The story of Alma Jr. or as often referred, the younger, is a fascinating read that clearly demonstrates the mercy of a loving God. Alma had been traveling from city to city preaching “much flattery” to the people, “lead[ing] many of the people to do after the manner of his iniquities.” In Mosiah chapter 27 we see this story begin in verse 8 and continue through most of the chapter. It reads:
8 Now the sons of Mosiah were numbered among the unbelievers; and also one of the sons of Alma was numbered among them, he being called Alma, after his father; nevertheless, he became a very wicked and an idolatrous man. And he was a man of many words, and did speak much flattery to the people; therefore he led many of the people to do after the manner of his iniquities.
9 And he became a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church of God; stealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his power over them.
10 And now it came to pass that while he was going about to destroy the church of God, for he did go about secretly with the sons of Mosiah seeking to destroy the church, and to lead astray the people of the Lord, contrary to the commandments of God, or even the king—
So Alma the younger was busy working in secret to destroy the church of God. This work of destruction was having a great impact on the church as many were likely leaving to pursue a life of sin and iniquity. This may be how Alma’s father, the Prophet, was aware of Alma’s involvement because later an Angel explains that his father has “prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth.”
So while Alma and the other sons of Mosiah were going about to destroy the church, the scriptures continue:
11 And as I said unto you, as they were going about rebelling against God, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto them; and he descended as it were in a cloud; and he spake as it were with a voice of thunder, which caused the earth to shake upon which they stood;
12 And so great was their astonishment, that they fell to the earth, and understood not the words which he spake unto them.
After being commanded to stop his persecution of the church, Alma is struck dumb. Verse 19 states:
And now the astonishment of Alma was so great that he became dumb, that he could not open his mouth; yea, and he became weak, even that he could not move his hands; therefore he was taken by those that were with him, and carried helpless, even until he was laid before his father.
After two days of suffering mental and emotional anguish, Alma the younger awakes and exclaims in vs 24:
For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.
This process of repentance is a fascinating example of the mercy of Jesus Christ. Alma was ultimately in the midst of the worst kind of apostasy. He was actively preaching to convert others out of the church of God. Alma later retells the story of his experience to his son Helaman in Alma 36, and in this retelling provides additional context and explanation. He states that he suffered for three days and three nights, and after much mental and emotional anguish he cried out to Jesus for mercy:
18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my 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.
19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
In these verses, I see the process of repentance as a deeply personal experience with Jesus Christ. It is clear that Jesus Christ is infinitely merciful to those who cry out to Him. Alma clearly explains that he was “harrowed up…no more” by his guilt, which to me provides great comfort and faith in a loving Christ. Christ’s atonement as taught in The Book of Mormon clearly allows for universal redemption for those who call upon Christ. No matter the sin or degree of wickedness, Christ’s atonement is enough! I do have to wonder though, why does Alma remember the span of time as 3 days in Alma 36 when in Mosiah 27 it was only 2 days?
As a side note this story feels and sounds very similar to the story of Saul turned Paul in Acts chapter 22 and retold to King Agrippa in Acts:26 of the New Testament. Saul persecuted the church, was visited by a heavenly being who was Jesus Christ, and was commanded to cease persecution. He goes blind (as opposed to dumb), and ultimately appears before Ananias “a devout man” and is miraculously healed of his vision loss. Interestingly enough he is commanded to be baptized for his repentance process to be complete. Perhaps Alma the younger was already baptized and therefore was not in need of this ordinance a second time.