All of us, from time to time, become subject to feelings of separation and disconnection from our roots and our home. In many respects, life is an experience in finding our way repeatedly back home to the familiar shores of our sustaining connections. This is particularly true when our detours and separations occur because of wayward behavior and sin. The Savior’s parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32) recounts the anxiety that besets a family when a loved one chooses to depart from the strait pathways. The parable also celebrates the joy that attends a homecoming after unfortunate choices have led not only to separation but also to anguish. Alma’s reprieve of the agony of his repentance is captured in this verse: “I say unto you, unless this be the case, they must be cast off; and this I know, because I was like to be cast off” (Mosiah 27:27).
This theme about the peril of being “cast off” occurs again and again in the Book of Mormon. In fact, the expression “cast off” occurs fourteen times in the narrative text and once in the title page. It is in this last instance that the recurring theme of being “cast off” is used in the context of the fourfold purpose of the Book of Mormon: “Which is to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.”
It becomes clear that “not cast off” is the equivalent of having hope for spiritual deliverance and thus eventual everlasting reunion with the Lord and the hosts of heaven. With this understanding, we could restate the elements in the purpose of the Book of Mormon. In essence, Moroni entreats us to learn these four things: what great things the Lord has done for our forefathers, how the covenant promises apply to us personally today, and how we can have hope for the future (i.e., not be “cast off”)—all because of the merits, mercy, and grace of the atoning Redeemer, even Jesus Christ.
It is inspiring to discover how these four interrelated elements recur throughout the Book of Mormon. Thus in Alma’s experience of transforming change and repentance, the angel reminds him to “remember the captivity of thy fathers … and how great things he has done for them; for they were in bondage, and he has delivered them” (Mosiah 27:16). He is thus reminded of what his father, the elder Alma, had doubtless rehearsed to him many times before, having himself learned this truth from the Lord firsthand: “Thou art my servant; and I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life; and thou shalt serve me and go forth in my name, and shalt gather together my sheep” (Mosiah 26:20). It is through the intervention of the angel and the agony of remorse that Alma the Younger discovers a buoyant spiritual hope. And, finally, he anchors all of his newly discovered truths on the sure foundation of his testimony of Jesus Christ because of what he experienced even while he was still being “racked with torment” and “harrowed up by the memory” of his many sins. He later recounted this event to his son Helaman: “Behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more” (Alma 36:17–19).
Having been launched into his ministry by this remarkable conversion, Alma thereafter spends all his days preaching of the Savior, reminding the people of the goodness of God to their fathers, guiding them to honor their covenants, and inspiring them with the hope of eternal life. (Richard J. Allen)