Alma 39: The Serious Nature of Sexual Sin

Book of Mormon Student Study Guide, (2000), 127–128


Alma was pleased with his sons Helaman and Shiblon. However, he was not pleased with the immoral behavior of his son Corianton. Alma knew of the pain associated with sin and wanted others to avoid that pain (see Alma 36:11–16). Consequently, he had somewhat more to say to Corianton than his other sons. Notice what Alma counseled his son to do to overcome his sins.

Understanding the Scriptures

Alma 39

Grievous unto me (v. 3)Distressing, disturbing
Harlot (v. 3)Immoral woman, prostitute
Harrow up (v. 7)Torment, pain, in deep sorrow
Forsake (v. 9)Give up, abandon
Cross (v. 9)Deny, stop
Refrain from (v. 12)Keep yourself from doing, abstain
Tidings (v. 15)News

Alma 39:5–6—How Serious Are Sexual Sins in the Eyes of the Lord?

The First Presidency, in a message read during the October 1942 general conference, declared:

“Sexual sin … stands, in its enormity, next to murder. …

“… You cannot associate in non-marital, illicit sex relationships … and escape the punishments and the judgments which the Lord has declared against this sin” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1942, 11).

man with face in hands

Alma 39:6—In What Sense Is Murder Forgivable?

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “Murderers are forgiven eventually but only in the sense that all sins are forgiven except the sin against the Holy Ghost; they are not forgiven in the sense that celestial salvation is made available to them” (Mormon Doctrine, 520).

Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained:

“John wrote that ‘no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.’ [1 John 3:15.] The murderer denies himself salvation in the celestial kingdom, and in this sense he cannot be forgiven for his crime. …

“Of course, the laws both of the land and of God recognize a great difference between murder or wilful slaughter and manslaughter which was not premeditated. Likewise men unfortunately must take others’ lives in war” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 127, 129).

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity B and activity A or C as you study Alma 39.

Activity A iconWhy Was Alma Sorrowful?

  1. 1.

    Read Alma 39:1–11 and list five things Alma felt sad that Corianton had done or not done that kept Corianton from being a good missionary.

  2. 2.

    Write what Corianton needed to do to repent (see vv. 7–13).

Activity B iconWrite a Letter

President Ezra Taft Benson taught: “The plaguing sin of this generation is sexual immorality” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1986, 4; or Ensign, May 1986, 4). Review Alma 39:3–9 and write a paragraph in your notebook to strengthen someone against the temptations of immorality.

  1. 1.

    Explain how serious sexual immorality is.

  2. 2.

    Tell why you choose not to give in to temptation.

  3. 3.

    Use the statement in the “Understanding the Scriptures” section for Alma 39:5–6 and explain why you think these sins are so serious (see also D&C 42:24–25).

Activity C iconWhat Difference Does Your Example Make?

Review Alma 39:11–13 and think about the effect Corianton’s example had on the Zoramites.

  1. 1.

    Compare what Corianton did (see v. 11) with what he was called to declare (see vv. 15–16).

  2. 2.

    What effect can a bad example have on people?

  3. 3.

    What effect can a good example have on people?