1 And it came to pass that they did go forth, and began to preach the word of God unto the people, entering into their synagogues, and into their houses; yea, and even they did preach the word in their streets.
2 And it came to pass that after much labor among them, they began to have success among the poor class of people; for behold, they were cast out of the synagogues because of the coarseness of their apparel— [This is typical of missionary work. The most humble among the people are the first to usually listen to the message.]
3 Therefore they [the poor] were not permitted to enter into their synagogues to worship God, being esteemed as filthiness; therefore they were poor; yea, they were esteemed by their brethren as dross; therefore they were poor as to things of the world; and also they were poor in heart. [This would also explain why Korihor was discarded among them.]
4 Now, as Alma was teaching and speaking unto the people upon the hill Onidah, there came a great multitude unto him, who were those of whom we have been speaking, of whom were poor in heart [exceedingly humble], because of their poverty as to the things of the world.
5 And they came unto Alma; and the one who was the foremost among them said unto him: Behold, what shall these my brethren do, for they are despised of all men because of their poverty, yea, and more especially by our priests; for they have cast us out of our synagogues which we have labored abundantly to build with our own hands; and they have cast us out because of our exceeding poverty; and we have no place to worship our God; and behold, what shall we do?
6 And now when Alma heard this, he turned him about, his face immediately towards him, and he beheld with great joy; for he beheld that their afflictions had truly humbled them, and that they were in a preparation to hear the word. [How often do our afflictions humble us to where we are capable of receiving the Lord’s direction? In the future, when the destructions come to America, there will be many who will turn to God when their leaders have failed them.]
7 Therefore he did say no more to the other multitude; but he stretched forth his hand, and cried unto those whom he beheld, who were truly penitent, and said unto them:
8 I behold that ye are lowly in heart; and if so, blessed are ye.
9 Behold thy brother hath said, What shall we do?—for we are cast out of our synagogues, that we cannot worship our God.
10 Behold I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God save it be in your synagogues only? [I have heard many say, “When I need revelation I go to the temple.” The temple is a place of learning and one can receive revelation, but you must stand in holy places, which is anywhere you have the Spirit of the Lord abiding with you. You will not receive any revelation at the temple more that you cannot receive in your own closet.]
11 And moreover, I would ask, do ye suppose that ye must not worship God only once in a week?
Our Sabbath is the day we make holy to the Lord, but every day we should walk in holiness, as we allow our minds and hearts to call out to Him.
12 I say unto you, it is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues, that ye may be humble, and that ye may learn wisdom; for it is necessary that ye should learn wisdom; for it is because that ye are cast out, that ye are despised of your brethren because of your exceeding poverty, that ye are brought to a lowliness of heart; for ye are necessarily brought to be humble. [For many it is a greater test to endure wealth than to endure poverty. Wealth can be a dumb idol for most who experience such a life.]
13 And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance [to turn their hearts to God]; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end [Recieve the Holy Ghost] the same shall be saved.
14 And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be humble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word?
15 Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed—yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty. [The word “Blessed” is more than receiving a favor from the Lord, it is to receive more light as we ascend in glory.]
16 Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe. [Those who choose to believe without full knowledge.]
17 Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe.
18 Now I ask, is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it. [Like the person that will not attempt something because they have no ability to perform it. “Show me that I will be great at this, or I will not try!” Like the artist’s first attempt at painting a picture and decides he will not continue without a sign that he is a master. We must first believe.]
19 And now, how much more cursed is he that knoweth the will of God and doeth it not, than he that only believeth, or only hath cause to believe, and falleth into transgression? [The Lord is merciful to those who are repenting. He knows you are not perfect. Those who know for certainty the truth and choose to rebel are more accountable.]
20 Now of this thing ye must judge. Behold, I say unto you, that it is on the one hand even as it is on the other [Look at your options.]; and it shall be unto every man according to his work. [Get what you put into it.]
21 And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.
This is a powerful statement concerning faith. The most important thing a person can learn in this life is how to exercise faith, for this is the means by which we learn to become like God. When we learn to visualize the possibilities, to see what can be according to the will of God, and according to His Spirit, anything is possible.
What we learn concerning faith in this life will rise with us in the next, to the degree that we will be able to utilize the same principle and power of faith unto the creation of all things.
If for example one has faith that they can stand in the presence of God while in the flesh, what would you do? First you would imagine in your mind what that might look like. Imagine how you might work toward making this a reality. To study, plan, act, and plot a course toward such an event. Finding every scripture, written account, and build a “hope” based upon what you have learned, without knowing for sure how such a thing would transpire. Then, you would ask God to help you do it properly.
22 And now, behold, I say unto you, and I would that ye should remember, that God is merciful [will provide help] unto all who believe on his name; therefore he desireth, in the first place, that ye should believe, yea, even on his word.
23 And now, he imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women also. Now this is not all; little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned. [This is an important verse in the Book of Mormon. Often I hear women express concern that they cannot experience the same things as men. This is partly due to the fact that there are few published testimonies from women regarding these things. I testify to you that women receive an equal amount of spiritual blessings as men. I know as many women as men who have entertained angels and even walked with God in this life. Do you believe?]
24 And now, my beloved brethren, as ye have desired to know of me what ye shall do because ye are afflicted and cast out—now I do not desire that ye should suppose that I mean to judge you only according to that which is true— [I’m not just judging you on what I see.]
25 For I do not mean that ye all of you have been compelled to humble yourselves; for I verily believe that there are some among you who would humble themselves, let them be in whatsoever circumstances they might. [Each of you have your own story and circumstance.]
26 Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge. [You cannot know by just my speaking unto you that what I say is true, as much as you can have faith in God by simply hearing the words.]
27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties [be willing to get up and try], even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words. [Every act of faith begins with desire. The Lord judges our hearts based upon the desires we entertain. What do you want? Pure intent is to have desire which is without guile. Only such a heart will have the proper foundation to see your faith grow.]
28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me. [A perfect metaphor for faith. When teaching the Gospel it is always advisable to use a visual to help the person imagine in their mind the possibility. Here, the Spirit of the Lord can open the possibility of the person’s faith.]
Alma mentions the most likely reason that the “seed” will not plant is because of “unbelief.” When our hearts and minds are cumbered with false traditions, they block us from receiving what the Lord would give us. Here is a short list of some unbeliefs that would prevent us from receiving the gifts of the Spirit that will bring us closer to the Lord:
- I won’t believe what I cannot prove.
- Its just in my head.
- This is just made up by people to control others.
- God won’t notice me, I’m like a drop in the universe.
- I don’t have time for this.
- I could be deceived.
- If I want anything bad enough I can convince myself to believe it.
Alma encourages them to try and if the results are good and enlightens their understanding, becoming as “delicious” to them, they should continue to explore what he is teaching them.
29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.
What is “perfect knowledge?” A perfect knowledge of God is to handle Him, to speak directly with Him. To have no reason to doubt, because you know! I remember as a young missionary being told to bear my testimony by saying, “I know that God lives!” But, I didn’t really. I wanted to believe with all my heart and I did have spiritual witnesses that He was there, but I was lacking still. Is that bad? No, because this is how we learn to develop faith. We are strengthened in the process as we learn to trust in Him and to develop the ability to see in our mind and spirit the power of God. Is is a beautiful process.
30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. [Again, using a visual aid to help the imagination of the person to see how the process unfolds.] And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness. [A seed has within itself everything it needs to become a mature creation. Every person, from the moment they are born, has the seed of Eternal Life within them. God desires us to fill the measure of our creation. You will become what you are capable, but you must have faith to see what that is and allow it to grow. We can only see that possibility by gazing upon a fully mature tree (God) and then to be patient as the process develops.]
32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away. [Some will not attain Eternal Life.]
33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.
34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand. [This is for those who have planted the seed of faith and seen results, yet you reach a point where you are “dormant” because you think you have a fullness. But, no, you have not yet matured in your faith.]
35 O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?
36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good. [As you exercise faith and mature in the Gospel you will experience the gifts of the Spirit. This “light” is discernible and gives strength to your faith. It gives you knowledge, but it is not yet perfect.]
37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root [Holy Ghost], that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit. [You begin to see the truth and power of your experiences. You seek to grab hold of the rod of iron and are vigilantly striving for the Tree of Life, to partake of the fruit, which is a true witness of the love of God, even Jesus Christ!]
38 But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out. [If you do not listen to the Spirit and keep the commandments of the Lord (his revelations to you), you will fall into forbidden paths and the roots will die.]
39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof. [What constitutes barren ground? This would be someone who builds their testimony upon anything other than Jesus Christ. If your faith is based upon an institution, a person, a doctrine, or any other “dumb idol” that is not Christ, you have the potential to be lead astray. Those who have barren ground will fall to pieces and abandon their faith at the first sign that their trust is broken in that sandy foundation. 3 Nephi 11:40]
40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith [not losing sight of your purpose] to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.
41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life. [This verse specifically teaches the importance of the effort required to come unto the Lord. “Great diligence, patience, and look forward” are the words Alma uses to describe the process. The people who grab hold of the iron rod had to press forward to come to the tree. Our faith requires effort. The “grace that the Lord provides us is free, in that we are given the gift of salvation, but Eternal Life is for those that endure to the end. If you desire to have Eternal Life you must receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. If you desire to partake of the fruit of the Tree in this life you must diligently follow every command the Lord will give you, no matter how challenging.]
42 And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you [gift of the Holy Ghost] behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof [experience the Lord], which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst. [The Second Comforter]
43 Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.
There is much in this chapter to contemplate. We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling, as we set a course to come unto Christ (literally). Remember, the seed is already planted in your heart. It is who you are. You must now do all you can to nourish and grow your faith until you are prepared to be ushered before the Lord by the angels and have Him teach you all things.
Something that many do not realize is that Lehi’s Dream, and the allegory of the Tree of Life has a literal aspect to it. There is a Tree of Life that the Lord will take you to, and you will eat of its fruit. At that time the significance of this will be opened to you. It is a part of the Everlasting Covenant and is eternal in its scope and implication. Alma has a beautiful way of introducing powerful mysteries and at the same time teaching the most basic of Gospel principles.