Alma had plenty of opportunities to give up – most of us probably would have. But time and time again he didn’t. After returning from his mission to the Zoramites, and feeling “exceedingly sorrowful” (Alma 35:15) because of their wickedness, Alma gathered his sons together and taught them “things pertaining unto righteousness” (Alma 35:16). Rather than shy away in fear and frustration, he actively tried to teach the rising generation within his own family.
Have you ever had such fervent teaching moments, where you are overcome with an urge to share what you have seen and felt? I certainly have and I believe the Spirit has been with me in such moments and testified of truth.
The counsel Alma gave to his sons testified of Christ and taught truth specifically catered to each of them. These chapters, full of powerful doctrine, encouragement, and warnings contain lessons for each of us. Parents and youth can learn much about repentance and conversion, the purpose of the scriptures, and how the Lord uses small means to bring about great things.
DISCUSS and PONDER:
Share a time in your life when you have felt compelled to fervently share your feelings about Christ with someone. Ask your family if there is a lesson or teaching moment they remember or that stands out to them. How can you cultivate and make space for such teaching opportunities in your family?
I can be born of God as I am humble and repent
In chapters 36-37, Alma told Helaman – who was “in [his] youth” (Alma 36:3) – his conversion story. It had been at least a few decades (between about 26-46 years) since Alma saw the angel and fell to the ground. We don’t know how many times prior Alma shared this account in such detail with his family or with others he taught, but we definitely have seen similar themes throughout the book of Alma.
Think of your own family stories that seem to be told over and over. Some are funny, some embarrassing, and some perhaps pivotal. These are the stories the kids keep requesting and that never get old. Alma, after seeing the wickedness of many Zoramites, felt compelled to tell his story (again?) to Helaman. I’m glad he did, because we get additional detail and feeling as he recounts his change of heart.
In true chiasmic form, he began and ended with a beautiful testimony: “for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 36:3). Later he said, “I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; yea, God has delivered me…and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me” (Alma 36:27). Our trials and troubles often bring us closer to God as we rely more fervently – even desperately – on His strength and deliverance.
What does it mean to be “born of God” (Alma 36: 5, 23, 24, 26)? This is sometimes called being born again or spiritually reborn. In John 3, we read that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night and was taught, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again [anew], he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3-5).
All who have attended or given birth know that it is a very raw, vulnerable, dangerous, painful, and often joyous experience. There is blood, water, sweat, and tears. There is great pain and great rejoicing or sometimes mourning. Of all analogies Jesus could have used to explain a change of heart, he chose a most elemental and universal one.
The Guide to the Scriptures says this under Born Again, Born of God: “To have the Spirit of the Lord cause a mighty change in a person’s heart so that he [or she] has no more desire to do evil, but rather desires to seek the things of God.”
What are some of the principles we can learn and apply from Alma’s conversion experience? I created this table in response to the suggestion in our Come, Follow Me manual:
DISCUSS and PONDER:
What does it mean to be born of God? How have you seen someone change as they accept and live the gospel of Jesus Christ? How have you personally been born of God?
Read together from Gospel Topics on Conversion: “Conversion includes a change in behavior, but it goes beyond behavior; it is a change in our very nature…Conversion is a process, not an event. Although conversion is miraculous and life changing, it is a quiet miracle.” Watch and discuss the video at the bottom called “Lead Us to Conversion” (3:00).
- Bake a favorite treat (muffins, pancakes, brownies, cake, etc.) and talk about how the ingredients change to become something new.
- Or make an easy ice cream in a bag. How do the ingredients change as they freeze? What could the ice and salt be likened to?
Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the world
The Lord loves a changed heart, a converted soul, a life turned to Him. We see this throughout the entire Book of Mormon as people leave behind the life they knew and pivot towards God. The central point of Alma’s conversion, and ours, is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Racked with the “pains of a damned soul”, with torment, and [harrowed up by the memory of [his] many sins”, Alma finds solace and peace by remembering Jesus (Alma 36:17). He remembered that his father, Prophet Alma, had prophesied that Christ would come to atone for the sins of the world and Alma cried out for mercy (Alma 36:18). Joy and “marvelous light” immediately came and he received strength (Alma 36:20, 23).
We, too, can call upon Jesus for mercy, for deliverance, and for solace. We can heed President Nelson’s invitation to “[look] to Jesus Christ, who stands with open arms, hoping and willing to heal, forgive, cleanse, strengthen, purify, and sanctify us.” Christ invites us to “change our mind, our knowledge, our spirit—even the way we breathe. He is asking us to change the way we love, think, serve, spend our time, treat our wives, teach our children, and even care for our bodies. Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ” (President Nelson, We Can Do Better and Be Better, 2019).
Because Alma loved the Savior so deeply because of his own conversion journey, he “labored without ceasing, that [he] might bring [others] to taste of the exceeding joy of which [he] did taste” (Alma 36:24). How can we help our families follow Alma’s example and turn to the Savior?
I’ve tried harder in recent years, especially as my children have entered their teenage years, to remind them how much Jesus loves them, even in their sins and mistakes, and that He never gives up on them. I want them to know that “however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, The Laborers in the Vineyard, 2012). This is what Alma tried to help his son Helaman and us understand, that we may have “great joy” (Alma 36:25).
DISCUSS and PONDER:
You may want to consider Alma’s teachings and take turns sharing testimonies about Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost is present when we sincerely bear witness of Jesus. What is something you can do this week that shows gratitude to Jesus and his Atonement?
Take some time to discuss Christ’s Atonement with your family. Watch some videos, sing some songs, or color a picture to hang up as a reminder.
- Resources for children: Atonement
- Children’s Bible videos, especially this one
- Review this Book of Mormon video about Jacob teaching about the Atonement of Christ
- The Atonement of Jesus Christ (4:33) is a child-friendly explanation
- Gethsemane song (3:23)
The scriptures have been preserved “for a wise purpose”
Thanks to good seminary teachers, when I think of Alma 37 I immediately think of these 2 verses:
- Alma 37:35 “O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.”
- Alma 37:37: “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.”
Both contain excellent admonitions to Alma’s son Helaman and are a good reminder for parents today. Also within Alma 37, Alma shared many insights into scriptures and the power of the word of God.
What do we learn about the value of these plates that have been preserved for us through much diligence and sacrifice? How can we help our families better appreciate the scriptures?
Alma commanded Helaman to keep a record, as he had done “for a wise purpose” (Alma 37:1-2). He called the brass plates not just records of genealogy but “holy scriptures” that had been handed down and “preserved by the hand of the Lord” (Alma 37:4). He knew they were “preserved for a wise purpose” and “God has entrusted [Helaman] with these things, which are sacred” (Alma 37:12). Alma charged Helaman to “keep and preserve [them] for a wise purpose in him, that he may show forth his power unto future generations” (Alma 37:14).
We are part of those future generations! Since we know that God “will fulfil all his promises which he shall make” (Alma 37:17), how have we seen the Lord’s power shown through the coming forth of the Book of Mormon?
Along with many of you, I’ve studied during the last several months about the Restoration and have gained an appreciation for the Lord’s hand in it all. Last summer I helped lead a group of about 200 youth on an 8-hour journey to the Palmyra area for a 2-day youth conference. It was humbling to watch them feel the Spirit at the Hill Cumorah, Sacred Grove, and the Book of Mormon Historic Publication Site. Testimonies were strengthened. “The historical facts and the special witnesses of the Book of Mormon testify that its coming forth was indeed miraculous. Nevertheless, the power of this book is not based only in its magnificent history but on its powerful, unparalleled message that has changed countless lives—including mine!” (Elder Ulisses Soares, The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon, 2020).
The Book of Mormon was written for us today and helps bring souls to Christ. “The Savior has given us the Book of Mormon as a powerful tool to aid in conversion. The Book of Mormon provides spiritual nutrition, prescribes a plan of action, and connects us with the Holy Spirit. Written for us, it contains the word of God in plainness and tells us of our identity, purpose, and destiny” (Elder Benjamin M. Z. Tai, The Power of the Book of Mormon in Conversion, 2020).
Alma gave Helaman an insightful lesson about the Liahona, named here for the first time. Prior to this, it had been called a “round ball of curious workmanship” (1 Nephi 16:10), a “ball” (1 Nephi 16:16, 26), a “compass” (2 Nephi 5:12), and “director” (Mosiah 1:16). What do we learn about the Liahona from Alma?
- The Lord prepared it (Alma 37:38)
- The name Liahona means “compass” (Alma 37:38)
- It was made of curious workmanship (Alma 37:39)
- It was “prepared to show [Lehi’s family] the course which they should travel in the wilderness” (Alma 37:39)
- It worked according to their faith in God (Alma 37:40)
- It reminded them of God’s miracles and power day by day (Alma 37:40)
- It did not work and their progress ceased if they were slothful or didn’t exercise faith and diligence (Alma 37:41)
- It was a type and shadow for the word of Christ, which will point a straight course to eternal bliss (Alma 37:43-45) and carry us to a land of promise
“Liahona, which means ‘compass’ – the equivalent of an early twenty-first-century global positioning system. But instead of functioning through electrical power, it operated on faith and obedience. In addition to its literal function, it had – like most gospel concepts – a symbolic function. It was a real object that typified an underlying reality. The Liahona was a type and shadow of Christ, who points the way all of us should go in life” (The Book of Mormon Study Guide: Start to Finish, by Thomas R. Valletta, Deseret Book, 2015, p. 489).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explains, “The call of the Book of Mormon is always ‘Look that ye might live.’ Whether that is to look up to a staff held aloft by a prophet of God or down upon a personal, sphere-like Liahona, it is the same. They mark the way of eternal life. Indeed, they are similitudes of the Way of Eternal Life. All things are the typifying of Christ” (“Types and Shadows: All Things Are the Typifying of Christ.” Christ and the New Covenant, by Jeffrey R. Holland, Deseret Book Co., 2006, p. 177.)
DISCUSS and PONDER:
How have you and your family experienced the miracle of Christ’s teachings “day by day” (Alma 37:40)? How have the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon, strengthened your family and pointed you to Christ?
Review this compilation of promises from reading the Book of Mormon that I created earlier this year. Make a list or discuss specific ways that your family has seen some of these fulfilled during your Book of Mormon studies so far. Recommit to help each other study the scriptures more diligently. Brainstorm and create some sort of family visual reminder of God’s power you’ve felt “day by day.” This could be a bookmark, sign to hang up, painted stones, bracelet, flag, or whatever your family comes up with.
“By small and simple things are great things brought to pass”
This is a principle in the scriptures that likely resonates with all of us. We’ve all felt small and simple while facing great things. For me, I’ve found the smaller I feel and the greater the task at hand, the more I rely upon the Lord and call on Him in mighty prayer. We can also visualize many real-life examples of small to great: seeds that become trees, a helm that steers a large ship (Doctrine and Covenants 123:16), David vs. Goliath, etc. Alma said, while speaking of the wise purpose of the plates, “that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass…and the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes” (Alma 37:6-7). He then illustrated this with a few ways the plates had blessed generations:
- “enlarged the memory of this people (Alma 37:8)
- “convinced many of the error of their ways ((Alma 37:8)
- “brought them to the knowledge of their God unto the salvation of their souls (Alma 37:8)
- Ammon and his brethren helped bring many to the knowledge of God (Alma 37:9)
DISCUSS and PONDER: Share a time when a seemingly small thing had a great impact on you or someone else. Invite others to share examples, either from the scriptures or their own lives, of how the Lord uses small and simple things to bless others in great ways.
Alma told Shiblon that through his conversion process he had found “peace to [his] soul” (Alma 38:8). He testified that “there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ” (Alma 38:9). We may not have a dramatic conversion story like Alma’s, but we can let the Atonement of Jesus Christ bring light, peace, and joy into our lives and the lives of our families.
“Conversion is a process, not an event. You become converted as a result of your righteous efforts to follow the Savior. These efforts include exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting of sin, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end in faith. Although conversion is miraculous and life changing, it is a quiet miracle” (True to the Faith: Conversion).
Alma didn’t give up, despite much persecution and heartache, trying to bring others closer to Christ. He wanted them (and us!) to know that “Jesus Christ is the Master Physician. Through His Atonement, He binds up our wounds, takes upon Himself our infirmities, and heals our broken hearts. Through His grace our weakness can become strong. He invites us to follow Him by learning of Him, listening to His words, and walking in the meekness of His Spirit. He has promised to help us in this lifelong process of conversion, which transforms us and brings everlasting joy” (Elder Benjamin M. Z. Tai, The Power of the Book of Mormon in Conversion, 2020).