Alma 29:1 O that I were an angel…that I might go forth…and cry repentance unto every people
“[Alma 29] is a soliloquy which finds Alma talking to Alma when none but God was near. It is a song of praise in which he exults in God’s goodness and mercy. It is an unselfish prayer for the welfare of each and all. In it Alma expresses the innermost desire of his heart.” (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 4, p. 52)
Heber J. Grant
“I believe that every Latter-day Saint who has received a testimony of the divinity of the work in which we are engaged has this same feeling that Alma had--a desire that all the world might hear the testimony of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. When men and women receive a testimony of the divine mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith, they are anxious that all the world should have that same knowledge and faith. They are anxious that the gospel should go to every honest soul. And there is no other labor in all the world that brings to a human heart, judging from my own personal experience, more joy, peace and serenity than proclaiming the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“I remember that while I was laboring in Japan, on account of my failure to learn the language, I was not entirely happy in my work there. I remember going out into the woods, kneeling down and praying to God that when my work was finished there I would appreciate it if I were called to the British Isles to succeed Brother Francis M. Lyman. Shortly after uttering that prayer I received a cable: ‘Come home on the first vessel.’ When I arrived home President Smith told me that they had decided to send me to Europe to succeed Brother Lyman. He said, ‘We realize that the two years or more that you have been in Japan have been anything but satisfactory from the standpoint of the joy that comes into the hearts of the missionaries in bringing souls to a knowledge of the truth, and we want you to have at least a year of real, genuine, missionary experience.’ When I went into his office and bade him goodbye, and said, ‘I will see you in a year,’ he said, ’We have decided to make it a year and a half.’ I said, ‘Multiply it by two and say nothing about it, and it will please me,’ and that is exactly what he did. I was there a little over three years, and never have I had sweeter joy, more genuine satisfaction in my life than during those three years, when I had no thought except the spreading of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Conference Report, Oct. 1926, p. 4)
“While I was touring the Northwestern States Mission, I heard a young missionary bear his testimony…he said, ‘There isn’t a company or institution in the world that could pay me enough money to get me to leave my mission.’ And I am sure that almost one hundred percent of the missionaries feel the same way about their mission when they have the spirit of their work. They hardly want to be released.” (Just To Illustrate, p. 196)
Alma 29:3 I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me
Alma is worrying about sinning but his desire is a righteous one. How can we sin in our righteous desires? The word “sin” in this context is a pretty strong one. Alma’s point is that he has not been sufficiently content with all the blessings the Lord has given to him. He still wanted more. He may have imagined himself being foreordained to fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth (Rev 14:6). For someone as righteous as Alma, maybe his lack of spiritual contentment constitutes a sin, but the rest of us usually have more concerning sins to contend with. Nevertheless, contentment is a quality of godliness. Paul writes, godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim 6:6), for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am…to be content (Phil 4:11).
Neal A. Maxwell
“True spirituality helps us to achieve balance between being too content with our present self and the equally dangerous human tendency we might have of wishing for more enlarged and impactful roles. Alma said, ‘But behold…I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.’ However, note the often ignored, but tutoring, verse that follows: ‘Now, seeing that I know these things, why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?’ (Alma 29:3,6) To develop that kind of justifiable contentment to better use our existing opportunities—is obviously one of our challenges, particularly so when we seem to be in a ‘flat’ period of life. We may feel underused, underwhelmed, and underappreciated even though we are ignoring unused opportunities for service all about us.” (Notwithstanding My Weakness, pp. 115-6)
Neal A. Maxwell
“…we serve as each other’s clinical material in the particular sample of humanity constituting ‘what is allotted unto [us].’ The sample may shrink or swell, but most important, is what we are and what we do within those varied allocations and in the particular ‘work to which [we] have been called’ (Alma 29:6).
“Thus ‘the holy present’ contains the allotted acres for our disciplehip. We need not be situated in prime time with prime visibility in order to work out our own salvation!” (Conference Report, Apr. 2000, p. 73)
Alma 29:4 I ought not to harrow up in my desires, the firm decree of a just God
A harrow is a farming tool, drawn behind a tractor to break up large clods of dirt. The verb “to harrow” is to break down or lacerate. Alma’s concern is that his desires may be contrary and therefore destructive to the decrees of God.
Alma 29:4 he granteth unto men according to their desire
Boyd K. Packer
“There is something important about our deciding that we want to be a good teacher-a good parent. There is something equally important about making that desire known to the Lord. Many of us have the desire, but we keep it to ourselves. An important key is turned when we go through the formality of stating our desires to Him who can grant them.” (Teach Ye Diligently, p. 14)
Neal A. Maxwell
“Desire denotes a real longing or craving. Hence righteous desires are much more than passive preferences or fleeting feelings. Of course our genes, circumstances, and environments matter very much, and they shape us significantly. Yet there remains an inner zone in which we are sovereign, unless we abdicate. In this zone lies the essence of our individuality and our personal accountability…Mostly, brothers and sisters, we become the victims of our own wrong desires…Like it or not, therefore, reality requires that we acknowledge our responsibility for our desires…Righteous desires need to be relentless, therefore, because, said President Brigham Young, ‘the men and women who desire to obtain seats in the celestial kingdom will find that they must battle every day’ (Journal of Discourses 11:14). Therefore, true Christian soldiers are more than weekend warriors…Some of our present desires, therefore, need to be diminished and then finally dissolved.” (Ensign, Nov. 1996, pp. 21-22 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 228)
Alma 29:4 he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills
In the beginning, the decrees of God with respect to his spirit children must have provided the framework for foreordination. The plan is God’s; the allotments and decrees come from him. Alma, like the rest of us, had only a veiled knowledge of his allotments. If he were not foreordained to speak with the trump of God as an angel, he should not desire that which was not to be his privilege. We do not know, however, whether or not the Lord might grant this wish unto Alma, for…he granteth unto men according to their desire, and there are many angels who have messages for the inhabitants of the last days (see DC 88:103-7; Rev. 14:7-8). Maybe one of them will be the resurrected Alma.
At any rate, Alma’s juxtaposition of the doctrine of foreordination and free will is interesting. One minute he is talking about the unalterable decrees of God and the next he is talking about the will of man. In the pre-mortal sphere, the decrees and allotments were given according to their wills, but during mortality, that same will power can be exercised to reject the Lord’s allotment.
The finite mind has difficulty fully comprehending the width and depth of this doctrine. What is clear is that foreordination does not equal fatalism. Because one is foreordained to perform some work does not mean that free will cannot be exercised in opposition to God’s plan. Nevertheless, the wayward soul can never change their assignment. If they knew what they had been assigned to do, they might wish to be unforeordained, but this could never happen, for the decrees of God are unalterable. Neal A. Maxwell said, “We will not be able to invoke, justifiably, either deprivational or circumstantial evidence in our own behalf later on to show that we were dealt with unjustly. The record will be clear.“ (We Will Prove Them Herewith, p. 6) At the last day, those who have failed to live up to expectations will again remember and have remorse for their rebellious choices.
Neal A. Maxwell
“…All of this brings us now to the need to examine a doctrine within a doctrine within a doctrine. Within the plan of salvation is the doctrine of premortal existence; we then encounter the delicate but important doctrine of foreordination.
“The doctrine of foreordination is one of the doctrinal roads ‘least traveled by.’ Yet it clearly underlines how very long and how perfectly God has loved each of us and known each of us, with our individual needs and capacities. It is so powerful a doctrine, however, that isolated from other doctrines, or mishandled, it can induce false pride, stoke the fires of fatalism, impact adversely upon agency, cause us to focus on status rather than service, and carry us over into the false doctrine of predestination.
“…The truth about foreordination also helps us to taste of the other deep wisdom of Alma: he said we ought to be ‘content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto’ each of us (Alma 29:3). If, indeed, the things allotted to each of us have been divinely customized, then ‘why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?’ (Alma 29:6)
“So should we regard the dispensation of the fulness of times-even when we face stern challenges and circumstances. ‘These are great days!’ Our hearts need not fail us. We can be equal to our challenges.” (But For a Small Moment, pp. 95-101)
Henry D. Moyle
“I am sure today in our lives many of us wish that we were something other than we are, thinking likely that their lot is preferable to our own. But Alma said further: Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth. But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish, for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me. (Alma 29:2-3)
“I believe that we, as fellow workers in the priesthood, might well take to heart the admonition of Alma and be content with that which God hath allotted us. We might well be assured that we had something to do with our ‘allotment’ in our pre-existent state. This would be an additional reason for us to accept our present condition and make the best of it. It is what we agreed to do.
“…we had our own free agency in our pre-mortal existence and whatever we are today is likely the result of that which we willed to be heretofore. We unquestionably knew before we elected to come to this earth the conditions under which we would here exist, and live, and work. So little wonder it is that Alma of old said that we sin in the thought, or in the desire or in the wish that we were someone other than ourselves...
“I have a conviction deep down in my heart that we are exactly what we should be, each one of us, except as we may have altered that pattern by deviating from the laws of God here in mortality. I have convinced myself that we all have those peculiar attributes, characteristics, and abilities which are essential for us to possess in order that we may fulfil the full purpose of our creation here upon this earth.
“Once again, that allotment which has come to us from God is a sacred allotment. It is something of which we should be proud, each one of us in our own right, and not wish that we had somebody else's allotment. Our greatest success comes from being ourselves.
“I think that we can console ourselves best by believing that whatever is our allotment in life, whatever is our call in the priesthood, the Lord has been wise and just, and I might add, merciful, in giving to us that which we need to accomplish the particular purpose of our call.” (Conference Report, Oct. 1952, p. 71)
Alma 29:8 the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word
Orson F. Whitney
“Many beautiful lessons might be drawn from this passage (Alma 29:1-9) of scripture, but I have only time to dwell upon one. It tells me that Providence is over all, and that he holds the nations in the hollow of his hand; that he is using not only his covenant people, but other peoples as well, to consummate a work, stupendous, magnificent, and altogether too arduous for this little handful of Saints to accomplish by and of themselves. Alma seems to have thought, for the moment, that man was doing God's work for him, instead of which it is God, who is doing his own work, and using men as his instruments. Nor is he limited in the choice of instruments to his own people. He sways the scepter over all nations, and they are all playing into his hands, knowingly or unknowingly. Alma knew this, but had momentarily lost sight of it.
“All down the ages men bearing the authority of the Holy Priesthood -- patriarchs, prophets, apostles and others, have officiated in the name of the Lord, doing the things that he required of them; and outside the pale of their activities other good and great men, not bearing the Priesthood, but possessing profundity of thought, great wisdom, and a desire to uplift their fellows, have been sent by the Almighty into many nations, to give them, not the fulness of the Gospel, but that portion of truth that they were able to receive and wisely use. Such men as Confucius, the Chinese philosopher; Zoroaster, the Persian sage; Gautama or Buddha, of the Hindus; Socrates and Plato, of the Greeks; these all had some of the light that is universally diffused, and concerning which we have this day heard. They were servants of the Lord in a lesser sense, and were sent to those pagan or heathen nations to give them the measure of truth that a wise Providence had allotted to them.” (Conference Report, Apr. 1921, pp. 32-33)
Heber J. Grant
“Perhaps there is no other passage, no single chapter, in all the Book of Mormon, that I have preached from as often as I have from that twenty-ninth chapter of Alma…I commend to all Latter-day Saints when the conference pamphlet is published, to read what Elder Orson F. Whitney said about the inspiration of God being given to men in all parts of the world. We endorse his remarks.” (Conference Report, Apr. 1921, p. 202-3)
Joseph Fielding Smith
“In this present glorious dispensation, in which all things are to be gathered in one, and the work of the Lord, eventually, to be consummated so far as the salvation of men is concerned, the Lord has placed within our power the means by which the voice may be carried forth to all parts of the earth; not in a manner to shake the earth, but in a manner that the message of salvation may be proclaimed to the thousands, perhaps millions, scattered on all the face of the earth. In the days of Alma such powers were not available to the preachers of the plan of eternal life, and they were to be content with the things which the Lord allotted unto them, but in this day these means have, by the grace of God, been placed at our disposal.” (The Restoration of All Things, p. 6)
Elder Charles A. Callis
“The Prophet Joseph Smith was only 25 years of age when the translation of this book was completed. How did he know that the gospel was to be preached unto every nation, in their own tongue? How did he know, except by the spirit of revelation, that you Latter-day Saints would raise up sons unto the Lord who would be instructed in foreign languages and, leaving their mountain home, would go forth and preach the gospel in Germany, Russia, Scandinavia, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and on the isles of the sea preaching in the tongue of the people to whom they are sent? This prophecy is being fulfilled…O how our hearts should rejoice to know that the divine mission of Joseph Smith is being proclaimed every day of our lives, and in almost every country on the earth.” (Conference Report, Apr. 1909, p. 18)
Alma 29:8 The Lord doth grant unto all nations… to teach his word, yea… all that he seeth fit that they should have
Henry B. Eyring
In preparation for this sacred opportunity, I prayed and pondered to learn about your personal needs and what message the Lord wanted me to give…
And then I found in Alma’s reflection the direction for which I had been praying: “For behold, The Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true.” (Alma 29:8)
As I read that message from a servant of God, my errand for today became clear. God sends messages and authorized messengers to His children. I am to build trust in God and His servants enough that we will go out and obey His counsel. He wants that because He loves us and wants our happiness. And He knows how a lack of trust in Him brings sadness. That lack of trust has brought sorrow to heavenly father’s children from before the world was created…
The young Nephi in the Book of Mormon stirs in us a desire to develop trust in the Lord to obey His commandments, however hard they appear to us. Nephi faced danger and possible death when he said these words of trust that we can and must feel steadily in our hearts: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Ne. 3:7)
That trust comes from knowing God. More than any other people on earth, we have, through the glorious events of the Restoration of the gospel, felt the peace that the Lord offered His people with the words “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10) My heart is filled with gratitude for what God has revealed about Himself that we might trust Him. (Ensign, Nov. 2010, 70-72)
Alma 29:9 this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God
Heber J. Grant
“I know of no joy on earth that can compare with that which comes to the heart of the man who is an instrument in the hands of God of saving some soul and turning it from that broad way that leadeth to destruction, into that straight and narrow path that leadeth to life eternal.” (Conference Report, Oct. 1922, p. 188)
Alma 29:10 when I see many of my brethren truly penitent…then is my soul filled with joy
Alma was a shepherd in the truest sense of the word. He was the kind of shepherd who could not bear the thought of losing even one of his flock (Mosiah 28:3).
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it:
And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing…
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance…
Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth (Lu 15:4-10).
The affections of Alma are the same as the affections of the angels of God because both are filled with great joy at the soul that repents. His actions and ministry confirm that these are not idle words, for he had given up the judgment seat so that he could gather the scattered sheep (Alma 4:18-19). His great success was turned into joy just as the shepherd who returns symbolically carrying the lost sheep home.
Again, as we examine the ministries of Alma and the sons of Mosiah, the word of the Lord to Joseph Smith is brought to mind—almost as if it were the motto of these great missionaries: And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul…how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me! (DC 18:15-16)
“I do not believe we could go anywhere in the world and find men engaged in the ministry, I care not how great their salaries are, who would testify that the Lord has satiated their souls with fatness and that they are satisfied with the Lord’s goodness to them, as are those brethren who bear the priesthood of God and are privileged to feed the flock under his divine leadership and inspiration. We are dealing with the most precious things in all the world, the souls of men.” (LeGrand Richards Speaks, comp. by G. LaMont Richards, p. 75)
Alma 29:11 I also remember the captivity of my fathers
The internal consistency in the Book of Mormon is a great testimony to its authenticity. As Alma speaks of remembering the captivity of his fathers, he is giving us another example of that consistency. When the angel first appeared to Alma, he instructed him to remember the captivity of his fathers (Mosiah 27:16). Alma never forgot this instruction. Rather, he invited the people of Zarahemla to remember the captivity of their fathers (Alma 5:5). He tells us in this verse that he has not forgotten the mercies of the Lord to his fathers. He repeats this same concept when teaching his son, saying, I would that ye should do as I have done, in remembering the captivity of our fathers (Alma 36:2). See also Alma 36:29. So, we see that this theme was important to Alma, and he sprinkled this concept throughout the Book of Mormon with such internal consistency that we are forced to confess, “this can’t be the work of any man.”
Alma 29:16 my soul is carried away, even to the separation of it from the body
Another theme of the lives of Alma and the sons of Mosiah is the theme of being carried away in the Spirit. Alma was overcome after the angel first appeared unto him (Mosiah 27:19). King Lamoni was also carried away on two separate occasions (Alma 18:42; 19:13). The queen and her servants were carried away (Alma 19:13,16). Ammon was overcome (Alma 19:14), and Lamoni’s father was overcome at the teaching of Aaron (Alma 22:18). The extremes of sorrow for sin and eternal joy are, on occasions, too much for the mortal frame to endure. It is in these situations that the soul can be carried away. Nevertheless, this is not the way in which the greatest joy can be felt. While the mortal body cannot endure a fullness of joy, a resurrected body does not have this weakness, For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy (DC 93:33-4).