Book of Mormon Lesson
Give Us Strength According to Our Faith...in Christ
A. We will be continuing the Alma’s preachings to the people of Ammonihah today. Remember that the people of Ammonihah were prideful and wicked, but that Alma and Amulek began to have success, but for the most part they were rejected. When we left them last week they were contending with one of Ammoniahah’s most notorious lawyers Zeezrom.
B. Remember that Alma was once very similar to Zeezrom and the people of Ammonihah. He contended against the church and tried to destroy it. How do you think his previous life may have influenced how he preached in Ammoniahah? He was probably more committed because he knew what they would go through if they didn’t repent.
C. There are many important principles taught in Alma 13-16 and we won’t have time to go through all of them. I have chosen to concentrate on just a few:]
1. The pre-existence and the doctrine of foreordination.
2. Free agency and what it has to do with God allowing us to suffer.
3. How we should react when we are rebuked.
II. Foreordination and the priesthood.
A. Read Alma 13:1-3. What does this tell us about those who are called to hold the priesthood? They were “prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God.”
B. What perspective does our knowledge of the pre-existence give us? We know that our life here is just one of the acts in the play.
1. When I was 17 years old I went on a 2 week mini-mission where I lived with 2 Elders in the Tempe Mission and went out and did what they did. During the 2 weeks I was able to participate in the discussions and watch a 16 year old kid get baptized. He was raised Catholic. When we taught him the plan of salvation, he was astonished when we told him about the pre-existence. He has always believed that his entire existence had begun when he was born. I was surprised to find out that other Christian churches did not have knowledge of the pre-existence. It always seemed intuitive to me; I could not imagine not existing.
C. What perspective should the knowledge of the doctrine of foreordination give us?
1. Read Abraham 3:22-23. This is the preeminent scripture about foreordination. From this scripture we learn that there were some “noble and great” spirits in the pre-existence and that Abraham was among them.
2. I sometimes cringe when I hear members of the church speculate about who else is included among the noble and great and worse, who wasn’t. I personally don’t feel it is very useful to think of our own situations in this like as either a reward or a punishment for our relative valiance in the pre-existence (which we can’t remember anyway).
D. These scriptures in Alma do make it clear that those who hold the Melchizedek priesthood were foreordained. But what else does it say about this. Read Alma 13:4-5.
1. What does this tell us? That there are many called to the priesthood, but not all will receive it? Why not? Because of the “hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds.”
2. What does it say in D&C 121 :34-35
E. How does it influence your life to know that many of us were foreordained to do great things but few of us will fulfill them? Do you think God will hold us responsible for the things we did not do that we were capable of doing?
1. I have had a good friend since elementary school. People have always been drawn to him. He is just the type of guy people like to be around. I can’t think of a situation he has been in - be it school, church, work, or social - that he hasn’t taken a leadership role in and been the center of. He has a great gift to influence people. He has never been perfect, but he went on a mission and was an excellent missionary. However, when he got off his mission he started drinking and joined a fraternity. He is no longer active in the church. He has the same gifts but he is not using them for good. I spent last weekend with a group of my old friends down at Aspen Grove. One of my other friends ran into this guy a few months ago and they got talking. My other friend is much better and calling people to repentance than me. He told this guy, “you know, you have a great gift to influence people. You won’t only be responsible for your own soul, but for all the others you could have influenced.” Do you believe this is true?
2. Harold B. Lee said: “I fear there are many among us who because of their faithfulness in the spirit world were ‘called’ to do a great work here, but like reckless spendthrifts they are exercising their free agency in riotous living and are losing their birthright and the blessings that were theirs had they proved faithful to their calling. Hence as the Lord has said, ‘there are many called but few are chosen’.”
F. Read Alma 13:12. One of the ways we can know when we have fully repented is when we can no longer “look upon sin save it were with abhorrence.” Many of our sins we still look back upon fondly and with nostalgia.
III. The Responses to the Rebuke.
A. Read Alma 14:1-3. Why were these people angry with Alma and Amulek? They were plainly telling them what they were doing wrong. Why do we react this way when people plainly point out what we are doing wrong?
1. A few weeks ago President Thurgood came to our Elder’s Quorem and rebuked us for not doing our home teaching. It was painful to hear because we all knew it was something that we should be doing. It hurts to have your faults pointed out to you.
2. But it is we who decide how to respond to a rebuke. We can respond like the majority of the people of Ammonihah, or we can respond like Zeezrom.
B. Read Alma 14:6-7. Do you see the contrast between the other people and Zeezrom? Do you see the great change in Zeezrom? His humility? Remember, just a few chapters ago Amulek called Zeezrom a “child of hell.”
IV. Why bad things happen to good people.
A. We next read what they people of Ammonihah did to the people who believed the words of Alma and Amulek. Read Alma 14:8-11.
1. How do you think Alma and Amulek felt as the were forced to watch this? These were the converts from their missions. For those of you who have helped bring people into the church, you know you have a special relationship with them. This was watching the families you baptized on your mission, who you had so much hope for, being thrown into a fire because they believed what you taught them.
2. Amulek makes the suggestion to stop this. Read Alma 14:10. Do you think they had to power to do this? Why didn’t they.
3. Read Alma 14:11.
B. Why does God allow horrible things to happen in the world? One of the enduring questions about theism is: if there is an all powerful and all good God in the world, why does He allow bad things to happen to good people? He created us and all the world - why didn’t he make us perfect? Why aren’t we in a perpetual state of bliss.
1. Free agency.
2. Also, we know that as individuals we are co-eternal with God. God organized us and set us on the path, but he did not create us to be evil.
3. President Spencer W. Kimball said: “Now, we find many people critical when a righteous person is killed, a young father or mother is taken from a family, or when violent deaths occur. Some become bitter when 0ft-repeated prayers seem unanswered. Some lose faith and turn sour when solemn administrations by holy men seem to be ignored and no restoration seems to come from repeated prayer circles. But if all the sick were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. If pain ans sorrow and total punishment immediately followed the doing of evil, no soul would repeat a misdeed. If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given to the doer of good, there could be no evil–and would do good and not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, now free agency, now Satanic controls. Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment or even death; and if these were not, there would also be an absence of joy, success, resurrection, eternal life, and godhood.”
C. We learn that Alma and Amulek are beaten and imprisoned.
1. I wonder if Joseph Smith thought of Alma and Amulek while he was in Liberty Jail. He was in a similar situation. He was stuck in prison while the people who believed him were being mobbed, raped, and run out of Missouri, and he could do nothing about it. Read D&C 121:1-3.
2. Compare this to what Alma said in Alma 14:26.
3. Alma and Amulek miraculously escaped from prison. Joseph Smith sort of had a miraculous escape from Liberty Jail. They were allowed to buy whiskey for their captors and when they were drunk they escaped.
D. We learn in chapter 15 that Alma and Amulek go to Sidom where many of the believers had escaped. There they heal Zeezrom who was sick and he goes on to be a missionary companion with Alma.
E. We learn in chapter 16 that the city of Ammonihah was destroyed by the Lamanites and the area was called the “Desolation of Nehors.”
V. Conclusion - I hope that we can all try our best to live up to our foreordained potentials. I hope that we can be humbled when we are called to repentance by our leaders. I hope we have a better understanding of what free agency really is and it’s part in suffering in the world. I testify that part of Christ’s atonement will make up for the suffering of the innocent. Amen.
F. Jim - Times and Seasons
LDS Church Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual
Proctor, Scot and Maurine - Meridian Magazine