There are 8 thoughts on “Experiential Knowledge and the Covenantal Relationship in Alma 7”.

  1. Alma 7:11–13 and your excellent article make a strong case that, in order for Christ to succor his people, it was required that he know, experientially. If that is true, then the contra must also be true. Without knowing experientially, he could not succor his people. So, then, those who lived before Christ’s mortal existence and atonement, could not have been succored–including Alma. When you said “For thousands of years prior to Bethlehem, humans worshipped Christ as the premortal Jehovah,” I was hoping you might tackle this. How could a premortal Jehovah succor his people?

    • This is an intelligent and significant question and I thank you for it. First, let me say that, of course, the pre-mortal Messiah, as Jehovah, was able to, and did, succor his people. To suggest that he could only succor them after he had experienced, for himself, similar physical, psychological, and spiritual pains and infirmities would run against everything we know. It would counter common sense, doctrine, and temple experience.

      There are two ways to answer your difficult question. First, the question assumes a linear perspective. Tad Callister has explained that the Atonement was applicable to all times (and in all worlds he created). In a way we cannot understand, his mortal experiences, including the Atonement, specifically covered infirmities, sins, and suffering of all humanity, not just for the people at the meridian of time. This included sins not yet committed and infirmities not yet suffered as well as sins and infirmities prior to his mortal experience. Those before the Atonement was completed received the blessing it brings as if he had already come (Mosiah 3:13: “Whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them.” The Atonement had to be completed and He had to taste the sins and pains of all humanity to be able to free us from death and hell, and to bring us into the presence of the Father, but the joy of the remissions of sins and the hope of eternal life was available to all based on the Atonement, regardless of when it took place.

      Second, the question may reflect modern, zero-sum, and black and white, thinking. All around us are voices declaring that we are ‘sexist or not sexist,” “racist or not racist,” “homophobic or not homophobic.” But those extreme positions describe exactly …nobody. They are mere shallow talking points to score a political or cultural advantage in some online argument. People do not exist in such extreme dichotomies. The natural man always falls somewhere upon a very wide spectrum or continuum –never in the absolute extremes of any position. Similarly, to imagine that Christ could succor his people after his mortality but not before his mortality is to view the issue too narrowly. Jehovah did not need full experiential knowledge to understand pain, sadness, illness, fear, and so on in order to succor his people to an incredible and entirely satisfactory way. We can read that, as Jehovah, he succored many Old Testament heroes (see also Isaiah 50:4). The point of Alma 7, at least to me, is that Jehovah/Jesus needed to complement or supplement or augment his incomprehensible cognitive knowledge with his own felt and complete experiential knowledge in order to understand in an even more profound way. Christ took on mortal flesh for many reasons, only one of which was to learn to succor his people at a greater depth. In answer to your deep question, to assume that he could not succor his people as Jehovah prior to his experience in mortality is simply not correct logically or scripturally. Hope that helps.

  2. Thank you so much for this article. Articles like this are why I subscribe to and donate to the Interpreter Foundation. I started listening to the audio recording earlier in the week and was hooked when I realized the need for experiential learning was about Christ. I am speaking in sacrament tomorrow (Easter) and was facing a writer’s block until this jogged me loose. I read more of it while at the Mesa temple grounds Thursday evening waiting for the Easter pageant to start. The pageant was updated this year after a 3-year hiatus waiting for the Mesa temple remodeling to complete. The updated scene in Gethsemane and the crucifixion took on new meaning after having read the article. I had to turn away as I thought of the sheer intensity of what and how He suffered. Thank you for helping me know Him a little better.

  3. I didn’t make that mistake because I didn’t mean that we mortals have to experience ALL things as the Savior did. I did mean that the rest of mortals are put into a fallen world not only to make choices but also to gain experience such that we may have more empathy and concern, more love, more ability to help others, and less inclination to sin and less inclination to being indifferent.

    I like your answer about how babies will gain experience: we don’t know. I fully agree that we don’t have the answer. I asked the question because I thought that you might know some doctrinal statement that I was not aware of. Having such questions does NOT make me doubt. Such questions will easily be answered in the next life. For example, I have a personal opinion about whether Jesus had a wife during His mortality, but I’m aware that there’s no official church statement on that. We do know that at some point Jesus was married because – as you quoted in your article – Jesus said, “Be perfect even AS I…” Jesus could NOT have described Himself as “perfect” and could NOT be an exalted resurrected being (which He was after His resurrection) if He did NOT have a wife. When Jesus became married, we don’t know.

    There are many unanswered questions, but none of them should raise doubts. As the Gospel makes very clear, we simply need to follow the Savior. Both God the Father and Jesus have better things to do than to constantly answer merely curious questions.

    • So true! There is much that we do not know but that need never be an impediment to all we do know and need never lesson faith.

  4. I enjoyed the article very much. It made me appreciate even more the Savior’s glorious atonement. As I pondered the article, a question occurred to me. How do babies who die (and thus go to the celestial kingdom) gain Experiential Knowledge as the Savior did, and as the rest of us mortals must do?

    • Hello Lanny – I’m so glad that my “thinking out loud” in this article had value for you, as it did for me. And your follow-up question of how babies who die before the age of accountability gain experiential knowledge is an outstanding one. I will now give you the correct response:
      I have no idea!
      Nobody does.
      You noted that “babies who die [will] go to the Celestial Kingdom.” True. We know that from D&C 137:10 (as well as the King Follett Discourse and other sources). But will they first have some time in the Spirit World before resurrection where they can gain some kind of experiential knowledge? Again, I do not know. Elder McConkie made it clear that they will NOT be tested in the Spirit World, but does that preclude gaining any experiential knowledge? Only two years ago, President Dallin H. Oaks spoke strongly and clearly about exactly how much we do not know. He also cautioned us against undue speculation. I highly recommend reading, “Trust in the Lord” ( However, we do have some clues. Below are some references that have bearing on your excellent question. Rather than excerpting sections to reproduce here, which would require another lengthy article, I recommend that you look at these in their entirety. There is some redundancy across the various references, but all are worth reading.
      • Bruce R. McConkie —
      I might mention, too, that your question has a larger context. In asking about babies, you wrote that “the rest of us mortals must [gain experiential knowledge ‘as the Savior did’]” That part is not quite correct. Yes, we obviously must have SOME experiences, but they are idiosyncratic and individually-tailored for each one of us. Keep in mind that nobody other than our Savior needed to gain ALL experiential knowledge or even all CATEGORIES of experiential knowledge. The gospel is crystal clear that we are given unique and specific challenges and trials that are for our own individual growth and learning needs. I certainly don’t wish to have all experiences or categories of experiences. The Savior needed that to complete the atonement and succor each one of us. Thankfully and because of his glorious sacrifice, I don’t need the same. I have enough challenge with the trials and experiences that are assigned to me on my own path. Happily, and thanks to Jesus Christ, I don’t need everyone else’s experiences. Apparently, babies who die before accountability don’t need ANY trials or adversity. Joseph Smith stated that such children “…were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth; therefore, if rightly considered, instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil… (see We who have remained on this earth to work out our own salvation have our own experiences to deal with, but we do not have all categories of experience to endure as did the Savior. That gives us yet another reason to worship and adore him!

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