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Lesson Plan on Alma 5-7



A ton has happened in a short period among the Nephites. We have a new Church established, a new system of government established, and a lot of wars and cultural tremors in the space of not many years; over a few decades (more quick comments on that below). The Book of Alma is the largest in the Book of Mormon and it only covers 40ish years of Nephite history. What might account for Mormon zooming so far into this period?

The Book of Mormon largely zooms in on the last 100 years before the Savior came to the earth and visited the Nephites. In other words, we might say Mormon zooms in on the Nephites "last days" before the Lord's first coming. Therefore, there are many lessons for us as we live in the latter days.

As for the structure of The Book of Alma, Dr. Joseph Spencer has discovered a very interesting overall structure that can help inform how we read the book. The study can be found here.

In short, the Book of Alma can be split in half and the two halves mirror each other in narrative structure. Why does this matter? These ancient literary devices were calculated to help the reader draw more application and theological insight out of the text. It also shows, in the words of Elder Maxwell, how much depth has yet to be excavated in The Book of Mormon. A compare and contrast between these narrative parallels are Alma's way to put deep meaning into the text. In the words of Elder Boyd K. Packer, "We are to find them; we are to earn them. In that way sacred things are hidden from the insincere." (1)

Now for some important and edifying context.

Alma the Elder, under the direction of King Mosiah, establishes the first Nephite Church of Christ in their 500-year history up to this point (see 3 Nephi 5:12). Elder Christofferson explains how they were organized religiously before this Church:

"Beginning with Adam, the gospel of Jesus Christ was preached, and the essential ordinances of salvation, such as baptism, were administered through a family-based priesthood order. As societies grew more complex than simply extended families, God also called other prophets, messengers, and teachers. In Moses’s time, we read of a more formal structure, including elders, priests, and judges. In Book of Mormon history, Alma established a church with priests and teachers." (2)

It was a temple-centered/family-centered priesthood order, which might help us see just how novel and new this Church from Alma was. It helps inform why the seeming pushback from so many so quickly. It also explains some confusing things in Alma chapters 7, 12, 13, and others in how people had experienced and entered into the "Holy Order" before this new Church, but more on that in a bit. A new system of government and a new ecclesiastical organization was a lot for society to adjust to after 500ish years of something different. 

We read a couple of weeks ago about Alma the Younger's conversion experience from when he openly persecuted this new Church for a decade or two. This persecution had much of its roots in this lack of homogeny among the Nephite people during this time of great societal change and large influxes of new people. The Mulekites had connections with Jaredite ideas and a claim to the throne of Zarahemla being the literal descendants of King David. The divisive political beliefs and false doctrines, probably, have much of their origin within the Mulekite side of the population. Alma the Younger embraces such beliefs for a time and then after his conversion will spend the rest of his life counteracting the false teachings of Nehor, Amlici, and others.

We learn in Mosiah 25:2 that the majority of the inhabitants of Zarahemla and the Nephite lands were actually Mulekites. When you consider this predicament and a large influx from the people of Limhi and Alma, you begin to see why even King Mosiah saw a need to put in a new system of government and implement this newly organized Church to all the Nephites. King Noah, the contentious history of the Mulekites, and King Mosiah's sons dedicating their lives to teaching the Lamanites all combine together to create a need for a new system of government.

An item of interest is how the system of government in the Book of Mormon is an exact chiasmus reflection of what we find in the Old Testament (see photos above, from Grant Hardy's Annotated Book of Mormon, Oxford Printing Press). This provides us a satisfying arc showing the eventual fulfillment of the law of Moses and a return to the Lord's presence among the Lord's covenant people. It is a brilliant literary device that shows the careful crafting of the narrative by Mormon and others.

An additional introductory note to help us make sense of Alma's words we read this past week and will read in the coming weeks:

Alma uses the term "Holy Order" several times just in these chapters and many times in his sermons that follow. It will help to define what that term means to better understand things. Robert Millet has described what this term means, it is a short term for "the Holy Priesthood, after the order of the Son of God" (see D&C 107:3):

"We have generally understood that we enter into the holy order of God through receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood, inasmuch as the full name of this sacred authority is "the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God' (D&C 107:3). At another level, we encounter the holy order of God through receiving the ordinances of the temple, through receiving the endowment and the blessings of eternal marriage. I would suggest the possibility that the scriptures speak of an additional and ultimate way of entering the holy order—through receiving the promise and seal of eternal life, through receiving what the scriptures and the prophets call the "fulness of the priesthood" (see D&C 124:28)" (3)

President Ezra Taft Benson succinctly summarizes it:

"To enter into the order of the Son of God is the equivalent today of entering into the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is only received in the house of the Lord." (4)

Therefore, we can see the House of the Lord more plainly in these teachings from Alma. We all encounter this Holy Order through the ordinances of the priesthood, especially within the temple and within the sealing ordinances thereof. It also highlights where Alma's authority comes from; it comes from the keys, powers, ordinances, and rites he had received within the House of the Lord. While the Church at this time was relatively new among the Nephites, it still has its roots in the more ancient authority and power received in the House of the Lord.

It also presents to us a predicament the Nephites faced that is foreign to us. Considering the truths articulated above, there were probably many Nephites who had made holy covenants in the Lord's House but were not members of the Lord's Church yet (see Alma 7:15 & 22; Alma's audience had been received into the Holy Order before they were baptized in the Church). This agrees with President J. Reuben Clark Jr., who once said, "The priesthood can exist without the Church, but the Church cannot exist without the priesthood." (4) They might have made covenants with the Lord in sacred places but have long grown stale over a few decades. This new Church is breathing new life into these individuals and offering a new baptism like John the Baptist did in the New Testament. Interestingly, Alma shares similar words as John the Baptist in Alma 7:9. There were, probably, also many who were too young or not born yet to have heard King Benjamin's speech (see Mosiah 26:1). These individuals probably had made no previous covenants with the Lord. Therefore, you have Alma teaching a mixture of these people throughout this entire book, but, ultimately, trying to draw them to renew their commitment to Christ. It also explains how many of the apostates in Alma's day were not members of the Church but appeared to be very familiar with not just the law of Moses but also the rituals of the Holy Order within Nephite Temples.

As we read in the previous week, there was a large war that was spurred by Amlici who dissented from the Nephites. He was probably a Mulekite or at least believed he probably had a right to reinstate monarchy and become king. This war was the deadliest among the Nephites up to this point in their history. Also, we learned that the Church began to become lifted up and adopt some of the philosophies of Nehor in chapter 4. The record goes so far as to say the Church becomes a hindrance to the growth of the kingdom. This is why Alma the Younger (he is an older grown man at this point) steps down as the chief judge to focus solely on his role as the High Priest. 


Alma began teaching in Zarahemla 42 years after King Benjamin had given his speech in the same city. It is interesting how quickly things ebbed and flowed just in a few decades. This number 42 means this sermon was given in the 6th sabbatical year after King Benjamin's speech given at the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles and the Day of Atonement (John W. Welch, Inspirations & Insights From The Book of Mormon, p. 153). Alma quotes heavily King Benjamin's sermon as some were probably alive then, but also seeks covenant renewal for members of this newer Church. It is highly likely, therefore, that Alma gave this sermon in Zarahemla during these same Jewish Festivals which would have made his teachings all the more poignant to his listeners.

Alma, to have people introspect on their relationship to the Messiah, asks about 50 rhetorical questions in this chapter. When we skip ahead to chapter 7 Alma admits he was in a state of much sorrow and affliction because of the issues the inhabitants of Zarahemla faced. He actually lists the issues the people in Zarahemla had before he taught them in chapter 5; these included:

  1. Unbelief
  2. Lifted up in pride
  3. Heats set upon riches and vain things of the world
  4. Idol worship
(see Alma 7:6)

When we read these 50 questions with these "sins" in mind, we might be better able to see where we might need strengthening in our lives against these things, with the help of the Savior.

In the spirit of efficiency, I have below these 50 questions separated out by themes (big shout out to John W. Welch for doing this). I will have the class divide into 8 groups and assign each of them one of the clusters of questions Alma asks.

As your group reviews these questions, think of these words by Elder Dale G. Renlund:

"Alma poses a series of questions that figuratively biopsy spiritually changed hearts.... By honestly answering questions like these, we can correct early deviations from the strait and narrow path and keep our covenants with exactness." (5) 

(Biopsy means obtaining a sample of tissue for laboratory analysis)

After about 5-10 minutes of self-reflection and discussion among your group members open up a full class discussion on the following questions:


How are you stirred by these questions? For better or worse? What insights into your heart did you gain as you pondered these questions?

Elder Neal A. Maxwell provides us keen insight as we deal with soul-searching questions like this:

"We can distinguish more clearly between divine discontent and the devil’s dissonance, between dissatisfaction with self and disdain for self. We need the first and must shun the second, remembering that when conscience calls to us from the next ridge, it is not solely to scold but also to beckon." (6)

"The Lord loves each of us too much to merely let us go on being what we now are, for he knows what we have the possibility to become! It is all part of the journey of going home. Developmentally, we are all prodigals. When we really “come to” ourselves, spiritually, we, too, will say with determination, “I will arise and go to my father” (Luke 15:18)... Since Christ is risen from the grave, let us not be dead as to the things of the Spirit! How can we celebrate the empty tomb with empty lives? How can we celebrate His victory over death by being defeated by the world?" (7)

Another point of interest is when Alma speaks about how he gained his own knowledge of the Savior and the truthfulness of the gospel; through many days of prayer and fasting (see Alma 5:45-47). I have always found it interesting that Alma must be referring to a separate spiritual experience from his experience with the angel and the sons of Mosiah because that only took place over two days (see Mosiah 27:23). "Many days" versus "two days"? It appears, in other words, that even after that miraculous experience in Mosiah chapter 27 Alma still fasted and prayed for many days to know of himself the truthfulness of the gospel. Perhaps we might surmise that Alma had initially a flash of light with the gospel and then, like all of us, got to a point where he had to nourish his own faith in the Savior through a lifetime of prayer, study, fasting, worship, and service. The Book of Mormon goes through these events quickly, but there were a few decades between Alma's initial conversion and this point as High Priest over the Church in Alma chapter 5. Perhaps Alma is more like us in our spirituality than we sometimes think?

Alma chapter 6 is very short and recounts, quickly, what happens in Zarahemla post sermon. Priests, teachers, and Elders are ordained (in the Book of Mormon, Priests and Teachers are offices of the Melchizedek Priesthood). We are also told that all who believed and did not belong to the church were baptized into the Church. Interestingly, we are not told how many were baptized. Maybe the fruit of this sermon was not as impressive as others in Alma's ministry? A sign of a growing hard-hearted group in Zarahemla? We are also told that those who were already members and refused to repent were excommunicated. Again, we see members of the church changing loyalty to other worldviews and beliefs rather quickly in Zarahemla.


John W. Welch notes that this chapter is towards the people in the city of Gideon who were faithful and endured many hardships. As noted in the introduction, these are the ones where many were not necessarily baptized but had long-honored temple covenants and/or were among the people of Limhi who made covenants earlier but had nobody with the authority to administer baptism to them. Alma rewards them, therefore, with a more expansive understanding of the atoning powers of Jesus Christ (John W. Welch, Inspirations & Insights From The Book of Mormon, p. 153).

After recounting the awful situation the people in Zarahemla were in, Alma begins to prophesy to the people. I imagine that would have been very exciting to hear as he foretells the coming of the Messiah just decades from that time. He goes so far as to tell the people of Gideon the name of Jesus's mother in verse 10, the only other place in the Book of Mormon that is given is during King Benjamin's speech in Mosiah chapter 3. In short, we get a sense that the faithfulness of these Gideon Saints was probably on par with the Faithfulness of King Benjamin's people.

The heart of this sermon is found in verses 11-15.

READ ALMA 7:11-15

"11 And [Christ] shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

14 Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.

15 Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism."


From the manual, it is one thing to believe that the Savior suffered for you. But how does His suffering make a difference in your everyday life? What are some other ways He comes to your aid? When have you experienced His help?

Elder Merrill J. Bateman has taught the deepness of the doctrine Alma teaches in this chapter:

"For many years I thought of the Savior’s experience in the garden and on the cross as places where a large mass of sin was heaped upon Him. Through the words of Alma, Abinadi, Isaiah, and other prophets, however, my view has changed. Instead of an impersonal mass of sin, there was a long line of people, as Jesus felt “our infirmities” (Heb. 4:15), “[bore] our griefs, … carried our sorrows … [and] was bruised for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:4–5). The Atonement was an intimate, personal experience in which Jesus came to know how to help each of us. The Pearl of Great Price teaches that Moses was shown all the inhabitants of the earth, which were “numberless as the sand upon the sea shore” (Moses 1:28). If Moses beheld every soul, then it seems reasonable that the Creator of the universe has the power to become intimately acquainted with each of us. He learned about your weaknesses and mine. He experienced your pains and sufferings. He experienced mine. I testify that He knows us. He understands the way in which we deal with temptations. He knows our weaknesses. But more than that, more than just knowing us, He knows how to help us if we come to Him in faith." (8)

John W. Welch explains what the word succor means:

"What does the word succor mean? The root of this word is "-cor", which means "to run" as in the word courier, a runner. The prefix "-suc" comes from the Latin preposition "sub", meaning from beneath or below, as in the word support, meaning "to carry" from beneath. "To succor", then, means to run to a person to give strength and help from a foundation below." (Inspirations & Insights From The Book of Mormon, p. 156-157)

We more often talk about the Savior running to us, and that is very comforting. What we miss is that the term succor assumes that he has descended below us to catch us! Even further, this echoes the truth taught us in Helaman 5:12 in how the Savior is the rock we build our foundation upon. It was Elder David A. Bednar who pointed out this past General conference the following:

"Please note in this verse that the Savior is not the foundation. Rather, we are admonished to build our personal spiritual foundation upon Him." (9)

In other words, Christ is the rock. He succors "His people" (see Alma 7:12), or, in the words of Isaiah, Abinadi, and King Benjamin, He succors "His seed"... "His children". He is the rock that we build our foundation upon. In the Book of Mormon, we have already learned that Christ's children make and keep covenants with him, particularly those associated with the ordinances of the Lord's House.

Christ as our rock from whom we gain succor had temple imagery anciently. Ancient Israelites, maybe even Nephites familiar with temple worship, understood that the Holy of Holies of Solomon's temple had the ark of the covenant (or throne of God) placed upon the foundation stone. This foundation stone is a literal stone and resides at the center of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem currently. (10) Underneath this stone was/is a well known as "the well of souls." Ancient Jews believed this well and stone was the place where the creation of the world began, but it also holds fantastic symbolism for Christ. He, again, is the rock and water that gives us support and succor as we sit upon royal thrones within holy places. Alma, Helamen, Nephi, and others often invoke this symbol to convey the power of Jesus Christ in our lives.

I also, personally, love how these verses and Elder Bateman's comment above inform our understanding of the Atonement of Christ as it relates to ministering. In essence, Alma and others have plainly taught that Christ ministered to our infirmities, sorrows, griefs, and afflictions on a one-by-one basis. It might inform how we see ministering efforts if we understood the suffering descent of Christ as a very personal and intimate ministering act. It is part of the covenantal relationship we have with Him to become "saviors on Mount Zion" (see Obadiah 1:21). It might be part of what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him" (see 2 Timothy 2:12).


In the spirit of Alma 7, there is much for us to learn and understand about the Savior. We accomplish that as we give our commitment to Christ by making and keeping sacred covenants with Him, as verses 14-15 explain. He runs, succors, and supports "his people" for the specific purpose that they will also become co-participants in the salvation of souls, one by one.

Elder Michael John U. Teh has given poignant comments on what it means to know the Savior more:
"I am realizing that how intimately I know the Savior significantly influences my ability to hear Him as well as how I respond. A few years ago, Elder David A. Bednar asked the following questions as part of his remarks: “Do we only know about the Savior, or are we increasingly coming to know Him? How do we come to know the Lord?” As I studied and pondered, I came to the stark realization that what I know about the Savior greatly outweighed how much I really know Him." (11) 

May we also come to realize that Christ came to know us intimately during the agonizing atonement. We might know more about the Savior than actually know the Savior. To intimately know Him requires us to minister to others, just like he did on that first Easter Weekend.

To these privileged Saints in Gideon, Alma ends this sermon with an apostolic blessing. This is something he did not do in Zarahelma based on the audience. Many, myself included, probably don't comprehend the power and authority invoked by such pronouncements. They are not just a nice way to end a sermon or a general conference talk. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said we should consider such collective verbal pronouncement of blessings "as if [his] hands were on your head." (12) 

Therefore, as you read scriptures like the following or hear such blessings from one who holds apostolic keys, consider it as efficacious as a personal priesthood blessing when hands are laid upon your head. I don't think it is too far of a stretch to say that Alma's apostolic blessing here has equal application for us!

READ ALMA 7:25-27

"25 And may the Lord bless you, and keep your garments spotless, that ye may at last be brought to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the holy prophets who have been ever since the world began, having your garments spotless even as their garments are spotless, in the kingdom of heaven to go no more out.

26 And now my beloved brethren, I have spoken these words unto you according to the Spirit which testifieth in me; and my soul doth exceedingly rejoice, because of the exceeding diligence and heed which ye have given unto my word.

27 And now, may the peace of God rest upon you, and upon your houses and lands, and upon your flocks and herds, and all that you possess, your women and your children, according to your faith and good works, from this time forth and forever. And thus I have spoken. Amen."


Have you ever been blessed by an apostolic blessing? Or any blessing from a priesthood leader that did something similar?

Alma pronounces powerful blessings upon the people of Gideon. In our day, the President of the Church pronounces similar blessings and promises often in General Conference. The most recent explicit apostolic blessing we have was from President Nelson a few years ago at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the following:

"During this time of tension and uncertainty, and invoking the authority vested in me, I would like to confer upon you an apostolic blessing. I bless you with peace and increasing faith in the Lord. I bless you with a desire to repent and become a little more like Him each day. I bless you to know that the Prophet Joseph Smith is the prophet of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness. Should there be illness among you or your loved ones, I leave a blessing of healing, consistent with the will of the Lord. I so bless you, adding once more my expression of love for each of you, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen. (13)


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