Why do thousands of men and women return from serving a mission and describe their experience as the best years of their life? Elder Loren C. Dunn, a member of the Seventy, explained: “They come on their missions for many reasons: duty, service, the testimony they have of their message. But after serving honorably for eighteen months or two years, virtually all of them develop a deep and profound love for the people they serve among” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 12; or Ensign, Nov. 1985, 10).
The sons of Mosiah were Nephites who shared the gospel for fourteen years with people who hated Nephites. In spite of the affliction and persecution they faced, they succeeded in turning the hearts of many Lamanites to the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Alma 17:4–5). Their love for and service to the Lamanites softened the Lamanites’ hearts and opened the door for them to teach. Searching the scriptures and much prayer and fasting brought them the spirit of prophecy and revelation so they could teach with power and authority (see Alma 17:2–3). “They could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble” (Mosiah 28:3). As you study these chapters, look for the acts of love and service shown by the sons of Mosiah toward the Lamanites, and notice the difference these acts made in their missionary success.
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
Teaching true doctrine, including the nature of God, the Creation, the Fall of Adam, our fallen nature, and the need for the Savior’s Atonement, can lead people to repent and change their lives (see Alma 18:24–41; see also Colossians 1:13–16; Alma 22:10–14).
The gospel of Jesus Christ brings light, hope, and joy to the soul (see Alma 19:6, 12–14, 29–36).
Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, pp. 81–82.
Suggestions for Teaching
Alma 17:1–6. Chronology Overview. (5–10 minutes)
Read Alma 17:1–4 looking for how long Alma and the sons of Mosiah served on their missions. Have students look at the Book of Mormon Chronology Chart on their bookmarks (item no. 32336) and find “Alma the Younger” and “Mission to the Lamanites.” (A copy of this chart is also included at the end of the student study guide.)
Have a student read the heading above the start of Alma 17 in the Book of Mormon. Discuss the following questions:
What do chapters 17–26 of Alma describe?
What other events were taking place at the same time in the Book of Mormon? (Alma and Amulek were doing missionary work.)
Approximately what years do these chapters include? (About 91–77 B.C.)
Show students the following chart and quickly review the scriptures listed on it. Consider giving students copies of the chart to keep in their scriptures.
Alma 17:1–12. Fasting, prayer, and scripture study help us receive the Holy Ghost and teach the gospel. (10–15 minutes)
Ask students: What physical or material preparation must missionaries make prior to going on a mission? List their answers on the board under the heading Physical Preparation. (These might include obtaining clothing, getting medical and dental checkups, saving money.) Ask: What spiritual preparation should missionaries make? List responses under the heading Spiritual Preparation. (These might include reading the Book of Mormon, praying, fasting, studying the missionary discussions, making temple covenants.) Discuss the following questions:
Why is physical preparation important to a missionary’s success?
Why is spiritual preparation essential to a missionary’s success?
How will a missionary’s success be affected when preparation is lacking? Why?
Read Alma 17:1–6 looking for how the sons of Mosiah had prepared and what they were willing to do to succeed on their missions. As you find the answers, list them on the board as in the accompanying diagram.
How They Prepared
What They Were Willing to Do
• They were strong in gospel knowledge.
• They searched the scriptures.
• They prayed and fasted.
• They had the spirit of prophecy and revelation.
• They taught with power and authority of God.
• Suffer hunger and thirst.
• Labor in the Spirit.
• Give up the kingship.
Ask students to consider how their feelings about serving a mission compare to the expectations the sons of Mosiah had. Invite them to share missionary experiences they know of that demonstrate how today’s missionaries sacrifice, serve, study, and fast in order to receive the Lord’s power. Read Alma 17:9–10 and testify of the guidance, protection, and comfort the Lord provides to those who serve.
Ask: How could the spirit of revelation and the ability to teach “with power and authority of God” (v. 3) bless others? bless you? Share this statement by Elder W. Mack Lawrence, then a member of the Seventy:
“That same spirit of revelation—the spirit of conversion, if you will—is available to each of us as we diligently seek for it through fasting, prayer, obedience, and searching the scriptures” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 104; or Ensign, May 1996, 75).
Read the Lord’s promise in Doctrine and Covenants 84:85. Testify of the spirit of revelation that comes through fasting, prayer, obedience, and searching the scriptures. Explain that we need this spirit to help us share the gospel with others.
Alma 17:19–18:17. Prophets often serve as types of the life of the Savior. (45–50 minutes)
“Live in such a way that people who know you but don’t know Christ will want to know Christ because they know you” (in H. David Burton, in Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 89; or Ensign, May 1994, 68).
Invite students to read Moses 6:63, and ask:
How does this scripture relate to the statement on the board?
In what ways can our lives testify of Jesus Christ?
Read 1 Nephi 22:20–21 looking for whom Moses was describing to his people. Invite students to suggest ways Moses’s life reminds them of the life of Jesus Christ. (Both survived attempts to kill them when they were babies, both fasted forty days and nights, both miraculously fed their followers, both delivered their followers from bondage.) The lives of other prophets in the scriptures also point to Jesus Christ. Ask students how Abraham’s being asked to sacrifice Isaac reminds them of Heavenly Father and His Only Begotten Son (see Jacob 4:5).
Divide the rows of the accompanying chart among students. (Each of the assigned students should have one or more verses about Ammon and corresponding verses about Jesus Christ.) Give the assigned students time to silently read their verses. As a class, read Alma 17:19–18:17. Pause at the verses in the chart to allow the assigned students to share how Ammon’s experience reminds them of Jesus Christ.
Testify to students that a major purpose of the Book of Mormon is to convince “Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations” (title page of the Book of Mormon). Share this counsel from President Ezra Taft Benson:
“The honest seeker after truth can gain the testimony that Jesus is the Christ as he prayerfully ponders the inspired words of the Book of Mormon. …
“… Let us read the Book of Mormon and be convinced that Jesus is the Christ. Let us continually reread the Book of Mormon so that we might more fully come to Christ, be committed to Him, centered in Him, and consumed in Him” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 101, 104; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 83, 85).
Alma 17:19–18:23. Those who serve in a Christlike way have greater ability to influence those they teach. (15–20 minutes)
Note: This teaching suggestion assumes students are familiar with the experience of Ammon in Alma 17–18.
Tell students that missionaries are given a small handbook at the start of their mission. If you can obtain one, show it to students. Explain that the book provides guidelines, principles, and rules for serving a successful mission. Missionaries are to carry the book with them, read it frequently, and live by its teachings. Read to students the handbook’s instructions on service:
“1. Be courteous and provide acts of service.
“2. Provide community service as approved by your mission president. Limit service activities to four hours a week … except in times of emergency or disaster as directed by your mission president” (Missionary Handbook , 30).
Ask: Why do you think counsel concerning service is included in the missionary handbook?
Remind students of the events that led to Ammon’s teaching King Lamoni. Upon entering the land of Ishmael, Ammon was captured by the king’s guards. According to custom, the king could have taken his life. Yet within days the king was so desirous to learn the gospel that he was willing to protect Ammon with his armies (see Alma 18:20–21).
How long was Ammon willing to serve the king? (see v. 23).
How might Ammon’s experience have been different if he had simply announced to the guards that he was there to teach the gospel to the king?
“Thousands of times every day, members of the Church are watched … by people curious to know something about our lives. Because we are under covenant to be witnesses, we will try to tell them how the gospel has brought us happiness. What they think of what we say may depend largely on how much they sense we care for them.”
In what ways have your parents taught you principles of the gospel?
What made their teaching effective?
Invite students to think about teachers who have influenced them in the gospel. Ask:
What made these teachers effective?
How much did it matter that you knew these teachers cared about you?
What does this teach you about sharing the gospel with others?
“Those we meet will feel the love. … It may not be in hours or days as it was for King Lamoni, but they will feel our love after testing our hearts. And when they find our concern sincere, the Holy Spirit can more easily touch them to allow us to teach and to testify, as it did for Ammon” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 42; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 32).
Tell students that sharing the gospel is service. Service is not simply a method to persuade others to listen to the gospel. Our service must be offered out of love and concern for others, regardless of how they respond to the gospel message.
Invite students to think about someone with whom they would like to share the gospel. Ask them to write on a piece of paper what they can do to serve that person. Have them include a scripture about service and write how serving others can help bring them to Christ.
Alma 18:24–19:36. Teaching true doctrine, including the nature of God, the Creation, the Fall of Adam, our fallen nature, and the need for the Savior’s Atonement, can lead people to repent and change their lives. (45–55 minutes)
Show students a piece of tapestry or a picture of one. Explain that tapestry is a heavy, embroidered cloth with a pictorial design, used for curtains, wall hangings, and upholstery. In the past large tapestries were sometimes used to tell stories or record important events. Ask: How would a piece of tapestry be affected if it were missing several of its strands? Point out that each part of the fabric needs the other parts for strength and for the design to be complete.
Compare the gospel of Jesus Christ to a tapestry. Each strand of the gospel is related to the others. For example, repentance is related to baptism. Ask students to suggest other gospel principles that are related to each other. (Answers might include baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost, faith and works, obedience and blessings.) Testify that because gospel doctrines are so interrelated, learning about one doctrine will influence our understanding of another. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
“The three greatest events that ever have occurred or ever will occur in all eternity are these:
“1. The creation of the heavens and the earth, of man, and of all forms of life;
“2. The fall of man, of all forms of life, and of the earth itself from their primeval and paradisiacal state to their present mortal state; and
“3. The infinite and eternal atonement, which ransoms man, all living things, and the earth also from their fallen state so that the salvation of the earth and of all living things may be completed.
“These three divine events—the three pillars of eternity—are inseparably woven together into one grand tapestry known as the eternal plan of salvation” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 81).
Help students understand that effective gospel teaching includes many important and related principles. Write on the board the existence of God, the Creation, the Fall, and the plan of redemption. Explain that Ammon taught each of these essential doctrines as he instructed King Lamoni. Read Alma 18:24–40 and ask students to point out verses in which Ammon teaches the doctrines listed on the board.
Read Alma 18:40–43; 19:6 to find what happened to Lamoni as a result of learning these doctrines. (Students may wonder why Lamoni reacted as he did upon hearing the gospel. Though Lamoni’s response was unusual, others have had similar experiences; see Mosiah 27:11, 19; Alma 22:18–19.)
Read Alma 19 together as a class, discussing the significant doctrines and principles in this chapter. (The narrative flows well and will hold the students’ interest.) The following questions and suggestions may help your discussion.
Ask: Why do you think the queen had a different reaction than others to the idea that her husband was dead? (Students may enjoy analyzing this passage.)
What change was Lamoni going through?
What was influencing him?
“Those who heed the enticements and submit to the strivings of the Holy Spirit (which is the light of Christ) are enabled to receive the Holy Spirit (which is the Holy Ghost).
“We have no better illustration of the full operation of the light of Christ upon an investigator of the gospel than what happened to King Lamoni” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 261).
Ask: What effect did Lamoni’s testimony and the power of the Spirit of God have on his wife?
Ask: How did Ammon show he was a humble missionary?
What do we know about Abish?
What opportunity did she recognize and seize? (A chance to share the gospel.)
What missionary opportunities have you had?
Suggest that students mark footnote 23a and read the scriptures referenced. Ask: What can we learn from these verses about the Lord’s promises?
Notice the arguing that arose over these miracles. Who would want the people to contend with each other even while great miracles from God were occurring? (see 3 Nephi 11:29). Why?
Have students write on the board the elements of the process of conversion experienced by Lamoni’s people as Lamoni begins to teach.
Who is invited to receive the Holy Ghost?
What must they do to receive it?
Testify that everyone who is willing to listen to and learn the gospel may experience a change of heart by the power of the Holy Ghost. (If you sense that students may be overwhelmed or discouraged because they have not had a dramatic change in their lives, you may wish to share the caution by President Ezra Taft Benson found in the teaching suggestion for Alma 5, pp. 137–38.)