This is a wonderful chapter on diligence in the small and simple doings. Yet these are the most important.
Small and Simple Means Bring About Great Things
Verses 6-7 – Alma talks about the importance of the little acts. Many great works were accomplished by small and simple things. I remember in my mission reading a quote by Og Mandino saying something about the raindrop turning into the waterfall, or the swing of an axe that chops the tree down, or the ant that devours the tiger. I often lost my perspective in school. I would get weighed down with the studies and tests. My only relief is in the small acts. I know if I break the assignment down into smaller parts, it become edible. This is a simple and profound truth. This is where the rubber hits the road.
In terms of the gospel, we are commanded to do many things. I’ve always felt that the most important things we need to do are the things we ought to do every day … specifically, morning, evening and family prayer and scripture study. If we are diligent in these two things, then we will at least be striving to work on the bigger things. Thus by small means we accomplish great things.
How interesting to note that two of main subjects of this chapter deal with the scriptures and prayer.
· "enlarge the memory of the people"
· convince us of our errors and wrong ways
· gives us a knowledge of their God
· brings us to salvation
· are the main tool in missionary work (verses 9-10)
Verses 14-16 – The plates are holy. The Lord always protected them from the beginning. Joseph Smith received the same promise from the Lord concerning the gold plates. (JS-H 1:59)
As I read this chapter today (July 1, 2007), verses 14 to 19 stuck out with regard to Laman and Lemuel. Alma told Helaman that the brass plates and the plates of Nephi were kept for a wise purpose. Then in verse 19 it says, “one purpose hath he fulfilled, even to the restoration of many thousands of the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth.” How ironic that Laman and Lemuel kicked against the pricks when it came time to retrieve the brass plates. These very plates were a means to the salvation of thousands of their children.
Urim and Thummin and Gazelem
The next item Alma discussed with Helaman was the 24 plates which chronicled the history of the Jaredites. Alma commands Helaman to keep the secret works of the Jaredites from the Nephites and to preserve the interpreters. These are the same plates that were found by the people of Limhi. (Mosiah 8:9) But there was no mention of these interpreters by Limhi and his people. But later on in the Book of Mormon in Ether 3:23, we read that the Lord gave the brother of Jared two stones with which to interpret writings and that he should seal them up with his writings. These are the Urim and Thummim and apparently are the same interpreters that Alma entrusted to Helaman and are the same stones that Joseph Smith received at the time Moroni entrusted him with the gold plates. (see D&C 17:1)
Here is some more information that I’ve copied from gospeldoctrine.com. The first paragraph is some commentary by the author of the site. The rest comes from various sources.
This reference to Gazelem is confusing. If he is a prophet, contemporary to the early Nephites, who was given a Urim and Thummim, then there must have been two sets of interpreters among them. The other set of interpreters were the ones given to the Brother of Jared. They were later buried with the plates and used to translate the Book of Mormon (See Ether 3:23; DC 17:1). Another possibility is that Gazelem is not a proper name but a title for a seer. Thirdly, the name may be a reference to Joseph Smith, who was referred to in the D&C as Gazelam when code names were used to conceal the identity of those referred to in the revelations. The following quotes are helpful.
“The word Gazelem appears to have its roots in Gaz - a stone and Aleim, a name of God as a revelator or interposer in the affairs of men. If this suggestion be correct, its roots admirably agree with its apparent meaning-a seer.” (George Reynolds, A Dictionary of the Book of Mormon, p. 92)
“This may well be a play on words. Is Gazelem the seer stone or the servant? It is difficult to tell from the passage and depends very much on the placement of a comma in the sentence. Perhaps it could refer to both. It is interesting to note that when Jesus called Simon Peter to the ministry he said: ‘Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, a seer, or a stone’ (JST, John 1:42). Though this name or title of Gazelem may be used in regard to any seer who utilizes seer stones, it seems in this instance to be a direct reference to Joseph Smith the Prophet.” (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, p. 278)
Bruce R. McConkie
“Strange and unusual names were placed by the Prophet in some of the early revelations so that the individuals whom the Lord was then addressing would not be known to the world. The purpose for keeping these identities secret from their enemies having long since passed, the true names are now found in the Doctrine and Covenants.
“Two of the names which identified the Prophet himself were Gazelam and Enoch. (D&C.78:9; 82:11; 104:26, 43, 45, 46.) Presumptively these and other names used at the same time have particular meanings, which are not now known to us.
“With reference to the name Gazelam, it is interesting to note that Alma in directing Helaman to preserve both the Urim and Thummim and the plates containing the Book of Ether, says that such record will be brought to light by the Lord's servant Gazelem, who will use ‘a stone’ in his translation work. (Alma 37:21-23.) It may be that Gazelem is a variant spelling of Gazelam and that Alma's reference is to the Prophet Joseph Smith who did in fact bring forth part at least of the Ether record. Or it could be that the name Gazelem (Gazelam) is a title having to do with power to translate ancient records and that Alma's reference was to some Nephite prophet who brought the Book of Ether to light in the golden era of Nephite history.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 307-8)
Here is an interesting link (Gazelem's Seer Stones) from a blog I came across today.
added March 19, 2010
Verses 32-37 – I think the basic theme of these verses is the power of prayer and what we should pray for. Just as Nephi prayed, we should ask that our hearts hate sin, but that we should love all sinners. We should pray for faith in Christ, humility, for resistance from temptation and always to do good works.
Verses 35-37 are three of my favorite scriptures in the Book of Mormon. These teach me that I need to always be praying – literally always be praying. I recall last spring when I decided to major in business administration; I had to take calculus over again as well as economics. I was so scared of failing that class or getting a C+ again. I prayed hard that I’d do well in those classes. I prayed all the time that I would do well. I distinctly remember arriving back at my apartment in the Spanish housing (across from the MTC) after one calculus class, knowing that the homework would be tough; I got down on my knees and prayed hard. After praying, I got up and got right to my homework. I developed that habit all through that semester. I knew God heard my prayers and answered them. I got a B+ in calculus and a B in economics. Last spring and summer built my faith tremendously.
Recently, (as of June 2007) as I’ve been trying to get into a consistent habit of prayer, I’ve been trying to take Alma 37:37 to heart. Each night, before going to bed, I “counsel with the Lord” and I try to “lie down unto the Lord” meaning I cast all my burdens on him and explain to him all my worries and concerns.
In the morning, I don’t really ask for much, but I do give thanks to Him for all that I have. I try and think of all the blessings I’ve received.
Then, throughout the day, I will say a silent prayer asking for help or guidance or resistance from temptation. By the time it is time to sleep, I’ve accumulated enough to talk to the Lord about and the cycle starts over again.
Verse 38-47 – The Liahona can be symbolic of either the scriptures or revelation. Both of them lead us back into the presence of God. I know when I slack in my scripture study, I am not at peace with myself, but when I do study the scriptures, I feel my Savior's love.
By small means were Lehi and Nephi and their families led by the Lord via the Liahona. By small means are we led when we consistently study the scriptures and pray every day. As we do these small and simple things, we are led in a straight course back to God. We do not linger or are guided down indirect paths. Our path is efficient when we obey.
Verses 44-45 are beautiful! I can almost see a ship passed through the sky, being led from this world of sorrow, back into the presence of God and Christ.
Alma 37:46 hints back to Moses and the raised serpent. He says, “do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.”
Be sober – I always need to hear that!