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  1. At the end of Alma 37, Alma gives his final instructions to his faithful young son Helaman. After encouraging him always to be obedient to God’s commandments and to pray to God continually, Alma uses the Liahona as an object lesson to teach Helaman how to obtain eternal life through following the words of Christ. Using analogy, Alma compares the Liahona, the temporal compass provided by God to Lehi, with the words of Christ, the spiritual guide provided to all by God. In this remarkable passage, Alma, like all good teachers, repeats this image three times, and like a good Nephite teacher, he uses a parallelism to increase the impact. Alma employs the alternate parallel form, one of the most common and effective forms of poetic parallelism in the Book of Mormon. It appears hundreds of times. An alternate consists of two or more lines that are repeated in parallel order. The simple alternate form is outlined ABAB. Extended alternates are outlined ABCABC, etc. Alma uses three extended alternates in rapid sequence to instruct his son. A For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, B which will point to you C a straight course to eternal bliss, A as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, B which would point unto them C a straight course to the promised land. The A phrase compares the ease of heeding the words of Christ with the ease of looking at the Liahona. The B phrase describes the purpose of A which is to point the course. The C phrase declares the final destination of those who follow A, salvation and arrival at the promised land. A For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, B by following its course, C to the promised land, A shall the words of Christ, B if we follow their course, C carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise. The A phrase again compares the words of Christ with the Liahona, but in reversed order. The B phrase indicates what we should do with A – follow their directions, and the C phrase gives the destination of those who do B – the promised land and a far better place, eternal life. A for so was it with our fathers; B for so was it prepared for them, C that if they would look they might live; A even so it is with us. B The way is prepared, C and if we will look we may live forever. In this last alternate, Alma personalizes the analogies of the first two. The A phrase compares the Nephite fathers (Lehi and Nephi) with Alma and his son Helaman. The B phrase indicates that God prepared the ways of direction for all of them. The C phrase compares the physical salvation of the Nephite fathers by following the Liahona with the spiritual salvation promised to all of us who will look upon Christ. Alma concludes his instructions with another impassioned fatherly plea that his son rise to the greatness of his calling. This passage indicates deliberate logical planning on the part of Alma in giving crucial instructions to his son prior to his death. This is what Alma thought would be of most worth to his son - look to Christ. It gives us insight into the Nephite mind, especially that of a powerful and gifted leader. I am so grateful for the Book of Mormon and the beautiful intricacies that await in its pages for us to discover. (Thanks to Donald Parry for his marvelous edition of the Book of Mormon. Poetic Parallelism in the Book of Mormon: The Complete Text Reformatted. Maxwell Institute, 2007). Your comments are welcomed. Here is the passage in context.
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