One of the most powerful discourses on the topic of repentance is recorded in the 36th chapter of Alma. Alma recounts to his son Helaman how he and the sons of Mosiah had gone about in their youth "seeking to destroy the church of God." (V. 6.) Alma tells of his conversion after having been visited by an angel.
Few passages have such a potent description of the pains of a damned soul:
"But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.
"Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments. . . . so great had been my iniquities that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror. . . .
"And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul." (Alma 36:13-16.)
Alma told Helaman that as he was "harrowed up by the memory" of his many sins, he remembered hearing his father prophesy of Jesus Christ who would come to atone for the sins of the world.
"Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
"And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
"And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!" (Alma 36:18-20.)
At the October 1991 general conference, Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke of the process that makes possible the transition from pain to joy:
"The miracle of forgiveness was wrought in [Alma's] life, and the bitter pain of sin was replaced by the sweet joy of redemption. In his words, 'Oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!'
"Alma learned the eternal truth that the pain and misery that come from sin can only be erased by repentance. Physical pain ends with death. Spiritual pain, or misery, is everlasting, unless we repent. . . .
"The joy that follows the remission of sins comes from the Spirit of the Lord. (See Mosiah 4:3, 20.) It is a fulfillment of the Lord's promise that 'I will impart unto you of my Spirit, . . . which shall fill your soul with joy.' (Doctrine and Covenants 11:13.) As the Apostle Paul taught, 'The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.' (Galatians 5:22.) It comes in the same way to everyone — to rich and poor, to the prominent and the obscure. In conferring His greatest gift of mercy through the Atonement, God is not a respecter of persons."