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Relationship to Chapters 31-35. The relationship of Chapter 33 to the rest of Chapters 31-35 is discussed at Chapters 31-35.
Story. Chapter 33 consists of ___ major sections:
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapter 33 include:
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- Alma 33:11. In verse 11 Alma quotes Zenos who says "for thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son." Through the Son, Jesus Christ, God is able to exercise mercy and not justice. Alma is quoting scripture that would otherwise be lost to us. This scripture may have been purposefully removed from the Old Testament.
- Alma 33:16. This quote from Zenock applies directly to the Zoramites. Like the people that Zenock was speaking of, the Zoramites are in an apostasy, in which, they don't believe in Christ. They can't understand the atonement if they don't believe in Christ.
- Alma 33:19. The "type" (or symbol) of Christ "raised up in the wilderness" was a brazen copper serpent, called the Nehushtan, that Moses was commanded to create and use to heal the snake-bitten Israelites (Num 21:4), an incident that is repeatedly mentioned in the early Nephite record (1 Ne 17:41; 2 Ne 25:20). According to the Deuteronomistic history, Nehushtan was kept in the temple for over a thousand years, until King Hezekiah destroyed it (as idolatrous) a few years before the Lehites left Jerusalem (2 Kgs 18:4).
- Alma 33:23: Echoes of baptismal covenant and membership in a divine community. Verse 23 echoes the baptismal covenant and again highlights the nature of our relationship with Christ, e.g., that we are fellow citizens of a covenant community. See exegesis on Mosiah 24:11-15.
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Prompts for life application
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Prompts for further study
This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →
- Alma 33:1: Where do these words come from? In most ancient societies, historical speeches were not recorded at the time, and later historians often put words in the mouths of historic figures as they deemed appropriate. Are these the actual words of Alma, or something written down later, perhaps by Mormon or another Nephite chronicler? Does it matter?
- Alma 33:1: How is Christ the answer? After Alma concludes his sermon in the previous chapter, the Zoramites ask how to obtain the fruit, how to plant the seed/word, and "in what manner they should begin to exercise their faith." Alma responds by talking recounting Zenos' prayer which seems to culminate in verse 12 with Zenos affirming God's mercy "because of thy Son." Immediately after this phrase, ceases quoting Zenos and transitions to quoting Zenock, and then Alma cites several other prophets who also spoke "concerning the Son of God" (v. 18). In verse 22 Alma admonishes his listeners, after referencing Moses' healing staff in the wilderness, to "cast about [their] eyes and begin to believe in the Son of God." How does Alma's discussion in this chapter answer the Zoramites' questions? Why does Christ figure so prominently in this chapter when he is not mentioned at all in the previous chapter? How does the recent episode of Korihor (Alma 30) and Amulek's comment in Alma 34:5 help answer this question?
- Alma 33:1: Why don't the Zoramites understand? Why do the Zoramites ask these follow-up questions about exercising faith and obtaining the fruit? Does this show that they were ready to begin the process Alma was describing, or that they were still lacking belief (and therefore understanding of Alma's words, cf. 32:28)?
- Alma 33:1: Sent forth. Why does it say that the Zoramites "sent forth unto him"? Weren't they just standing right there listening to him? What is going on here?
- Alma 33:1: One God. Why do the Zoramites wonder about believing in "one God"? What alternatives were they considering? How does this relate to the prayers of the Zoramites to God in their synagogues and the knowledge that they were also worshiping idols?
- Alma 33:2: Alma tells the poor Zoramites that they should "search the scriptures". Since poor people in most ancient societies were illiterate, how were they supposed to search the scriptures? What is Alma asking them to do?
- Alma 33:3: Where did this Psalm of Zenos come from? Why is it not found in our Old Testament? How does Alma use this psalm to normativize prayer outside of the synagogue?
- Alma 33:3: Field, house, closet. Is there a special significance to the ordering of this list of places to pray? Does it form some kind of progression?
- Alma 33:8: What does it mean to pray to be heard of God, and not of men?
- Alma 33:9: What does it mean to be heard "in the midst of...congregations"? What does Zenos mean by "thy" congregations?
- Alma 33:9: Is Zenos speaking of private prayers uttered while in public, or of public prayers?
- Alma 33:11: Why would Zenos claim that God heard him "because of mine afflictions"? What do afflictions have to do with answers to prayers?
- Alma 33:11: What is the relationship between sincerity and God hearing our prayers?
- Alma 33:11: How does God's Son bring about mercy? What does mercy have to do with prayer?
- Alma 33:11: What does it mean that God "hast turned [His] judgments away...because of [His] Son"?
- Alma 33:12: What does Alma mean by "those scriptures"? Does he just mean the words of Zenos? If so, what does Alma mean by the words of Zenos having "been written by them of old"? What does he mean by written? Does that include copying? Otherwise, why say that they were written by "them" of old, rather than "he" of old? Is the plural important here, or is this just a manner of speech?
- Alma 33:13: Why would Alma ask if the people believe the scriptures first, then tell them that if they do believe the scriptures, they have to believe the words of Zenos? Why reaffirm a belief in the scriptures, before appealing to them for their teachings?
- Alma 33:14: Since these poor Zoramites were presumably illiterate (as were most people in ancient societies), what does Alma mean by asking if they "have read the scriptures"? What does it mean for illiterate people to read the scriptures? Does that mean they had the scriptures read to them? Were they committed to memory--like Alma apparently had them memorized here so he could quote them?
- Alma 33:14: Why does Alma appeal to scriptures from the Brass Plates, rather than the preaching of New World prophets?
- Alma 33:15: Why does Alma quote an additional ancient prophet to establish the teaching about "the Son of God"?
- Alma 33:15: Why does Alma quote prophets that we don't have in our Old Testament?
- Alma 33:16: What is the nature of divine anger? How can an all-loving God be angry?
- Alma 33:16: What is it about not understanding mercy which makes the God angry?
- Alma 33:17: Which is the prophet that was stoned to death? Zenock?
- Alma 33:17: Why would the people stone him to death? Did the consider this teaching blasphemous? Why might they think that?
- Alma 33:18: Why would Alma feel the need to cite so many teachings? Why does he only cite prophets from the Brass Plates?
- Alma 33:19: What is the "type" that Moses held up in the wilderness?
- Alma 33:19: Why wouldn't the people look at the sign that Moses provided and be healed (vs. 20)?
- Alma 33:20: What is meant by hardness of heart?
- Alma 33:20: How much effort was required to look at the metal serpent raised by Moses? Why wouldn't someone expend that effort? Wouldn't they see others healed by just looking and have faith enough to try? What is going on here?
- Alma 33:22: Cast about your eyes. In the previous chapter, Alma seems to have condemned a sign-seeking approach. In light of that, how should we understand and read the emphasis Alma gives on casting about their eyes?
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- Alma 33:11-15: Zenock.
- Alma 33:16. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins urges those seeking repentance to exercise faith. "To forgive yourself and others, you must trust the Atonement of Jesus Christ... Our Father in Heaven is saddened when we limit the power of His Son's atoning sacrifice."
Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.