Alma is about to mysteriously disappear off the face of the earth, leaving the struggling Nephite Christian Church in the hands of his son Helaman. Before he transfers ownership of the scriptural records to Helaman, he holds a bit of an interview with him, grilling him a bit about his beliefs:
Alma came unto his son Helaman and said unto him: Believest thou the words which I spake unto thee concerning those records which have been kept?
And Helaman said unto him: Yea, I believe.
And Alma said again: Believest thou in Jesus Christ, who shall come?
And he said: Yea, I believe all the words which thou hast spoken.
And Alma said unto him again: Will ye keep my commandments?
And he said: Yea, I will keep thy commandments with all my heart.
Then Alma said unto him: Blessed art thou; and the Lord shall prosper thee in this land.
Finally once Helaman has professed his faith in his father's words, Alma teaches him some powerful lessons about the future of the Nephite people and hands over all the records he has. When I read this encounter between Alma and his son the other day, it reminded me of Nephi's personal interview with the Holy Ghost a few hundreds years earlier:
And the Spirit said unto me: Believest thou that thy father saw the tree of which he hath spoken?
And I said: Yea, thou knowest that I believe all the words of my father.
And when I had spoken these words, the Spirit [said] … blessed art thou, Nephi, because thou believest in the Son of the most high God; wherefore, thou shalt behold the things which thou hast desired.
Which in turn made me think of Ammon's interview with Lamoni:
Now Ammon being wise, yet harmless, he said unto Lamoni: Wilt thou hearken unto my words, if I tell thee by what power I do these things? And this is the thing that I desire of thee.
And the king answered him, and said: Yea, I will believe all thy words.
Which is similar to the Lord's interview with the brother of Jared:
And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak?
And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.
The pattern of the pre-revelatory interview
Do you see the pattern?
- A teacher (God or one of His authorized servants) wants to reveal important truths to an individual (student).
- First He asks if the student believes what he has already learned, and/or if he will believe all of what he is about to learn.
- The student professes belief in all the words of the teacher.
- The teacher often follows up with praise or a blessing for the student, indicating the student's readiness to receive the truths.
- The teacher then instructs the student in important truths.
Pre-revelatory interviews in our lives
This is a pattern that we follow in our day as well. For example, we are asked to raise our hands in sustaining vote every General Conference as a testimony that we believe the words of the Prophet and Apostles– prophets, seers, and revelators. In so doing, we are professing our belief in all the words that they should speak to us as given by God. This expression of faith enables us to have the rich, revelatory experiences that are available to us in the Conference.
Another example. When we desire to receive revelation in the Temple, we must present ourselves to our Bishopric and Stake Presidency. In a personal interview with us, they ask us several questions to gauge our commitment to the Gospel, and our belief in all the truths that have been taught to us since baptism. Only when we can answer these questions with honest conviction will we be ready to enter or return to the House of the Lord to receive all the revelation He wants to give us.
Really, every lesson we teach in the Church should follow this pattern. Sometimes go through a lesson without asking meaningful questions to gauge where our students are in their understanding and their testimonies. We just steamroll through, load them up with the information we came to deposit, and leave. Imagine if Alma had done that with Helaman, or the Spirit with Nephi, or the Lord with the brother of Jared. We certainly don't want to probe into deeply personal details obviously, but we can and should take some time to get class input and get a feel for where our students are in their readiness for what we want to teach, invite them to share their testimonies, and adapt our lessons to fit the students.
Taking it home
Finally, we should be following this lesson personally. Before asking Heavenly Father for answers, take a moment to ready yourself and make sure that you can answer both to yourself and to God that you "will believe all His words" if/when He gives you that answer. You may find that you aren't really ready for what He will say and you may need more time to prepare yourself to ask later when you really are willing to listen. Or you may be ready and your faith will be strengthened by professing it.
Try it out.