As always, consult the official Gospel Doctrine Manual in your preparation. These ideas are intended as a supplement.
When I teach Alma 32 and 33, I always begin by reviewing the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23). It is my belief that these chapters explain “Part Two” and “Part Three” of a four-part metaphor. “Part One,” is the Parable of the Sower (or the Four Kinds of Soil). Part Four, is the vision of the Tree of Life. All together, it looks like this:
- Part One: The Soil (Matthew 13)
- Part Two: The Seed (Alma 32-33)
- Part Three: The Season (Alma 32-33)
- Part Four: The Supper (1 Nephi 8)
In other words, Jesus teaches us about the types of soil in which the seed may fall. Alma teaches the poor among the Zoramites (who were “good soil”), how to plant the seed, Alma encourages his listeners to nourish the tree so that it may get root (growing roots takes time, effort, and requires a season), and finally, Lehi reveals the “fruits” of nourishing the seed which, if properly cared for, matures until it becomes a “tree of life” (Alma 32:40).
For a longer discussion of this idea, you might watch my BYU Campus Education Week Presentation called “Weed Your Spirit, Grow Your Testimony”
Or, if you’d prefer a longer text version, it is available as a “Digital Single” at Deseretbook.com.
Also, there is an MP3 version available.
Alma and Amulek’s words were precisely directed at the false theology described within the prayer atop the Rameumptom:
These Zoramites were “good soil,” in “Parable of the Sower” terms. President Henry B. Eyring taught:
Just as soil needs preparation for a seed, so does a human heart for the word of God to take root. Before he told the people to plant the seed, Alma told them that their hearts were prepared. They had been persecuted and cast out of their churches. Alma with his love and the circumstances of their lives, which led them to be humble, had prepared them. They were then ready to hear the word of God. If they chose to plant it in their hearts, the growth in their souls would surely follow, and that would increase their faith. (To Draw Closer to God, 186).
(For the Alma 32 and 33 verse by verse commentary – see the resources mentioned above)
8 – “I do know that Christ shall come” Amulek, rather than concluding his remarks with his testimony, begins his sermon with his witness of Christ.
9 – “great plan of the eternal God” Amulek mentions the fall and the atonement. As mentioned in an earlier lesson, Elder Bruce R. McConkie called the creation, the fall and the atonement the “Three Pillars of Eternity.”
10 – “not … a human sacrifice” Because Jesus is the Son of God, his sacrifice is beyond what a human could do, it is therefore not a human sacrifice.
12 – “an infinite atonement” The word “infinite” is normally associated with mathematics, but can also mean something that is completely beyond the realm of the ordinary; 2 Ne 9:6-7 speaks of death which has passed upon all mankind, and it “must needs be an infinite atonement” by which an infinite death is overcome. The atonement can be described as infinite, because the Lord has created an infinite number of worlds which must be redeemed. Also, the atonement is infinite in time, since it covers past present, future, and Jesus Christ is an infinite being.
14 – “the whole meaning of the law” Once again, the Book of Mormon explains the grand purpose of the Law of Moses.
18-27 – “in your closets, and in your secret places, and in your wilderness” Amulek is explaining to the Zoramites that God will hear prayers offered in a variety of places, and circumstances, not just on one day from the “holy stand.”
28-29 – “if ye turn away the needy” Sincere prayer is backed up by actions. If we pray for the poor while ignoring them, our prayer “availeth [us] nothing,” and we are as “dross.” The word “dross,” (which means the scum or waste material produced as a by-product of smelting metals) is used only twice in the Book of Mormon, both times in this story. We recall that when the poor among the Zoramites first addressed Alma, they were described as “dross” because of the “coarseness of their apparel” (Alma 32:3). Amulek teaches them, in short, “You’re not dross because you’re poor, you’re dross when you’re uncharitable.” Paul and Moroni also taught that without charity, we are “nothing” (Moroni 7:44, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
31-32 – “immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you” Amulek uses and interesting adverb, promising that repentance can bring “immediate” results! This life is the time to prepare to meet God. We spend the rest of our lives showing that we have repented or turned from our old ways, but the plan is put into effect “immediately” upon repentance.
34 – “that same spirit which doth possess your bodies” This scripture has often been used to illustrate that we will carry our current desires and dispositions into the next life, and while that is true, Amulek doesn’t use detached phrases like “desires and dispositions” to describe the contest. Instead, he names actual beings who are engaged in the battle for our souls. It is as if we are in the middle of a tug of war between the Spirit of the Lord and the spirit of the devil, but we decide who wins. Or, as someone once said, “God votes for us and Satan votes against us, but we cast the deciding vote.” This is a battle we must win, or the devil “doth seal [us] his” (we can probably think of a lot of others we’d rather be sealed to).
35 – “Procrastinated the day of your repentance” One of my favorite bumper-sticker sermons is: “Procrastinate Later.”
39 – “he rewardeth you no good thing” Contrast this phrase with the words of Mormon who testified that “in Christ there should come every good thing” (Moroni 7:22).
Alma 35 — Zoramite converts join the people of Ammon
11 – “the Zoramites and the Lamanites began to make preparations for war” This is exactly what the Nephites feared might happen as mentioned in Alma 31:4. Sadly, war still came, but because of the missionary efforts of Alma and Amulek, the righteous among the Zoramites had been gathered out beforehand.
16 – “we have an account of his commandments” Often, the scriptures sound like the personal journals of the people involved. The next several chapters before the wars begin are Alma’s words to his sons, Helaman (Alma 36-37), Shiblon (Alma 38), and Corianton (Alma 39-42).