The revealed text

The revealed text
The light of revelation at the Whitmer farm where Joseph and Oliver worked upstairs to finish translating the Book of Mormon

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Lesson 31: Firm in the Faith of Christ (blessing and cursing on the covenant land)

This lesson covers Alma 43-52.

To help class members see how the Nephites’ attitudes and actions in times of war can serve as a pattern for dealing with our earthly conflicts and the battle against Satan.

The lesson manual doesn't mention one of the most important of Alma's teachings. It could be the most important. After all, it's the last thing he taught before "he departed out of the land of Zarahemla, as if to go into the land of Melek. And it came to pass that he was never heard of more; as to his death or burial we know not of." (Alma 45:18).

Do you know what Alma's final message was?

Inexplicably, the lesson manual skips right over it.

This critically important teaching of Alma was the inspiration for Captain Moroni and his banner of liberty. Even more important, it applies to us today.

The three verses leading up to verse 18 (when Alma departs) ought to be the keys to everything that follows in the Book of Mormon, or at least everything that follows in the Book of Alma.

15 And now it came to pass that after Alma had said these things to Helaman, he blessed him, and also his other sons; and he also blessed the earth for the righteous’ sake.

Alma blesses his sons, but he also blesses the earth. Why would he do that?

Because he is invoking the covenant blessings given to Lehi and before him to the Jaredites. Here is the language:

16 And he said: Thus saith the Lord God—Cursed shall be the land, yea, this land, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, unto destruction, which do wickedly, when they are fully ripe; and as I have said so shall it be; for this is the cursing and the blessing of God upon the land, for the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.

This is another reason why it is so important that we understand what land Alma was referring to. It was the land of promise that Lehi obtained, the covenant land of his inheritance, which included the area where he landed (Florida), the area to which Nephi fled (Tennessee), the area to which King Mosiah fled (Illinois and Iowa), and all of the land of Zarahemla and Bountiful (Indiana, Ohio), up to the area around Cumorah (New York, Ontario).

Alma invoked the ancient covenant of blessing and cursing, based on the righteousness or wickedness, respectfully, of the people.

17 And now, when Alma had said these words he blessed the church, yea, all those who should stand fast in the faith from that time henceforth.

Alma blesses the earth, he invokes the covenant, and then he blesses the church and all righteous people. The rest of Alma--and the rest of the Book of Mormon, really--explains how the covenant works. Eventually, the covenant led to the destruction of the Nephites because the cursing overtook the blessing.

Today, those who live on the same land--the United States of America--have enjoyed the blessings of the covenant, but when the people become fully ripe in wickedness, the cursing will take over and we, like the Nephites and Jaredites before us, will also be destroyed, unless we repent.

This blessing/cursing is all the more powerful because it was Alma's final message to the people.

The next question is, where did Alma learn about the covenant?

First, notice that in Chapter 37, Alma spoke to Helaman about this covenant land. He explained that the Jaredites were destroyed because of the curse, and he didn't want Helaman to let the people know about the Jaredite wickedness because he didn't want his people, the Nephites, to adopt the same practices.

Alma 37:28 For behold, there is a curse upon all this land, that destruction shall come upon all those workers of darkness, according to the power of God, when they are fully ripe; therefore I desire that this people might not be destroyed...
31 Yea, and cursed be the land forever and ever unto those workers of darkness and secret combinations, even unto destruction, except they repent before they are fully ripe.

What's more, Alma apparently learned about this principle from Abinadi. We don't have all of Abinadi's words ("many things did Abinadi prophesy against this people"), but his priests summarized them in Mosiah 12:12: "And again, he saith thou shalt be as the blossoms of a thistle, which, when it is fully ripe, if the wind bloweth, it is driven forth upon the face of the land. And he pretendeth the Lord hath spoken it. And he saith all this shall come upon thee except thou repent, and this because of thine iniquities."

Centuries earlier, Nephi invoked the same language. "For the day shall come that the Lord God will speedily visit the inhabitants of the earth; and in that day that they are fully ripe in iniquity they shall perish." 2 Nephi 18:16.

Although we don't have all of Abinadi's prophesy, we do have additional links to Alma's teachings. "And it shall come to pass that except they repent I will utterly destroy them from off the face of the earth; yet they shall leave a record behind them, and I will preserve them for other nations which shall possess the land; yea, even this will I do that I may discover the abominations of this people to other nations." (Mosiah 12:8)

Of course, this is a shadow; the Jaredites left a record from which we can discover their abominations, just as the Nephites left a record from which we can discover their abominations.

Alma explained this: "For behold, the Lord saw that his people began to work in darkness, yea, work secret murders and abominations; therefore the Lord said, if they did not repent they should be destroyed from off the face of the earth.... And now, my son, these interpreters were prepared that the word of God might be fulfilled, which he spake, saying: I will bring forth out of darkness unto light all their secret works and their abominations; and except they repent I will destroy them from off the face of the earth; and I will bring to light all their secrets and abominations, unto every nation that shall hereafter possess the land." (Alma 37:22, 24-25).

Alma had warned the people about this when he invoked the covenant against the people of Ammonihah: "Behold, now I say unto you that he commandeth you to repent; and except ye repent, ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. But behold, this is not all—he has commanded you to repent, or he will utterly destroy you from off the face of the earth; yea, he will visit you in his anger, and in his fierce anger he will not turn away.
"Behold, do ye not remember the words which he spake unto Lehi, saying that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land? And again it is said that: Inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord." Alma 9:12-13.

If those who currently inhabit the covenant land do not recognize how the covenant applies, they will be subject to the same cursing Alma warned the people about.

That's one of the most important teachings of the Book of Mormon. It's why Mormon and Moroni wrote and deposited the record in the New York area. The Book of Mormon took place in Moroni's America.

Lesson 30: The Great Plan of Happiness

This lesson covers Alma 40-42.

To help class members gain a greater understanding of life after death and the mercy that is available to them through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Points to consider.

Why did Alma teach his sons?

Because he was so concerned about the situation of his society that he wanted to innoculate his own children.

Alma 35:15 Now Alma, being grieved for the iniquity of his people, yea for the wars, and the bloodsheds, and the contentions which were among them; and having been to declare the word, or sent to declare the word, among all the people in every city; and seeing that the hearts of the people began to wax hard, and that they began to be offended because of the strictness of the word, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful.

How similar is this to our societies today? The hearts of the people are hardened to the point that they don't want to even hear about God. In the U.S. and other countries, God is effectively banned from schools and public spaces. Many people in society are offended because of the strictness of the word of God. We see this all around us.

Think of what it means to be offended in the first place. "It is reported that President Brigham Young once said that he who takes offense when no offense was intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense was intended is usually a fool." Think of people who have said they're offended by what religious people say and/or do. Do they have a legitimate cause for concern, or do they just not like the message because it may implicate them?

Alma 35:16 Therefore, he caused that his sons should be gathered together, that he might give unto them every one his charge, separately, concerning the things pertaining unto righteousness. And we have an account of his commandments, which he gave unto them according to his own record.

Hopefully none of us are offended by "things pertaining unto righteousness." And do we keep records (journals) of what goes on in our families?


Although this lesson focuses on the resurrection and atonement, I like to think about how it exemplifies the ninth Article of Faith:

9 We believe
-all that God has revealed, (scriptures and what God has told us individually)
-all that He does now reveal, and we believe (living prophets and what God tells us individually)
-that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. (future revelations to the prophets and us as individuals)

Alma cited Abinadi extensively in his teachings to his sons. For example, he cited Abinadi's comments about the blessings and cursings on the land (which I discuss in Lesson 31). He also quoted Abinadi's teachings about the resurrection. There's a nice analysis of this link between Alma and Abinadi here. You can download the .pdf. I put a copy of the chart below. In that chart, the comparison doesn't start until Chapter 39, but in lesson 31, I show Alma started referring to Abinadi sooner than that.

Corianton apparently was influenced by the teachings of Nehor, who "testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life." (Alma 1:4).

Because Alma taught about judgment and good and evil, Corianton was apparently confused by the contradiction between the teachings of Alma and Nehor's teachings. Perhaps Corianton committed sin because he had been persuaded that everyone would have eternal life in the end. This teaching may account for the situation in society that concerned Alma so much.

To respond, Alma clarified what the resurrection is, what the first resurrection is, and what it means to have something restored. In Alma 41:15, Alma clarifies that " the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all."

Alma’s Use of Abinadi When Speaking to Corianton
(Organized in the Order of Alma’s References)

Case #
Alma’s Words
Abinadi’s Words
Times Exact Phrase Is Used Elsewhere in Scripture*
Case 1
Alma 39:8
Mosiah 17:10
Stand as a testi­mony against you at the last day
Case 2
Alma 39:15– 16, 18
Mosiah 15:10–11,18
Salvation unto his people
1 (Luke 1:77)
Case 3
Alma 40:2
Mosiah 16:10
Put on immortal­ity, . . . put on incorruption
1 (1 Corinthians 15:53–54)
Case 4
Alma 40:13
Mosiah 16:2
Gnashing of teeth
23 (but only once in the Book of Mormon)
Case 5
Alma 40:13
Mosiah 15:26
They have no part
Case 6
Alma 40:15–17
Mosiah 15:21–26
First resurrection
9 (Revelation 20:5, 6; Mosiah 18:9; D&C 45:54; 63:18; 76:64; 132:19 [twice], 26)
Case 7
Alma 40:16– 20; 41:2
Mosiah 15:21
Resurrection of Christ
3 (Acts 2:31; Hela­man 14:17; 3 Nephi 6:20)
Case 8
Alma 40:21
Mosiah 16:10
Brought to stand before God . . . be judged . . . accord­ing to their works
Case 9
Alma 40:21– 23, 26
Mosiah 15:24, 26–27
Bringeth about the restoration
0 (but 2 Nephi 30:8 is nearly identical)
Case 10
Alma 42:9–11
Mosiah 16:4
Carnal, sensual, devilish
2 (Moses 5:13, 6:49)
Case 11
Alma 42:11
Mosiah 15:19
Were it not for the redemption
Case 12
Alma 42:15
Mosiah 15:9
Demands of justice
2 (Alma 34:16 [twice], and 2 Nephi 9:26 is nearly identical)
Case 13
Alma 42:26
Mosiah 15:19
Prepared from the foundation of the world
9 (Mosiah 4:6, 7; Mosiah 18:13; Alma 12:30; 13:3, 5; 18:39; 22:13; Ether 3:14)