Alma 5–7

Book of Mormon Teacher Resource Manual, (2004), 135–140


Introduction

When the Church and the newly formed Nephite government were threatened by internal wickedness and contention (see Alma 4:9–11), Alma knew that true reform could only come through a mighty change in the hearts of Church members. Many leaders might have attempted to alter the laws to change behavior. But Alma understood what modern prophets know: “The Lord works from the inside out. … The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature” (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 5; or Ensign, Nov. 1985, 6).

Alma gave up his political position as chief judge and started traveling throughout the Church, calling the people to repentance. His reformation efforts began in the capital city of Zarahemla and moved to Gideon. Watch how Alma invites the wayward Church members of Zarahemla to examine their lives and experience “a mighty change.” Notice how his message changes when he speaks to the faithful Saints in Gideon.

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Additional Resources

  • Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, pp. 73–74.

Suggestions for Teaching

video iconBook of Mormon Video presentation 12, “Can You Imagine?” (12:07), can be used in teaching Alma 5 (see Book of Mormon Video Guide for teaching suggestions).

Alma 5:20–48. Pure testimony is a real and powerful influence that can change lives. (35–40 minutes)

Place a large container of water where everyone can see inside it. (Teachers with large classes could place a clear container of water on an overhead projector.) Ask what will happen to the surface of the water if a pebble is dropped in the container. Drop a pebble in the water and observe the ripple effect. Discuss questions like the following:

  • How is a testimony like the pebble in the object lesson?

  • How can sharing our testimony change those around us?

  • How does it affect us?

  • What would happen if we dropped a larger pebble in the water?

  • How is that like a testimony?

Read 2 Nephi 33:1; Doctrine and Covenants 100:7–8 and ask what these verses teach about sharing one’s testimony. Explain that Alma understood that bearing testimony can change the lives of others just as the pebble changed the surface of the water. Tell students that many of the Zarahemla Church members were caught up in pride, craftiness, and contentions (see Alma 4:19). Alma went among them to “preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty.” Read Alma 4:19 and look for what else he planned to do to “reclaim them.” (“[Bear] down in pure testimony.”) Share the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it. But in connection with these, we believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost, the power of faith, the enjoyment of the spiritual gifts according to the will of God, the restoration of the house of Israel, and the final triumph of truth” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 121).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie, then a member of the Seventy, wrote:

“To bear one’s testimony is to make a solemn declaration, affirmation or attestation that personal revelation has been received certifying to the truth of those realities which comprise a testimony” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 786).

Alma used the power of his testimony of the Savior to reclaim Church members who had strayed. Have your students read the scriptures in the accompanying chart looking for what Alma taught in each set of verses:

Alma 5:20–21

Only those who are cleansed by Jesus Christ will be saved.

Alma 5:22–25

Those who are guilty of wickedness cannot have a place in the kingdom of heaven.

Alma 5:28–29

Those who are proud are not ready for the kingdom of God.

Alma 5:30–31

Those who mock or persecute others need to repent.

Alma 5:38–39

Those who are not of the fold of Christ have the devil as their shepherd.

Alma 5:40–41

Those who bring forth good works listen to the Good Shepherd.

Alma 5:48

Jesus Christ will come and take away the sins of those who believe in Him.

Ask:

  • How does each of these teachings relate to the Atonement of Jesus Christ?

  • How did Alma obtain his testimony?

Read Alma 5:44–46 looking for sources of Alma’s knowledge, and list them on the board. The list might look something like this:

Alma 5:44

• He spoke with priesthood authority (“according to the holy order of God”).

• He had been taught by other men of God.

Alma 5:45

• He had personal knowledge of what he taught.

Alma 5:46

• He had fasted and prayed many days.

• The Lord gave him knowledge by His Holy Spirit.

Ask students which of the sources of knowledge mentioned in verses 44–46 are available to them. Tell them that testimony can and should be a part of our lives. Explain that testimonies do change lives, our own and those of people around us. Read the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley:

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“Personal testimony is the factor which turns people around in their living. … This is the element which motivates the membership to forsake all in the service of the Lord. …

“… This testimony which is carried in the hearts of our people motivates to an impelling duty. … It impels to action. It demands that we do what we are asked to do” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1998, 90; or Ensign, May 1998, 69–70).

Encourage students to gain or strengthen their testimony by praying, fasting, and searching the words of the prophets and apostles. You may wish to invite students to share how the testimonies of others have made a difference in their lives, or ask for volunteers to share their own testimonies.

weekly iconAlma 5. Faith in God can lead to a mighty change in our hearts. This spiritual rebirth cleanses us from sin and makes us more like Christ. (35–40 minutes)

Show students an egg. Write the following questions on the board and discuss them as a class:

  • What does a fertilized egg have the potential to become?

  • How different is the end product from the egg?

  • What importance do outside conditions have in bringing about this change?

  • How much time is necessary for this change to take place?

Draw an outline of a heart on the board. Write change in the heart as illustrated:

Write the following questions under the illustration and discuss them as a class:

  • What does this illustration represent? (see Mosiah 5:2).

  • How does this change affect people?

  • What people in the scriptures experienced a change of heart? (Answers might include Enos, Alma the Younger, King Lamoni.)

Explain that Alma 5 also speaks of a mighty change of heart. Add these questions to the board and read Alma 5:4–14 to find the answers:

  • In what two ways were Alma the Elder and his followers delivered? (see vv. 4–6).

  • Who changed their hearts? (see v. 7).

  • On what conditions were they saved? (see vv. 10–13).

  • How might the message of verse 14 be considered the central message of this entire passage of scripture?

Some students may feel that they have not experienced a spiritual rebirth because they haven’t seen a dramatic change in their lives. Ask: Is a change of heart an event or a process? Share the following caution by President Ezra Taft Benson:

“The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically, in an instant, as it were: Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin can give confidence that the Atonement can reach even those deepest in despair.

“But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing that they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said ‘were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.’ (3 Ne. 9:20; italics added.)” (“A Mighty Change of Heart,” Ensign, Oct. 1989, 5).

Have students scan Alma 5:6–30 and circle all the question marks they can find. Explain that Alma poses several questions that can help us build the kind of godlike life mentioned by President Benson. Have students read verses 15, 19, 26–28, 53–55 (or choose some of your own from the chapter). Invite them to underline the questions they feel would best help them evaluate their spiritual progress. Have them copy the questions on a piece of paper and write why they find those questions helpful.

Read Alma 5:58–62 as a class. Point out that as we are willing and patient, Jesus Christ can care for us and change our nature. Give students copies of the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, as a handout:

“We can contemplate how far we have already come in the climb along the pathway to perfection; it is usually much further than we acknowledge, and such reflections restore resolve. …

“… We can allow for the reality that God is still more concerned with growth than with geography. …

“This is a gospel of grand expectations, but God’s grace is sufficient for each of us if we remember that there are no instant Christians” (Notwithstanding My Weakness [1981], 9, 11).

Return to the questions about the egg. Invite students to help you rewrite each question so it applies to a person, and then have them answer the questions. Correct any misunderstandings they may have. Encourage students to copy Elder Maxwell’s statement in their journals and to add their feelings about their own progress toward perfection. Testify that each of us, with the Savior’s help, can become more like Him.

Alma 7:7–16. Jesus Christ suffered “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind.” Because of His Atonement, He has power to resurrect us, cleanse our sins, comfort us in our trials, and give us power to become like Him. (25–30 minutes)

Hand out paper and ask students to write answers to the following questions:

  • What is the most important event of next week? next year?

  • What is the most important event of the next five years? the next fifty years?

Discuss their answers. Have them read Alma 7:7, and ask:

  • What is the most important event of the earth’s entire existence?

  • Why do you think Alma would cite the coming of the Redeemer as being of “more importance than they all”?

Read verses 8–9 looking for what the Spirit said should be done to prepare for the coming of the Son of God. (You could suggest students underline the answer.) Ask: How would this prepare us for His Second Coming?

Invite a student to act as scribe for the class. Have the student write the following words on the board: suffering, pain, affliction, temptation, sickness, infirmities. Ask students to give examples for each of these words. (Note: Infirmities means “weaknesses.”) Read Alma 7:11. Have students cover up the rest of the verses on the page, and ask: Why would Jesus, who was sinless, need to experience this suffering?

After discussing possible reasons for Jesus’s suffering, invite students to mark every occurrence of the word that in Alma 7:12–13. Explain that words like because and that often act as “arrows” that point to answers to a question. Draw the accompanying diagram on the board (include only the arrow and the words Why, That, and Answer). Have students read verses 12–13 looking for the implied questions and Alma’s answers. As they find them, discuss them as a class and write them under the appropriate headings on the board. Invite students to underline the answers in their scriptures. Use the list on the board to help students realize that one reason Jesus suffered was to help us endure our difficulties.

Why

Why did Jesus suffer death?

arrow

That

Answer

“That he may loose the bands of death” (v. 12).

Help students understand that the Atonement covers more than the consequences of sin. The Atonement covers all the effects of the Fall of Adam. Elder Neal A. Maxwell explained:

“Since not all human sorrow and pain is connected to sin, the full intensiveness of the Atonement involved bearing our pains, infirmities, and sicknesses, as well as our sins. Whatever our sufferings, we can safely cast our ‘care upon him; for he careth for [us]’ (1 Peter 5:7)” (“Not My Will, But Thine” [1988], 51).

Bruce C. Hafen, who later became a member of the Seventy, wrote:

“Some Church members feel weighed down with discouragement about the circumstances of their personal lives, even when they are making sustained and admirable efforts. Frequently, these feelings of self-disappointment come not from wrongdoing, but from stresses and troubles for which we may not be fully to blame. The Atonement of Jesus Christ applies to these experiences because it applies to all of life. The Savior can wipe away all of our tears, after all we can do. …

“The Savior’s atonement is … the healing power not only for sin, but also for carelessness, inadequacy, and all mortal bitterness. The Atonement is not just for sinners” (“Beauty for Ashes: The Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Apr. 1990, 7).

You may wish to point out the following phrase in Alma 7:13: “The Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh,” and ask students what they think it means. Share the following insight from Elder Neal A. Maxwell:

“In Gethsemane, the suffering Jesus began to be ‘sore amazed’ (Mark 14:33), or, in the Greek, ‘awestruck’ and ‘astonished.’

“Imagine, Jehovah, the Creator of this and other worlds, ‘astonished’! Jesus knew cognitively what He must do, but not experientially. He had never personally known the exquisite and exacting process of an atonement before. Thus, when the agony came in its fulness, it was so much, much worse than even He with his unique intellect had ever imagined! No wonder an angel appeared to strengthen him! (See Luke 22:43.)

“The cumulative weight of all mortal sins—past, present, and future—pressed upon that perfect, sinless, and sensitive Soul! All our infirmities and sicknesses were somehow, too, a part of the awful arithmetic of the Atonement” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1985, 92; or Ensign, May 1985, 72–73).

Invite students to read verses 11–13 and identify at least five experiences of mortality that Jesus took upon Himself. (You could write them on the board or have students mark them in their scriptures.) Ask: How can knowing that the Savior understands our struggles help us? Testify that as we follow His teachings and example, He will comfort us in our suffering and deliver us from our sins. Ask: Because Jesus has done so much for us, what could we do for Him?

Alma 7:14–27. Living the principles of the gospel and receiving its ordinances will keep us on the path to the kingdom of God. (15–20 minutes)

Invite two volunteers to come to the board. Have one write the third article of faith and the other the fourth article of faith. (Have them work from memory if possible.) Invite the class to read Alma 7:14–16 and mark references to the teachings found in these articles of faith. Discuss the following questions:

  • Why would Alma speak to members of the Church about basic gospel principles and ordinances? (They, like us, needed to be reminded of them and continue to live them.)

  • How do we renew the covenants we make at baptism?

Invite students to look in the scriptures for the sacrament prayer on the bread (see Moroni 4:3 or D&C 20:77) and compare it with Alma 7:15. If desired, list similar phrases side-by-side on the board, as in the accompanying chart, and discuss the questions that follow:

Moroni 4:3

Alma 7:15

“witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing”

“show unto your God that ye are willing”; “witness it unto him”

“keep his commandments which he hath given them”

“lay aside every sin”; “enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments”

  • How is laying aside every sin like keeping the commandments?

  • How does a weekly renewal of this covenant help us stay on the strait and narrow path to God?

  • What does it mean to witness unto God?

  • What part does agency play in these verses?

Remind students that chapter 7 records Alma’s teachings in Gideon. To help students understand that the Saints in Gideon were not perfect but were doing their best to trust in the Savior, read verses 17–19, 25–27. Testify to students that when they live as faithfully as possible, they are also “in the path which leads to the kingdom of God.” Share this statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“As members of the Church, if we chart a course leading to eternal life … and are going in the right direction … and, step by step and phase by phase, are perfecting our souls by overcoming the world, then it is absolutely guaranteed—there is no question whatever about it—we shall gain eternal life. … If we chart a course and follow it to the best of our ability in this life, then when we go out of this life we’ll continue in exactly that same course” (“Jesus Christ and Him Crucified,” in 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year [1977], 400–401).

Alma 7:20–27. Living gospel principles, receiving the essential ordinances, and keeping our covenants helps us to be worthy to have the Holy Ghost in our lives and keeps us on the path to eternal life. (15–20 minutes)

Share the following story from President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve, who described a cross-country train trip he took as a member of the military in World War II:

“We were transported on a freight train with boxcars fitted with narrow bedsprings that could be pulled down from the wall at night. There were no dining cars. Instead, camp kitchens were set up in boxcars with dirt floors.

“… The baggage car got sidetracked, so we had no change of clothing during the six-day trip. It was very hot crossing Texas and Arizona. Smoke and cinders from the engine made it very uncomfortable. There was no way to bathe or wash our uniforms. We rolled into Los Angeles one morning—a grubby-looking outfit—and were told to return to the train that evening.

“We thought first of food. The 10 of us in our crew pooled our money and headed for the best restaurant we could find.

“It was crowded, and so we joined a long line waiting to be seated. I was first, just behind some well-dressed women. Even without turning around, the stately woman in front of me soon became aware that we were there.

“She turned and looked at us. Then she turned and looked me over from head to toe. There I stood in that sweaty, dirty, sooty, wrinkled uniform. She said in a tone of disgust, ‘My, what untidy men!’ All eyes turned to us.

“No doubt she wished we were not there; I shared her wish. I felt as dirty as I was, uncomfortable, and ashamed” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1997, 8–9; or Ensign, May 1997, 9).

Ask students:

  • Why did being dirty in the presence of those who were clean cause President Packer to feel uncomfortable?

  • Read Mormon 9:4. How might President Packer’s discomfort with physical filth be compared with being spiritually unclean? (see also Alma 36:11–15).

  • How does sin keep us from inspiration from the Holy Ghost? (see 1 Nephi 15:34).

  • How might repentance be compared with soap? (see Isaiah 1:18).

Alma encouraged the faithful Saints in Gideon to stay spiritually clean and worthy of the Holy Ghost. Read Alma 7:21, and then read the scriptures listed in footnote a for help in understanding how Alma uses the word temples. Ask: Why must we be spiritually clean to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost? Read 2 Nephi 31:17; Alma 7:25; and 3 Nephi 27:20 looking for how living worthy of the Holy Ghost can prepare us to be clean enough for the kingdom of God. (The Spirit sanctifies us or cleanses us from sin.)

Compare Alma 7:23–24 with Galatians 5:22–23. Ask:

  • What fruits does Alma add to the ones Paul lists in Galatians?

  • How do these characteristics relate to living in tune with the Spirit? (These characteristics often come when we have the Spirit. In addition, living by these qualities invites the Spirit into our lives.)

Read Alma 7:27 looking for the fruit of the Spirit that Alma invoked upon the faithful Saints of Gideon. Divide the following references among the students: John 14:27; Romans 8:6; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Mosiah 4:3. Have them read their verses, and discuss what it means to have “the peace of God.” Reread Alma 7:27 and ask:

  • How could the peace of God be a blessing in your home?

  • How could it be a blessing in regard to your possessions?

  • How could it help your faith and obedience?

Invite students to share times they were influenced by the Holy Ghost. Ask: How did the Holy Ghost communicate with you during these times? Have them name some of the ways impressions from the Spirit can come. Testify of the fruits that accompany the Spirit when we live worthy to receive them.