Book of Mormon Lesson 30
“The Great Plan of Happiness.”
A. Today we will be continuing Alma’s counsel to his son Corianton.
1. Alma spends 2 chapters (albeit long chapters) counseling his son Helaman. He is passing the torch to Helaman. He then spends one short chapter talking to his son Shiblon - almost a pat on the head. But then he spends 4 long chapters counseling his son Corianton, and it is in these chapters that we learn some of the most wonderful details about the plan of salvation and of God’s justice and mercy.
a. Why do you think Alma spent so much time talking to Corianton? He had committed a great sin and needed the most help.
b. Can you parents who have had children who have made mistakes understand this?
2. Remember that in chapter 39 Alma gives Corianton a very harsh reprimand for going “after the harlot Isabel.” (One of only a handful of women mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon.) In Chapter 40 it appears that he abruptly changes the subject saying, “Now my son, here is somewhat more I would say unto thee; for I perceive that thy mind is worried concerning the resurrection of the dead.” Why the sudden shift in subject? Why does Alma spend the next 3 chapters talking about the plan of salvation to his son who was morally unclean?
B. The plan of salvation.
1. Plan of Salvation outline. This is the visual aid I used on my mission to teach the 4th discussion. Although this is rather cartoonish and most of us have known this plan since we were children, this was wonderful, new information for the people I taught on my mission.
2. Neal A. Maxwell: “The Lord has described his plan of redemption as the Plan of Happiness. …Conversationally, we reference this great design almost too casually at times; we even sketch its rude outlines on chalkboards and paper as if it were the floor plan for an addition to one’s house. However, when we really take time to ponder the Plan, it is breathtaking and overpowering!”
3. These chapters we are about to read are one of the few places in the Book of Mormon where doctrine is presented that is not clearly taught in the Bible. I once heard a non-Mormon religious scholar say that if you want to know what Mormon’s believe that is different from the rest of Christianity, you shouldn’t read the Book of Mormon but the Doctrine and Covenants. I would have to agree for the most part. Most of the “doctrine” taught in the Book of Mormon is just explaining and reemphasizing things that are taught in the Bible. These chapters are the exception. This is where we learn about Spirit Prison and Paradise and what will happen at the resurrection.
C. When I was 17 years old the Church was not that important to me. I was more interested in my friends and other activities. I wasn’t living the gospel to it’s fullest. Then one day for seminary we had an activity where we broke up into groups and took turns going into one of 4 classrooms where the different seminary teachers played characters from each of the 4 degrees of glory. One of the rooms was Outer Darkness. They had the lights low and Brother Duncan was dressed in black and told us how when he was on the earth he was a leader in the church who had received revelations of the truth of the gospel but then became angry with the church and actively fought against it and spread lies about it. We then went to the Telestial Kingdom, where Brother Gardner had beer bottles spread on his desk and was dressed in an AC-DC T-shirt. He told us how when he was on his mission he snuck out of his apartment one night and slept with a divorce’ they had been teaching and never repented. We then went to the Terrestrial Kingdom - I can’t remember how they portrayed the Terrestrial guy - probably a good guy who rejected the gospel. Then we went to the Celestial Kingdom and Brother Dunham was there with his family, all of them dressed in white (he actually had his wife and kids there). He pointed out that this was the only kingdom where there were families. I can’t remember everything that they said that day, but I remember walking out of seminary terrified that I was going to get hit by a car that day, before I was ready. I didn’t want to be in one of those lower kingdoms. It motivated me to repent and do better.
1. I think that is what Alma is doing here with Corianton. One of the best ways to motivate people to repent is to remind them that there are eternal consequences to the choices we make in this life.
II. Who made the resurrection possible
A. Read Alma 40:2-3. Alma makes it clear from the beginning that the resurrection and the entire plan of salvation is dependent on the Savior.
B. Read Alma 40:4-5, 8, 20. Alma admits that he does not know all the details or chronology of the resurrection, just that it will happen.
1. What lesson can we learn from the fact that Alma does not seem too bothered that he doesn’t know all the details about the resurrection?
a. With all we know about God’s plan and the gospel, there are still many more things we don’t know or understand. We shouldn’t spend too much time trying to fill in the blanks ourselves. We should feel comfortable say “I don’t know” sometimes.
C. Read Alma 40:11-14.
1. Alma explains that immediately after death there will be a judgement and we will be designated to go to Paradise or Spirit Prison. He describes Hell, but what is new is that this is not a permanent state. Just until the resurrection.
2. Parley P. Pratt said: “the Spirit World is not the heaven where Jesus Christ, His Father and other beings dwell, who have, by resurrection or tradition, ascended to eternal mansions and been crowned and seated on thrones of power; but it is an intermediate state, a probation, a place of preparation, improvement, instruction, or education, where spirits are chastened or improved, and where, if found worthy, they may be taught a knowledge of the Gospel. In short, it is a place where the Gospel is preached, and where faith, repentance, hope and charity may be exercised, a place of waiting for the resurrection or redemption of the body; while, to those who deserve it, it is a place of punishment, or purgatory or hell, where spirits are buffeted till the day of redemption. As to its location, it is here on the very planet where we were born.”
D. Read Alma 40:23.
III. The Justice of God.
A. Read Alma 41:3-4.
B. Read Alma 41:6-8. It is interesting that Alma says we will be our “own judges.” The judgement is not God deciding if we were good enough. We just are who we are.
C. Read Alma 41:9. We see the point Alma is trying to make with Corianton. “Don’t risk one more offence” because there are eternal consequences for your actions.
D. Read Alma 41:10. What does it mean “wickedness never was happiness.” There seem to be a lot of wicked people who sure seem happy.
E. He then explains what Restoration means. Read Alma 41:13. We will be restored to the state in which we have placed ourselves - not restored to a perfect state unless we take advantage of the Atonement.
F. Read Alma 41:14-15.
1. What hope does this offer Corianton?
2. How does “restoration more fully condemneth the sinner and justifyieth him not at all”?
IV. Mercy and Justice
A. Read Alma 42:4. What is this probationary time? This life.
B. Read Alma 42:12-16. How can mercy and justice co-exist? Only through the atonement.
C. Read Alma 42:24-25.
V. We should let our sins trouble us.
A. Read Alma 42:29-30. Are we sometimes to eager to forgive ourselves and to dismiss the mistakes we have made? We don’t believe in “cheap grace.” Not only are there consequences in the after life for our choices, but in this life. We do have to truly humble ourselves in order to receive forgiveness.
VI. We learn in the next chapter that Alma and his sons continue their missionary work - presumably with Corianton. So we have to assume that Alma’s sermon to Corianton was successful, that he did realize the eternal consequences of his sins and her repented. I hope that Alma’s word’s can do the same for us and motivate us to repent and want to be better people.