Lesson 96: Alma 39

Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual, 2017


Introduction

Alma reproved his wayward son Corianton, who had forsaken the ministry and committed sexual sin. Alma taught him the seriousness of his actions and expressed disappointment that Corianton was guilty of such a serious sin. Alma commanded his son to stop going after the lusts of his eyes and to repent. (Alma’s counsel to Corianton on other subjects continues in chapters 40–42.)

Suggestions for Teaching

Alma 39:1–8

Alma explains to his son Corianton the seriousness of sexual sin

To begin the lesson, briefly remind students that the law of chastity is the Lord’s law of sexual purity. To obey the law of chastity, we must be morally clean in thought, word, and action. We must avoid having any sexual relations before marriage, and we must be completely faithful to our husband or wife during marriage. Homosexual activity of any kind is also a serious sin, regardless of whether those who participate in it are married or single. (See “Chastity” and “Same-Sex Attraction,” Gospel Topics, topics.lds.org.)

On the board, write or display the following list of lies about the law of chastity. (You may want to write this list on the board before class. Leave enough room to write principles and doctrines in Alma 39 next to each of the false statements.)

Five Lies about the Law of Chastity

  1. 1.

    I know a lot of people who don’t keep the law of chastity, so I shouldn’t have to obey the law of chastity either.

  2. 2.

    Committing sexual sin is not very serious.

  3. 3.

    I can commit sexual sin and no one will know.

  4. 4.

    Because of all the temptations around me, it isn’t possible to stay sexually pure.

  5. 5.

    If I have committed sexual sin, I can’t be forgiven.

Explain that the statements on the board are lies about the law of chastity that have become accepted by many people. Ask a student to read the list on the board aloud. Invite students to consider whether they have ever heard statements like these.

  • Why do you think worldly views about chastity are so different from the Lord’s teachings?

As students study Alma 39 today, invite them to look for truths that correct false ideas about chastity. You may want to encourage them to record the truths they identify in their scriptures or class notebooks.

Invite students to look at the note just above the heading for chapter 39. Ask them to identify who is speaking in this chapter and to whom he is speaking. (Alma is speaking to his son Corianton.) Explain that Corianton had accompanied his brother Shiblon and his father Alma to preach the gospel among the Zoramites, but he had committed serious sins.

Invite a student to read Alma 39:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to look for what Corianton did that was wrong. (You may need to explain that the word harlot in verse 3 refers to an immoral woman or prostitute.)

  • What did Corianton do that was wrong?

Invite a student to read Alma 39:4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for an excuse Corianton might have used to justify his sins. Invite students to report what they find.

  • What truth can we learn from verse 4? (Students may identify several truths, but make sure to emphasize the following: The sins of others do not provide an excuse for us to sin. Write this truth next to the first lie on the board.)

  • Why do the sins of others not provide an excuse for us to sin? (The Lord’s commandments and expectations for us do not change because of other people’s choices.)

Ask a student to read Alma 39:5 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for how Alma explained the seriousness of sexual sin. (It may be helpful to explain that the word abomination refers to something that is sinful, wicked, or awful.)

  • What truth can we learn from Alma 39:5? (As students answer, help them identify the truth that sexual sin is an abomination in the sight of the Lord. Write this truth next to the second lie on the board.)

  • Why do you think sexual sin is so serious in the sight of the Lord?

You may want to point out that as recorded in verse 5 Alma was referring to sexual sins such as fornication and adultery, which involve participating in sexual relations with another person outside of marriage.

  • Why do you think fornication and adultery are placed next to murder in seriousness?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Bruce C. Hafen, who served as a member of the Seventy:

Elder Bruce C. Hafen

“Perhaps there is a common element in those two things—unchastity and murder. Both have to do with life, which touches upon the highest of divine powers. Murder involves the wrongful taking of life; sexual transgression may involve the wrongful giving of life, or the wrongful tampering with the sacred fountains of life-giving power” (Bruce C. Hafen, “The Gospel and Romantic Love,” New Era, Feb. 2002, 10).

  • What did Elder Hafen suggest might be the common element in sexual sin and murder?

Summarize Alma 39:6 by explaining that Alma taught Corianton more about the seriousness of murder as well as the sin of denying the Holy Ghost.

Invite a student to read Alma 39:7–8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for Alma’s purpose in teaching Corianton the seriousness of sexual sin.

  • What was Alma’s reason for teaching Corianton the seriousness of his sin? (To help Corianton repent so that he would not have to stand guilty before God.)

  • What truth can we learn from verse 8? (Help students identify the following truth: We cannot hide our sins from God. Write this truth next to the third lie on the board.)

Alma 39:9–19

Alma encourages Corianton to repent

Point to the fourth lie about chastity on the board. Invite a student to read Alma 39:9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Alma taught Corianton that can help us remain sexually pure regardless of the temptations that surround us.

  • What did Alma teach Corianton that can help us remain sexually pure regardless of the temptations that surround us?

  • What does it mean to “forsake your sins”? (To stop committing them.)

  • What do the phrases “go no more after the lusts of your eyes” and “cross yourself in all these things” have to do with forsaking sin? (It may be helpful to explain that in our day the phrase “lusts of your eyes” could refer to images and entertainment that are pornographic in any way. You might also explain that the phrase “cross yourself” means to exercise self-control or self-mastery [see verse 9, footnote b].)

  • What principle can we learn from Alma 39:9? (Help students identify the following principle: We can overcome temptation and forsake our sins by exercising self-control. Write this principle next to the fourth lie on the board.)

  • What are some ways young Latter-day Saints can exercise self-control in matters of sexual purity and avoid going after the lusts of their eyes?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement from For the Strength of Youth:

“Never do anything that could lead to sexual transgression. Treat others with respect, not as objects used to satisfy lustful and selfish desires. Before marriage, do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not do anything else that arouses sexual feelings. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body. Pay attention to the promptings of the Spirit so that you can be clean and virtuous. The Spirit of the Lord will withdraw from one who is in sexual transgression.

“Avoid situations that invite increased temptation, such as late-night or overnight activities away from home or activities where there is a lack of adult supervision. Do not participate in discussions or any media that arouse sexual feelings. Do not participate in any type of pornography. The Spirit can help you know when you are at risk and give you the strength to remove yourself from the situation. Have faith in and be obedient to the righteous counsel of your parents and leaders” (For the Strength of Youth [booklet, 2011], 36).

  • How do you think following this counsel can help us to avoid and resist temptations to commit sexual sin?

  • How might you respond to someone who told you that it is too difficult to live the law of chastity in today’s world?

Give students a moment to ponder specific ways in which they will exercise self-control in order to avoid committing sexual sin.

Summarize Alma 39:10–14 by explaining that Alma encouraged Corianton to seek and follow the counsel of his older brothers. He also explained that when the Zoramites saw Corianton’s iniquities, they would not believe Alma’s words.

Invite a student to read Alma 39:13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for counsel Alma gave Corianton about how to repent of his sins.

  • What did Alma teach about what we must do to repent? (Help students identify the following truth: Repentance includes turning to the Lord with all our mind, might, and strength and acknowledging our sins. Invite students to consider marking the phrases in verse 13 that teach this truth.)

  • What do you think it means to turn to the Lord with all of our mind, might, and strength?

Invite a student to read Alma 39:15 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Alma taught Corianton about Jesus Christ.

  • What doctrine can we learn from Alma’s teachings to Corianton in verse 15? (Help students identify the following doctrine: Because of Jesus Christ, we can be forgiven of our sins. Write this doctrine next to the fifth lie on the board.)

  • Why is it important to understand that we can be forgiven, regardless of the sins we may have committed?

Ask students to ponder their own experiences with repentance and forgiveness. Invite them to write in their class notebooks or study journals why they are grateful that Jesus Christ has “come to take away the sins of the world” (Alma 39:15) and will forgive all who repent.

Summarize Alma 39:16–19 by explaining that Alma taught Corianton that God revealed the glad tidings of the Savior’s coming long before Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry because the people who lived before Christ were just as precious to God as those who would live later.

Conclude by testifying of the truths you have discussed today. Invite students to prayerfully consider what the Lord would like them to do in order to apply these truths in their lives.

Commentary and Background Information

Alma 39:3. Consequences of sexual sin

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke of the seriousness and the consequences of sexual sin:

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

“By assigning such seriousness to a physical appetite so universally bestowed, what is God trying to tell us about its place in His plan for all men and women? I submit to you He is doing precisely that—commenting about the very plan of life itself. Clearly among His greatest concerns regarding mortality are how one gets into this world and how one gets out of it. He has set very strict limits in these matters. …

The body is an essential part of the soul. This distinctive and very important Latter-day Saint doctrine underscores why sexual sin is so serious. We declare that one who uses the God-given body of another without divine sanction abuses the very soul of that individual, abuses the central purpose and processes of life, ‘the very key’ to life, as President Boyd K. Packer once called it [see “Why Stay Morally Clean,” Ensign, July 1972, 113]. In exploiting the body of another—which means exploiting his or her soul—one desecrates the Atonement of Christ, which saved that soul and which makes possible the gift of eternal life. And when one mocks the Son of Righteousness, one steps into a realm of heat hotter and holier than the noonday sun. You cannot do so and not be burned.

“Please, never say: ‘Who does it hurt? Why not a little freedom? I can transgress now and repent later.’ Please don’t be so foolish and so cruel. You cannot with impunity ‘crucify Christ afresh’ [see Hebrews 6:6]. ‘Flee fornication,’ Paul cries [1 Corinthians 6:18], and flee ‘anything like unto it,’ the Doctrine and Covenants adds [see D&C 59:6; emphasis added]. Why? Well, for one reason because of the incalculable suffering in both body and spirit endured by the Savior of the world so that we could flee [see especially D&C 19:15–20]. We owe Him something for that. Indeed, we owe Him everything for that. ‘Ye are not your own,’ Paul says. ‘Ye [have been] bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.’ [1 Corinthians 6:19–20; emphasis added; see also verses 13–18.] In sexual transgression the soul is at stake—the body and the spirit. …

In matters of human intimacy, you must wait! You must wait until you can give everything, and you cannot give everything until you are legally and lawfully married. To give illicitly that which is not yours to give (remember, ‘you are not your own’) and to give only part of that which cannot be followed with the gift of your whole self is emotional Russian roulette. If you persist in pursuing physical satisfaction without the sanction of heaven, you run the terrible risk of such spiritual, psychic damage that you may undermine both your longing for physical intimacy and your ability to give wholehearted devotion to a later, truer love. You may come to that truer moment of ordained love, of real union, only to discover to your horror that what you should have saved you have spent, and that only God’s grace can recover the piecemeal dissipation of the virtue you so casually gave away. On your wedding day the very best gift you can give your eternal companion is your very best self—clean and pure and worthy of such purity in return” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Personal Purity,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 76–77).

Alma 39:6. What is the unpardonable sin?

The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–1844) gave further knowledge about the unpardonable sin:

Prophet Joseph Smith

“All sins shall be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition. What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him. He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it; and from that time he begins to be an enemy. This is the case with many apostates of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 6:314).

An individual who receives a witness of the Holy Ghost and then falls away or becomes less active in the Church is not guilty of the unpardonable sin.

Supplemental Teaching Ideas

video iconAlma 39:9. Video presentation—“Chastity: What Are the Limits?”

In addition to or in place of inviting a student to read the statement from For the Strength of Youth, you may want to show the video “Chastity: What Are the Limits?” (3:59), which is available on LDS.org. This video encourages students to set and live standards that will help them live the law of chastity.

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video iconAlma 39:9. Video presentation—“I Choose to Be Pure”

As students share how they might respond to someone who thinks it is too difficult to live the law of chastity in today’s world, you may want to show the video “I Choose to Be Pure” (4:20), which is available on LDS.org. This video features young people from several different religions explaining the importance of being sexually pure.

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