Perhaps the most emotionally paradoxical passage in the Book of Mormon is this.
Men who are actively fighting against the church receive a powerful visitation. There are many who are faithful in the church for a lifetime and never receive anything quite so transcendentally powerful as the experience of Alma theYounger and the sons of Mosiah.
It might be easy to be discouraged if one approaches the passage in this way. The visitation comes not as a reward, but as a rather dramatic means of changing lives. For those who serve faithfully it must be remembered that the ultimate blessing is the same. There is no eternal advantage to Alma the Younger for having this experience.
Faith in this life, and following the plan of the gospel will lead to the same rewards in the next world, even if we do not have such a powerful witness in this world. In fact, as the resurrected Christ noted to Thomas, those who may believe without having seen are blessed more greatly (John 20:29)
The opposite pole of this emotional passage is the joy of a parent to know that their prayers can be effective for their children. Note that the visitation comes at the behest of the people, and particularly of Alma the Elder. While not all parental prayers are answered so dramatically, there are any number of parents who are fervently praying for their children, both faithful and wayward. These prayers are effective in the Lords time.
Daniel H. Ludlow has commented on this aspect of this verse and the two that follow:
“The Lord has promised that if we ask in faith for that which is right, we shall receive. (3 Nephi 18:20.) However, he has not promised the manner or the time in which the prayer will be answered. When the angel appeared to Alma the younger and the four sons of Mosiah, the angel made it clear that he had not appeared to them because of their own worthiness. Rather, he said, "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." (Mosiah 27:14. Italics added.) Also the angel pled with them to repent of their sins and "seek to destroy the church no more" that the prayers of the righteous members of the church might be answered. (Mosiah 27:16. Italics added.) Evidently it was primarily because of the faithful prayers of Alma the elder and the other members of the church that the angel appeared to Alma the younger and the four sons of Mosiah.” (Ludlow, Daniel H. A Companion to your Study of the Book of Mormon. Deseret Book. 1976, p.192).