Alma 37:1 I command you that ye take the records
Alma's son Helaman is the next in the line of scriptural custodians. However, more than just the large plates of Nephi were entrusted to Helaman. He also was given charge over the interpreters (v. 21), the Liahona (v. 38), the other Nephite records, the plates of the Book of Ether (v. 21), and probably the sword of Laban (See Mosiah 1:16). These were traditionally handed down together to the next prophet-author in the Book of Mormon.
Essentially the same combination of religious artifacts was available to the Prophet Joseph Smith and was shown to the three witnesses. Although Joseph does not describe the event in the History of the Church, David Whitmer is quoted as follows:
"We not only saw the plates of the Book of Mormon but also the brass plates, the plates of the Book of Ether, the plates containing the records of the wickedness and secret combinations of the people of the world down to the time of their being engraved, and many other plates ... there appeared as it were, a table with many records or plates upon it, besides the plates of the Book of Mormon, also the Sword of Laban, the Directors i.e., the ball which Lehi had-and the Interpreters [Urim and Thummim]. I saw them just as plain as I see this bed (striking the bed beside him with his hand), and I heard the voice of the Lord, as distinctly as I ever heard anything in my life declaring that the records of the plates of the Book of Mormon were translated by the gift and power of God." (1878 interview between Orson Pratt and David Whitmer, recorded in Book of Mormon Compendium, pp. 55-56)
Alma 37:2 it is for a wise purpose that they are kept
Alma's comment is an understatement. God's wisdom in bringing forth the Book of Mormon seems to be greater and greater, year by year. The more one knows of the book, the more one is struck by the timeless wisdom in its pages. It is the main instrument in the perfection of the saints and in the preaching of the gospel. It is incredible, indispensable, and irreplaceable.
Alma 37:3 these plates of brass
The plates of brass are the record of Laban and correspond to our Old Testament. It is important to understand that verses 3, 4, and the first half of 5 refer to the brass plates and not the plates of Nephi, which were presumably made of gold.
Alma 37:4 that they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon
The record on the brass plates of Laban was larger than our Old Testament (1 Ne 13:23). It included prophecies from Zenos, Zenock, Neum and probably many others. Robert Millet and Robert Nyman make the argument that the promise given in verse 4 implies that the lost portions and mysteries of the Old Testament will someday be made available to us. With our current version of the Old Testament, we have many of these mysteries but not all of them
"Does anyone think we have all of the words of Isaiah or Jeremiah or Malachi? And are there not prophets and apostles without number, whose names we do not even know, who have recorded their teachings and testimonies?
"The perfected Bible of the future will surely include all that was on the brass plates of Laban. Indeed, Lehi prophesied 'that these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed. Wherefore, he said that these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time.' (1 Nephi 5:18-19.)
"More than five hundred years later Alma testified that they should 'be kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord until they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, that they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon,' and that they would 'retain their brightness.' (Alma 37:4-5.)
"Someday the Lord will raise up a prophet, who will also be a seer and a translator, to whom he will give the brass plates that they may be translated for the benefit and blessing of those in all nations.
"Would God that the work might commence at least in our day, though in fact we have no such hope. Why should the Lord give us what is on the brass plates or in the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon when we do not even treasure up and live by what he has already given us?" (Monte Nyman & Robert Millet, The Joseph Smith Translation: The Restoration of Plain and Precious Things, p. 15-6)
Alma 37:6 by small and simple things are great things brought to pass
"Our seemingly small acts can produce huge results. No one should underestimate the good that can come from what may seem to be small and simple acts of kindness, of compassion, of faith, of testimony, of service, of righteousness. However, just as the tiny Sierra redwood seeds take hundreds of years to grow into mighty trees, we, too, may have to be patient to see the results of our efforts.
"But no one in the Church should feel that their contributions are small and inconsequential. No one should feel that what they are doing in the Church doesn't make any difference. Remember the story of the missionary who felt his mission was a failure because he baptized only one 'little urchin' in Wales. But that little boy was Charles A. Callis, who became president of the Southern States Mission and later a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. (Improvement Era, June 1955, p. 421.)
"'You know, brethren, that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm, by being kept workways with the wind and the waves,' the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote while a prisoner in the Liberty Jail in March 1839. 'Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; . . .' (D&C 123:16-17.)
"We are at the helm of our individual responsibilities. What we do in the Church does matter. And like the giant redwoods that reach ever upward, we can do great things in helping to build the kingdom of God on earth if we continually look heavenward." (Church News, 10/21/95)
Boyd K. Packer
"There is an interesting scripture in Alma, 'Behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.' (Alma 37:6.)
"So here is a Relief Society sister, a lovely mother, with a spoon and a bowl...with a motherly gesture, with patience, with long-suffering, with affection, with a needle and thread, with a word of encouragement, with that bit of faith and determination to build an ideal home. With all of these small things you and the Relief Society can win for yourselves and for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and for the Lord, the strength and power of a family knit together, sealed together for time and for all eternity; a great army of men, some willing and worthy, some not yet worthy, but who must serve in the ministry of our Lord. Men who now stand by the side-lines-husbands and fathers-not quite knowing, some not quite willing, yet all to be strengthened by a handmaiden of the Lord who really cares.
"May God bless you sisters. May He bless you who are the widows and the others who are raising families alone everywhere. May He bless you hundreds of thousands of wives and mothers who through the agency of the Relief Society now can be strengthened to the end that your dreams might be realized." (That All May Be Edified, p. 78)
"You notice that writing is the greatest of inventions, without any doubt, and yet it's the simplest. But notice the others, such as recording or the telephone. They are awfully simple. The principles are absolutely basic; a child can understand them once they are made clear. If you list all the Nobel Prizes, every one is given for something supremely simple that everybody has overlooked...As Arthur Clarke says, writing is the only means we have of bridging time. Writing will bridge time and bring all things together. No matter when a thing is written, we can tell not only what happened and who said what, but the subtlest nuances of feeling, the subtlest thoughts of people can be conveyed for untold thousands of years....This is all communication; he (Alma) is talking about communication." (Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Lecture 56, pp. 460-1)
Alma 37:7 by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls
The Lord's wisdom and power are so much greater than ours that he is able to perform his work through seemingly insignificant means. Accordingly, He and his Son appeared to a 14 year-old farm boy in the New York woods. By so doing, the Lord confounded the wise and brought about the salvation of many souls. Also, the Lord has brought to light a 531-page book which, by size alone, is dwarfed by the volumes of philosophy, history, and fiction. Yet the greatest philosophers, historians and fiction writers are unable to equal the rich truths in this small work. Furthermore, missionaries that are often still teenagers, are armed with the power of God and the Spirit of truth by which they have been confounding the wise and saving souls for generations. The list could go on forever, but consider one more example: the Lord doesn't speak to us by the blaring of trumpets but by a voice so still and small that it is often not even heard. Those tuned to its message receive truths which are at once confounding and saving.
We marvel at the Lord and his doings. He reminds us, my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isa 55:8-9).
Alma 37:15 if ye transgress...these things shall be taken away from you by the power of God
It is interesting that Alma warns Helaman regarding his duty as the next custodian of the plates. Moroni warned Joseph Smith just like Alma warned Helaman, the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me with this charge: that I should be responsible for them; that if I should let them go carelessly, or through any neglect of mine, I should be cut off (JS-H 1:59). Although Joseph was very careful to preserve the plates from his enemies, he was not as careful with the first 116 translated pages. After losing them, he received the following rebuke from the Lord,
'Behold, you have been entrusted with these things, but how strict were your commandments; and remember also the promises which were made to you, if you did not transgress them.
And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men.' (DC 3:5-6)
'Now, behold, I say unto you, that because you delivered up those writings which you had power given unto you to translate by the means of the Urim and Thummim, into the hands of a wicked man, you have lost them.
And you also lost your gift at the same time, and your mind became darkened.' (DC 10:1-2)
The word of the Lord regarding the Book of Mormon was very strict. If the custodian transgressed, the Lord would take the records out of their hands. Joseph Smith was even warned that if he showed the plates to anyone without permission from God, he would be destroyed (JS-H 1:42).
Alma 37:16 If ye keep the commandments...no power of earth or hell can take them from you
In verse 12 we read that the Lord's paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round. This means, among other things, that the Lord is consistent. This consistency can surely be seen with the commandments given to those who were to protect the Book of Mormon. Again we turn to the promises of the Lord to Joseph Smith, the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me with this charge...that if I would use all my endeavors to preserve them, until he, the messenger, should call for them, they should be protected (JS-H 1:59).
Alma 37:18-19 he promised unto them that he would preserve these things for a wise purpose
The Nephite prophets had requested of the Lord that a record might be preserved for the Lamanites. This was to bring them back to Christ. "And for this very purpose are these plates preserved, which contain these records—that the promises of the Lord might be fulfilled, which he made to his people; And that the Lamanites might come to the knowledge of their fathers, and that they might know the promises of the Lord, and that they may believe the gospel and rely upon the merits of Jesus Christ, and be glorified through faith in his name, and that through their repentance they might be saved. Amen (DC 3:19-20)."
Alma 37:21 concerning those twenty-four plates
By way of review, Limhi sent an expedition north to find Zarahemla, but instead, they found the 24 plates which Ether had hid in a conspicuous location (Mosiah 21:25-28, Ether 15:33). The Book of Ether is Moroni's abridgment of these 24 plates (Ether 1:2). When Alma speaks of the secret works of those people, he is speaking of the secret combinations which were so prevalent among the Jaredites (Ether 8).
Alma 37:23 I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem, a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light
This reference to Gazelem is confusing. If he is a prophet, contemporary to the early Nephites, who was given a Urim and Thummim, then there must have been two sets of interpreters among them. The other set of interpreters were the ones given to the Brother of Jared. They were later buried with the plates and used to translate the Book of Mormon (See Ether 3:23; DC 17:1). Another possibility is that Gazelem is not a proper name but a title for a seer. Thirdly, the name may be a reference to Joseph Smith, who was referred to in the D&C as Gazelam when code names were used to conceal the identity of those referred to in the revelations. The following quotes are helpful.
"The word Gazelem appears to have its roots in Gaz - a stone and Aleim, a name of God as a revelator or interposer in the affairs of men. If this suggestion be correct, its roots admirably agree with its apparent meaning-a seer." (George Reynolds, A Dictionary of the Book of Mormon, p. 92)
"This may well be a play on words. Is Gazelem the seer stone or the servant? It is difficult to tell from the passage and depends very much on the placement of a comma in the sentence. Perhaps it could refer to both. It is interesting to note that when Jesus called Simon Peter to the ministry he said: 'Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, a seer, or a stone' (JST, John 1:42). Though this name or title of Gazelem may be used in regard to any seer who utilizes seer stones, it seems in this instance to be a direct reference to Joseph Smith the Prophet." (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, p. 278)
Bruce R. McConkie
"Strange and unusual names were placed by the Prophet in some of the early revelations so that the individuals whom the Lord was then addressing would not be known to the world. The purpose for keeping these identities secret from their enemies having long since passed, the true names are now found in the Doctrine and Covenants.
"Two of the names which identified the Prophet himself were Gazelam and Enoch. (D. & C. 78:9; 82:11; 104:26, 43, 45, 46.) Presumptively these and other names used at the same time have particular meanings, which are not now known to us.
"With reference to the name Gazelam, it is interesting to note that Alma in directing Helaman to preserve both the Urim and Thummim and the plates containing the Book of Ether, says that such record will be brought to light by the Lord's servant Gazelem, who will use 'a stone' in his translation work. (Alma 37:21-23.) It may be that Gazelem is a variant spelling of Gazelam and that Alma's reference is to the Prophet Joseph Smith who did in fact bring forth part at least of the Ether record. Or it could be that the name Gazelem (Gazelam) is a title having to do with power to translate ancient records and that Alma's reference was to some Nephite prophet who brought the Book of Ether to light in the golden era of Nephite history." (Mormon Doctrine, p. 307-8)
Alma 37:25 I will bring to light all their secrets and abominations
One of the punishments of the wicked is that they will have a perfect remembrance of all their wickedness (Alma 5:18). Another equally painful punishment is to have all one's secret sins published for public perusal. The Lord has given us no assurance that our unrepentant deeds will remain secrets. Rather, as a punishment, he will publish them just as he published the wickedness and abominations of the Jaredites. He has declared, There is nothing which is secret save it shall be revealed; there is no work of darkness save it shall be made manifest in the light; and there is nothing which is sealed upon the earth save it shall be loosed (2 Ne 30:17). And the rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow; for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed (DC 1:3).
Spencer W. Kimball
"My young folks, since the Lord said, 'Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect' (Matthew 5:48), it would be well if all of us would take frequent inventory to see if hidden away under the rugs and in the corners of our lives there might be some vestige of hypocrisy and ugliness or error. Or could there be hidden under the blankets of personal excuse and rationalization some small eccentricities and dishonesties? Are there any cobwebs in ceilings and corners which we think will not be noticed? Are we trying to cover up the small pettinesses and the small gratifications we secretly allow ourselves-rationalizing the while that they are insignificant and inconsequential? Are there areas in our thoughts and actions and attitudes which we would like to hide from those we respect most? Are we certain that all of our innermost secrets are kept confidential? The Lord revealed in 1831, 'The rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow; for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed.' (D&C 1:3.)
"Would a frequent house cleaning be in order for all of us?" (BYU Speeches, February 25, 1964, p. 21)
Bishop Robert L. Simpson
"To him who says: 'I am lucky, I didn't get caught,' I say, how unfortunate; for his other foot is already in motion for the next treacherous step." (Conference Report, Apr. 1969, p. 86)
Alma 37:27-29 all their oaths, and their covenants...ye shall keep from this people
Certainly, the history of the Nephites would have been different if they had never discovered the secret combinations of the Jaredites. The record indicates that Helaman was successful in keeping these secrets from his people-at least for a while. We read that it was Gadianton who instituted them, not after reading the scriptures, but after he had received them as had Cain-directly from Satan. Now behold, those secret oaths and covenants did not come forth unto Gadianton from the records which were delivered unto Helaman; but behold, they were put into the heart of Gadianton by that same being who did entice our first parents to partake of the forbidden fruit (Hel 6:26).
The lesson to be learned is that when teaching of Satan and his evil ways, we should be careful how the message is given. Every detail of his morbid methods need not be graphically discussed. Otherwise, we might pique the curiosity of someone with impure motives, inadvertently contributing to Satan's cause.
N. Eldon Tanner
"Remember, you who conduct worthiness interviews are representatives of the Lord and you must conduct the interviews as the Lord himself would conduct them. That is, there must be nothing immodest or degrading in your interview. Our interviews are not to be indelicate, or offensive, or pornographic in any way.
"May I say here that occasionally we receive reports that a bishop or a stake president has been very indiscreet or indelicate in an interview, especially of married members. It is not in order for a priesthood leader to list in detail ugly, deviant, or bestial practices and then cross-examine a member of the Church as to whether or not such things are practiced.
"One of the General Authorities once interviewed a young man who had gone into the mission home who had made confession of a transgression which disqualified him from missionary service. The General Authority was amazed at the sordid nature of what the young man had done and asked, 'Where on earth did you get the idea to do things like this?' He was shocked when the young man answered, 'From my bishop.'
"During a preliminary interview for the young man's mission, the bishop had said, 'Have you ever done this? Have you ever done that?' describing every unworthy and depraved act he could think of. Such things had never before entered the young man's mind, but they were in his mind now! The adversary put in his way the opportunity and the temptation-and he fell!
"Brethren, our interviews must be conducted in love, in modesty." (Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple, p. 52-55)
Joseph F. Smith
"It is not necessary that our young people should know of the wickedness carried on in any place. Such knowledge is not elevating and it is quite likely that more than one young man can trace the first step of his downfall to a curiosity which led him into questionable places." (Gospel Doctrine, pp. 373-4, as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 320)
Alma 37:34 teach them to never be weary of good works
If there was ever a work which engenders silent murmurs and weariness, it is Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching. When we think of our responsibility to visit those we have been assigned, it is often with heavy hearts. This weariness stays with us until we actually perform our duty. Then, we are relieved and feel the spirit of the work. Also, because Satan is busy belittling our efforts, the importance of our seemingly insignificant visit often goes underestimated, for out of small things proceedeth that which is great.
Although there are many good works to which this scripture applies, Home Teaching is a particularly appropriate example. In the D & C, the Lord gives us similar counsel, Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days (DC 64:33-4).
Neal A. Maxwell
"Paradoxical as it sounds, more diligence actually brings more relief. Any selfishness, on the other hand, magnifies our weariness. Selfishness not only shrinks the quantity of service we render but also provides none of the needed renewal, no 'rest to [our] souls.'" (If Thou Endure It Well, p. 113)
Henry B. Eyring
"Alma gave his son advice that is good for us. He said: (quotes Alma 37:33-34.)
"The good works that really matter require the help of heaven. And the help of heaven requires working past the point of fatigue so far that only the meek and lowly will keep going long enough. The Lord doesn't put us through this test just to give us a grade; he does it because the process will change us." (To Draw Closer to God, p. 95)
Alma 37:35 O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth
Hugh Nibley is reported to have read the Book of Mormon eleven times before the age of twelve. He was out of the blocks so early, that no scholar since has been able to catch him. He had learned wisdom in his youth with such diligence that he was studying concepts in college which most of us never understand in an entire lifetime. His conclusion after a lifetime of Book of Mormon study was as follows:
"It has been a steady diet of Book of Mormon and no other food is so invigorating. It is the bread of life in the most digestible form." (LeGrand Richards, BYU Speeches of the Year, Feb. 10, 1960, p. 7)
Thomas S. Monson
"As I look at you youth, I think not only of what you are, but of what you may become. I also remember who you are, and I plead with you to do likewise. You are the sons and daughters of Almighty God. Each of you has a destiny to fulfill, a life to live, a contribution to make, a goal to achieve. The future of the kingdom of God upon the earth will, in part, be determined by your devotion.
"When this perspective is firmly in mind, you can appreciate the absolute necessity of diligence in this, your period of preparation. Neglect to prepare and you mortgage your future.
"...these challenging times will require your finest efforts. A half-hearted effort will not suffice. You must labor with your might.
"This is your world. Whether you like it or not, you are engaged in the race of your life. At stake is eternal life-yours. What shall be the outcome? Will you be a leader of men and a servant of God? Or will you be a servant of sin and a follower of Satan? Decisions determine destiny. In the quiet of your study, surrounded by books written by the finest minds of men, listen for and hearken to the Master's invitation: '...learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.' (Matthew 11:29-30.) Such learning transcends the classroom, it endures beyond graduation, it meets the test of experience.' (Pathways To Perfection, p. 252-3)
Spencer W. Kimball
"Charting the course prevents one from living an unplanned haphazard life-a tumbleweed existence." (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 233-4 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 323)
Ezra Taft Benson
"Satan knows that youth is the springtime of life when all things are new and young people are most vulnerable...Youth is a period of timelessness when the horizons of age seem too distant to be noticed. Thus, the now generation forgets that the present will soon be the past, which one will look back upon either with sorrow and regret or joy and cherished experiences. Satan's program is 'play now and pay later.' He seeks for all to be miserable like unto himself. The Lord's program is happiness now and joy forever through gospel living." (Church News, 12/14/91)
Alma 37:36-37 cry unto God for all thy support...let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord
"The central thesis of the passage is to see that all of our thoughts and doings are unto the Lord-the exact meaning of the expression 'pray always.'
Praying always entails constantly being conscious of God and his plan of salvation. It consists of having a continual attitude which directs us during every waking moment of mortality, of maintaining a spiritual posture of thankfulness and reliance on the Lord, of desiring the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Brigham Young noted that to pray always is to live as we pray: 'I do not know any other way for the Latter-day Saints than for every breath to be virtually a prayer for God to guide and direct his people.... Every breath should virtually be a prayer that God will preserve us from sin and from the effects of sin.'" (Book of Mormon Symposium Series, edited by PR Cheesman, MS Nyman, and CD Tate, Jr., 1988; 3 Ne 9-30, p. 144)
"We would say to the brethren, seek to know God in your closets, call upon him in the fields. Follow the directions of the Book of Mormon, and pray over, and for your families, your cattle, your flocks, your herds, your corn, and all things that you possess; ask the blessing of God upon all your labors, and everything that you engage in. Be virtuous and pure; be men of integrity and truth; keep the commandments of God; and then you will be able more perfectly to understand the difference between right and wrong-between the things of God and the things of men; and your path will be like that of the just, which shineth brighter and brighter unto the perfect day." (History of the Church, 5:31)
See commentary for Alma 34:17-27.
Alma 37:37 Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings
Richard L. Evans
"Successful people need counsel. Unsuccessful people need counsel. The hasty impulse, the know-it-all attitude, the pride that keeps us from asking-these are the dangerous approaches to any problem from the youngest in years to the oldest of age, there is no one who can be always sure he is right, no one who has learned so much of life that he doesn't need the counsel of others and a prayerful approach to all problems, 'Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings,' said Alma, 'and he will direct thee for good...' (Alma 37:37). There is safety in counsel, no safety without it. They that will not be counseled, cannot be helped." (Conference Report, Apr. 1968, p. 86 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 325)
Alma 37:37 if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day
The phrase "these things" spoken of encompasses everything in vs. 33-37. This includes the following concepts: faith, repentance, humility, good works, meekness, learning, obedience, prayer, reliance on the Lord, and gratitude.
Alma 37:38 our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass
Alma is the first prophet to give us the name of this famous compass. Of course, this was no ordinary compass. Most compasses work by responding to the earth's magnetic field; the Liahona, on the other hand, worked not according to magnetic fields, but according to their faith in God (v. 40).
"It is believed by some that the word Liahona means 'To God Is Light'; that is to say, God gives light as does the sun." (Book of Mormon Symposium Series, edited by PR Cheesman, MS Nyman, and CD Tate, Jr., 1988; 1 Nephi, p. 244)
Alma 37:39-40 so curious a workmanship
"To an engineer, the Lord is the consummate engineer. Consequently, any mechanical product of his hands would display the same perfection of functionality, economy of design, and great aesthetic beauty that is seen in his biological creations. Furthermore, with the Lord's knowledge of all things, the Liahona could very well utilize engineering principles completely unknown to Lehi and the great intellects of his time, or even Joseph Smith's time, but that have become well established in our time.
"As confirmation of the expectation of exquisite workmanship and technical artistry, consider the words of Nephi: 'And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass' (1 Nephi 16:10). Alma, who later possessed this sacred artifact, adds his perspective: 'And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness' (Alma 37:39).
"Nephi describes the internal construction as there being 'within the ball . . . two spindles' (1 Nephi 16:10). Then the text goes on to specify the functionality of one of those spindles: 'and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness' (1 Nephi 16:10).
"What was the function of the other spindle? How were these spindles arranged? What was their range of motion? Why only two, not one, three, or more such spindles? Before these questions can be answered, it is important to identify one additional feature required of this device: 'I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them' (1 Nephi 16:28).
"It is clear from this and other references that to the mortal observer (Nephi, Lehi, Laman, Lemuel, etc.), the Liahona not only provided directional information, but also indicated explicitly whether or not that information could be relied upon-whether faith was sufficient or not for the device to operate correctly." (Robert L. Bunker, FARMS: Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 3, no. 2, Fall-1994, pp.2-3)
Alma 37:41-2 those miracles were worked by small means...They were slothful
Lehi and his family wandered for eight years in the wilderness of Arabia before departing for the promised land. They took this long not because they had so far to go but because their faithlessness was rewarded with hardship and wandering. They were like the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai-only on a different, smaller scale of rebellion. It is only from Alma's record that we understand that their progress was halted by the Lord: Therefore they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions. Nephi doesn't tell us what these transgressions were, but he does give us a glimpse of the Lord's wrath against the family, when my father beheld the things which were written upon the ball, he did fear and tremble exceedingly, and also my brethren (1 Ne 16:26). Was Lehi's fear because the Lord had told him that they would wander in the wilderness and suffer more afflictions because of their murmuring? The Lord was probably frustrated with their murmuring after he had so miraculously protected them and provided the Liahona as their guide.
M. Russell Ballard
"Great and marvelous events seem to motivate us, but small things often do not hold our attention. Noting that the Liahona worked by faith, Alma stated, 'Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means . . . the people of Lehi were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey.' (Alma 37:41.)
"Is our journey sometimes impeded when we forget the importance of small things? (See Alma 37:46.) Do we realize that small events and choices determine the direction of our lives just as small helms determine the direction of great ships? (See James 3:4; D&C 123:16.)
"May the Lord bless each one of us to follow the counsel of our prophets. We need to have family and personal prayers; study the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon; hold family home evenings; follow the admonition of the Savior to love one another; and be thoughtful, kind, and gentle within the family. Through these and other similar small and simple things, we have the promise that our lives will be filled with peace and joy." (LDS Church News, Deseret News, Jul 6, 1996)
Alma 37:44-5 it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ...as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass
Is Alma oversimplifying the process of salvation? Is it really that easy? Conceptually, the answer is "yes." Practically, we still seem to struggle. All Lehi's family had to do to find their way in the wilderness was 1) exhibit faith, and 2) follow the spindles and writings on the Liahona. The spiritual corollary is that all we have to do to find our way through the wilderness of mortality is to 1) have faith in Christ, and 2) keep the commandments. Is there something missing from this formula? Is there a requirement of salvation which is not a part of either faith or obedience?
Conceptually, the formula is simple. We often make the mistake of making it much more complicated than it has to be. In this respect, we make the Law of the Lord as complicated as the scribes and Pharisees made the Law of Moses. If we develop a strong faith in Christ, and master the principle of obedience, the rest will take care of itself. Then, the words of Christ [will] carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.
"It is human nature, especially in our modern day, to complicate things, to look beyond the mark, whereas often the answers to life's most vexing problems are simple and straightforward. And we frequently fail to see things as they really are because of our tendency toward abstraction. This is not a modern phenomenon. We remember that Nephi referred to a similar incident in ancient Israel's history, the occasion when a murmuring band of Hebrews were bitten by fiery, flying serpents (see Numbers 21:69). In order to be healed, the afflicted persons had but to look to a brazen serpent Moses had set up on a pole (symbolic, of course, of the Savior- see John 3:14). 'The labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished' (1 Nephi 17:41)." (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, p. 283)
Alma 37:46 do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way
"'Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.' (D&C 58: 26-27.)
"The scriptural contrast between 'slothful' and 'anxiously engaged' is particularly vivid. The adjective 'slothful' is derived from the slow movements of the South American sloth, an odd animal about two feet long that hangs upside down from hooklike claws on tree limbs. It feeds slowly on leaves and buds. The sloth may fall asleep in its upside down position, and can continue to hang in this position for some time after it dies. Scientists say the sloth moves so slowly because of its extremely low body temperature." (Church News, 04/17/93)
Neal A. Maxwell
"Muttering and murmuring are often the expressions of our conscience gone grumpy; it is precisely because we know we need to respond affirmatively (and have some inkling about what's coming) that we let off steam-we start puffing in advance of the climb. These are reactions genuinely to be avoided, since they can precede the keeping of a commandment or the fulfilling of a task with a slothful heart, which is more serious.
"Mostly, to avoid muttering, we need to trust more. So many of the things muttered about before turn out to be marvelous experiences later, and we are inwardly, and deservedly, ashamed for having grumbled." (Deposition of a Disciple, p. 31)
Alma 37:47 if they would look they might live
Jeffrey R. Holland
"The call of the Book of Mormon is always 'Look that ye might live.' Whether that is to look up to a staff held aloft by a prophet of God or down upon a personal, sphere-like Liahona, it is the same. They mark the way of eternal life. Indeed, they are similitudes of the Way of Eternal Life. All things are the typifying of Christ." (Christ & The New Covenant, p. 177)