Corianton had done wrong. He had not only committed a serious sin, but had done so while representing the church as a missionary under the leadership of his father, Alma. His actions had embarrassed his father and had weakened the credibility of his fellow missionaries (Alma 39:1-12).
As you might expect, Alma reproved his son. He clearly identified Corianton’s sins, emphasized their seriousness, and urged him to repent. But then he did something you might not expect: he answered Corianton’s questions:
- “I will ease your mind,” he said, on the subject of how they could know of the coming of Christ in advance (Alma 39:17-19).
- “I perceive that thy mind is worried concerning the resurrection of the dead,” he said, and provided his perspectives on the difference between the spirit world and the resurrection (Alma 40:1).
- “I perceive that thy mind has been worried also” about the concept of restoration, he continued. “But behold, I will explain it unto thee” (Alma 41:1).
- “I perceive there is somewhat more which doth worry your mind,” he added: whether it is really appropriate for sinners to be punished. “Now behold, my son,I will explain this thing unto thee” (Alma 42:1-2).
After answering these four questions, Alma said, “I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance.” (Alma 42:29).
These are not the words of an angry, vengeful man. These are the words of a concerned parent, who wants the best for his son, and who is willing to patiently teach, with confidence that his son’s misbehavior can be improved through a more accurate understanding.
After receiving the First Vision, Joseph Smith endured persecution from many people in his community. A religious leader treated the story “not only lightly, but with great contempt” (Joseph Smith—History 1:21). Joseph was shocked that people treated him so harshly just because they disagreed with what he was saying. Here’s how he described his situation:
Being of very tender years, and persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends and to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me.Joseph Smith—History 1:28
Joseph later explained how we ought to treat people with whom we disagree:
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Chapter 29: “Living with Others in Peace and Harmony“
Today, I will follow the example of Alma and avoid the error of Joseph Smith’s leaders. When I interact with someone who seems to be misguided, I will trust their ability to learn, to change, and to accomplish great things in the future. If they are willing to listen, I will explain what I know, with confidence that my explanations will help them in their continued growth and progression.