A Change of Heart, Part I

By Sherrie Johnson

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    (See Mosiah 27; Mosiah 29:42; Alma 2–8; Alma 36:3–20.)

    A great crowd gathered around a young man who was speaking all manner of evil and flattering words.

    “Who is that?” a man in the crowd asked.

    “It is Alma,” another answered.

    “Alma the high priest?” the first asked in disbelief.

    “No—his son, Alma the younger.”

    “What great unhappiness his wicked ways must cause his father,” the first man said and went away shaking his head.

    But Alma the younger did not worry about the unhappiness he was causing his father, the prophet. He and four friends, Ammon, Aaron, Himni, and Omner, who were all sons of King Mosiah, delighted in idol worship. They were trying to destroy the Church, and they had led many people to rebel against God and do evil things.

    One day, as they sought to further lead the people astray, an angel of the Lord appeared, speaking to them in a thunderous voice that shook the earth.

    Filled with fear, Alma and his friends fell to the ground, weak and unable to understand the words of the angel.

    Once more the angel spoke, and this time Alma understood the angel’s words: “Alma, arise and stand forth, for why persecutest thou the church of God?”

    Trembling Alma managed to stand as the angel continued, “Behold, the Lord hath heard 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 … have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God.” The angel spoke on, chastising Alma, and ended by saying: “Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more.” The angel then departed.

    Astonished, Alma fell again to the ground, so weak that he was unable to even open his mouth. Friends carried his helpless body to his father and told him all that had happened.

    Rejoicing, his father gathered many people to see what the Lord had done for his son, and Alma the elder and his priests began to fast and pray that Alma the younger would regain his speech and strength so that the people might witness the goodness and glory of God.

    After two days and two nights, Alma received strength and began to speak. “Be of good comfort,” he said, “I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord.”

    While the family rejoiced, Alma explained that during the time that he was without strength, he had been racked with eternal torment because of the memory of all his sins. The very thought of coming into God’s presence was torture to him. But while he was in this awful state, he had remembered the teachings of his father about Jesus Christ. In dark despair and clutching to the hope of Christ’s compassion, Alma had cried out in his heart, “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.”

    As Alma thought these words, he remembered his pain no more. Instead, he felt joy and beheld a marvelous light.

    A changed man, Alma now began a great missionary work for the gospel of Jesus Christ, baptizing thousands of people. His father ordained him to be the next high priest over the Church, and the people of Zarahemla appointed him to be their chief judge. Thus Alma was the leader of both the Church and the government.

    For years Alma tried to teach and guide his people. He even served as their general. Leading them in battle, he saved them from the Amlicites and the Lamanites, who wanted to take over the land.

    But, after chasing their enemies out of the land, the Nephites began to prosper and became proud and contentious and unloving, and Alma became concerned about the wickedness of his people. He knew the terrible torment that comes to those who stray, and he loved his people and wanted them to be happy. Finding a righteous man named Nephihah, Alma presented him to the people and he became the chief judge. Then, traveling from city to city, Alma retaught the word of God to the people.

    In many cities the people believed Alma and repented, but in the city of Ammonihah the people rejected him. They cursed Alma and spit on him and cast him out of the city. With a soul filled with anguish because of the wickedness of the people, Alma had started toward the city of Aaron when an angel—the same angel that had appeared to him before—stopped him. “I am sent to command thee that thou return to the city of Ammonihah,” the angel said. “Yea, say unto them, except they repent the Lord God will destroy them.”

    When the angel left, Alma hurried back to Ammonihah. As he entered the city, he was hungry, so he asked a man, “Will ye give to an humble servant of God something to eat?”

    The man replied, “I know that thou art a holy prophet of God, for thou art the man whom an angel said in a vision: Thou shalt receive.”

    The man, Amulek, took Alma to his home and fed him. In return Alma taught Amulek the gospel. Then together they went about the city preaching by the power of the Holy Ghost.

    (To be concluded.)