nephi 8:11–12 and 1 Nephi 11:9–24.)

  • In Lehi and Nephi’s vision of the tree of life, what do the tree and the fruit represent? (The tree represents the love of God as expressed through the Savior and His Atonement, and the fruit represents the blessings we can receive through the Atonement. See lesson 12 in this book.)

  • In Lehi and Nephi’s vision, how do the people arrive at the tree? (By following the iron rod, which represents the word of God.) How is this like Alma’s comparison of the word of God to a seed?

Invite a few students to share how they have followed the practice described in Alma 32. Ask them how this practice has influenced their lives. Consider sharing your own experiences when you have felt the power of the word of God.

scripture mastery iconScripture Mastery—Alma 32:21

Ask students to use Alma 32:21 to determine how the people in the following situations are exercising faith or not exercising faith.

  1. 1.

    A young woman wants physical evidence that the Book of Mormon is true before she will believe it.

  2. 2.

    A young man hears that all worthy young men should serve a full-time mission. Though his family is poor, he is determined to serve and make preparations to serve.

  3. 3.

    A young woman wants to become clean from her sins through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. She knows she needs to confess some transgressions to her bishop in order to fully repent. She makes an appointment to see her bishop.

Note: You may use this idea during the lesson as you introduce the scripture mastery passage, or you may use it at the end of the lesson.

Commentary and Background Information

Alma 32:21–22, 26–27. Faith as a choice

Bishop Richard C. Edgley of the Presiding Bishopric taught that faith is a choice:

“Because of the conflicts and challenges we face in today’s world, I wish to suggest a single choice—a choice of peace and protection and a choice that is appropriate for all. That choice is faith. Be aware that faith is not a free gift given without thought, desire, or effort. It does not come as the dew falls from heaven. The Savior said, ‘Come unto me’ (Matthew 11:28) and ‘Knock, and it shall be [given] you’ (Matthew 7:7). These are action verbs—come, knock. They are choices. So I say, choose faith. Choose faith over doubt, choose faith over fear, choose faith over the unknown and the unseen, and choose faith over pessimism.

“Alma’s classic discussion on faith, as recorded in the 32nd chapter of Alma in the Book of Mormon, is a series of choices to ensure the development and the preservation of our faith. Alma gave us a directive to choose. His were words of action initiated by choosing. He used the words awake, arouse, experiment, exercise, desire, work, and plant. Then Alma explained that if we make these choices and do not cast the seed out by unbelief, then ‘it will begin to swell within [our] breasts’ (Alma 32:28).

“Yes, faith is a choice, and it must be sought after and developed. Thus, we are responsible for our own faith. We are also responsible for our lack of faith. The choice is yours” (“Faith—the Choice Is Yours,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 31–32).

Alma 32:40–43. Seeking a living testimony

President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency identified ways we can nourish our testimonies:

“Testimony requires the nurturing by the prayer of faith, the hungering for the word of God in the scriptures, and the obedience to the truth we have received. There is danger in neglecting prayer. There is danger to our testimony in only casual study and reading of the scriptures. They are necessary nutrients for our testimony. …

“Feasting on the word of God, heartfelt prayer, and obedience to the Lord’s commandments must be applied evenly and continually for your testimony to grow and prosper. All of us at times have circumstances beyond our control that interrupt our pattern of scripture study. There may be periods of time when we choose for some reason not to pray. There may be commandments that we choose for a time to ignore.

“But you will not have your desire for a living testimony granted if you forget the warning and the promise in Alma [32:40–43]” (“A Living Testimony,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 127–28).

Supplemental Teaching Idea

Alma 32:28–43. Nourishing the word

To help students visualize the analogy in Alma 32:28–43, copy the following diagram on the board.