Among the most unforgettable characters in scripture is Alma the Younger. Though he was the son of a great prophet, he lost his way for a time and became a “wicked and an idolatrous man.” For reasons we can only guess, he actively opposed his father and sought to destroy the Church. And because of his eloquence and persuasiveness, he experienced great success.1
But Alma’s life changed when an angel of the Lord appeared to him and spoke with a voice of thunder. For three days and three nights, Alma “was racked with eternal torment, … even with the pains of a damned soul.” And then, somehow, a faint memory brought light to the darkness of his mind—an eternal truth, taught by his father: that Jesus Christ would come “to atone for the sins of the world.” Alma had long ago rejected such concepts, but now his “mind caught hold upon this thought,” and he humbly, earnestly placed his trust in Christ’s atoning power.2
When Alma emerged from this experience, he was a changed man. From that moment on, he devoted his life to undoing the damage he had caused. He is a powerful example of repentance, forgiveness, and enduring faithfulness.
Alma was eventually chosen to succeed his father as head of the Church of God.
Every citizen of the Nephite nation must have known Alma’s story. The Twitters, Instagrams, and Facebooks of his day would have been filled with images and stories about him. He probably appeared regularly on the cover of the Zarahemla Weekly and was the subject of editorials and network specials. In short, he was perhaps the most well-known celebrity of his day.
But when Alma saw that his people were forgetting God and lifting themselves up in pride and contention, he chose to resign from public office and dedicate himself “wholly to the high priesthood of the holy order of God,”3 preaching repentance among the Nephites.
At first, Alma had great success—that is, until he traveled to the city of Ammonihah. The people of that city were well aware that Alma was no longer their political leader, and they had little respect for his priesthood authority. They reviled him, ridiculed him, and cast him out of their city.
Heartbroken, Alma turned his back on the city Ammonihah.4
But an angel told him to return.
Just think about it: he was told to return to the people who hated him and were hostile toward the Church. It was a dangerous and perhaps life-threatening assignment. But Alma did not hesitate. “He returned speedily.”5
Alma had been fasting many days when he entered the city. There he asked a complete stranger if he would “give to an humble servant of God something to eat.”6