Sunday, November 23, 2008

Alma 32 - How To Know Whether the Book of Mormon Is Revealed Scripture

Listen now!About nine years after his preaching to the people of Zarahemla as recorded in Alma 5, Alma the Younger went to teach the wicked and apostate Zoramites. This branch of Nephi and Lehi's people had descended from Zoram, whom they brought with them to the promised land. They had built a tower upon which they sanctimoniously proclaimed their chosen status and gave hypocritical and ostentatious prayers to God, thanking Him that they were better. more chosen of God than other individuals within their neighboring faith communities.

While Alma taught them, a small group had also gathered there to listen. They were the poor in substance and spirit and sought truth, but had been turned out of these places of worship because of their poverty. Alma, seeing that these individuals were humble and, unlike their counterparts, were prepared and eager to receive more truth and wisdom, turned his focus completely to them and taught them to experiment upon the word as if it were a seed, inviting them to test what they have heard and to righteously judge whether it was of God or of man.

Anyone can use this same test to determine whether the Book of Mormon is truly scripture revealed of God.

In Alma 32, we read (my emphasis and [notes] added):

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.
27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, 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.
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 [archaic "chest"] ; 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.
29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.
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. 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.
32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
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.
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.
37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, 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.
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.
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.
40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith 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.
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, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, 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.
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.
So, as you can see, knowing the truth of something is not simply hearing it, finding it agreeable, and moving on. If you do only that, you will have neglected to grow that truth by nourishing it as you would a tree seedling. To make it grow within you, you have the responsibility--the imperative--to be humble, and to keep wanting more and learning more to get perfect knowledge of God's truth.

Similarly, if you neglect to even try the experiment, you can't possibly expect any fruit to come of it. That doesn't at all mean that the seed is bad, just that you didn't try the experiment.

It's one of the simplest laws of the harvest: From that which we sow and tend to and provide favorable conditions for, we can expect to reap something beneficial if the seed is good. If it is not, it simply won't grow no matter how much we nourish it. Conversely, from that which we do not sow, or that which we sow and then neglect, we cannot expect to reap anything at all.


  1. Hi Rob, I'm glad you posted about Alma 32. I've been casually thinking and studying about this subject for a few weeks now.

    One thing I have observed is that Alma never actually states that the experimenter will eventually "know" that the seed is in fact "true." Instead, Alma limits the results of the experiment to the discernment that the seed is "good."
    What could this mean? I tend to think that Alma would be uncomfortable in a moder fast and testimony meeting where everyone habitually claims to "know" things. Where is the faith in that?

    A couple other thoughts I've had while studying this:

    A) What does the seed actually represent? Does it represent certain propositions such as "God is corporeal", or "the BoM is true", or "pre-mortality is reality", or "Thomas Monson is a prophet"?

    I think that the context of the passage is one of a message of repentance and humble living. I don't see Alma as challenging them learn any particular doctrine. Instead, I see Alma as challenging to live a certain way.
    If that is the case, the "seed" experiment could be, and probably is, duplicated by many faith traditions who promote a humble, godly lifestyle.

    Anyway, my thoughts are still evolving on this. I am undecided. I recently read this article which partly has influenced my thinking.


  2. Thanks for the comments (and sorry I missed you on gtalk this evening).

    I can see your points about restricting this scripture to a unique interpretation. However, I do remember a few General Authorities mention this scripture in connection with gaining knowledge of other gospel principles and doctrines. It's really late and I need to get to bed, but I promise to do a follow-up of this when I have some more time.

  3. Hey, interesting perspective that I had (surprisingly) considered myself a few months back.

    I actually think Alma makes two points in one. That is, how do we know it is true? Because it's desirable. I know it sounds like some twisted logic, but within the context of religion, it makes perfect sense.

    If the principles of happiness are the same here as they are in heaven, and if happiness can only be known subjectively, then does not the desirability of any given spiritual truth prove its goodness and truth.

    It sounds slippery, but something Augustine wrote really clicked with me. He said we all want happiness, but most of us want to find happiness in places we'll never get it. I think Alma's experiment does hold up...only that happiness takes a lot of faith, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of work. I guess we just wish eternal happiness came a little one of those places we want to find it but never will.


We are happy to discuss any and every topic and question. We will give wide berth to a variety of opinions and ideas. The only thing we ask is that you return the favor by respecting our right to believe as we do and by not issuing lengthy, inflammatory diatribes meant to shock and confuse anyone not familiar with LDS teachings. They can certainly get that elsewhere. :)