CLICK HERE to read Alma 12.
Alma watched and listened as Amulek preached to the bully Zeezrom, and knew that Amulek had caught Zeezrom in his lying. When he noticed that Zeezrom “began to tremble under a consciousness of his guilt”, Alma began to speak to him to confirm what Amulek had taught, “and to explain things beyond, or to unfold the scriptures beyond that which Amulek had done” (verse 1).
Alma began to preach both to Zeezrom, and to the people gathered to see and hear what was going on (verse 2). Alma calls out Zeezrom for his lying, and points out that the lying was not just to the people but also to God (verse 3). Alma points out to Zeezrom that the bully knows the prophets are aware of “all thy thoughts… that thy thoughts are made known unto us by his Spirit” (verse 3). Alma explains that this secret plan “was a very subtle plan”, and that it came from the devil (verse 4).
“Now this was a plan of thine adversary, and he hath exercised his power in thee” (verse 5).
Alma then speaks to the people, explaining that this whole drama was a plan of the adversary, with Satan thinking he could set a trap, “a snare of the adversary, which he has laid to catch the people” (verse 6).
This gets Zeezrom’s attention even more, and he “began to tremble more exceedingly, for he was convinced more and more of the power of God; and … (that) power was given unto them (the prophets)… according to the spirit of prophecy” (verse 7).
These are the seeds of testimony growing in Zeezrom, as he begins to know who God is and who His prophets are. These seeds of testimony now planted begin to grow in the Light of Christ that is in all of us, and it makes him hungry to know more. So he begins “to inquire of them diligently, that he might know more concerning the kingdom of God” – specifically asking about the resurrection and the judgment (verse 8).
Zeezrom’s asking for more information counts as obedience. However small the step, it is still a step. However small the progress, it is still progress.
This is the doctrine of repentance (see Ezekiel 18:19-32 and 33:7-20). No matter how well one has kept covenants and regardless of how far they have progressed, if they turn away from God, they are lost. With their backs toward God, they are facing the wrong direction completely. But no matter what sin or iniquity one has done, the moment they begin to repent – the moment they turn toward God – they are facing the right direction, regardless of how far is left to go. This is why we have no right – why it is unrighteous dominion – to judge others based on where they are in their progress. It matters not, and is not our business. What is important is that they are facing towards God and making progress. If we have turned from God to judge another, then we ourselves have lost our way. We cannot mock the line-upon-line of others without being in the spacious building of pride.
Here Zeezrom’s turning toward God is immediately blessed, as obedience is always blessed, regardless of his past because he has turned towards God.
Alma begins to teach Zeezrom, but first clarifies that he (the prophet) can only teach him (the repentant) as much as he (the repentant) is willing to pay heed and diligence to what is given (verse 9).
This is a law of the Gospel: that we can only get out of it what we are willing to put into it. We are responsible for what we know, so we will not learn more until we have been faithful to that which we have received thus far. Studying the scriptures will be cold and dry if we are not also living them; it is the living what is taught that makes them come alive, that stirs that Spirit-to-spirit communication, that makes the stories real and present and 3D.
Those who harden themselves against it, receive less from it – even until “they know nothing” (verse 11).
Those who remain soft enough to truly receive it, receive more from it – even until “it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know(s) them in full” (verse 10).
Because Zeezrom is willing and wanting to receive more, Alma begins first by confirming what Amulek has already taught about the Savior making it possible for all people to be raised from the dead (immortality) and all people to stand before God for judgment – though only those who have chosen to live according to His Holiness, who have become His people of Holiness, will get to remain in His presence, and will have eternal life (verse 12).
But those of us who have hardened our hearts against receiving more, against making progress, against becoming more like Him will not be prepared to remain in His presence (verse 13). It will be our own choices and interactions that give evidence of whether we have become like Him or not. It is the Savior’s great atoning sacrifice that makes it possible, but it is our choices and interactions that declare whether we have accepted that gift or not.
“For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God…” (verse 14).
But we cannot NOT meet with God. All of us will.
“… we must come forth and stand before him… and acknowledge… that all his judgments are just” (verse 15).
We will acknowledge his judgments as just because the evidence will be our own.
But it is not hopeless, and we need not fear.
Because those of us that believe, and respond, and so bring forth “good fruits” – or evidence of our repentance, will find mercy… even in that moment that would otherwise drown us in shame (verse 15).
So these are the two deaths: first, actual physical death; second, a spiritual death.
The Savior has conquered physical death for us all; we all will receive the gift of immortality.
But the spiritual death must be overcome now, by our reliance on His laws and covenants. We demonstrate now, through obedience, that we accept His gift of conquering spiritual death (verse 16).
The people were astonished when they heard these teachings (verse 19), and they begin to respond, with their own questions – specifically about the fall in the garden of Eden (verses 20, 21). Alma explains (verse 22):
All people are “lost” and “fallen” because we are all outside Heavenly Father’s physical presence (verses 22-24). But we will all return to His presence, at least for judgment, because of the great atoning sacrifice of Christ. Whether we continue in His presence or our judgment has different consequences, that’s what depends on our obedience now. That’s why NOW is the “time to prepare to meet God” (verse 24).
This has been the plan all along, from before the world was made (verse 25). We agreed to it and understood it before we were born on Earth, and He sends messengers – angels and prophets – to make sure we understand it while on Earth (verses 28-29). He wants to be sure we understand.
“… therefore God conversed with men, and made known unto them the plan of redemption, which had been prepared from the foundation of the world; and this he made known unto them according to their faith and repentance and their holy works…” (verse 30).
That’s a powerful verse.
He wants all of us to know the plan, and to understand it. But again, He will only give us as much as we are ready to receive – no more.
How does He know what we are ready to receive?
Because when we truly receive, we act on it in response and we testify of it.
If we are not sharing our testimony, either in words or actions, and if we are not progressing in deeper layers and higher levels of obedience, then we are not receiving. His words, whether through Scriptures or prophets, will seem cold and dead to us because we have denied them life.
But if we respond, at all, in any way, or act on what we learn in some way, or make changes in response to what we are taught, or heed the promptings the Spirit gives, or testify of what we are learning… then His words will come alive to us, fill us, change us, transform us, nourish us.
We will feast on them.
That’s why there are commandments.
Strict rules are not there to oppress us.
Rules – either commandments or the conditions of covenants – are there to give us opportunity to act, to demonstrate, to respond, to choose… not to put limitations on our life, but to breathe life into us (verses 31, 32).
It’s not just that He wants us to not do so many bad things.
It’s that He wants us to learn how to do good things.
It’s not that He wants us to miss out on so much, but that He has so much more to give.
It’s not that He wants us to be non-human because we are so set apart, but that He wants us to be so much more than only-human.
He wants us to be like Him.
But we are not, not yet. We have so much learning to do, and our best efforts still fall short. We know, if we are righteous, we know that His judgments are just, and that we deserve nothing but that second death.
Yet He is merciful.
He has made a way.
This was part of the plan all along.
“But God did call on men, in the name of his Son, (this being the plan of redemption which was laid) saying: If ye will repent, and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you, through mine Only Begotten Son; therefore, whosever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest” (verses 33-34).
Rest = presence.
On the contrary, those who do harden their hearts will not enter His rest (presence) (verses 35, 36).
“And now, my brethren, seeing we know these things, and they are true, let us repent, and harden not our hearts, that we provoke not the Lord our God to pull down his wrath upon us in these commandments which he has given unto us; but let us enter into the rest of God, which is prepared according to his word” (verse 37).