The Lord Redeems His Covenant Children
Alma 1 -- Alma 44
Alma 3:1 -- . . . -- (Epanalepsis):
According to Larry Childs, Epanalepsis is well illustrated in Alma 3:1:
And it came to pass that the Nephites who were not slain by the weapons of war, after having buried those who had been slain--now the number of the slain were not numbered, because of the greatness of their number--after they had finished burying their dead they all returned to their lands, and to their houses, and their wives, and their children" (italics added).
Epanalepsis is the name of a significant literary device known in antiquity. It occurs where an author repeats certain words in the course of a lengthy sentence, to pick up a previous train of thought after a parenthetical aside, to remind the reader of the original idea of the sentence. This technique was noted in antiquity by Demetrius, and it is sometimes called "resumptive repetition."
Larry Childs has recently identified eighty-four such occurrences of epanalepsis in the Book of Mormon. Interestingly, some authors use the device more frequently than others. In particular, forty-nine of the eighty-four occurrences are found in the writings of Mormon, while seven are in the writings of Nephi. The remaining twenty-eight are distributed among twenty-four other authors. Childs concludes: "The study of epanalepsis gives us some insight into the writing style of the Book of Mormon authors." Especially for an author like Mormon, who was engaged in a process of abridging other records, epanalepsis was really the best means available to return the reader's attention to the original train of thought. [Larry Childs, "Insights," Summer 1986, F.A.R.M.S., 1986; and "Epanalepsis in the Book of Mormon," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 165-166]
Alma 3:1 After They Had Finished Burying Their Dead They All Returned to Their Lands, and to Their Houses:
According to Brant Gardner, Alma 3:1 provides an important bit of information regarding the nature of the Nephite army. After their battle, they "all returned to their lands, and to their houses, and their wives, and their children." They did not return to "the fort," or "their base." They went home. It appears that there is no standing army. This absence of an official standing army continued to be the practice in Mesoamerica up to the time of the arrival of the Spaniards. Even the feared Mexica (commonly known as Aztec) war machine was composed primarily of commoners who were called up as needed.6 [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/Alma3.htm, p. 1]
Alma 3:2 Many of Their Fields of Grain Were Destroyed:
The Lamanites appear to have come down from the land of Nephi at the end of the growing season, when the crops were still in the field in the land of Zarahemla. Thus "many of their fields were destroyed, for they were trodden down by the hosts of men" (Alma 3:2). John Sorenson writes:
In civilizations at such a level of technological development, armies were formed of nonprofessional militia. . . .The demand for manpower to carry on agriculture provided the most stringent limit on maintaining armies . . . When an army did have to be kept in battle readiness, an added burden fell on the men who were still cultivating. . . . But unavoidably, most of those serving in an army had to meet farming's demands during part of the year. . . .
Anywhere in the tropics, rain characterizes approximately half the year--the same season when the crops are growing--with resulting muddy trails and swollen streams to cross. In all likelihood, the only time when Alma and his forces could have waded across the river Sidon, fighting as they went (see Alma 2:27), would have been in the drier part of the year. Furthermore, had armies been fighting during the rains, they would have suffered significantly while traveling, camping, or fighting, for that time can be uncomfortably cool and unhealthy. Typically the Lamanites traveled virtually naked to reach the Nephites (see Enos 1:20; Alma 3:5; 43:20, 37). . . .
Of course, there could be exceptions. Regions varied in climate; certain places and times would have permitted at least limited fighting other than at the normal dry time, although we must assume that planned major campaigns had to follow the general rule. (John L Sorenson, "Seasonality of Warfare in the Book of Mormon and in Mesoamerica," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, FARMS, 1990, pp. 447-448).
Thus one might ask, What is happening here if the battles are occurring during the growing (rainy) season? Apparently this was not considered to be a major campaign from primarily an outside force (the Lamanites). Those who supported the Amlicite desire for kingship were "an enemy within." They had become "powerful" and apparently thought that this revolt or "coup" attempt would amount to a very quick change in government. Although the Lamanites did help, they apparently were a little late, thus nullifying a fuller initial effect than the combined Amlicite-Lamanite forces might have had upon the hill Amnihu. This delay could have been caused by the rainy season and apparently saved the Nephites, for it allowed room for the strategy of Alma and the power of the Lord to influence the outcome. The Amlicites and Lamanites were thus routed rather than being heirs to spoil. Rather than achieving power, the people of Zarahemla who gave encouragement to the Amlicite movement brought all the Nephite people down into a dire state of weakness with a meager harvest. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 3:3 Their Bones Are in the Depths of the Sea:
In Alma 3:3 we find the following:
And now as many of the Lamanites and the Amlicites who had been slain upon the bank of the river Sidon were cast into the water of Sidon; and behold their bones are in the depths of the sea, and they are many.
According to Brant Gardner, there is a contrast between the Nephite treatment of their own dead and their treatment of the dead of their enemies. In Alma 3:1 we read that the Nephites buried their own dead. But here in verse 3 we are told that the dead of the Lamanites and Amlicites are thrown into the river. This distinction in the treatment of the corpses tells us some important information about the Nephites. First the apparent "proper" way to honor the dead was burial. Thus, the throwing of bodies in the river to be carried downstream is not accidental but a conscious denial of respect to Lamanites and Amlicites.
In societies where modes of burial are attached to beliefs about the afterlife of the spirit, the denial of the proper treatment of the dead affects not only the corpse, but the soul of the departed--perhaps even a denial of afterlife. In this light, the actions of the Nephites is very natural and an echo of an ancient people and ancient practices. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," http://www.highfiber.com/ ~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/ Alma3.htm, pp. 3-4]
Alma 3:3 Bones Are in the Depths of the Sea:
Here the Book of Mormon puts a requirement on the river Sidon. If bones are dumped into the river and are deposited "in the depths of the sea" (Alma 3:3), then obviously the river Sidon must flow into a "sea." The word "sea" seems to imply something more than a lake, and because the river Sidon flowed by the local land of Zarahemla, and because the local land of Zarahemla is later described as being "in the center of the land" (Helaman 1:27), then the river Sidon must have been rather long and large. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on the river Sidon in Alma 2:15]
Alma 3:4 They Had Marked Themselves with Red in Their Foreheads after the Manner of the Lamanites:
According to Daniel Ludlow, the Amlicites evidently felt the need of marking themselves so their new allies, the dark-skinned Lamanites, could identify them as these two groups battled against the Nephites. Thus the Amlicites "marked themselves with red in their foreheads after the manner of the Lamanites" (Alma 3:4).
This statement has two possible interpretations:
(1) the Lamanites had red skin so the Amlicites marked themselves with red, or
(2) the Lamanites marked themselves with red, and the Amlicites imitated them by marking
themselves with red.
Regardless of which interpretation is correct, this statement may provide a cultural link concerning the painted war faces among this people which continued to the coming of the white man some 1600 years later. [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, pp. 194-195]
According to Verneil Simmons, the Lamanite life-style apparently included certain customs such as body paint and possibly tattooing. Much archaeological evidence exists which verifies that both customs were practiced among the Maya before the arrival of the Spanish:
"Until marriage, young men painted themselves black (and so did warriors at all times); tattooing and decorative scarification began after wedlock, both men and women being richly elaborated from the waist up by these means."--The Maya, Michael D. Coe, p. 144.
The famous Bonampak murals depict human figures with bodies painted black. Figurines frequently show paint and face and body tattooing. The Spaniards eliminated this practice among the people by converting them to Christianity. [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places, and Prophecies, p. 279]
Alma 3:4--13 [The Amlicites] Had Marked Themselves . . . after the Manner of the Lamanites . . . Now We Will Return Again to the Amlicites, for . . . They Set the Mark upon Themselves:
In the middle of describing how the Amlicites distinguished themselves from the Nephites, Mormon takes a number of verses to talk about the Lamanite curse. His reason for doing this is to associate the Amlicites with the Lamanite curse. He begins this discussion with Alma 3:4: "And the Amlicites were distinguished from the Nephites, for they had marked themselves with red in their foreheads after the manner of the Lamanites . . ." Mormon seems to end this discussion with Alma 3:13: "Now we will return again to the Amlicites, for they also had a mark set upon them; yea, they set the mark upon themselves, yea, even a mark of red upon their foreheads," yet Mormon then continues the discussion by referring to a revelation from the Lord to Nephi:
Thus the word of God is fulfilled, for these are the words which he said to Nephi: Behold, the Lamanites have I cursed, and I will set a mark on them that they and their seed may be separated from thee and thy seed, from this time henceforth and forever, except they repent of their wickedness and turn to me that I may have mercy upon them. And again: I will set a mark upon them that mingleth his seed with thy brethren, that they may be cursed also. And again: I will set a mark upon him that fighteth against thee and thy seed. And again, I say he that departeth from thee shall no more be called thy seed; and I will bless thee an, and whomsoever shall be called thy seed, henceforth and forever; and these were the promises of the Lord unto Nephi and to his seed. Now the Amlicites knew not that they were fulfilling the words of God when they began to mark themselves in their foreheads; nevertheless they had come out in open rebellion against God; therefore it was expedient that the curse should fall upon them. Now I would that ye should see that they brought upon themselves the curse; and even so doth every man that is cursed bring upon himself his own condemnation. (Alma 3:14-19)
Since this is Mormon's interjection, the question then becomes, What was Mormon's source? It is possible that Mormon could have taken the idea for quoting this revelation from 2 Nephi 5 :20-21:
Inasmuch as they will not hearken unto thy words they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And behold, they were cut off from his presence. And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity . . . wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.
Mormon had discovered the small plates of Nephi and had clearly read them (see Words of Mormon 1:1-5). Moreover Mormon says he "finished his record upon them" which might imply that Mormon took his purpose in writing his abridgment from the organizational theme of the small plates (Covenants, Christ, and His covenant relationship with his people during their historical journeyings). However it is obvious that because this prophecy seems to exceed the wording in 2 Nephi 5:20, we can probably surmise that Mormon is taking this prophecy from the large plates of Nephi. In other words, Mormon is teaching here according to the themes of the small plates--covenants and covenant people as they relate to their Lord, but using the words of a revelation recorded on the large plates. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 3:5 Loincloths:
According to Joseph Allen, in the lowlands, along the coast of Guatemala, and in the Yucatan, the style of dress is less elaborate and in many cases is scanty. Traditionally, the Maya of Peten, Guatemala, dress in simple loin cloths -- a practice that coincides with Mormon's description of the Lamanites in Alma 3:5. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 171]
Alma 3:13 They Set the Mark upon Themselves:
Alma 3:13 states that the Amlicites "had a mark set upon them; yea, they set the mark upon themselves, yea, even a mark of red upon their foreheads." In Alma 3:15 it says that "whosoever suffered himself to be led away by the Lamanites was called under that head [or name], and there was a mark [or curse] set upon him." According to Hugh Nibley, you can call the curse the culture; it depends on how you want it. . . . Marriage is not enough; you have to share their culture. It's not a physical thing; you have to be led away by them and join in their way of life, their culture. He was called by that name, and there was a mark set upon him. You set it on yourself actually. "And it came to pass that whosever would not believe in the tradition of the Lamanites [notice it's the traditions that are being separated here--not the blood, not the people], but believed those records which were brought out of the land of Jerusalem . . . were called Nephites." (Alma 3:11). No matter what your family was or anything else, you were called a Nephite. A Nephite or a Lamanite was one who accepted a tradition--the Nephite or the Lamanite tradition. Alma 3:10-17 makes that very clear. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 247]
Alma 3:13 A Mark of Red upon Their Foreheads:
According to Angela Crowell, Moroni, who wrote in the Book of Mormon about A.D. 400, tells us that the book's authors wrote in reformed Egyptian; but if the plates had been large enough, they would have written them in Hebrew to eliminate imperfections in the record (Mormon 8:32-33). Nephi also wrote at the beginning of the small plates that his record consisted of "the learning of the Jews" (1 Nephi 1:2). . . . Thus, it is not surprising that we find Hebrew idioms and syntax (i.e., the way words are put together to form phrases, clauses or sentences) in the English translation. . . . Mere copying of the words and style of the King James Version of the Bible would not produce the vast number of Hebraisms used correctly in the Book of Mormon. . . . Joseph Smith did not study Hebrew until 1835.7 The Book of Mormon was published in 1830, five years prior to his study of Hebrew. . . .
In Biblical Hebrew, when two nouns are joined together to form one thought, which either expresses possession or description, the word "of" is used to join the two nouns. This is called the construct state8 . . . In Hebrew a quality or attribute of a person or thing is often found in the construct form. A good example is found in Alma 3:13, "for they [the Amlicites] also had a mark set upon them . . . yea, even a mark of red upon their foreheads." [Angela M. Crowell, "Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, p. 6]
Alma 3:13 They Set . . . a Mark of Red upon Their Foreheads:
According to McConkie and Parry, perhaps due to the high visibility of the forehead, many persons in antiquity have placed identifying marks upon their foreheads. This was done both to distinguish themselves from others and to identify a peculiar social stance or position. Such was the case of prostitutes of the late Old Testament period who distinguished themselves with a mark on their foreheads (Jeremiah 3:3; Ezekiel 16:12). In the Book of Mormon "the Amlicites were distinguished from the Nephties, for they had marked themselves with red in their foreheads after the manner of the Lamanites" (Alma 3:4,13,18). Aaron the high priest, wore "a plate of pure gold" on his forehead. This emblem had written upon it the words "Holiness To The Lord" (Exodus 28:36-38).
Both righteous and unrighteous causes have employed marks in the forehead to identify their followers. At times of righteousness the Saints of God will reign in the celestial kingdom, with the name of their God written upon their foreheads (Revelation 22:4). [Joseph Fielding McConkie & Donald W. Parry, A Guide to Scriptural Symbols, pp. 53-54]
Alma 3:13 They also had a mark set upon them . . . even a mark of red upon their foreheads (Illustration): Marking the Forehead with the Signs of Pagan Gods. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, Course Manual for Religion 211-212, p. 465]
Alma 3:14-17 And Again . . . And Again . . . And Again:
Brant Gardner notes that the three verses of Alma 3:15-17 continue the prophecy of Nephi that Mormon is applying to the marking of the Amlicites. In repeating these lines Mormon makes an interesting insertion. At the beginning of each of these lines Mormon adds the words "and again." What he is doing is emphasizing that this is a citation rather than his own words. The speaker of the citation is the Lord, and Mormon is both highlighting the specifics of the declaration and separating his voice from the voice of the Lord. Structurally, he ends the citation by concluding, "and these were the promises of the Lord unto Nephi and to his seed."
We may assume that the written script on the plates followed general practices of ancient texts, and lacked the niceties of quotation marks, paragraphs, and indentations. In such a text, the verbal markers were more important than the written markers. It is also quite likely that the intent of writing was not necessarily reading, but reading aloud. In cases where the text was read aloud, structural markers such as these make it easier to follow the difference between citation and author's narrative. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/Alma3.htm, pp. 11-12]
Alma 3:14-17 For These Are the Words Which [God] Said to Nephi . . . [etc.]:
According to Verneil Simmons, close examination of 2 Nephi 5:21-25 and Alma 3:6-17 reveals that Alma is quoting from a prophetic statement by Nephi, which is the original basis of the curse. Because Alma's statement is repetitive, Mormon deletes any further quoting with an etc. [The reader should note that in the first edition of the Book of Mormon, there was an "etc." which followed directly after the words "and I will bless thee" in what is now Alma 3:17 (First Edition, p. 229). This "etc." has been deleted from our present editions.] Mormon was assuming that the reader was acquainted with the original reference. The deletion of part of the quote must occur because Mormon knew the full quote had already been inscribed on his abridgment. He could not know about the 116 pages of the lost manuscript which would deprive us of that account.
It is evident that the quoted material in Alma is more complete than that which Nephi inscribed in his account on the small plates. The words Alma is quoting from 2 Nephi 5 refer to a mark set upon the Lamanite rather than a change of color of skin or race. While we notice that 1 Nephi 2:23 and 2 Nephi 5:21-25 are the same prophecy there is no reference to a mark. We obviously do not have the prophecy in full. Neither prophet quotes the Lord's words in the matter of the "blackness"; rather, the case hangs on Nephi's comment that the Lord "did cause" a "skin of blackness" to come upon the ones who were "cut off from his presence." Alma says they placed a mark upon themselves, thus fulfilling the curse.
Verneil Simmons subscribes to Alma's interpretation of the curse because he had access to the full prophetic statement, and he knew those things which distinguished Nephites from Lamanites better than anyone today. Alma identifies the red mark on the foreheads of the Amlicites as a fulfillment of the curse. He goes on to affirm the principle that each person puts the curse upon himself, by his own choice. While every child inherits his race, and no one can self-induce racial transformation, anyone can consent to adopt marks applied to the skin or the body which have cultural significance.
The text states that the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon them. Alma observes that the curse was a product of the incorrect and improper traditions of the Lamanites which were handed down from generation to generation because they refused to believe in the Nephite scripture.
Note should be taken of 2 Nephi 30:2-8. Nephi prophesies that when the "scales of darkness" begin to fall from the Lamanites' eyes in a few generations they shall become a "white and delightsome people." The same promise is spoken concerning the Jews. Belief in Christ brings about the condition of a "white and delightsome people" whether Lamanite or Jew. That particular phrase is used to denote people under covenant. Those not under covenant come under the "curse." Mormon writes that when the Lord remembers his covenant with the house of Israel, no longer shall any "hiss, nor spurn, nor make game of the Jews" (3 Nephi 29:8). They too are under the curse until they accept the covenant with Christ; the color of their skin is not a factor. In biblical phraseology dark, loathsome, and filthy are equated with unrighteousness; white, fair, and delightsome are equated with righteousness. [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places, and Prophecies, pp. 278-279] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 5:21]
Alma 3:15,16,17 And Again . . . And Again . . . And Again:
In quoting the revelation of the Lord to Nephi, Mormon uses the phrase "and again" three times. According to Brant Gardner, what he is doing is emphasizing that this is a citation rather than his owns words. Mormon is both highlighting the specifics of the declaration and separating his voice from the voice of the Lord. Structurally, he ends the citation by noting, "and these were the promises of the Lord unto Nephi and to his seed." We may assume that the written script on the plates followed general practices of ancient texts, and lacked the niceties of quotation marks, paragraphs, and indentations. In such a text, the verbal markers are more important than the written markers. It is also quite likely that the intent of writing was not necessarily reading, but reading aloud. In cases where the text was read aloud, structural markers such as these make it easier to follow the difference between citation and author's narrative. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," Alma 3, pp. 11-12 at http://www.frontpage2k.nmia.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/ Alma3.htm]
Alma 3:18 They Had Come Out in Open Rebellion against God:
What does it mean to "come out in open rebellion against God" (Alma 3:18)? It is very interesting to compare what the various writers in the Book of Mormon associate with rebellion. The following possible characteristics of those in "open rebellion against God" have been compiled from verses in the Book of Mormon containing the word "rebel":
They "harden" their hearts and will not hear (Alma 10:6).
They "listeth to obey the evil spirit" (Mosiah 2:37).
They know the commandments of God and will not keep them (Mosiah 15:26; 3 Nephi 6:18).
They persist in their "own carnal nature" (Mosiah 16:5).
They are cursed "even with a sore curse" (1 Nephi 2:21).
They are "cut off from the presence of the Lord" (1 Ne 2:21).
They "mark themselves" (Alma 3:18).
They teach their children "that they should not believe" (4 Nephi 1:38).
They "joy in your afflictions" (Alma 61:3).
They build up secret combinations "to get power and gain" (Ether 11:15).
They heap up for themselves "wrath against the day of judgment" (Helaman 8:25).
They become "an enemy to all righteousness" (Mosiah 2:37).
They seek to "destroy the liberty of the people" (Helaman 1:8).
They "take up arms" against the people of God (Alma 24:2).
They will "be destroyed from off the face of the earth" (Alma 9:24).
They "remain in a fallen state and the Devil hath all power over" them (Mosiah 16:5).
[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 3:20 There Was Another Army of the Lamanites . . . in the Same Place Where the First Army Met the Amlicites:
One has to contemplate the possibility that if "another army of the Lamanites" attacked the Nephites "in the same place where the first army met the Amlicites" (Alma 3:20), then there might have been a regular route that was used in traveling from the land of Nephi (where the Lamanites presumably came from) into the general area of the land of Zarahemla. This might have been the same route that Mosiah1, Ammon & Limhi, and Alma1 all came down. John Sorenson notes here that there is no mention of the land of Manti--it is first mentioned six years later (Alma 16:6). Therefore, according to him, the land of Manti might have been settled in part as an early warning trigger for Nephite defenses against these Lamanite thrusts into Nephite territory (A Source Book, p. 232). Whatever the case, the Lamanites came originally to join with the Amlicites in Minon, and then they came again a second time to attack once more, apparently along the same route. This route might have been a common route from the land of Nephi to the land of Zarahemla. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]
Alma 3:23 They Went Up . . . and Drove [the Lamanites] out of the Borders of Their Land:
The Nephite army "went up" and drove the Lamanites "out of the borders of their land" (Alma 3:23). This Nephite army was probably sent by Alma from the local land of Zarahemla, so if the Lamanites were driven any distance at all, perhaps the words "their land" refers to the general land of Zarahemla rather than to the local land of Zarahemla. If so, then the borders of the general land of Zarahemla might have been close to the land of Minon and also close to the land of Manti (near the narrow strip of wilderness--Alma 22:27-29). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]
Alma 3:25 Wars and Contentions:
In Alma 3:25 Mormon notes that "all these wars and contentions were commenced and ended in the fifth year." Brant Gardner writes that in Mormon's writings, he often uses the terms "wars and contentions." In Mormon's usage these two terms are often placed together, which may lead the reader to believe that both these terms describe the same conditions. They do not. For Mormon, wars are against an external foe, and contentions are against an internal foe. Thus we have war because of the Lamanites, but contentions due to the Amlicites. Note Mormon's introduction to the Amlicite problem in Alma 2:1: "And it came to pass in the commencement of the fifth year of their reign there began to be a contention among the people: for a certain man, being called Amlici . . ." Mormon is consistent in making a distinction between wars and contentions, and when we see "contentions" we must understand that we are dealing with internal strife and divisions, not external problems with the Lamanites. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," Alma 3, p. 14 at http://www.frontpage2k.nmia.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/ Alma3.htm]
Alma 3:25 All These Wars and Contentions Were Commenced and Ended in the Fifth Year:
Hugh Nibley notes that "all these wars and contentions [with the Amlicites and the Lamanites] were commenced and ended" all in one year, "the fifth year of the reign of the judges" (Alma 3:25). The reader should remember that only five years previous to this, king Mosiah2 (as the outgoing king) and Alma2 (as the new chief judge) had founded [what appeared to be] a model community (Mosiah 29:40-42). [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 251]
Alma 3:26 In One Year Were Thousands . . . of Souls Sent to the Eternal World, That They Might Reap Their Rewards according to Their Works:
In Alma 3:26-27 we find Mormon's true purpose in describing this war. To him everything was not only spiritual, but an extension of covenants. In a covenant setting there are no fence-sitters. One is either for his Lord or against Him. Thus in an eternal covenant setting, one reaps "their rewards according to their works, whether they were good or whether they were bad, to reap eternal happiness or eternal misery, according to the spirit which they listed to obey, whether it be a good spirit or a bad one." The reader should understand here that if Mormon were just speaking of good and bad, he should be mentioning all the shades of gray involved, but Mormon doesn't speak of any shades of gray because his was a covenant perspective, a Lord-servant relationship: "For every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey."
It is worth noting here that the phrase "listeth to obey" is also found in the great covenant sermon of King Benjamin:
But, O my people, beware lest there shall arise contentions among you, and ye list to obey the evil spirit . . . for behold, there is a wo [a covenant curse] pronounced upon him who listeth to obey that spirit . . . for he receiveth for his wages an everlasting punishment, having transgressed the [covenant] law of God contrary to his own knowledge." (see Mosiah 2:32-33).
Thus the Amlicites have provided Mormon with a real life historical fulfillment to King Benjamin's warning words--suitable material for the themes of Mormon's abridgment. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 3:26 Thousands and Tens of Thousands:
According to Donald Parry, in Semitic languages, numbers have no synonyms, with the exception of the number twenty meaning "score." Equivalents in English like twelve (a dozen) . . . do not exist. Neither do the semitic numbers have antonyms. Therefore, semitic numbers are parallel only when the same number is repeated within the passage, (fifty/fifty, thousand/thousand, and so on), or when the a foriori ("how much more so") principle is in effect. There are two examples of this "how much more so" principle in the Book of Mormon (Alma 3:26; see also Alma 60:22): "And in one year were thousands -- and tens of thousands of souls--sent to the eternal world." [Donald W. Parry, The Book of Mormon Text Reformatted according to Parallelistic Patterns, F.A.R.M.S., pp. xxi-xxvi]
Alma 3:27 For Every Man Receiveth Wage of Him Whom He Listeth to Obey:
Brant Gardner notes that in summarizing the Amlicite wars, Mormon states: "For every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey" (Alma 3:27). The phrase "listeth to obey" suggests that Mormon is familiar with, and perhaps referencing, the great sermon of King Benjamin: "But, O my people, beware lest there shall arise contentions among you, and ye list to obey the evil spirit" (Mosiah 2:32) Thus Mormon's apparent conclusion is that the Amlicites became cursed, and did so voluntarily. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/Alma3.htm, pp. 15-16]]