“The Lord Hath Heard the Prayers of His People”

This passage is perhaps the Book of Mormon’s most emotionally paradoxical. Men who are actively fighting against the church receive a powerful visitation while many men and women who are faithful for a lifetime never receive any manifestation so transcendentally powerful. This comparative approach might easily lead to discouragement, especially since it overlooks the telling fact that the visitation is not a reward, but rather a means of changing the dangerous life-course of these warriors against God. For those who serve faithfully, the ultimate blessing is the same. There is no eternal advantage to Alma2 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, with or without a powerful mortal witness. In fact, as the resurrected Christ assured Thomas, “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

The opposite pole of this emotional passage is the joy of a parent who learns that his prayers are effective on his child’s behalf. The visitation comes at the behest of the people and particularly of Alma1. While not all parental prayers are answered so dramatically, the fervent prayers of parents for their children, both faithful and wayward, are effective in the Lord’s 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 Ne. 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). 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). 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.
Brant Gardner -

Brant Gardner

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 3