After serving as chief judge and high priest for eight years, Alma decided that he needed to dedicate himself full-time to leading the church. He resigned from his political position, giving the office of chief judge to Nephihah, and he began a tour of the cities in the Nephite lands, beginning with the capital city of Zarahemla.
Alma’s intent in preaching this sermon was to reinvigorate the faith of a group of people who had previously been firmly converted to the gospel but whose faith had begun to fade. Part of his audience had likely heard King Benjamin’s speech 40 years earlier, and others were the children and grandchildren of people who had participated in that life-changing event. Other audience members had likely been converted by the teaching of Alma’s father and had followed him away from King Noah, while others had participated in the miraculous escape of King Limhi’s people from captivity. These events were personal to Alma’s audience. By referencing them, he hoped to remind them of the thoughts and feelings which had connected them and their family members with God in the past.
Alma’s 50 Questions
Because this sermon contains a number of rhetorical questions, it has been called “Alma’s fifty questions to the church.” In the book Charting the Book of Mormon, John W. Welch and his son J. Gregory Welch catalogued fifty questions in this sermon, which they grouped into eight categories. All of the charts in that book are available on the BYU Studies website at https://byustudies.byu.edu/book-of-mormon-charts.
- Remember what God has done for your fathers (Alma 5:3-13).
- My father established a church in the land of Nephi. The members of that church were delivered from King Noah and from the Lamanites. Have you sufficiently remembered their captivity and deliverance (Alma 5:3-9)?
- Their hearts were changed because they believed the words of a prophet (Abinadi) (Alma 5:10-13).
- Evaluate your own spiritual condition (Alma 5:14-30).
- The invitation (Alma 5:31-42)
- Alma’s credentials (Alma 5:43-48)
- Final admonition (Alma 5:49-62)
- The Spirit says you must repent and be born again (Alma 5:49-52).
- Will you persist in your pride: wearing costly apparel, turning your backs on the poor, persecuting believers (Alma 5:53-56)?
- Come out from the wicked and declare yourself to be a follower of the good shepherd (Alma 5:57-60).
- These words are a commandment for members of the church and an invitation for those who are not (Alma 5:61-62).
Is my conversion current? That is the question Alma’s sermon invites me to ponder. Am I receptive to God’s invitation to repent and receive His blessings? Can I still feel as I did in the past? Can I imagine myself being clean at the Final Judgment? Am I stripped of inappropriate thoughts and feelings, such as pride or envy? If not, Alma invites me to humble myself, turn to God, enter the fold of the Good Shepherd, and receive God’s blessings once again. I’m grateful for Alma’s optimism and also for his high expectations. He knows that we are capable of reconnecting with God, even if we have distanced ourselves. He invites us to do so with the assurance that God is eager to receive us. We can know what we once knew, feel what we once felt, and become all that God wants us to become.
Blog Posts about Alma’s Sermon in Zarahemla
- Why Is Jesus Called “the Good Shepherd?” (3/14/2019)
- What Does It Mean to Be “Baptized Unto Repentance?” (2/22/2019)
- What Is the Relationship Between Baptism and Membership in the Church? (2/21/2019)
- How Does the Savior Invite Us to Come Unto Him? (2/12/2019)
- What Is the Tree of Life? (2/7/2019)
- What Does It Mean for Our Garments to Be “Washed White Through the Blood of the Lamb?” (2/1/2019)
- What Does the Book of Mormon Teach About Grace? (1/28/2019)
- What Is the Relationship Between Faith and Knowledge? (1/8/2019)
- Sufficiently Humble – Alma 5:27 (6/20/2018)
- Have Ye Spiritually Been Born of God? – Alma 5:14 (6/19/2018)
- Are Ye Stripped Of Pride? – Alma 5:27-28 (11/2/2017)
- Have You Sufficiently Retained in Remembrance… – Alma 5:6 (11/1/2017)
- They Did Sing Redeeming Love – Alma 5:9 (12/14/2016)
- Are Ye Stripped of Pride? – Alma 5:27-28 (3/26/2016)
- What Grounds Had They to Hope? – Alma 5:10 (3/8/2016)
- Can You Imagine? – Alma 5:16-18 (2/24/2016)
- I Have Fasted and Prayed Many Days – Alma 5:45-46 (6/5/2015)
- He Sendeth an Invitation Unto All Men – Alma 5:33-34 (6/3/2015)
- Have Ye Spiritually Been Born of God? – Alma 5:14 (6/3/2015)