Chapter 34: Alma 52–63

Book of Mormon Teacher Manual, (2009), 121–24


Introduction

Sometimes teachers feel inclined to rush through the war chapters in the book of Alma, thinking that it is more important to move to other teachings and accounts. But these chapters include many rich insights that can be valuable for those you teach. In many ways, your students are under attack from the forces of evil. As they study these chapters, they can learn from great examples, such as Captain Moroni, Pahoran, and Helaman and his young soldiers—lessons that will help them stay safe and secure. They will learn the price of contention and the power of righteous unity. They will see the result of keeping covenants and the blessings that can flow from being true in whatever circumstances they face. They will see the blessings of gospel-centered homes. They will gain increased appreciation for the Lord’s closeness to His chosen servants in times of difficulty and trial.

Some Doctrines and Principles

  • Keeping covenants leads to God’s blessings and protection (see Alma 53:10–18).

  • The Lord’s disciples are true in whatever they are trusted to do (see Alma 53:16–23; 57:19–27).

  • God grants hope, faith, peace, and assurances of deliverance to the righteous (see Alma 58:1–12).

  • The Lord expects us to defend freedom (see Alma 60–61).

Suggestions for Teaching

Alma 53:4–5. We Must Fortify Ourselves against Satan’s Temptations

Have a student read Alma 53:4–5. Show a picture of a fortification around an ancient city (for example, see Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 52, which shows Jerusalem in the background with a wall around it, or Gospel Art Book, no. 81, which shows Samuel the Lamanite on a wall around the city of Zarahemla). Explain that in ancient times, people often built walls around their cities.

  • In ancient times, what advantages would a walled city provide in times of trouble?

  • What can we do in our personal lives that is like building a wall of protection around ourselves?

As students discuss this question, you may want to refer them to Alma 37:6–7 . You could ask them to list “small and simple things” that can bring to pass “great things” to protect us. Answers may include personal prayer, scripture study, attendance at Church meetings, and fasting. Point out that with each prayer we offer, each verse of scripture we read, each fast we observe, each act of service we do, and so on, our walls of defense become stronger and larger. Satan is the enemy of all righteousness, and he is frantically working to tear down our defense. Our personal fortifications must be firmly in place and regularly strengthened. Have students discuss the following question in groups of two or three:

  • How can we strengthen our personal defenses against evil?

Invite students to ponder the following warning given by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency:

“As the forces around us increase in intensity, whatever spiritual strength was once sufficient will not be enough. And whatever growth in spiritual strength we once thought was possible, greater growth will be made available to us. Both the need for spiritual strength and the opportunity to acquire it will increase at rates which we underestimate at our peril” (“Always” [Church Educational System fireside for young adults], Jan. 3, 1999, 3, ldsces.org).

Alma 53:10–18. Keeping Covenants Leads to God’s Blessings and Protection

Write on the board Keeping covenants leads to God’s blessings. Ask students to list some of the covenants they have made or will make. Write their answers on the board.

  • What are some blessings the Lord gives us as we keep our covenants?

Invite students to read Alma 53:10–18 silently and highlight the words oath and covenant and other similar words. Ask students to describe the covenants the parents in this story made and the covenants the sons made.

  • In what ways was the covenant of the parents a blessing to the people?

  • Why did the covenant of the parents become a concern?

  • How did the covenant of the sons address that concern?

  • Why is it important to keep our covenants even at times of disadvantage? (Review Alma 53:14–15; see also D&C 82:10 .)

As students talk about the need to keep covenants at all times, you may want to refer them to the statement by Elder M. Russell Ballard on page 256 in the student manual. This statement is also available on the companion DVD A.

Alma 53:16–23; 57:19–27. The Lord’s Disciples Are True in Whatever They Are Trusted to Do

Direct students’ attention to Mormon’s statement in Alma 53:20 that the sons of the Ammonites were “true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.” Ask students to think of a time when they were trusted to do something that seemed difficult. Invite them to consider what they did to show that they were worthy of that trust.

Divide the class into two groups. Have one group read Alma 53:20–21 and the other group read Alma 57:19–21, 26. Invite them to look for characteristics of these young men and share their findings with the class. You may want to write their answers on the board. Encourage them to write these points in their notes or in their scriptures.

  • How do these attributes relate to being trustworthy?

Alma 56:31–57. Mothers Can Have a Great Influence for Good on Their Children

Read Alma 56:31–48 with students. Consider asking students to take turns reading aloud. To emphasize the influence the Ammonite mothers had on their sons, ask a student to read the statement by Sister Julie B. Beck on page 258 in the student manual. This statement is also available on the companion DVD B.

  • Why do you think these warriors had such confidence in their mothers’ teachings?

  • When have you seen or felt the influence of a mother who knows who she is and who God is?

As students discuss these questions, consider reading the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“Women … rock a sobbing child without wondering if today’s world is passing them by, because they know they hold tomorrow tightly in their arms. …

“When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire—or the shaping sound of lullabies?” (Woman [1979], 96).

  • Why do you think mothers have such a profound influence on their children?

Direct students’ attention back to Alma 56:47. Help them see that Helaman’s young warriors were also dedicated to their fathers.

To highlight the need for mothers and fathers to work together in teaching their children, read the following excerpt from “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”:

“Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

“… By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners” (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).

Bear your testimony about this principle.

Alma 58:1–12. God Grants Hope, Faith, Peace, and Assurances of Deliverance to the Righteous

Have students read Alma 58:2 and 56:21 and identify what Helaman’s army did to help preserve their safety.

  • What is meant by the term stronghold?

  • What are some strongholds of the Lord—places of safety where we can go today?

  • What are some of Satan’s strongholds today?

Read the following statement by President George Albert Smith (1870–1951), the eighth President of the Church:

“There is a division line well defined that separates the Lord’s territory from Lucifer’s. If we live on the Lord’s side of the line, Lucifer cannot come there to influence us, but if we cross the line into his territory, we are in his power. By keeping the commandments of the Lord, we are safe on His side of the line, but if we disobey His teachings we voluntarily cross onto the zone of temptation and invite the destruction that is ever present there” (Improvement Era, May 1935, 278).

  • What makes it dangerous to cross the line into Satan’s territory? Why are we weaker there than on the Lord’s side of the line?

Have students read Alma 58:3–9 and describe the problem Helaman’s army faced.

  • What might you do in this situation?

Read Alma 58:10–13.

  • What did Helaman and his young warriors do to confront their dilemma?

  • How did the Lord answer their prayers?

  • As we face the challenges of life, how will we benefit from following this pattern?

Elder Gene R. Cook of the Seventy wrote about this Book of Mormon circumstance:

“It may be that the Nephites hoped for a miracle. Maybe they wanted angels to come to deliver them, as had happened a time or two in the Old Testament. But what did they receive? The Lord gave them assurance, peace, faith, and hope. He didn’t directly destroy their enemies, but he did give them the gifts they needed so they could deliver themselves. …

“In other words, the Lord put inside these men the will and the power to do what they desired—to begin with a strong resolve and then to see it through. After their prayer was answered, the Nephites went on to secure their liberty.

“When the Lord instills hope and faith and peace and assurance in people, they can bring great things to pass. This, then, is often what we should look for when we ask for help—not a miracle to solve our problem for us, but a miracle inside, to help us come to the solution ourselves, with the Lord’s help and the Lord’s power” (Receiving Answers to Our Prayers [1996], 156–57).

How could this statement affect what we look for as answers to our prayers?

Alma 60:23–24. We Must Cleanse the Inward Vessel

Give a student a drinking cup that is clean on the outside but dirty on the inside.

  • Why isn’t it enough to keep the outside of the cup clean?

Invite students to read Alma 60:23–24. You may also want to have them read Matthew 23:25–26.

  • What does the phrase “inward vessel” mean in these verses?

  • In what ways might the phrase “inward vessel” apply in our individual lives?

  • Why does our inward vessel need to be clean? What are some things we can do to keep our inward vessel clean?

Share President Ezra Taft Benson’s exhortation on page 260 in the student manual. Then ask students to ponder the following question without answering aloud:

  • In what ways can you apply President Benson’s counsel?

Alma 60–61. The Lord Expects Us to Defend Freedom

Explain that each nation has its own list of patriots—men and women who love their country and support their people’s freedom. They are revered as patriots because of characteristics and abilities they possess. Divide the students into pairs. Ask one student in each pair to read Captain Moroni’s words in chapter 60, and ask the other student to read Pahoran’s words in chapter 61. Ask them to look for characteristics of Moroni and Pahoran that they feel are important to help a nation preserve its freedom. Then ask them to share with each other what they find. Their lists might include the following characteristics:

Captain Moroni

(Alma 60)

Pahoran

(Alma 61)

Boldness (verse 2)

Sorrow for afflictions of others (verse 2)

Concern for welfare of others (verse 10)

Desire to defend freedom (verse 6)

Remembrance of past blessings (verse 20)

Not offended by criticism (verse 9)

  • What impresses you most about Captain Moroni and Pahoran?

  • According to these chapters, what characterizes a patriotic attitude?

  • In what ways can you incorporate these principles in your life?

  • What examples of these principles have you seen in other people?

Alma 62:39–51. In Times of Adversity, Some People Humble Themselves before God, While Others Become Hardened

Invite students to read Alma 62:39–41.

  • In verse 41, what is the meaning of the word hardened? What is the meaning of the word softened?

  • Why do you think some Nephites were hardened because of the war while others were softened?

  • According to Mormon’s words in verse 40, why were the Nephites spared? (See also Alma 10:22–23.)

Read Romans 8:28, 35–39. Invite students to tell about a time when they turned to the Lord in their afflictions.

Read Alma 62:42–51 and discuss how the Church can help a nation and its people recover from the effects of war. Testify that the Lord can heal all wounds caused by war. You may also want to point out that just as the Lord can heal a nation that has been at war, He can heal each of us as we experience adversity.

Ask students to think about the discussions they have had about the Book of Mormon chapters on war (Alma 43–62). Review some of the principles you and your students have discussed while studying these chapters.

  • Why do you think Mormon recorded so much about war?

Conclude with your own thoughts about the war chapters. Share your testimony.