So, with all their good intentions, was it easy for the missionaries to convert some Lamanites? No. They became depressed and wanted to go back home (compare Helaman 13:2–3; Samuel, the Lamanite prophet, wanted to go back home, too). But the Lord comforted them. To his servants, especially, he does send the Comforter. He gave them specific instruction, which applies to every missionary (and to every Latter-day Saint): “Bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.” The Lord was not kidding about the afflictions; notice in verses 28–30 what kinds of privations and afflictions they had to endure. Also, refer to the commentary at Alma 7:5 for a reminder of an eternal principle: success, blessings, and joy seem to inevitably follow only after afflictions, sorrows, and tribulation. Salvation never was easy; look at the life of Jesus, and the life of Joseph Smith, and the life of every true prophet and Saint.
Alma 26 vividly describes vintage missionary life. Of this very story Elder F. Burton Howard of the Seventy wrote: “No one but a missionary could have written this story. Joseph Smith could never have known what it was like to be a missionary to the Lamanites, for no one he knew had ever done such a thing before.” 38
Leona B. Gates put the message of Alma 26 into beautiful verse, under the title “In His Steps”:
The road is rough, I said,
Dear Lord, there are stones that hurt me so.
And he said, Dear child, I understand,
I walked it long ago.
But there is a cool green path, I said,
Let me walk there for a time.
No, child, He gently answered me,
The green road does not climb.
My burden, I said, is far too great;
How can I bear it so?
My child, said he, I remember weight.
I carried my cross, you know.
But, I said, I wish there were friends with me
Who would make my way their own.
Ah, yes, he said, Gethsemane
Was hard to face alone.
And so I climbed the stony path,
Content at last to know
That where my Master had not gone
I would not need to go.
And strangely then I found new friends;
The burden grew less sore
As I remembered—long ago
He [walked this] way before.39