“The Great Plan of Happiness”

In this scripture block, Alma teaches his son Corianton about individual agency and eternal rewards and consequences. As we ponder these teachings, we hope to be reminded that “wickedness never was happiness” and that righteousness never brings misery. We can see that the choices we make on the earth will determine our degree of happiness after death as we understand the role Jesus Christ can play in meeting the demands of justice. As we choose to repent and follow Him, we benefit from the plan of mercy and progress toward eternal happiness.

Alma’s teachings in Alma 39–42 are doctrinally rich and clarify these important truths. As we study these chapters, let us ponder which truths might be most meaningful to each of us personally and what you can do to discover and better comprehend these truths.

History and Background

Alma 39 Alma reproved his wayward son Corianton, who had forsaken the ministry and committed sexual sin. Alma taught him the seriousness of his actions and expressed disappointment that Corianton was guilty of such a serious sin. Alma commanded his son to stop going after the lusts of his eyes and to repent. (Alma’s counsel to Corianton on other subjects continues in chapters 40–42.)

Alma 40 As Alma warned his son Corianton about the consequences of sin, he also taught about life after death. He explained that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all mankind will be resurrected. He taught about the spirit world, where the dead, depending on their choices in mortality, wait in either paradise or prison until the Resurrection.

Alma 41 Continuing to counsel his son Corianton, Alma taught that the plan of restoration includes not only physical resurrection but also a spiritual restoration in which our eternal state reflects our mortal actions and desires. Alma emphasized that wickedness can never lead to happiness.

Alma 42 Alma concluded his counsel to his son Corianton by explaining that Heavenly Father had provided a way for those who sin to obtain mercy. He taught that the justice of God demands that sinners be cut off from the presence of God. He then testified that Jesus Christ would “appease the demands of justice” (Alma 42:15) by suffering for all who have sinned and by providing mercy to the penitent.

Part 1: Alma 39 Sexual sin is an abomination in the sight of the Lord.

The law of chastity is the Lord’s law of sexual purity. To obey the law of chastity, we must be morally clean in thought, word, and action. We must avoid having any sexual relations before marriage, and we must be completely faithful to our husband or wife during marriage. Homosexual activity of any kind is also a serious sin, regardless of whether those who participate in it are married or single. (“Chastity” and “Same-Sex Attraction,” Gospel Topics, topics.lds.org.)

Five Lies about the Law of Chastity

These statements are lies about the law of chastity that have become accepted by many people:

  1. I know a lot of people who don’t keep the law of chastity, so I shouldn’t have to obey the law of chastity either.
  2. Committing sexual sin is not very serious.
  3. I can commit sexual sin and no one will know.
  4. Because of all the temptations around me, it isn’t possible to stay sexually pure.
  5. If I have committed sexual sin, I can’t be forgiven.

Why do you think worldly views about chastity are so different from the Lord’s teachings?

As we begin to read this chapter, what did Corianton do wrong? Alma 39:4 Yea, she did steal away the hearts of many; but this was no excuse for thee, my son. Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted.

What truth can we learn from verse 4?  The sins of others do not provide an excuse for us to sin. 

Why do the sins of others not provide an excuse for us to sin? The Lord’s commandments and expectations for us do not change because of other people’s choices.

How di Alma explaine the seriousness of sexual sin.  Alma 39:5 

Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?

What truth can we learn from Alma 39:5? Sexual sin is an abomination in the sight of the Lord.

Why do you think sexual sin is so serious in the sight of the Lord?

Alma was referring to sexual sins such as fornication and adultery, which involve participating in sexual relations with another person outside of marriage.

Why do you think fornication and adultery are placed next to murder in seriousness?

 What was Alma’s purpose in teaching Corianton the seriousness of sexual sin? Alma 39:7–8  To help Corianton repent so that he would not have to stand guilty before God

And now, my son, I would to God that ye had not been guilty of so great a crime. I would not dwell upon your crimes, to harrow up your soul, if it were not for your good.

But behold, ye cannot hide your crimes from God; and except ye repent they will stand as a testimony against you at the last day.

What truth can we learn from verse 8? We cannot hide our sins from God. 

What did Alma teach Corianton that can help us remain sexually pure regardless of the temptations that surround us? Alma 39:9 

Now my son, I would that ye should repent and forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes, but cross yourself in all these things; for except ye do this ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Oh, remember, and take it upon you, and cross yourself in these things.

So then, what principle can we learn from Alma 39:9? We can overcome temptation and forsake our sins by exercising self-control. 

When people commit sexual sins, they often have feelings of discouragement or despair and can feel they don’t have much worth. The principles in Alma 39–42 can inspire one to feel hope that leads to repentance.

Sister Joy D. Jones taught:

“Let me point out the need to differentiate between two critical words: worth and worthiness. They are not the same. Spiritual worth means to value ourselves the way Heavenly Father values us, not as the world values us. Our worth was determined before we ever came to this earth. ‘God’s love is infinite and it will endure forever.’

“On the other hand, worthiness is achieved through obedience. If we sin, we are less worthy, but we are never worth less! We continue to repent and strive to be like Jesus with our worth intact. As President Brigham Young taught: ‘The least, the most inferior spirit now upon the earth … is worth worlds.’ No matter what, we always have worth in the eyes of our Heavenly Father” (“Value beyond Measure,” Ensign Nov. 2017, 14).

Lord’s standards regarding chastity? “Never do anything that could lead to sexual transgression. Treat others with respect, not as objects used to satisfy lustful and selfish desires. Before marriage, do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not do anything else that arouses sexual feelings. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body. Pay attention to the promptings of the Spirit so that you can be clean and virtuous. The Spirit of the Lord will withdraw from one who is in sexual transgression.Avoid situations that invite increased temptation, such as late-night or overnight activities away from home or activities where there is a lack of adult supervision. Do not participate in discussions or any media that arouse sexual feelings. Do not participate in any type of pornography. The Spirit can help you know when you are at risk and give you the strength to remove yourself from the situation. Have faith in and be obedient to the righteous counsel of your parents and leaders” (For the Strength of Youth [booklet, 2011], 36).

If you had to summarize all of this counsel with one principle, what would it be?

What principles do you find here that help you live the law of chastity?

How might you respond to someone who told you that it is too difficult to live the law of chastity in today’s world?

Sister Wendy Nelson contrasted how the worlds view of sexual relations—“worldly sex”—with what she called “God-ordained marital intimacy”:

“With worldly sex, anything goes. With marital intimacy, exquisite care is taken to avoid anything and everything—from language to music to movies—that offends the Spirit, your spirit, or your spouse’s.

“While worldly sex is lustful and kills love, marital intimacy generates more love.

“Worldly sex degrades men and women and their bodies, while marital intimacy honors men and women and celebrates the body as one of the great prizes of mortal life.

“With worldly sex, individuals can feel used, abused, and ultimately more lonely. With marital intimacy, spouses feel more united and loved, more nurtured and understood.

“Worldly sex ravages and eventually ruins relationships. Marital intimacy strengthens marriages. It supports, heals, and hallows the lives of spouses and their marriage. …

“Worldly sex becomes a total obsession because it never fulfills its promises. God-ordained marital intimacy is glorious and will continue eternally for covenant-keeping husbands and wives” (“Love and Marriage” [worldwide devotional, Jan. 8, 2017], broadcasts.ChurchofJesusChrist.org).

It’s sometimes easy to believe that our choices don’t affect others or that our sins are private.

What did Alma teach Corianton in Alma 39:11–12 about the effect of his choices?

11 Suffer not yourself to be led away by any vain or foolish thing; suffer not the devil to lead away your heart again after those wicked harlots. Behold, O my son, how great iniquity ye brought upon the Zoramites; for when they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words.

12 And now the Spirit of the Lord doth say unto me: Command thy children to do good, lest they lead away the hearts of many people to destruction; therefore I command you, my son, in the fear of God, that ye refrain from your iniquities

Who might be affected by the choices we are making, both good and bad?

What do you think it means to turn to the Lord with all of our mind, might, and strength?

What did Alma teach Corianton about Jesus Christ? Alma 39:15

15 And now, my son, I would say somewhat unto you concerning the coming of Christ. Behold, I say unto you, that it is he that surely shall come to take away the sins of the world; yea, he cometh to declare glad tidings of salvation unto his people.

What doctrine can we learn from Alma’s teachings to Corianton in verse 15?  Because of Jesus Christ, we can be forgiven of our sins. 

Why is it important to understand that we can be forgiven, regardless of the sins we may have committed?

Why are you grateful that Jesus Christ has “come to take away the sins of the world” (Alma 39:15) and will forgive all who repent?

Alma taught Corianton that God revealed the glad tidings of the Savior’s coming long before Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry because the people who lived before Christ were just as precious to God as those who would live later.  Alma 39:16–19 

16 And now, my son, this was the ministry unto which ye were called, to declare these glad tidings unto this people, to prepare their minds; or rather that salvation might come unto them, that they may prepare the minds of their children to hear the word at the time of his coming.

17 And now I will ease your mind somewhat on this subject. Behold, you marvel why these things should be known so long beforehand. Behold, I say unto you, is not a soul at this time as precious unto God as a soul will be at the time of his coming?

18 Is it not as necessary that the plan of redemption should be made known unto this people as well as unto their children?

19 Is it not as easy at this time for the Lord to send his angel to declare these glad tidings unto us as unto our children, or as after the time of his coming?

**Point to Ponder: Prayerfully consider what the Lord would like you personally to do in order to apply these truths in their lives.

Part 2: Alma 40–42 The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes the plan of redemption possible.

Alma 40, 41, and 42 contain words of Alma to his son Corianton, who had committed serious sin while he was serving a mission among the Zoramites. Each chapter addresses a different doctrinal question.

Alma taught Corianton truths we all need to understand, including truths about the purpose of life, the spirit world, resurrection, and judgment. He taught his son Corianton about individual agency and eternal rewards and consequences. we are reminded that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10) and that righteousness never brings misery. We see that the choices we make on the earth will determine our degree of happiness after death. We also gain an understanding of the role Jesus Christ can play in meeting the demands of justice. As we choose to repent and follow Him, we benefit from the plan of mercy and progress toward eternal happiness.

Some doctrines and principles that stand out in these chapters:

Resurrection is the restoration of the spirit to the body in its proper and perfect frame Alma 40:1–5, 8–10, 16–25.

After death, all people enter the world of spirits Alma 40:6–15, 21.

“Wickedness never was happiness” Alma 41;10

Salvation is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ  Alma 42.

Why were these particular truths important for Alma’s son Corianton to understand?

Alma’s descriptions of the state of souls after this life can impress on our minds the importance of coming unto the Savior and repenting of our sins in this life.

How did Alma describe the state of each of these groups of people after they die? Alma 40:11–26 

11 Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.

12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.

13 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.

14 Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection.

15 Now, there are some that have understood that this state of happiness and this state of misery of the soul, before the resurrection, was a first resurrection. Yea, I admit it may be termed a resurrection, the raising of the spirit or the soul and their consignation to happiness or misery, according to the words which have been spoken.

16 And behold, again it hath been spoken, that there is a first resurrection, a resurrection of all those who have been, or who are, or who shall be, down to the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

17 Now, we do not suppose that this first resurrection, which is spoken of in this manner, can be the resurrection of the souls and their consignation to happiness or misery. Ye cannot suppose that this is what it meaneth.

18 Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but it meaneth the reuniting of the soul with the body, of those from the days of Adam down to the resurrection of Christ.

19 Now, whether the souls and the bodies of those of whom has been spoken shall all be reunited at once, the wicked as well as the righteous, I do not say; let it suffice, that I say that they all come forth; or in other words, their resurrection cometh to pass before the resurrection of those who die after the resurrection of Christ.

20 Now, my son, I do not say that their resurrection cometh at the resurrection of Christ; but behold, I give it as my opinion, that the souls and the bodies are reunited, of the righteous, at the resurrection of Christ, and his ascension into heaven.

21 But whether it be at his resurrection or after, I do not say; but this much I say, that there is a space between death and the resurrection of the body, and a state of the soul in happiness or in misery until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works.

22 Yea, this bringeth about the restoration of those things of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets.

23 The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame.

24 And now, my son, this is the restoration of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets—

25 And then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of God.

26 But behold, an awful death cometh upon the wicked; for they die as to things pertaining to things of righteousness; for they are unclean, and no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God; but they are cast out, and consigned to partake of the fruits of their labors or their works, which have been evil; and they drink the dregs of a bitter cup.

How can these teachings inspire us to repent?

For more about what happens in the spirit world, see 1 Peter 3:18–204:6 and Doctrine and Covenants 138:29–37.

What comes to your mind when you hear the words “restored” or “restoration”?

How is resurrection connected to the plan of restoration? Alma 41:2

2 I say unto thee, my son, that the plan of restoration is requisite with the justice of God; for it is requisite that all things should be restored to their proper order. Behold, it is requisite and just, according to the power and resurrection of Christ, that the soul of man should be restored to its body, and that every part of the body should be restored to itself.

Is it just or fair that a loving God would punish His children? Alma 42:7–26.

Elder Glenn L. Pace of the Seventy taught:

“There are absolute truths of eternity. They do not change as a society drifts from them. No popular vote can change an absolute, eternal truth. Legalizing an act does not make it moral. Don’t be fooled by the argument ‘Everybody’s doing it.’ Your spirit should be offended and your intelligence insulted by such reasoning.

When all of the evidence is in, the world’s graduate school of hard knocks will teach what you … were taught in the kindergarten of your spiritual training, ‘Wickedness never was happiness’ (Alma 41:10)” (Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 50; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 40).

What does this teach us about the importance of the Savior’s sacrifice?

Conclusion

Let us consider our lives, are there sins that currently trouble us? I testify of the Savior’s willingness to forgive and of the increased peace and happiness that come to us when we repent, let us repent. Though the path to forgiveness is difficult, it is not beyond the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Resources

Book of Mormon Student Manual

Seminary Manual

Conference Reports

Ensign

Doctrine and Covenants

King James Holy Bible

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