Alma 42


 



MDC Contents

 

 

 Alma 42:1

1  And now, my son, I perceive there is somewhat more which doth worry your mind, which ye cannot understand—which is concerning the justice of God in the punishment of the sinner; for ye do try to suppose that it is injustice that the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery.

 

As Alma continues dealing with Corianton’s questions he comes to the question of punishment. One of the aspects of the order of Nehor, as we have seen, is the presumption of universal salvation. A corollary to this is the presumption of an absence of punishment. Nephi had prophesied that mankind would have the tendency to downplay the eternal consequences of their actions:

 

2 Nephi 28:7-8

7 Yea, and there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us.

8 And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.

 

Corianton had apparently adopted some of this attitude, and Alma needs to let him understand what the proper relationship is between our earthly actions and the heavenly consequences. It would also appear that the question about God’s judgment had taken on a legal/philosophical dimension, since the issue becomes not simply the presence of punishment, but the justice of God’s punishment. Corianton’s argument appears to be that it would be unjust to consign a sinner to hell, or a “state of misery.” Thus the attitude current at that time was not simply a desire to downplay the penalties of actions, but an expansion of the doctrine of universal salvation. All were to be saved because it would be unjust of God to deny salvation to some, and particularly unjust to consign them to misery instead of happiness.

 

Alma 42:2

2  Now behold, my son, I will explain this thing unto thee.  For behold, after the Lord God sent our first parents forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground, from whence they were taken—yea, he drew out the man, and he placed at the east end of the garden of Eden, cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the tree of life—

Alma 42:3

3  Now, we see that the man had become as God, knowing good and evil; and lest he should put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat and live forever, the Lord God placed cherubim and the flaming sword, that he should not partake of the fruit—

 

To explain the justice of God in the judgment process, Alma begins with the Garden. This is the appropriate beginning as this is the place where the conditions were created that will require judgment. Alma’s first description reviews the essential event after the eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; the expulsion from the Garden, and the prohibition of approaching the Tree of Life. In the symbol system of the Garden, these are two mutually exclusive trees, we can have the one, but not the other.

 

Alma 42:4

4  And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God.

Alma 42:5

5  For behold, if Adam had put forth his hand immediately, and partaken of the tree of life, he would have lived forever, according to the word of God, having no space for repentance; yea, and also the word of God would have been void, and the great plan of salvation would have been frustrated.

 

Alma makes an interesting tie to his last discussion of the time between death and resurrection. He moves that imagery from the future to the past and applies it to Adam. Just as there is a time between death and resurrection, there is a time between Adam’s expulsion and death. Alma is suggesting that the interval time is important. In this case, it is important because it gives room for repentance. The logic of Alma’s statement is that without that space, there could be no repentance. How could that be true?

 

The logic comes in the understanding of living forever. If Adam had eaten again of the Tree of Life he would have lived forever. This is part of the definition of resurrection, part of the eternal promise. However, if he had done so his earthly state could not have changed. For Alma, the change in state from mortal to immortal is the symbol of repentance as a change of mental/emotional state. Had Adam partaken of the fruit of the Tree of Life it would somehow have short circuited the plan of redemption, made void the need for a Savior, and Adam would have been immortal, but without an Atonement that could remove sin just as the mortal body is removed in death.

 

Alma 42:6

6  But behold, it was appointed unto man to die—therefore, as they were cut off from the tree of life they should be cut off from the face of the earth—and man became lost forever, yea, they became fallen man.

 

This is the description of our mortal existence. What does it mean to be “lost forever”? Notice that Alma is describing a particular condition. That condition is the expulsion from the Garden and the necessity of death. What Alma has not yet brought into the equation is the Atonement. For this short rhetorical period, Alma is describing a world that is post-Eden, and pre-Atonement. In that particular condition, that of death and no atonement to reconcile death and sin, then men are truly “lost forever” because both death and sin will keep them from their God. They have fallen from God’s presence, and are “lost” to that presence forever (with the big “unless” coming in his next argument).

 

Alma 42:7

7  And now, ye see by this that our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own will.

Alma 42:8

8  Now behold, it was not expedient that man should be reclaimed from this temporal death, for that would destroy the great plan of happiness.

 

The conditions Alma is describing, post-Eden/pre-atonement, provide two conditions. The first is the ability of “follow after their own will.” This ability is the direct of result of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. With the ability to distinguish good and evil, Adam and Eve are now enabled with agency. Their choices may have meaning because they may be associated with the recognition of true choice in their actions.

 

This benefit of choice had a price, however, which was the possibility of sin. When Alma suggests that it was “not expedient that man should be reclaimed from this temporal death, for that would destroy the great plan of happiness,” he is commenting on the prohibition of eating from the Tree of Life. Of course it will be expedient that there would be an atonement, but he hasn’t got there yet. This is a restatement of the previous argument that Adam and Eve should not have eaten of the fruit of the Tree of Life so that they would live forever in their sins, a condition that will require the atonement.

 

Alma 42:9

9  Therefore, as the soul could never die, and the fall had brought upon all mankind a spiritual death as well as a temporal, that is, they were cut off from the presence of the Lord, it was expedient that mankind should be reclaimed from this spiritual death.

Alma 42:10

10  Therefore, as they had become carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature, this probationary state became a state for them to prepare; it became a preparatory state.

 

Alma continues to lay out the problem of post-Eden/pre-atonement. The fall from the Garden may have enabled agency, but it also caused physical death, and though sin, the spiritual death of permanent separation from God. In this liminal state in between the fall and the atonement, mankind is “carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature.” Alma is echoing teachings of Jacob:

 

2 Nephi 9:6-9

6 For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord.

7 Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more.

8 O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more.

9 And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.

 

Jacob tells us that in a condition of sin, without the ability to repent, we are fated to become like the devil. This is the argument that Alma is using for his liminal period where he is attempting to emphasize the need for the atonement by describing what it would be like without it. We are “devilish” by nature during this liminal period for precisely the reasons that Jacob gives – the inability to repent moves us inextricably away from God, and therefore toward the devil.

 

Alma 42:11

11  And now remember, my son, if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord.

 

Alma reiterates the problem. Notice that we are in a hypothetical argument here, “if it were not for the plan of redemption.” Alma’s point continues to be made by painting the picture of the world as it would be without the atonement.

 

Alma 42:12

12  And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience;

 

The fallen state and physical death come because of the expulsion from Eden. The spiritual distance from God comes because of man’s disobedience. Thus there is no eternal life, and man’s sins (as a result of being able to exercise agency) will cause the spiritual death.

 

Alma 42:13

13  Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice.  Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.

 

Alma highlights the problem. In this condition, the expulsion from Eden so that they must die, and the exercise of agency whereby the were fated to sin through choice, there was no hope. There was no redemption at this point. Now Alma begins to work his way to the next phase of the argument. He begins to show this as an interim time period. Again we have the analogy to the time between death and resurrection. Alma is using the symbolic time between the expulsion from the Garden and the atonement as model for earth life. This is particularly appropriate for Alma because they conceptually found themselves in precisely that condition. They were living in that interim time between the Fall and the atonement. Thus Alma is describing the way that they see their own time. They are in the conditions of the Fall, and awaiting the resolution of that state through the coming atonement.

 

What Alma suggests is that this liminal period is useful, and it is useful for repentance. The spiritual separation of man from God comes through man’s sins. Thus repentance and turning away from sin will at least remove that barrier from the man (awaiting the atonement for the full removal of the sin before God).

 

One of Alma’s statements is interesting. He suggests that if justice were destroyed, God would cease to be God. This is a remarkable statement because it suggests that God has restrictions placed upon him, and that there is at least a conceivable state in which God might not be God. Of course Alma’s point is that this is an absurd possibility, surely God would not, could not do anything so un-Godlike, but the point still suggests that the nature of God is absolute.

 

The Principle of Eternal Law: One of the unique and important aspects of LDS theology is the understanding that there are eternal laws, and that even God operates within the framework of these eternal laws. The relationship of God to those laws is most readily seen in verses such as this where Alma suggests that there might be a way in which god would cease to be God. To understand this principle, we turn to two different scriptural texts:

 

Mormon 9:19

19 And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being?  And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles. 

 

And for easier reference, the verse under current consideration:

 

Alma 42:13

13  Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice.  Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.

 

Clearly the intent of these scriptures is to point out how unreasonable it would be for God to cease to be God.  Yet the both do so in a way in which certain conditions are set up which would deny God His Godhood.  Mormon tells us that were God to change (that is change in the way he works - not in the sense of progression) that He would cease to be God.  The constancy of action is somehow a critical part of the definition of Godhood.

 

Alma, on the other hand, has a different possibility.  For Alma, Justice is some kind of Eternally Real constant, and to violate the demands of justice would cause God to cease to be God.  In both cases, it underlines the issue that Godhood is a state, and not a person or persons.  The state of Godhood may be achieved by the children of God because there is a Way.  That Way is part of the immutable Reality.  It is a Reality to which even God is subject. This eternal law governs the path of our celestialization.

 

Doctrine and Covenants 88:34-39

36 All kingdoms have a law given;

37 And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.

38 And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.

39 All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified.

 

Regardless of the choices we make, our rewards are governed by aspects of the eternal laws.

 

The Doctrine and Covenants instructs us that: “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated‑‑ And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated”.  DC 130:20-21.  All of our known reality operates under various laws.  There are many that science has discovered, such as laws of gravity and motion.  There are many others that are revealed to us.  Science will never discover those laws, because they pertain to a reality that transcends this earth life, and science if forced by both vision and practice to discover the laws of the universe in which we currently live. Nevertheless, those laws exist, and are laws that govern even God. They do not limit God, but rather enable God. Obedience and harmony with those eternal laws is what allows God to be God.

 

Alma 42:14

14  And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence.

Alma 42:15

15  And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.

 

Now Alma moves to the time of the solution instead of the gap in which the problem is most obvious. Verse 14 gives us the conclusion to the problem aspect of his argument. The fall placed man in a desperate situation. They were subject to physical death, and they were capable (and likely) to sin and therefore distance themselves from God. There was no way around those two problems. They were in the “grasp of justice” because these were consequences of actions that were taken. The action of eating the fruit brought on death (just as God had said) and the actions of agency inevitably brought sin. Since “no unclean thing can dwell with God” (1 Nephi 10:21), our sins also inevitably brought spiritual separation from God, a situation termed spiritual death.

 

Into that bleak picture of justice enters mercy. It was never part of God’s plan to leave us in the state that Alma describes. What was required was a way to reconcile the death of the body and the spirit. That way was the atonement. For Alma, since God imposed justice, “God himself” would apply the atonement – the merciful counter to justice.

 

In this verse we have another instance of the Nephite understanding of the Atoning Messiah as God. The Nephite understanding clearly associates the Atoning Messiah with Jehovah. See the comments following 1 Nephi 11:18 for more information. Talmage notes:

 

“We claim scriptural authority for the assertion that Jesus Christ was and is God the Creator, the God who revealed Himself to Adam, Enoch, and all the antediluvial patriarchs and prophets down to Noah; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God of Israel as a united people, and the God of Ephraim and Judah after the disruption of the Hebrew nation; the God who made Himself known to the prophets from Moses to Malachi; the God of the Old Testament record; and the God of the Nephites. We affirm that Jesus Christ was and is Jehovah, the Eternal One.” (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ: A Study of the Messiah and His Mission According to Holy Scriptures Both Ancient and Modern [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 30.)

 

Alma 42:16

16  Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul.

 

Alma’s argument here is unique in the scriptures. Alma suggests that repentance requires “a punishment.” What he is suggesting is that the entire plan of life follows Lehi’s law of opposition, and that even the plan itself must be described in terms of balanced opposites. What Alma is suggesting isn’t that we must be punished, but rather than there must be an eternal consequence of our actions that would lead to the opposite effect of the promised reward of the plan of happiness, “which was as eternal as the life of the soul.”

 

This “punishment” that Alma places opposite the plan of happiness also has its foundational understanding in the teachings of Lehi:

 

2 Nephi 9:8-9

8 O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more.

9 And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.

 

Lehi taught that if there were no atonement then our souls were destined to become “devils, angels to a devil.” This is the opposite pole of the plan of happiness, which logically has us become “gods, angels to a god” even though Alma does not state it in precisely this way.

 

Alma 42:17

17  Now, how could a man repent except he should sin?  How could he sin if there was no law?  How could there be a law save there was a punishment?

 

Alma now explains his concept that repentance required “punishment.” This is particularly important to the point he is making to Corianton, because it is the presence of the “punishment” that is apparently the thing that Corianton had questions. In the theology of those where were, or were similar, to the order of Nehor, there was no punishment because salvation was universal. What Alma is carefully doing is placing the concept of punishment as an unavoidable and critical part of the plan. Not only is it critical, but it is part of the plan of mercy which ironically would be the precise argument that one might use to suggest that there would be no need for “punishment.” The argument would be something like “if God were merciful, then he wouldn’t want to punish us.” Alma is carefully demonstrating why that idea is flawed. It does not also account for the justice of God and the need to balance justice and mercy. From that tension comes the resolution of the atonement, a resolution that still preserves punishment, but only for those who do not repent. Thus punishment will not be applied by God, but by the voluntary actions of those who chose punishment by their refusal of the atonement that would prevent that punishment and indeed lead to happiness.

 

Alma links repentance to “punishment” through a logical progression:

 

[Repentance requires sin] Unless there is something to repent of, repentance is impossible. Repentance is a turning away from anything that estranges us from God. If that thing is not there, we cannot repent of it, we cannot turn from something that isn’t there.

 

[Sin requires law] Alma now ties the fact of sin to law. In Alma’s description, sin consists in “breaking” commandments. This is a conception of sin that is directly derived from the Old Testament understanding of the law of Moses. The “law” provided the definitions of what one must do, and violations of the law of Moses were sin. This is the reason that Paul could also indicate that sin requires law:

 

Romans 5:13

13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

 

For Paul, sin and law (in this case, the law of Moses) are directly related to the extent that “sin is not imputed when there is no law.” This is an important concept precisely because it begins to point us to the nature of the plan of happiness. Even those things that appear least merciful are directly and intimately related to the plan of happiness.

 

[law requires punishment] Alma suggests that a law is no law if there is no “punishment” for its breach. If a parent says to a child “don’t touch that book” there may be a command in the statement, but there is no “law.” When we say “do not steal, because if you do you will be placed in jail” we have a law, precisely because there is a penalty affixed that defines the result of the breach of the law.

 

It is again important to remember that this logical development of the linkage between punishment and the plan of happiness is the very specific answer to a problem Corianton had.

 

Alma 42:18

18  Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man.

 

The law of God, with its “punishment affixed” brings about a condition where man may see himself in violation of the law, and have “remorse of conscience.” Of course this “remorse of conscience” is the impetus to repentance. Thus Alma is saying in a slightly different way the very thing he as just pointed out. Repentance requires law.

 

Alma 42:19

19  Now, if there was no law given—if a man murdered he should die—would he be afraid he would die if he should murder?

Alma 42:20

20  And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin.

Alma 42:21

21  And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature?

 

Here is the problem of law. It is no law without consequence. Just as we noted above, “don’t touch this book” is not a law, even though it is prohibitive language. Law is created by the affixing of punishment.

 

Alma’s argument for the essentiality of punishment in the scheme of God has an interesting development here. Alma is suggesting that without law (defined by its associated punishment) there would be nothing on which justice could act. Remember Paul’s statement that there is no sin without law. Without law, justice has nothing to act upon, because there is nothing to judge against. Justice cannot hold us liable for the violation of something that doesn’t exist.

 

Similarly, if there is no soul in danger of “punishment” because of law, there is nothing for “mercy” to do. Mercy cannot save us from something that isn’t happening. If we are not subject to “punishment” there is no way for mercy to save us from a punishment that doesn’t exist. Once again, Alma is demonstrating the absolute requirement of both justice and mercy, with law/punishment as a description of the justice end of the pole, and mercy repentance/atonement on the other end.

 

Alma 42:22

22  But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.

 

After the careful description of the problem, Alma declares the glorious truth that the solution is provided. There “is a law given.” There is “a punishment affixed.” There is “a repentance granted.” There is mercy. There is justice because of the application of the law, and law exists because “law inflicteth the punishment.” Alma ties this entire logical string together with the declaration that it is integral to God. Were this entire string of logical to be untrue, “God would cease to be God,” an inconceivable notion. The argument for Corianton not only shows the logic of this understanding of the plan, but connects it to the very definition of God. If Coriantion believes in God, he must therefore believe in this plan.

 

The point here, of course, is to continue to build Corianton’s understanding of the place of punishment in a plan of happiness. The typical Nephite apostasy did not deny God, but rather the Atoning Messiah. What Alma has done is show that Corianton’s belief in God requires him to accept the Atoning Messiah, and particularly the aspect of the plan that has punishment for the breach of God’s laws.

Alma 42:23

23  But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.

 

The good news is that all of the dire circumstances of a time without atonement do not have take effect. There is a God, and this God is merciful in that he claims those who repent. Alma’s train of logic finishes the line of reasoning. Mercy applies to the penitent, who may repent because of the atonement. The atonement creates the resurrection, and this overcoming of death allows men to return to the presence of God. There they are judged according to what they have done. While he does not say so here, this is where the doctrine of restoration is applied – men receive good for good, evil for evil.

 

Alma 42:24

24  For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.

Alma 42:25

25  What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice?  I say unto you, Nay; not one whit.  If so, God would cease to be God.

 

Alma repeats his startling declaration that there might be conditions where God would cease to be God. Of course his point is that none of these things will happen precisely because of who God is.

 

Alma 42:26

26  And thus God bringeth about his great and eternal purposes, which were prepared from the foundation of the world.  And thus cometh about the salvation and the redemption of men, and also their destruction and misery.

 

Even before the Garden, there was a plan prepared. The events of the Garden did not surprise God, they were fulfillments of his plan, a plan laid out in the pre-mortal life.

 

Alma 42:27

27  Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds.

Alma 42:28

28  If he has desired to do evil, and has not repented in his days, behold, evil shall be done unto him, according to the restoration of God.

 

Alma ties together all of his threads here. The atonement is provided, and all who desire to partake of it may. However, this is still a point of agency, and some may not chose to take advantage of the atonement. For both, in the “last day” or the day of judgment, that judgment will restore good for good, evil for evil.

 

Literary: Alma uses a particular phrase: “partake of the waters of life.” The reference to this could either be the association between water and the Tree of Life in the Garden, or to Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life with is also associated with “living” waters (see 1 Nephi 11:25).

 

Alma has previously used the expression of “waters of life” and he clearly links it to the concept of the Tree of Life:

 

Alma 5:33-34

33 Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you.

34 Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely;

 

Since both the Tree in Genesis and the Tree in Lehi’s dream have associations with waters, we cannot be certain which (if we indeed had to chose) was the precedent for this imagery. Certainly the context of Alma’s discourse suggests that the Garden setting is present on his mind, and the use of the “waters of life” here is certainly occasioned by the connection to the events of the Fall that he has been discussing.

 

Alma 42:29

29  And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance.

 

Alma gives specific advice to Corianton. He began this discussion because this was a theological point that had apparently led Corianton into his apostasy. Therefore, after the explanation Alma tells him not to “let these things trouble” him. He should now be able to understand the justice of God within the context of the gospel. Alma uses a play on words here to further his admonition to Corianton. While he should not be “troubled” by the doctrine, he should be “troubled” by the spirit to repentance. Corianton must not only understand justice in the context of the gospel, he must apply for the mercy that will deliver him from the eternal grasp of that justice.

 

Alma 42:30

30  O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more.  Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.

 

This has been Corianton’s issue, just as it was for many of the Nephite apostate groups we have seen in the text. Alma tells him to repent and leave this denial of the justice of God behind him. He is to leave the ways of the apostate ideas he had embraced. Instead, he is to take this new understanding into the repentance process, and change.

 

Alma 42:31

31  And now, O my son, ye are called of God to preach the word unto this  people.  And now, my son, go thy way, declare the word with truth and soberness, that thou mayest bring souls unto repentance, that the great plan of mercy may have claim upon them.  And may God grant unto you even according to my words.  Amen.

 

At the end of a very long admonition, Alma tells Corianton that he is called as a missionary! This seems a little unusual. How is it that someone who has been an apostate, and violated the law of chastity, can be a missionary? First, we must expect that this calling will come to Corianton as a result of his repentance process, not before. As far as the apparent contradiction of calling a missionary so recently out of sin, this may be difficult for us to understand, but we must remember that the one who makes the calling is Alma the Younger, a man whose missionary efforts began after his own period of apostasy, and of leading the church astray.

 

We can certainly understand Alma’s parental pride in the “good” brothers, Helaman and Shiblon, but we must understand the absolute empathy that Alma must have had for Corianton. Corianton had left the Nephite gospel, and led others astray. Alma in his youth had also left the gospel, and fought against the church. From his perspective of a man transformed by the Spirit, he must have not only understood well where Corianton was, and where he could be. Just as Alma preached after the transformation of the Spirit, so will Corianton. When the change of repentance is finished in Corianton’s soul, he (like his father) can be a strong example and an empathetic teacher of those who had fallen to a similar error in their understanding of God.

 

Textual: The conclusion of the blessing to Corianton concludes the section on Alma’s blessings to his sons, and concludes a chapter in the 1830 edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Brant Gardner. Copyright 2001