Alma Teaches Helaman – Alma 36-37

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Setting

After preaching to the Zoramites, Alma the Younger returned to his home in Zarahemla. He had preached the gospel in many cities, and he had sent people to the remaining cities. He had seen many people reject the word of God, and “his heart was exceedingly sorrowful” (Alma 35:15). Now, he began to turn his attention to his own family. He met with each of his sons to give them guidance and encouragement. He began with his oldest son, Helaman, who had stayed behind in Zarahemla during his mission to the Zoramites (Alma 31:7).

Purpose

Alma’s purpose in meeting with Helaman was to transfer responsibility to him for the sacred records which had been kept since the beginning of their civilization.

Chiastic Structure

John Welch, a professor at Brigham Young University, discovered chiastic structures in the Book of Mormon. A chiastic structure is a literary technique in which a series of concepts is presented in order and then is reiterated in reverse order. Professor Welch pointed out that Alma 36 is written in a chiastic structure, which effectively focuses the reader’s attention on the heart of Alma’s conversion experience. (See “The Discovery of Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon: Forty Years Later,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 16/2 (2007): 74–87, 99.)

Outline

  1. God will support you and deliver you from your afflictions (Alma 36).
    • A. If you keep the commandments, you will prosper in the land (Alma 36:1).
    • B. Remember the captivity of our fathers (Alma 36:2).
    • C. If you trust God, He will support you in your trials, troubles, and afflictions (Alma 36:3).
    • D. I know this because I was born of God (Alma 36:4-5).
    • E. I tried to destroy the church (Alma 36:6).
    • F. An angel appeared and I was paralyzed (Alma 36:7-11).
    • G. I was racked with eternal torment (Alma 36:12-16).
    • H. I remembered my father’s teachings about Jesus Christ (Alma 36:17).
    • H’. I cried out to Jesus Christ (Alma 36:18).
    • G’. My pain was replaced by joy (Alma 36:19-22).
    • F’. My paralysis ended (Alma 36:23).
    • E’. I have labored since then to build up the church (Alma 36:24-25).
    • D’. The knowledge which I have is because I was born of God (Alma 36:26).
    • C’. I have been supported in trials, troubles, and afflictions (Alma 36:27).
    • B’. I have remembered the captivity of our fathers (Alma 36:28-29).
    • A’. If you keep God’s commandments, you will prosper in the land (Alma 36:30).
  2. Alma gives Helaman responsibility for the sacred records (Alma 37).
    1. Take care of the plates of Nephi and the plates of brass (Alma 37:1-5).
    2. This may seem like a small thing, but we do it for a wise purpose (Alma 37:6-12).
    3. If you keep God’s commandments, He’ll help you fulfill this responsibility (Alma 37:13-20).
    4. Keep the twenty four plates from the people. They contain secret works of darkness and would be damaging to the people (Alma 37:21-32).
    5. Instead, teach them repentance, humility, and good works (Alma 37:33-34).
    6. Personal counsel: keep the commandments, and “counsel with the Lord in all thy doings” (Alma 37:35-37).
    7. The Liahona led Lehi’s family to the promised land, but it only worked according to their faith and diligence (Alma 37:38-42).
    8. In the same way, the words of Christ will lead us to our own promised land, but only if we faithful and diligent in following them (Alma 37:43-46).
    9. Therefore, be faithful in taking care of the sacred records (Alma 37:47).

My Takeaways

Before entrusting the sacred record to Helaman, Alma taught him an important principle: God will support you in all of your trials. This served two purposes:

  1. It reinforced the seriousness of the responsibility to Helaman: it might not always be easy to protect these plates, but God would help him.
  2. It provided a case study in the importance of sacred history. To illustrate the principle, Alma reminded Helaman that their ancestors had been delivered from captivity. He also related his own conversion experience—his own deliverance from captivity.

As he explained how to take care of the sacred records, Alma taught several principles to Helaman:

  1. What looks like a small responsibility may be extremely important.
  2. It’s important to focus on the light, not on the darkness.
  3. We should counsel with the Lord in everything we do.
  4. Like the Liahona, the words of Christ will help us if we are faithful and diligent in following them.

I will respond to Alma’s teachings by taking seriously my own responsibilities. I will remember that seemingly small actions can have huge consequences. I will remember that God will help me to fulfill the assignments He has given to me. And I will remember the importance of faithfulness and diligence in following His commandments.

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One Response to Alma Teaches Helaman – Alma 36-37

  1. Pingback: Lessons from Sermons to Family Members | Book of Mormon Study Notes

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