A few years ago I spoke in one of the wards in our stake as the regular third Sunday high council speaker. With ample time to develop a topic (a rarity) I felt impressed to revisit the 5th Chapter of Alma.
As the president of the church and also the head of government as chief judge, Alma decided to appoint another chief judge and go out among his people to ". . . pull down by the word of God all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them." (Alma 4:19).
Later in the day on that Sunday afternoon, I received a call from an older, venerable and kind brother in that ward who declared, "That was the greatest talk I have ever heard in my whole life." All I did was ask Alma's 42 questions.
It might be a worthwhile Sunday activity today for you and your family to consider your answers.
1. And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers?
2. Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them?
3. And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?
4. And now I ask of you, my brethren, were they destroyed?
5. And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed?
6. And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved?
7. Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation?
8. What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell?
9. Behold, I can tell you – did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi?
10. And was he not a holy prophet?
11. Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them?
12. And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God?
13. Have ye received his image in your countenances?
14. Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?
15. Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you?
16. Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?
17. I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?
18. Or do ye imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say – Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth – and that he will save you?
19. Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?
20. I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands?
21. I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?
22. I say unto you, can ye think of being saved when you have yielded yourselves to become subjects to the devil?
23. And now I ask of you, my brethren, how will any of you feel, if ye shall stand before the bar of God, having your garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness?
24. Behold, what will these things testify against you?
25. Behold will they not testify that ye are murderers, yea, and also that ye are guilty of all manner of wickedness?
26. Behold, my brethren, do ye suppose that such an one can have a place to sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and also all the holy prophets, whose garments are cleansed and are spotless, pure and white?
27. And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?
28. Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God?
29. Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble?
30. That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?
31. Behold, are ye stripped of pride?
32. Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy?
33. And again I say unto you, is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions?
34. And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye?
35. Behold, I say unto you, that the devil is your shepherd, and ye are of his fold; and now, who can deny this?
36. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself?
37. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?
38. And now my beloved brethren, I say unto you, can ye withstand these sayings; yea, can ye lay aside these things, and trample the Holy One under your feet; yea, can ye be puffed up in the pride of your hearts; yea, will ye still persist in the wearing of costly apparel and setting your hearts upon the vain things of the world, upon your riches?
39. Yea, will ye persist in supposing that ye are better one than another; yea, will ye persist in the persecution of your brethren, who humble themselves and do walk after the holy order of God, wherewith they have been brought into this church, having been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and they do bring forth works which are meet for repentance – Yea, and will you persist in turning your backs upon the poor, and the needy, and in withholding your substance from them?
40. For the names of the righteous shall be written in the book of life, and unto them will I grant an inheritance at my right hand. And now, my brethren, what have ye to say against this?
41. For what shepherd is there among you having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock?
42. Behold, if a wolf enter his flock doth he not drive him out?
And the last summary verse (62) in this chapter says:
"I speak by way of command unto you that belong to the church; and unto those who do not belong to the church I speak by way of invitation, saying: Come and be baptized unto repentance that ye also may be partakers of the fruit of the tree of life."