It is common to hear that everyone is on different levels of understanding. This is true. However, the way to God has never changed and will never change, for God is the same today, tomorrow and forever.
So, rather than try to custom design our own plan of salvation to fit our circumstances, it would be more beneficial to exercise our trust in God. When we customize the plan of salvation to fit our circumstances the common pitfall is that we end up justifying our sins.
To avoid any justifications, we can turn to the word. Alma 32 is commonly known as the chapter on faith and the parable of planting the seed and nourishing that seed until it becomes a fruit bearing tree. However, we are going to focus our attention to the verses that precede the parable of the seed.
The circumstances are that Alma is teaching a group of people on the hill Onidah. Alma had more success among the poor people who were cast out and that is who came to Onidah asking questions. They were poor as to things of the world and they were poor in heart. In this economy many can relate to the condition of the poor.
The poor came to Alma because of their afflictions (v 5). Alma was grateful for their afflictions because they were now prepared to hear the word.
It was humility that lead the poor to seek the word. It wasn’t church meetings, home teaching, visiting teaching, young mens or any other programs that mattered most. What made the most difference was that they were humble or humbled by their afflictions, and they were asking questions with a humble heart. This is the perfect condition to introduce the word.
Alma identifies that it is better to humble yourself “because of the word” than it is to be compelled to be humble (v14). Alma defines it:
“16. Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God…”
It is better to let the word soften your heart than to be humbled by circumstances and then turn to the word. Those who humble themselves with the word are more blessed than those who are compelled to be humble.
“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.”
Are you starting to see the pattern? It is the word that Alma continues to point to as the starting point to progressing through God. In fact, Alma further explains that the word is what leads to repentance. How can a man repent if he doesn’t know the law he is breaking? So it makes sense that in order for one to properly repent, one must be familiar with the law. So the first step for everyone is to believe in the words of Christ. In verse 22 it says:
“22. And now, behold, I say unto you, and I would that ye should remember, that God 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.”
To extend the point even further, Alma teaches us that God imparts His word by angels to men and women, and that children also receive the word from angels that confound the wise (v 23).
There is a specific condition of every man’s heart in order for the word to be planted. It’s interesting that some came to Alma already humbled. They were already softened to the word. What does that say about what we ought to be doing if we don’t want to be counted among the poor being humbled? We ought to read “The Book” to avoid learning the hard way.
Alma makes it clear that the word comes first. Then, and only then, does Alma teach the commonly known parable of likening the word unto a seed (v 28).
Now, when you read the verses of this parable, you will see the reason this parable is so important to understand what lead up to it. The entire parable begins with the word being likened to a seed. The word is what is planted, not faith. The word is what is being nourished for the seed to sprout and begin to grow. Faith is expressed in the nourishing of the seed (the word). And finally it is the nourishing of the seed that produces the promised fruit.
Just as side note, if when you plant an apple seed your expectation is to someday pick apples, then when you plant the word (likened unto a seed), what is the fruit that this tree bears? The answer to this question is written in the parable in (v 41-43).
I’ll add it here for those of you who are lazy and don’t want to turn to it yourself (I get that way too.):
“41. But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
42. And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.
43. Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.”
I know this was supposed to just be a side thought, but look at verse 42 again and ask yourself, If this is supposed to be a fruit, what fruit quenches both hunger and thirst? Or is this fruit not a fruit, but instead a specific person? Then what does it mean when you have planted the seed and nourished and produced fruit? What would be likened to plucking the fruit?