“They Might Witness What the Lord Had Done for His Son”

Brant Gardner

Alma1 foresees that his son will make dramatic atonement for his actions against the church. Rather than being the church’s persecutor, Alma2 will be its healer and builder. Alma1 therefore assembles a multitude to keep vigil and requests that the priests fast and pray for his son’s recovery. That Alma1 assembled the multitude first shows his faith in Yahweh. The people would see the transformation from powerful persecutor to complete invalid, then the transformation back from utter helplessness to restored life.

Alma2 has been fighting against the teaching of the Atoning Messiah who, according to prophecy, will die and be resurrected. Dramatically, Alma2 becomes the visual symbol of (spiritual) death and resurrection. As the Messiah before death was mortal and subject to the world (as Alma2 had proved to be), after resurrection, the Messiah (and Alma2) would belong to Yahweh. While Alma2 was certainly not resurrected as a god, his tremendous transformation revealed him as new person, a powerful advocate for the church he had once persecuted.

This possible resurrection theme provides context for the difference between the experiences of Alma2 and Saul. Where Saul is blinded (perhaps symbolic of his prior refusal to “see” the reality of Jesus as Savior), Alma2 is debilitated. Alma2’s experience symbolizes his particular apostasy.

Culture: The separation of the multitude and the priests demonstrates that the priests were considered a different social group from the “multitude.” They were specially appointed to their roles and performed specific functions in behalf of the multitude. Their separate action highlights both their difference, and their function as servants to the multitude in the performance of religious ritual.

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