Alma 32:1- “Poor” Can Be Good
The poor were expelled from the peculiar worship practices of the Zoramites, and it turned into a blessing. As Alma and his companions sought listeners in the synagogues, houses, and streets of Antionum (see 31:3; 32:1), “they began to have success among the poor class of people” (32:2). Why? Because their trials had prepared their hearts:
- “They were cast out of the synagogues because of the coarseness of their apparel” (verse 2).
- “They were not permitted to enter into their synagogues to worship God, being esteemed as filthiness [and] dross” (verse 3; “dross” means worthless or rubbish).
- “They were poor as to things of the world; and also they were poor in heart” (verse 3; see also verse 4); and they were “despised of all men because of their poverty” (verse 5).
- “Their afflictions had truly humbled them,” “they were in a preparation to hear the word,” and they were “truly penitent” (verses 6-7; “penitent” means repentant and ready to submit).
Alma seized the opportunity and declared to them, “I behold that ye are lowly in heart; and if so, blessed are ye…. It is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues, that ye may be humble, and that ye may learn wisdom” (verses 8, 12). Must we all pass through distress, pain, and heartache in order to be in a state of preparation to hear and accept the word of God? That depends on each of us.
Alma 32:13-16, 25 Two Ways to Get Humble
These verses certify that humility is essential to spiritual growth. Alma taught that being humble can lead to repentance, mercy, enduring to the end, and eternal salvation (verse 13). Elder Bruce R. McConkie declared, “All progress in spiritual things is conditioned upon the prior attainment of humility” (Mormon Doctrine , p. 370). Alma pointed out that there are two ways to become humble; one is being compelled into humility by our circumstances (verse 13), and the other is choosing to become humble “because of the word [of God]” (verse 14). And in fact, those who choose humility—rather than being compelled—are “more blessed [even] much more blessed” (verses 14-15). Let us be among those Alma described thus: “I verily believe that there are some among you who would humble themselves, let them be in whatsoever circumstances they might” (verse 25).
Alma 32:27-43 “Awake and Arouse”
Surely Alma 32 has been key in helping change thousands of lives in the latter days, in addition to the impact of this sermon upon “many of the Zoramites” (Alma 35:14). Search Alma 32:27-43 and identify the things Alma taught that we must do (or not do) as we seek to increase our faith (such as “awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words”; verse 27). Also, list the things Alma said will happen as a result (such as the seed/word “will begin to swell within your breasts”; verse 28).
Of course, the effects of a sincere “experiment” of Alma’s words are not measured nor observed empirically—as in a scientific experiment—but spiritually. For example, it will enlarge one’s soul, enlighten the understanding, and be “delicious” (verse 28). For those with earnest intent it is “real” and “discernible” (verse 35), although doubters cannot understand this nor can they contradict it (see also Joseph Smith—History 1:22-25).
All this comes about only through one’s faith, diligence, and patience—as asserted in each of Alma 32, verses 41, 42, and 43. Can you think of a time when your faith grew? What happened?
Alma 33:1-11, 22-23 Three Questions and A Glorious Invitation
Note the questions the people ask Alma in verse 1. How does Alma’s quote of Zenos in verses 4-11 answer the Zoramites’ questions? What do these verses teach you about faith, prayer, and worship? Note also Alma’s bottom line as he prophesies of Christ (verse 22) and once again invites the Zoramite poor to “plant this word in your hearts” (verse 23). What does it mean to you to plant and nourish the word of God in your everyday life?
Alma 34:9-17 Amulek’s Turn
Now Amulek teaches and he goes to the most important teaching regarding Jesus Christ—His atonement. Find the many occurrences of the words atonement and sacrifice in verses 9-16. These choice teachings of Amulek reveal the following:
- Our Heavenly Father has provided “the great plan of the Eternal God” because “all” of us are hardened, fallen, and lost, and would “perish” without the Atonement (verse 9).
- After about 1,300 years of the Law of Moses and about 4,000 years of animal sacrifice, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ would be the “great and last sacrifice,” which had to be the sacrifice of an Eternal, Divine Being (verses 10-14).
- In addition to “bring[ing] salvation to all who believe on His name,” Amulek taught that another impact of Jesus’s sacrifice is “to bring about the bowels of mercy” (verse 15). This likely refers to the mercy of Our Heavenly Father, as He is touched by His Son’s holy offering and thus suspends justice and extends mercy to us (see also verses 16-17 and D&C 45:3-5).
- Yet another impact of the Atonement is that Christ “bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance” (verse 15). This can be looked at as our reaction to Jesus’s suffering in our behalf, and His gift of resurrection. As we learn about and reverently contemplate His gifts to us, we are touched and drawn to Him and feel motivated to greater faith and repentance (see also 3 Nephi 27:13-15).
There are only four occurrences of the term faith unto repentance in the scriptures, and all of them are found in Alma 34:15-17. Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve said, “No part of walking by faith is more difficult than walking the road of repentance. However, with ‘faith unto repentance,’ we can push roadblocks out of the way, moving forward to beg God for mercy” (Ensign, November 1991, p. 31). Indeed, “faith unto repentance” is perhaps the most important thing we can do with our faith, for it is the only way we can gain exaltation.
Alma 34:17-29 “Call Upon His Holy Name”
In these verses Amulek teaches us the “Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How” of prayer, including our need to “let [our] hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually,” even when we are not praying formally (verse 27; see also verse 39). What do you think it means—when you are not praying—to have your heart “drawn out in prayer unto him continually”?
Verses 28-29 help us understand that the answers to our prayers are at least partially dependent upon our treatment of the needy, naked, sick, and afflicted. If we fail to “impart of [our] substance” to those who stand in need, our prayers may be in “vain” (verse 28).
Alma 35:3-13 What Started the “War Chapters”?
The assaults described in verse 13 are the beginning of about sixteen years of devastating war between the Nephites and Lamanites, and it is startling to realize that these wars grew out of Lamanite anger against Nephite missionaries and their Zoramite converts (see verses 3, 6-11; see similar reactions in Alma 24:1; 25:1). These wars become the topic of twenty chapters in the Book of Mormon (Alma 43-62).