We have spent some time talking about Alma and his sad life. Isn’t it about time to move on and talk about someone who had a happy life? No, not yet. First we have to talk about the saddest part of Alma’s sad life. Because when things are really sad, something happens to people. They break. They break like a shelled nut. Either they crumble to pieces and the nut and the shell get all mixed together and it is almost impossible to tell which is which, or else they crack wide open and reveal their deepest secret.
We each have a deep secret we carry in our heart. And this is a story about Alma’s secret. So let’s begin this sad sad sad sad story. And let’s begin with a man named Amulek. Amulek lived in a city called Ammonihah. He had a nice house with trees in the backyard. On weekends he probably sat in the shade and drank chocolate milk as he watched his friends and family go by. It was a good place to live. Because any place is a good place to live if you are living there with people you love. And he loved his friends and his family.
But his life was about to change. In a good way and in a very very bad way. Because life is not simple. And what is good and right is not simple. And doing what is good and right can be very hard. Amulek was about to learn this because Alma was about to show up.
There he is, wearing those walking sandals. He is coming up over a hill. Amulek can see him now because Amulek is out enjoying his chocolate milk. They have never met before. Complete strangers to one another. But Amulek is startled. Because guess what? He recognizes the man. How can he recognize a man he has never met before?
Well, Amulek had a dream. And in his dream an angel introduced him to Alma. So even though they had never met, Amulek knew him. And Amulek felt scared because that is a strange way to meet a stranger. But he also knew that the man was a holy man and that he should take care of him.
Alma was poor, tired, hungry, so Amulek took Alma to his house. “Here is my home,” he said, as he poured him a glass of chocolate milk. “Be comfortable here. Here is my bed. Rest a while.” And Amulek and his family cared for Alma, and Alma taught Amulek and his family about Jesus. And they listened to Alma, and decided to believe him and trust Jesus.
And when Alma was strong again, he and Amulek went out into the streets and markets of Ammonihah to teach the people there about Jesus. But things didn’t go so well. Some people listened like Amulek and his family. But most people did not. “Repent and be happy,” Alma said, and the people laughed. And so Alma tried harder. “Repent or burn in a lake of fire and brimstone,” Alma said. And the people listened, but not in a good way. They were angry. “Who are you,” they said, “to tell us what to do. You are not our king or our judge anymore. You are just Alma. And you are making us upset.”
This is understandable because no one wants to be burned in a lake of fire. And whatever brimstone is, I’m pretty sure nobody wants to burn in that either. Because burning is hot and painful and terrible to think about. But what the people did next is very hard to understand. It is something remarkably bad. Because they were scared of fire and brimstone, they let that fear break them. And they broke in pieces. They said, “We will show you. We will not listen to you and we will not burn. We will burn you instead, and anyone who believes you.”
And they took the women and the children who believed in Jesus and made them walk into the fire. And they forced Alma to watch. And Amulek had to watch too. He had to watch some of his friends and his family walk into a big blazing fire. And he cried and cried as his city broke open and revealed a terrible secret. It was a bad place. A place where people burned in fire and brimstone. A place like hell.
And Alma wept for the people and for Amulek. And Amulek wept and wept and cried and cried and thought he would never be happy again. Nothing was beautiful anymore, not his city, not the trees, not the earth, not the wind, not the fire, not food, not chocolate milk, not anything.
He would not be happy for a long time. He was not happy when he was put in prison instead of killed. He was not happy when God toppled the prison walls. He was not happy when he walked out of the city safe and sound. Even when he started to preach about Jesus again, he was still not happy.
And Alma looked and saw that Amulek was holding a hidden wound still bleeding deep in his heart. Alma held it too. And so Alma carried Amulek to his own home in Zarahemla. “Here is my home,” he said. “Be comfortable here. Here is my bed. Rest a while.” And Alma brought Amulek food, and medicine, and sunlight, and he loved him and cared for him. Because Amulek was wounded. Because Amulek needed those things. He was breaking open and revealed his deepest secret.
And this was his secret. He was a full grown man but he was still like a little baby. And he was like a baby because he was helplessly in need of love. And not a little bit of love. Not occasional love. Not love for being good. Not love in exchange for love, like trading toys. But love in exchange for nothing. He needed big love. Love that was unending. Love that sat next to him and said nothing. Love that hugged him. Love that had flesh and bones. Love that could feel his loss and his pain and cry with him. Love that he could no longer receive from a father or a mother, love he needed from a friend. And Alma was that friend.
And Alma nurtured Amulek with love until Amulek learned to hold it in his own chest again, until he could learn all over again to breathe cool clean air in and out. Until he could begin to trust again that there is hope, and that there is glorious good to be had in the world, even though there is also evil.
Alma and Amulek had broken open. They were forever changed. It is in the moments that we see the worst our kind can do, the times that we realize the darkest darknesses are not always just imaginary, that our understanding of the world shatters. And when we put it back together, it will look different than it did before. It must. And after Ammonihah, Alma never spoke the word fire again, never threatened sinners with the burning lake of brimstone. It was something he would never ask anyone to imagine. Because he learned that God does not burn people. People burn people.
And he had learned that men, even if they look big and strong are just like children, desperately in need of love. That he himself, was in need of love. And that’s what made him like a child. But he was also capable of sharing and spreading love. And that’s what made him like a man.
All artwork by Lauren Blair.
If you are enjoying our stories, the best thing you can do to support us is to follow our blog, and tell your friends about us. We post new content every week, keeping up with Come Follow Me. We’d love to have you along for the ride!
Also, check out our new store to get some of your favorite artwork from our stories into your own homes.