So far, Alma has given counsel to his sons Helaman, Shiblon, and now to his youngest son – Corianton, which will comprise today’s lesson. Remember, Corianton and his brother Shiblon accompanied their father, Alma on, a mission to the Zoramites recorded in Chapters 31 through 34. We are about to discover how much trouble Corianton caused for the missionary effort among the Zoramites by becoming involved with a harlot.
Alma 39:1 “And, now, my son, I have somewhat more to say unto thee than what I said unto thy brother; for behold, have ye not observed the steadiness of thy brother, his faithfulness, and his diligence in keeping the commandments of God? Behold, has he not set a good example for thee?” Alma is referring to his brother, Shiblon.
Alma 39:2 “For thou didst not give so much heed unto my words as did thy brother, among the people of the Zoramites. Now this is what I have against thee; thou didst go on unto boasting in thy strength and thy wisdom.”
Alma 39:3 “And this is not all, my son. Thou didst do that which was grievous unto me; for thou didst forsake the ministry, and did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlot Isabel.” Woah! Okay, this is getting interesting. Why are we just now hearing of this? First, of all Isabel is one of only three women named in the Book of Mormon. The other two, are Sariah, the only Nephite woman (see 1 Nephi 2:5) and Abish a Lamanite convert (see Alma 19:16). “Isabel” may have been a title for prostitute and not even a proper name. “Isabel” is a medieval form of the name Elizabeth. Jewish Hebrews would not have been using that name at this time in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon has over 500 pages, covering a span of 3,000 years in total. And how many women are mentioned? A grand total of 3, plus three other women’s names referenced from the Bible. (We have 2 episodes on this topic called Women in the Bible vs, the Book of Mormon – pt 1 & Women in the Bible vs, the Book of Mormon – pt 2)
Alma 39:4 “Yea, she did steal away the hearts of many; but this was no excuse for thee, my son. Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou was entrusted.” It seems as though Isabel was a seductive woman who was the downfall of many young men. She must have been so irresistible that Corianton was willing to abandon his missionary work to pursue her.
Alma 39:5 Alma is going to spell it out for Corianton. “Know ye not , my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?” First degree murder and sinning against the Holy Ghost are the only sins more serious than what he has committed. The words “for I perceive that” are in Luke 8:46.
Alma 39:6 Alma goes on to explain more about the other two sins mentioned in the previous verse. “For behold, if ye deny the Holy Ghost when it once has had place in you, and ye know that ye deny it, behold, this is a sin which is unpardonable; yea, and whosoever murdereth against the light and knowledge of God, it is not easy for him to obtain forgiveness; yea, I say unto you, my son, that it is not easy for him to obtain a forgiveness.” A member of the LDS Church who loses faith will never be forgiven. Apostates will go to outer darkness. And, we learn from Doctrine and Covenants 42:18, in reference to first degree murder, “he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come.” Yet, Alma tells Corianton that is not easy for one to obtain forgiveness. So, we see a conflict between these LDS scriptures. Besides, didn’t Nephi murder Laban? Oh, yeah, the Holy Spirit told him to do it.
Alma 39:7 Next, we read that sexual sin is referred to as a “crime.” “And now my son, I would to God that ye had not been guilty of so great a crime. I would not dwell upon your crimes, to harrow up your soul, if it were not for your good.” The words “I would to God that” are in Acts 26:29.
Alma 39:8 “But behold, ye cannot hide your crimes from God; and except ye repent they will stand as a testimony against you at the last day.”
Alma 39:9 “Now my son, I would that ye should repent and forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes, but cross yourself in all these things; for except ye do this ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Oh, remember, and take it upon you, and cross yourself in these things.” Interesting that the phrase “cross yourself” is used twice in that verse. What could that mean? It probably means to “stop” yourself in all these crimes of sin. The phrase “nowise inherit the kingdom of God” is similar, to 1 Corinthians 6:9.
Alma 39:10 He tells Corianton to take counsel from his older brothers.
Alma 39:11 He then tells Corianton how powerful a bad example can be. “Suffer not yourself to be led away by any vain or foolish things; suffer not the devil to lead away your heart again after those wicked harlots. Behold, O my son, how great iniquity ye brought upon the Zoramites; for when they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words.”
Alma 39:12 Alma comes on strong here – commanding Corianton to refrain from his iniquities.
Alma 39:13 “That ye turn to the Lord with all your mind, might, and strength; that ye lead away the hearts of no more to do wickedly; but rather return unto them, and acknowledge your faults and that wrong which ye have done.” Alma wants Corinanton to apply the law of restitution, by apologizing to the Zoramites for his misconduct and behavior. In the 1830 edition page 333 it reads “and acknowledge your faults and retain that wrong which ye have done.” In later editions the word “retain” was deleted.
Alma 39:15 Alma addresses a variety of theological issues each of which begins with an expression of Alma perceiving that the topic at hand troubles Corianton. The first one is about the certainty of the coming of Christ to take away the sins of the world. “And now, my son, I would say somewhat unto you concerning the coming of Christ. Behold, I say unto you, that it is he that surely shall come to take away the sins of the world; yea, he cometh to declare glad tidings of salvation unto his people.” We can see from the date attached to this chapter that the birth of Christ is in about 73 years. That would place the appearance of Jesus to the Nephites in about 106 years in the future. The words “glad tidings of” are in Luke 8:1 and, “salvation unto his people” are in Luke 1:77.
Alma 39:16 Alma tells Corinanton that the children of those who are alive now, will be the ones to hear the words of Jesus at the time of His appearance to them. This implies that the young children of that current generation who will soon be born, will be alive to experience this event. “And now, my son, this was the ministry unto which ye were called, to declare these glad tidings unto this people, to prepare their minds; or rather that salvation might come unto them, that they may prepare the minds of their children to hear the word at the time of his coming.” The words “these glad tidings” are in Luke 1:19.
Alma 39:17 Alma wants to emphasize to Corianton that the atonement of Christ can work for him, even though the actual atonement has not yet taken place. “And now I will ease your mind somewhat on this subject. Behold you marvel why these things should be known so long beforehand. Behold, I say unto you, is not a soul at this time as precious unto God as a soul will be at the time of his coming?”
Alma 39:18 “Is it not as necessary that the plan of redemption should be made known unto this people as well as unto their children?” In other words, doesn’t everyone need the atonement?
Alma 39:19 “Is it not as easy at this time for the Lord to send his angel to declare these glad tidings unto us as unto our children, or as after the time of his coming?” He is saying that the Atonement was in effect before it was actually performed by Jesus. Joseph Smith taught the atonement also applied to the sons and daughters of God who inhabited other worlds (see D&C 76:24).
Alma 40:1 The second issue Alma perceives to be troubling Corinanton’s mind is that of the resurrection of the dead. “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.” Corianton’s problem was at least partially a doctrinal one. We can perhaps assume that one of Corianton’s basic doubts is “if there is no resurrection or life after death – no Judgment Day and accountability – then there is nothing to worry about.” But, if it is all true – then he better repent because once he dies, he will have to face God. The words “for I perceive that” are in Luke 8:46 and, “the resurrection of the dead” are in Matthew 22:31.
Alma 40:2 Alma explains there is no resurrection until after the coming of Christ. The phrase “there is no resurrection” is from 1 Corinthians 15:12 and, “this mortal” and, “put on immortality” is from 1 Corinthians 15:54. One can see that these passages are certainly reliant upon Paul’s teachings – that are yet to be written in the New Testament.
Alma 40:3 “Behold, he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead. But behold, my son, the resurrection is not yet. Now, I unfold unto you a mystery; nevertheless, there are many mysteries which are kept, that no one knoweth them save God himself. But I show unto you one thing which I have inquired diligently of God that I might know – that is concerning the resurrection.” No one has been resurrected. It hasn’t happened yet.
The word “resurrection” comes from a Latin term “resurgere.” While the notion of coming back from the dead is found in the Old Testament – the resurrection as a practical concept and word is unique to the Greek New Testament. The Book of Mormon uses “resurrection” 53 times before Jesus was even born.
Alma 40:4-5 Alma says there is a time when all will come forth from the dead. But only God knows the appointed time. He doesn’t know if there will be several resurrections or just one. The Book of Mormon doesn’t say more about it. However, from the Doctrine and Covenants Latter-day Saints learn there are several resurrections.
Alma 40:4 The words “but God knoweth” are in Luke 16:15 and, “which is appointed” in Luke 3:13.
Alma 40:5 The words “third time, that” are in John 21:14 and, “shall rise from the dead” are in Mark 12:25.
Alma 40 For a second, we need to consider the fact that Joseph Smith was familiar with the Westminster Confession. His father’s family was proselyted to the Presbyterian faith, before the angel told Joseph about the gold plates. And, his mother, and three siblings joined the Presbyterian Church (see Joseph Smith – History 1:7). Thus, Joseph was probably familiar with not only the Confession but also the Catechisms that his family members were studying. My point is – If we were to carefully compare the Westminster Confession chapter 32 with Alma chapter 40, we would recognize many similarities, because the thoughts in each document proceed in the same order.
Alma 40:6 He will now teach about what happens to our spirit when we die. “Now there must needs be a space betwixt the time of death and the time of the resurrection.”
Alma 40:7 “And now I would inquire what becometh of the souls of men from this time of death to the time appointed for the resurrection?” The “souls of men” in this verse means the spirits of men. However, we learn in D&C 88:15 “And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.” Notice the contradiction?
Alma 40:9 “Therefore, there is a time appointed unto men that they shall rise from the dead; and there is a space between the time of death and the resurrection. And now, concerning this space of time, what becometh of the souls of men is the thing which I have inquired diligently of the Lord to know; and this is the thing of which I do know.”
Alma 40:11 “Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection – Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from their mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.” The words “and the resurrection” are in Acts 17:18.
Alma 40:12 Next, Alma describes what he calls, paradise. “And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.” This was taught back in 2 Nephi 9:13. There must have been a partial judgment to determine if a spirit goes to Paradise or Spirit Prison.
However, if one examines all of the places where “Paradise” is spoken of in the Bible, it is being equated with the presence of God. Paradise is implied in the Garden of Eden narrative (see Genesis 2-3). Paradise is mentioned in the new Eden (see Revelation 2:7). And Paul was caught up to Paradise and he equated it with the third heaven (see 2 Corinthians 12:2, 4). Now, in LDS theology the Third Heaven is the Celestial Kingdom. But, when Jesus was on the cross with the thief who asked to remember him when Jesus goes to His heavenly kingdom, Jesus said, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (see Luke 23:43). To be consistent, the Latter-day Saint would have to believe Jesus said to the thief that he, the thief, was going to the Celestial Kingdom. But there is no way to reconcile that with Mormon theology. The thief was not baptized, had not received the laying of the hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, did not receive his temple endowment, or anything meriting the Celestial Kingdom from the Mormon perspective.
Alma 40:13 Now, Alma describes what he calls, outer darkness or spirit prison. “And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil – for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house – and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.” This might have caught the attention of Corianton, who probably realizes that unless he repents, this might be his destination when he dies. The “outer darkness” referred to here in this verse is not what the LDS teach is the final, permanent dwelling place of the sons of perdition (see D&C 76). Rather, it simply refers to a spirit prison which is a temporary holding place before the resurrection. The phrase “of the devil” is in Matthew 4:1.
Alma 40:14 “Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection.” This spirit world is sort of a pre-heaven and pre-hell for people who have not yet been resurrected – a holding cell until judgement day. The phrase “the wrath of God upon” is in Ephesians 5:6. After the Second Coming, the Spirit Prison will no longer be needed.
According to Mormon doctrine, Joseph F. Smith, the sixth prophet and president of the LDS Church, was given a vision regarding the Spirit Prison. He taught that during the time between the crucifixion and His resurrection, Jesus organized messengers. “But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.” (see Doctrine and Covenants 138:27-30). Once the prisoners have accepted the Mormon gospel and truly repented, those souls are set free from Spirit Prison and allowed to dwell with the righteous in Paradise. Those who still choose to reject Jesus’ message will remain in prison until the resurrection.
But, the Bible clarifies which spirits were in prison. 1 Peter 3:19-20 Teaches that Christ, following His crucifixion, “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” Those in the spirit prison included those who had been wicked in the days of Noah who were drowned in the flood.
The Greek word for “preach” is “kerusso” in this passage and is not used for preaching the gospel, but rather, refers to a proclamation – as in a proclamation of victory. Between His death and resurrection, Jesus went to the place of the dead and preached or proclaimed victory of His finished work on the cross to the wicked contemporaries of Noah. The LDS even go so far as to interpret “eight souls were saved by water” to mean – the number 8 is the age of accountability whereunto even baptism (or water) now saves US. The interpretation of these verses we just read are good examples of what is called Eisegesis – the process of interpreting biblical text in such a way as to introduce one’s own presuppositions, agendas, and biases. Mormonism imposes its interpretation into the text. Exegesis however, is drawing out – the text’s meaning in accordance with the author’s intention.
The LDS take great liberties with the text and teach that the inauguration of work for the dead – began at this time when Christ ministered to the spirits in prison. But we must interpret passages like this according to other passages of Scripture. Hebrews 9:27 tells us that immediately following death comes our judgment. 2 Corinthians 6:2 says, now is the day of our salvation. Luke 16:19-31 teaches there is no possibility of redemption beyond death. The rich man is calling out to Abraham asking for a drop of water on his tongue. Abraham responds by saying, “There is a great gulf fixed, so that those who would pass from us to you cannot.” One cannot pass from one side of the Spirit World to the other. Therefore, no Mormon missionaries are traveling from Paradise to Spirit Prison. And if that is the case, then nobody in the Spirit Prison can receive the baptism for the dead done on their behalf in LDS temples.
We can say with certainty, then, that 1 Peter 3:18-19 does not suggest people can respond to the gospel after they die. In Chapter 4 of 1 Peter, we read in Verse 6 “For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” This is not speaking of the Good News being preached to those in spirit prison. Peter was simply referring to those dead at that time of his writing, who had heard and accepted the gospel while they were alive.
Alma 40:15 Next, Alma tries to clear up some misunderstanding. “Now, there are some that have understood that this state of happiness and this state of misery, before the resurrection, was a first resurrection. Yea, I admit it may be termed a resurrection, the raising of the spirit or the soul and their consignation to happiness or misery, according to the words which have been spoken.” Okay, that didn’t clear it up very well.
Alma 40:16 “And behold, again it hath been spoken, that there is a first resurrection, a resurrection of all those who have been, or who are, or who shall be, down to the resurrection of Christ from the dead.” But, according to the Book of Mormon it is only the righteous who were resurrected with Christ. The words “a resurrection of” are in Acts 24:15 and, “the resurrection of Christ” are in Alma 2:31.
Alma 40:17-18 Alma teaches Corianton that the word “resurrection” refers to the reuniting of the body and the spirit of those from the day of Adam down to the resurrection of Christ.
Alma 40:19 “Now, whether the souls and the bodies of those of whom has been spoken shall all be reunited at once, the wicked as well as the righteous, I do not say; let it suffice, that I say that they all come forth; or in other words, their resurrection cometh to pass before the resurrection of those who die after the resurrection of Christ.” Modern LDS revelation tells us they will not be resurrected together. None of the wicked will be resurrected before the end of the Millennium (see D&C 88:97-102).
Alma 40:20 Alma isn’t sure what he’s talking about and even admits it is his opinion that only the righteous would be resurrected when Christ was resurrected.
Alma 40:21 “But whether it be at his resurrection or after, I do not say; but this much I say, that there is space between death and the resurrection of the body, and state of the soul in happiness or in misery until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works.” The words “his resurrection” are in Matthew 27:53 and, “according to their works” in Revelation 20:13.
Alma 40:22 “Yea, this bringeth about the restoration of those things of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets.”
Alma 40:23 Next, is a rather famous quote from the Book of Mormon defining what it means to be resurrected. “The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame.” What do “proper and perfect” look like? Will it be a certain age? Will we be thrilled with our new bodies? Will we be unrecognizable? Won’t we have TOO much hair? (see Thoughts on Resurrection)
Alma 40:24 “And now, my son, this is the restoration of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets” Which prophets spoke about this?
Alma 40:25 “And then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of God.” The phrase “then shall the righteous shine forth” is taken from Matthew 13:43.
Alma 40:26 Speaking of spiritual death, “But behold, an awful death cometh upon the wicked; for they die as to things pertaining to things of righteousness; for they are unclean, and no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God; but they are cast out, and consigned to partake of the fruits of their labors or their works, which have been evil; and they drink the dregs of a bitter cup.” They will have to live with the result of their wicked choices, for eternity. The phrase “inherit the kingdom of God” is from 1 Corinthians 6:9.
Alma 41:1 A third thing that Alma perceives to be troubling Corianton’s mind is the plan of restoration. “AND now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the restoration of which has been spoken; for behold, some have wrested the scriptures, and have gone far astray because of this thing. And I perceive that thy mind has been worried also concerning this thing. But behold, I will explain it unto thee.” To “wrest” the scriptures means to “twist” or “pervert” the interpretation of God’s Word. Interesting that in the 1830 edition page 336 it read “arrested the scriptures” which was changed in later editions from “arrested” to “wrested.”
Alma 41:2 He will now explain this principle of restoration, “I say unto thee, my son, that the plan of restoration is requisite with the justice of God; for it is requisite that all things should be restored to their proper order. Behold, it is requisite and just according to the power and resurrection of Christ, that the soul of man should be restored to its body, and that every part of the body should be restored to itself.” The use of the term “requisite” here means “required.”
Alma 41:3 “And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.” In LDS theology, basically those who live a telestial lifestyle will receive a telestial, resurrected body. Those who live worthy of a terrestrial glory will receive a terrestrial body, and those whose lives earn celestial glory will receive a celestial body (see D&C 88:28-32). In other words, on Judgment Day, everyone will be “restored” eternally, to the type of resurrected body they have earned. This is the law of restoration. The phrase “unto that which is good” is in Romans 16:19.
Alma 41:4 “And if their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame – mortality raised to immortality, corruption to incorruption – raised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil, the one on one hand, the other on the other –“ The words “inherit the kingdom of” are in 1 Corinthians 6:9.
Alma 41:5 “The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.” When it is too late to change. Our desires here, seem to be a key issue.
Alma 41:6 “And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness.”
Alma 41:7 “These are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that endless night of darkness; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil.” We are our own judges by deciding to choose good or evil in our lives.
Alma 41:8 “Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved.” Corianton can choose to do what is right and be saved or go to hell. The words “the decrees of” are in Acts 17:7 and, “and be saved” are in Luke 8:12. Here it says, “the decrees of God are unalterable.” But, in Doctrine and Covenants 56:4 it states, “Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good.” It appears the Lord forgot what he told Alma in the Book of Mormon about God’s decrees being unalterable.
Alma 29:4 warns that God’s decrees are “unalterable”. Yet, there are numerous examples of Joseph Smith changing the pronouncements of God and making significant revisions in all the Standard Works of the Church. In the Book of Mormon alone, we have covered many of these changes. If God’s decrees are unalterable then, why has so much of the Book of Mormon been altered, effecting doctrinal teachings?
Alma 41:9 Alma has taught him and now Corianton knows what the risks of continuing to intentionally sin are. “And now behold, my son, do not risk one more offense against your God upon those points of doctrine, which ye have hitherto risked to commit sin.” Corianton is without excuse now that he understands the doctrine.
Alma 41:10 Here is a famous phrase at the end of this verse: “Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.”
Alma 41:11 He tells Corianton he is not alone in needing to repent. “And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.” The phrase “the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity” is similar, to Acts 8:23 and, “with God in the world” is in Ephesians 2:12.
Alma 41:12 Alma will now explain the meaning of “restoration.” “And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature?” In other words, if you like to party all the time, would you be comfortable around abstainers? If you were naturally evil, would you feel comfortable around righteous people? Probably not! The words “the meaning of the” are in 1 Corinthians 14:11.
Alma 41:13 “O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish – good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.” In other words, you will move into the resurrected house you have built for yourself. The phrase “evil for evil” is in 1 Thessalonians 5:15.
Alma 41:14 Here is Alma’s counsel to Corianton to change his desires and actions. “Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if you do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.” Pretty simple – you reap what you sow. The words “righteous judgment” are in John 7:24.
Alma 41:15 He reminds Corianton, once again that he cannot justify intentional sin. “For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justified him not at all.”
Alma 42:1 The fourth thing apparently troubling Corianton’s mind is the justice of God and the punishment of the sinner. “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.”
Alma 42:2 Alma will now teach agency, using Adam and Eve as examples. “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 –“ Meaning to keep Adam and Eve from eating the fruit of the tree of life after having eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Alma 42:3 As a consequence of their agency choice in the Garden of Eden, “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 –“
Alma 42:4 “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 wants Corianton to understand that it is not too late to repent and serve God.
Alma 42:5 What if Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of life? “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.” Remember, according to Mormonism you either have the chance to prepare to meet God in this life or receive an opportunity in the spirit world before the final judgment.
Alma 42:6 “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.” Thus, the need for the Atonement.
Alma 42:7 We will see next that according to Mormonism, Adam and Eve exercised their agency and made the right choices. “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 “And behold, it was not expedient that man should be reclaimed from this temporal death, for that would destroy the great plan of happiness.” In other words, in LDS theology the Fall was a good thing.
What would have happened if Adam and Eve had not partaken of the forbidden fruit? 2 Nephi 2:11 “For it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.” Lehi is saying that in order to have true agency, we must have choices.
Alma 42:9 “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.” The words “never die” are in John 11:26 and, “it was expedient that” are in John 18:14.
Alma 42:10 “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 42:11 “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 42:12 “And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience.”
As a side note: In the following verses, we find examples of Johnathan Edwards Jr., a famous American theologian who lived from 1745-1801. It is noteworthy that the phrasing used by the Book of Mormon people matches the phrasing used from Johnathan Edwards sermons. Did Joseph Smith attend any sermons where this particular topic was the teaching of the popular Edwards? Unfortunately, we will not take the time here now to draw those parallels.
Alma 42:13 “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.” The phrase “God would cease to be God” is repeated three times in this chapter. Alma is trying help Corianton understand that if God tried to bend the rules so that Corianton could be forgiven without repenting, God would cease being God.
Alma 42:14 “And thus we see that all mankind are 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.” Which is what will happen to Corianton unless he repents.
Alma 42:15 Here, Alma tells us that it was God who paid for our sins. “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 word, 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.” In other words, God’s atonement made it possible to satisfy the law of justice and still offer mercy to those who repent. The phrase “the sins of the world” is in John 1:29. Did you notice this verse states that “God himself atoneth for the sins of the world?” In Mosiah 13:34 is says, “Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?” The monotheistic God of the Bible and the Book of Mormon completed the atonement. At the time of the writing of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith believed in a monotheism (see Mosiah 15:5). His plurality of Gods teaching would come along with his writing of the Book of Abraham, years later.
Alma 42:16 Alma is going to explain why punishing the unrepentant sinner is necessary. In other words, repentance would be meaningless unless there were an eternal punishment in place for the unrepentant. “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 42:17 “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 42:18 “Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man.”
Alma 42:19 “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 “And, also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin.” The words “against sin” are in Hebrews 12:4.
Alma 42:21 “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?”
Alma 42:22 Alma will now present what the LDS refer to as the “law of opposites.” In other words, the law of punishment is opposite the law of repentance, and so forth. “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.” The law of mercy can claim the sinner who repents because Christ paid the penalty for sin required by the law of justice. Got it?
Alma 42:23 “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 of justice.”
Alma 42:24 “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 “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 42:26 “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.” The phrase “from the foundation of the world” if from Matthew 13:35 and, “destruction and misery” is in Romans 3:16.
Another well-known passage that supports the “law of opposites” is in 2 Nephi 2:11 “For it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.” Lehi is saying that in order to have true agency, we must have choices.
Alma 42:27 Applying all of this to Corianton, Alma says, “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.” The words “whosoever will come” are in Mark 8:34 and, “in the last day” are in John 7:37 and, “according to his deeds” in Romans 2:6.
Alma 42:28 “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 42:29 “And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your trouble you, with that trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance.” The words “I desire that ye” are in Ephesians 3:13.
Alma 42:30 “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.”
Alma 42:31 Now, after that extensive discourse, Alma gives Corianton one more chance. “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.” We will discover that all this effort on Alma’s part paid off. In future chapters, Corianton joins his Father and brothers in preaching the gospel. The words “unto repentance” are in Matthew 3:11.
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Until next time – God Bless!