Friend to Friend: A Dutch Boy Named Alma


A Dutch Boy Named Alma

Elder Jacob de Jager

One Sunday morning during a general session of stake conference, I was asked to visit Junior Sunday School and give the boys and girls an inspirational message. I wanted to tell them about the great Book of Mormon prophet Alma, and so I asked them if they knew who Alma was.

Much to my surprise the children started laughing and one of them, pointing, said, “Of course we know! Alma’s right there.”

Then the teacher asked four-year-old Alma to stand and say his full name. He had a real Dutch family name—van het Schip—and he came from the small Dutch village of Zoetermeer (Sweeter Lake).

To these Junior Sunday School children my message about Alma became much more meaningful when I told them that the great prophet Alma was once a boy like Alma van het Schip and that because he grew up in the light of the gospel, was obedient, and learned so much about our Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, the Lord later called him to become a great teacher and a mighty prophet. I also told them that all of Heavenly Father’s children, whatever their names may be, have an opportunity to serve the Lord when they live righteously and obey His commandments.

President George Albert Smith, who was named after his grandfather, George A. Smith, had known his grandfather for only a short time because he was just five years old when this grandfather died. But bearing that same name helped greatly in determining President Smith’s wholesome life pattern. He often said, “It has meant much to me to have that sacred name to take care of.” President Smith once told of a spiritual experience he had concerning his name.

“One day, [while seriously ill], I lost consciousness of my surroundings and thought I had passed to the Other Side. I realized, or seemed to realize, that I had finished my work in mortality and had gone home. …

“I began to explore, and soon I found a trail through the woods. … I followed this trail and after I had walked for some time … I saw a man coming towards me … and … recognized him as my grandfather. … I remember how happy I was to see him coming. I had been given his name and had always been proud of it.

“When grandfather came within a few feet of me, he stopped … and … looked at me very earnestly and said: ‘I would like to know what you have done with my name.’

“Everything I had ever done passed before me as though it were a flying picture on a screen. … I smiled and looked at my grandfather and said: ‘I have never done anything with your name of which you need be ashamed.’

“He stepped forward and took me in his arms, and as he did so, I became conscious again of my earthly surroundings. My pillow was … wet … with tears of gratitude that I could answer unashamed.

“I have thought of this many times, and I want to tell you that I have been trying, more than ever since that time, to take care of that name. So I want to say to the boys and girls, … honor the names that you bear, because some day you will have the privilege and the obligation of reporting … what you have done with [your] name.” (George Albert Smith, Sharing the Gospel with Others, pp. 111–12.)

It is my earnest prayer that Alma van het Schip and all girls and boys may live worthily so that they need not be ashamed when the time comes to report what they have done with their names.

[illustration] Illustrated by Don Seegmiller