By H.B. Moore
Years ago I read an observation made by President Hinckley's wife, Marjorie, that went something like this: “Poor, Mrs. Moroni . . .” It impacted me deeply because I had never before given a thought to the anonymous wife of brave Captain Moroni, let alone to the sacrifices she unquestionably must have made as she endured her husband’s years of military service.
The scriptures are filled with people and events recorded with brief mentions that slide under our spiritual-radar, failing to entice us to study further. But there is hope, and help.
Lifting Book of Mormon characters from the typed page, and breathing life into them, is two-time Whitney Award-winning author, H.B. Moore’s, forte. ALMA, her current novel, extracted from the pages of the Book of Mormon, picks up where ABINADI, her previous Whitney-winning novel, leaves off, vividly bringing Alma’s world to life—illuminating the settings, stories, sacrifices and support characters essential to understanding this remarkable prophet-leader and missionary, and thereby helping readers place the beautiful lessons and principles from the scriptures into dazzling context.
There are, of course, aspects of the stories that are, by necessity, speculative. But Moore’s treatment of Alma’s story exhausts the resources obtainable from the Book of Mormon account, and then she fleshes out the story using research gleaned from noteworthy LDS religious scholars—experts on Meso-American and Hebrew cultures—who also lend their endorsement to her work. Her research is sound, her informational leaps are plausible, and the resulting stories are compelling as the reader is drawn into the pivotal scenes of Alma’s life. They experience his profound regret over his years as a priest in King Noah’s court, his sorrow and guilt over Abinadi’s martyrdom, his deep humility as he begins his mission, and his self-sacrificing commitment to protect the faithful who risk everything to follow the teachings of Christ Abinadi gave his life to impart.
Women will be particularly drawn to the tender family element that runs through the book, but all gospel scholars should feel increasingly connected to Alma and his band of believers who risked death to follow the doctrine of Christ. I have read the account of the baptisms Alma performed at the Waters of Mormon, as recorded in Mosiah 18, many times, but those verses were never more personal to me than they were after reading and pondering Moore’s description of the terror that threatened the believers as they fled the Land of Nephi seeking baptism at Alma’s hands. Suddenly, Alma’s words ring with compassion over the suffering and sacrifice of these new converts, and for me, they now echo that same compassion to everyone who has sacrificed for, or served to bring to pass, the gospel of Christ.
Moore’s description of the suffering and deliverance of Alma’s followers under the despot Amulon’s rule was another story that leapt off the pages for me, becoming more personal and intimate through Moore’s delicate storytelling. No longer mere characters on a page, we are more able to identify with them, and therefore their trials and deliverance carries renewed power and hope for those who suffer in every age.
H.B. Moore’s ALMA does not replace pure scripture study; Moore would be the first to say that. And first-time readers of the Book of Mormon may be wise to avoid confusion by identifying scriptural characters from the fictional ones before jumping in. But reading ALMA will enhance its readers’ connection to, and appreciation for, the people whose accounts make up the Book of Mormon, and teachers and parents will find it an outstanding springboard for discussions on the characteristics of disciples of Christ.
ALMA’s three-dimensional glimpse into the lives of this great prophet and his followers is a book I recommend to Book of Mormon students of every age. Published by Covenant, H.B. Moore’s ALMA is available wherever LDS books are sold.