Mosiah 27:8 the sons of Mosiah and Alma, the younger
Have you ever heard a phrase like, "we have great youth in this ward except for the bishop's kid?" Whether more wayward or more visible, it is not uncommon for the children of the leaders to struggle. For all those bishops and stake presidents who have had wayward children, there is consolation in knowing that they are not alone. Ironically, this problem has been present for a long time. From Cain's murder of Abel to the wickedness of Jacob's sons, to the murmuring of Laman and Lemuel, to the wickedness of the sons of Mosiah and Alma, the offspring of the righteous have often struggled to keep the faith.
Wayward children are heart-breaking for righteous parents. For Alma and Mosiah, it must have been even worse because of their high ranking positions. Their sons were in an influential position and used it to their advantage.
L. Tom Perry
"Imagine the influence he had on other young people. He was the son of the head of the Church, and his companions were the sons of the king. They were talented young men with the appeal to attract many followers. Imagine the pride in Alma's heart as many followed him, doing 'after the manner of his iniquities.' Because of the power of his words and his ability to attract many, it would have been difficult for him to change the course he was pursuing to the course the Lord would expect, without a real earth-shaking event. Of course, the Lord had a major event in mind for him." (Heroes From the Book of Mormon, p. 99)
Mosiah 27:11 as they were going about rebelling against God, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto them
Wouldn't it be great if every enemy of the Church was visited by an angel of the Lord and commanded to repent? Many of the rebellious have required a sign of the Lord. They argue that they will not believe unless an angel appears unto them to tell them what to do. Yet, the persecutors have been rebuked by an angel in only two instances, that of Alma and Saul of Tarsus. The similarities are striking but there are also differences. Alma and his brethren should have known better. They were in a state of rebellion against parents, church, and God. On the other hand, Paul thought he was doing the Lord's work. Always a zealot, he was trying to purge Judaism of the new threat brought on by the followers of Jesus. Yet, in both instances, the visitation causes a great change in the hearts of the persecutors. In a miraculous way, they became great missionaries for the Lord.
What does this tell us about such divine interventions? The Lord doesn't send an angel to rebuke every rebellious soul because many of these would still not repent even if they saw an angel. The witness of the Holy Ghost is more powerful than the visitation of an angel. Heber J. Grant taught, "Many men say: 'If I could only see an angel, if I could only hear an angel proclaim something, that would cause me to be faithful all the days of my life!' It had no effect upon these men that were not serving the Lord, and it would have no effect today." (Conference Reports, Apr. 1924, p. 159) An example of this is seen in the life of Lyman Johnson.
"Lyman Johnson...reportedly apostatized after having seen an angel...'I remember hearing President Snow say on more than one occasion,' recalled Mathias Cowley, 'how determined Lyman E. Johnson was to see an angel from the Lord. He plead [sic] with and teased the Lord to send an angel to him until he saw an angel; but President Snow said the trouble with him was that he saw an angel one day and saw the devil the next day, and finally the devil got away with him.'26" (FARMS, vol. 2, no. 2-Fall 1993, p. 171)
"Brigham Young said, 'Pray that you never see an angel.' He was talking historically. Almost everybody who saw an angel left the Church. They came back, but they had these terrible problems. It gave them inflated egos, etc. They thought they were somebody special. They were, but they couldn't take it. It would be very dangerous if we were exposed to the other world to any degree. Only people that are very humble can do that. Not us, we can't do that. We are not that humble." (The Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Lecture 41, p.193)
"...the Lord never did nor never will send an angel to anybody merely to gratify the desire of the individual to see an angel. If the Lord sends an angel to anyone, He sends him to perform a work that cannot be performed only by the administration of an angel. I said to him that those were my views. The Lord had sent angels to men from the creation of the world, at different times, but always with a message or with something to perform that could not be performed without." (Collected Discourses 1886-1898, ed. by Brian Stuy, vol. 5, Wilford Woodruff, Oct. 19, 1896)
"If the purpose of miracles is to convert, then Jesus wasted his miracles all on believers...To impress people with miracles is one thing; to give them a testimony of the gospel another. As the experience of the Apostles showed, if people will not accept the gospel by the word without miracles, they will not accept it with miracles: 'If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead' (Luke 16:31)." (The World and the Prophets, p. 140-1)
Mosiah 27:13 This is my church...nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people
There is one thing that the Lord cannot control, that is the use of agency. Therefore, the Lord can protect his church from anything but the unrighteous use of agency-the transgression of the church members. As the history of the Book of Mormon attests, this very thing becomes the downfall of the Nephites. The church members became wicked and transgressed the laws of the Lord, bringing destruction upon their heads and an end to the church.
In our generation even the transgression of the people is not enough to destroy the church. The Lord has promised that the kingdom will roll forth until it "has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country and sounded in every ear; till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the great Jehovah shall say, 'The work is done.'" (History of the Church, 4:536.) The unrepentant church members who have transgressed will be left along the wayside while the kingdom of God rolls forth. The kingdom has been compared to a great train. The only question is whether we as individuals are going to stay on the train or be left behind.
Mosiah 27:14 Alma...has prayed with much faith concerning thee
The scriptures are full of great examples of faith. Alma's great faith is remarkable because it brought an angel from the heavens to save his wayward son. Alma was just like any other parent. He mourned at his son's apparent wickedness. With his great prayers of faith, Alma gives an example to all parents. The welfare and righteousness of our children should be a frequent subject of fervent prayer. Elder LeGrand Richards said, "You remember what Alma did when his son, Alma, didn't walk in the ways of the Lord and went about trying to destroy the church. He just did not give the Lord any rest about it; he took it to the Lord in mighty prayer until an angel of heaven appeared to his son...." (Conference Report, Oct. 1947, p. 75 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 239)
"'...Parents today often pray with great faith for their rebellious sons and daughters, yet they do not always receive the same results. Alma the Elder's gospel is the same gospel that we have today; why then are there not more angels and more thunderous and transforming experiences? Mortal parents who make their own best effort to reach their children can invoke divine assistance through prayer, for all scriptures unite in testifying that God answers prayers. Perhaps the Lord does send angels, but angels of a different sort. Inspired teachers, friends, bishops, home teachers, Scout leaders, and others can serve the same function as angels from above. These embodied angels, inspired by the Holy Ghost, are sent by the Lord to assist and to love.
"'Evidently there were factors in Alma the Younger's circumstance that necessitated his peculiar experience.'" (Dennis L. Largey, Church News, Apr. 2, 1992)
Joseph B. Wirthlin
"Alma the Younger's conversion was brought about by his father's persevering faith. Despite the profound depths of worldly wickedness into which his son had sunk, Alma did not give up on the son he loved. Here is a case where a righteous man surely loathed the sin, but dearly loved the sinner. He diligently, hopefully, fervently prayed for his son. The angel messenger who visited Alma the Younger told him that he had "come to convince [him] of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith." (Heroes From the Book of Mormon, p. 93)
Boyd K. Packer
"We emphasize that the greatest work you will do will be within the walls of your home....It is not uncommon for responsible parents to lose one of their children, for a time, to influences over which they have no control. They agonize over rebellious sons or daughters. They are puzzled over why they are so helpless when they have tried so hard to do what they should. It is my conviction that those wicked influences one day will be overruled. 'The Prophet Joseph Smith declared-and he never taught a more comforting doctrine-that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father's heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God.'" (Boyd K. Packer, “Our Moral Environment,” Ensign, May 1992, 68)
Mosiah 27:16 remember the captivity of thy fathers in the land of Helam, and in the land of Nephi
The angel reminds Alma of the great deliverance wrought by the Lord in delivering the people of Limhi and his father. Alma never forgot this charge from the angel. He later taught his son, I would that ye should do as I have done, in remembering the captivity of our fathers; for they were in bondage and none could deliver them except it was the God of Abraham (Alma 36:2). Alma had even named his son Helaman-a name obviously reminiscent of the land of Helam.
Mosiah 27:19 Alma became dumb, that he could not open his mouth
Alma is smitten by the power of God. While laying in a stupor, he feels the pains of a damned soul, receives a remission of sins, and is the recipient of a great vision (See Alma 36). He awakens with a great testimony and a miraculous turn around. While the body of Alma lay useless and limp, his spirit was busy working out his salvation. Elder David B. Haight, similarly, had an out of body experience which occurred while he was very ill. He related the story during the Oct. 1989 General Conference. From the Church News:
"Elder David B. Haight expressed deep gratitude Sunday morning for the faith and prayers of countless people in his behalf, and for the divine intervention that spared his life from a serious illness...He recounted his experience the evening of his health crisis, as he pled with his Heavenly Father to spare his life a little longer to have more time to do His work, if it was His will.
"'While still praying,' he recalled, 'I began to lose consciousness. . . . I was now in a calm, peaceful setting; all was serene and quiet. I was conscious of two persons in the distance on a hillside. . . . Detailed features were not discernable. I heard no voices but was conscious of being in a holy presence and atmosphere.'
"During the days that followed, Elder Haight said he was shown a panoramic view of Christ's earthly ministry. He saw the Savior and His apostles on the eve of His betrayal, where the Lord instructed and prepared the sacrament as a remembrance of His coming sacrifice.
'It was so impressively portrayed to me - the overwhelming love of the Savior for each,' Elder Haight said. 'I witnessed His thoughtful concern for significant details - the washing of the dusty feet of each apostle; His breaking and blessing of the loaf of dark bread and blessing of the wine; then His dreadful disclosure that one would betray Him.'
"He said he saw Christ in Gethsemane, where 'in some manner beyond our comprehension,' the Savior took upon Himself the sins of mankind.
As he witnessed these events during his days of unconsciousness, Elder Haight said the Holy Ghost blessed him with 'a more perfect knowledge' of the Lord's mission.
"'My soul was taught over and over again,' he said solemnly. 'I witnessed His struggling up the hill in His weakened condition carrying the cross, and His being stretched upon it...I cannot begin to convey to you the deep impact that these scenes have confirmed upon my soul," (Church News, Oct. 7, 1989)
Mosiah 27:25 all mankind...must be born again
Because of denominational inferences, latter-day saints don't refer to themselves as "born again Christians," but the Book of Mormon teaches us that this mighty change must take place in order for us to enter into the kingdom of God, thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God (v. 26). For a complete discussion of this doctrine, see commentary for Mosiah 5:2.
There are a few characteristics which are important in this passage. One is that being born again describes a transformation from carnal to spiritual. This occurs by the power of the Spirit, and the individual is redeemed, becoming a son or daughter of Christ. This is how Christ is the father, by virtue of his redeeming sacrifice. We become the children of Him who was once our elder brother.
Often the scriptures speak of this mighty change happening over a relatively short time period of a day or two. Benjamin's people, Alma, Enos, and king Lamoni are examples. However, the vast majority of members make this mighty change over a longer time period-sometimes over months or years. Bruce R. McConkie said, "(For most of us) this process is usually slow. The unusually quick ones make their way into scripture." (BYU Speeches of the Year, 1976). The process, whether it takes a day, a year, or a decade, is characterized by a spiritual transformation-'changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters. And thus they become new creatures' (Mosiah 27:25-26). Joseph Smith said, "the effect of the Holy Ghost upon a Gentile, is to purge out the old blood, and make him actually of the seed of Abraham. That man that has none of the blood of Abraham (naturally) must have a new creation by the Holy Ghost." (Teachings, p. 150).
Marion G. Romney
"The experience of each individual who is really born again is similar to this experience of Alma and the sons of Mosiah, although it may not be so dramatic. The effect upon each person's life is likewise similar. No person whose soul is illuminated by the burning Spirit of God can in this world of sin and dense darkness remain passive. He is driven by an irresistible urge to fit himself to be an active agent of God in furthering righteousness and in freeing the lives and minds of men from the bondage of sin." (Conference Report, Oct. 1941, p. 89)
Mark E. Petersen
"That birth of the spirit means something more than most of us normally realize. Through proper teaching, a conviction is born in our soul. Faith develops. Through it we see how important it is to become like Christ. We see ourselves as we are in contrast to a Christlike soul. A desire for a change-over is born within us. The change-over begins. We call it repentance. Through our faith and as part of our conversion or change from one state to another, we begin to see sin in its true light. ... We strive with all our souls to become like the Savior. (Address to seminary and institute of religion personnel, BYU, July 11, 1956.)" (Daniel Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p.117)
Ezra Taft Benson
"Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, [and Alma], there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life." (Ensign, Oct. 1989, p. 5 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 240)
Neal A. Maxwell
"The very process of being born again spiritually is not a one-time occurrence. Hence, Paul said that he died 'daily' (I Cor. 15:31). Such is the process of putting off the old self as one becomes a woman or a man of God. Quick change artists are rare. I have not seen many put off the old and put on the new very rapidly." (BYU Fireside, 12/2/84 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 240)
Mosiah 27:29 my soul was racked with eternal torment
Alma uses interesting language to describe the pains he suffered when he was struck by the Lord. During those trying three days and three nights, he was wading through much tribulation (v. 28), he was in the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity, he was in the darkest abyss. He continues in Alma chapter 36, I was racked with eternal torment, my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins (Alma 36:12). I was tormented with the pains of hell...for three days and three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul (Alma 36:13-16). The key to Alma's pain and suffering was the following, the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror (Alma 36:14).
It is apparent from the above passages that Alma suffered terribly. Yet, the Lord has revealed that for those who do not repent, the suffering will be even worse. He commands, repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore-how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not (DC 19:15). What Alma experienced was just a taste, a mere glimpse of the pains of eternal punishment. Although his description sounds awful, he did not get the full punishment from the Lord:
'...the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows;
Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof;
Nevertheless, I, the Lord, show it by vision unto many, but straightway shut it up again;
Wherefore, the end, the width, the height, the depth, and the misery thereof, they understand not, neither any man except those who are ordained unto this condemnation' (DC 76:45-48).
Mosiah 27:31 every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess
Anyone who has had a long conversation with a non-believer is comforted by this verse. It can be very frustrating to present spiritual evidence to the atheist only to be turned away and ridiculed. Yet the atheist and the anti-Mormon must finally humble themselves. At the final judgment day, the Lord will force them to eat their piece of humble pie. Although they may have been the most convincing and reticent, their legs cannot withstand the power of God, nor can their lying tongue continue to berate his goodness, for every knee shall bow and every tongue confess...that he is God...and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his all-searching eye. Elder Maxwell emphasizes the difference between their pain and the joy of the righteous at that day.
Neal A. Maxwell
"In that context, at the judgment bar of God we will 'praise and adore at the mercy seat.' We will not 'stand all amazed'-instead we will kneel all amazed! Knowing the grandness and scope of God's work, we shall participate in that moment when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ (Philippians 2:10; D&C 76:110). Among those kneeling will be vilest of sinners, for whose sins Jesus also suffered (Mosiah 28:4). Among all the knees bending and the tongues confessing will be those of the leaders of all earthly religious movements, however diverse, good, or commendable those movements have been.
"What we will feel on that occasion will be God's and Jesus' perfect love for us-not a scolding sternness but a profound kindness and immense tenderness. As these virtues flow from them toward us, many will feel the scalding shame of not having returned that love. As we feel their perfect love, we will confess that the justice and mercy of God are likewise perfect.
"To stand approved of God at that great and last day-such is the challenge, such is the crucial nature of spiritual submissiveness while living in a tutoring world, 'for in this world [our] joy is not full' (D&C 101:36). Body and spirit are not yet inseparably connected, death will come to us, yet we have been given profound promises." (Not My Will, But Thine Be Done, p. 141)
Neal A. Maxwell
"On Judgment Day, not only will every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ but also, as elaborating Book of Mormon prophets tell us, everyone, including those who have lived without God in the world, will also openly acknowledge that God is God and will confess before God that His judgments are just and merciful (see Mosiah 16:1; 27:31; Alma 12:15). Part of the basis for demonstrating the perfection of God's justice and mercy will thus be the cumulative record which we ourselves will have made (see Alma 41:7). Out of this we can be justly judged, a judgment that will include our compliance with outward gospel ordinances with all their respective covenants." (Lord, Increase Our Faith, p. 75)
Mosiah 27:35 zealously striving to repair all the injuries...confessing all their sins
Alma and the sons of Mosiah are demonstrating two of the often quoted components of repentance-restitution and confession. For them, their restitution and confession had to be public. To the church, their opposition had been a public nuisance and a great hindrance. This follows the general pattern for confession. If a sin is committed against the entire church, it should be confessed before the entire church. On the other hand, if the sin is a personal transgression not affecting the members, there is no need for them to hear the confession. Such is the meaning of the following, if thy brother or sister offend many, he or she shall be chastened before many. And if any one offend openly, he or she shall be rebuked openly, that he or she may be ashamed. And if he or she confess not, he or she shall be delivered up unto the law of God. If any shall offend in secret, he or she shall be rebuked in secret (DC 42:90-92).
"...if you have sinned against your God, or against your selves, confess to God, and keep the matter to yourselves, for I do not want to know anything about it." (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 158.)
Spencer J. Condie
"There are some people who, caught up with a feeling of humility and contrition, disclose their own weaknesses before the public, such as in a testimony meeting, rather than confessing their sins in the privacy of a bishop's office. The scriptures tell us that only when sins are widely known should there be public confession (see D&C 42:80-93). Otherwise, our sins should be confessed to our bishop or to our Heavenly Father in prayer." (In Perfect Balance, p. 217)
"After a man has repented, will his faith and repentance bring the forgiveness of sins through the atonement? Are these all the conditions required? No. You may confess your sins; but if you never make restitution to the persons you have wronged, your confession will be of no service." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 263)
Spencer W. Kimball
"To every forgiveness there is a condition. The plaster must be as wide as the sore. The fasting, the prayers, the humility must be equal to or greater than the sin. There must be a broken heart and a contrite spirit. There must be 'sackcloth and ashes.' There must be tears and genuine change of heart. There must be conviction of the sin, abandonment of the evil, confession of the error to properly constituted authorities of the Lord. There must be restitution and a confirmed, determined change of pace, direction and destination. Conditions must be controlled and companionship corrected or changed. There must be a washing of robes to get them white and there must be a new consecration and devotion to the living of all of the laws of God. In short, there must be an overcoming of self, of sin, and of the world." (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 353)