Alma 42:1 concerning the justice of God in the punishment of the sinner
As an introduction to chapter 42, we should remember the words of Joseph Smith, "I have a key by which I understand the scriptures. I enquire, what was the question which drew out the answer?" (Teachings, p. 276) The question which drew out Alma's answer was Corianton's concern that it is unfair for God to punish sinners.
This provides an interesting character study on young Corianton. The sinner, especially the sinner who has been taught the truth from his childhood, always has to develop some rationalization to deal with the internal conflict which results from knowing right and choosing wrong. Corianton's version of this is common-to question God's fairness in the punishment of the sinner. This argument appeals to the "life is not fair" mentality. It is designed as an excuse, which Alma recognizes, Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins (v. 30). The Corianton doctrine was also taught by Nephi, there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God-he will justify in committing a little sin...and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God (2 Ne 28:8). After leaving his mission and committing adultery with a harlot, Corianton rationalized that he was worthy of a few stripes, not the eternal consignation to a state of misery.
Alma 42:2 the Lord God sent our first parents forth from the garden of Eden
Alma begins his discussion with a quotation of scripture. The words of verse two were taken from Genesis 3:23-24 as recorded on the brass plates of Laban. There are subtle differences between the translations which are worth examining. It is also instructive that Alma follows a righteous pattern in his teaching. To deal with his son's concerns, he first turns to the scriptures.
Alma 42:2 What are cherubim and a flaming sword?
Cherubim are heavenly creatures whose exact form and function are unknown. The revelations of other heavenly creatures suggest that these are not figurative but intelligent servants of God. The word cherubim is the plural form of the singular, cherub. Bruce R. McConkie said, "Apparently a cherub is an angel of some particular order or rank to whom specific duties and work are assigned. That portion of the Lord's word which is now available among men does not set forth clearly either the identity or work of these heavenly beings." (Mormon Doctrine, p. 124.)
Even less is known of the flaming sword. The early brethren considered the flaming sword to be a figure for an angel of God who wields a flaming sword in the defense of truth (Journal of Discourses 4:43; 13:180). During the early Kirtland period, spiritual manifestations were frequent. One experience confirms this concept, "Elder Roger Orton saw a mighty angel riding upon a horse of fire, with a flaming sword in his hand, followed by five others, encircle the house, and protect the Saints." (History of the Church, 2:386) Finally, Elder John W. Taylor, while paraphrasing DC 7:6, made an interesting change in the text, "More blessed is my servant John, because he desires to tarry upon the earth to bring souls unto me, and to do a greater work than he has yet done, and verily, I say unto you, I will make him a flaming sword of fire and a ministering angel unto all those who shall be heirs of salvation to them that dwell upon the earth." (Conference Report, Oct. 1900, p. 56, italics added) We cannot know for sure whether John the Beloved is necessarily the angel who kept the way of the tree of life, but that the term flaming sword refers to an angel who is given a special assignment of protection.
Alma 42:3 man had become as God, knowing good and evil
Knowledge of good and evil are not the only reasons why Adam and Eve became as gods. Not only did they know good from evil, but they had been placed in a state to act upon that knowledge. Not only had they been placed in a state to act according to their will, but they had been given possession of physical bodies. In the pre-mortal world, the only beings who had such knowledge, freedom to act upon it, and a body of flesh and bones were Gods. The irony is that this great privilege was given to mortals in a state of probation, in effect, to see if they could use these principles wisely enough to become as God in every other way.
Alma 42:4 a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God
Two scriptures require our attention. The first comes from Lehi, And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents (2 Ne 2:21). The second comes from Alma himself, there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead (Alma 12:24).
"Time is a gift from the Lord, Alma also recorded, wherein His children can learn to become more like Him. 'And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God.' (Alma 42:4.)
"Too quickly, lives can pass away 'like as it were unto us a dream...' (Jacob 7:26.) Each spent minute is gone forever. It should be invested more carefully than gold, one philosopher said, because a fortune lost can be reclaimed, but time lost cannot.
"There are different demands on peoples' time at various stages of life. 'To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.' (Ecc. 3:1.) But consistent throughout a person's lifetime is the command: 'Thou shalt not idle away thy time...' (D&C 60:13.)" (Church News, 12/30/89)
"We are being tested every minute of the day by the choices we make, by the reactions we have, by the things we say, by the things we think about. It's like the ancient Christian doctrine of the two ways, the way to the right and the way to left, whichever they are. You must make the choice, and you may have made the wrong choice every day of your life up until now, but as long as you are here it is still not too late. You can still make the right choice-every minute you can make the right choice. It's never too late to make the right one...We have a time to repent; 'therefore this life became a probationary state.' Well, it can't be anything else; it's a time to prepare to meet God. That's why we need the gospel here." (Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Lecture 48, p. 327)
Alma 42:5 if Adam had put forth his hand immediately...the great plan of salvation would have been frustrated
Had Adam partaken of the tree of life after his fall, he would have had instant immortality. On the surface, this sounds great! But he would have been immortal in a fallen state. He would have condemned himself to eternity in a telestial existence with its spontaneous thorns and thistles and food supply contingent upon the sweat of the brow (Moses 4:23-25). This was not according to the Lord's plan and could not be allowed.
Therefore, we learn that death is a blessing. Clearly, the mythical search for a fountain of youth is a misguided adventure. This mortal probation with its pains, travails, and mistakes can only end with the blessing of death, whose sting was swallowed up in Christ's infinite atonement. All this is according to the great plan of salvation which God would not allow to be frustrated.
Bruce R. McConkie
"Alma said, 'the word of God would have been void, and the great plan of salvation would have been frustrated.' Adam must fall; Adam must die spiritually; Adam must repent and keep the commandments and live again spiritually; Adam must die temporally; Adam must be raised in the resurrection -- all this must be or he could not be saved." (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 88)
Bruce R. McConkie
"Such is the divine will. Fall thou must, O mighty Michael. Fall? Yes, plunge down from thy immortal state of peace, perfection, and glory to a lower existence... Yes, Adam, fall; fall for thine own good; fall for the good of all mankind; fall that man may be; bring death into the world; do that which will cause an atonement to be made, with all the infinite and eternal blessings which flow therefrom.
"And so Adam fell as fall he must. But he fell by breaking a lesser law-so that he too, having thereby transgressed, would become subject to sin and need a Redeemer and be privileged to work out his own salvation, even as would be the case with all those upon whom the effects of his fall would come." (The Promised Messiah, pp. 220-21)
Alma 42:6 man became lost forever, yea, they became fallen man
"Adam brought the fallen condition, mortality, through partaking of the forbidden fruit. All men and women are subject to this condition. All. Jehovah spoke to Adam: 'Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin, even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good' (Moses 6:55). Robert L. Millet has written: 'No, of course we do not believe, with Calvin, in the moral depravity of men and women. No, we do not believe, with Luther, that man, because of his carnality and depravity, does not, even have the power to choose good over evil. And we do not believe that children are born in sin, that they inherit the so-called sin of Adam either through sexual union or by birth. Rather, children are conceived in sin: meaning first, that they are conceived into a world of sin, and second, that conception is the vehicle by which the effects of the Fall (not the original transgression, which God has forgiven) are transmitted to Adam's posterity. To say that we are not punished for the transgression is not to say that we are not subject to and affected by it. . . . Adam's fallen nature is passed on to his children and thereby from generation to generation. Thus sin is implanted in man's nature at conception, just as death is implanted at the same time. Both of these- death and sin- are present only in seed form at conception, and therefore a child is neither dead nor sinful when born. Death and sin do, however, come to pass as a result of man's nature as he grows up. Sin comes naturally, just as does death.' (Life in Christ, pp. 24-25.)
"This is what we call the fall of man. Adam, and thus all of us as his children, were freed from whatever 'original guilt' might once have been as a result of Adam's transgression (see Moses 6:53-54). But what of our own fall? Gerald N. Lund has written: 'If we know good from evil and then sin (which, according to Paul, all men do), then we must talk about a second fall. This is not the fall of Adam. This is one's own personal fall. This fall, which our own, not Adam's, transgression brings about, requires redemption as surely as mankind needed redemption from the consequences of Adam's fall. We'll term this the 'fall of me.' . . . Now, since we have no one to blame for this except ourselves, our redemption becomes conditional upon our actions. This is what Lehi meant [2 Nephi 2:7] when he said that the sacrifice that the Messiah offered to satisfy the ends of the law is viable only for those with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.' (Jesus Christ, Key to the Plan of Salvation, p. 95.)" (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, p. 314)
Alma 42:7 our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually
"The 'first death,' which was suffered by Adam and Eve upon their banishment from the Garden of Eden, is described by Alma as being 'cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord' (D&C 29:41; Alma 42:7-11). The parents of the human race were not the first to suffer such a 'death,' for it had been previously decreed for Lucifer and those spirits who chose to follow him in rebelling against righteousness (D&C 29:36-37; Rev. 12:7-9; 2 Ne. 2:17-18).
"President Joseph Fielding Smith said this 'death ... has passed upon all men who have remained unrepentant and who have not received the gospel. Those who have suffered the first spiritual death or departure, which is a shutting out from the presence of God, have the privilege of being redeemed from this death through obedience to the principles of the gospel. Through baptism and confirmation they are born again and thus come back into spiritual life, and through their continued obedience to the end, they shall be made partakers of the blessings of eternal life in the celestial kingdom of God.' (DS 2:222-23; italics added.)" (Hoyt J. Brewster, Doctrine & Covenants Encyclopedia, p. 184)
Bruce R. McConkie
"Thus 'all mankind,' meaning all who have arrived at the years of accountability, are spiritually dead, and they so remain until they attain unto spiritual life through baptism and the receipt of the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Mormon Doctrine, p. 757)
Alma 42:8 the great plan of happiness
"In obedience there is joy and peace unspotted...and as God has designed our happiness-and the happiness of all His creatures, he never has-He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his laws and ordinances." (Teachings, p. 256-7 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 345)
Alma 42:11,14 their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord
At this point, let's return to the question which Alma is addressing. Corianton thinks it is unfair for the wicked to be miserable forever. Alma's response is to show him that (in the absence of the Atonement) the Fall places everyone in an eternal state of misery, even spiritual death. This sets the stage for the conclusion that we are all eternally indebted to God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ for the plan of redemption. Without it, sinners as well as the most righteous would be consigned to a state of misery...shut out from the presence of our God...to remain with the father of lies, in misery (v. 1; 2 Ne 9:9).
Alma 42:14 all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice
Jeffrey R. Holland
"This loving, charitable, and merciful generosity of the Savior raises the inevitable question of the place of justice in his working out of the Atonement. The balance between seemingly contradictory principles is examined in the Book of Mormon most skillfully and-because it is a father speaking to his own transgressing son-most sensitively by Alma the Younger when instructing his son Corianton.
"Obviously the demands of justice require that penalties must be paid for violation of the law. Adam transgressed and so have all of us; thus the judgment of death (physically) and the consequences of hell (spiritually) is pronounced as a just reward. Furthermore, once guilty, none of us could personally do anything to overcome that fate. We do not have in us the seeds of immortality allowing us to conquer death physically, and we have not been perfect in our behavior, thus forfeiting the purity that would let us return to the presence of God spiritually. Furthermore, God cannot simply turn a blind eye to the breaking of divine law, because in so doing he would dishonor justice and would 'cease to be God,' which thing he would never do. The sorry truth for mortal men and women was, then, that 'there was no means to reclaim [them] from this fallen state which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience.' (Alma 42:12)
"'Thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence.' (Alma 42:14)" (Christ And The New Covenant, p. 226)
Alma 42:15 the plan of mercy
The plan of mercy is the plan of salvation's answer to the law of justice. In the discussion of sin, law, and punishment, the law comes first. It is a principle as eternal as God himself. Its integrity must be preserved at all cost, for as soon as the law of justice is destroyed, so is God's divinity (v. 22). Against this seemingly unrelenting force, we place ourselves in a very precarious position when we sin. Without the plan of mercy, we would be like an ant under a falling anvil, waiting for our well-deserved, crushing punishment. The plan of mercy, fortunately intercedes. Boyd K. Packer said, "Through Him mercy can be fully extended to each of us without offending the eternal law of justice." (Dallin H. Oaks, The Lord's Way, p. 218) Remarkably, the plan of mercy simultaneously preserves the law and offers protection to the violator of the law.
Bruce R. McConkie
"Mercy is thus for the repentant, the faithful, the obedient, those who love and serve God. All other fail to escape the clutches of justice. 'Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.' (Matt. 5:7.) 'Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.' (Luke 6:36.) Salvation is the reward of those who conform to the plan of mercy. 'Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.' (Ps. 23:6.)
"So infinite in scope is the plan of mercy that it applies to the living and the dead. Those who did not have the opportunity to subject themselves by repentance to the plan of mercy while in this life, but who would have done so had the opportunity been afforded them, will have their chance in the spirit world; they shall then be saved from the grasp of justice and, reaping the full blessings of mercy, shall go on to celestial reward.
"'There is never a time when the spirit is too old to approach God,' the Prophet said. 'All are within the reach of pardoning mercy, who have not committed the unpardonable sin, which hath no forgiveness, neither in this world, nor in the world to come. There is a way to release the spirits of the dead; that is by the power and authority of the priesthood -- by binding and loosing on earth. This doctrine appears glorious, inasmuch as it exhibits the greatness of divine compassion and benevolence in the extent of the plan of human salvation.' (Teachings, pp. 191-192.)" (Mormon Doctrine, p. 486)
Alma 42:18 remorse of conscience
George F. Richards
"I would have the Saints, myself included, avoid as far as possible the disappointments and sorrow here in life, and hereafter, resulting from sin and neglect. Many of our sorrows, and the greatest sorrows we experience in life, are of our own making, and could have been averted.
"Remorse of conscience, resulting from sin, is among the greatest of sorrows, and the hardest to heal. No person can afford to commit sin. There is no satisfaction derived from so doing that will justify the sorrow and remorse that result therefrom. Many of our sorrows in life are the result of [thoughtlessness] on our part. We do things that are unwise, and hurtful to ourselves and to others, not having first thought the thing through, and considered the inevitable consequences." (Conference Report, Apr. 1945, p. 130)
Harold B. Lee
"Remorse of conscience is the greatest hell. The greatest hell that one can suffer is the burning of one's conscience. The scriptures say his thoughts will condemn him, he'll have a bright recollection of all his life (see Alma 12:14; 11:43). You'll remember that in the scriptures they speak of the Lamb's book of life, which is a record kept of man's life which is kept in heaven. Well, who keeps that record? Not only the records on earth, but there's a record of our lives in heaven. Men will be judged according to the records that have been kept of our lives. (See D&C 128:6-7.) Now, when we fail of that highest degree of glory and realize what we've lost, there will be a burning of the conscience that will be worse than any physical kind of fire that I assume one could suffer." (Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 67)
Alma 42:19-21 if there was no law given
Jeffrey R. Holland
"The claims of justice must be honored. The absence of law or the lack of any penalty for breaking it would leave the world in amoral chaos. Alma asked rhetorically, 'If there was no law given-if a man murdered he should die-would he be afraid he would die if he should murder? And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin.' Clearly one of the purposes of law and the firm demands of justice behind it is its preventive impact." (Christ And The New Covenant, p. 226)
Alma 42:22 justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law
"Who or what 'inflicteth the punishment' demanded by a broken law?
"Inasmuch as every law has both a punishment and a blessing affixed to it, punishments (or miseries) are the natural result of disobedience to the law, whereas blessings are the natural results of obedience. Thus, when a person transgresses a law (or sins) and suffering or punishment results, he brings upon himself the suffering and the 'law inflicteth the punishment.' (Read Helaman 14:30- 31.) It is foolish to blame God for our suffering, for if all men were 100 percent righteous there would be no suffering. The following analogy might help to illustrate this point: If you counsel a person not to touch a hot stove or he will be burned, and he then disregards your counsel, touches the hot stove, and is burned, what caused him to be burned -- you or the stove? Likewise, if the Lord commands you not to do a certain thing or you will suffer, and you then disregard the counsel of the Lord, commit the sin, and then suffer, who caused your suffering -- the Lord, or your willful disobedience of divine law?" (Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion To Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 229)
Dallin H. Oaks
"Justice has many meanings. One is balance. A popular symbol of justice is scales in balance. Thus, when the laws of man have been violated, justice usually requires that a punishment be imposed, a penalty that will restore the balance...Punishments prescribed by the laws of man only follow the judge's action, but under the laws of God the consequences and penalties of sin are inherent in the act...by itself, justice is uncompromising. The justice of God holds each of us responsible for our own transgressions and automatically imposes the penalty." (Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 346)
Alma 42:23 mercy claimeth the penitent
Bruce C. Hafen
"Mercy is thus rehabilitative, not retributive or arbitrary. The Lord asks repentance from a transgressor, not to compensate the Savior for paying the debt of justice, but to induce the transgressor to undertake a meaningful process of personal development toward a Christlike nature.
"At the same time, mercy depends ultimately on the Lord's extension of unmerited grace. Even though conditioned on repentance for personal sins, mercy is never fully 'earned' by its recipients. Repentance is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition of salvation and exaltation. 'For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do' (2 Ne. 25:23). The unearned nature of mercy is demonstrated by the Atonement's having unconditionally compensated for the disabilities imposed on mankind by the Fall of Adam. Adam and Eve and their posterity were utterly powerless to overcome the physical and spiritual deaths that were introduced by the Fall. Moreover, transgressors do not 'pay' fully for their sins through the process of repentance. Even though repentance requires restitution to the extent of one's ability, most forms of restitution are beyond any person's ability to achieve. No matter how complete our repentance, it would all be to no avail without a mediator willing and able to pay our debt to justice, on condition of our repentance. Thus, even with sincere and complete repentance, all are utterly dependent on Jesus Christ." (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 776)
Alma 42:23 mercy cometh because of the atonement
Bruce R. McConkie
"As justice is the child of the fall, so mercy is the offspring of the atonement." (The Promised Messiah, p. 245)
Alma 42:25 do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice?
Boyd K. Packer
"There once was a man who wanted something very much. It seemed more important than anything else in his life. In order for him to have his desire, he incurred a great debt.
"He had been warned about going into that much debt, and particularly about his creditor. But it seemed so important for him to do what he wanted to do and to have what he wanted right now. He was sure he could pay for it later.
"So he signed a contract. He would pay it off sometime along the way. He didn't worry too much about it, for the due date seemed such a long time away. He had what he wanted now, and that was what seemed important.
The creditor was always somewhere in the back of his mind, and he made token payments now and again, thinking somehow that the day of reckoning really would never come.
"But as it always does, the day came, and the contract fell due. The debt had not been fully paid. His creditor appeared and demanded payment in full.
"Only then did he realize that his creditor not only had the power to repossess all that he owned, but the power to cast him into prison as well.
'I cannot pay you, for I have not the power to do so,' he confessed. 'Then,' said the creditor, 'we will exercise the contract, take your possessions, and you shall go to prison. You agreed to that. It was your choice. You signed the contract, and now it must be enforced.'
"'Can you not extend the time or forgive the debt?' the debtor begged. 'Arrange some way for me to keep what I have and not go to prison. Surely you believe in mercy? Will you not show mercy?'
"The creditor replied, 'Mercy is always so one sided. It would serve only you. If I show mercy to you, it will leave me unpaid. It is justice I demand. Do you believe in justice?'
"'I believed in justice when I signed the contract,' the debtor said. 'It was on my side then, for I thought it would protect me. I did not need mercy then, nor think I should need it ever. Justice, I thought, would serve both of us equally as well.'
"'It is justice that demands that you pay the contract or suffer the penalty,' the creditor replied. 'That is the law. You have agreed to it and that is the way it must be. Mercy cannot rob justice.'
"There they were: One meting out justice, the other pleading for mercy. Neither could prevail except at the expense of the other.
"'If you do not forgive the debt there will be no mercy,' the debtor pleaded.
'If I do, there will be no justice,' was the reply.
"Both laws, it seemed, could not be served. They are two eternal ideals that appear to contradict one another. Is there no way for justice to be fully served, and mercy also?
"There is a way! The law of justice can be fully satisfied and mercy can be fully extended-but it takes someone else. And so it happened this time.
The debtor had a friend. He came to help. He knew the debtor well. He knew him to be shortsighted. He thought him foolish to have gotten himself into such a predicament. Nevertheless, he wanted to help because he loved him. He stepped between them, faced the creditor, and made this offer.
"'I will pay the debt if you will free the debtor from his contract so that he may keep his possessions and not go to prison.'
"As the creditor was pondering the offer, the mediator added, 'You demanded justice. Though he cannot pay you, I will do so. You will have been justly dealt with and can ask no more. It would not be just.'
"And so the creditor agreed.
"The mediator turned then to the debtor. 'If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor?'
"'Oh yes, yes,' cried the debtor. 'You save me from prison and show mercy to me.'
"'Then,' said the benefactor, 'you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be possible. I will provide a way. You need not go to prison.'
"And so it was that the creditor was paid in full. He had been justly dealt with. No contract had been broken.
"The debtor, in turn, had been extended mercy. Both laws stood fulfilled. Because there was a mediator, justice had claimed its full share, and mercy was fully satisfied.
Each Lives on Spiritual Credit
"Each of us lives on a kind of spiritual credit. One day the account
will be closed, a settlement demanded. However casually we may view it now, when that day comes and the foreclosure is imminent, we will look around in restless agony for someone, anyone, to help us.
"And, by eternal law, mercy cannot be extended save there be one who is both willing and able to assume our debt and pay the price and arrange the terms for our redemption.
"Unless there is a mediator, unless we have a friend, the full weight of justice untempered, unsympathetic, must, positively must, fall on us. The full recompense for every transgression, however minor or however deep, will be exacted from us to the uttermost farthing.
"But know this: Truth, glorious truth, proclaims there is such a mediator.
'For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.' (1 Timothy 2:5.)
"Through Him mercy can be fully extended to each of us without offending the eternal law of justice.
"This truth is the very root of Christian doctrine. You may know much about the gospel as it branches out from there, but if you only know the branches and those branches do not touch that root, if they have been cut free from that truth, there will be no life nor substance nor redemption in them.
Mercy Is Not Automatic
"The extension of mercy will not be automatic. It will be through covenants with Him. It will be on His terms, His generous terms, which include, as an absolute essential, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.
"All mankind can be protected by the law of justice, and at once each of us individually may be extended the redeeming and healing blessing of mercy.
"A knowledge of what I am talking about is of a very practical value. It is very useful and very helpful personally; it opens the way for each of us to keep his spiritual accounts paid up.
"You, perhaps, are among those troubled people. When you come face to face with yourself in those moments of quiet contemplation-that many of us try to avoid-are there some unsettled things that bother you?
"Do you have something on your conscience? Are you still, to one degree or another, guilty of anything small or large?
"We often try to solve guilt problems by telling one another that they don't matter. But somehow, deep inside, we don't believe one another. Nor do we believe ourselves if we say it. We know better. They do matter!
Our transgressions are all added to our account, and one day if it is not properly settled, each of us, like Belshazzar of Babylon, will be weighed in the balance and found wanting." (That All May Be Edified, p. 318-21)
Alma 42:29 let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you
Alma wants Corianton to stop questioning the justice of God and start worrying about what he should be concerned with-his own sins. Here, Alma demonstrates great insight into the mind of the sinner. With this gentle, understated rebuke, Alma recognizes that the mind of the sinner rarely focuses on sin. Rather, as with Corianton, the mind will search for conflict within his belief system. He will become critical of Church leaders, wrest the scriptures, or as with Corianton, question the justice of God himself. The mind which is at fault is quick to find fault. In this way, the mind protects itself from the remorse of conscience which inevitably follows from knowingly violating the laws of God.
Alma 42:30 O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more
"Corianton's sins were grievous. And yet we have every reason to believe that Alma's preaching touched the soul of his errant son, that Corianton 'crossed himself' (see Alma 39:9), repented, and returned to the ministry. We read of Corianton's labors a year or so later: 'Thus ended the nineteenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi. Yea, and there was continual peace among them, and exceedingly great prosperity in the church because of their heed and diligence which they gave unto the word of God, which was declared unto them by Helaman, and Shiblon, and Corianton, and Ammon and his brethren, yea, and by all those who had been ordained by the holy order of God.' (Alma 49:29-30.)
"Elder Orson F. Whitney held out this hope for the parents of wandering or wayward children: 'You parents of the wilful and the wayward: Don't give them up. Don't cast them off. They are not utterly lost. The shepherd will find his sheep. They were his before they were yours- long before he entrusted them to your care; and you cannot begin to love them as he loves them. They have but strayed in ignorance from the Path of Right, and God is merciful to ignorance. Only the fulness of knowledge brings the fulness of accountability. Our Heavenly Father is far more merciful, infinitely more charitable, than even the best of his servants, and the Everlasting Gospel is mightier in power to save than our narrow finite minds can comprehend.' (CR, April 1929, p. 110.)" (McConkie & Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, p. 320)