Most members of the church are quite familiar with the conversion story of Alma the Younger as found in Alma chapter 36 of the Book of Mormon.  It is a beautiful conversion story which provides a great example of a few steps of the repentance process.  It may also be a favorite story for many parents who have a wayward child that they hope will someday return to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It seems to me that this story, as written, could also be read as an example of Calvinist beliefs in action.  To illustrate this I would like to highlight what I see as key points of this conversion story:

- Alma the younger is a vile sinner, who is hanging out with his vile friends, who are minding their vile business.

- An angel comes along and tells them to knock it off.

- Alma is so shocked by this that he falls to the earth as if he were dead for a few days.

- While he is out, he experiences great guilt for his sins.

- He then remembers the teachings of his father, and calls out to God for mercy.

- He feels great joy.

- He comes around and lives a life of righteous service.

- He is now on his way to eternal life.

I see much of this, as presented, as being somewhat Calvinist in its nature.  Alma is a vile sinner who apparently shows no merit from himself for having such a conversion.  We learn in another place that his father had been praying for him, but we are not told of any ‘worthiness’ from Alma the younger.  Alma the younger is presented as someone who appears to be totally depraved.

God sends an angel to Alma the younger.  Why him?  Why not somebody else?  Do not other parents pray for their children without angels coming around?  It looks like God has chosen Alma the younger as someone to save for his own reasons.  This looks like an unconditional election.

Alma the younger does not seem to have all that much choice in the matter.  He can either continue to suffer the pains of a damned soul, or plead for mercy.  Some choice.  This could be a type of irresistible grace.

Alma the younger confidently declares that he knows he will join God in glory.  This sounds like the perseverance of a saint.

So this story appears to present four of the five tenants of Calvinism.  This disturbs me because I dismiss Calvinism as a set of false doctrines, and I view Mormonism, in part, as a rejection of, or at least alternative to, Calvinism.  It makes me feel uneasy.  So what am I to make of this Alma the younger story?  Here are my current thoughts:

- We are not getting the full story.  This is a short chapter.  Perhaps there was much more to the repentance and reformation of Alma the younger than we are getting.  This entire chapter is a chiasmus.  Perhaps this story is more religious poetry than detailed doctrine.

- The most important point of a chiasmus is generally the ‘peak’, and this one is no exception.  The peak of this story is Alma calling out for mercy from God.  This is the source for a remission of sins.   But we should not forget about the foundation of this chiasmus.  What Alma the younger tells his son Helaman in the first and last verse of this chapter is to obey the commandments.  That is the direct instruction Alma gives to his son.  That appears to be the action Alma wants him to take as a result of this story.  Helaman is not to hang around and hope for a miraculous heart change lottery, but to obey the commandments.  Alma seems to want his son to avoid this type of experience.  I believe this is also an important part, and is what makes this story more complete, and more Mormon.

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