In Alma 36-42 Mormon quotes Alma directly from the large plates of Nephi, rather than abridging the record onto his own plates. Therefore, Alma’s account is in the first person voice, as he counsels and commissions his sons Helaman (chapters 36-37), Shiblon (chapter 38), and Corianton (chapters 39-42). Alma is a tender father, saying “my son” twenty times to Helaman, eight times to Shiblon, and twenty-nine times to Corianton.
Alma 36:1-3, 27-30 Obey, Remember, Trust
- Alma’s first message to Helaman (who will become a great military commander and succeed his father in his role as prophet) is his testimony that keeping the commandments of God leads to prospering in the land (verse 1; see also Alma 38:1; as noted previously, “prospering” in the Book of Mormon usually refers to having the Lord’s spirit and influence).
- Second, Alma counsels Helaman to remember all the things the Lord had done for their “fathers” (verse 2). This is repeated often in the Book of Mormon, much like today when we speak of the early pioneers or others who have shown great examples.
- Verse 3 is Alma’s invitation to “hear” and “learn,” with his testimony that “whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.”
Alma then repeated these same teachings to Helaman in verses 27-30, emphasizing for us a great theme for life: Keep the commandments, remember God’s blessings, and put our trust in Him.
Alma 36:5-23; 38:6-9 Sweet Forgiveness
Alma recounts his experience of being visited by an angel, repenting, and being born again. The original account is in Mosiah 27, and here in Alma 36 he shares a fuller account with Helaman, then a brief account with Shiblon in Alma 38. Look for the following:
- What feelings and reactions can sin create in a person? (36:11-18, 21; 38:8).
- What feelings and reactions can repentance and forgiveness create in a person? (36:19-23; 38:8).
- What was the catalyst that moved Alma to repent? (36:17-18).
- What happened after Alma “cried” unto God? (36:18-23; 38:8).
As a summary, Alma bore a beautiful and powerful testimony to Shiblon that Christ is the Way, the Means, the Life and Light of the World, and the Word of Truth and Righteousness (see Alma 38:9).
Alma 36:24-28 Go To Work!
What’s the next step after conversion? Elder M. Russell Ballard taught, “A most significant evidence of our conversion and of how we feel about the gospel in our lives is our willingness to share it with others” (October 2000 general conference). This is what Alma did. He said, “From that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; … that they might also be born of God” (verse 24). However, Alma’s untiring efforts to bless others led to great difficulties for him: “And I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions” (verse 27).
As we give forth our efforts to bless others, we too will likely encounter trials and troubles, for the adversary opposes all efforts in God’s work. Nonetheless, we move forward, for as the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race” (History of the Church, 4:227). May we be like Alma, who persevered and knew he would come through: “I know that he will raise me up at the last day, to dwell with him in glory” (verse 28).
Alma 37:1-20 “Keep All These Things Sacred”
It is time for Alma to pass on all the plates and records to his son Helaman, and from his instructions we learn the following:
- The various keepers of the Nephite records knew that they were in possession of holy scriptures which would one day “go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people” (verse 4), and that it was their duty to perpetuate the record with additional inspired, sacred writing (verses 2, 16).
- The “small and simple” efforts of keeping the sacred records were key to the Lord bringing to pass “great things” (verse 6), and the Lord uses “very small means” to confound the wise, bring about the salvation of many souls, enlarge our spiritual memory, convince many of the error of their ways, and bring many to the knowledge of their God (verses 6-8).
- Additionally, the Nephite scriptures were used in Book of Mormon times to convince many thousands of Lamanites of their incorrect traditions, bring them to a knowledge of the Lord and to repentance, and rejoice in Jesus Christ (verses 9, 19).
Look for the words sacred, wise purpose, and power in verses 2, 12, 14-16, 18-19. What do you learn from these verses about the scriptures?
Alma 37:21-32 Secret Combinations
Helaman was free to share teachings from the sacred records with the people of his day, except parts that the Lord did not want them to have. Alma instructed Helaman that his people should become aware that the people (the Jaredites) whose record was on “the twenty-four plates” (the book of Ether; verse 21) had engaged in mysteries, works of darkness, secret works, murders, robbings, plunderings, wickedness, and abominations (verse 21). However, Helaman was to take great care that he not reveal “all their oaths, and their covenants, and their agreements in their secret abominations; yea, and all their signs and their wonders” (verse 27).
Helaman obeyed, but unfortunately some fifty years later when Gadianton and others began to use similar oaths and covenants to create secret combinations, they did not learn these things from the Nephite records, but rather “they were put into the heart of Gadianton by that same being who did entice our first parents to partake of the forbidden fruit” (Helaman 6:25-26; see also Satan’s evil revelations to Cain in Moses 5:28-31). Note in Alma 37:21-32 the many occurrences of words that describe secret combinations, ancient and modern: secret (twelve times) darkness (ten times) wickedness (five times), abominations (ten times), and murders/murderers/murdered (eight times).
Alma 37:33-37, 44-47; 38:2-5, 10-15 To Grow and Serve
As Alma teaches his sons about their spiritual growth and their service, we can take lessons for ourselves. Alma’s inspired admonitions include:
- Seek to be humble, meek, and lowly in heart (37:33; see also verse 34).
- Through faith in Christ we can “withstand every temptation of the devil” (37:33).
- We must “never be weary of good works” (37:34).
- “Cry unto God for all [our] support” and let all our doings, movements, thoughts, and affections of our hearts be upon the Lord forever; always “full of thanks to God” (37:36-37).
- We are to be sober (37:47; see also 38:15; sober can mean “calm, collected, clear-headed, wise”).
- We should develop steadiness and be diligent, patient, and long-suffering (38:2-3).
- Be temperate and avoid pride and boastfulness (38:10-11; temperate means “mild, pleasant, agreeable, gentle, restrained”).
- Be bold but not overbearing, and “bridle all [our] passions” (bridle means “check, control, curb, restrain”).
- “Acknowledge [our] unworthiness before God at all times” (38:14).
Look for things on this list that could help you in your efforts to develop Christlike attributes and to effectively minister to others.
Alma 38:5 Supported or Delivered?
In Alma 36:3 Alma told his son Helaman that “whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions.” Then in Alma 38:5 he told his son Shiblon that “as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions.” Clearly there is a difference between being supported in trials, troubles, and afflictions and being delivered from them. And of course it is the Lord who chooses when and how to respond to our difficulties and our prayers—all in accordance with His love for us and His desire for us to learn and grow. We must have the faith to accept “support,” or “deliverance,” or nothing!