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While we do not know a lot about Alma’s life prior to Abinadi’s ministry, he does make mention of the iniquity of King Noah and his priests and humbly confesses that he himself was caught in that snare and “did many things which were abominable in the sight of the Lord” (Mosiah 23:9).
This is an excerpt from Meeting Christ in the Book of Mormon (now available in hardback for $5.99).
As King Noah commanded the priests to take Abinadi and put him to death, we are told that “there was one among them whose name was Alma . . . and he believed the words which Abinadi had spoken” (Mosiah 17:2; emphasis added). His heart had been pricked, and he now understood the wickedness of which Abinadi had testified. As the Spirit began to work upon this young man, he was led to courageously stand up to the corrupt king and plead with him that he might allow Abinadi to go in peace. But the prophet’s fate was sealed. He had delivered the message he was sent to declare. Indeed, his time had come.
But lest this story end in somber tones, we must remember that though Abinadi would die a martyr’s death, his message would live. King Noah’s anger was so hot that when Alma pleaded for the release of Abinadi, he was banished from the kingdom and threatened with the same fate as the prophet. As Alma fled for his life, we are told that he “hid himself that they found him not. And he being concealed for many days did write all the words which Abinadi had spoken” (Mosiah 17:4; emphasis added), thus preserving Abinadi’s matchless message. Furthermore, we are told that after Alma had repented, he went about the people and began to “teach the words of Abinadi” (Mosiah 18:1; see also Mosiah 18:19). Thus, it was the words of Abinadi that would lead to the conversion of about 450 souls!
In a great scriptural representation of learning by faith, we are told that “as many as believed him went thither to hear his words” (Mosiah 18:6). Those who gathered themselves together were taught about repentance, redemption, faith, the baptismal covenant, and much more. Alma taught them that the covenant of baptism included a willingness to “bear one another’s burdens,” “mourn with those that mourn,” “comfort those that stand in need of comfort,” and “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:8–9). He promised his people that if they would cleave to God’s covenants, they would “be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that [they] may have eternal life” (Mosiah 18:9). Alma invited them to witness their desire to follow the Son by entering into the waters of baptism. But, like any great teacher, his invitation ended with a divine promise. He promised them that if they would enter this covenant, then the Lord would “pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon [them]” (Mosiah 18:10). When the people heard this, they “clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts” (Mosiah 18:11).
Note that the final promise was that the Lord would pour His Spirit out upon the people in even greater abundance. Perhaps it was this promise that elicited the joyful excitement demonstrated by this Nephite flock. You may recall in 3 Nephi 19, when the Lord departed and the people knelt in prayer. Do you remember what they prayed for? The record says that “they did pray for that which they most desired; and they desired that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them” (3 Nephi 19:9). Just like those later Nephites in the land Bountiful, Alma’s people sought this divine companionship. Alma clearly understood the sanctifying effect of such an outpouring as he took Helam into the water and pleaded before the Master, saying, “O Lord, pour out thy Spirit upon thy servant, that he may do this work with holiness of heart” (Mosiah 18:12; emphasis added). Alma not only sought the comfort of the Spirit, but he also desired that he and his people be “sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 27:20).