In Alma 32 in the Book of Mormon we learn of how we can gain true faith in Christ. Yet, if we read just chapter 32 by itself we lose a valuable part of the message that is being taught by Mormon, the abridger of the record. Allow me to explain.
When we teach of faith we almost always use this powerful chapter about how faith is like a seed and that we must allow it to grow; yet it seems very clear that Mormon was specific in placing the teachings of Korihor, the antichrist, and Alma, the prophet next to each other so as to teach a powerful message to the reader. In fact in the original 1830 Book of Mormon, chapters 30 through 36 are one chapter (see page 304). These original breaks were done according to the golden plates; the new chapter breaks are a later addition. When we read Alma 32 alone we learn what faith is. When we read Alma 30 we learn what faith is not. Combined, the two teach of what true faith is. Let us look at these two chapters to better learn of this key; in particular pay attention to the following words: know, knowledge, see, sign, word, faith, true, Christ, and atonement.
In Alma 30 we learn of a man named Korihor who begins to go about teaching among the Nephites that there will be no Christ. We learn that he taught many things (30:17) yet Mormon records very little of his actual words. It seems that the reason Mormon does this is to focus on a few particular parts of what Korihor taught which would help to expand the teachings of Alma in chapter 32. Mormon points out two parts of Korihor’s teachings that are of significance; first that he teaches that there would be no Christ or atonement, and second that there is no way to know of something you cannot see. Thus, his reasoning for not believing in Christ is because you cannot see Him. Korihor in his own words states: “Behold, ye cannot know of things which ye do not see; therefore ye cannot know that there shall be a Christ” (30:15). This argument of not being able to know something because you cannot see is mentioned five times in Korihor’s teachings, again to emphasize the important contrast of his words with Alma’s (see 30:13, 15, 24, 26 and 28).
The story then continues with Korihor seeking a sign so that he can know that Christ lives (for if he can see something to prove it he will believe). He states to Alma that: “If thou wilt show me a sign, that I may be convinced that there is a God, yea show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words” (Alma 30:43, also see 45 and 48). As we know, the Lord does give a sign to Korihor, in that he is struck dumb. Korihor now knows that God lives and that Christ will come. This all prepares the ground perfectly for chapter 32 in which Alma teaches us how to have true faith (unlike that of Korihor’s).
Chapter 31 is a transition chapter that tells us of the people of Antionum who had perverted the way of the Lord by not properly understanding the gospel correctly and changing it to fit their own prideful desires. Though I won’t mention much about this chapter, I would invite you to compare the prayers of the Zoramites to that of Alma and in particular the responses from both of their prayers, or in other words what they both do because of their prayers to the Lord.
Chapter 32 is then the key to unlocking the understanding of faith. Again, note the emphasis of the words faith, sign, see, know, knowledge, true, and believe (the word know or knowledge for example is mentioned 15 times). To begin we will first start with how Alma begins his teachings on faith (verses 1-16 are all a prelude to his actual message on faith which begins in verse 17 when he truly starts to teach about how to believe or have faith). This Alma does by, interestingly enough, quoting Korihor (or at least so close that it is hard to believe that he is not quoting him). He states: “Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe” (32:17). Again, it seems too coincidental that this is almost verbatim what Korihor said only two chapters before (see 30:43). With his introduction to faith by stating that some seek for a sign (which does not produce true faith), Alma then teaches us how to actually know that God exists (the very thing Korihor was asking for).