We’re going to tell you a lot about the young Alma over the next several stories. He spent his whole life trying to do good and to help others to be good. So you might think that there’s not much to talk about. If you are being good, and helping others to be good, then God will take care of you. Like a mother chicken who protects her baby chics. And so life will be safe and comfy and snuggly and maybe a little tickly because of all those feathers. But wait, remember Jesus? He was as good as good can be and yet things were not always easy for Jesus. Well they were not always easy for Alma’s son Alma either. So this is the story of a man who, even though he was good, had a hard life, like Jesus.
The young Alma followed in his father’s footsteps. He became the leader of the church. And he did such a great job that all the people said, “you should not just lead the church, but you should lead the government too!” And that is a very nice compliment. Young Alma had gone from being bad to being good, from being a nobody to being the most important leader. What a success story. We can end here and the story will be happy and inspiring. But it does not end here. It gets very sad.
Because after Alma became a leader, a man named Amlici tried to convince everyone that Alma was not a good leader and that everything would be much better if Amlici was their king instead. A lot of people agreed and a lot of people disagreed. And so everyone argued about what was the right thing to do. And there was fighting and death. But eventually Alma and his supporters won. Alma knew they had done the right thing but he was still very sad because people had died. And it was just the beginning of his sorrows.
Because even though they weren’t fighting anymore, Alma’s people were walking away from church. “We don’t need Jesus to be happy,” they said. “In fact, we’re happier without him.” And so Alma did a hard thing. He decided he couldn’t do a good job of leading the government and leading the church. So he decided he would just take care of the church. And the people voted for someone else to lead the government. And Alma put on his most comfortable walking sandals and he left home to go out on a mission to help everyone remember Jesus. It was a hard decision, but things were just going to get harder.
Because while he was out on his mission reminding people about Jesus, things didn’t go so well. Some cities listened, and that was wonderful. But some cities didn’t. And they threw him in jail instead. And some cities tried to do both at the same time. And this was the saddest of all. Because all the people who wanted to listen were thrown in jail and hurt and even killed by all the people who didn’t want to listen. They were hurt and killed right in front of Alma. And his eyes were wet and heavy like mountains after rain. And he cried and cried and cried because this was the hardest thing that had ever happened to him. To see all that evil and hate. His heart cracked all the way in two. And he had to go home, and be with people he loved for a little while. Because even though he was being good, his life was still very very very hard.
But even that was not easy. Because after his heart had been broken by the pain and suffering in the world, after he had watched people hate and hurt and kill each other, after he had walked all the way home, and his feet and his heart and his lips were all dry and cracked and bleeding, after all that, he received a letter.
The letter was from Ammon. Ammon was a friend of Alma’s. Ammon had gone on a mission just like Alma. Except, while Alma went to the cities of the Nephites, Ammon went to the cities of the Lamanties. And there was one other big difference. While Alma’s mission ended with little success and troves and troves of despair, Ammons mission ended with wild success and troves and troves of joy. Ammon had found and taught and loved and helped thousands and thousands of Lamanites. And those Lamanites listened, and loved Ammon back, and decided to trust Jesus forever and ever.
And while Alma was happy for Ammon and the people of Ammon, it must have been very hard for Alma to read at that moment. Because when you are very sad, it is natural to be jealous when someone else is very happy. But the letter was not over yet. Ammon had more to say.
The people who thought Alma was a bad leader had joined with some of the Lamanties and they were now trying to kill the people of Ammon. And so Alma was reminded that he was not an island. And neither was Ammon or the people of Ammon. Alma’s failures spread from him like ripples. And there was nothing he could do but watch them move and swell and grow and clash into other people. People he loved.
And Alma must have felt despair. Despair because he had a bad mission. Despair because Ammon had a good one. Despair because God did not make his life easier, even though he was good, even though he was trying very hard everyday to help other people be good.
But something wonderful happened. Because Alma loved Ammon he was vulnerable to his sorrows but also his joys. And Alma rejoiced and felt real joy because of Ammon’s joy. And Alma knew that Ammon’s people needed a safe place to live and he said, “My friend, I have missed you. Bring your people. They have a home here, and I will protect them.” And when Ammon and his people came, Alma gave them a city. And he sent his people to war to protect them and to defend everyone who believed in Jesus. And he did another amazing thing. During the war, he went on another mission, and another mission, and another mission. He just kept going on missions to teach people about Jesus.
And things never got much easier for Alma. Even though he was good and tried to be good, his life was full from top to bottom with hardship and sorrow. But there was also joy. Because he had friends and because he was a friend with Jesus. He was not alone. And with his friendships, he found that even in his darkest dark moments, there was still hope. And while hope was not joy or happiness it was something still radiant.
Hope, a definition:
Hope is a feathery thing because it is fragile and because it sings straight into your soul. And that song, if you listen, will crack open the windows of your heart so the sunshine can come in and flood through your whole body. And when you hope, those sunbeams will shine out from your eyes and your face so when you look at the world around you, things will not look so dark and hard and dismal as they did before.
But you should also know this: Alma was a man like Moses. And like Moses, his life was happy often, and hard often. And like Moses, he didn’t get to see how everything ended. And you should know this so that you understand what Alma means when he teaches us that faith is hoping for things we can’t see. Hoping that war will end, that the sunshine will come, that things will be easier—if not for you, then for your children. Hoping that your life brought some good into the world, or that your story will be redeemed. And so like Moses, Alma had a hard life, But he was a man of hope. And that made all the difference.
All artwork by Lauren Blair.
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