“My Soul Is Pained No More”
We all know the story of the conversion of Alma the Younger, but too rarely pause and ask the deeper questions that add richness and applicability to this narrative. Why did Alma want to destroy the Church? If God can send an angel ex machina to convince someone of their existence, why doesn’t that happen more often? What other lessons can we draw from Alma’s dramatic conversion?
Diana and Jacob join the class.
Class Member Reading: Mosiah 25-28; Alma 36
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You can access the Annotated Reading here (or PDF).
You can access the Lesson Notes here (or PDF).
Two further resources that some might find useful:
(1) In this lesson, you talk a lot about the trauma Alma the Y may have experienced as a child as a result of Alma the E taking a pacifist approach to Amulon’s persecutions. While you’re right that most of us don’t get broken out of traumatic cycles by literal angels, many do experience “little t” trauma that, at least according to some studies, is as severe or even more severe than “big t” Traumas (war, rape, death of a loved one). In one study, 64% of people experiencing PTSD symptoms had not experienced a “big T” Trauma, yet these people had significantly higher PTSD scores than the Big T group. http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/186/6/494.long One interpretation is: what constitutes trauma is highly specific to the individual.
(2) Much of the discussion also revolves around Alma’s fear of being held accountable for his actions, but suddenly losing this fear when he thinks of Christ. One reading I find powerful is Christ’s example of dying for people who did not deserve it woke Alma up not to his accountability, but to his *responsibility* to those he had injured. This may explain why he immediately begins restitution, and spends the rest of his life in self-conscious service. A remarkable Finnish proverb states, “Accountability is what is left when responsibility is taken away”. Perhaps it is this transition in perspective that leads to Alma’s conversion.
(2a) The proverb became the motto of the Finnish education system shortly before Finland went from ~25th to 1st in international testing
(2b) One of my favorite soteriologies posits that Christ did the atonement just so we would have a sufficiently dramatic story (to “show us the example”) to encourage better human behavior for the rest of history.
Jared Anderson says:
Such a valuable comment, thank you!