To help students understand the reality of justice and how the Atonement extends mercy to mankind.
Before the Video
Because Corianton had broken commandments, he began to rationalize the consequences of sin and to worry about some of the doctrines of the Church. Corianton’s concerns included what happens to a person after death (see Alma 40), whether it is fair to reward or restore a person to what he was in mortality (see Alma 41), and the punishment of sinners (see Alma 42). Alma taught gospel doctrine to answer his son’s questions. His teachings seem to have been instrumental in motivating Corianton to repent. Learning these doctrines should have a positive effect on your students.
It would be helpful to review Corianton’s actions in the beginning of Alma 39. Often Alma perceived that Corianton was worried about a doctrine of the gospel. Have the students try to see things from Corianton’s point of view and figure out why he was worried. For example, after reading Alma 40:1, ask, “From what you know about Corianton, why would he be worried about resurrection? Why would a wicked person have a different outlook on the Resurrection than a righteous person?”
The following are some important doctrinal points that you should make while teaching Alma 40:
Verses 1–2: Christ was the first one resurrected.
Verse 4: There is a time appointed for the resurrection of all men.
Verses 6, 9: There is a space of time between death and resurrection.
Verse 11: All spirits will be taken home to God. This means that they will return to the world of spirits (see Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 2:84–87).
Verses 12–14: The righteous will be in a state of happiness while the wicked are in a state of misery. The “outer darkness” referred to here is spirit prison and should not be confused with the final state of Satan and the sons of perdition (see Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine , 448; Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 349).
Verse 18: The righteous who died before Christ will be resurrected before the righteous who die after Christ. The wicked will rise last (see Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:300).
Verse 23: The spirit and the body will be reunited, and the body will be restored to its perfect and proper frame.
Understanding the plan of restoration will prepare your students for a discussion of justice and mercy while you study Alma 42. Begin your discussion of restoration by examining the process of restoring something like a piece of furniture, a car, or an antique back to its original condition. The following are doctrinal points that you should make while teaching Alma 41:
Verse 10: The wicked are not restored to happiness.
Verse 12: Restoration does not take something from its natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or place it in a state opposite its nature.
Verse 15: Restoration condemns the sinner.
Read Alma 42:1 and have the students discover what was troubling Corianton. (He felt it was unjust to punish sinners.)
To help your students understand “the justice of God,” you may wish to show
Draw scales on the board or make a scale out of a board on a pivot. Give each student two pieces of paper. One paper represents the violation side of the scale and the other paper represents the punishment side of the scale. Have students move their papers (as shown below), balancing or unbalancing their “scales” as you work through the examples.
They will understand better if they write down the violations that unbalanced the scale on one paper and then write down how the scales of justice are balanced on the other paper. Repeat this for each violation.
If we violate a law, the scales become unbalanced. A payment or punishment is required to balance the scales (see Alma 41:12–13).
Mercy cannot rob justice (see Alma 42:25). If we try to balance the scales of justice without a punishment, mercy would rob justice. A plan of mercy has been put in place so that mercy can be extended without robbing justice. This video presentation will help students understand how both mercy and justice can be satisfied.
Using the Video
“Look For” Activity
Suggest that the students look for what must happen for mercy to be extended without robbing justice.
Show the Video
The video is an adaptation of Elder Boyd K. Packer’s analogy “The Mediator” (see Conference Report, Apr. 1977, 79–81; or Ensign, May 1977, 54–56). When a young man gets into debt and is unable to meet his obligation, he pleads for mercy. The creditor demands justice, and the young man is shackled for prison. The young man’s friend mediates the situation, meeting the demands of justice while extending mercy to the young man.
After the Video
Help students explain how justice was satisfied and mercy was extended in the parable. Discuss the video so students understand how mercy is extended to them through a mediator. Ask questions like: Who in the parable represents us? Who requires justice for broken laws? Who extends mercy by standing between us and justice? What is our responsibility to the Mediator?
Using the scales, help students understand how the Mediator extends mercy and balances the scales of justice in each of the following: the Fall of Adam, our personal sins, and the “sins” of those who are not accountable (see the charts below).
The “plan of mercy” allows a mediator (God Himself—Jesus Christ) to suffer the punishment for another’s violation of the law. This plan of mercy can satisfy justice and still extend mercy (see Alma 42:15).
The Fall of Adam
Because of the Fall of Adam, the scales of justice are out of balance. To balance the scales, the punishment of temporal death (separation of the spirit and body) and spiritual death (being cut off from the presence of God) were brought upon all mankind (see Alma 42:7–9). If no Atonement had been made, our bodies would remain in the grave and our spirits would be miserable, being subject to the devil and cut off from the presence of God forever (see 2 Nephi 9:7–9).
The Savior suffered the punishment and paid the price for Adam’s transgression. Through the Atonement and by the power of the Resurrection, the plan of mercy overcomes temporal death. We will all be resurrected. Spiritual death is overcome through the Atonement, and man is brought back into the presence of God to be judged (see Alma 42:23).
Our Personal Sins
Because of our personal sins, the scales of justice are out of balance (see Alma 42:22).
Jesus Christ suffered the punishment for our personal sins so that we might not suffer if we repent (see D&C 19:16–19). Emphasize that there are still consequences for sin. For example, even though Christ suffered for our sins, the process of repentance still will be painful, and we will still feel the impact of our sins.
If we do not repent, we must suffer the punishment for our own sins to satisfy the demands of justice (see D&C 19:16–19; Alma 42:22). But being punished for our sins cannot correct the damage caused by our sins. This still requires the Atonement of Jesus Christ to fully balance the scales of justice.
Read Alma 42:27–30 with the class and help them discover what it means to “partake of the waters of life freely.” Examine some ways we excuse ourselves by denying the justice of God. Like Corianton, we are invited to “come and partake of the waters of life freely.”