One of the hidden treasures of the Book of Mormon is the willingness of those who contributed to share their own humanity. Clearly, this is not a book of perfect people. Rather, it is a story of flawed mortals struggling to get through life one day at a time.
Perhaps no one exemplifies this message of mortality more than Alma, the father of Alma the Younger.
We are introduced to Alma after his appointment as priest to King Noah’s court. I am sure Alma was an active member of the church before he served as a priest.
At first, the lifestyle choices made by the priests had to offended Alma. He knew what they were doing was wrong — they all did. But once he compromised his own standards, this deviant lifestyle became easier to accept. Soon, his conscience was dulled to the promptings of the spirit and what was once unimaginable became acceptable.
But my own experience with friends and family members who followed Alma’s well-trod path has taught me that while they may stray for a time, God’s familiar, still, small voice will ultimately pierce their hardened exterior and gently, or not too gently, nudge them back to safety.
For Alma, his path back to happiness started with the words of Abinidi. As I stated before, I am convinced that Alma and Abinidi were once friends. As Abinidi bravely stood before his former peers pleading with them to repent, I am sure that Alma felt pangs of guilt. I can see him wondering why he so quickly dismissed his own standards while Abinidi did not.
As Abinidi spoke of the commandments, the atonement, and God’s love, something awakened in Alma. The barriers he put up to shield him from his guilt started to fall. Now he was able to recognize the spirit that had been calling to him for years. When the crowd began to clamor for Abinidi’s death, Alma was able to call up the courage he once lacked, the courage he witnessed in Abinidi.
Alma pleaded with King Noah not only to release Abinidi but to listen to his words and to start the repentance process. So convincing was Alma that the king came close to heeding his counsel. But then the tide towards reconciliation took a dangerous turn. Alma quickly found himself not only on the wrong side of what was popular, but now he was fearing for his life.
The beauty of this story is that Alma, who could have retreated behind his familiar walls where he was once comfortable, refused to give in. This time he stood for something even when it meant standing alone.
What a timely message for our time. Like Abinidi and Alma, we will all need to have the courage to stand for something.