Some years ago I was privileged to know a brother who reflected the change that only the Lord can effect in the heart and behavior of a man. Before this change he was not at ease or at peace with himself. In fact, it would not be exaggerating to say that he was the proverbial diamond in the rough.
His appearance was rough, as was his language. Yet over the decades I was able to detect small, almost imperceptible changes in him. Many of his other associates also witnessed a remarkable transformation and peace that “distill[ed] upon [his] soul as the dews from heaven” (D&C 121:45) as he willingly submitted to the Lord in all things (see Mosiah 3:19).
This experience and others like it provide us with confidence in the Lord’s pattern for peace. In its essence, this pattern is simple and remarkably effective.
Few accounts in holy writ convey this pattern more vividly than Mosiah, chapters 26–28, and Alma, chapter 36, which demonstrate the effects of true repentance and a resulting spiritual rebirth and conversion. In this account we also witness the natural desire of the repentant, even at great personal sacrifice, to proclaim the glorious message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which brings a peace that “passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
The pursuit of happiness has been a quest of God’s children throughout the ages. But confusion and differences arise as to what peace actually is and how it can be acquired. For the righteous, the pursuit of happiness will culminate in “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23).
Peace may be considered an outward, physical calmness, such as that found among nations that live peaceably with each other. Or it can be thought of as an inner, spiritual tranquility that is independent of outside physical forces—a condition in which we are free from anxiety and distress.
Peace is the antithesis of fear. Unsurprisingly, the forces of fear and its bedfellows pride and sin (see Helaman 13:22) seek to destroy our peace. Thus, unbelievers such as Alma the Younger and the four sons of King Mosiah—before their conversion—were “causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his power over them” (Mosiah 27:9).
The Savior has told us, “He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil” (3 Nephi 11:29). We live in a world filled with contention. Sadly, we may even see contention among some members of the Church. Constructive differences of opinion can be useful—on occasion! However, the Lord has taught His servants a pattern for avoiding contention by declaring that “every member in each quorum must be agreed in its decisions” (D&C 107:27).
In Alma’s day the unbelievers who would not be baptized and join the Church “did deceive many with their flattering words, who were in the church” (Mosiah 26:6; emphasis added). These unbelievers, intent on destroying the peace of the faithful, persecuted the believers.
The Savior promises the faithful: “My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). This is a welcome injunction, given the condition of the latter days in which we live, when “the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them [for fear], and they shall say that Christ delayeth his coming” (D&C 45:26; see also Luke 21:26).
The account of Alma and the sons of Mosiah is particularly pertinent to members of the Church, especially those with loved ones who are in need of repentance because they have apostatized or drifted from the truth. In recounting his conversion, Alma recalled for his son Helaman how he had been “tormented with the pains of hell” and remembered “all my sins and iniquities,” which “did rack my soul with inexpressible horror. Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct” (Alma 36:13–15).
In the depths of anguish, Alma recognized his wickedness and “remembered … concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ … to atone for the sins of the world. … I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me. …
“And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
“And oh, what joy, … yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain” (Alma 36:17–20).
Alma’s painful experience was not unique—all men have to confess and forsake their sins (see D&C 58:43). In addition to confessing and acknowledging his sins to the Lord, Alma, with the sons of Mosiah, “traveled throughout all the land … zealously striving to repair all the injuries which they had done to the church [and] confessing all their sins” (Mosiah 27:35). During their ministry, which lasted a lifetime, they were “greatly persecuted,” “smitten,” “driven,” and “cast into prison,” suffering “all kinds of afflictions” (Mosiah 27:32; Alma 20:29–30). Their lives and ministry provide a breathtaking example of their repentance.
Mormon sums up Alma’s repentant, service-filled life in these words: “This we know, that he was a righteous man; and the saying went abroad in the church that he was taken up by the Spirit, or buried by the hand of the Lord, even as Moses” (Alma 45:19).
The Savior taught, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Peace comes from doing the will of the Father by complying with His doctrine, which is also the doctrine of Christ, who declared that “all men [who] repent and believe in me … and [are] baptized, … shall be saved” (3 Nephi 11:32–33). Those who do this are also assured of being “sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 27:20).
The full consequences of the Atonement of Jesus Christ are to change, or convert, the cleansed former sinner into a new creature in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). King Benjamin said, “The natural man is an enemy to God … unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit … and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ” (Mosiah 3:19). Alma expresses this change of heart as being “spiritually … born of God,” to the extent that we receive the Lord’s “image in [our] countenances” (Alma 5:14).
When we consider the life of Alma and his brethren, we are astounded at the complete change they experienced after the visitation of the angel of the Lord. But while that change was almost immediate, we should remember what Alma said on a later occasion: “I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself” (Alma 5:46; emphasis added).
There are no shortcuts to being born again. As Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “Being born again is a gradual thing, except in a few isolated instances that are so miraculous they get written up in the scriptures. As far as the generality of the members of the Church are concerned, we are born again by degrees, and we are born again to added light and added knowledge and added desires for righteousness as we keep the commandments.”1
The Lord promises that all those who “[come] unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit … will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Nephi 9:20; emphasis added).
It is natural for the truly converted to feel a deep sense of responsibility for the eternal welfare of their brothers and sisters. Alma provides the reason for this compelling desire to share the gospel:
“Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost” (Alma 36:24). The sons of Mosiah expressed the same feelings: “They could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble. And thus did the Spirit of the Lord work upon them” (Mosiah 28:3–4; emphasis added).
In conclusion, let’s return to the brother referred to in the introduction. A few days before he passed from this mortal life to the spirit world, I was able to be at his bedside. Surely, I felt, his passing would be tempered by the many awaiting his arrival with anticipation and joy on the other side of the veil.
We shared a few quiet words. Then, as I looked at his almost transparent countenance, I recalled many of the small and great deeds he had done. It was in the small deeds that I discovered the greater joy. Through his renewed life of submission and service, this noble servant of the Lord had received the approval of heaven. He was no longer a rough diamond but rather a refined, polished shaft. Here he lay, a man whose language now was the language of scripture, a man who had quietly become the master of his appetites. Above all, as a son of God, he had become, almost imperceptibly, a disciple and friend of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
He was at peace.