01 November 2021

Alma is my BFF

Of all the characters in the Book of Mormon, I identify with Alma the Younger most. 

Some people like Nephi, and it’s probably because he’s the one they have read about the most. Because I don’t know about you, but I’ve read the books of Nephi probably 500 or so times, but read the book of Ether about 10.

Nephi, to me, is a bit of a goody-goody. The son of a merchant, he never makes the bad choice, he knows who he is and what he’s supposed to do, and he has the line that we can all strive to be like: 

for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must bobey.  -- 2Ne33:15

And when you ask him, “Man, haven’t you ever done anything wrong?” He looks at you intently, a hint of green in his eye and says, “I get angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

Alma was a bit different. He had a father that was the high priest of the entire nation. His friends, the sons of the king. What they had was money, influence, and boredom. 

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t money and influence that made me connect to Alma.

Alma was a total screw up. He was…

“…a very wicked and an bidolatrous man. And he was a man of many words, and did speak much cflattery to the people; therefore he dled many of the people to do after the manner of his einiquities.

9 And he became a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church of God; astealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his bpower over them.”2 until his father just couldn’t handle it anymore and called down a divine intervention to be the agent of change in his son’s life. 

11 And as I said unto you, as they were going about arebelling against God, behold, the bangel of the Lord cappeared unto them; and he descended as it were in a dcloud; and he spake as it were with a voice of thunder, which caused the earth to shake upon which they stood; --Mosiah 27

That flipped their whole world around. That voice of thunder that told them to knock it off. Unlike Nephi’s brothers that immediately started murmuring again after the angel left, Alma was rocked to his core. He fell down and had his “coming to Jesus” moment. For three days he was shut up from the world inside his own head, with an experience that changed him. 

But I was racked with aeternal btorment, for my soul was charrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. - Alma 36:12

And when he awoke, when he had the strength to stand and speak, he told his story of what happened:

My soul hath been aredeemed from the gall of bitterness and bbonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was cracked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is dpained no more. - Mosiah 27:29

This story is told twice in the scriptures. The first time in Mosiah 27, basically as it happens, as we’re following the story. The second time in Alma 36 when he’s bearing his testimony and conversion story to his son, Helaman, to keep him from making the same mistakes Alma made in his youth.

And this is where I identify with Alma. Going from the idolatrous wicked youth to a God fearing Christian. Of course, my conversion wasn’t over two days, it took years, but I had my awakening. And it didn’t come from the sudden appearance of an angel, but a police officer.

I found myself sitting in a jail cell, my life crumbling around me. My family torn apart. I had made so many bad choices through my youth that when it all caught up to me, I, too, was “racked with eternal torment, my soul harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.”

I heard a story about a man with a mule. This man loved his mule, but he was having trouble because it wasn’t trained, and was headstrong and willful, would wander off while he was plowing his field. He needed the mule to be trained, but wanted it done with tender loving care. 

He found a trainer and called him up, the trainer agreed to train the mule with tender loving care, and so the man loaded up his mule and drove it to the trainer, who again assured him that he would care for the mule during the training.

As the man was driving away he glanced in his rear view mirror and saw the trainer – THWAP! – up the side of the mule’s head with a 2x4.

The man spun the truck around, raced back to the trainer.

“You said you train with tender loving care!”

“I do,” said the trainer, “But i have to get his attention first.”

That jail cell was my 2x4.

When I was sitting in that cell, my mother sent me my first quad, with a letter that said, “Something has to change.” That was the first time that I read the Book of Mormon, and I had my coming to Jesus moment. Alma’s story helped me through it. 

He gave me something that I could identify with that wasn’t the perfect goodness of Nephi. He gave me a mentor and role model that helped me see that no matter what kind of person we were, we can be better than that. 

In Mosiah, Alma gives us the brief overview of what happened. He identifies his sin, acknowledges it, and tells us that his conversion is complete and he’ll do the right thing now. And he goes on to be a great missionary and prophet.

And then he gets to my favorite verse:

O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the atrump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! - Alma 29:1

In the chapters before it, the focus was not on Alma, it was on Ammon and his missionary success, and some wars. But in Alma 29 we are suddenly brought back to Alma, and he has this intense wish to be able to shake the world out of their iniquity, to show them how great God is, and how it feels to turn away from their sins, his sins, and be awash in the spirit. 

He wants so much to show them all the difference and let everyone feel what he feels, know it like he knows it. 

And then, in verse 3: 

But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.

For all his wishful thinking, his grand imaginations of world wide missionary success, converting all the people back to God and bring them all to Christ, Alma knows that he is a man. 

I ought not to harrow up in my desires the firm decree of a just God, for I know that he granteth unto men according to their adesire, whether it be unto death or unto life; -Alma 29:4

He knows that he can only do so much. That he should learn to be happy with the things that he has, the gifts the Lord has given him. Alma, for all his desire to heal the world of the wickedness that he helped sow, is a realist, and is content knowing that God’s will is going on across the world, whether he, Alma, is the trumpet or not.

The other thing I notice about this verse is that he uses the same word as he does in his testimony to Helaman. Harrow. 

For those of you not farmers, a harrow is a machine that comes after the plow, with spikes or discs that rip up the earth and break up the clods, smoothing it out to prepare for sowing.

When Alma describes his soul being harrowed up, he’s telling us something more than it was a bit troubling. He is telling us that his soul was ripped apart, the sins were broken up, and he was smoothed out and ready for God to sow the seed of righteousness into it.

And there after his wish to be an angel, he says, “I ought not to harrow up in my desires the firm decree of a just God…” he’s saying that he should not try to fit God’s will into his desire, but match his desire to God’s will. 

Alma started life as a spoiled son that didn’t respect God or his father, and had his world turned upside down to become a man of humility that recognized his true importance is to his people and his children. 

I started life as a dumb kid that made a lot of bad choices and had a lot of pride until my world was turned upside down and I began to make the changes to be able to rebuild my life into something of worth, that I can be deserving of my wonderful wife and children.

And that’s why Alma is my BFF.


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