Alma’s Interview Questions

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The Conversion of Alma [the Younger] by Gary L. Kapp
Many readers of the Book of Mormon are familiar with these three striking questions from Alma the Younger, recorded in Alma chapter 5, verse 14:

And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, [1] have ye spiritually been born of God? [2] Have ye received his image in your countenances? [3] Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?

Did you know that, in this same chapter, one of the longest in the book, Alma poses 45 “interview” questions. I say interview because they address what’s in the human heart at the deepest levels.

If you’d like to conduct a rigorous self-interview, ask yourself all these questions and give yourself a score of 1–5 for each answer (1, meaning “I’m not doing so well” to 5, meaning, “I’m doing great”), then add the score (225 is perfect).

  1. And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? (v. 6)
  2. Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? (v. 6)
  3. And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell? (v. 6)
  4. And now I ask of you, my brethren, were they [fathers in captivity] destroyed? (v. 8)
  5. And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? (v. 9)
  6. And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved? (v. 10)
  7. Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation? (v. 10)
  8. What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell? (v. 10)
  9. Behold, I can tell you—did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi? (v. 11)
  10. And was he not a holy prophet? (v. 11)
  11. Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them? (v. 11)
  12. And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? (v. 14)
  13. Have ye received his image in your countenances? (v. 14)
  14. Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? (v. 14)
  15. Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? (v. 15)
  16. Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body? (v. 15)
  17. I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth? (v. 16)
  18. Or do ye imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say—Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth—and that he will save you? (v. 17)
  19. Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God? (v. 18)
  20. I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? (v. 19)
  21. I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances? (v. 19)
  22. I say unto you, can ye think of being saved when you have yielded yourselves to become subjects to the devil? (v. 20)
  23. And now I ask of you, my brethren, how will any of you feel, if ye shall stand before the bar of God, having your garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness? (v. 22)
  24. Behold, what will these things testify against you? (v. 22)
  25. Behold will they not testify that ye are murderers, yea, and also that ye are guilty of all manner of wickedness? (v. 23)
  26. Behold, my brethren, do ye suppose that such an one can have a place to sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and also all the holy prophets, whose garments are cleansed and are spotless, pure and white? (v. 24)
  27. And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now? (v. 26)
  28. Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? (v. 27)
  29. Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? (v. 27)
  30. That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins? (v. 27)
  31. Behold, are ye stripped of pride? (v. 28)
  32. Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? (v. 29)
  33. And again I say unto you, is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions? (v. 30)
  34. And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye? (v. 39)
  35. Behold, I say unto you, that the devil is your shepherd, and ye are of his fold; and now, who can deny this? (v. 39)
  36. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? (v. 45)
  37. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? (v. 45)
  38. And now my beloved brethren, I say unto you, can ye withstand these sayings; [?] (v. 53)
  39. yea, can ye lay aside these things, and trample the Holy One under your feet; [?] (v. 53)
  40. yea, can ye be puffed up in the pride of your hearts; [?] (v. 53)
  41. yea, will ye still persist in the wearing of costly apparel and setting your hearts upon the vain things of the world, upon your riches?
  42. 5Yea, and will you persist in turning your backs upon the poor, and the needy, and in withholding your substance from them? (v. 55)
  43. And now, my brethren, what have ye to say against this? (v. 58)
  44. For what shepherd is there among you having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock? (v. 59)
  45. And behold, if a wolf enter his flock doth he [the shepherd] not drive him out? (v. 59)

Key Verse: “Put Your Trust in That Spirit Which Leadeth to Do Good” (D&C 11:12–14)

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Here’s another passage I discovered while still in my teens. It’s been an important part of my spiritual foundation ever since.

And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy; and then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive. (Doctrine and Covenants 11:12–14; compare Micah 6:8; emphasis added.)

These simple, straightforward verses have resonated with me since I first read them at age 18. They’re also a practical measure that inspire a few questions in me.

  • Are you putting your trust in the Spirit that leads you to do good or in that spirit that leads you to do wrong or bad?
  • Are you trusting in the Lord or in man and and reason—”the arm of flesh” (see 2 Nephi 4:34)?
  • Is it okay with you to not be right? Are you humble?
  • Do you set aside judgments and harsh opinions in favor of understanding others and listening to them?

If you do these things, you’ll be led by the Spirit. You will be joyful and enlightened and, if you truly believe, your righteous prayers will be granted.

When Nephi broke his his steel bow (see 1 Nephi 16), he didn’t slip into murmur mode, as his brothers and even father did. He went out and made himself a new bow and arrow and asked his father for directions to the nearest hunting hot spot (see v. 23). He clung to “that Spirit which leadeth to do good.”

With his “can do” attitude, he humbled his father and older brothers. He had a successful hunt. He had a successful life!

He wrote a successful book (the small plates of Nephi) that was included in a larger work, the Book of Mormon. He left behind an unforgettable name and example. All this because he “put [his] trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good.”

Key Verse: “He Did Visit Me and . . . Soften My Heart” (1 Nephi 2:16)

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This verse has stuck with me for years. I don’t ever remember hearing it quoted over the pulpit or in Sunday school. To me, it is one of the key verses in the entire Book of Mormon because it’s like a hinge for the rest of the book. It’s from the early life of Nephi, one of the sons of Lehi, who took a spiritual approach to a big problem.

After Lehi’s revelation about the destruction of Jerusalem in around 600 AD, he left the city and traveled three days into the wilderness, leaving behind home and to escape those who protested Lehi’s prophecies and threatened his life.

Nephi’s older brothers Laman and Lemuel were none too happy about leaving behind the comforts and security of home. Nephi on the other hand wanted to believe and follow his father. He went off by himself for a time, his is what he said.

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, . . . having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers. (1 Nephi 2:16; emphasis added.)

It started with a sincere desire, not denial or mocking. He cried to the Lord who visited him, softened his heart, enabling him to believe his father’s words. Consequently, he did not rebel like his brothers. And that all the difference for his posterity kept faith alive for nearly 1,000 years that followed.

Made Perfect

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Those familiar with the New Testament know this verse from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48).

That’s a loaded verse. Is Jesus commanding us to be flawless in character and behavior, today? Is He asking us to be perfect like God the Father right now? If so, I think the human race is sunk. Who among mortals could live up to such a charge? Not I.

What does perfect mean in this context? From the Greek translation of this verse, the word τέλειοι (telios) has seven definitions:

  1. brought to its end, finished
  2. wanting nothing necessary to completeness
  3. perfect
  4. that which is perfect, 4a) consummate human integrity and virtue, 4b) of men, 4b1) full grown, adult, of full age, mature

Hmm. Noah was described as “a just man and perfect in his generations” (see Genesis 6:9). The NIV translates this “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time,” while The Message translates it “a good man, a man of integrity in his community.”

So perfect can mean a number of things, but I like the definitions mature, complete, finished. These are qualities that seem far more reachable than flawlessness, which is a common and burdensome misconception of the word.

Hebrews 12:23 speaks of “just men made perfect.” That makes sense to me, that we are made perfect rather than getting there all by our determined selves.

Then there are these words near the very end of the Book of Mormon, written by Mormon’s son Moroni:

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Moroni 10:32–33; emphasis added .)

According to these beautiful words from Moroni, our perfection will come through the grace of God, if we love God with all our might, mind, and strength, denying ourselves all ungodliness, by the grace of God we will be made perfect. A perfect plan made by a perfect creator.

That doesn’t mean we are not accountable for our actions and for constant improvement. On the contrary. We are accountable, whether we believe it or not.

So What Is Teenage Rebellion?

Courtesy LDS Media LibraryThe dictionary defines rebellion as an “open opposition toward a person or group in authority” or “refusal to obey rules or accept normal standards of behavior.” Not my idea of fun.

Here’s one example of true rebellion from the Book of Mormon. Laman and Lemuel and their unnamed followers were murmur-o-maniacs. They just could not get over their inclination to rebel against their parents and brothers and to regularly deride what was holy and good. They had their okay moments, such as when they helped Nephi build a ship (see 1 Nephi 17 and 18), but those moments did not occur until after Nephi used some supernatural persuasion (see 1 Nephi 17:52–55). Nevertheless, because they were “past feeling” (see 1 Nephi 17:45), they persisted in their stubbornness, and more than once threatened to murder their father and siblings. Family factions were eventually forced to separate. Permanently.

Those who persistently rebel cannot be redeemed. Abinadi in the Book of Mormon told a belligerent king and his false-hearted priests that they “ought to tremble; for the Lord redeemeth none such that rebel against him and die in their sins; yea, even all those that have perished in their sins ever since the world began, that have wilfully rebelled against God, that have known the commandments of God, and would not keep them; these are they that have no part in the first resurrection” (see Mosiah 15:26). If we wilfully rebel against God and His commandments and don’t repent, it looks like we won’t join the faithful in the first resurrection. And if we are not part of the first resurrection, we will not be part of the celestial kingdom. We’ll have to camp out in another kingdom. For a very long time. Not a happy prospect.

On the other hand, things are often not that bad. There is usually a lot of reasons to hope. For example, in their younger years, Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah rebelled against God (see Mosiah 27:11), but they fully repented—fully. Any who are acquainted with their depth of repentance and their lives of absolute devotion shouldn’t have any doubt about how well things turned out for them. So it’s not so much the rebellion that does us in: it’s sticking to rebellion, and coming back to rebellion over and over, that keeps us mired in trouble.

Consider this. It’s not easy for us to tell, but when our children rebel against us, it might not be rebellion against God and our faith and culture as much as it might be rebellion against coercive, fear-based parenting.

God entrusts us with our children’s agency, at least until they are able to exercise it on their own. As infants and toddlers, they need to be fiercely protected from the elements, from passing cars, from hot stoves. As young children, the leash gets longer and they get more freedom. They go to school, make friends, and we leave them in the care of others. As tweens and teens, they venture into romantic longings, the virtual world of smart phones, relationship experimentation, and long trips away from home. We all but unsnap the leash. And sometimes they suffer from hormone poisoning. Sometimes they rebel—and we cling.

We don’t want our children whom we love more than life itself wandering off on “forbidden paths” (see 1 Nephi 8:28) and so we restrict and grasp and and yank and yell. And what happens? Instead of drawing them back, we push them away, sometimes far away.

Any parent knows that every child is different. Each has different needs, different ways of looking at the world, different talents. Some create their own boundaries and stay within them; others cannot be contained by any boundary. We can’t blame ourselves solely when our children, in spite of our very best though imperfect efforts, go another way. They have the right to choose.

The point I want to make here is that we sometimes encourage rebellion by asking too much of our kids, by expecting perfection, or by forcing them to do the right thing. It’s counterproductive. God doesn’t compel us; why should we compel our children? We cannot be saved or damned without our permission. We may urge, maybe even plead, but if we coerce or force, we’ve gone too far. By so doing, we create resentment and in resentment lies the seeds of rebellion.

Alma the Younger, later in life, offered these words to his way-off-track son Corianton:

Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds. (Alma 42:27; emphasis added.)

Alma the Younger knew. He put his parents through the wringer himself.

If we abduct our children’s agency, we compel them and according to the Book of Mormon, we shouldn’t do that. We should teach them, reach out to them, persuade and encourage, love, and turn to heaven for help, but not force. Remember that force or the systematic denial of agency, along with its chief proponent, were voted down by a majority in premortal life. The conflict continues.

Let’s not switch sides. Don’t collar your kids out of fear. Guide more and chide less. It’s just a thought.

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The Book of Mormon, a Temple of Peace

Courtesy LDS Media Library

I love the Book of Mormon. I dearly love the Bible, but I love the Book of Mormon more than any other book. I have loved it for over 40 years, since I first became acquainted with it at the age of 17. I love it for the way it speaks of Christ, placing Him as the central figure of the spiritual history of the world, of both the eastern and western hemispheres.

This book is an antidote when I am down in the dumps. When I read it, I am in a temple of peace. It’s my mountain top, my booster rocket, my life raft, my bomb shelter.

I recently began reading the Book of Mormon again with a new mission in mind. I found a fresh paperback copy on our bookshelf (2013 edition) and a fine-tipped, purple Flair pen. I am marking every occurrence of the name for Christ that I can find in purple—the color of royalty.

I can’t tell you what a spiritual experience it has been for me so far! Every time I find His name on these pages, I light up. I am not sure why, but it feels like on this trip through its pages I am being washed in living water—from a waterfall that started in heaven. It is fire and light, hope and peace, and cool refreshment, all wrapped into one.

Here are some of the names I have found in the first 32 pages:

  • Jesus
  • Christ
  • The Eternal God
  • Lord Jesus Christ
  • Savior
  • Son of the Living God
  • One
  • Messiah
  • Lamb of God
  • Lord
  • Son of God
  • Son of the Most High God
  • Son of the Eternal Father
  • Lamb
  • Son of the Everlasting God
  • Shepherd over all the earth

Let me conclude with a passage—a witness of Christ—that I love:

Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name. Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God. Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man [and woman] of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—and land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out. (Helaman 3:27–30.)

If you have never read the Book of Mormon, I promise if you read it with a humble attitude and an open heart, it will bless your life. It will open doors and open eyes. It will lower your blood pressure (if only figuratively). It will give you hope. You will find new direction for your life. It is a text book for our day. It will guide you to higher ground in a time that we desperately need higher ground and a sense of safety.

If you don’t know how to get your hands on a copy, if you contact me here and give me your address, I will personally send you a copy, free of charge. No strings attached.

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