Rarely do the scriptures give a more poignant description of the pains of the damned soul than is found in these verses. The language tries to convey a pain that is incomprehensible except to those who have experienced it. Alma says, I was racked with eternal torment…racked with all my sins…tormented with the pains of hell…the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror…that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body…I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins.
Alma was suffering the pains of eternal torment. Of this torment the Lord has explained, Eternal punishment is God’s punishment (DC 19:11). The emotional, physical, and spiritual pain comes from the knowledge that one has rebelled against a just God. As Moroni reminds us:
Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws?
Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, that ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell.
For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of god, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you (Mormon 9:3-5).
This is why Alma explained that the very though of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror. That sense of horror will be felt by all those who have rebelled against the Lord and broken his commandments. The irony is that all this pain and suffering is completely and entirely avoidable. All of it can be avoided with the simple plan of faith, repentance, and baptism. The other option for the wicked is to reign with the devil and his angels in eternity, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, which is their torment—And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows…Nevertheless, I, the Lord, show it by vision unto many, but straightway shut it up again; Wherefore, the end, the width, the height, the depth, and the misery thereof, they understand not, neither any man except those who are ordained unto this condemnation (DC 76:44-48).
Alma tasted only a portion of that pain spoken of. The scriptures are clear that no one fully understands unless they have experienced it. Thus, those who have seen this torment in vision still don’t know the height, the depth, and the misery thereof. The early missionaries in England were shown what it would be like for the damned souls of hell when they witnessed a brief vision of the evil spirits which had joined forces to destroy the work. Heber C. Kimball gives a brief but vivid description of what he saw:
"We could distinctly see the evil spirits, who foamed and gnashed their teeth at us. We gazed upon them about an hour and a half (by Willard [Richards’s] watch)…We saw the devils coming in legions, with their leaders, who came within a few feet of us. They came towards us like armies rushing to battle. They appeared to be men of full stature, possessing every form and feature of men in the flesh, who were angry and desperate; and I shall never forget the vindictive malignity depicted on their countenances as they looked me in the eye; and any attempt to paint the scene which then presented itself, or portray their malice and enmity, would be vain.
“I perspired exceedingly, my clothes becoming as wet as if I had been taken out of the river. I felt excessive pain, and was in the greatest distress for some time. I cannot even look back on the scene without feelings of horror; yet by it I learned the power of the adversary, his enmity against the servants of God and got some understanding of the invisible world. We distinctly heard those spirits talk and express their wrath and hellish designs against us. However, the Lord delivered us from them, and blessed us exceedingly that day.” (Heroes of the Restoration, p. 64-5)