Scriptural Giants:
Courage to Believe

By Sherrie Johnson

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    While Alma hid from wicked King Noah’s men, he thought hard about all that the prophet Abinadi had said before being killed. Recognizing the truth of Abinadi’s teachings, Alma repented of his sins. Then, secretly, Alma went among the people and taught all that he had learned about Jesus Christ and the gospel.

    Many people who heard Alma believed him and gathered at Alma’s hiding place, a place called Mormon. There Alma continued to teach the people about repentance and faith. After the people learned more about the gospel, Alma asked them if they were willing to comfort and help others and to stand as witnesses of God at all times, as Abinadi had done. He added, “If this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord?”

    The people clapped their hands for joy and cried out, “This is the desire of our hearts.”

    Alma took a man named Helam into the waters of Mormon and baptized him first. Then he baptized over two hundred more people. He also ordained priests and instructed them to teach the people the gospel of Jesus Christ so that everyone could know and keep the commandments of God and be happy. Alma also continued to teach the gospel until the Church of Jesus Christ had about 450 members.

    One day the members were discovered by King Noah’s servants, and the king sent his army to destroy Alma and his people. The Lord, however, had forewarned Alma that King Noah’s army was coming, so the people had hurriedly packed their tents and had fled with their flocks into the wilderness. The king’s army searched and searched, but their efforts were in vain.

    For eight days Alma led his people through the wilderness until they came to a beautiful land of pure water. They pitched their tents, then began to till the ground and to build buildings.

    The people worked long and hard, and a new city began to rise. They asked Alma to be their king, but Alma refused. He reminded them that some kings, like Noah, misuse their power. “I myself was caught in a snare,” he said, “and did many things which were abominable in the sight of the Lord, which caused me sore repentance.” Alma did continue to serve as their high priest, however, teaching them how to love their neighbor and to avoid contention.

    The people named the land and the city Helam, and as the years passed, the city grew and the people prospered. Then one day while the men were in the fields tilling, an army of Lamanites appeared. Surprised and unarmed, the men fled the fields and gathered in the city. Alma calmed them, urging them to remember that the Lord would deliver them. Together they prayed that the Lord would soften the hearts of the Lamanites.

    After praying, Alma and some of his brethren went to meet the Lamanite army. The Lamanites said that they were lost. They promised Alma and his people freedom if he would show them the way back to Nephi. Alma did so, but instead of freedom, the Lamanites made the people of Helam their slaves!

    The Lamanite king appointed a man named Amulon, who had once been the leader of King Noah’s wicked priests, to rule over Helam. Amulon was still a wicked man, and he treated the people of Helam cruelly. Then, when the people began to cry mightily to God to save them, Amulon appointed guards to watch them and to kill anyone who prayed!

    Alma and his people no longer raised their voices to God, but they continued to pray in their hearts and minds. The Lord heard their prayers and told them, “I will … ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, … and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.”

    Then one day, because the people of Helam had remained faithful, the Lord told them, “Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.”

    Alma and his people spent the night gathering their flocks and provisions. When morning came, the Lord caused a deep sleep to come upon the Lamanites. Alma and his people and their animals went quickly past the sleeping guards and into the wilderness.

    All that day they traveled; and that night, after pitching their tents in a valley that they named Alma, they prayed. It was wonderful to now be able to raise their voices to God, and they thanked Him for His goodness.

    The Lord warned them, through Alma, to flee once more, for the Lamanites were following them. He promised, however, that He would “stop the Lamanites in this valley that they come no further in pursuit of this people.”

    So Alma and his people once more fled. For twelve days they traveled through the wilderness. At last they arrived in Zarahemla, the land of their ancestors.

    Mosiah, the king of Zarahemla, received the weary travelers with joy. He called his people together and read the records of Alma’s people to them. Then King Mosiah asked Alma to teach the people of Zarahemla and to establish the Church throughout the land.

    And so once more Alma preached the gospel he loved, and once more he baptized people and ordained priests and teachers to do the work of the Lord. (See Mosiah 18, 23–25.)

    Painting by Arnold Friberg