Chapter 31: Alma 36–39

Book of Mormon Teacher Manual, (2009), 110–14


Introduction

In these chapters, Alma gives his final counsel to his sons, Helaman, Shiblon, and Corianton. Alma’s counsel includes poignant teachings relating to forgiveness of sins, the converting power of the scriptures, steadfastness, and the seriousness of sexual transgression. Like Helaman, Shiblon, and Corianton, students will be able to better carry on the Lord’s work as they understand and apply these doctrines. As they study and discuss this counsel, particularly regarding the law of chastity, use caution not to allow them to talk about their personal transgressions.

Some Doctrines and Principles

  • When we repent, the Atonement removes bitter pain and brings exquisite joy (see Alma 36:12–21).

  • The words of Christ lead to eternal life (see Alma 37).

  • Steadiness and faithfulness bring great blessings (see Alma 38).

  • Sexual sin is an abomination in the sight of the Lord (see Alma 39:1–11).

Suggestions for Teaching

Alma 36–39. Overview

Invite students to imagine a time in the future when they will want to leave their final counsel and testimony with their children.

  • What counsel would you share?

  • What warnings would you give?

Write students’ answers on the board. Explain that today students will study and discuss Alma’s final words and testimony for each of his three sons.

Ask students to read some of Alma’s first words of counsel to each of his sons: Alma 36:1–3; 38:1, 5; 39:1.

  • Why might Alma emphasize the importance of keeping the commandments and trusting in God for support?

  • How is Alma’s counsel in these verses applicable to us today?

  • A few years after receiving this counsel, Helaman led the sons of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies into battle (see Alma 53:14–19). How do you think his father’s counsel may have helped him in this responsibility?

Explain that one reason Alma shared his testimony was to help his sons understand that he was not counseling them from his own wisdom but from inspiration and revelation from God (see Alma 36:4–5; 38:6). As part of Alma’s counsel to his sons, he told about his conversion and shared his testimony of Jesus Christ (see Alma 36:3–22; 38:6–9; 39:15). The turning point in Alma’s life was when he remembered what his father had taught about Jesus Christ and when he turned to the Savior for help. Alma did not find happiness until he turned to the Savior.

  • Why is it important for children to hear their parents bear their testimonies?

Explain that when Alma told the story of his conversion, he shared deep and poignant doctrines that blessed his sons’ lives. These teachings can also bless our lives—they can greatly enhance our understanding of the Atonement. For this reason, much of this lesson will focus on what we learn about the Atonement from Alma’s experiences.

Alma 36:12–21. When We Repent, the Atonement Removes Bitter Pain and Brings Exquisite Joy

Explain that when Alma told of his conversion, he described the pain he experienced when the angel spoke to him. Give students time to read Alma 36:12–21 silently.

  • What words and phrases did Alma use to describe his pain?

  • What can we learn from these phrases about the effects of sin?

To help class members see that Alma’s suffering had a positive result—and to help them see that their feelings of guilt can lead to positive results—ask the following questions:

  • What purpose does physical pain serve in our lives? (Briefly list students’ answers on the board.)

  • How might spiritual pain serve a similar purpose?

  • What was the result of Alma’s spiritual pain? When we feel this spiritual pain, what can we learn from Alma’s example?

To reinforce the previous discussion, have a student read the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“You have an alarm system built into both body and spirit. In your body it is pain; in your spirit it is guilt—or spiritual pain. While neither pain nor guilt is pleasant, and an excess of either can be destructive, both are a protection, for they sound the alarm ‘Don’t do that again!’

“Be grateful for both. … Learn to pay attention to that spiritual voice of warning within you” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 72; or Ensign, May 1989, 54, 59).

Invite students to read the statement by President Spencer W. Kimball on page 234 in the student manual. Ask them to look for Jesus Christ’s role in our repentance.

  • According to President Kimball, how does every transgressor gain relief?

  • How would you explain the connection between the Atonement of Jesus Christ and Alma’s relief?

  • In what ways does repentance bring joy?

To help students further understand the role of Jesus Christ in our repentance, invite a student to read the statement by President Ezra Taft Benson on page 234 in the student manual.

  • According to President Benson, what is the difference between reformation and repentance?

Read the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (also available on the companion DVD A):

“The joy that follows the remission of sins comes from the Spirit of the Lord (see Mosiah 4:3, 20). It is a fulfillment of the Lord’s promise that ‘I will impart unto you of my Spirit, … which shall fill your soul with joy’ (D&C 11:13). As the Apostle Paul taught, ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace’ (Galatians 5:22). It comes in the same way to everyone—to rich and poor, to the prominent and the obscure. In conferring his greatest gift of mercy through the Atonement, God is not a respecter of persons” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 103–4; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 75).

Help students understand that the greatest gift the Father could give us was the atoning sacrifice of His Son, which made that joy possible. You might bear testimony of the joy the Atonement brings when we repent.

Alma 37. The Words of Christ Lead to Eternal Life

Write the following scripture references on the board (without the text in parentheses):

Alma 37:5–9 (Great things are brought to pass by small and simple things; the scriptures should be preserved because they bring people to a knowledge of God the Father and Jesus Christ and lead to salvation. Note that verses 6–7 are scripture mastery verses .)

Alma 37:34–37 (Never be weary of good works; learn wisdom in your youth—learn to keep the commandments of God; counsel with the Lord in all you do, and He will direct you for good. Note that verse 35 is a scripture mastery verse .)

Alma 37:38–47 (Just as Lehi’s family received the Lord’s guidance through the Liahona when they were faithful and diligent, we can receive the Lord’s guidance through the scriptures when we are faithful and diligent.)

Divide the class into three groups. Have each group study one of these scripture blocks to search for insights about how we can receive the words of Christ.

After the groups have had time to study their sections, have each group choose a spokesperson to share their findings with the class.

Alma 38. Steadiness and Faithfulness Bring Great Blessings

Explain that we can learn important principles as we compare Shiblon with Corianton.

Have students read Alma 38:2–3 and underline words and phrases that describe Shiblon’s behavior. Then have students read Alma 39:1–5 and underline words and phrases that describe Corianton’s behavior.

Help students understand that because Shiblon was steady and faithful, he was prepared to receive the Lord’s rich blessings. Although little was written about Shiblon, he is a model of faithfulness.

  • What trials was Shiblon able to endure because of his faith?

Ask students to read Alma 63:1–2.

  • What do these verses show about Shiblon’s steadiness throughout his life?

Ask students to describe some people they know who are like Shiblon—faithful Saints of whom not much is written or said. Invite students to share what they admire about these people.

It might be helpful to remind students that Corianton ultimately repented and returned to serve the Lord (see Alma 49:30; 63:1–2). Students need to understand that even those who seriously sin can and should repent. They also need to be reminded that the cost of Corianton’s sinfulness was great, both to Corianton and those affected by his poor example.

Alma 39:1–11. Sexual Sin Is an Abomination in the Sight of the Lord

Read Alma 39:1–4 to the students, and have them follow along, identifying Corianton’s mistakes that led him to commit sexual sin. List students’ responses on the board. Responses may include that Corianton:

  1. 1.

    Did not follow his brother’s example (verse 1).

  2. 2.

    Did not give heed to his father’s words (verse 2).

  3. 3.

    Boasted in his own strength and wisdom (verse 2).

  4. 4.

    Forsook the ministry—left a place of safety (verse 3).

  5. 5.

    Went to Siron, a place of temptation (verse 3).

  6. 6.

    Followed others into sin (verse 4).

Ask students how each of these mistakes led Corianton to commit sexual sin. Discuss with students how these same mistakes can lead to sin today.

Have students read Alma 39:5–8.

  • What was Alma’s purpose in teaching Corianton these things?

Assign students to study Alma 39:9–14 in pairs. Have students make a list of principles Alma taught Corianton to help him repent of his sins. Have several pairs of students report their findings to the class.

Ask students to explain in their own words the meanings of the following statements from verse 9:

  • “Go no more after the lusts of your eyes.”

  • “Cross yourself in all these things.” (See 3 Nephi 12:29–30 and Matthew 16:24 for additional help with this statement.)

This lesson provides a good opportunity to address the widespread problem of pornography. To emphasize the importance of avoiding pornography, read and discuss the quotations on page 239 in the student manual. You may also want to share the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (also available on the companion DVD B):

“Do all that you can to avoid pornography. … Don’t accommodate any degree of temptation. Prevent sin and avoid having to deal with its inevitable destruction. So turn it off! Look away! Avoid it at all costs. Direct your thoughts in wholesome paths. … Do not patronize pornography. Do not use your purchasing power to support moral degradation. And young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2005, 95; or Ensign, May 2005, 90).

  • Alma told Corianton to “counsel with [his] elder brothers in [his] undertakings” (Alma 39:10). Why would this help Corianton? In our day, who are some people who can help a member of the Church who needs to repent of sexual sin?

  • What does it mean to “turn to the Lord with all your mind, might, and strength”? (Alma 39:13). How does this help us overcome temptation? What could happen if Corianton turned to the Lord halfheartedly?

  • How does confession and acknowledgment of sin assist in repentance? (See Alma 39:13.)

Emphasize the destructiveness and seriousness of sexual sin. Testify of the truthfulness of Alma’s counsel on how to avoid and repent of sin.

This teaching idea is designed to help you teach about the role of sexual intimacy in the plan of salvation.

Write the following on the board: The Lord has commanded that sexual intimacy be reserved for a man and a wife within the bonds of marriage. Invite students to turn to the explanation of the law of chastity on page 237 in the student manual. Ask a student to read it.

Ask a student to read Alma 39:3–6, and invite students to list the three serious sins identified in these verses. (If students ask what it means to deny the Holy Ghost, refer them to the statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith on pages 238–39 in the student manual.)

To help students understand why sexual sin is so serious, invite them to turn to page 238 in the student manual and read the first statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (also available on the companion DVD C). You may also want to read the following statement by Elder 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” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 99; or Ensign, Nov. 1998, 76).

  • Why is birth into this life so important to the Lord?

Reemphasize what Elder Holland said about “how one gets into this world” (birth) and “how one gets out of it” (death). Explain that to purposefully tamper with birth or death is a serious sin in the eyes of God. Share the following statement by Elder Holland:

“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” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 99; or Ensign, Nov. 1998, 76).

This teaching idea is designed to help you teach about the relationship between the Atonement of Jesus Christ and sexual intimacy.

Explain that the relationship between the Atonement of Jesus Christ and our use of the powers of procreation is one of the most sacred reasons for living the law of chastity. Ask a student to read the second statement by Elder Holland on page 238 in the student manual (also available on the companion DVD D). Before he or she reads, ask all the students to listen for answers to the following questions (you may want to write the questions on the board):

  • What is the connection between the worth of souls and the Atonement?

  • What are some words Elder Holland used to describe the seriousness of immorality?

  • In this statement, what do you think it means to “crucify Christ afresh”?

After the student has read the statement, ask all the students for answers they found to the questions.

Invite students to read 1 Corinthians 6:19–20.

  • What price did Jesus Christ pay for you?

  • What does this price say about your worth?

Share the following thoughts in your own words: We belong to God not only because we are His children but because His Only Begotten Son has redeemed us—“bought [us] with a price.” God wants to bring us back to Him. People who engage in sexual sin abuse their bodies and the bodies of others. They seriously endanger their opportunity to return home to Him.

Alma 39:13. “Turn to the Lord … and Acknowledge Your Faults”

If you decide to teach from this section of the lesson, be aware that the next lesson focuses more on repentance and forgiveness.

Invite students to read the statement by Elder Richard G. Scott on page 240 in the student manual. It is also available on the companion DVD E.

  • What steps to repentance does Elder Scott refer to in this statement?

  • According to Elder Scott, why is it necessary to involve a bishop when repenting of sexual transgressions?

Invite students to read the statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on page 240 in the student manual.

  • What role does the Savior take in the repentance process?

  • What is the transgressor’s role?

Assure students that even though the path to forgiveness from sexual transgression is difficult, it is not beyond the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Share your feelings and testimony about the power of the Atonement. To help students prepare for study and discussion of Alma 40–42, explain that Alma went on to teach Corianton essential doctrines to help him repent of his transgressions and stay faithful.