Alma 42:1-31

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Home > The Book of Mormon > Alma > Chapters 36-42 > Chapter 42
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Relationship to Alma 36-42. The relationship of Chapter 42 to the rest of Chapters 36-42 is discussed at Chapters 36-42.

Story. Chapter 42 consists of ____ major sections:

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 42 include:


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  • Verse 1: Alma talks to his sinning son Corianton. Alma perceives Corianton is troubled by the notion of justice. To Corianton it doesn't seem just that the sinful should be consigned to misery.
  • Verses 2-6: There is a space granted in which to repent.
  • Verses 7-9: It is expedient that man be reclaimed from spiritual death.
  • Verses 10-11: This life is a probationary state.
  • Verses 12-15: The requisite conditions for repentance.
  • Verses 16-18: There is a punishment affixed.
  • Verses 19-25: Mercy and justice claim their own because of the atonement.
  • Verses 26-31: Return to personal: don't deny the justice of God, don't be troubled by the justice of God, be troubled by your sins.
  • Alma 42:5 - Plan of Salvation
  • Alma 42:8 - Plan of Happiness
  • Alma 42:5 - Plan of Salvation
  • Alma 42:8 - Plan of Happiness
  • Alma 42:13 - Plan of Redemption
  • Alma 42:15 - Plan of Mercy
  • Alma 42:1-6. Alma just finished explaining to Corianton how restoration implies that good will be restored for good and evil for evil. Now Alma responds to a concern Alma perceives that Corianton has about the justice of God in consigning the sinner to a state of misery.
To begin Alma turns to Adam and Eve. He explains that a time was given to them to repent by preventing them from eating of the tree of life. The flaming sword and cherubim were put to guard the tree of life so that Adam and Eve wouldn't take the fruit and live forever. In verses 4-5 Alma tells his son that had Adam and Eve eaten the fruit of the tree of life, they couldn't have repented; they wouldn't have had a chance to be saved from their sins. Because Adam and Eve weren't allowed to eat of the tree of life, they had to die (verse 6). We can read verse 6 as a definition of what it means to be fallen. Man was fallen because he had to die.
Plan of salvation. In Alma 42, Alma speaks of four "plans" and he gives each a name. Although these plans are treated synonymously by most of Mormon literature, they are indeed specific to each portion of God's ultimate plan for his children. The first of these plans is mentioned in verse 5.
In the garden, two trees were mentioned by name: the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In Gen 2:16, God invited Adam and Eve to "freely eat" of every tree except that which was forbidden, meaning they had unfettered access to the Tree of Life. In the garden, Adam and Eve lived immortal lives, the same state promised to all God's children by the Plan of Salvation. Because of disobedience, Adam was to be punished according to the laws of Justice, and reaching forth his hand at that time to partake of the fruit would have caused him to face eternal punishment. To protect Adam, and indeed the Plan of Salvation itself, God chose to guard the tree with a "flaming sword."
Adam and Eve were sentenced to death after a probationary period. This period is integral to the Plan of Happiness mentioned in verse 8.
Alma highlights and summarizes his discussion in vs. 2-6 in vs. 7-9. Verse 7 begins 'Now ye see..." Our original parents were cut off temporally and spiritually and they could now follow after their own will. Death is part of God's plan, that we are cut off from the presence of the Lord. It was not expedient that man should be reclaimed from temporal death, but it was expedient that man should be reclaimed from spiritual death. This last claim, that it is expedient that man be reclaimed from spiritual death summarizes the movement of the narrative in verses 7-9.
  • Alma 42:7 - Temporal Death refers to the separation of body and spirit.
  • Alma 42:9 - Spiritual death implies the separation from the presence of God.
Plan of happiness. After the fall of Adam, mankind was cut off completely from the presence of God; however, it was not expedient for them to be reclaimed from physical death. In fact, by so doing, man's opportunity to gain true happiness would have been frustrated. The Plan of Happiness requires that men and women "follow after their own free will" for both good and evil, in order to learn wisdom and knowledge from their mistakes and successes. We must experience misery to appreciate joy, and sin in order that we may learn how to do good (see 2 Ne 2:23). Free will is central to the Plan of Happiness.
Choosing to freely repent and forsake one's sins is integral to the Plan of Redemption talked about in verse 13.
  • Alma 42:10-11. In verses 10-11, Alma teaches that because of the Fall, man had become carnal and a probationary period was given. Had there been no plan, there would be no escape from misery. Recall that the original perceived concern of Corianton was that it is "injustice that the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery." Alma is answering this concern by telling Corianton that misery is what we all would face, without this plan.
  • Alma 42:12-15. Verses 12-15 explain that man can be reclaimed from this state of misery on conditions of repentance. This is a central teaching in this passage, that without conditions, mercy couldn't take effect without destroying justice, and if justice is destroyed, God ceases to be God. Without mercy mankind would be in the grasp of justice, consigned forever to be cut off from the presence of God. To appease the demands of justice God himself atoned for the sins of the world. In this way God is perfect, just, and merciful.
Plan of Redemption and Plan of Mercy. Redemption is the act of regaining something that was previously lost. The whole purpose of the Plan of Redemption is to bring about victory over spiritual and physical death (see also Alma 12:25). We each participate in our own redemption--IT IS NOT FREE. For redemption to occur, men must repent and come unto Christ. Those who fail to repent during their lifetime (the probationary period) will be held accountable to the Justice of God for their sins.
However, repentance is only part of this equation. Remember, we are saved by grace "in spite of" all that we can do (see 2 Ne 2:23). Without the Plan of Mercy none of us would ever experience eternal life. Jesus Christ and his infinite sacrifice are central to this final part of God's plan for us. One perfect man, the son of God, took upon himself the sins of the world that He may intercede with God on our behalf, and offer us mercy instead of justice at the day of judgment--"at-one-ment" instead of "eternal punishment" (see D&C 19:11).
This narrowly focused interpretation of the Plan of Mercy gives additional weight to Alma's admonition that Corianton continue to "brings souls to unto repentance, [so] that the great plan of mercy may have claim upon them" (Alma 42:31).
  • Alma 42:13, 22, 25: God would cease to be God. In verse 13 Alma tells his son that if people could be redeemed without repenting, justice would be destroyed. Then he says that the work of justice could not be destroyed--for if it were God would cease to be God.
Some read these verses as suggesting that God could literally cease to be God--he could actually lose his glory, power, and standing as a divine being--if He acted contrary to the law of justice by allowing men to be redeemed without requiring repentance. According to this view, God must live by certain laws--such as the law of justice--if He is to maintain his divine status. See the discussion of D&C 29:36 regarding honor as power. The view that God could cease to be God goes against the traditional Christian view of an Omnipotent God who makes the rules rather than a being who achieves godhood through abiding by the rules to which He is subject.
Others believe that Alma isn't saying that God could actually cease to be God. Under this interpretation the argument goes like this. 1) Alma argues that to allow the sinner to be redeemed without repentance would destroy justice. 2) Alma then says justice cannot be destroyed. 3) Alma backs up the claim that justice cannot be destroyed by saying that if it were God would cease to be God--something that cannot happen. In sum, in this view, Alma is saying that it is inconceivable that God, a just God, would destroy justice by allowing the sinner to be redeemed without repentance.
Both views are consistent with Alma's point that it makes sense that repentance is required in order for someone to be redeemed from their sins.
  • Alma 42:16-18. In verses 16-18, Alma teaches that repentance would be void, or of no effect if there was no punishment. There is a punishment affixed, this punishment stands opposite to eternal happiness. The fulcrum upon which these are balanced is law. How could one sin if there was no law? How could there be law if there was no punishment? Alma admonishes that Corianton rest assured that the law and punishment were affixed.
In verse 16 the Plan of Happiness clearly is synonymous to free will, else how could punishment be affixed in opposition to it unless the plan allowed for man to sin. And, just as "agency" and "free will" have been with us from the beginning (see D&C 93:29), Alma also states that the Plan of Happiness is as "eternal as the life of the soul."
  • Alma 42:19-25. In verses 19-25, Alma embellishes his discussion of law and recommends that the atonement allows mercy and justice to each claim their own. Alma asks: If there were no law, would anyone fear to murder? If there were no law, if men sinned, what could justice or mercy do? In affixing the punishment, the law is executed. In granting repentance, the law is executed. Mercy and justice claim all their own because of the atonement.
  • Alma 42:26-31. In verses 26-31, Alma returns to the interpersonal discussion with his son, Corianton. Recall once more that Corianton's concern was that it is injust that sinners should be consigned to misery. Alma has discussed justice and mercy, and how the atonement allows mercy and justice to claim their own. Injustice would occur if a person or group of people are inevitably, unavoidably consigned to misery. Corianton suggested (or Alma perceived that Corianton believed) that it appears the group of sinners is so consigned. Alma's response is that whoso wants may partake of mercy through repentance, but no one is compelled (such compelling would likewise compromise the demands of justice and mercy). Finally, Alma exclaims that Corianton should not deny the justice of God, and should not be troubled by seeming injustices--he (Alma) has just explained the 'justness' of the plan. He summarizes his response to the original concern like this: Don't be troubled by the justice of God, be troubled by your own sins.

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  • Alma 42:2: Why does this verse apparently quote from Gen 3:23, which says "the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken," but change the noun from Adam to "our first parents" and the pronoun from "him" to "they"?
  • Alma 42:2: Why does this verse apparently quote from Gen 3:24, which says "he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life," but change "drew" to "drove," eliminate "end" from "east end," make "cherubims" singular, and add "the way of"?
  • Alma 42:3: Why does this verse apparently quote from Gen 3:22, which says "lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever," but change the order of the quotations in Genesis 3 and eliminate the word "should"?
  • Alma 42:5: Why would partaking of the tree of life have meant that Adam could not have had a space for repentance? What is the connection between mortality and an ability to repent?
  • Alma 42:5: What might it mean that God could "cease to be God" (vs. 13)?
  • Alma 42:20: Does this verse make it sound like our obedience should be out of fear? Does it sound like this verse assumes people operate according to a sense of preconventional morality?


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  • Alma 42. The Plan of Salvation, Gerald N. Lund follows the chronology of God's plan for his children from the Premortal Existence through the Three Degrees of Glory.


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