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Book Review - Alma the Younger by H.B. Moore

It is a real challenge to write a novel around a story well-known in the scriptures because those who have read them have formed their own opinions. Most members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints know the story of Alma the Younger and that he was a rebellious son who broke from the traditions of his father and left the church. His father fasted and prayed and an angel intervened and saved his son.

I’ve often wondered why God answered this prayer in this way. Many parents have fasted and prayed over their wayward children, but I’ve never heard of an angel coming to their rescue. Why was such a dramatic intervention warranted in this case? What was so special about Alma the Younger that an angel was sent to save him?

Moore answers these questions in the preface of her book: “…what Alma the Younger was doing had such grave consequences and the potential to devastate an entire nation—thus thwarting the Lord’s plan—that extreme action was needed.” Her logic is backed up by writings of Hugh Nibley, a noted scholar of the Book of Mormon.  

After I read these explanations, I was looking forward to reading Moore’s view of this story. Here is the back liner of the book.

As night descends, a scarlet-robed man emerges from the temple and a hush falls over the waiting crowd. The hooded figure dares to preach rebellion from the very place where King Benjamin uttered his final blessings on the people of the Church. Defiling the tower with his very presence, the man who embodies evil raises a hand to silence the drums, then calls to his followers through the eerie quiet. And that’s when Alma realizes the terrible truth: this man is his son.

Alma the Younger, son of the aging high priest, once was taught by the wisdom of prophets. Now, ensnared by the wiles of strong drink and harlots, he’s a bitter dissenter determined to overthrow the Church and lead the people into new “freedoms.” But en route to one of his malicious missions with his royal henchmen, Alma is halted by an unexpected opponent: an angel of the Lord, a messenger of the very God he has sought to defame. What unfolds is a story of miraculous redemption, a story building on the poignant Book of Mormon account to show how even the vilest of sinners can be transformed by the Savior’s amazing grace.

Alma the Younger is a novel that follows a man who falls into the trap of listening to flattering words filled with half-truths to reason away his actions, of looking past what he knows is right in an effort to justify his need to rebel, and of a man who is saved by divine intervention and then devotes his life to God. As I read some passages tears clouded my vision as I felt the pain of parents worried and fearful for their beloved son and the bad decisions he’d made. I also felt Alma the Younger’s sorrow as he grieved over his sins. How I wish that every young adult tempted to leave the church could read this book, feel the pain of grieving parents, and understand the importance of maintaining their faith in God.

Alma the Younger’s journey of becoming a very wicked and an idolatrous man only to repent and become a prophet of God is truly inspiring. Moore’s view of him bought the story to life lending texture and details I had never thought of before. She had the mighty task of making the hero of the book turn into a villain and then into a hero once again.

And she did it masterfully.  

(Covenant Communications published this book. I was given a free book to review, and I did so only because I liked it.)

Kathi Oram Peterson is the mother of three, grandmother of two, and wife of one. She is the author of An Angel on Main Street and The Forgotten Warrior. Her new novel, The Stone Traveler, is soon to be released.

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