Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are constantly admonished to read their scriptures, to speak with God each day in prayer, to hold family home evening, obey the commandments and act as disciples of Jesus Christ. Prophets and apostles have also advised parents — a father via a personal priesthood interview or a mother in her role as a nurturer — to meet on a regular basis and review goals, behavior, and activities with each of their children.
It is a wonderful opportunity because individuals who have the gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives have the privilege of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and inspiration from heaven in their various stewardships. Alma the Younger provides an exquisite example of a righteous parent who, acting under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, was able to counsel his three sons individually according to their specific needs.
What is often missed however in the story of Alma’s counseling Helaman, Shiblon and Corianton is the context in which it is given. It is instructive.
In the chapters preceding Alma’s individual meetings with each beloved child there is great strife and contention in the land. Many once righteous Nephites had forsaken the faith and followed anti-Christs. Alma is “sicken(ed) because of the iniquity of the people” and desires to effect change.
As not only a loving father but a prophet of God, he understands that “the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just, yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else” (Alma 31:5). Knowing the necessity of expounding gospel truths to counteract the influence of false teachings in his society, Alma gathered a band of missionaries, including his own sons, to go and bear testimony of Christ. They go to the Zoramites, “who had fallen into great errors” and who would not “keep the commandments of God” (Alma 31:9).
Although they have success and gain many converts, those in control of Zoramite society reject the gospel and cast out those who were baptized. Alma describes, after this experience, being “grieved for the iniquity of his people,” their “wars,” “bloodsheds,” “contentions” and “seeing that the hearts of the people began to wax hard, and that they began to be offended because of the strictness of the word, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful” (Alma 35:15).
While some might think it is so, it is not in chapter 36, describing Alma’s individual counsel to each son, that the next story begins. It is at this point in the book of Alma. In response to growing wickedness in the land, “Therefore, (Alma) caused that his sons should be gathered together, that he might give unto them every one his charge, separately, concerning the things pertaining unto righteousness” (Alma 35:16).
Alma starts where we should all start if we seek a more righteous society. He goes back to the basics, to teaching his children the gospel of Jesus Christ in the family setting. He continues his role as a parent, counseling and exhorting his children, although they are grown and older, to righteousness. Alma recognizes that the strength, or lack thereof, in any society is inevitably determined in the home. He acts because he understands the critical necessity of a gospel-centered home, the importance of seeking inspiration from the Holy Ghost and regularly counseling his children in a continuing effort to fulfill his stewardship over the children God has put in his care.
This is not to suggest a cause-effect relationship between teaching the gospel in the home and consistent obedience by children. Each individual on earth has been given the gift of agency by a loving Heavenly Father. But it is to suggest that righteous parents will do all in their power to teach the gospel to their children and, as Alma exemplifies, one important component of doing so is regularly meeting with and counseling our children under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.
Kristine Frederickson writes on issue-oriented topics that affect members of the LDS Church worldwide in her column “LDS World."