If I was asked who my favorite Book of Mormon prophet is, my answer would likely be someone other than Alma the Younger. Perhaps Nephi, or Jacob, or Enos, or Moroni. However, as I read the account of Alma the Younger’s conversion a few weeks ago, and as I have pondered it in the time following, I am beginning to gain a stronger appreciation for his experience, and have begun to see how it relates to my own personal experience in gaining a true testimony of the Gospel and becoming converted to the Lord.
Alma the Younger is the son of Alma, a priest of the wicked King Noah who, after hearing the teachings of the prophet Abinadi, is touched by the Spirit and changes his ways. He defends Abinadi, is forced to flee for his life and hide, and begins to share the Gospel with the people. Alma the Elder is a great prophet and spiritual giant, and yet at least one of his children rebels against the Church and seeks to destroy the believers.
Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah (the king of the land at that time) were wicked and idolatrous and sought to destroy the Church. Through flattery, they gained the favor of many of the believers and drew them away from the Lord. On one particular occasion, as they were going about their mischief, an angel appeared to them. At first they did not understand the words he spoke because of their fear and surprise, but he repeated his words saying:
Alma, arise and stand forth, for why persecutest thou the church of God? For the Lord hath said: This is my church, and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people.
…Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.Mosiah 27:13-14
In an understandable state of shock, Alma the Younger fainted and remained unconscious for three days and three nights. His family and the priests of the church fasted and prayed for him, and when he awoke, he bore witness of Christ, and of the power of redemption and repentance through the Atonement. From that time forth, Alma and the sons of Mosiah (their names were Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni) began to go among the people preaching the Gospel, rather than seeking to tear it down.
There are a lot of things that touch me about this story. One of the first and most obvious is the fact that an angel appeared to him; how could he deny the truthfulness of the Gospel after such an experience as that? It is interesting to note though, that in Alma 5:46, when sharing how he gained a testimony of the things he is teaching, he says:
Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.
Never in this passage does Alma mention being visited by an angel. Though that was a wake-up call for him, his testimony came through fasting and prayer and obedience, just as ours do. Laman and Lemuel saw angels too, but they remained stiff-necked and disobedient. The difference is the way in which Alma the Younger responded–with humility rather than pride, repentance rather than resentment.
Another thing that really strikes me about this story is something that the angel says. He mentions that he is there because of the prayers of the people, and in particular, the prayers of Alma the Elder. This is particularly touching to me as I have grown up and have begun to see how much parents care, and how much they worry and hurt when they see their children making poor decisions or heading down dangerous life paths. I think about how much it pains me to see those I care about stumble, and I know that my feeling are only a fraction of what a parent feels for their child.
The third thing that I love about Alma the Younger is how this experience truly changed his life. He was completely converted, it wasn’t just a temporary change or just for show. It altered his attitude, his actions, and his purpose. Sharing the Gospel with others became his chief desire. It is interesting to note that when Alma leads a mission to the Zoramites, he chooses to bring with him Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Himni, Amulek, Zeezrom, and his sons, Shiblon and Corianton. We know that ¾ of these men were converts to the gospel and 7 of them (all except Shiblon, to my knowledge) struggled with obedience at some point in their lives. Indeed, the sons of Mosiah were incredibly rebellious and sought to destroy the church; Amulek states that he had witnessed the power of God, and yet hardened his heart and rebelled against Him (Alma 10:5-6); Zeezrom sought to destroy Alma and Amulek and killed all the women and children who believed on their words; and Corianton later struggled with chastity and fell away from the church. Yet these men are the ones that Alma chose to take with him on his mission. I find it very interesting that through the Atonement of Christ, even the vilest of sinners can become the greatest missionaries and tools in the Lord’s hands. All that is required is humility and a change of heart, as we repent and submit ourselves to the will of the Lord.
Most of all, though, the story of Alma the Younger has become very personal to me as I have compared it with my own life. I was raised in the Church by two amazing parents with strong testimonies. I knew the truth, and yet for a portion of my life, I tried to go against it. I thought that I knew better, and that I could be happy in a way other than the one outlined by the commandments. For a while, I even thought I was happy. Not super smile-every-waking-minute-because-your-life-is-so-perfect happy, but does that really even exist? Life was far from perfect, but there were moments when I thought I had everything I wanted. The farther I fell away from the Spirit, the easier it became for me to see how different I had become. I could see in retrospect the light that had been such an integral part of me, but which was no longer there. I began to miss that, but I didn’t know how to, or even know if I really wanted to, escape the person I had become. For a while, I resigned myself to that future. Even now, it’s hard to see looking back what exactly it was that rescued me from that state. I have no doubt that the prayers of my parents and leaders were a key element. I also know that as I thought about the person I wanted to be, and in particular the things I wanted from the future, I knew that I needed to find a way to make a change, I needed to humble myself and seek assistance. It was not easy though. It was in no way like the angel-appearance and three-days-of-unconsciousness experience of Alma the Younger. In fact, it took over a year to fully escape the shadow I had been living under. With the help and support of family and friends, though, even ones who were not aware of what I had been through, I was able to regain the testimony that I had held so dear, as I began again to read my scriptures and pray daily for help.
As I have applied the Atonement in my life, and continued to seek to develop my testimony, I have experienced the amazing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I can testify, as Alma did, that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). The superficial happiness that I tried to pursue in the darker moments of my life is nothing compared to the light and love and joy that comes from living according to the commandments of God. I have also found that, like Alma, gaining my own testimony of the Gospel has inspired me to want to share it with others. I want everyone to know, particularly those who are struggling or have struggled in the past with temptation and disobedience, that they too came be redeemed. They too can feel of God’s love and partake of the joy that has filled my life. My life is still not perfect, but my attitude has been altered, and I now see so much more clearly the innumerable blessings that pepper it.
I love the sentiment shared by Nephi at the end of his writings:
I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.2 Nephi 33:6
I could not have said it better.