In considering the life and circumstances of Alma the Younger, one finds striking parallels between him and another great leader, one whose life and teachings are recounted in the New Testament, the apostle Paul. Besides the fact that both men became mighty missionaries and leaders in Christ's Church, Alma and Paul (known at first as Saul) are similar in these respects:
Both were very skillful, talented and influential.
Alma was "a man of many words" who "did speak much flattery to the people; therefore, he led many of the people to do after the manner of his iniquities." (Mosiah 27:8.)
Saul was a pupil of Gamaliel and thus was "taught according to the perfect manner of the law" of Judaism. (Acts 22:3.) His power and influence were such that he could seek authorization from the chief priests to imprison the followers of Jesus Christ. (See Acts 9:1-2.)
Both Alma and Saul, in their earlier lives, persecuted the followers of Christ, though Alma did it illegally while Saul's actions had official sanction.
Alma "became a great hinderment to the prosperity of the Church of God; stealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his power over them.
". . . He did go about secretly with the sons of Mosiah seeking to destroy the Church." (Mosiah 27:9-10.)
"As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison." (Acts 8:3.)
Alma and Saul each received a divine manifestation which resulted in their conversion to the gospel of Christ.
Alma, in the company of the sons of Mosiah, was visited by an angel who, speaking for the Lord, called him to repentance. (See Mosiah 27:11-16.)
Christ Himself appeared to Saul and called him to repentance. (See Acts 9:3-6.)
Both Alma and Saul were afflicted as a result of the powerful manifestations they received, which afflictions were followed by their respective conversions to the gospel. In each case, the affliction lasted three days.
Alma tells graphically of his affliction in Alma 36:6-26, wherein he reports, "For three days and for three nights I was racked, even with the pains of a damned soul." (Verse 16.) Both his torment and the joy he felt when he cried to Jesus for mercy were extremely exquisite. (See verse 21.)
Saul was without sight for three days and neither ate nor drank during that time. (See Acts 9:9.) After being healed, he was baptized and began to preach the gospel. (See Acts 9:18-20.)
In each case, a righteous man was an instrument in God's hands in bringing about the recovery and conversion of Alma and Saul.
For Alma, the righteous instrument was his father, Alma, who "prayed with much faith" concerning his wicked son that he might be brought to the knowledge of the truth. (See Mosiah 27:14.) After his son was afflicted, Alma called all the priests together to join him in fasting that his son might speak, that he might regain his strength, and that the people might know of God's goodness and glory. (See Mosiah 27:20-23.)
In the case of Saul, Christ called Ananias to minister to and heal him. (See Acts 9:10-18.)
In the cases of both Alma and Saul, their earlier pride led them to seek to destroy the Church of Christ, but they each learned great humility that helped them to be content in their allotted circumstances.
Alma acknowledged: "I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me. . . . Why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?" (Alma 29:3-6.)
And Paul wrote: "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." (Philippians 4:11-12.)
The stories of Alma and Paul illustrate that dramatic change can come into the lives of even those who persecute the saints and fight against God. The phrase applied to Paul in Acts 9:15 is equally appropriate for both: Alma and Paul were each "a chosen vessel" unto God.