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Relationship to Alma 36-42. In Chapter 39 Alma turns from counseling his two older sons, Helaman and Shiblon, to counseling his younger son Corianton, the one who famously abandoned the ministry to pursue a harlot. The relationship of Chapters 39-41 to the rest of Chapters 36-41 is discussed at Chapters 36-42.
Story. Chapters 39-41 consists of ____ major sections:
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 39-41 include:
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- Alma 39: Outline. Alma 39:1-14 is an exhortation consisting of four major sections:
- Verses 39:1-4: Alma rebukes Corianton for not following his brothers' example, instead boasting in his own strength and leaving the ministry to pursue a harlot.
- Verses 39:5-8: Alma explains that this conduct is next in seriousness to murder and denying the Holy Ghost.
- Verses 39:9-14: Alma instructs Corianton to counsel with his brothers, forsake adultery, and return to the ministry.
- Verses 39:15-19: Alma explains that Corianton's ministry is to declare glad tidings of redemption through Christ.
- Alma 39:1-14: Exhortation. Three elements of a typical exhortation are: (1) an exposition or description of an unacceptable condition, such as Your room is messy. (2) a call or exhortation to change the situation, such as Clean your room right now. and (3) a narrative prediction of good and bad consequences, or of carrots and sticks, to motivate the desired change, such as Otherwise you will be grounded. Although only the second of these three sentences appears to be an exhortation, all three sentences contribute to the overall exhortational purpose of this paragraph. Here Alma uses all three elements to encourage Corianton to repent. Alma first identifies Corianton's bad conduct in verses 39:1-4,then explains the seriousness of the consequences that Corianton now faces in verses 39:5-8, and finally concludes by stating exactly what change in behavior is expected in verses 39:9-14.
- Alma 39:13. In this verse Alma emphasizes an important part of repentance - restitution, or repairing damages that our sins may have caused.
- Alma 39:14. Alma tells his son not to seek for riches or vanities of the world because we cannot take these things with us into the next life. Note that, in contrast, Doctrine & Covenants 130:18 tells us that we can take knowledge and intelligence with us into the next life.
- Alma 40:11-15: Consignation. In Webster's 1828 dictionary, consignation is defined as n. The act of consigning; the act of delivering or committing to another person, place or state. In LDS scriptures, this word and its root "consign" or "consigned" only occurs twelve times in the Book of Mormon.
- Alma 41:1: Wrested. In verse 1 wrested means distorted, twisted or perverted. See Webster's 1828 definition here. Here Alma tells us that some have gone astray by twisting and distorting the scriptures in relation to the restoration. Though the scriptures are meant for our good, we see here that if we distort them, they can lead us astray.
- Alma 41:14: Restoration. How you live and treat others in this life is how you will be rewarded and restored in the next life. Verse 14 is a good, simple, one-verse reminder of how we are expected to conduct ourselves with respect to others.
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Prompts for life application
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Prompts for further study
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- Alma 39:5: These things. Which things are the abomination being referred to here, sexual sin (cf. verse 9) or "leading away the hearts of many people to destruction" (cf. verse 12 and Alma 36:14)?
- Alma 39:6: Why does Alma repeat the phrase "it is not easy for him to obtain a forgiveness"? If it's to emphasize the point to Corianton, why might Alma feel this point needs to be emphasized to Corianton?
- Alma 39:6: Why is the article "a" used to modify forgiveness here? (Note: all other uses of the term forgiveness in the scriptures do not use such an article.)
- Alma 39:9: What does it mean to "cross" yourself?
- Alma 39:9: Why is remembering so important to the repentance process? How can remembering help you gain control of unwanted desires? What can you do each day to help you remember?
- Alma 40:1: Why might Corianton be "worried concerning the resurrection of the dead"? How did Alma "perceive" this worry?
- Alma 40:2: Why could there be no resurrection "until after the coming of Christ"?
- Alma 40:2: What does it mean for "corruption" to "put on incorruption"?
- Alma 40:3: What does it mean that Christ "bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead"?
- Alma 40:3: What does Alma mean by "mystery"? Does that just mean something lie things "which are kept, that no one knoweth them save God himself"? Or is something else meant here?
- Alma 40:3: Why might Alma have "inquired diligently of God" to know "concerning the resurrection"? Why would this have been of special interest to Alma? Was it just because of Corianton's concern, or for some other reason?
- Alma 40:4: What does it mean to "come forth from the dead"?
- Alma 40:4: Alma teaches that "all shall come forth". Why is that significant?
- Alma 40:5: Why doesn't Alma know how many times the resurrection will happen?
- Alma 40:5: What does it mean that "there is a time appointed" for the resurrection?
- Alma 40:6: What is meant by a "space" betwixt the time of death and the time of resurrection?
- Alma 407: Why shift from talking about the resurrection itself to the space between death and resurrection?
- Alma 40:8: What might it mean that "time only is measured unto men"? Does this have anything to do with D&C 130:7, where in contrast to mortality, all things past, present, and future are present before God?
- Alma 40:9: Why has Alma been asking the Lord about the time between death and resurrection? What does it mean that Alma had "inquired diligently of the Lord to know" about these things? How does one inquire diligently?
- Alma 40:9: Why would the Lord bother to answer Alma's questions about the afterlife? Is this just for Alma's edification, or was the revelation to him given mostly for the benefit of Corianton or others?
- Alma 40:10: What does it mean that "God knoweth all the times which are appointed unto man"? What is this and why would it be important?
- Alma 40:11: Why does Alma get answers to his prayers delivered by angels?
- Alma 40:11: What does it mean for spirits to be "taken home to that God who gave them life"? How does this happen for both good and evil people?
- Alma 40:12: Why is this "state of happiness" called paradise?
- Alma 40:12: What does it mean for paradise to be a "state of rest, a state of peace, where they...rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow"? How does this compare to the view of the spirit world received by modern prophets, who indicate that priesthood holders are very busy there to teach the gospel to departed spirits?
- Alma 40:13: What does it mean to "have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord"? Does that mean that if we have even a tiny portion, we aren't evil?
- Alma 40:13: What does it mean to choose "evil works rather than good"? What is the definition of evil here?
- Alma 40:13: How literally should we take this teaching of the devil taking "possession of their house"? What does this mean?
- Alma 40:13: What is this "outer darkness"? How does it relate to our teaching of spirit prison?
- Alma 40:13: Why does this verse include the word "wailing" in between the words "weeping" and "gnashing," unlike this verse from the New Testament: "shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt 8:12)?
- Alma 40:13: What does it mean to be "led captive by the will of the devil"? Is everyone who doesn't accept the gospel being led by the devil? How many modern church members are being led captive? What does that mean, how does it happen, and how can we avoid it?
- Alma 40:13: Do we see ourselves or our neighbors being "led captive by the will of the devil"? Why or why not? How does this relate to the feelings of the sons of Mosiah about their neighbors (Mosiah 28:3)?
- Alma 40:14: What does it mean for the souls of the wicked to be in "darkness"?
- Alma 40:14: What does it mean to be in "a state of awful, fearful looking"?
- Alma 40:14: What is the "fiery indignation of the wrath of God"?
- Alma 40:15: How can the initial judgment and consignation to different places in the spirit world be termed a resurrection?
- Alma 40:15: What does Alma mean by "resurrection"?
- Alma 40:15: What is this "consignation to happiness or misery" that Alma speaks of? How is this accomplished?
- Alma 40:15: What are the "words which have been spoken" that Alma refers to?
- Alma 40:16: How does this teaching square with our current teachings about "the morning of the first resurrection"?
- Alma 40:17: What is the difference in being happy or being miserable when you are a disembodied spirit? How do you feel emotion without brain chemicals?
- Alma 40:18: Alma seems to be using the word "soul" as an equivalent of what we mean when we say "spirit". How is this different from how we normally think of "soul"? Is there a difference between Alma's conception of the soul and our conception of the spirit?
- Alma 40:19: Alma teaches that everyone who lives before Christ is resurrected will be resurrected before anyone who dies after that. How does that square with our current teachings about this? If we believe that Moroni has been resurrected, for Alma to be correct here, would that mean that everyone who has lived before Christ has already been resurrected? Could Alma be mistaken here? Or is there another way to read this verse?
- Alma 40:20: Why would Alma offer an opinion about the timing of the resurrection? Why is Alma careful to label this part of his teaching an opinion? Does this also apply to his teaching about the timing of the resurrection of those who die before the resurrection of Christ (v.19)?
- Alma 41:1: Of which has been spoken. Is there a passage in the Book of Mormon concerning the restoration that Alma may be referring to here?
- Alma 41:5: The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness. Although seemingly simplistic in its logic, what does Alma mean by happiness? This verse reminds me of "Wickedness never was happiness", but does that mean? Also, if Alma states that those who are raised to happiness because they desire to be happy, doesn't that imply that those who don't get raised in happiness simply don't want to be happy? If happiness is something that one can either accept or reject based on their own desire, then what of exhorting people to happiness? What is innately "better" about being happy? To translate this into contemporary Mormon jargon, what is "better" about receiving celestial glory than any other glory? Will celestial glory ultimately everybody realize they would have wanted but failed to recognize here on earth? Will everybody ultimately be "happy" in whatever state of glory they end up in? Does God want us to be "happy" for our sake or for His sake or for both?
- Alma 41:8: What are the decrees of God? What does it mean that they are unalterable?
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- Alma 39:2. 2 Cor 10:17-18 advocates glorying in the Lord and letting the Lord glory us instead of ourselves.
- Alma 39:5: The sin next to murder. Ash, Michael R. "The Sin Next to Murder: An Alternative Interpretation.", Sunstone (November 2006) p. 34-43. This article identifies several statements in which church leaders have interpreted verse 39:5 to mean that adultery is next to murder in seriousness. The article argues that in fact the sin next to murder is not adultery but is instead leading others spiritually astray. On the one hand, the article presents well reasoned arguments about the seriousness of leading others astray and convincingly explains how this verse can be read consistent with the idea that the sin next to murder is not adultery but is instead leading others astray. On the other hand, this article gives insufficient weight to the admonition in verses 39:9, 11 that Corianton forsake adultery, and thus leaves open the possibility of also reading this verse consistent with the usual interpretation that the sin next to murder is in fact adultery. The article thus opens a second avenue of interpretation without settling the issue of which interpretation should be preferred.
- Alma 39:9. Compare verse 9 with Mosiah 4:30, "watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the comments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard..."
- Alma 39:14. Elder Dallin H Oaks explains in "Focus and Priorities" (Ensign May 2001) that "the 'vain things of [the] world' include every combination of that worldly quartet of property, pride, prominence, and power." He also says there: "As regards property, Jesus taught that 'a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth' (Luke 12:15)."
- Alma 40:11-15. Entries on afterlife, spirit prison, and the spirit world in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.
- Alma 40:16: Referring to Abinadi's teaching? See this comment for an argument that Alma is referring to Abinadi's teaching here.
- Alma 41:10-11. Marcus B. Nash, "The Great Plan of Happiness," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 49–50. Elder Nash notes that "to be without God in the world—in other words, to refuse to live His gospel and therefore lack the companionship of the Spirit—is to be in a state contrary to the nature of happiness. The gospel of Jesus Christ is, in fact, the—note that this is singular, meaning it is the only—"great plan of happiness" (see Alma 42:8). If you opt for any other way of life or try to live only the parts of the gospel that seem convenient, such a choice will cheat you of the full, resplendent joy and happiness for which you were designed by our loving Father in Heaven and His Son."
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