“In the Most Bitter Pain and Anguish of Soul”

The death theme continues in verse 13 with the torment with the pains of hell, a phrase typically reserved for conditions after death. Nevertheless, this is a symbolic death, and the anguish of recognition of sin is upon Alma fully. The important aspect of this pain for sin is that it falls into the category of Godly sin, that which ushers a change in our spiritual person.

We have an unusual phrase in verse 14 where Alma states that he “had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction…” We don’t have enough information to understand precisely the meaning here, but the qualification after the admission of “murder” strongly suggests that we should not see the word “murder” as a literal admission of having committed that crime. Alma give us an “or rather” that is much less shocking that murder, and much more understandable for the nature of his rebellion, for his crime was to lead people away from the truth, not to kill them.

What we appear to have here is someone who so fully understands the gap between God and the unrepentant soul that he fears that his actions of leading people astray may have affected them eternally. If their place in heaven is destroyed, Alma’s emotion-wrought response is to over emphasize the problem and claim the sin of murder – not in actuality, but in eternal potential. This understanding of his role in the possible eternal damnation of many led him to a further understanding of his precise position before God, a position that was so painful in the recognition that he preferred becoming “extinct both soul and body.”

Brant Gardner -

Brant Gardner

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon