The Gospel Doctrine lesson 28 manual objective is “To help class members understand that the word of God will lead them to Jesus Christ and to encourage them to ‘nourish the word’ in their hearts.”
To demonstrate through Alma’s teachings how the Word of God is available to all — women, children, men, and society’s outcasts — to make us wise and direct us to Christ.
When I was about ten, my mother stopped going to church, her life experiences incompatible with her expectations of Christ’s people. Eventually after receiving her PhD, she would teach gender roles and Mormon women’s history at the University of Utah. To her eternal credit, though she made her position clear, she never attempted to draw her children away from the church.
My father continued attending and serving, but said little. As the oldest of four children, I was unsure of my path ahead.
Among my tools was the Book of Mormon, which my seminary teacher urged us to read. As I laid it open on the occasional late night in my basement bedroom, “the virtue of the word of God” (Alma 31:5) began powerfully entering my space, clearing my head and surprising me with doctrines I had never heard. Far from a miraculous conversion, I was moved by the simple clarity of the words that slipped into my muddled life.
Alma’s mighty discourse on the word was evoked by the distress of the needy Zoramites, who complained of being sidelined and unsure of their position before God even after receiving the gospel. He rejoiced in their humility and “lowliness of heart” (Alma 32:12), because he knew that the word “had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than…anything else” (Alma 31:5).
And so it was with me. Though I didn’t fully realize it for a while, my true conversion had begun through the power of the word of God, independent of and greater than my life circumstances. I didn’t find it. It found me. I was just needy enough to let it in.
How many of us have found ourselves in a similar place—as outliers with uneasy social standing among our fellows in the church, maybe even having compromised our grounding in the gospel? The great prophet Alma, a former enemy to God, proclaimed to his listening Zoramites a paradoxical truth. Essentially: this alienation is a gateway to your greater faith and salvation through the word of God.
Alma chastened and encouraged them with these words:
“Remember that God [unlike their fellow apostate Zoramites] is merciful unto all who believe on his name; therefore he desireth, in the first place, that ye should believe, yea, even on his word. And now, he imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women also. Now this is not all; little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned (Alma 32:23, emphasis added).
Here we find one of very few places in the Book of Mormon where women (and our companion children) are explicitly included as participants in a core doctrine—this time that of receiving God’s own word, even by angels, and also through scripture (see also Mos. 27:25 and Alma 9:21).
That this must be overtly stated seems to validate the observation that women were less visible in Nephite society as they have been in ours, while testifying that God nevertheless offers women all His gifts. As the Book of Mormon demonstrates, this good news spans gender, culture, and time.
As through chapters 33 and 34, Alma and Amulek continue instructing the Zoramites, advantaged because of their humility; they teach that the ultimate Word the Zoramites seek is Christ Himself, He who rescues and reclaims, as He does me, and as He did my mother.
My mom returned to the church in her seventies, not because her concerns had been resolved, but because she heard Christ calling her back. Through the voices of her ancestor angels, she awoke and aroused her faculties to an experiment upon God’s words, exercising a particle of faith, doing no more than desiring to believe (see Alma 32:27). She continues that journey today, along with her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
When You’re Ready, Pam Shorr
“I always felt like I was ‘kicking against the pricks’ when I was active before. When I was reactivated, I had to work through some of my issues. I had to get rid of my hard heart. It was difficult….Sometimes I wonder where I would be if I had never left the Church. But then I remember that recent talk by Elder Holland where he tells us that where we are right now is enough. It’s enough.”
Faith Unto Salvation, Patricia Joseph
“Reading the scriptures and praying as I heard the elders pray, my life started to change. It was then I realized that I could also save Kirt and his girlfriend. I prayed and started to walk with my head up again. I blamed myself for giving birth to a person who might have taken another person’s life, and it was not until I read the Book of Mormon that I realized I was not responsible for my son’s action. Without the Church, without the word of God and Joseph Smith I would have not been able to ease the pain in my heart.”
Other Related Women’s Voices
Yielding Our Hearts to God, Neill F. Marriot
“When we offer our broken heart to Jesus Christ, He accepts our offering. He takes us back. No matter what losses, wounds, and rejection we have suffered, His grace and healing are mightier than all. Truly yoked to the Savior, we can say with confidence, ‘It will all work out.’”
Righteous Traditions, Cheryl C. Lant
“There is only one way to become personally converted. It is through a witness of the Spirit as we study these very scriptures that testify of Jesus Christ. It comes as we pray and as we fast. It comes only when we have a deep desire to know the truth. Our motivation must be to openly seek truth rather than justify our actions by finding fault with the scriptures, the teachings of the prophets, or the Church itself. Our effort must be toward hearing the interpretations of the Spirit rather than the understandings of the world. We must be willing to open our hearts and minds, accept the Lord’s way, and, if need be, change our lives. Our personal conversion comes as we begin to live the way the Lord wants us to live—steadfast and immovable in keeping all of the commandments, not just those that are convenient. This then becomes a process of refinement as we strive to make each day a little better than the last. Thus our traditions become traditions of righteousness.”
Looking for additional perspectives on this lesson? We recommend Mormon Sunday School, Meridian Magazine and LDSLiving.