Alma 19


The Lord Redeems His Covenant Children

      Alma 1 -- Alma 44



Alma 19:1 They Were about to Take His Body and Lay It in a Sepulchre:


     Alma 19:1 says that the people close to king Lamoni "were about to take his body and lay it in a sepulchre, which they had made for the purpose of burying their dead." According to the Mesoamerican historican Ixtlilxochitl, it is observed that the Tultec kings were buried shrouded and with their royal insignias, in the temples . . . It was also the practice (of the ancients of Israel) to bury, with the dead, objects which had been used by the deceased during life and in the case of the kings of Israel this would include royal insignias. [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and The Book of Mormon, pp. 326-327]


Alma 19:1,5 Sepulchre:


     According to John Sorenson, at Kaminaljuyu tombs of the Book of Mormon time period have been excavated that give us a good idea of what a Lamanite "sepulchre" (Alma 19:1,5) probably looked like. Tomb I in Mound E-III-3 was found to contain the remains of some highly honored person. The tomb had been dug down into the top of the artificial mountain, the largest single earthen form at the dead city. Terraces or benches had been left along the walls of the hole cut down into the clay fill. The richly dressed corpse had been carried there on a litter, no doubt accompanied by an extensive procession of mourners (compare Alma 18:43). After the litter bearing the corpse, (head to the south), had been carefully placed in the center of the burial chamber, rich furnishings and equipment for use in the life after death were placed on and around the body. When the ceremony was completed, a flat timber roof was constructed and covered with clay fill. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 237]


Alma 19:6 Light . . . Light . . . Light:


     According to Richard Rust, imagery patterns in the Book of Mormon are important indexes to deep meanings. . . . Indeed, some of our deepest responses to truth are through feelings. By stepping back and looking at imagery in the Book of Mormon as a whole, we can discover patterns hidden beneath the surface that increase the meaning and force of the book. . . . Moving from darkness to light gives concrete meaning to the process of redemption. In his dream-journey, Lehi travels in darkness for many hours before being brought, through the mercy of the Lord, to the tree of life with its white fruit of the Savior's atonement and love (1 Nephi 8:8-11; 11:8-24). While unconscious, Lamoni enters into a dark condition but arises from it enlighted:

           Ammon knew that king Lamoni was under the power of God; he knew that the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness--yea, this light had infused such joy into this soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God. (Alma 19:6)

[Richard D. Rust, Feasting on the Word, pp. 171, 175]


Alma 19:8 He said unto the queen: He is not dead, but he sleepeth in God (Illustration): King Lamoni under the Power of God. Artist: Ronald Crosby. [L.D.S., The Ensign, February 1977, inside back cover]


Alma 19:16 One of the Lamanitish Women . . . Abish:


     If for no other reason, Abish, the Lamanitish woman, is distinguished because her actual name appears in the Book of Mormon (see Alma 19:16). She is one of only three women in the entire Nephite-Lamanite-Mulekite-Jaredite records to have her name in the Book of Mormon. The other two are (1) Sariah, the wife of Lehi (1 Nephi 2:5), and (2) Isabel, the harlot (Alma 39:3). [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 207]


Alma 19:16 Abish:


     In Alma 19:16 we find the name "Abish." According to Hugh Nibley, that's a very interesting name because that's the name on a very famous Egyptian mural from a tomb in the Middle Kingdom. It shows a family coming from Palestine to Egypt. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 387]


Alma 19:16 Abish:


     Abish is the name of a woman mentioned in Alma 19:16. Richardson, Richardson and Bentley write that since ab is the Hebrew word for "father" and ish is Hebrew for "man" the name Abish would seem to carry the meaning of "father of man." Abigail (the name of two Israelite women in the Bible--1 Samuel 25:3; 2 Samuel 17:25; 1 Chronicles 2:16) means "father of joy," Abihail means "father of might," and Abital (King David's wife--2 Samuel 3:4) means "father of dew." (See James Strong, "A Concise Dictionary of the Hebrew Bible," in Exhaustive Concordance, (1973). [Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson and Anthony E. Bentley, 1000 Evidences for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Part Two-A Voice from the Dust: 500 Evidences in Support of the Book of Mormon, p. 224]


Alma 19:16 One of the Lamanitish women, whose name was Abish, she having been converted unto the Lord for many years on account of a remarkable vision of her father (Illustration): Abish [Robert T. Barrett, Verse Markers, Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 6]


Alma 19:22 He Drew His Sword:


     A number of recent studies by Latter-day Saint scholars have suggested that the pre-Columbian Mesoamerican weapon known as the macuahuitl or macana fits the criteria for the Book of Mormon New World "sword."79 Critics maintain that the term "sword" in the Book of Mormon must refer to a weapon similar to a metal cavalry broadsword (much like we see in the movies of the civil war and the old west). They base their assumptions on certain terms or phrases mentioned in the text. One of these phrases is found in Alma 19:22, "Ammon drew his sword," implying that the sword had a sheath.

     According to William Hamblin and Brent Merrill, the clearest instance of a sheath occurs in 1 Nephi 4:9, where Nephi saw Laban's sword," and . . . drew it forth from the sheath thereof." The sword referred to here, however, is Laban's standard Near Eastern sword, which generally was carried in a sheath. Significantly, in the other cases of drawing a sword (Mosiah 19:4; Alma 1:9; 19:22; 20:16), sheaths are not mentioned. . . . Weapons could just as easily be "drawn" from a bag or basket in which weapons were stored or carried. [William J. Hamblin and A. Brent Merrill, "Swords in the Book of Mormon," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, p. 343]

         According to an article by Matthew Roper, the mural from Chichen Itza shows a Toltec soldier carrying a bag or basket holding several macuahuitl on his back.80 The Maya in highland Guatemala had portable ammunition carts that carried weapons.81 Mesoamerican soldiers sometimes wore belts in which weapons could be carried. The Toltecs, for example, had a round shield which they carried into battle "and the swords were fastened with belts."82 While the Nephites may have had sheaths, they could also have "drawn" their swords from a bag, basket, or belt. [Matthew Roper, "On Cynics and Swords," in FARMS Review of Books, Vol. 9/1 1997, pp. 148-153]


Alma 19:23 Now We See That Ammon Could Not Be Slain:


     Avraham Gileadi notes that ancient Near Eastern suzerain-vassal covenant relationships might shed some light on multiple statements regarding the safety of the sons of Mosiah, and Ammon in particular as they preached to the Lamanites. According to these suzerain-vassal covenant agreements, when a vassal or servant demonstrated exceeding loyalty to a suzerain or lord, the suzerain was bound by the covenant, and gave a covenant promise to protect the vassal or his ruling heir.83

     In the book of Alma, we find that after preaching to the Nephites, the sons of King Mosiah desired to take the gospel to the Lamanites. No one had succeeded in doing so up to that point, and it was a dangerous mission at best. Being loyal sons, they sought their father's permission, but King Mosiah deferred granting their request (Mosiah 28:1-5). As they persisted in asking their father, Mosiah, at last, inquired of the Lord. The Lord answered, "Let them go up, for many shall believe on their words . . . and I will deliver thy sons out of the hands of the Lamanites" (Mosiah 28:5-7). Given such an assurance of divine protection, Mosiah let them go (Mosiah 28:8).

     During these missionary labors we find a number of specific statements which reinforce the Lord's covenant "suzerain" promise of protection. First, Ammon defended the king's flocks against marauders who "could not hit him with their stones" (Alma 17:35). Ammon's fellow servants reported to King Lamoni, "We know he cannot be slain" (Alma 18:3). Second, after Ammon preached to Lamoni, both the king and queen and their servants were overpowered by the Spirit. Upon seeing their king prostrate, the brother of one whom Ammon had slain protecting the king's flocks raised his sword to kill Ammon. Instead, he himself fell dead (Alma 19:22). Mormon, in abridging the account, thus affirms, "Now we see that Ammon could not be slain" (Alma 19:23). Additionally, Ammon, "being the chief among them," was able to mediate the release of his brethren from prison (Alma 20:2, 28-30).

     Thus, this suzerain-vassal covenant relationship helps one see the covenant types and shadows of the Lord's relationship with his servants as narrated in the Book of Mormon. [Avraham Gileadi, The Last Days: Types and Shadows from the Bible and the Book of Mormon, pp. 181, 224-225]


Alma 19:29 [The Queen] Arose . . . and Cried . . . O Blessed Jesus, Who Has Saved Me:


     According to Hugh Nibley, in a writing called The Ascension of Isaiah, Isaiah goes to the king's court and passes out on the king's bed. The people say he is dead. He's gone for two days and comes back again. When he comes back he says, I have seen the Messiah, O blessed Jesus, etc. That's the very thing that happens when the king and queen come to, here. In Alma 19:29 it says that the queen "arose and stood upon her feet, and cried with a loud voice, saying: O blessed Jesus, who has saved me from an awful hell! O blessed God, have mercy on this people!" [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 384]


Alma 19:29 [Abish] went and took the queen by the hand, that perhaps she might raise her from the ground (Illustration): Abish the Lamanite Woman. Abish was a courageous Lamanite convert. When the people became angry, thinking that the king and queen were dead, Abish "went and took the queen by the hand, that perhaps she might raise her from the ground." Artist: Robert T. Barrett. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 323]


Alma 19:30 She Took the King, Lamoni, by the Hand, and Behold He Arose:


     Kevin and Shauna Christensen note that in Alma 18:23-24, king Lamoni, having believed Ammon's preaching, falls to earth as if dead. He is mourned by his family and, after two days and nights, they are about to bury the king. Having heard of the fame of Ammon, the queen desired of him what she should do:

           And he said unto the queen: He is not dead, but he sleepeth in God, and on the morrow he shall rise again . . . And Ammon said unto her: Believest thou this? And she said unto him: I have had no witness save thy word, and the word of our servants; nevertheless I believe that it shall be according as thou has said. And Ammon said unto her: Blessed art thou because of thy exceeding faith; I say unto thee, woman, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites.


     According to the Christensens, this signals us to pay attention. When the king rises from his near-death state, he reaches out to the queen and declares that "I have seen my Redeemer; and he shall come forth, and be born of a woman, and he shall redeem all mankind who shall believe on his name" (Alma 19:13). At this, the king and the queen are both overpowered by the Spirit. Upon seeing this, a servant Abish "having been converted to the Lord, and never having made it known . . . ran forth from house to house, making [the king's situation] known unto the people. And they began to assemble themselves together unto the house of the king." (Alma 19:17-18). . . .

           And it came to pass that [Abish] went and took the queen by the hand, that perhaps she might raise her from the ground; and as soon as she touched her hand she [the queen] arose and stood upon her feet, and cried with a loud voice saying: O blessed Jesus, who has saved me from an awful hell! O blessed god, have mercy on this people! And when [the queen] had said this, she clasped her hands, being filled with joy, speaking may words which were not understood; and when she had done this, she took the king, Lamoni, by the hand, and behold he arose and stood upon his feet. (Alma 19:29-30)


     According to the Christensens, here we have women involved in prophecy, healing, speaking in tongues, and visions. . . . Significantly, the story of Abish and the Lamanite queen qualifies as a "type-scene," a prophetic prefiguring not only of the resurrection of Christ, but also of the role of women in that event. As Robert Alter remarks, "The type-scene is not merely a way of formally recognizing a particular kind of narrative moment; it is also a means of attaching that moment to a larger pattern of historical and theological meaning."84 Compare the general features of this account in Alma with a conspicuous pattern in ancient Near Eastern religion:

           One of the most striking features of the ancient Sacred Marriage cult was that the goddess had an important part to play in the resurrection of her husband. . . . We will recall how Anath made possible Baal-Hadad's resurrection by attacking and destroying his enemy, Mot, the god of death. In Mesopotamian myth it was Inanna-Ishtar who descended into the realm of death to destroy Erishkigal's power so that dead Dumuzi-Tammuz could be restored to life. Aristide's Apology describes how Aphrodite descended into Hades in order to ransom Adonis from Persephone. Cybele likewise made possible the resurrection of Attis on the third day, while in Egypt it was Isis who made possible the restoration of her husband, Osiris. . . . But no matter what the details of these ubiquitous Near Eastern death-and-resurrection legends, the underlying theme is the same: the god is helpless without the ministrations of his consort. . . .85


The same motif also appears in the Mesoamerican Popol Vuh in the story of One Hunahpu's death and the maiden daughter of the underworld lords, through whose courageous actions life was renewed.86

     The stories of Abish and the Lamanite kings and queens also resonate with these traditions. Given the growing recognition that Book of Mormon authors consciously selected stories that present archetypal patterns, it is likely that these stories attracted the attention of Mormon as significant type-scenes, and as such, they receive due attention and prominence in the text.

     The prominence of type-scenes in the overall narrative suggests that we might gain insights into what was included in the Book of Mormon and the significance of those selections by reading them against larger contexts. [Kevin and Shauna Christensen, "Nephite Feminism Revisited: Thoughts on Carol Lynn Pearson's View of Women in the Book of Mormon," in FARMS Review of Books, Volume 10, Number 2, 1998, pp. 15-19]

     Question: Could the type and shadow of this experience be the "resurrection" of the gospel among the Lamanites through the ministerings of "Ammon" or God, and a "servant" who had "been converted unto the Lord for many years on account of a remarkable vision of her father [Joseph]" (Alma 19:16)?

     Question: Could this also represent a type and shadow of the resurrection process? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Alma 19:30 Speaking Many Words Which Were Not Understood:


     When the queen arose, she began to speak"many words which were not understood" (Alma 19:30). According to Brant Gardner, it would appear from this phrase that she was speaking in tongues. This is a manifestation of the power of the spirit that has been known from several ages, and is well attested in the New Testament as well as early LDS church history. [Brant Gardner, Book of Mormon Commentary,, p. 12]