Alma 5 A Spiritual Self-Evaluation
This chapter contains more than forty questions that Alma asked the people of Zarahemla as he began his travels throughout the land to strengthen the church. The questions are directed to church members, some of whom may be spiritually backsliding, and they can be helpful for us as we check our own spiritual well-being.
President Ezra Taft Benson asked, “Do we frequently review the crucial questions which Alma asks the members of the Church in the fifth chapter of Alma in the Book of Mormon?” (“The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants,” April 1987 general conference). Study Alma 5:11-16, 26-28, 33-34, 53, 55 and consider how you might answer each question, and how you may draw nearer to the Lord and strengthen your own conversion.
Alma 5:43-48 How Does One Gain a Testimony?
Alma did not gain a testimony of the truth because he was visited by an angel (see Mosiah 27). Rather, in these verses he teaches that he got his testimony and was born again because he did the same things all must do. His knowledge came from “the Holy Spirit of God,” after he had “fasted and prayed many days” (verse 46). For most, there is no dramatic experience, but simply a sure feeling of confirmation—through the Holy Ghost—that the Lord lives and that He reveals truth to us (see also Alma 6:8).
Alma 6 To Establish the Church
The “brethren” in Zarahemla were in an “awful dilemma” and “in a state of so much unbelief,” which caused Alma “much affliction and sorrow” (Alma 7:3, 5-6). Alma 6:4 says that Alma and others “began to establish the order of the church” in Zarahemla, and verse 7 says Alma made “regulations” in the church (see also Alma 7:4). Alma 6 can be considered a pattern for “establishing” the church in Alma’s day and in ours. (Synonyms for “establish” are build up, strengthen, set in order, regulate, or stabilize.) This is the pattern:
- Alma ordained priests and elders to preside and watch over the church (verse 1).
- He invited non-members to repent, be baptized, and come into the church (verse 2; see also Alma 5:62).
- He disciplined church members who refused to repent of their wickedness (verse 3).
- He and others taught the word of God liberally unto all, depriving none (verse 5).
- He taught the members to gather together often (verse 6).
- He taught them to “join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God,” which can refer to both members and those outside the church (verse 6).
How do we help “establish” the church in our day? Consider these quotes from President Russell M. Nelson:
- “We invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life” (“Let Us All Press On,” April 2018 general conference).
- “Anytime you do anything that helps anyone—on either side of the veil—take a step toward making covenants with God and receiving their essential baptismal and temple ordinances, you are helping to gather Israel. It is as simple as that” (“Hope of Israel,” devotional for youth, 3 June 2018.)
- “We constantly seek direction from the Lord on how we can help our members keep the commandments of God, especially those two great commandments to love God and our neighbors…. We will implement a newer, holier approach to caring for and ministering to others. We will refer to these efforts simply as ‘ministering’” (“Ministering,” April 2018 general conference.)
Alma 7:7-13 Jesus’s Suffering: What and Why
Alma taught the people in Gideon that the Redeemer would come to earth and be born of Mary—a virgin who would conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost. He also taught that Jesus Christ would take upon Himself pains, afflictions, temptations, sicknesses, death, infirmities, and the sins of his people (verses 11-13). Then Alma taught six reasons or purposes why Jesus Christ would take all this upon Himself:
- “That the word [of prophecy] might be fulfilled” (verse 11).
- “That he may loose the bands of death which bind his people” (verse 12).
- “That his bowels may be filled with mercy” (verse 12).
- “That he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people” (verse 12).
- “That he might take upon him the sins of his people” (verse 13).
- “That he might blot out their transgressions” (verse 13).
Consider especially numbers 3 and 4 above: Of course Jesus was a God and a member of the Godhead before He was born into mortality, but perhaps we can say that He had not yet fully developed all the attributes of Godhood (see D&C 93:11-14; see also Hebrews 2:10 wherein Paul taught that Jesus was made “perfect through sufferings”). Apparently, Jesus’s completion of the Atonement gave him needed experience which allowed Him to “be filled with mercy” (Alma 7:12) and to “succor” (relieve; aid, rescue) each of us. Thus, our Savior gained perfect empathy (see Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:15; Alma 34:15; D&C 62:1; 88:6; 122:8).
Alma 7:9, 14-16, 23-27 Invitations and Promised Blessings
First, consider how you may personally accept and apply each of Alma’s invitations in verses 9, 14, 15, 23, 24. What sin may be in your life that “easily doth beset you”? (see verse 15; “beset” means to trouble, surround, or threaten). What does it mean to you to be “easy to be entreated”? (verse 23).
Second, identify the promised blessings Alma pronounced in verses 16, 24, 25, 27. Does your life “abound in good works”? (verse 24). What might it mean to “keep your garments spotless”? (verse 25). What would be different in your life if you had “the peace of God rest upon you” every day? (verse 27).