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 commenced a tour of the cities in the Nephite lands, beginning with the capital city of Zarahemla.
Alma’s 50 Questions
The sermon to the members of the church in Zarahemla is found in Alma 5 (the second longest chapter in the Book of Mormon). Because the sermon contains a number of rhetorical questions, it has been referred to as “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 this book, including the analysis of Alma 5 are available on the BYU Studies website at https://byustudies.byu.edu/book-of-mormon-charts.
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 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.
- 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. (Alma 5:3-5)
- Have you sufficiently remembered their captivity and deliverance? (Alma 5:6-9)
- 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)
- God invites you to repent and promises that He will receive you. (Alma 5:31-36)
- The good shepherd calls you. If you do good works, you are part of His fold. If not, you are in the fold of the devil. (Alma 5:37-42)
- Alma’s credentials (Alma 5:43-48)
- I am called to speak plainly to you. (Alma 5:43-44)
- I have gained a testimony through fasting and prayer. (Alma 5:45-48)
- 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)