Alma 33:1 whether they should believe in one God
Although the Zoramites are famous for their self-righteous prayer on the holy stand of Rameumptom, they apparently worshipped more than just one God. This evil was referred to by Mormon, Zoram...was leading the hearts of the people to bow down to dumb idols (Alma 31:1). Because of their exposure to these many dumb idols, the poor in heart of the Zoramites, wondered whether they should continue this polytheistic practice. This sort of idolatry, which is so commonplace among Old Testament peoples, had not been a problem among the Nephites up to this point.
Alma 33:1 how they should plant the seed
The brilliance of Alma's discourse on comparing faith to a seed is that he takes an abstract, intangible concept and makes it understandable and practical. Yet, the Zoramites still wonder what they should do to begin. The answer is that they should pray (v. 3-11) and they should begin to believe in the Son of God (v. 22). The promise is that it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son (v. 23).
Alma 33:2 ye have said that ye could not worship your God because ye are cast out of your synagogues
The Lord has taught us, they that worship [God] must worship him in spirit and truth (Jn 4:24). He did not say "they that worship God must worship him in the synagogue." God is not impressed with man's attempts to honor his name with the building of places of worship. Even the temples of God are insufficient edifices compared to the grandeur of God. Speaking of the temple he was to build, Solomon expressed this concept as follows, who is able to build him an house, seeing the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him? Who am I then, that I should build him an house? (2 Chron 2:6) Therefore, we should be concentrating on worshipping the Lord in spirit and in truth wherever we are, not just in church.
Alma 33:3 Do ye remember to have read what Zenos, the prophet of old, has said
By way of review, the prophet Zenos was an Israelite prophet whose writings are not contained in the Old Testament. We only know of him through the Book of Mormon. His most famous contribution to the scriptures is the allegory of the olive tree (Jacob 5). The Book of Mormon also tells us that he taught plainly of the Savior, that mercy is bestowed through the Son (v. 13), that there would be three days of darkness in the Americas, as well as destructions, earthquakes, and tempests associated with His death, and that Israel would be persecuted and scattered prior to their great gathering (1 Ne 19:10-16, 3 Ne 10:15-6). Finally, he was martyred for his valiant testimony (Hel 8:19).
The tone of Alma's question indicates that the Nephites had access to the scriptures. Even the poorest of the Zoramites are asked whether they have read the scriptures. Whether these records were kept on parchment or metal is unknown but their scriptures were more available to them than we sometimes imagine. The vision of the tree of life is not universally applicable if the prophets are the only ones who have access to the iron rod.
Alma 33:4-11 when I did cry unto thee in my prayer...thou didst hear me
One of the most fundamental hurdles for an investigator is to believe that God hears and answers prayers. Some have prayed for years without realizing the power of personal revelation. In fact, every answered prayer is a little miracle because the power of God has been exercised on behalf of one of his children. Alma uses the example of Zenos to show that God will answer prayers offered in the most humble of circumstances, whether in the wilderness, field, house, closet, or congregation. We have many examples, personal and scriptural, of that same universal truth. That the Lord will answer prayers offered from any location is demonstrated in the sublime revelations given to the prophet Joseph Smith amidst the worst of conditions in Liberty Jail (DC 121-123).
Elder William J. Critchlow
"These souls can dial God in anytime, anyplace, in any circumstances by merely saying, 'Our Father who art in heaven.' And there will never be a busy line, never any interference, never a line out of order. God always hears and answers the prayers of the faithful." (Conference Report, Apr. 1964, p. 31)
"Through some remarks already made I am reminded of my boyhood. At that early period of my life I learned to approach God. Many a time I have gone into the fields and concealing myself behind some bush, would bow before the Lord and call upon him to guide and direct me. And he heard my prayer. At times I would get other boys to accompany me. It would not hurt you, boys and girls, to call upon the Lord in your secret places, as I did. That was the spirit which I had when a little boy. And God has led me from one thing to another." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 22, p. 315)
Harold B. Lee
"While I was attending a stake conference, I was to interview some of the prospective missionaries. Before one boy came to see me, the stake president said, 'Now here is a boy that has just come through a serious experience. He is just out of the service. He suffered shell- shock in battle, and I think we need to talk pretty carefully to him and make certain that he is prepared to go.'
"So as I talked with the young man, I said, 'Why do you want to go on this mission, son? Are you sure that you really want to go, after all the harrowing experiences you have had?'
"He sat thoughtfully for a few moments and then said, 'Brother Lee, I had never been away from home when I went into the service, and when I got out into the camps, every waking hour I heard filthy, profane language. I found myself losing a certain pure-mindedness, and I sought God in prayer to give me the strength not to fall into that terrible habit. God heard my prayer and gave me strength. Then we went through the basic training, and I asked Him to give me physical strength to continue, and He did. He heard my prayer. As we moved up toward the fighting lines and I could hear the booming of the guns and the crackling of the rifles, I was afraid. Again I prayed to God to give me the courage to do the task that I was there to do and He heard my prayer and gave me courage.
"'When I was sent up with an advance patrol to search out the enemies and to send back for the reinforcements, telling them where to attack-and sometimes the enemy would almost hedge me around until I was cut off, and it seemed that there was no escape-I thought that surely my life would be taken. I asked for the only force of power to guide me safely back, and God heard me. Time and again through the most harrowing experiences He led me back. Now,' he said, 'I am back home. I have recovered, and I would like to give thanks to that power to which I prayed-God, our Heavenly Father.'" (Ye Are the Light of the World, chap. 13)
Gordon B. Hinckley
"Brethren and sisters, I know that you are a praying people. That is a wonderful thing in this day and time when the practice of prayer has slipped from many lives. To call upon the Lord for wisdom beyond our own, for strength to do what we ought to do, for comfort and consolation, and for the expression of gratitude is a significant and wonderful thing." ("The Fabric of Faith and Testimony," Ensign, November 1995, p. 89.)
"Be prayerful. You can't do it alone. You know that. You cannot make it alone and do your best. You need the help of the Lord . . . and the marvelous thing is that you have the opportunity to pray, with the expectation that your prayers will be heard and answered. . . . The marvelous thing about prayer is that it is personal, it's individual, it's something that no one else gets into, in terms of your speaking with your Father in Heaven in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Be prayerful. Ask the Lord to forgive your sins. Ask the Lord for help. Ask the Lord to bless you. Ask the Lord to help you realize your righteous ambitions. . . . Ask the Lord for all of the important things that mean so much to you in your lives. He stands ready to help. Don't ever forget it." (Colorado Springs Young Adult Meeting, April 14, 1996 as taken from The Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley)
Alma 33:11 thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son
This passage is significant for two reasons. It refers to Christ's role as merciful mediator. Stephen R. Robinson said:
"Some in the modern Church just seem to have a difficult time acknowledging God's great mercy to his Saints. This has been a failing in other dispensations as well. For example, Alma quotes the ancient Prophet Zenock to his own people (and to us) as follows: 'Thou art angry, O Lord, with this people, because they will not understand thy mercies which thou hast bestowed upon them because of thy Son' (Alma 3:16). I believe it is a sin of ingratitude to resist the mercies that have been bestowed upon us because of the Son." (Following Christ, p. 87)
Secondly, this passage explains, in an Old Testament context, that Christ was to be the Son of God.
Bruce R. McConkie
"Statements by the seers of Old Testament times, which have been preserved for us, that God should have a Son are few and far between... Actually the Book of Mormon tells us more about the usage of the name the Son of God by Old Testament prophets than does that volume of Holy Writ itself. Nephi the son of Helaman, as he sought diligently to prepare his people for the coming of their Messiah, told them that both Moses and Abraham bore record 'that the Son of God should come'; that 'many before the days of Abraham' so certified; that 'all the holy prophets' from Abraham to Moses did likewise; and that 'since the days of Abraham there have been many prophets that have testified of these things,' including Zenos, Zenock, Ezias, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, all of whom labored among Old Testament peoples. The same witness, he said, had been born by 'almost all of our fathers' among the Nephites. (Hel. 8:13-23.)
"Alma, with the brass plates of Laban as his source, quoted these words from a prayer of Zenos: (quotes Alma 33:3-16). Fragmentary as our records are, it is nonetheless clear that all of the prophets of Old Testament times knew and taught that the promised Messiah would be the Son of God." (The Promised Messiah, p. 144)
Alma 33:14 if ye have read the scriptures...how can ye disbelieve on the Son of God?
Just as the entire purpose of the Law of Moses was to point to Christ, so the entire purpose of the scriptures are to testify of Jesus Christ. Therefore, if ye have read the scriptures...how can ye disbelieve on the Son of God? In the Title Page of the Book of Mormon, Moroni wrote the reason the book was written, to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD. The ancient and modern prophets have explained that we will be held responsible for the way in which we use this valuable tool. Nephi finished his record with this warning, these words shall condemn you at the last day. For what I seal on earth, shall be brought against you at the judgment bar (2 Ne 33:14-15).
Joseph Fielding Smith
"It seems to me that any member of this Church would never be satisfied until he or she had read the Book of Mormon time and time again, and thoroughly considered it so that he or she could bear witness that it is in very deed a record with the inspiration of the Almighty upon it, and that its history is true....
"...No member of this Church can stand approved in the presence of God who has not seriously and carefully read the Book of Mormon." (Conference Report, Oct. 1961, p. 18)
Alma 33:17 they stoned him to death
The Savior said, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Matt 23:37) One might assume that there are many instances of prophets being stoned in the Old Testament, but there is only one. A prophet named Zechariah was stoned in 2 Chron 24:20-21. Yet, the Savior said that prophets were stoned, and it is only through the Book of Mormon that we learn that this is how the prophet Zenock was martyred. This just provides more evidence that our version of the Old Testament is not very complete. It lacks some plain and precious things (1 Ne 13:28).
Alma 33:19 behold a type was raised up in the wilderness
Alma is referring to the brazen serpent which Moses made to symbolize Christ.
'And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.
'And the LORD sent fiery (poisonous) serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.
'Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.
'And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
'And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.' (Numbers 21:5-9)
Only from Nephi do we learn that there were many who were bitten who were too stubborn to be healed, 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 Ne 17:41). This stubbornness is what astounded Alma, O my brethren, if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes that ye might be healed, would ye not behold quickly, or would ye rather harden your hearts in unbelief, and be slothful, that ye would not cast about your eyes, that ye might perish? (v. 21)
Alma also underscores the fact that they did not understand the symbolism of the brazen serpent, and this because of the hardness of their hearts. John taught us what the serpent was to represent, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life (Jn 3:14-15, see also Hel 8:15).
As the Israelites were suffering from physical sickness, they were given the opportunity to be healed, almost in an instant, and yet they declined. Similarly, the stubborn sinner will often wallow in spiritual sickness rather than look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit (Hel 8:15). The spiritually ill continue to suffer (and are in danger of spiritual death) because they do not believe that [the Lord] would heal them (v. 20).
Boyd K. Packer
"'How silly,' some must have said. 'How can such a thing cure me? I'll not show my stupidity by paying any attention,' and some would not look....
"And today many say, 'How silly! How could accepting Christ save me?' They will not turn their heads to look nor incline their ears to hear. They ignore the great witness that comes from these conferences. We ought to, indeed we must, heed the counsel of these men, for the Lord said, 'What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.' (DC 1:38)" (Conference Report, Oct. 1968, p. 76)
Harold B. Lee
"Some may say all of what I have said sounds so simple. It is. It is like the rod of Moses on which the serpent-bitten Israelites had only to look to be healed. But, as the Book of Mormon reminds us, 'because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished' (1 Nephi 17:41). Strange as it seems, some men are, as Jacob described them, forever 'looking beyond the mark' (Jacob 4:14), missing the plain and simple truths in their search for complexity!" (Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 334)
Neal A. Maxwell
"Many today do not believe, of their problems, that the gospel of Jesus Christ will heal them. But they are wrong. Many today are so hardened that they will not even look, but one day their knees, too, will bow in acknowledgment that Jesus is the Christ.
"Again, the issue is the importance of being able to believe in the truth in order to do the most realistic thing to spare us present pain and spiritual death.
"Symbolically and actually, the Son of God has been lifted up upon the cross, and it is to him that we look so that we might 'live, even unto that life which is eternal.'
"Each family, properly established, can help itself and others to do that simple thing." (That My Family Should Partake, p. 97)
Alma 33:23 then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light
L. Whitney Clayton
Many years ago I walked at dawn through the narrow cobblestone streets of Cusco, Peru, high in the Andes Mountains. I saw a man from a local indigenous group walking down one of the streets. He was not a big man physically, but he carried an immense load of firewood in a huge burlap sack on his back. The sack seemed to be as big as he was. The load must have weighed as much as he did...
Life presses all kinds of burdens on each of us, some light but others relentless and heavy. People struggle every day under burdens that tax their souls. Many of us struggle under such burdens. They can be emotionally or physically ponderous. They can be worrisome, oppressive, and exhausting. And they can continue for years.
In a general sense, our burdens come from three sources. Some burdens are the natural product of the conditions of the world in which we live. Illness, physical disability, hurricanes, and earthquakes come from time to time through no fault of our own... Other burdens are imposed on us by the misconduct of others... The most onerous burden we impose upon ourselves is the burden of sin...
Mercifully, the Son of God offers us deliverance from the bondage of our sins, which are among the heaviest of all the burdens we bear. During His Atonement He suffered "according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance." (Alma 7:13) Christ "suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent." (D&C 19:16) When we repent and keep the commandments, forgiveness and relief from our burdened conscience come with the help that only the Savior offers, for "surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy." (Alma 32:13)
I remember that man in Peru, hunched over and struggling to carry that enormous sack of firewood on his back. For me, he is an image of us all as we struggle with the burdens of life. I know that as we keep the commandments of God and our covenants, He helps us with our burdens. He strengthens us. When we repent, He forgives us and blesses us with peace of conscience and joy. May we then submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. (Ensign, November 2009, 12-14)