Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Book of Mormon Lesson 29 (Alma 36-39)

Posted by robf on August 3, 2008

I ended up subbing at the last minute on this one. I had read the first couple chapters this week (and worked on them on the FUTW wiki), so yesterday and today I re-read those chapters and read the last two. I had a couple verses I was interested in talking about, but otherwise didn’t have a plan.

I started the class by writing the chapters on the board, and asking if anyone had a verse or anything else from these chapters that struck them this week as they read. People liked reading about Alma’s conversion, and the story of Corianton.

On the board I then wrote down, with input from the class (just to get the lay of the land):

Alma 36 Alma’s conversion story (to Helaman)
Alma 37 Sacred records (to Helaman)
Alma 38 To Shiblon
Alma 39 To Corianton

Then I asked what stories we normally cover in these chapters, and told the class we wanted to avoid those since they’ve already heard about all that (smile!). As we talked, I asked about Shiblon. Why did Helaman get a couple chapters, and Corianton a couple chapters, but good old faithful Shiblon who got stoned on his mission (made a little joke there) only got one? Somebody said maybe it was like the older son in the prodigal son story. I said maybe it was like Sam the son of Lehi, and wrote Sam Syndrome on the board. We talked about that, and how if a future historian were to write a history of the church in the early 21st Century, probably none of us would show up in it. The Church isn’t about us, but we should all be like Shiblon, faithful in our sphere.

The class was interested in talking about the story of Corianton, so we started reading Alma 39 (notice we pretty much skipped the whole Alma’s conversion story by this point!). We read and noticed that Corianton’s first problem was boasting of his wisdom. We talked about how sometimes when we respond to perceived challenges, we end up mirroring the problem we are confronting–in this case Corianton seemed to have responded to the Zoramite’s boasting with boasting of his own. I asked if we ever do this ourselves. I asked if any of us end up with Zoramite type boasting in our hearts when we see somebody drive past that we think is going to hell.

Second problem Corianton had was forsaking his mission. He didn’t just fall for a local harlot, he took off completely. I asked if we ever forsake our own missions, whatever they are.

That led to a discussion of Alma’s charge to Helaman about caring for the plates–especially how Helaman is supposed to pray about everything he is to do with the plates. I asked the class what Helaman might be expected to do with the plates, the answers came down to: protect, cherish, and share.

(At this point there was a short moment of inspiration when discussing protecting the plates. Out loud I wondered if perhaps this might help us think about Joseph Smith’s own experience with the plates. I mentioned that most of the Book of Mormon was translated without the plates in the room–even mentioned the seer stone in the hat–when apparently Joseph had returned the plates to Moroni. Just as Helaman is told that his plates would be protected by the hand of God, perhaps at some point it was too much work to protect the plates from onlookers, that the plates themselves became a distraction and the Lord might have taken them back to give Joseph the space to be able to concentrate on the translation, rather than the protection of the plates. All speculation, but it felt good.)

We talked about how the plates were Helaman’s sacred trust. I asked what sacred trusts we have each been given. We came up with a huge list including ordinances, doctrine, families, etc. I asked how are we all doing at protecting, cherishing, and sharing those sacred trusts.

At this point the Spirit was pretty strong in the room so I took a time out to point that out and ask if others were feeling it, and that hopefully we were all being inspired on ways we could improve our own stewardships of sacred trusts. Also that if nothing else this week, they could look back and know for a surety that they had felt the Spirit that week in Sunday School.

So I got back to Corianton by asking how we might be forsaking our own sacred trusts, just like Corianton did, and how one value of the scriptures is for us to look at ourselves as if we were respectively Helaman, Shiblon, and Corianton. In what ways are we like each of these sons? Instead of judging them, how can we learn from them.

Finally, at long last, we got to Corianton’s going after the harlot Isabel. We noted again that this wasn’t a local harlot, but apparently some sort of international sex symbol. Instead of dwelling on the 2nd worse sin almost next to murder teaching (since its tough to know exactly what part of Corianton’s sins were being referred to as so horrible), we moved on to Alma’s injunction to Corianton that he not follow after the lusts of his eyes. I asked what that meant, and we talked about lusting as listing–leaning towards, following, going after. We talked for a little bit about what that might mean for us in our day with the internet, television, etc. The class agreed that it didn’t have to even be sexual lusts, but any lust that took you away from fulfilling your covenants and sacred responsibilities that we’d talked about.

We were at this point pretty much out of time, but I wanted to finish up with Shiblon, since we hardly ever talk about him. I asked the class if they’d ever had a class on Shiblon and we chuckled because we know that we never talk about him. So we skipped to the end of Alma’s exhortation to Shiblon, where he is counceled to bridle his passions that he might be filled with love. Finally, at the very end here, I brought up Alma’s conversion story and how he had his visions and was filled with love, so much love that like the sons of Mosiah he spent the rest of his life trying to share that with others. I asked how many of us feel that much love, so much that we can’t stand the thought of our neighbors suffering for their sins. Since we pretty much none of us have that level of love, I pointed out that here maybe we have an answer to how to get that–to bridle our passions.

Well, we pretty much ran out of time at that point. There were many other comments and side explorations, but this was the main outline of the lesson. I was happy with how it turned out, and glad the Spirit was there to help us along. Afterwards, one sister apparently told my wife that she had read the chapters a couple times that week and we had still managed to think about things that she hadn’t considered before. That was nice, but as always, the true measure of the lesson will be how folks “take it into their daily lives”–something only the Lord can judge.

7 Responses to “Book of Mormon Lesson 29 (Alma 36-39)”

  1. JWL said

    If you are going to dicuss Corianton as part of this lesson, you may want to note the fun Mormon history trivia that a play based on a short story by B H Roberts about Corianton was the first Mormon-produced play to open on Broadway and later one of the first full-length Mormon-produced theatrical movies:


  2. jb said

    This line by line description of what you taught was very helpful. Thank you for mentioning when the class and you felt the spirit. We are ahead, can you give your comments on Lesson 30?

  3. robf said

    Thanks JB, I’m a bit behind, and traveling in Utah this week, but I’ve started working on some questions for Alma 40 on the feast wiki. Feel free to add your own thoughts there!

  4. Char Lee Behunin said

    I gave this lesson and prayed to be inspired to know what Heavenly Father and Alma would have me teach (seeing as he was the one who wrote this section.) Look up the word chiasm on http://www.lds.org and then go back and re-read Alma 36. It opened up a whole new world of meaning for me.

  5. robf said

    Hey Char Lee, feel free to share your thoughts more directly!

  6. Char Lee said

    A chiasm is a certain way of writing that has been found in the OT and the B of M.

    At this point in his life Alma had had many years to organize his life changing experience into words. Notice how the first topic he speaks about is commandment, it is also the last thing he mentions in this chapter. The next topic is deliverance of Alma’s forefathers, this is also the second to last topic. The third topic is being supported in trials and afflictions, this is also the third to last topic. In the middle of all of this comes Alma’s testimony hinging on the prayer he prayed to Jesus Christ, this in essence is the turning point in Alma’s experience. The topical breakdown of Chapter 36 looks a little like this:
    A. Commandments
    B. Deliverance
    C. Supported in trials
    D. Testimony
    Racked with torment
    Remembered sins
    PRAYS (turning point)
    Remembers words of his father
    Feels joy
    C. Supported in trials
    B. Deliverance
    A. Commandments

    Notice how after Alma has prayed the detail of the rest of the verses increases and becomes more clear. Alma’s prayer has changed his heart and his perspective, as well as his life.

    This chapter is AMAZING, even though we may have read it a hundred times before there is SO much more to it than we realize. The article Chaismus in the Book of Mormon goes into even greater detail on how deliberate this chaism is. (I only touched the surface.)

    Beautiful and so simple, I was sad you skipped it.

  7. Char Lee said

    PS I also found it interesting that when Alma was speaking to his son Corianton that he mentioned his sin ONLY once, in an effort to help him understand the seriousness of his error.

    The rest of the time Alma spent teaching him about the Gospel. (Who do you know that teaches their children about the doctrine of the resurrection in response to an issue with immorality?)

    Parenting purely inspired by the Lord!!

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: