Book of Mormon Lesson 28
“The Word Is in Christ unto Salvation”
A. Today we will be going through Alma chapter 32. I believe this chapter may be the best discourse on faith ever given. I was very excited to teach this lesson because it is from reading Alma 32 that I first understood how to gain faith myself.
B. I think Alma 32 is a good example of how the Book of Mormon complements the Bible.
1. Look at the Topical Guide in the Bible under Faith - LDS edition p 132.
a. Notice that in all of the Old Testament there are only 2 scriptures listed under faith. Why do you think this is? I found this interesting, but honestly don't have an explanation for it. The ancient Israelites obviously had faith - they had to have faith that God would protect them when they placed lambs blood over their doors on the first Passover. David had to have had faith to write "the Lord is my shepherd" ext. Possible reasons for the paucity of scriptures on faith in the OT:
i. Perhaps it is a difference in language. Most of the OT was written in Hebrew and the NT was written entirely in Greek. The two languages may have had different words for describing faith and the word is "lost in translation" from Hebrew, but not in Greek.
ii. Perhaps in OT times they took belief (faith) for granted. In the ancient world everyone believed that gods existed - I doubt there were many atheists. In ancient Israel the problem was not belief in God, but belief in the "One God." The OT up to the time of the Babylonian exile is God trying to convince His people not to worship other gods.
b. Notice that in the New Testament the bulk of the scriptures on faith are in the Epistles of Paul. It is Paul who first emphasized that faith in Jesus Christ was necessary for salvation. It is from the writings of Paul that much of Christianity has come to believe that salvation comes through faith and faith alone. (Ignoring all the scriptures that also emphasize works - James 2:17.)
2. While the New Testament tells us how important faith is, it does not give us details about how one goes about obtaining faith. It does not explain how one should chose what to have faith in. Why is this important? Alma 32 answers these questions eloquently.
a. I have an old friend from high school I recently found on Facebook. I think she is technically a Catholic, but I have a feeling she isn’t very religious. She told me that a few years back she took a test on-line that claimed to be able to tell you the religion with which you would be most compatible. She took the test and it said she was more in line with the Mormons than the Catholics, but that her best match was the Quakers. I don't think she took the test seriously, but could this possibly be a good way to choose a faith? Sadly, it may be the best resource some people have. (Incidentally, I told her she needn't have bothered taking the test because the correct answer is, and always has been "the Mormons," and I sent her the clip from South Park Judgement Day. I hope she knows I was kidding.)
b. In chapter 32 Alma explains in detail how we can “experiment upon (his) words” to know if they are true. He is not asking them to just take his word for it.
II. Humility required to obtain faith.
A. Remember that Alma went on a mission to try to convert the apostate Zoramites. He took with him Amulek, Zeezrom and 3 of the sons of Mosiah (Himni stayed and watched house in Zarahemla). He also took his 3 sons Helaman, Shiblon and Corianton.
1. In what state did they find the Zoramites? In Error. They took turns going up on a stand called the Rameumptom and they all said the same prayer, thanking God that they were better than their brethren.
B. Read Alma 32:1-5.
1. How did these people contrast with the other Zoramites?
2. Why does the Church seem to have more success in poorer countries than in wealthy countries?
C. Read Alma 32:6-8
1. How do afflictions sometimes help prepare us to hear the word? Examples.
a. Joseph Smith, no stranger to affliction, said, “I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force...all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty...”
2. In what way were these people “blessed.”
D. Read 32:13-16. In one way or another we have to be humbled before we can truly receive God’s truth. It’s better to humble yourself without having to be compelled to be humble.
1. Neal A Maxwell said, “Meek individuals know they are set apart to serve, not merely set apart to observe. It is the proud, not the meek, who keep score. The meek are not playing games for those in the grandstand. The meek are slow to judge, whereas the proud are quick, even eager to judge. The meek will not withhold compassion or help, saying that ‘the man brought upon himself his misery.’ Even though the individual may have done just that, they are nevertheless slow to judge. Being more open to the truth, the meek are more free, while the proud are compassed about with the glitzed self-sufficiency that keeps them from grasping the hand of fellowship extended to all the Lord’s prophets.”
E. The first thing we need in order to obtain faith is: HUMILITY.
III. What is Faith?
A. Read Alma 32:17-18.
1. Here Alma tells us what faith is not. It is not knowing things because we see them. I don’t have faith that you are standing here in front of me (although, some philosophers would argue even that requires an element of faith).
2. We return to the example of Laman and Lemuel. They saw an angel. It stood right in front of them and told them to follow Nephi. They knew that the angel existed. They knew what the angel told them. But did they have faith?
B. Read Alma 32:21.
1. The second thing one needs to have in order to obtain faith: HOPE.
2. As members of the Church, I hope we live our lives and present the Gospel message in a way that people hope that it is true. I think we have a very hopeful message.
IV. The process of obtaining faith.
A. Read Alma 32:26.
1. Joseph Fielding McConkie said, “ Ye cannot know of their surety at first. There are no shortcuts to a testimony of the gospel. We cannot fully understand principles that we have not lived. "If any man will do his will," the Savior declared, "he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17). An understanding of the principles of salvation does not come, in an instant. The idea is demeaning to the principles involved. Joseph Smith did not come out of the Sacred Grove knowing all that was necessary for his salvation. He, like Christ, found it necessary to advance from grace to grace. To suppose that at some sort of a religious revival we can obtain all the knowledge necessary to be saved vulgarizes true religion. The divine injunction, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, is that we seek learning "even by study, and also by faith." This that we might "grow up" in the knowledge of God and that we might "receive a fulness of the Holy Ghost." (D&C 109:14-15.) Similarly, Paul admonished us to "grow up into [Christ] in all things" (Ephesians 4:15). "The things of God," said the Prophet, "are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out."
B. Read Alma 32:27.
1. In a way we are being scientific in our search for faith. The search for spiritual truth is not, however, true science and it never will be. This is because science only deals in things that can be objectively observed and measured. We can not measure the “swelling in our breast” we receive from the gospel.
2. Also, science has to be reliably reproducible. Although I believe that anyone who is truely humble can experiment with the Word of God and know it is true, individual’s experiences are often different.
a. It took Brigham Young several years after he first read the Book of Mormon before he had enough faith to be baptized.
b. As missionaries part of our job was trying to help people feel and recognize the spirit. During my mission there was an elder who told his investigators that experiencing the spirit was getting "the chills." I was his zone leader at the time and we had to let him know that although some people may get goose flesh when they feel the spirit, it is not the only way it is experienced. It is an individual experience and varies.
C. Read Alma 32:28.
1. What is the “Word” Alma compares to a seed?
a. Maurine Jensen Proctor said, “What is the word? In one sense, of course, it is the gospel, its teachings and scriptures. Live the gospel, he said, and begin to see if the fruit of it does not swell "within your breasts" (Alma 32:28). In a larger sense, however, the word refers to Jesus Christ. John tells us: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1). Amulek tells us that the word is in the Son of God (Alma 34:5). That the word is the Son of God is further emphasized in the idea that if it is nourished with great care, it grows up to be what? Not just any old bush or tree, but the tree of life, whose fruit "is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white"”
b. So the word is the gospel, but more specifically it is Jesus Christ, and even more specifically - His atonement.
D. Read Alma 32:29-30.
1. After the seed has grown in our hearts we know it is a good seed. We now have: FAITH.
E. Read Alma 32:33-34.
1. After faith comes: KNOWLEDGE
F. Read Alma 32:37-41.
1. What do we have to do to nourish our faith? Works.
2. Spencer W. Kimball said, “The exercising of faith is a willingness to accept without total regular proof and to go forward and perform works. ‘Faith without works is dead’ (James 2:26), and a dead faith will not lead one to move forward to adjust a life or to serve valiantly. A real faith pushes one forward to contructive and beneficial acts as though he know in absoluteness.”
3. After we have obtained faith and knowledge we need to nourish our faith through: WORKS.
G. Read Alma 32:41-42.
1. What is the fruit of faith? He describes the fruit of the Tree of Life here. The fruit of faith is salvation.
V. Here is an example of someone who went through this process. From Don L. Searle, “The Book Convinced Him,” Ensign, Mar 1990, 50
An Italian scientist set out to investigate the Church. The Book of Mormon passed his tests—and changed his life.
For Mario Ottaviano, the answer was simple: No, his children would not take the religion classes at their school in Rome. An atheist, and a son and grandson of atheists, he believed in no religion.
But soon his children were coming home from school crying. They were the only ones in their school not taking the classes—the only ones who claimed no religion at all. Other pupils taunted them about their lack of belief. They wanted him at least to list some religion for them, even if they didn’t take the religion classes.
And so began Doctor Ottaviano’s search for the right church for his children. He had no intention of being involved with any religion himself. But his search would soon awaken a faith he had not thought possible in himself.
The doctor, a noted researcher in biophysical genetic engineering, approached the matter scientifically. He began by reviewing information about all the churches listed in a large catalog produced by the Vatican. In the entire catalog, he found no church whose beliefs seemed to stand the test of logic. They were “empty,” he recalls—basically churches of men.
His methodical search occupied months of his spare time. Finally, in a small book in his own library, he found a reference to the Book of Mormon and to a Mormon church. He checked his encyclopedia “to find out what Mormonism was, and who was this Mister Joseph Smith.” Information in his encyclopedia was sketchy. A friend, a professor of religious history, assured him that it was a Marxist church. But Doctor Ottaviano was a leading Italian Marxist himself; he held educational positions in communist-affiliated organizations and was the founder of an Italian-Soviet educational and cultural exchange organization. He did not see how any religion could coexist with Marxism.
It was another friend, a teacher at the University of Naples, who gave the doctor some literature that explained basic beliefs of the Latter-day Saints. This material told him that God the Father and Jesus Christ are separate beings and both have corporeal bodies. “I felt it was true,” he recalls. “No one had ever told me you should kneel down to pray, but I did it spontaneously.” He felt he should learn more. “So then I began to search for this church. Where was the Mormon church?”
He found an address for a local LDS chapel, and he and his youngest child, Marco, visited there one Sunday morning. After making inquiries, he was introduced to two missionaries. He asked them to come teach their religion to his children—“only for my children, not for me and my wife.” His wife, Stefania, also did not believe in any religion. As a researcher in a cancer ward for infants and children, she had been horrified by many of the things she had seen. Without understanding of the purposes of life (the church of her childhood had no answers for her), she refused to exercise faith in a god who would let such things happen to little children.
Doctor Ottaviano made it clear to his son and daughters that if they understood and believed what the missionaries taught, they could choose to be baptized in this church. But he intended to maintain his tradition of noninvolvement in matters of faith.
At first, the doctor stayed out of the missionary discussions at his home. He listened a bit at the missionaries’ invitation, but when he was invited to participate, he declined, telling them that “it would be like a cat playing with a mouse.” He found them “full of faith, but they lacked knowledge on many things.” He made it plain that they were not on his level intellectually and educationally. Was there anyone in their church prepared to answer his questions? Yes, they replied, he should meet their mission president.
That meeting did not take place for some time, but Doctor Ottaviano and his wife listened to more of the discussions. She was initially more receptive than he because of her early religious training, but within a short time he found himself reading the Book of Mormon.
In the course of his study, he subjected the Book of Mormon to various tests he considered scientific. In one twelve-hour period, for example, he read it from cover to cover, beginning at the back and making detailed notes designed to show him whether the book maintained its internal consistency. It did.
On occasion he would take small sections of the Book of Mormon to learned friends—theologians, or scientists familiar with ancient texts—and ask them what they thought. They assured him the texts were authentic; from what ancient source did they come? The doctor did not tell his friends the source, since they would probably scoff at a book connected with one particular church. But he assured them that one day he would show them the book from which these passages came, and they could come to recognize the truth in it as he had.
On 4 December 1986, the day of his two daughters’ baptism (Sahara and Ljoya had reached baptismal age, but son Marco had not), Doctor Ottaviano first met Dwight B. Williams, then president of the Italy Rome Mission. Three days later they had the first of what would be many doctrinal discussions. President Williams had no problem handling questions at Doctor Ottaviano’s own intellectual level, and sometimes the discussions would go on for hours.
The doctor became so earnest in his investigation of the Church that he quit his job and suspended his connections with Marxist institutes and associations, telling them that he would be indefinitely occupied and would not have time to be involved. His family lived on his savings and income from investments, in addition to his wife’s salary, for months while he devoted hours each day to studying of the gospel.
There came a day when President Williams told him that he had studied long enough; it was time to seek the help of the Holy Spirit in knowing the truth. But the doctor had already reached this conclusion on his own. “By now, all of my theological questions had been answered, and I was studying a bit of the structure of the Church.” He realized that his intellectual reaction to the young missionaries who had taught his children had not shown the humility required when one is weighing eternal truths. He knew it was time to stop seeking scientific proofs of the gospel and to begin examining it with the heart.
Doctor Ottaviano recalls clearly the instant when he realized that he had a testimony of the Book of Mormon. He had been bedeviling a young sister missionary with questions during an intense discussion, and she slammed the book down on the table in disgust at his hard-headedness. It pained him to see her treat the book that way, because he knew it was the word of God. The next day, he went to his friend, President Williams, and set a baptismal date. He was baptized on 18 March 1987. Stefania was baptized two months later.
At times she had marveled at the intensity of her husband’s scrutiny of the gospel. How strange that it should take him away from the scientific studies he enjoyed so much! And he wondered, after his baptism, how his fellow Marxists would accept his decision. But when another Church member asked him if he planned to continue in his communist affiliations, Brother Ottaviano replied that of course he could not, because, after all, Marxism had previously been his religion.
Looking back on the beginning of his search for a religion for his children, he believes it was appropriate that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was not listed in that catalog of religions he studied at first.
“We are not a religion” in the same sense as those churches founded by men, he testifies. “We are the true faith.” As such, he says, the Church does not need to be classified with religions of the world. It stands alone.
VI. Conclusion - I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know that by doing what Alma said - planting the hope of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in our hearts, and nourishing this hope, we can develop faith in Jesus Christ and eventually knowledge and salvation.
McConkie, Joseph Fielding and Millet, Robert L.
Proctor, Maurine Jensen - Meridian Magazine
Serle, Don L. - Ensign, March 1990 50