The prophet Alma had lots of questions. Not just the rhetorical questions he asked the members of the church in Zarahemla, but also soul-stretching questions which he worked and prayed to resolve. In Alma 40, he shares with his son Corianton some things which he learned by “diligently” asking God the following question:
“What becometh of the souls of men from this time of death to the time appointed for the resurrection” (Alma 40:7)?
He shares the answers he received with his son, because he recognizes that his son has some of the same questions (Alma 40:1). While he does so, Alma models an important behavior of a learner: sifting through many questions to figure out the ones that really matter. Here are a few offshoots of the question which Alma acknowledges but does not answer:
- When is the resurrection? (“No one knows,” he says, but it will be “after the coming of Christ” (Alma 40:2, 4).
- Are people resurrected at different times? (“It mattereth not,” he says, “for God knoweth all these things.” We don’t all die at the same time, and “all is as one day with God,” so Alma is content to know that we will all be resurrected at some point in time (Alma 40:5, 8).
- Will the wicked and the righteous be resurrected at the same time? (“I do not say,” he tells Corianton. But “I give it as my opinion, that the souls and the bodies are reunited, of the righteous, at the resurrection of Christ, and his ascension into heaven” (Alma 40:19-20).
In between these statements, in which he acknowledges his own limitations, Alma testifies of the truths he does know:
- Between death and the resurrection, the spirits of the righteous are separated from the spirits of the wicked. The righteous are in a state of happiness, and the wicked are in a state of misery (Alma 40:11-14).
- The resurrection means the “the reuniting of the soul with the body” (Alma 40:18).
- When we are resurrected, our bodies will be perfect: “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” (Alma 40:23).
For me, this is a very powerful example of disciplined spiritual learning. Alma knew that he wouldn’t be able to understand all aspects of this topic, at least not all at once. And so, he intentionally spent time and energy focusing on the questions which he considered to be most important, and he intentionally set aside less important questions.
I once received the following counsel from Elder Neal A. Maxwell in answer to a question: “If there are things we do not understand or that seem exotic to us, it is alright to wonder about them, but not to let them become a distraction to us” (Personal conversation, 14 March 1992).
Today, I will prioritize my questions. I will follow Alma’s example, working and praying diligently to understand things that really matter, while setting aside questions of lesser importance. I will remember that I have limited time and energy, and that I need to spend them on the things that matter most.