Here is a great tragedy—the offspring of noble and righteous men turn against the principles espoused of their fathers and go their own rebellious and destructive way. Alma the Elder, a former member of King Noah’s notorious court, has a personal understanding of the transition from a state of ungodliness to a state of penitent spirituality. He has freely confessed his shadowy background to the congregants who have gathered in self-imposed exile in the wilderness: “But remember the iniquity of King Noah and his priests; and I myself was caught in a snare, and did many things which were abominable in the sight of the Lord, which caused me sore repentance” (Mosiah 23:9). In a remarkable foreshadowing of the life of his future son, Alma, he adds: “Nevertheless, after much tribulation, the Lord did hear my cries, and did answer my prayers, and has made me an instrument in his hands in bringing so many of you to a knowledge of his truth” (Mosiah 23:10).
Alma the Younger is a member of the rising, free-spirited generation at Zarahemla who have not personally witnesses the extraordinary teachings of King Benjamin and thus are not aligned with the spiritual traditions of the prophet-kings (Mosiah 26:1–4). He and his colleagues, the sons of Mosiah, are renegades. Their injurious behavior draws many from the fountain of truth (see Mosiah 27:8–9). Years later, the reformed and valiant Alma characterizes his earlier behavior in strong terms before his son Helaman: “Yea, and I had murdered many of [God’s] children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror” (Alma 36:14).
In two of the most compelling spiritual “come back” stories in the scriptures, the two Almas provide persuasive testimony that an influence of darkness can be transformed into an influence of overwhelming light through repentance and faith grounded in “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8).