In this chapter, Alma talks to his son Corianton about Corianton's sin. I think there are some key points to note that a lot of times we tend to overlook.
Before Corianton even committed the sin with the harlot, he was already setting himself up to fall. In verse 2, it talks about how Corianton was boasting about his strength and wisdom. I don't know if it meant physical strength, but if it meant spiritual strength, then this verse is significant. Could he have actually have been boasting about how strong he was in the gospel? Could he have thought he was better than the Zoramites because he had always been a member of the church? If so, this is clearly pride. His grounds for boasting would have been on being "more righteous" than the less active members of the church. I know from personal experience that when I begin to think that I don't need to pray or study the scriptures, that is when I am in a sense, boasting. I am setting myself up to fall.
Alma 39:5-6 explicitly teaches that the three most offensive sins are denying the Holy Ghost, shedding of innocent blood and sexual transgression.
"If it were not for your good"
In verse 7, Alma teaches Corianton why he (Alma) is counseling him or making him feel guilty. Corianton musts have not been so callous to the spirit. His soul was pricked because of his transgressions and Alma was trying to use the guilt for his benefit. Do we as friends care enough for each other to call one another to repentance? Do we really love our family member and try to persuade them to repent? Guilt is really not a bad thing. If it were not for our guilt, we would never change for the better. An example of this could be our nervous system. If we did not have a nervous system to tell us that a stove was hot and if we touched it, it would damage our body, we would never know the danger and we would die sooner than later. Our conscious works much the same way. The Holy Ghost works with us to tell us of dangers and to produce that guilt which will move us to repentance and will teach us all things (Moroni 10:5).
Alma counsels Corianton to repent and forsake his sins and "go no more after the lusts of your eyes, but cross yourself in these things." (Alma 39:9) What does cross mean in this context? Synonyms for cross in this context can be thwart, frustrate, impede, oppose, obstruct, resist and annoy. The Spanish version translates "but cross yourself" as "que te refrenaras" as if saying, "refrain from these things." The footnote next to "cross" mentions the subject of self-mastery in the topical guide.
In today's sexually-charged and worldly society, we need to watch our thoughts and words and actions to be sure they are pure.
Our stake produces a scripture card on which the stake presidency places gospel subjects and scriptures. Each ward talk is based on the subject for the month. Along with these subjects and scriptures is a short message from the presidency along with quotes from general authorities. In church yesterday, I was handed the new cards for the 2nd half of 2007. One of the quotes was from James E. Talmage's Articles of Faith that talked about true religion. He said, "Religion without morality, professions of godliness without charity, church-membership without adequate responsibility as to individual conduct in daily life, are but as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals—noise without music, the words without the spirit of prayer. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27 emphasis added) Honesty of purpose, integrity of soul, individual purity, freedom of conscience, willingness to do good to all men even enemies, pure benevolence—these are some of the fruits by which the religion of Christ may be known, far exceeding in importance and value the promulgation of dogmas and the enunciation of theories. Yet a knowledge of things more than temporal, doctrines of spiritual matters, founded on revelation and not resting on the sands of man's frail hypotheses, are likewise characteristic of the true Church."
The point I got out of reading that quote was that a true Christian not only serves others and fulfills his duty, but he also strives to be pure. There are some who would have us believe that we can serve and serve and still have our pet sins. This is false. I am reminded of another scripture in Ether 10:11, referring to King Morianton, which says, "And he did do justice unto the people, but not unto himself because of his many whoredoms; wherefore he was cut off from the presence of the Lord."
Many times our mission president counseled us to not only perform our work, but to perform our work with clean hands.
Vain or foolish thing
Alma counsels his son not to be "led away by any vain or foolish thing" and that in so doing when the Zoramites saw his conduct, they would not believe Alma's words. This counsel can be applied to all members, especially missionaries. Often, elders and sisters, while they are on missions, do not realize the impact of their conduct on others. Many times I have heard stories of missionaries' conduct being less than what a representative of Christ's should be. Investigator's hearts are hardened and people are offended and they fall away from the Gospel.
Counsel for Corianton
Alma gives some specific counsel to Corianton. He teaches him to "turn to the Lord with all your mind, might, and strength; that ye lead away the hearts of no more to do wickedly; but rather return unto them, and acknowledge your faults and that wrong which ye have done." (Alma 39:13)
We read that Alma is urging Corianton to fully repent of his sins. Part of that process is to acknowledge guilt and fix wrongs when possible. We do not know if he returned, but we do know Corianton continued to preach with his brothers (Alma 49:30) later on.
Alma continues with his counsel, "Seek not after riches nor the vain things of this world; for behold, you cannot carry them with you." (Alma 39:14) What we can carry with us to the next life is experience, our testimony and knowledge. No amount of money will ever permit us to enter the kingdom of God.