The Seed: What is Alma Asking us to Plant in Our Heart?
Alma’s request for his listeners to “experiment upon my words” has deep meaning for many of us in even a casual reading of the text. Yet, his call to experiment was not completely understood by his ancient listeners just as we often miss some of his intended meaning. After hearing this discourse, the confused Zoramites asked, “whether they should believe in one God…or how they should plant the seed…or in what manner they should begin to exercise their faith” (Alma 33:1). By taking a closer look at the context of this experiment, as well as Alma’s follow up on these questions, we get a greater understanding of what Alma is asking us to do.
Chapter 32 commenced with Alma “teaching and speaking unto the people upon the hill Onidah” (Alma 32:4). As he was teaching, a multitude came upon him of the poor Zoramites. The Zoramites were a group of apostate Nephites who had apparently adapted the belief system of the surrounding pagan civilization. They were a people who bowed themselves “down to dumb idols” (Alma 31:1). Interestingly, it seems that when this civilization lost a correct knowledge of the attributes of deity and began to believe that God was a spirit, without a body of flesh and bones. It appears they adopted a pantheon of gods and made idols in representation of their pantheon. Then they created physical images (idols) to represent different attributes of their deities. The Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost are “one” in that they all embody a perfection of attributes. Apostate civilizations often worshipped individual aspects of their attributes and represented them with different gods.
Alma noted that their afflictions (including poverty, being cast out of their synagogues, their low social status, etc.) had “truly humbled them, and that they were in preparation to hear the word” (Alma 32:6). This is probably included as it sets the framework for the experiment, in which the seed was to be planted in their hearts. The heart is often represented by soil. In the parable of the sower, the sower sowed seeds in different soil conditions. Christ compared it to “that which was sown in his heart” Matthew 13:19). The humbled Zoramites had hearts ready to plant the seed. Good soil is a prerequisite for the experiment. For those who are not yet humble enough for the experiment to be worthwhile, Alma gave us a means by which we can prepare the soil for the experiment. He taught us how to find humility.
Verse 13 stated, “Because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble seeketh repentance….(but) do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word?” In other words, our conditions in life can humble us (poverty, war, pain, illness, divorce, etc.) or we can choose to be humbled by the word. King Benjamin taught this doctrine like this “the knowledge of the goodness of God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state” (Mosiah 4:5). Just as life circumstances can humble us, so too can a knowledge of God’s goodness humble us.
Whether by the word or by life’s circumstances, these Zoramites had been humbled and were ready to repent and experiment upon Alma’s words. Alma instructed them to “compare the word unto a seed”. Alma asked of the Zoramites (and us) to try the following experiment.
- Desire: You have to want to believe. At times in my life, I have to go all the way back to this first principle. Ask God for the desire to believe.
- Plant the seed in your heart: The heart is the soil. If the seed is good, only the condition of the heart-soil will determine what happens with the seed.
- Observe the seed: Does it begin to grow? If so, the seed is good. Alma points out that we can tell the seed is growing when it does the following:
- Enlarges the soul
- Enlightens our understanding
- Begins to be delicious
- Nourish the seed: Just because the seed is good, doesn’t mean we’ve taken advantage of what the seed has to offer. We have to continue with the experiment by nourishing the seed. If we do so long enough, the seed will create a tree, which tree produces a fruit.
- Be patient: Alma suggests that if we are patient with the seed, we will be able to partake of the fruit, which fruit will fill us to the point in which we will never hunger or thirst.
Upon hearing the metaphor, the Zoramites remained confused. They wondered aloud if they needed to believe in only one God to obtain this fruit. In response to the parable, Alma clarifies the manner in which he intended for them to apply the experiment. In so doing, he taught them and us the nature of the seed and aspects of the God that we should believe in.
Alma answered their question by turning to the scriptures. In particular, he quoted prophets that taught of the “mercies which thou hast bestowed upon them because of thy Son” (Alma 33:16). He continued by explaining how Moses raised up a serpent on a staff in similitude of Jesus Christ that “whosoever would look upon it might live” (Alma 33:19). Then he asks the Zoramites to “cast about your eyes and begin to believe in the Son of God” (Alma 33:22). And concludes, “now my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts” (Alma 33:23). The word that Alma wanted the Zoramites to desire to believe in was the capital “W” – “Word”. He wanted them to plant the Word “Jesus” in their hearts.
Going back through the experiment, let’s look at what happens if we will plant the One True God, Jesus Christ in our hearts.
- Alma 32:28 — Now, we will compare Christ unto a seed. Now if ye give place that Christ may be planted in your heart, behold if He is the True and Good God, if ye do not cast out Him by your unbelief, behold he will begin to swell within your breasts. Ye will then begin to say within yourselves — It must needs be that Christ is Good, for He beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, he beginneth to enlighten my understanding, he beginneth to be delicious unto me.
- Alma 32:41 — If ye will nourish your belief in Christ, by your faith, diligence and patience, He shall take root; and behold, he shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.