14 And it came to pass that while he was journeying thither, being weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people who were in the city of Ammonihah, it came to pass while Alma was thus weighed down with sorrow, behold an angel of the Lord appeared unto him, saying:
15 Blessed art thou, Alma; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from him. Behold, I am he that delivered it unto you.
16 And behold, I am sent to command thee that thou return to the city of Ammonihah, and preach again unto the people of the city; yea, preach unto them. Yea, say unto them, except they repent the Lord God will destroy them.
After attempting to preach in the city of Ammonihah and being “reviled,” “spit upon,” and “cast out,” Alma began traveling to the city of Aaron (Alma 8:13). But while he was traveling, an angel appeared to him, commanding him to return to Ammonihah. What prompted this appearance by the angel?
Earlier this month, I wrote about the importance of pondering as a preparation for receiving revelation. Nephi saw a vision as he sat pondering on his father’s teachings. Could it be that Alma’s sorrow served the same purpose that Nephi’s pondering did: preparing his mind and his heart to receive revelation from God? I think it did.
Twice in the passage above, Mormon tells us that Alma was “weighed down with sorrow.” He also says that Alma was “wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul.” Alma had already left the city. The inhabitants were no longer persecuting him. He was experiencing tribulation because he loved those people and was deeply concerned about their welfare.
Just as his father was promised eternal life after praying on behalf of sinners, Alma received this visit from an angel as he mourned for the inhabitants of Ammonihah, who had refused to listen to him. When we feel genuine love for other people, their unrighteous behavior causes us pain because we know it will cause unhappiness. Those feelings of sorrow on their behalf bring us closer to God, who also feels sorrow when He sees His children doing wrong. (See Moses 7:28-41.)
Today, I will love the people around me. Even when that love leads to sorrow for their unrighteous decisions, I will open my heart to those feelings. I will recognize that feelings of sorrow on behalf of other people can bring me closer to God.