An interesting exercise in these verses is take the phrase "power of God" and substitute it with the word "priesthood." Not so much to change the meaning of the passage, but to give further understanding to the nature of the priesthood. I keep doing it, almost compulsively. Presently, I am left to consider how "nothing save the power of God that could... cause it to tremble." (verse 18) That thought that keeps impressing me is that the priesthood has the power to do this.
Then there is the question of signs and how it is an "adulterous generation" (Matt. 12:39) that seeks after signs. If we are not to seek after signs and miracles, then what part do these things play in the work of the Lord? That the priesthood has power over earthly elements has been illustrated time and time again in the scriptures, especially in the Old Testament. Their purpose is not to give signs to the wicked but rather to facilitate the work of the righteous.
In the case of Alma and his brethren, they were not seeking signs but rather were in complete rebellion against such things. The account of Alma and Paul are frequently compared with one another on this point and the miraculous intervention that turned them both about. Paul was different though, in that he thought he was doing God a service by destroying the Saints. Alma and his fellows were different in that they were intentionally rebelling against God and his servants.
These miracles were more the result of the prayers and the faith of the members of the Church than for the conversion of the individuals. In fact going back a few verses to verse 14, the angel even says as much:
Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.Almost ironically though, the very thing that Alma was praying for was for the conversion of his son.
I find in these verses the other reason why this account is of worth to me as a reader. It is one account of the repentance process in action. Because of the dramatic and clear cut nature of Alma's repentance process here, it is easier to understand in concept certain key doctrines, such as being spiritually born of God. It is in his own words that there is a great amount of insight and testimony shared regarding the change that Alma had undergone (see verses 24-31).
There is much more to be extracted out of these verses, but I leave it as is for the time being. I will have opportunity to delve further into these verses in Spanish in the next couple of days.