CLICK HERE to read Alma 33.
The people listened to Alma’s sermon, and wanted to know more (verses 1-2). He reminded them of the words of the prophet Zenos said (verses 3-4):
Thou art merciful, O God, for thou hast heard my prayer, even when I was in the wilderness; yea, thou wast merciful when I prayed concerning those who were mine enemies, and thou didst turn to me…
This pattern of prayer unfolds in the next several verses, in classic Hebrew poetry. Beginning in the “wilderness”, which symbolizes when all of us are lost, or alone, or on a journey from what we knew to where He has promised to take us. The “wilderness” is the dark process from who we were to who He has promised to help us become. The “wilderness” is where we have strayed, the consequences of our poor choices, the isolated place from whence we are humbled and cry out on our knees. It is the place where He meets us, and leads us forward by His light.
Verse 5 is the prayer from the “field”, which is our work, our day job, that which sustains us physically. It is the “give us this day our daily bread”. It is self-reliance. It is hard work.
Verse 6 is the prayer from the “house”, which is our family, and our homes, and our efforts at being together and providing for each other and caring for each other and leading our families onward and upward. It is daily prayer with family, daily scripture study with family, and it is family home evening. It is family temple trips (besides those set aside as ward or stake days).
Verse 7 is the prayer from the “closet”, which is the private, individual relationship with God. It is personal prayer, personal scripture study, personal memorization. It is blessings, Temple worship, and study. It is noticing nature and repentance and gratitude. It is private tears cried alone.
Verse 9 is the prayer of the “congregation”. It is Sacrament meeting. It is stake conference. It is Priesthood and Relief Society. It is ward Temple trips, and stake Temple trips. It is fast Sunday. It is quorum service projects, home teaching, and visiting teaching.
In all these times, which are necessary, He does hear us (verse 8).
These are all the good times of joy and worship experiences, and they are the challenging times of putting forth the effort and doing the hard work of becoming righteous.
But even sometimes when we do everything right, or at least our very best, still sometimes others reject us, do not know us, and do not love us. Others sometimes do not want to see or hear the truth. Others sometimes can be cruel to us because they do not understand what we believe. The atonement covers these injustices, just as much as it covers my own sins.
Yea, and thou hast also heard me when I have been cast out and have been despised by mine enemies; yea, thou didst hear my cries, and wast angry with mine enemies, and thou didst visit them in anger with speedy destruction (verse 10).
Still he hears us.
Not because we are good, but because He is mercifcul.
And mercy is possible, because justice has been met.
That is the work of the atonement.
And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee in all mine afflictionfor in thee is my joy; for thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son (verse 11).
This is what Alma reminds the people when they worry about having been kicked out of the false synagogues because they were poor. He challenges them to remember the words of the ancient prophets (verse 12). He reminds them of these words of Zenos, and the hope we have because we have been given mercy (verse 13).
And, he says, they will not disbelieve God if they are really reading their scriptures (verse 14). He reminds them of a quote from the prophet Zenock, who said “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” (verse 16). We have mercy because of the atonement, and in this mercy we can rejoice.
So this is a second prophet, Alma says, to that same principle (verse 17). That’s two witnesses! But still, there are more (verse 18). Moses raised the staff, and all people had to do was look (verse 19). Many did, but many would not look “because they did not believe that it would heal them” (verse 20).
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 you rather harden your hearts in unbelief, and be slothful, that ye would not cast about your eyes, that ye might perish? (verse 21)
It’s that simple, he says. We just have to look. We only have to look, and we will be healed.
We only have to turn to Him, and He will come to us.
We only have to try it out to see if it is true, and we will receive the evidence of it.
We only have to have faith, and we will be given knowledge.
It’s that simple.
And so look! Alma says, look! Look to Christ! And “begin to believe in the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and that he shall rise again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works” (verse 22).
Christ did suffer and die to atone for our sins.
He did rise again from the dead, giving us all a free gift of immortality.
How we live the life we have in response to this knowledge is how we will be judged – and judgment from that, from our own choices now, will determine the quality of that immortality.
We all get immortality, for free, as a gift.
But what that immortality will be like, the state of it, the quality of it, we choose that now.
“And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become like 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… Amen…” (verse 23).