“Blessed art thou, Alma; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the command-ments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from him. Behold, I am he that delivered it unto you.“ (Alma 8:15)
This was the second time that this angel had visited Alma. Ten years earlier, his visit and message were a little more harsh for Alma to handle; knocking him to the ground and into a three-day coma. At the time of this first visit, speaking as it were with the voice of thunder, the Angel’s words shook Alma to the bone “Alma, arise and stand forth, for why persecutest thou the church of God?…Can you dispute the power of God?” (See Mosiah 27.) For the next seventy-two hours, Alma was left to himself to deal with the awful pain and guilt of his past actions. This was bad…really bad…for Alma! The terrible torment brought to his soul drove him into great depths of despair. Only then, by recognizing and acknowledging the light of Christ, was he able to overcome his torment, and change his life for good.
In my favorite TV show, Criminal Minds, Agent Rossi said, “Scars remind us where we’ve been, but they don’t have to dictate where we’re going.” The scars of Alma’s past served as constant reminders of his awful sins and shortcomings for the remainder of his life. Although he knew that he had been forgiven by the Lord, he just couldn’t forget his sins for himself. They emotionally wore him down over the years; but they also made his resolve to not repeat them that much greater. The scars were kept in his past, and he did not return in that direction ever again in the future.
Alma is my biggest hero in the Book of Mormon! If there was ever an example of the Lord’s love for us, of His powerful Atonement, of His ability to forgive and forget; all we have to do is read about Alma’s life as it is told to us in the books of Mosiah and Alma. There is great peace to the soul when the prophets of old, as well as the prophets in our day, remind us of the universality of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and how we can rely upon His mercy when we take the wrong path – whether for a few minutes, or for a few years. In my case, I stepped off the path for about seventeen years. During that time, I never let go of my faith and testimony; I just let go of the commandments that I should have been following.
To this day, after being back on the right path for about seven years, I still hold on to the heartache of what could have been. Although my scars are not visible to the human eye, they certainly are still quite visible to my spiritual eyes. I feel the same torment and shame felt by Alma, when he said, “But I was racked with eternal torment, or my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins…Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.” (Alma 36:12,21.)
Over the next thirty chapters of Alma, we will gain a wonderful understanding of the pain and sorrow felt by Alma, as well as becoming personal witnesses through him of the great and redemptive powers of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And just like Agent Rossi said, let’s leave the scars in the past, learn from those experiences, change our ways, and then go out and help others do the same. It is such a beautiful plan…our Heavenly Father’s great plan of salvation – for your salvation, and mine! I look forward to the day when I hear the words, “Blessed art thou, Bob; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice.”