- Even the vilest of sinners can repent and become clean.
- Wickedness does not bring happiness.
- Joy comes from living God's commandments.
- God won't force anyone to choose Him and His ways.
For whatever reason, Alma had a rebellious spirit, but it wasn't enough that he alone rebelled. He convinced many others to follow in his wicked ways. The scriptures tell us that he and the four sons of Mosiah were "the very vilest of sinners."
This caused Alma (the dad) and King Mosiah (a righteous king) much sorrow, and they prayed continually for their sons.
Then one day an angel appeared to them and basically told them to stop their wickedness.
Alma was so overcome by this that he fell to the ground and could not move or speak. The sons of Mosiah carried him to his father, and he stayed like that for two days and nights.
During this time, his father prayed and fasted for him.
After this he regained his strength, and he told all those gathered around him, "...after wading through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God. My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more."
I have often wondered what caused Alma to repent. It couldn't have just been the visit of the angel, or everyone who sees an angel would repent. Laman and Lemuel both saw an angel and yet they continued in their wickedness. It couldn't have just been that his father was praying and fasting for him, because Lehi did the same for his sons.
For those two days when he was unable to move or speak, he allowed himself to be taught by the Spirit. He learned that everyone must repent and be changed from a "fallen state to a state of righteousness".
Satan has a remarkable way of convincing people that once they have done something wrong and they feel terrible, that they should do something awful again. It's his way of proving to them that they are of no value, and before long they are in the "darkest abyss" drowning in misery.
Fortunately for Alma, he believed the Spirit when he was told that he could repent. It wasn't an easy thing for him to do. He says that he "waded through much tribulation". Some of the words in the index that describe tribulation are: adversity, affliction, anguish, despair, grief, misery, sorrow, and suffering.
He was "nigh unto death". I imagine that the anguish was so great that he thought he would die.
Then, when God saw that he was truly repentant, He "snatched" him out of his misery and filled him with the light of the Spirit.
When we repent, I think "light" has three meanings
- the light that helps us to see clearly
- the light that causes us to feel warmth and comfort
- the light that is associated with weight, because we are no longer weighted down by sin
Alma completely changed his life. He became a great missionary and brought many people to the truth of the gospel.
One of his sons, Corianton, chose wickedness over righteousness. This must have really grieved his father. He spoke to his son and tried to convince him of the error of his ways.
He said, "And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness." (Alma 41:11)
He also told him, "Wickedness never was happiness." (Alma 41:10)
He would certainly know the truth of this statement from his own experience.
Now, compare this to the "exquisite joy" that was felt when Alma and the four sons of Mosiah met again and learned that they were all still living lives of righteousness.
One of the greatest gifts God gave us was our agency to choose whatever we want, but our agency doesn't allow us to choose the outcome.
"He granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction."
"He that knoweth not good from evil is blameless; but he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires, whether he desireth good or evil, life or death, joy or remorse of conscience."
Alma told his son, Corianton, that we cannot live a life of sin and then expect to live a life of eternal happiness.
God knew that we wouldn't always choose righteously and so He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to atone for our sins so that we could choose to repent and start clean and fresh again. If we repent, God will remember our sins no more. It will be as if we never did them, and when we see Him again, our consciences will be free of the guilt.
If Alma the Younger, "the vilest of sinners", could do is, so can we.