Alma 49-51 Adapt or Perish

Alma 49-51 illustrate how Moroni continually adapted to circumstances as he fought with the Lamanites. His army was the first to the battle with armor, as Zerahemnah stated:

We are not of your faith; we do not believe that it is God that has delivered us into your hands; but we believe that it is … your breastplates and your shields that have preserved you” (Alma 43:9).

The next time the Lamanites come to battle, they were also prepared with armor for their armies:

The leaders of the Lamanites… had also prepared themselves with shields, and with breastplates; and … with garments of skins, yea, very thick garments to cover their nakedness” (Alma 49:6).

World War 1

World War 1

Moroni was ready for them. He had rebuilt his weak areas, and made them strong (Alma 49:1-4). Not only had he strengthened his weaker areas, he had built “forts of security” for every city “in all the land round about” (Alma 49:13). He was prepared for the Lamanites when they came for his people. One can imagine the workers wondering why they were building an embankment around their cities when they were successful in their previous battles. Imagine the surprise of the Nephites when they saw the Lamanites coming at them, prepared with armor!

Moroni was one step ahead of the enemy. Because of his preparation, and the righteousness of the Nephites, “not a single soul of the Nephites was slain” in the battles described in Alma 49 (Alma 49:23).

In the next chapter we read that Moroni commenced “digging up heaps of earth round about all the cities” and “caused that there should be timbers” and “pickets” around his cities (Alma 50:2-3). He instructed his men to build towers where his men could defend themselves (Alma 50:4). He was always innovating: “Moroni did not stop making preparations for war, or to defend his people… digging up heaps of earth round about all the cities…” (Alma 50:1).

How does this apply?

World War 2

World War 2

As teachers of the gospel, it is imperative that we continually improve. It is always good to look for ways to make the principles in the scriptures come alive for our students. When we have stopped adapting, we are stagnating.

President Packer said:

The world is spiraling downward at an ever-quickening pace.  I am sorry to tell you that it will not get better.  It is my purpose to charge each of you as teachers with the responsibility – to put you on alert.  These are days of great spiritual danger for our youth.

I know of nothing in the history of the Church or in history of the world to compare with our present circumstances.  Nothing happened in Sodom and Gomorrah which exceeds in wickedness and depravity that which surrounds us now. 1

President Eyring stated:

The world in which our students choose spiritual life or death is changing rapidly…The spiritual strength sufficient for our youth to stand firm just a few years ago will soon not be enough.  Many of them are remarkable in their spiritual maturity and in their faith.  But even the best of them are sorely tested.  And the testing will become more severe. 2

A good question to ask students is, “What small changes could you make in things that you do often that would be a protection to you as make your way through your life? What things are you currently doing to protect yourself from evil?”

Modern Equipment

Modern Equipment

As students reflect on these questions, the Spirit will guide them to make the necessary adaptations that fit their specific circumstances. I like to share things that I am doing in my family and in my life that work for me, but it is important for my students to know that these are ways that I have found to apply this principle. My application will not work for everyone. As students come up with their own ways of applying this principle, they will live it because it is theirs. They own it. It becomes part of them, and they are empowered to be a force for good in an ever increasing wicked world.

Notes

1. President Packer, The One Pure Defense, 6 February 2004.

2. Presient Eyring, We Must Raise Our Sights, 14 August, 2001.

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Old Testament Lesson 9: God Will Provide A Lamb

Lesson 9: God Will Provide A Lamb

Kings Shall Come Out of Thee

Genesis 15–17; 21. Later in his life, Abraham desires and is promised seed (15:1–6). Sarah gives Hagar to Abraham as his wife; Hagar bears Ishmael (16:1–16). God again speaks of his covenant with Abraham, promising that he will be the father of many nations (17:1–14). Genesis 17:6 – “Kings shall come out of thee.” (This is describing the Church of the Firstborn, those Saints who will be exalted, who will eventually live the life that God the Father lives. This is also termed Deification.) 1

To me, this verse has everything to do with the kind of kings and queens God wants us to become. I do not think he really cares about worldly kings and influence, rather he is telling Abraham that from his line thousands will be exalted. These exalted saints are called kings and queens throughout scripture. They are members of the Church of the Firstborn, those that inherit eternal life, or the life that God lives.

I like to emphasize the truth of what these kings and queens are that are referenced in this passage, as well to as analyze how the sacrifice of Isaac foreshadowed the future atoning sacrifice of the Son of God – Jesus Christ. It is also noteworthy to see examples of Abraham-like faith in the lives of those who lived in Church History. It strengthens me when I see their lives and read or hear of their sacrifice!

The Success of God’s Plan of Happiness Continue reading

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Alma 46-48 The Power of One

Moroni We read in Alma 48:17 that if all men had been like Moroni, the powers of hell would be shaken forever. Since Moroni is an important protagonist in these chapters, it is good to analyze what he did and how his actions apply in our lives today.

What was it that Captain Moroni did that made him so powerful?

Alma 46 – Moroni flies the Title of Liberty – This is one way we can take a stand for righteousness – we can fly our own personal title of liberty. What are ways that youth can “fly their own Title of Liberty today? Continue reading

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Alma 39 – The Law of Chastity

Alma does an excellent work in his communication with his son Corianton in this chapter. He doesn’t just correct his son, he helps him to see that his actions had consequences, and shows him how to guard himself in the future, as well as give him hope!

Alma shows Corianton 5 ways that he went wrong:

1. Corianton stopped listening to prophetic counsel (Alma 39:2).

2. He forsook his mission (Alma 39:3).

3. He went where he shouldn’t have gone- to the land Siron, after a harlot (Alma 39:3).

4. He made excuses for his behavior (Alma 39:4).

5. He made light of his circumstance (Alma 39:5).

Alma also illustrates what the results of Corianton’s behavior:

1. Corianton, and Alma lost credibility with those they were trying to teach (Alma 39:11).

2. If he continues in this behavior and doesn’t change, he cannot “inherit the kingdom of God.” (Alma 39:9)

3. This behavior will eventually bring the offender to feel guilty (Alma 39:7).

Alma shows Corianton how to prevent this in the future:

1. Corianton must “cross” himself in this weakness. In other words, there is some degree of individual effort that Corianton must go through to avoid this in the future. He has to make a decision and then stick with his resolution (Alma 39:9).

2. Corianton should counsel with his brothers, or seek the advice of those who can strengthen him (Alma 39:10).

3. He can act upon his circumstances, instead of being acted upon. He was one who was led, and Alma is requiring that he now lead for himself (Alma 39:11).

Alma offers hope:

1. Christ suffered that we may be forgiven of wrongs such as these. This is the good tidings that Alma says comes as we come unto Jesus Christ (Alma 39:15).

2. Corianton’s soul is precious (and so are those that live and read Alma’s words today!), therefore knowing how Jesus feels after the transgressor will give them power to resist temptation and have hope for the future (Alma 39:17).

3. There is power in turning to the Lord and having him become our strength (Alma 39:13).

There are many resources that can be used to teach the law of Chastity in this chapter. I appreciate the video entitled, “Chastity, what are the limits?” You can download this video here. Another great video that teaches how youth can take a stand and make a difference regarding modesty is “195 dresses” which is located here. I also value the counsel offered by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in the talk entitled, “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments.”

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Alma 40-41 The Resurrection & Justice

There is much to cover in Alma 40-42. It is good to emphasize one or two doctrines when teaching Alma 40-41. I focused on the fact that there is a resurrection, that many witnesses have testified of this reality, and that the scriptures have much to share regarding the order of the resurrection, and what will take place between the time of death and the resurrection.

In Alma 40 Alma writes to his son Corianton. Although we do not have all of the questions he was asking, the text seems to indicate that Corianton was concerned with the resurrection, as well as how things in mortality seem to be unfair (Alma 40:1 and 41:1-2). Alma wrote: Continue reading

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Alma 36 – Analyzing the Text

Alma 36 is a wonderful example of chiasmus. What is chiasmus, you ask?

chi·as·mus - kīˈazməs/
noun: chiasmus; plural noun: chiasmi
1. a rhetorical or literary figure in which words, grammatical constructions, or concepts are repeated in reverse order, in the same or a modified form; e.g. ‘Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds.’

Alma used chiasmus to tell the story of his conversion to his son Helaman. The presence of Semitic literary forms such as chiasmus in the Book of Mormon is an external witness that the book is what the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that it is: a translation of an ancient text written in a Middle Eastern language. The fact that this structure exists throughout the text of the Book of Mormon should cause any thoughtful investigator of the book to pause and take this text seriously. While it is my opinion chiasmus does not prove the Book of Mormon to be true (only the witness of the Holy Ghost will do this), it is one more evidence of its divine and ancient origins that will help to foster a climate where belief may flourish.

Authors of a multitude of ancient works, including the Bible and the Book of Mormon used chiasmus. 1 These ancient works that contain chiasmus are as widespread as Sumero-Akkadian literature, Ugaritic writings, Aramaic contracts and letters, Talmudic-Aggadic narratives, and many classic works of ancient Greek and Latin works. 2

Richard Grant, sharing a thought from a college course on chiasmus, explains why:

Why Chiasmus? In the very long time before we started to write things down in lap-top computers, people had to rely on their memories. Think of throwing stuff in a box. If you just toss it in, it is jumbled, not compact, and things get broken. If you pack the box, however, you can make sure that all available space is used safely and well: that objects fit together; the ones you need often are on top, and that nothing gets lost.

Just so with memory. It needs a little help to get along, and early peoples used ‘mnemonic devices,’ usually involving an imagined space into which they put things to be remembered. . . Here’s where chiasmus came in.

Chiasmus was a kind of formula that allowed each normal object to be mirrored in a double. The double was ‘stored’ in a disguised form, present but concealed. As the sequence progressed, the double relationship intensified . . . , and in subsequent scenes the meaning of the doubled elements was revealed.” 3

Examples of Chiastic Structures in the Bible

Mark 2:27

Luke 22:42

Isaiah 5:20

Luke 16:13

 


Alma 36 is a Beautiful Chiasmus

Alma 36 is a wonderful example of this type of literature. As I have studied this chapter, I would say that everything that Alma is teaching us points us to the apex, or center of this work: that through Jesus Christ, Alma was able to be freed from the captivity of sin and guilt. He is illustrating how we can be saved, using his experience to do so.

Alma 36 ChiasmusA pdf of this illustration of the text can be found here.

John Welch sums up the evidence:

John WelchFor those who are inclined to think about such matters in terms of statistical probabilities, the multiple findings discussed may be summarized in the form of a series of predictions: for instance, what is the likelihood of chiasms not only accidentally occurring, but also intensifying the orderly character of the text, increasing the intricate depth of the text, significantly enhancing its artistic achievement, precisely fitting natural textual units, systematically clarifying meaning and providing demonstrable keys to textual interpretation, maintaining stylistic consistency within the writings of individual authors, emerging as reworkings of earlier texts, corresponding with other dimensions of authorial intent, appearing principally in quoted original texts as opposed to abridged materials, and working even better in Hebrew than English?  The probability that all these and other similar predictions would simultaneously occur becomes remotely small, lending considerable cumulative weight that corroborates the explanation of the book’s origins declared by Joseph Smith and claimed by the book itself. 4

Notes

1. John W. Welch, Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins, chapter 2: Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon. See also: John Breck, The Shape of Biblical Language: Chiasmus in the Scriptures and Beyond Edition 2, St Vladimirs Seminary, 2008. Jeff A. Benner, Hebrew Parallelism (Chiasmus).

2. David Noel Freedman, “Preface,” in John Breck, The Shape of Biblical Language (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1994), 7. See also: Brad McCoy, Chiasmus: An Important Structural Device Commonly Found in Biblical Literature, Isaac Kalimi, The Reshaping of Ancient Israelite History in Chronicles, p. 215.

3. Richard Grant, Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon: A Remarkable Literary Art

4. John W. Welch, “What Does Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon Prove?”  Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited , F.A.R.M.S., pp. 200-224, emphasis added.

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Alma 36-40: The epistles of Alma- principles of parenting

In Alma 36-42 we read the advice of Alma to his sons Helaman (Alma 36-37), Shiblon (Alma 38), and Corianton (Alma 39-42). These chapters are an excellent source of information to those who want to practice principles of effective parenting.

Alma 35

parentingLook at the environment each of Alma’s children find themselves in. They live in an environment filled with war, strife, and immorality (does this sound familiar?). We begin by analyzing Alma 35, where Alma gives his charge to each child “separately” (Alma 35:16). This is an important principle of parenting: it is good to have a relationship with each of your children, as each are individuals. Get to know them as individuals!

Alma also bears testimony to his sons of what he knows to be true. Alma doesn’t let his past cripple him in his parenting efforts. Oftentimes I have heard parents tell me that they cannot exhort their children to righteousness as they have had checkered pasts. Alma lets the past stay in the past, and uses what he knows to be true to challenge his sons to live virtuous lives in patterned after the Savior.

Alma 36

Joseph SmithGood parents bear testimony to their children. Alma 36 is a perfect example of Alma bearing his testimony of the redemptive power of Jesus Christ to his son. As Joseph Smith stated in the Lectures on Faith, “We have now clearly set forth how it is, and how it was, that God became an object of faith for rational beings; and also, upon what foundation the testimony was based which excited the inquiry and diligent search of the ancient saints to seek after and obtain a knowledge of the glory of God; and we have seen that it was human testimony, and human testimony only, that excited this inquiry, in the first instance, in their minds. It was the credence they gave to the testimony of their fathers, this testimony having aroused their minds to inquire after the knowledge of God; the inquiry frequently terminated, indeed always terminated when rightly pursued, in the most glorious discoveries and eternal certainty.” 1

Good parents practice what they preach. Alma doesn’t expect his son to do something he is not willing to do in his life. “Do as I have done” (Alma 36:29, 37:2).

Alma 37

Good parents work to point their children to the scriptures. The scriptures are roadmaps to solve our problems.

Elder HalesElder Hales stated: A critical component in gaining knowledge from the Savior is acting upon the principles He taught. In order to gain the greatest insights the scriptures have to offer, our study will focus not so much on places and names as on principles and doctrines. It is not simply book knowledge we are after but insights that will change the way we live that will actually make a difference in our lives. We must see the scriptures for what they are: an instruction manual for becoming like our Savior. 2

Alma points his son to the scriptures- this is the whole gist of the 37th chapter of Alma. Good parents work to find ways that to problem solve with the scriptures. There are 4 main principles in this chapter, all relating to the scriptures.

1. Alma 37:6-7 Small & simple things: the small things matter. Habits are made up of the small things that we do today. Habits, over time, determine our character.

2. Alma 37:16- when you are on the Lord’s errand, you will receive the Lord’s help. I like his phrase that when we are on the Lord’s errand, “no power of earth or hell can take them from you..”

3.  Alma 37:25-32- you do not have to study out evil to know that it is evil- don’t sensationalize wickedness. Instead, teach righteousness- v33-34 (this makes sense as Helaman will see both- wicked behavior and righteous. He is told here what to emphasize. What do we emphasize in our communication with others? The bad or the good? What do we see in our spouse? In our friends? There is wisdom in emphasizing the good.

I appreciate the talk given by Elder Oaks where he said that we do not need to try the things of the world to know that it is not for us. He stated, “Some years ago, one of our sons asked me why it wasn’t a good idea to try alcohol or tobacco to see what they were like. He knew about the Word of Wisdom, and he also knew the health effects of these substances, but he was questioning why he shouldn’t just try them out for himself. I replied that if he wanted to try something out, he ought to go to a barnyard and eat a little manure. He recoiled in horror. “Ooh, that’s gross,” he reacted.

“I’m glad you think so,” I said, “but why don’t you just try it out so you will know for yourself? While you’re proposing to try one thing that you know is not good for you, why don’t you apply that principle to some others?” That illustration of the silliness of “trying it out for yourself” proved persuasive for one sixteen-year-old.” 3

Alma 33:19-20

Alma 33:19-20

4. Alma 37:38-46 Good parents and great teenagers look for answers to their problems in the scriptures! Alma likened the Liahona to the scriptures – both will prepare mortals to know what “course they should travel” while in mortality (Alma 37:39). These verses are a continuation of the counsel from Alma 33:19-20 that we must look to live. Just like the Israelites in Moses’ time needed to look to the type that he raised, so must we look to the words of eternal life (the scriptures) to know what we should do as we make difficult decisions. Alma pointed Helaman to the scriptures to gain inspiration from the Lord in the decisions that he would be faced with in his life.

Alma 38

This chapter contains sound advice for temperate living: don’t boast, bridle your passions, work hard, don’t seek worldly praise, stay humble, be sober. Very sound “Shiblonesque” advice!

Alma 39

Alma is not afraid of correcting his son Corianton (Alma 39:1-5). When Corianton engages in immoral practices, Alma does not mince words, but goes right at his behavior, explaining the course that Corianton is on and the consequences of sin (Alma 39:7-9). This chapter is a classic example of how to correct a wayward child.

1. This is what you did wrong- v1 Corianton decided to stop following the counsel of parents and prophets, v2 boasting of his own strength was his downfall. You cannot handle impure environments: aka- v3 the harlot Isabel- Corianton hung out in the wrong places and associated with people that would bring him down! He forsook the ministry- stopped doing the things that invite the spirit- seminary, reading your scriptures, praying to Heavenly Father, service, etc- Alma 39:3.

2. Look at the seriousness of what was done- Alma 39:5.

3. Correct counsel- this is what he should have done, how to prevent future mistakes.

4. Give the wayward hope- show afterwards an increase in love-Alma 39:14-18. Alma doesn’t just come down on Corianton, but he offers him hope- hope for forgiveness, hope for a better future, and hope that he can change (see Alma 39:13-16).  For more insight, read Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments

Alma 40

Good parents are perceptive- they can read their children and see where their children may need more explanation (see Alma 40:1). This is a powerful principle whether we are talking about child rearing or contract negotiation. Being able to read other people is something Alma teaches us as he works with his most difficult son Corianton.

Notes

1.  The Lectures on Faith, 2:56.

2. Elder Robert D. Hales, The Journey of Lifelong Learning, BYU Education Week, 19 August 2008. See also: http://bit.ly/y3SOyp

3. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Sin and Suffering, Ensign, July 1992.

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