1. Alma teaches Corianton about death and resurrection.
Alma 40:1 I perceive that thy mind is worried
‘One of the sweet gifts of the Spirit is the “discerning of spirits” – the ability to discern the needs and feelings of others (see D&C 46:23). After having spoken very plainly to his son Corianton about the seriousness of Corianton’s moral transgressions, Alma discerned through the Spirit, precisely what Corianton was feeling and worried about. Three times, once at the start of each chapter in today’s lesson (Alma 40-42), Alma said, “I perceive that thy mind is worried concerning….” and then he gave some profound testimony and heartfelt counsel addressing the problem.
Think about the setting of Alma 40-42 for a moment. Here is a son who committed a grievous moral transgression in the mission field. Here was his father, whose own transgressions against the Church were stopped when an angel from God called him to repentance. God could have given up on Alma when he was younger and committing some serious mistakes, but He didn’t. Now, as Alma counsels with his own wayward son, we can feel the love and the longing of this noble father whose desire was to help his son repent and return to God.
The three concerns Alma discerned in his son’s heart were (1) Corianton was worried about the resurrection and probably wondering what kind of resurrection he could ever hope to attain in the eternities to come (see Alma 40:1); (2) he was worried about the restoration, no doubt wondering how he could ever become clean again after having committed such a serious sin (see Alma 41:1); and (3) he was worried about the justice of God, thinking that God was now angry with him and was going to send a severe judgment against him and consign him to a state of eternal misery (see Alma 42:1).
Alma’s sure testimony to his son is that God has a plan for our salvation. As he taught, Alma testified that this great and wonderful plan was revealed by God, and that God really does have a plan for our redemption which is designed to bring us the greatest happiness. In fact, there is no other plan, and there is no other way to re-enter God’s presence and enjoy all the blessings God has to offer. Alma called this plan the “plan of redemption” (Alma 39:18); “the plan of restoration” (41:2); “the great plan of salvation” (42:5); “the great plan of happiness” (42:8); and “the great plan of mercy” (42:15, 31).’ (Jeffrey Marsh, Meridian Magazine)
Alma 40:8 All is as one day with God
‘The Lord is not bound by the constraints of the dimension we call time. Yet for us, we feel much more comfortable if, during the few days of this mortal probation, we can hear the clock ticking. But time as we know it will not always exist. The scriptures (Rev 10:6, DC 84:100, DC 88:110) teach that when Satan is bound at the beginning of the Millenium, the angels will declare that “time is no longer.” Furthermore, in the celestial world, time will be understood as God understands it, they reside in the presence of God…where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord (DC 130:7).’ (Bryan Richards, GospelDoctrine.com)
Alma 40:11-13 The state of the soul between death and the resurrection
‘There is a certain degree of judgment rendered upon every man and every woman as soon as they have passed the ordeals of this present probation. When they lay their bodies down their spirits return into the presence of God, when a decree of judgment and sentence is immediately passed. Hence we read in the Book of Mormon, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they depart from this mortal body, return home again to that God who gave them life, and then shall it come to pass that the spirits of the righteous shall enter into a state of rest, peace and happiness, called Paradise, where they shall rest from all their labors. And then shall it come to pass that the spirits of the wicked—for behold they have no part or portion of the spirit of the Lord—shall depart into outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing and gnashing of teeth; and in these two states or conditions the children of men shall be placed until the time of the resurrection.’ (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses)
2. Alma teaches that after we are resurrected, the righteous will be restored to happiness and the wicked will be restored to misery.
Alma 40:23 All things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame
“Many living witnesses can testify to the literal fulfillment of these scriptural assurances of the resurrection. Many, including some in my own extended family, have seen a departed loved one in vision or personal appearance and have witnessed their restoration in ‘proper and perfect frame’ in the prime of life. Whether these were manifestations of persons already resurrected or of righteous spirits awaiting an assured resurrection, the reality and nature of the resurrection of mortals is evident. What a comfort to know that all who have been disadvantaged in life from birth defects, from mortal injuries, from disease, or from the natural deterioration of old age will be resurrected in ‘proper and perfect frame.'” (Dallin H Oaks, Conference Report, Apr. 2000, May Ensign, p. 15)
Alma 41:1 Restoration
“When we hear the term restoration we typically think of the latter-day return of the Church and the revelation of the gospel in its fullness. Book of Mormon prophets, however, use this term in a rather different sense. They teach that every individual will receive a temporal as well as a spiritual restoration, good for good, evil for evil.” (Richard O. Cowan, Alma, TheTestimony of the Word, p. 184)
Alma 41:3 Desires of their hearts
“The nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker, and is caught up to dwell with Him (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 2:8).
Alma 41:7 They are their own judges
“The great misery of departed spirits in the world of spirits, where they go after death, is to know that they come short of the glory that others enjoy and that they might have enjoyed themselves, and they are their own accusers.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 311)
Alma 41:10 Wickedness never was happiness
“The way of the Lord is the way of happiness. Wickedness never was happiness. Transgression never was happiness. Sin never was happiness. Disobedience never was happiness. The way of happiness is following the way of the Lord. I believe this with all my heart. If there is any message that runs through all of the Book of Mormon, it is this great transcendent message, that when the people lived in righteousness they were happy and they were prospered. And when they fell into wickedness they were miserable, they were at war, they were in poverty, they were in trouble. That theme goes all the way through the Book of Mormon. As it was true then, so it is true now. The way of happiness for the people of this Church lies in following the ways of the Lord.” (Gordon B Hinckley, Church News, 06/01/96)
Alma 41:14 Deal justly, judge righteously
‘The law of Restoration requires that the Lord will reward mercy with mercy, and justice with justice. Therefore, if we want to be judged with fairness and mercy at the last day, then we must judge with fairness and mercy in mortality. On this subject, someone will usually quote, judge not that ye be not judged (Matt 7:1). This means that we should not be judgmental. However, in the world we live in, we are required to appropriately pass judgment all the time. The bishop passes judgment on ward members. All parents pass judgment on the behavior of their children and do it on a regular basis. Business and work decisions require judgment and fairness. This is why the Joseph Smith Translation alters this verse as follows, judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged: but judge righteous judgment
The Lord doesn’t expect us to live a life without ever passing judgment. He is the Great Judge and we are to emulate him in all things—including righteous judgment. This concept is encapsulated in the word of the Lord to the 12 disciples in the New World, know ye that ye shall be judges of this people, according to the judgment which I shall give unto you, which shall be just. Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am (3 Nephi 27:27). Therefore, the phrase, judge not that ye be not judged, is impractical. The more correct statement is that we should judge righteous judgment. Certainly, this must be done with the utmost care and wisdom. Otherwise we may find ourselves concerned with another’s mote at the expense of our own beam, For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again (Matt 7:2).’ (Bryan Richards, GospelDoctrine.com)
3. Alma teaches Corianton about justice and mercy.
Alma 42:1 The justice of God
‘It must have been rather amazing to Corianton to have his father virtually read his mind and then begin discussing subjects which were troubling him. Of course he would have no way of knowing that Alma was listening to the whisperings of the Spirit. Alma’s opening statement reveals that he knew his son was really mixed up concerning the justice of God.
Corianton’s belief that it was unjust for God to punish sinners certainly indicates a spoiled, twisted, self-indulgent personality. The discovery of such irrational and confused thinking in Corianton may have come as a shock to Alma since he had spent nearly all of his time during the growing up years of Corianton trying to manage the affairs of the Church and going on frequent missionary assignments to suppress the elements of apostasy which kept springing up continuously among the branches of the Church. Apparently Alma recognized that this son had very little comprehension of the gospel and he therefore set out to give Corianton a basic course in the gospel plan.’ (Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)
Alma 42:6 Fallen man
“Adam brought the fallen condition, mortality, through partaking of the forbidden fruit. All men and women are subject to this condition. All. Jehovah spoke to Adam: ‘Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin, even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good’ (Moses 6:55). Robert L. Millet has written: ‘No, of course we do not believe, with Calvin, in the moral depravity of men and women. No, we do not believe, with Luther, that man, because of his carnality and depravity, does not, even have the power to choose good over evil. And we do not believe that children are born in sin, that they inherit the so-called sin of Adam either through sexual union or by birth. Rather, children are conceived in sin: meaning first, that they are conceived into a world of sin, and second, that conception is the vehicle by which the effects of the Fall (not the original transgression, which God has forgiven) are transmitted to Adam’s posterity. To say that we are not punished for the transgression is not to say that we are not subject to and affected by it. . . . Adam’s fallen nature is passed on to his children and thereby from generation to generation. Thus sin is implanted in man’s nature at conception, just as death is implanted at the same time. Both of these- death and sin- are present only in seed form at conception, and therefore a child is neither dead nor sinful when born. Death and sin do, however, come to pass as a result of man’s nature as he grows up. Sin comes naturally, just as does death.’ (Life in Christ, pp. 24-25.)
“This is what we call the fall of man. Adam, and thus all of us as his children, were freed from whatever ‘original guilt’ might once have been as a result of Adam’s transgression (see Moses 6:53-54). But what of our own fall? Gerald N. Lund has written: ‘If we know good from evil and then sin (which, according to Paul, all men do), then we must talk about a second fall. This is not the fall of Adam. This is one’s own personal fall. This fall, which our own, not Adam’s, transgression brings about, requires redemption as surely as mankind needed redemption from the consequences of Adam’s fall. We’ll term this the ‘fall of me.’ . . . Now, since we have no one to blame for this except ourselves, our redemption becomes conditional upon our actions. This is what Lehi meant [2 Nephi 2:7] when he said that the sacrifice that the Messiah offered to satisfy the ends of the law is viable only for those with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ (Jesus Christ, Key to the Plan of Salvation, p. 95.)” (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, p. 314)
Alma 42:14 Justice
“This loving, charitable, and merciful generosity of the Savior raises the inevitable question of the place of justice in his working out of the Atonement. The balance between seemingly contradictory principles is examined in the Book of Mormon most skillfully and—because it is a father speaking to his own transgressing son—most sensitively by Alma the Younger when instructing his son Corianton.
“Obviously the demands of justice require that penalties must be paid for violation of the law. Adam transgressed and so have all of us; thus the judgment of death (physically) and the consequences of hell (spiritually) is pronounced as a just reward. Furthermore, once guilty, none of us could personally do anything to overcome that fate. We do not have in us the seeds of immortality allowing us to conquer death physically, and we have not been perfect in our behavior, thus forfeiting the purity that would let us return to the presence of God spiritually. Furthermore, God cannot simply turn a blind eye to the breaking of divine law, because in so doing he would dishonor justice and would ’cease to be God,’ which thing he would never do. The sorry truth for mortal men and women was, then, that ’there was no means to reclaim [them] from this fallen state which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience.’ (Alma 42:12)
“’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 42:14)” (Jeffrey R Holland, Christ And The New Covenant, p. 226)
Alma 42:15 Mercy
“Mercy is thus for the repentant, the faithful, the obedient, those who love and serve God. All other fail to escape the clutches of justice. ‘Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.’ (Matt. 5:7.) ‘Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.’ (Luke 6:36.) Salvation is the reward of those who conform to the plan of mercy. ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.’ (Ps. 23:6.)
“So infinite in scope is the plan of mercy that it applies to the living and the dead. Those who did not have the opportunity to subject themselves by repentance to the plan of mercy while in this life, but who would have done so had the opportunity been afforded them, will have their chance in the spirit world; they shall then be saved from the grasp of justice and, reaping the full blessings of mercy, shall go on to celestial reward.
“‘There is never a time when the spirit is too old to approach God,’ the Prophet said. ‘All are within the reach of pardoning mercy, who have not committed the unpardonable sin, which hath no forgiveness, neither in this world, nor in the world to come. There is a way to release the spirits of the dead; that is by the power and authority of the priesthood — by binding and loosing on earth. This doctrine appears glorious, inasmuch as it exhibits the greatness of divine compassion and benevolence in the extent of the plan of human salvation.’ (Teachings, pp. 191-192.)” (Bruce R McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 486)
Alma 42:23 Mercy claimeth the penitent
“Mercy is thus rehabilitative, not retributive or arbitrary. The Lord asks repentance from a transgressor, not to compensate the Savior for paying the debt of justice, but to induce the transgressor to undertake a meaningful process of personal development toward a Christlike nature.
“At the same time, mercy depends ultimately on the Lord’s extension of unmerited grace. Even though conditioned on repentance for personal sins, mercy is never fully ‘earned’ by its recipients. Repentance is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition of salvation and exaltation. ‘For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do’ (2 Ne. 25:23). The unearned nature of mercy is demonstrated by the Atonement’s having unconditionally compensated for the disabilities imposed on mankind by the Fall of Adam. Adam and Eve and their posterity were utterly powerless to overcome the physical and spiritual deaths that were introduced by the Fall. Moreover, transgressors do not ‘pay’ fully for their sins through the process of repentance. Even though repentance requires restitution to the extent of one’s ability, most forms of restitution are beyond any person’s ability to achieve. No matter how complete our repentance, it would all be to no avail without a mediator willing and able to pay our debt to justice, on condition of our repentance. Thus, even with sincere and complete repentance, all are utterly dependent on Jesus Christ.” (Bruce C Hafen, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 776)