Alma 18


The Lord Redeems His Covenant Children

      Alma 1 -- Alma 44



Alma 18:2 [The King] Had Learned of the Faithfulness of Ammon in Preserving His Flocks:


     In Alma 18:2 we come across a verse that gives the textual story symbolic significance:

           And when they had all testified to the things which they had seen, and [the king] had learned of the faithfulness of Ammon in preserving his flocks, and also of his great power in contending against those who sought to slay him, he was astonished exceedingly, and said: Surely, this is more than a man. Behold, is not this the Great Spirit . . .


     Robert Hales notes that some may read this [account of Ammon] as a story about some shepherds trying to round up some missing sheep, but the messge is much more powerful and significant than that. Ammon was a missionary with noble intentions to bring the king and his kingdom back to the fold of righteousness, to the well of living water. The challenge looked daunting to round them up. They were discouraged and fearful that the king would discover their loss. Ammon not only led the force to recapture the sheep, he drove away the evil men who caused the problems; and his heroic efforts persuaded the king to follow him and to follow the Savior. [Robert D. Hales, Ensign, May 1997, p. 82, as quoted in Doug Basset, Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon, p. 163]

     The name "Ammon" (Amon) is a deity name, and can be applied to Christ the Lord. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Alma 18:2 Behold, Is Not This the Great Spirit:


     According to Brant Gardner, we can easily understand the wonder of the king at Ammon's mighty feat; however, it is more difficult to understand the nature of the king's response: "Surely, this is more than a man. Behold is not this the Great Spirit who doth send such great punishments upon this people, because of their murders?"

     The king had previously met Ammon, so how could he think of him as anything more than a man? We might gain some insight from an understanding of Mesoamerican deities. The line between human and divine was not as firmly drawn in Mesoamerica as it is in the Western world. Many of the Mesoamerican religious stories deal with exploits of named individuals who are "more than men." The hero twins of the Popol Vuh are certainly depicted as men, but they are just as certainly more than that. The Mixtec deity male 9 Wind is shown in the Codex Vindobonensis as a being in the heavens who descends and acts upon the earth. There are indications in the myriad of legends surrounding the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl that he not only has a heavenly aspect, but one in which he operates on earth as "more than a man.78 These "more than men" may be best understood as demi-gods, or deities that inhabit the world and function here, but retain other-worldly powers. It is in this light that we should see King Lamoni's speculation on the nature of Ammon. [Brant Gardner, Book of Mormon Commentary, Alma/Alma18.htm, pp. 1-2]


Alma 18:9 Horses and Chariots:


     Alma 18:9 states that "the king had commanded his servants . . . that they should prepare his horses and chariots, and conduct him forth to the land of Nephi." Two major questions have been raised by anti-LDS critics of the Book of Mormon concerning the statement that there were "horses and chariots" on the American continents before the time of Christ (see Alma 18:9). These critics have maintained that:

     (1) no horses existed on the American continents before the time of Columbus; and

     (2) the people who lived on the American continents did not know the principle of the wheel before the coming of Columbus.

     However, since the publication of the Book of Mormon, considerable archaeological evidence has come forth to reinforce its claims that there were horses on the American continents before the time of Columbus and that these early peoples did know the principles of the wheel. [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 206] [See the commentary on Enos 1:21; 3 Nephi 3:22; Ether 9:19]


Alma 18:9 Horses:


     In Alma 18:9, mention is made of "horses." According to Diane Wirth, the extinction of the horse in Mesoamerica before the coming of the Spanish Conquistadors can be likened to the near-extinction of the bison in the early west. An additional example of extinction can be found in the Bible. There are many references to lions in the Bible, yet the last Palestinian lion of record was killed in a hunt around A.D. 1100. Today there are no so-called archaeological remains of lions in the land of Israel. Apparently not a bone has been left. Therefore, a lack of skeletal remains of an animal in a particular area does not necessarily mean that the animal was never there.

     Several curious artifacts and bas-reliefs in Mesoamerican art portray four-legged animals. At Chichen Itza, on the Yucatan Peninsula, for example, there is a bas-relief of a bearded man, who stands alongside what appears to be a horse. Although there are those who claim this is a dog, when has anyone seen a Mexican dog almost tall enough to reach a man's shoulder--even a short man? It appears more reasonable that this "dog" is a small breed of horse. Robert Marx claims to have found frescoes of horses at a site near Chichen Itza of "horses grazing, frolicking and running, some mounted with riders." [Diane E. Wirth, A Challenge to the Critics, pp. 53, 56] See the commentary on Enos 1:21; 3 Nephi 3:22; Ether 9:19]


Alma 18:9 Horses (Illustration): Horse at Chichen Itza. (Courtesy of Mrs. Milton R. Hunter) [Diane E. Wirth, A Challenge to the Critics, p. 53]


Alma 18:9 Horses (Illustration): Rider on animal with saddle. (After photograph [Ekholm, Plate XXVI Cat. No. 30.0-3274, American Museum of Natural History) [Diane E. Wirth, A Challenge to the Critics, p. 54]


Alma 18:9 Horses (Illustration): Evidence of Horses in Ancient America. (1) Eohippus: American 4-toed horse. (2) Mesohippus: American 3-toed horse. (3) American modern horse from La Brea tar pit. (4) Carving of horse from the south wall of the Temple of the Tablets, Chichen Itza, Mexico. (5) Most historians claim that all Indian ponies descended from European horses brought to America by the Spanish--but note the great difference in size as indicated by the level of the rider's feet. Not even evolutionists claim such a great change in a mere 350 years. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 88]


Alma 18:9 Horses (Illustration): Horses are mentioned throughout the Book of Mormon until A.D. 26. Were these horses like this horse in the upper cloud forest of Guatemala? For years archaeologists have doubted that horses existed in Mesoamerica before the time of Columbus, using the mention of them to point to the Book of Mormon's inauthenticity. This view, however, is changing as "actual horse bones have been found in a number of archaeological sites on the Yucatan Peninsula, in one case with artifacts six feet beneath the surface under circumstances that rule out their coming from Spanish horses. (Setting, p. 295) Some feel that the word horse in the Book of Mormon is used to refer to a deer or some other domesticated animal. [Scot and Maurine Proctor, Light from the Dust, p. 114]


Alma 18:9 Horses:


     According to Hunter and Ferguson, the claim made by the Book of Mormon that horses were on this continent and used in ancient America for purposes similar to the uses we make of them today finds strong support in the numerous fossil remains of horses that have been obtained from the asphalt deposits of Rancho La Brea in southern California. Of course, it is claimed that those fossil remains pre-date Book of Mormon times. However, there is no logical reason for believing, since horses were here prior to the arrival of the Jaredites and the Nephites, that horses could not have still been in America during the period in which those ancient civilizations flourished. . . . We could do no better at this point in dealing with this subject than to quote from an official publication of the Los Angeles County Museum on the subject of the existence of horses in early times in America:

           The presence of herds of horses in the vicinity of the asphalt deposits during the period of accumulation is clearly testified to by the numerous remains of these mammals found at Rancho La Brea. While many individuals are recorded in the collections, all of them belong to a single species, the extinct western horse (Equus occidentalis Leidy). In stage of evolution and in general body structure this type resembles the modern horse, although differing from it in a number of specific details. Standing on the average about 14 1/2 hands (4 feet, 10 inches) at the withers, this animal was of the height of a modern Arab horse. It was, however, of considerably heavier build . . .

           Horses were among the more common types of hoofed mammals on the North American continent during Pleistocene time and several distinct species have been described from fossil remains. The abundance and widespread distribution of horses in North America make the apparent disappearance of the group in this region prior to the advent of the white man an added and an unusual feature of their long and eventful career.

[Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and The Book of Mormon, pp. 312-313] See the commentary on Enos 1:21; 3 Nephi 3:22; Ether 9:19]


Alma 18:9 Horses (Illustration): Skeleton of Western Horse (Equus occidentalis Leidy) - Los Angeles County Museum collection: Rancho La Brea Pleistocene. Courtesy of Chester Stock] [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and The Book of Mormon, p. 313]


Alma 18:9 Horses (Illustration): A Photograph of Horse Bones in the Maya Room of the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Discovered in the caves of Loltun near the Maya ruins of Uxmal in the Yucatan Peninsula. Found at the same depth as Classic period pottery fragments (A.D. 200 to A.D. 900). [Joseph L. Allen, "Horses" in The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Vol. II, Issue VI, p. 1]


Alma 18:9 Horses:


     Joy Osborn provides the following interesting quote relative to horses in the Americas:

           Fossil remains of true horses, differing but very slightly from the smaller and inferior breeds of those now existing, are found abundantly in deposits of the most recent geological age, in almost every part of America, from Escholz Bay in the north to Patagonia in the south. In that continent however, they became quite extinct, and no horses, either wild or domesticated, existed there at the time of the Spanish conquest, which is the most remarkable as, when introduced from Europe the horses that ran wild proved by their rapid multiplication in the plains of South America and Texas that the climate, food, and other circumstances were highly favorable for their existence. The former great abundance of Equidae in America, their complete extinction, and their perfect acclimatization when reintroduced by man, form curious but as yet unsolved problems in geographical distribution. (New Americanized Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 3197)

[Joy M. Osborn, The Book of Mormon -- The Stick of Joseph, p. 159] [See the commentary on Enos 1:21, 3 Nephi 3:22]


Alma 18:9 Chariots (Wheels):


     According the Diane Wirth, Nephite and Lamanite "chariots" (Alma 18:9) may or may not have had wheels: the argument does not hinge on whether they did or not but rather on whether people of the Book of Mormon knew about--and used--wheels. . . . Mesoamericans most certainly had knowledge of the wheel. In 1973, Stanley Boggs stated that sixty examples of wheeled objects had been found. Many more have been found since the publication appeared.

     Dr. Gordon F. Ekholm, of the Department of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, reports:

           During the winter of 1942, while I was making some excavations in Panuco and in the vicinity of Tampico, I found a certain number of small discs that I suspected of having been the wheels of rolling toys like those found by Dr. Stirling in Tres Zapotes and by Charnay in Popocatepetl. In the excavations of Panuco I felt most happy when my helper informed me of the finding of a complete toy with wheels just after having left the place myself and only a few meters from my excavation. This finding together with the other known examples, convinced me that the Mexican Indians, before the conquest, had made small vehicles with wheels in the form of animals and therefore had some knowledge of the principle of the wheel.


     Scholars have found that five ways to attach wheels were used. This suggests that early Mesoamericans were not novices on the use of the axle. If these small clay figures were modeled after larger, practical vehicles, we may never know exactly how they were used, since in all likelihood, they were made of wood--and wood deteriorates with time. [Diane E. Wirth, A Challenge to the Critics, pp. 59,62]


Alma 18:9 Chariots [Wheels] (Illustration): Spider monkey on wheels, from Veracruz (Housed at the Milwaukee Public Museum). Deer on wheels, from Veracruz, (Housed at the Milwaukee Public Museum.) Small wheeled vehicle, after Desire Charnay, The Ancient Cities of the New World, New York (1887). Fig 6.4. Wheeled animal, Tres Zapotes, Veracruz, Mexico (On display at Museum of Jalapa, Veracruz.) [Diane E. Wirth, A Challenge to the Critics, pp. 60-61]


Alma 18:9 Chariots [Wheels] (Illustration): Examples of Wheeled Toys in the Ancient World. (1) from Mesopotamia--2000 BC. (2) From Egypt--AD 200. (3) From Tepe Tawra, Iraq--3000 BC. (4) From Mount Popocatepetl, Mexico. (5) From Tres Zapotes, Mexico. (5) From Oaxaca, Mexico. (6) From Tres Zapotes, Mexico. (7) From Teotihuacan, Mexico. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 149]


Alma 18:9 Chariots [Wheels]:


     According to Diane Wirth, it appears there was no utilitarian use of the wheel at the time of the Conquest. . . . Mesoamericans may have understood the principle of the wheel but decided not to use it for a reason, or reasons, unknown by researchers. . . . Perhaps the answer lies within priesthood organization since its members were usually the artisans chosen to portray objects of religious significance. Perhaps these people rejected the utilitarian use of the wheel because it was, for them, a sacred religious symbol. Frances Gibson, who lived among the Maya and studied their ways, found this to be true: "One notes that the Mayas of Guatemala still walk and carry loads on their backs after more than four hundred years of exposure to wheels. I discussed this point not long ago with a modern Maya at Merida, Yucatan, and he informed me that the wheel was a symbol of the ancient sun god and as such it was a sacred symbol. . . . One does not use the symbol of one's god in a disrespectful fashion."

     Not only did the wheel represent the sun, but the commonly portrayed dog, often carried on wheels, was also a symbol of the sun. With regard to this symbolism, the eminent archaeologist, J. Eric Thompson, stated: "Both the dog and the jaguar are intimately associated with the underworld, the former because he led the sun and the dead to the underworld." . . . It was believed by peoples in both Old and New Worlds that the sun made its transit at night through the underworld. Thus we have the Mesoamerican dog, like the Egyptian dog Anubis, taking a role as a guide for the dead--giving the deceased a means of transportation through the underworld to the dawn of resurrection when the sun once more rises to the heavens. Thus a complete sacred cycle of death (the underworld) and rebirth (the rising sun) is portrayed in the combined symbol of dog and wheel. This phenomenon alone would be reason enough to explain why the wheel was not used by the common people of Mesoamerica before the Conquest. [Diane E. Wirth, A Challenge to the Critics, pp. 62-63]


Alma 18:9 Chariots [Wheels] (Illustration): Wheeled Toys Found in the New World--These ancient New World toys with wheels were all found in Mexico. In fact, all were found between Panuco and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Note* All of the toys and wheels were ceramic, ceramic wheels being the only kind of wheels that would have survived the intervening centuries. [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, p. 260]


Alma 18:9 Chariots [Wheels]:


     David Kelley of the University of Calgary is an influential archaeologist. He is a Harvard-trained scholar of catholic interests, which range from ancient calendrics and archaeo-astronomy to the prehistory of the Celts to the decipherment of Mayan glyphs. In his own contribution to Man Across the Sea: Problems of PreColumbian Contacts (1971), Kelley wondered "why neither the true arch nor the wheel [was] to be found in Egypt for more than a thousand years after Mesopotamian influence transformed Egypt from a Neolithic farming stage to a semiurban, literate society, although [those inventions] already had a long history in Mesopotamia." Moreover, the ancient riddle has significant modern ramifications. "In the light of such evidence," Kelly continued, "it is surprising to find scholars . . . arguing that the absence of the true arch and the wheel in the New World proved that there had been no contacts between New World and Old World."

     Kelley believes that in the prevailing academic climate the challenge for diffusionists is not only to build a solid scientific case but also to win a fair hearing. His role in the Mayan-decipherment controversy of the 1970's has steeled him against the predictable rebukes of mainstream colleagues. . . . "When it is clear that a 'fantastic' interpretation has many reasonable components if the data are valid," he has observed, "most professional archaeologists regard that as . . . adequate reason to assume that the data are invalid." . . . The problem Kelley says, "is in the fact that there are influences, but they don't show up in 'dirt archaeology." Basically, they show up in ideological materials: mythology, astronomy, calendrics. These are precisely the areas which are hardest to deal with archaeologically. And so they don't get much attention from traditional archaeologists."

[Marc K. Stengel, "The Diffusionists Have Landed" in Atlantic Monthly, January 2000, 35-48. Reprinted with permission by FARMS]


Alma 18:10 Chariots:


     Desire de Charnay, a traveled Frenchman, published Ancient Cities of the New World. In his visits in Mexico he had excavated a number of ancient burials found on the slopes of Popocatepetl in which he had found a number of small clay objects that had the appearance of pull toys, but more importantly had wheels and axles connecting the wheels. On page 175 Charnay also quoted and commented on a statement by an early Indian historian who used an ambiguous word meaning both chariot and transport. He further referred to a drawing in the writings of Father Duran, which showed a "rude chariot with clog wheels, drawn by a multitude of Indians."

     According to Verneil Simmons, we have no idea what these "chariots" looked like. They could have been two-wheeled carts or even flatbed bodies on four wheels which would have been practical for moving their goods. The toys come in two-wheeled and four-wheeled models and indicate that both types were possible. Since we assume they would have been constructed of wood, it is unlikely that no evidence would survive until today. [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places And Prophecies, pp. 134-135]

     Verneil Simmons also writes about an interesting phenomenon of archaeological "scholarship." He comments that until very recently, almost the first thing one read in a textbook or was told in the classroom was the supposed fact that the principle of the wheel was unknown to the ancient inhabitants of this continent. . . . However, as excavations increased more wheeled toys were found in the state of Veracruz and in other areas of Mexico. Eventually the cumulative evidence reached the point that the books had to be rewritten and public confession made that the wheeled toys had been hidden in museum storage rooms for decades (because it was a well known fact that the principle of the wheel was unknown in ancient America!). [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places and Prophecies, p. 134]


Alma 18:12 Ammon . . . went in unto the king (Illustration): Ammon before King Lamoni. Artist: Gary L. Kapp. [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ensign, February 1998, inside back cover]


Alma 18:12 Ammon . . . went in unto the king (Illustration): Ammon before King Lamoni. Artist: Gary Kapp. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 319]


Alma 18:13 Rabbanah:


     The Lamanite word "Rabbanah" (Alma 18:13), meaning "powerful or great king," is strikingly similar to other Semitic words having essentially the same meaning. For example, the New Testament word "rabboni" clearly refers to one who is a leader (John 20:16). Also the word "rabbi," which is used frequently by Jewish people, designates "one who teaches or leads." [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 207]

     According to Glenn Scott, when Ammon came to report and saw the king's odd look he turned to leave. A servant said to him, "Rabbanah, the king desireth thee to stay" (Alma 18:13). That term meaning "powerful" or "great" was obviously of Hebrew derivation. (Note the similarity to "Rabboni" which Mary called the resurrected Jesus (John 20:16). [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 147]

     According to Hugh Nibley, the term "Rabbanah" is not Hebrew, it's Aramaic. It means "a great one, a great king, a great person, a great wise man." But it means "a person of utter preeminence" with the nah ending. With the nah, it means "our lord." Rab is great, and Rabannah would be "our great one." Notice that these people were Ishmaelites, which is important. That's why they didn't use the Hebrew term for "great king," which would be Melek. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 378]


Alma 18:14 What wilt thou that I [Ammon] should do for thee, O king [Lamoni]? (Illustration): Ammon Before Lamoni [Gary Kapp, Verse Markers, Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 2]


Alma 18:18 King Lamoni Did Open His Mouth:


     According to Sidney Sperry, literal translations of Hebrew idioms are prevalent in the Book of Mormon. Parallels can be found in the Old and New Testaments, especially in the Hebrew translation of the Old Testament. . . . The common Hebraic idiom "to open the mouth" appears in the Book of Mormon. One of these occurrences is in Alma 18:18, "King Lamoni did open his mouth, and said unto him."

     This manner of writing is somewhat foreign to us, but occurs in the Old Testament as these examples attest:

     After this opened Job his mouth and cursed his day. (Job 3:1)

     Then I opened my mouth and spake. (Daniel 10:16)

[Sidney B. Sperry, "Hebrew Idioms in the Book of Mormon," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 4/1 1995, pp. 218, 222]