When I made the decision to write stories based on the Book of Mormon I wanted to do some short writing exercises. These exercises would use characters from the book and portray at least a portion of a familiar story. One of the first exercises I did was the story of Alma the Elder. Priest of the wicked king Noah and sole convert of the prophet Abinadai.
Naturally this story turned into something a lot longer than I wanted to tackle at the time, but it did give me some insight into how I wanted to tackle a few things. Things like: voice, character, dialogue and how to structure character relationships.
One decision I’ve struggled with is whether I want to tell these stories from the point of view of the main characters. Do I want to try and get into the mind of Alma or Nephi? Or do I want to use solely secondary characters who are witnesses to the story? It’s something I have gone back and forth on in my mind. I don’t want to be presumptuous in saying that I know what these great men were thinking, but at the same time I want to show readers that they aren’t that much different than the average Joe either.
In either case, the following is an excerpt from the story I wrote about Alma and his conversion. The most interesting thing I discovered as I wrote this was the fact that at the beginning of the story Alma is much like his son, in that his thoughts and intentions were not very godly. I hadn’t considered that before and regarded it a new insight.
Whether or not this passage will make into the final draft in some form remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it’s here for your enjoyment.
The king was looking at his land from his tower near the temple. Noah was a large man. Some may have called him fat, but Alma knew that the bulk of his weight was from muscle. He was dressed in clothing not so regal as he wore when attending court, but still well made and in pleasing colors. As usual he wore his crown, though one of his smaller versions, a little lighter and easier for his frequent excursions, though still decorated with gold and carvings and adorned with the bright plumage of many of the birds that inhabited the land round about. He was surrounded, as always, by two serving girls dressed in thin dresses that lay open in the front enough that Alma could see a hint of tempting breast. A small number of his priests, including Amulon, a rough featured man with a beard that fanned across his chest, was near his king and was followed closely by the other present men of God. Amulon was the leader of the priestly order and a close confidant of King Noah. It always amazed Alma, being newly initiated into the order, at how much power and influence Amulon had. At times it was questionable as to who was really ruling the kingdom, Noah or Amulon.
Young prince Limhi was also with the group. Here is an interesting character, thought Alma. He supported his father in all the decisions he made when it came to administering the kingdom. But his greatest downfall was that Limhi refused to participate in the lifestyle his father had built. He withstood it on the moral grounds that what his father was doing was wrong, according to ancient laws set forth by long dead men. Prophets he called them. Alma supposed that it might be a quaint idea, but it was so outdated that it really was of no consequence.
Also with them was a contingent of guards, who seemed to always be nearby, especially after the last Battle with the Lamanites. One of the guards was a tall man, nearly a head taller than Alma himself. He wore the insignia painted on his leather breastplate that marked him as captain of the guard. Gideon, he thought his name was. Gideon’s eyes never stopped moving, as if he expected an attack from anywhere, at any time. His companions were no less alert as they were stationed around the perimeter of the tower.
Alma was attired in his priestly robes. He never left his home dressed in any other clothing. Long and darkly dyed they hung to his ankles and were decorated with a maze pattern along the hems and cuffs. On top of his head balanced a short, conical hat that helped identify him as a priest, consecrated and set apart by the king to teach the people. It had only been a few years ago that Alma had been called as a priest and became a member of the elite in the land. It was very much a life that he loved and he saw nothing wrong with it.
Certainly there were those in the kingdom who disagreed with the lifestyle that he led as a priest, but all the priests, and even the king, were deserving of the privelege that they enjoyed. It was their right as leaders and rulers of the people to live the lives that they desired. And what matter if the lives they desired consisted of drinking wine and enjoying the company of willing women each night. As long as their civic responsibilities were performed and the people were taken care of they had the right to live life as they saw fit. Alma smiled as he reflected back on his companion of last night. So soft. So willing. And she had really enjoyed the fact that he was one of the king’s priests. Had truly gone the extra mile because of that.
“Look at what I have created since he passed away.”
Alma did look. It was truly a magnificent site. From here at the top of King Noah’s tower he had had built, you could see for miles, almost to the land of their fathers, Zarahemla, it seemed. As he stepped closer to the edge of the tower he saw the temple to his left, a giant structure, reaching almost to the height of the tower, that had existed for more than a hundred years. Built when the Nephites first had inhabited this land, when Mosiah the First had built the city and the walls surrounding it. They had erected this temple to God. Noah had improved it, adding decorations in gold and silver and made it a truly magnifcent edifice, worthy of the God for which it was built.
Looking west Alma could see into the next valley, the valley of Shilom. The tower on which he stood was located in the valley of Lehi-Nephi. This valley and the valley of Shilom were the extent of Noah’s kingdom. And though small it was rich in natural resources, allowing fine clothing, jewelry and other luxuries to be crafted by artisans who lived in the kingdom.
“He could have been so much more. He could have built so much more.” Noah lifted a gold plated goblet from a nearby stone wall and drank deeply, some wine spilling out the sides of his lips and staining his clothes. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “But he knew not the strength of the Nephites. He came groveling to the Lamanite king asking permission to live in these lands. These lands! These lands that were Nephite lands before the Lamanites stole them from us.”
“Indeed, my lord,” said Amulon. “But you have saved us with your strength and cunning.The Lamanite armies cannot hope to overcome the armies that you have built.”
Noah eyed Amulon silently for a few moments. “You are right, my friend.” He raised his goblet into the air and said more loudly “To the strength of our armies!”
“And their king,” added Amulon.
Those present raised their goblets and murmured what Alma could only think were words of agreement, as his were, and took large swallows of the wine. The wine was good, but not as good as the vintages that were served in the palace. For a moment Alma regretted not being there now. Better wine and there was a serving girl he had has his eye on for some time now. Perhaps today he would take her into his bed. Patience, he told himself, you will soon be back in the palace and be able to indulge yourself. He smiled at the thought and took another sip of wine.