Chapter 23: Alma 1–4

Book of Mormon Teacher Manual, (2009), 82–84


Introduction

Alma 1 highlights the difference between priesthood and priestcraft. After studying this scripture block, students should be able to recognize the characteristics of priestcraft in Alma’s time as well as our own. Furthermore, students should understand that priestcraft stands in direct contrast to the priesthood of God. In Alma 2–3, students can see the negative consequences of priestcraft as they read the story of Amlici seeking to destroy the Nephite government and become king. The account also shows how people’s righteous response to trials can help them receive strength from God. Alma’s response to trials can serve as a model for us today. You can help students understand that they, like Alma, can receive strength from God as they pray for assistance, exercise faith, and take action to meet their challenges. Alma 4 emphasizes the power of pure testimony.

Some Doctrines and Principles

  • Latter-day Saints must avoid priestcraft (see Alma 1).

  • God will strengthen us as we resist wickedness (see Alma 2).

  • Pure testimony combats pride (see Alma 4).

Suggestions for Teaching

Alma 1. Latter-day Saints Must Avoid Priestcraft

Before class, put the following table and questions on the board:

Priestcraft

Priesthood

Alma 1:2–6

Alma 1:26–27

Alma 1:16

Alma 13:6, 10–12

2 Nephi 26:29

Jacob 1:18–19

What is priestcraft?

How did the priests of God conduct themselves?

This activity provides an opportunity for students to contrast priestcraft with priesthood. Divide the class into two groups. Have the first group read, analyze, and discuss the passages about priestcraft, and have the second group read, analyze, and discuss the passages about priesthood. Instruct the first group to look for a definition of the term priestcraft and to identify elements of priestcraft. Instruct the second group to identify the motives and behaviors of priesthood holders who honor the Lord. After students have had sufficient time to analyze their assigned verses, have one student from each group report on their findings.

After the first group reports on priestcraft, ask the following questions:

  • Why do you think Nehor’s teachings became popular? (See Alma 1:3–4; see also Helaman 13:27–28.)

  • How might teachers of the gospel be affected if their success were based on their popularity? How could this affect their doctrinal teaching?

After the second group reports on priesthood, ask the following questions:

  • According to Alma 1:26, how did the priests regard those they taught? Why is this attitude important for teachers?

  • What are some similarities between the righteous priests in Alma 1:25–27 and Church leaders and missionaries today?

To help students recognize priestcraft in our day and the consequence of allowing priestcraft to flourish, ask the following questions:

  • According to Alma 1:12, what is the result if priestcraft is allowed to flourish?

In addition to priestcraft in the world, elements of priestcraft can creep into the Church. You might want to have students read the statements by Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder David A. Bednar on pages 170–71 in the student manual. These statements teach the importance of avoiding priestcraft in our Church callings. The statement by Elder Oaks is also available on the companion DVD A.

  • How can we avoid priestcrafts in our callings to teach and lead?

Alma 2. God Will Strengthen Us as We Resist Wickedness

Ask students to remember a time when they resisted wickedness, either privately or publicly. Then invite them to consider the following questions. You may want to ask them to answer them silently, to themselves, rather than in a discussion.

  • What motivated you to stand for truth and righteousness?

  • How did you receive strength to do so?

Explain that Alma 2 provides an account of the prophet Alma and other righteous men and women resisting wickedness, even to the point of being willing to give their lives. Invite students to look for the motivations of these men and women, as well as how they received strength in moments of great difficulty.

Ask students to read Alma 2:1–7 silently.

  • Who was Amlici, and what two things did he desire? (See Alma 2:2, 4. He wanted to be king, and he wanted to destroy the Church.)

  • How did the Nephites defeat Amlici’s attempt to become king?

Share the following statement from the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning the duty of the Latter-day Saints to be an influence for good in their communities:

“It is our duty to concentrate all our influence to make popular that which is sound and good, and unpopular that which is unsound” (in History of the Church, 5:286).

  • In what ways can we “make popular that which is sound and good”?

Summarize the content of Alma 2:8–14 by explaining that Amlici gathered his followers, convinced them to make him their king, and went to battle against the Nephites in an attempt to gain his personal desires.

  • How many people were slain as a result of Amlici’s desire to be king? (See Alma 2:19.) How does this account relate to King Mosiah’s warning in Mosiah 29:17, 21?

Have students scan Alma 2:15–18, 28–31 to look for the words strengthen or strengthened.

  • According to Alma 2:28, why did the Lord strengthen the Nephites?

  • Why do you think Heavenly Father sometimes gives us strength to resist wickedness instead of removing its influence from our lives?

Invite a student to read Alma 2:29–31 aloud. Ask students to identify how we can use Alma’s actions in these verses as an example to follow when we struggle against wickedness.

Testify that the Lord will strengthen us against opposition as we stand for truth and righteousness.

Alma 3. Sometimes People Separate Themselves from the Righteous by Changing Their Outward Appearance

Explain that in an effort to be identified with the Lamanites, the Amlicites changed their appearance. Invite a student to read Alma 3:4–5.

  • What did the Amlicites do to change their appearance?

  • Why do you think they wanted to be “distinguished from the Nephites”?

  • What are some things people do today with their outward appearance to separate themselves from the righteous?

If you want to mention tattooing as part of this discussion (or if students mention it), show a picture of a temple. If possible, show the temple that is located closest to students.

  • How would you feel if you saw graffiti on the house of the Lord?

Students should understand that their bodies are sacred and holy to the Lord, like the temples we build. President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008), the 15th President of the Church, stated, “A tattoo is graffiti on the temple of the body” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2000, 70; or Ensign, Nov. 2000, 52). Share the following counsel in For the Strength of Youth to help students avoid following worldly trends regarding the marking of their bodies:

“Your body is God’s sacred creation. Respect it as a gift from God, and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show the Lord that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ” (For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty to God [booklet, 2001], 14).

You may also want to ask students to read the statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley on pages 173–74 in the student manual. The statement is also available on the companion DVD B.

Ask the following questions. Invite students to ponder their answers to the questions without answering aloud.

  • What messages do you send by the way you dress and mark your body?

  • How is your manner of dress a reflection of what you are like on the inside?

  • Along with modesty, what other factors of dress and appearance might show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ? (You may want to allow students to share their answers to this question. You may also want to invite students to read the statement by Elder M. Russell Ballard on page 174 in the student manual. This statement is also available on the companion DVD C.)

Testify of the sacredness of the body. Invite students to follow the counsel of latter-day prophets as they make daily choices about dress and appearance.

Alma 4. Pure Testimony Combats Pride

Instruct students to silently read Alma 4:6–12 and identify the effects pride had on Church members.

  • How was pride evident among the members of the Church? (You might want to list students’ responses on the board.)

  • What effect did the pride of Church members have on those who were not members?

  • Based on the actions of these Church members, what might others have thought they believed?

Give students one or two minutes to privately consider how they would answer the following question:

  • If someone watched you but did not know you very well, what might that person conclude about your beliefs?

When students have had time to ponder, ask the following question:

  • In what ways might this question influence our lives?

As prophet and chief judge, Alma was concerned about the pride of the people, and he wanted to “pull down” their pride (Alma 4:19). Ask five students to read Alma 4:15–19, one verse per student.

  • What does the phrase “bearing down in pure testimony” suggest about how Alma would teach?

As the high priest over the Church, Alma bore testimony that included words of warning and exhortation as well as declarations of truth. As members of the Church, our words of “pure testimony” most often consist only of our declaration of what we know to be true. To emphasize what it means for us to bear pure testimony, you may want to ask students to read the statements by Elder M. Russell Ballard and President Howard W. Hunter on page 176 in the student manual. The statement by Elder Ballard is also available on the companion DVD D.

  • Why do you think pure testimony has the power to pull down pride?

  • How has your life been influenced as you have heard people bear pure testimony of the gospel?

Consider sharing the following statement by President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985), the 12th President of the Church, about what it means to bear pure testimony:

“Do not exhort each other; that is not a testimony. Do not tell others how to live. Just tell how you feel inside. That is the testimony. The moment you begin preaching to others, your testimony ended. Just tell us how you feel, what your mind and heart and every fiber of your body tells you” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 138).