I was reading Alma’s teachings on salvation, and found them very interesting. They echo Joseph Smith’s statement
Teachings page 217: A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God.
Alma starts off with a bit of a bang here.
Alma 12:9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.
Alma portrays salvation and exaltation as an issue of “receiving the word”. To many it is given to know the mysteries of God. However, those who harden their hearts receive less and less of the word, “until they know nothing concerning his mysteries”. As a consequence of having lost all knowledge of God’s mysteries, the scripture says “and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction”. It seems that whatever the mysteries of God are, when we learn them we will find that they fill in core fundamental truths that we now already understand in some part. They are so fundamental in nature that Alma says that when any man “knows nothing concerning his mysteries” then “they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction”. It is as if they are pillars of stone that we have seen from a great distance already, and that have served as guideposts that we traveled toward, and but we have not drawn close enough to read what is inscribed on them in detail. But when we do, we will still know that they serve as guideposts in their incomplete, distant form to all in mortality who do not choose destruction.
I am not saying I know anything about such matters. But obviously Alma does, and I think we rarely think about what Alma actually says here, since it isn’t what we expected him to say.
If we read what he actually says, we didn’t expect what Alma is writing. Alma doesn’t talk about sin, or about goodness per se. He talks about whether or not God’s word is found in us. And he makes that the central issue of salvation and exaltation. He continues to do so.
Alma 12:12 And Amulek hath spoken plainly concerning death, and being raised from this mortality to a state of immortality, and being brought before the bar of God, to be judged according to our works.
And in the next verse, he connects between being judged of our works, and God’s word being found in us. Alma explains that if our hearts have been hardened so that the word is not found in us, then our works will be wicked works.
Alma 12:13 Then if our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for then we shall be condemned.
14 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; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.
This goes along with Alma 32. What does Alma want them to do? He wants them to plant the word in their hearts and nourish it carefully until it grows up and becomes the tree of life and they can eat the fruit of it.
The revelations of God are supposed to grow up in us into, well, the revelations of God. We plant the word in our hearts. We nourish it by the light of Christ with great diligence. Eventually, it is to become the tree of life, and to provide us with the fruit.
Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden, but the word God gave them after they were cast out, can eventually bring us back to Eden’s tree of life if we plant it in our hearts and nourish it with all diligence. Then he can teach us just as he taught Adam and Eve.
Oppositely if the our hearts become hardened to the point that we no longer have any knowledge of the mysteries, then we are taken captive by the devil, and our works will condemn us, our thoughts will condemn us and we will not dare look up to our God.