In my last post I suggested that in most cases we should separate forgiveness from consequences. I was using Alma’s experience at the massacre at Ammonihah as an example. So, lets follow the admonition of Nephi and embed ourselves into this story.
We need to go back in time to where Alma was still harassing the church.
Imagine you were the parent of one of the youths who got entangled in Alma’s apostate web. Your child was tragically killed being caught up in Alma’s destructive wake. The heartache you suffer from this tragedy almost consumes your life.
Then, miraculously, Alma is forgiven.
His reign of terror is over!
As part of his repentance process, Alma visits your home to apologize for the pain he caused. His apology is sincere.
You graciously accept it.
Now, fast forward a few decades. Alma and Amulek have been preaching to the people of Ammonihah. Most ignore them. Some repent. As is customary with missionaries and converts, there is a strong, almost familial, bond between Alma and these courageous people who changed their hearts.
Then, things go horribly wrong.
The city leaders round up all the believers along with the sacred texts. Then they force the men who converted to dig a pit. In that pit, the leaders start a huge fire. In an act of extreme cruelty, these evil people forcibly escort all the men who dug the pit out of the city, leaving behind their wives and children who are now standing on the edge of a fiery grave.
Surely God will protect His prophet and their families, right?
They give Alma and Amulek a final chance to recant their words.
They remain silent.
The leaders throw the women and children into these biting flames.
Amulek pleads with Alma to call upon God to stop the killings.
God constrained Alma.
They witness each beloved person being slaughtered.
Why did God deny Alma the power to save these people?
Of course, with God there are many reasons for what He does. In my opinion, one purpose for this tragedy was to teach Alma. Now, after all these years, Alma learned empathy towards the countless victims of his sinful past.
Put yourself back in the narrative. Days after this tragedy Alma comes to your home. Yes, decades have gone by. But now Alma understands the depth of your pain. While his initial apology was sincere, today, as Alma sits in your home you both weep for your losses. Finally, your nagging wound is healed.
These consequences had nothing to do with Alma’s forgiveness.
He was clean.
He was the prophet.
But God was able to use consequences to teach Alma. I believe that teaching, not punishment is the real purpose of consequences.