Disagreement is not Persecution
At first, the members of God's church begin to "murmur" because of "the persecutions which were inflicted on the church by the unbelievers." So King Mosiah put out some kind of official decree stating that people shouldn't persecute other religions and that everyone should be considered equal. By law, signs that said "Alma's Followers Need Not Apply" were banned.
But then we meet Alma's son, also named Alma, and the four sons of Mosiah, who (wisely) do not follow in the pious footsteps of their fathers. Verse 10 states that they tried "to destroy the church, and to lead astray the people of the Lord, contrary to the commandments of God, or even the king."
But the king's proclamation addressed persecution, inequality and, strangely, self-reliance. What did Alma and the sons of Mosiah do?
- spoke flattery unto the people (verse 8)
- led many of the people to do iniquity (verse 8)
- hindered the prosperity of the church by stealing away the hearts of its members (verse 9)
- caused dissension among the members (verse 9)
- gave the enemy of God a chance to exercise his power over the people (verse 9)
- tried to destroy the church by leading away its members (verse 10)
None of that is persecution. None of it is even illegal, depending on what iniquities they got the people to commit. Did they burn down member's homes? Did they tar and feather the church leaders? Did they murder any of the members or try to drive them out of town? No. They just disagreed with the church and told people why. But, interestingly enough, Mormonism appears to have suffered from an overdeveloped sensitivity to persecution for more than two thousand years.
I Don't Deserve an Angel
Eventually, while Alma and the sons of Mosiah were out destroying family values and such, an angel appeared to them to tell them to give it a rest:
Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.
What a horrible verse. It either implies that church leaders can get God to force a testimony into their wayward children's hearts or that enough faith can get God to force a testimony into a wayward child's heart. I hate to think of my parents reading this verse. I wonder if they think that I'm still against the church simply because they haven't had enough faith or they haven't prayed hard enough for God to change my heart. That's horrible. Joseph Smith is inflicting psychological torture on my parents from beyond the grave.
If enough faith or faith from the right leaders is what it takes to summon an angel to put the fear of God back into an apostate, then why hasn't an angel appeared to Steve Benson? Or Park Romney?
Knowing Something False
The angel's voice shook the earth, and that seemed to be one of the major selling points for its legitimacy as a messenger from God:
And now Alma and those that were with him fell again to the earth, for great was their astonishment; for with their own eyes they had beheld an angel of the Lord; and his voice was as thunder, which shook the earth; and they knew that there was nothing save the power of God that could shake the earth and cause it to tremble as though it would part asunder.Nothing, that is, beyond earthquakes and volcanoes and such. I guess you could make the argument that those things are simply a manifestation of the power of God, but that would make God kind of destructive and murderous, wouldn't it?
Alma Pulls a Publicity Stunt
Alma the Younger basically lapses into a coma after the angel leaves. When the sons of Mosiah explain to what happened, Alma the Elder is overjoyed, but rather than staying by his son's bedside during his recovery, he gathers a multitude to watch. Because that is what any loving father would do--prepare a massive audience so that when his seriously injured son wakes up, everyone is there to hear him say, "Dad, you were right and I was wrong."
Alma wakes up with a surprising level of lucidity and eloquence. He speaks to the people about his experience and the truthfulness of the gospel, reminds them that they need to be reborn from their sinful state, and explains that if they don't repent then they're totally screwed.
Honestly, this reads as less of a story of redemption than it does as a publicity stunt pulled by an old preacher desperate to revitalize his failing religion. But it works--because of Alma the Younger's dramatic rebirth and subsequent teaching in the company of Mosiah's converted sons, Alma the Elder gets more butts in the pews and more senines in the coffers.
Well played, Almas.