Thirty years ago while serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we taught seven discussions which introduced individuals to our faith. The last included a section about the importance of a good example. The sited scripture, the one used in almost any conversation about example, was Alma, Chapter 39.
Corianton had righteous parents. He was taught the gospel of Jesus Christ from childhood and attended church as a youth. He knew the Lord. And yet, as a young man, he succumbed to the temptations of the world.
Isabel was a “harlot”, or a prostitute. She was no common whore, for she had a large following and did “steel away the hearts of many”. Corianton was one of them.
Sex immorality was a grievous enough sin, but in Corianton’s case, it was made worse because he was serving a mission at the time. So tempting was Isabel, he forsook his labors to pursue her. This left his father heartbroken, enough so that he spent an entire chapter reproving his wayward son. Now more than two thousand years later, millions have read of Corianton’s misdeeds. He is the classical bad example, a screw up, every bit deserving his father’s righteous indignation. And yet, was he really any different than his father?
Alma was raised in the church, taught the gospel, but fell away as a young man and became “the very vilest of sinners”. The Book of Mormon reader loves Alma, not because of his sins, but because of individual he became. His is a touching story, not unlike his father’s, Alma the “elder”.
As a young man, the senior Alma was the understudy of the wicked King Noah, who was no stranger to strong drink and a horde of women. We don’t know details of Alma’s transgressions, but it is no stretch to assume they were serious. Again, the Book of Mormon reader overlooks his sins, and delights in the righteous man he became. His grandson, Corianton, isn’t given the same courtesy.
Ten chapters after being berated by his father, a repentant Corianton emerges, one dedicated to preaching the gospel and bringing souls to Christ. His transformation is subtle, most often missed. Chapter 49 reads, “… because of their heed and diligence which they gave unto the word of God, which was declared unto them by Helaman, and Shiblon, and Corianton,,..” Corianton obviously returned to the ministry.
Like his father, and his father before him, Corianton was a sinner turned righteous. I’m left to wonder why Mormon chose to spotlight the repentance of the father and son, but the sins of the grandson. May every Book of Mormon reader come to know the complete story of Corianton, that of a sinner made whole through the miracle of Christ.