7 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.
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 loved his son Corianton and wanted only what was best for him. When Corianton committed a serious sin–abandoning his missionary duties to pursue a harlot–Alma took the time to discuss what he had done and to urge him to repent. As the passage above makes clear, Alma didn’t enjoy having this conversation and wished it weren’t necessary. Like Jacob, years earlier, who disliked having to use “boldness of speech” in identifying the sins of the people (Jacob 2:7), Alma, as Corianton’s father and spiritual leader, was duty-bound to have a difficult conversation with his son.
Sometimes when we face challenges that we cannot overcome on our own, we go into denial. We “cope” with the problem by ignoring it, hoping it will simply go away. But some types of problems don’t age well–the longer we procrastinate dealing with them, the worse they become. Under those circumstances, having a friend or a leader point out the problem may not be fun, but it may be exactly what we need.
I’m impressed with the way Alma handled this difficult conversation with his son:
- He identified Corianton’s sins clearly and concisely, and he didn’t dwell on them (Alma 39:2-4).
- He answered several doctrinal questions which Corianton had. (See Alma 40:1, Alma 41:1, Alma 42:1). The implication was that Corianton would choose more wisely if he understood the gospel more completely.
- At the end of the conversation, he expressed confidence in Corianton’s ability to repent and to choose more wisely in the future (Alma 42:29-31).
Today, I will recommit to hold difficult conversations as needed with my children and with those I lead. When I need to hold such a conversation, I will follow Alma’s example, by stating the problem clearly, addressing any misunderstandings which may have caused or exacerbated the problem, and expressing confidence that those I lead can address the issue wisely and effectively.