Lesson 89: Alma 31

Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual, 2017


Introduction

Alma learned that a group of Nephite dissenters called the Zoramites had strayed from the truth of the gospel and “were perverting the ways of the Lord” (Alma 31:1). Saddened by these reports of wickedness, Alma took a group of missionaries to teach the word of God to the Zoramites. Alma and his companions observed the Zoramites’ apostate worship, materialism, and pride. Alma prayed earnestly that the Lord would comfort him and his companions as they faced this challenge and that they would have success in bringing the Zoramites back to the Lord.

Suggestions for Teaching

Alma 31:1–7

Alma and his companions leave Zarahemla to preach the word of God to the apostate Zoramites

Ask students to think about what they would do if a friend or family member began to stray from living the gospel.

  • What might be challenging about trying to help someone who is straying from the gospel?

As students study Alma 31 today, invite them to look for truths they can learn from how Alma and several others tried to help a group of people who had strayed from the gospel.

Invite a student to read Alma 31:1–4 aloud. Ask the class to look for concerns that Alma and others had about the Zoramites.

  • What were Alma’s feelings when he heard about the iniquity of the Zoramites?

  • Why did the Nephites begin to fear because of the Zoramites?

Invite a student to read Alma 31:5 aloud. Ask the class to look for what Alma knew would be the most effective way to help the Zoramites. Explain that in this verse the word just means righteous.

  • What did Alma decide to do to help the Zoramites?

  • What truth can we learn from Alma 31:5 about the effect that preaching the word of God can have? (Students may use different words, but be sure they identify the following truth: Preaching the word of God can have a more powerful effect than anything else in helping people do what is right. Invite students to consider marking the words and phrases in verse 5 that teach this truth.)

  • Aside from preaching the word of God, what are some ways in which people may try to persuade or force others to do what is right?

  • Why do you think preaching the word of God can be more powerful than force or anything else in helping people do what is right?

Point out that the word of God—which includes the scriptures and the teachings of prophets—encompasses the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. (You may want to write this statement on the board.)

President Boyd K. Packer

“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior” (Boyd K. Packer, “Little Children,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17).

  • In what ways might understanding true doctrine, such as truths about our Heavenly Father and His plan of salvation, help someone change his or her attitude or behavior and desire to do what is right?

Invite students to answer the following questions in their class notebooks or study journals. Consider writing these questions on the board.

  • What is an example of a doctrine you could share with someone to help him or her become more faithful in living the gospel? Why do you think understanding that particular doctrine would be helpful?

After sufficient time, ask a few students to report to the class what they wrote.

Invite students to tell about a time when they or someone they know gained a greater desire to do what is right as a result of coming to understand the word of God through the scriptures or the teachings of Church leaders. You may also want to share an experience.

Encourage students to prayerfully consider how they can share the word of God with those they know who have strayed from the gospel.

Summarize Alma 31:6–7 by telling students that as a result of Alma’s confidence in the power of the word of God, he and seven others went to preach to the Zoramites.

Alma 31:8–23

The Zoramites pray and worship in a false manner

Write the following question on the board: What are some reasons why individuals might stray from the gospel?

Invite students to come to the board and list their responses to this question.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Alma 31:8–11. Ask the class to follow along, looking for words and phrases that indicate why the Zoramites had strayed from the gospel. Point out that the phrase “performances of the church” is related to ordinances (see verse 10, footnote a), as well as to “prayer and supplication to God daily” (verse 10).

  • Why had the Zoramites strayed from the gospel? (Add students’ responses to the list on the board.)

  • What principle can we learn from these verses about what can lead us to stray from the gospel? (Students may identify a variety of principles, including the following: Choosing to not keep the commandments, participate in gospel ordinances, or pray daily will lead us to stray from the gospel. Write this principle on the board.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Rulon G. Craven, who served as a member of the Seventy. Ask the class to listen for what has caused some Church members in our day to temporarily lose their membership in the Church and the blessings associated with the covenants they have made in the temple.

Elder Rulon G. Craven

“During the past years I have at times been asked by the Brethren to meet with repentant members of the Church and interview them for the restoration of their temple blessings. This has always been a spiritually moving experience to restore the blessings of those wonderful people who have repented. I have asked some of them the question, ‘What happened in your life that caused you to temporarily lose your membership in the Church?’ With tear-filled eyes they answered: ‘I didn’t obey the basic principles of the gospel: prayer, attending church regularly, serving in church and studying the gospel. I then gave in to temptations and lost the guidance of the Holy Spirit’” (Rulon G. Craven, “Temptation,” Ensign, May 1996, 76).

  • Why do you think keeping the commandments, participating in gospel ordinances, and praying daily can protect us from straying from the gospel?

Explain that in Alma 31:12–19, Alma and his companions witnessed how the Zoramites worshipped. Invite a student to read Alma 31:12–14 aloud. Then invite another student to stand on a chair or another object in the center of the room and read Alma 31:15–18 aloud. (Ensure that the student is safe.) Ask the class to follow along, thinking about what they would be concerned about if they heard someone pray in this manner. When the student has finished reading, invite him or her to sit down.

  • What concerns would you have if you heard someone pray in this manner?

  • What are some false doctrines the Zoramites recited in their prayer?

  • What was the attitude of the Zoramites toward other people? (You may want to direct students’ attention to the frequency with which the words we and us appear in the Zoramites’ prayer.)

Invite a student to read Alma 31:19–23 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for additional problems with the Zoramites’ pattern of worship. Ask students to report what they find.

Alma 31:24–38

Alma prays for strength and success in bringing the Zoramites back to the Lord

Invite students to read Alma 31:24–25 silently, looking for how the Zoramites’ apostasy affected Alma. Ask students to report what they find.

handout iconExplain that when Alma saw the wickedness of the Zoramites, he prayed. Divide students into pairs or small groups, and provide them with copies of the following handout. Ask them to work together to study the scripture references and discuss the questions on the handout.

Alma’s Prayer

Read Alma 31:26–30.

  • What concerns did Alma express as he prayed?

Read Alma 31:31–32.

  • Who did Alma pray for?

Read Alma 31:33–35.

  • What did Alma request in his prayer?

  • How would you summarize the differences between the Zoramites’ prayer and Alma’s prayer?

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After students have completed the handout, consider inviting a few students to report their responses to the class.

Summarize Alma 31:36 by explaining that after Alma prayed, he “clapped his hands upon” his fellow laborers—which likely means he laid his hands on them and blessed them—and they were filled with the Holy Ghost.

Invite a student to read Alma 31:37–38 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Alma and his fellow laborers did and how the Lord blessed them.

  • What did Alma and his fellow laborers do?

  • What blessings came to Alma and his companions because of Alma’s prayer and their faithful actions?

Write the following on the board: If we pray and act in faith, …

  • Based on what you have learned from the example of Alma and his companions, how would you complete the statement on the board? (Students may give several different answers that are true. Summarize their answers by completing the statement on the board so it reads as follows: If we pray and act in faith, the Lord will strengthen us as we seek to bring others to Him.)

Review and testify of the truths students identified in this lesson. Invite them to set a goal to apply one or more of these truths as they strive to live the gospel more faithfully or to help another person do so.

Commentary and Background Information

Alma 31:22. “The selfsame prayer”

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles discussed the importance of praying sincerely:

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

“Do your prayers at times sound and feel the same? Have you ever said a prayer mechanically, the words pouring forth as though cut from a machine? Do you sometimes bore yourself as you pray?

“Will prayers that do not demand much of your thought merit much attention from our Heavenly Father? When you find yourself getting into a routine with your prayers, step back and think. Meditate for a while on the things for which you really are grateful. Look for them. They don’t have to be grand or glorious. Sometimes we should express our gratitude for the small and simple things like the scent of the rain, the taste of your favorite food, or the sound of a loved one’s voice” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Improving Our Prayers,” Ensign, Mar. 2004, 26).

Alma 31:26–35. Praying for others

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles testified of the blessings that come as we pray for others:

Elder David A. Bednar

“Petitioning Heavenly Father for the blessings we desire in our personal lives is good and proper. However, praying earnestly for others, both those whom we love and those who despitefully use us, is also an important element of meaningful prayer. … Praying for others with all of the energy of our souls increases our capacity to hear and to heed the voice of the Lord” (David A. Bednar, “Pray Always,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 43).

Supplemental Teaching Idea

video iconAlma 31:5. Video presentation—“A Mighty Change: Conversion”

To help students feel the truth and importance of the principle that preaching the word of God can have a more powerful effect than anything else in helping people do what is right, you could show the video “A Mighty Change: Conversion” (2:48). This video can be found on LDS.org. This video tells the story of a young woman named Alejandra. Invite students to look for what Alejandra learned and how it affected her. After showing the video, ask:

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  • What did Alejandra do after she was changed by learning the doctrines of the gospel? (She helped others and testified of Jesus Christ to them.)