The Lord Confirms the Covenant Way
Alma 45 -- 3 Nephi 10
Alma 46:3 His Name Was Amalickiah:
According to Royal Skousen, the Original Manuscript suggests that the spelling of names could have been checked whenever the scribe felt unsure of the spelling. This situation would naturally occur with the first occurrence of an unfamiliar name in the text. (It could also occur after a substantial hiatus, during which the scribe might have forgotten the spelling.) As an extended example of this phenomenon, consider the spelling of Amalickiah in the book of Alma:
Amalickiah (Alma 46:3)
Ameleckiah (Alma 46:10)
Amaleckiah (Alma 46:30)
Ameleckiah (Alma 47:16)
Amelickiah (Alma 47:21)
The spelling Ameleckiah also provides evidence that Joseph Smith was pronouncing this name with stress on the first syllable, with the result that the second and third vowels were reduced to the indistinct schwa vowel ("uh"). If Joseph Smith had been pronouncing Amalickiah as we do currently, with stress on the second syllable, then Oliver Cowdery would have consistently and correctly spelled at least the second vowel. [Royal Skousen, "Translating the Book of Mormon, Evidence from the Original Manuscript," in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited, pp. 79-82]
Alma 46:4 Amalickiah Desired to Be A King:
The reader should note that Amalickiah desired to be "a king" (Alma 46:4) not "the king." This wording might reflect a Mulekite dissent within the Nephite-controlled social structure. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 46:12 [Moroni] Rent His Coat:
In Alma 46:12 it says the Moroni rent his "coat." According to Ixtlilxochitl, the Tultec men of Mesoamerica wore mantles. A mantle is a long cloak or robe, short-sleeved or sleeveless. This was the outer garb of the ancients of Palestine also. Sometimes the outer garment worn by men was referred to as a cloak and sometimes as a robe. In either case it constituted a mantle.
The undergarment of those of ancient Israel, both in the Near East and Middle America, was a simple tunic, also known as a shirt or coat. It was a sleeveless garment reaching down to the knees, like a long sleeveless shirt . . . [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, p. 317]
Alma 46:12 [Moroni] Rent His Coat; and He Took a Piece Thereof, and Wrote upon It:
One of the most fascinating stories in the entire Book of Mormon is the account of Moroni and the Title of Liberty in which he "rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it" (Alma 46:12), and used this standard to rally the Nephites in defense of their lands and liberty. This story is filled with types, shadows and idiomatic expressions foreign to most of us who live in the modern world, but they were not strange to the ancient eastern mind as is indicated in the following quotation from Dr. Hugh Nibley:
To the modern and the western mind all this over-obvious dwelling on types and shadows seems a bit overdone, but not to the ancient or Oriental mind. The whole Arabic language is one long commentary on the deepseated feeling, so foreign to us but so characteristic of people who speak synthetic languages, that if things are alike they are the same. . . .
One of the most remarkable aspects of the story is the manner in which Moroni sought to stir up patriotic fervor by appealing to ancient and traditional devices. He connected the whole business of the rent garment with the story of the tribal ancestors Jacob and Joseph, and suggested that ". . . those who have dissented from us . . ." were the very ". . . remnant of the seed of Joseph . . ." to which the dying Jacob prophetically referred (Alma 46:27). It was not merely a resemblance or a type, but the very event foreseen by the patriarch of old. . . .
In the tenth century of our era the greatest antiquarian of the Moslem world, Muhammad ibn-Ibrahim ath-Tha'labi, collected in Persia a great many old tales and legends about the prophets of Israel. . . . Among other things, Tha'labi tells a number of stories, which we have not found anywhere else, about Jacob and the garment of Joseph. In one, Joseph's brethren bring his torn garment to their father as proof that he is dead, but Jacob after examining the garment, ("and there were in the garment of Joseph three marks or tokens when they brought it to his father") declares that the way the cloth is torn shows him that their story is not true. . . .
Aside from the great symbolic force of the tale, there can be no doubt that the story told by Moroni as one familiar to all the people actually was one that circulated among the Jews in ancient times . . . It was totally unknown to the world in which Joseph Smith lived.
These interesting little details are typical apocryphal variations on a single theme, and the theme is the one Moroni mentions; the rent garment of Joseph is the symbol both of his suffering and his deliverance, misfortune and preservation. Such things in the Book of Mormon illustrate the widespread ramifications of the Book of Mormon culture, and the recent declaration of Albright and other scholars that the ancient Hebrews had cultural roots in every civilization of the Near East. This is an acid test that no forgery could pass; it not only opens a window on a world we dreamed not of, but it brings to our unsuspecting and uninitiated minds a first glimmering suspicion of the true scope and vastness of a book nobody knows. [Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, pp. 180-189] [See the commentary on Alma 46:24]
Alma 46:12 He Rent His Coat:
It is interesting that when faced with a kingship rebellion led by Amalickiah (see Alma 46:4-7), Moroni not only took it as an attempt to replace Christ as the true head of the Nephite nation (see Alma 46:8-16). In his sorrow, he tried to warn the people of how their status could be lost if they were to allow this to happen. He emphasized his point by rending his clothing (Alma 46:12).
According to Donna Nielsen, this scenario alludes to some other critical times in Jewish history. She writes that one Hebrew translation of Matthew 27:51 says that at the death of Christ, " . . . the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." Apparently in this one act, Heavenly Father did a very Jewish thing, but because Judaism has been downplayed in Christian understanding throughout the centuries, one can easily miss the significance of this event. In addition to the spiritual meaning spoken of in the ninth and tenth chapters of Hebrews, there is another literal understanding that is also valid. Avi Ben Mordechai sheds more light on this subject.
I will let the ancient scribe of Second Samuel tell you its literal meaning:
While they were on their way, the report [rumor] came to David: "Absalom has struck down all the king's sons; not one of them is left." The king stood up, tore his clothes, and lay down on the ground; and all his servants stood by with their clothes torn (2 Samuel 13:30-31).
Here at the death of Y'shua, is a classic example of divine Hebraic mourning. The Temple was the house of God. The parakhet or curtain (the partition separating the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place) was traditionally referred to as the "hem of His garment." The curtain ripping would have been understood by the priests as symbolic of God rending His garment. Remember there were tens of thousands of Jews gathered for Pesach (Passover) and Unleavened Bread. When news of the ripped parakhet passed from the priests to the people, I think it became a testimony to them. No doubt, many understood at that point Y'shua was Israel's Anointed One and that [God] was grieving over the death of His Son."2
[Donna B. Nielsen, Beloved Bridegroom: Finding Christ in Ancient Jewish Marriage and Family Customs, p. 142]
Alma 46:12 [Moroni] Rent His Coat; and He Took a Piece Thereof, and Wrote upon It:
In Alma 46:12 it says that Moroni "rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it--In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children--and he fastened it upon the end of a pole." According to John Sorenson, the Tlascaltec army that opposed Cortez had a great standard "carried" by the commander, although actually the pole was strapped to his back. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, p. 264]
Alma 46:13 He Fastened on His Headplate, and His Breastplate, and His Shields, and Girded on His Armor about His Loins:
The reader should note Moroni's preparation before making a covenant with the Lord: "He fastened on his headplate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins" (Alma 46:13). The symbolism of Moroni's actions in putting on all of his armor before making a covenant with the Lord is brought out by Section 27, verse 15 of the Doctrine and Covenants:
Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand." (compare Ephesians 6:11)
[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 46:13 He Took the Pole . . . and He Called It the Title of Liberty:
According to Hugh Nibley, when Israel went to war, the people were rallied by such inscriptions [as in Alma 46-12-13] on the banners. The banner was called the nes, which the lexicon will tell you means "a pole, a flag, a standard, a signal, an assignment." "Title" (see Alma 46:13) is the best translation you could give that. It also says it gave them title to the land; the emphasis on the land is very important all the way through here. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 37]
Alma 46:13 He Called It the Title of Liberty:
According to The Illustrated Bible Dictionary:
in the wilderness each tribe was marked by its own banner (Numbers 1:52, 2:2-3, etc.) In Psalm 20:5 the word is used for a flag of battle." . . . The Hebrew "nes meaning 'ensign', is often rendered 'banner' in RSV. It is usually employed to designate a rallying-standard. In Isaiah 11:12 the Messiah is said to raise up such a standard, while in v. 10 he is himself said to be one. Perhaps this latter reference is intended to be a link with 'The Lord is my banner' (Jehovah-nissi,AV) in Exodus 17:15. (Inter-Varsity Press, 1980, Volume 1, pp. 171-172)
So with Moroni's "title of liberty," could the word "liberty" be understood as a title for the Lord? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 46:13 [Moroni] Called It the Title of Liberty:
According to Thomas Valleta, first-time readers of the Book of Mormon are often surprised at the number of references to "freedom" and "liberty." Actually, "freedom" appears 26 times in the book of Alma, all between chapters 43 and 63. There are only three other direct references in the entire Book of Mormon. The term "liberty" or its derivative appears thirty-three times in these same Alma chapters, more than the rest of the Book of Mormon put together. . . . Both "freedom" and "liberty" (Hebrew: deror and hopsi) have their Hebrew roots in emancipation from slavery. As is true of Joseph as an individual and Israel as a nation, freedom and liberty came because of making and keeping covenants with God. [Thomas R. Valletta, "The Captain and the Covenant," in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of The Word, pp. 236-237]
Alma 46:13 And he [Moroni] called it the title of liberty (Illustration): Captain Moroni Raises the Title of Liberty. Artist: Arnold Friberg. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Art, #312]
Note* In an interview with Margot Butler,3 Arnold Friberg, the artist who did the painting Captain Moroni Raises the Title of Liberty, had some interesting comments concerning it's creation:
[In Alma 46:12] we are reading the thought itself that Captain Moroni expressed on his banner. Now I am supposed to picture how he wrote it. He didn't write it in English. English was not yet invented. He wrote it in Hebrew. Mormon said he was engraving the plates in Reformed Egyptian because it takes less space. But if Moroni could write it in Hebrew it would be a lot clearer. . . . So I went to the Rabbi here [in Salt Lake City] and asked him to write the message in what would have been the common characters Lehi brought with him. It didn't look anything like present-day Jewish script. . . . [The ancient script is more correct] so I put it on the flag even though there were those who insisted that I letter it in English. [In another of my paintings, Mormon Bids Farewell to a Once Great Nation] you notice this flag [behind Moroni] is the same flag raised long ago by Captain Moroni when he rallied the Nephites to fight for freedom. I think they would have preserved . . . that flag of Captain Moroni's, the old Title of Liberty.
[Vern Swanson, "The Book of Mormon Art of Arnold Friberg: "Painter of Scripture," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies , vol. 10, num. 1, 2001, pp. 34-35]
Alma 46:13 And he called it the title of liberty (Illustration): Title of Liberty [Gary E. Smith, Verse Markers, Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 4]
Alma 46:13 And he called it the title of liberty (Illustration): Moroni and Title of Liberty [Paul Mann, Verse Markers, Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 4]
Alma 46:13 And he [Moroni] called it the title of liberty (Illustration): Captain Moroni and the Title of Liberty. Moroni raises the title of liberty. Artist: Clark Kelley Price. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 400]
Alma 46:15 Christians As They were Called, Because of Their Belief in Christ, Who Should Come:
One might wonder why we find the term "Christians" being used in Alma 46:15 in a chronological setting more than a hundred years before Christ began his ministry in the Old World. After all, don't we find in Acts 11:26 that "the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch"?
John Tvedtnes notes that the term "Christ" appears 214 times in the pre-Christian Book of Mormon passages before 3 Nephi. Moreover, the use of the term "Christ" might be justified by the fact that it was the preeminent term for "anointed one" used in Joseph Smith's culture. In other words, in the translation process Joseph Smith used the most appropriate term ("Christians"--Alma 46:15) to express in the best manner possible the idea for a term inscribed upon the plates which represented "those who were true believers in Christ," or true believers in the "Messiah," or true believers in "the Anointed One." [John Tvedtnes, Book Review in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 4 1992, pp. 230-231]
The Book of Mormon student might wonder if this explanation fully correlates with Joseph Smith's usual practice of "spelling out" the names he came across in translating the plates. However, one must realize that it is not specified whether those "spelled-out" names represented the actual Nephite sound or whether they represented the translated true meaning of the original name. What we do know from the Book of Mormon itself is that the name-title "Christ" was conveyed to the Nephites through revelation. In 2 Nephi 10:3 we find:
Wherefore, as I [Jacob] said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ--for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name--should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him--for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.
[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 46:15 Christians . . . Because of Their Belief in Christ Who Should Come:
In Alma 46:15 we find that, "all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ, or Christians as they were called, because of their belief in Christ who should come." Richardson, Richardson and Bentley write that the Book of Mormon teaches that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is universal and eternal, and was taught throughout the entire history of man's sojourn upon this earth (except during periods of apostasy) before and after Christ (See Alma 46:15; 48:10).
It is interesting that in the Old World, the so called "first" Christians also taught this idea. They claimed: "that which is called the Christian religion existed among the ancients, and never did not exist from the beginning of the human race." Origen referred to "the Christians that were before Christ." Ambrose said, "We admire the mysteries of the Jews. . . . But I can promise you that the Christian sacraments are both holier and older." (See Seaich, Ancient Texts and Mormonism, pp. 13, 120)4
The Gospel of Phillip shows that the word Christ existed before the Christian era by explaining that Christ is the Greek translation of the more general term Messiah. "The name Jesus [Yeshua] does not exist in any other tongue [than Hebrew], but is always called Jesus. But Christ is Messiah in Syriac, while in Greek it is the Christ." (Nibley, Since Cumorah, p. 167)5
This idea is also brought out in John 4:25, which quotes a Samaritan woman as saying, "I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things." Had there not existed the word Christ as a specific use of the term Messiah then her statement would have been meaningless. [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, pp. 30-31]
Alma 46:15 True Believers in Christ Took upon Them, Gladly, the Name of Christ:
According to Jennifer Clark, in the Book of Mormon, names have importance and significance consistent with Israelite practices recorded in the Old Testament (i.e., a name can be a memorial, an indication of change of character, and a part of a covenant or an adoptive relationship. . . . Regarding the idea that renaming was part of a covenant in Nephite culture, when Moroni rallied the people of Nephi with the title of liberty, "all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ, or Christians as they were called, because of their belief in Christ who should come" (Alma 46:15). The people then proceeded to "enter into a covenant that they [would] maintain their rights, and their religion" (Alma 46:20) and act the ritual covenant-breaking punishment, which was that "if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments" (Alma 46:21). [Jennifer Clark Lane, "The Lord Will Redeem His People: Adoptive Covenant and Redemption in the Old Testament and Book of Mormon," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 2/2, Fall 1993, pp. 47-48] [See the commentary on Helaman 5:6]
Alma 46:16 Moroni Prayed That the Cause of the Christians . . . Might Be Favored:
In Alma 46:12-20 we find the story of the title of liberty in which Moroni rallied his people to a standard. It states in these verses that "all the true believers of Christ, who belonged to the church of God" were called Christians by those who did not belong to the church. According to Hugh Nibley, the name and actions are described in a similar manner in the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the Dead Sea Scrolls it talks about "the peace of God in the encampments of his Saints." They call themselves the "Saints." They are coming back and organizing themselves much like Alma 46:12-20. It says here [in the Scrolls] "Ye shall write 'the peace of God in the encampment of his Saints' upon their trumpets, and they shall write 'God's mighty deeds to scatter the enemy and put to flight all the opponents of justice.'" [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 55]
Alma 46:16 Moroni prayed that the cause of the Christians, and the freedom of the land might be favored (Illustration): Moroni Prays [Paul Mann, Verse Markers, Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 4]
Alma 46:17 He Named All the Land:
The Book of Mormon geography student should note that the ideas expressed in Alma 46:17 can be taken a number of ways. I will try to illustrate just three possibilities:
(1) And it came to pass that when he had poured out his soul to God, he [Moroni] named all the land which was south of the land Desolation [or in other words the Land Southward], yea, and in fine, all the Land [Southward] both on the north [Bountiful and Zarahemla] and on the south [land of Nephi] --A chosen land, and the land of liberty.
(2) And it came to pass that when he had poured out his soul to God, he [Moroni] named all the land which was south of the land Desolation [or in other words the land Bountiful], yea, and in fine, all the land [of the Nephites] both on the north [Bountiful] and on the south [Zarahemla] -- A chosen land, and the land of liberty.
(3) And it came to pass that when he had poured out his soul to God, he [Moroni] named all the land which was south of the land Desolation [or in other words all of the Land Southward], yea, and in fine, all the land [all of the continent] both on the north ["north" from the border of Desolation] and on the south ["south" from the border of Desolation] --A chosen land, and the land of liberty.
A fairly decent rational could probably be given for each of these interpretations, and maybe a multiple interpretation is in order. At present, I favor the second interpretation. It seems that Moroni, at this time, was trying to seek an answer as to how to preserve (or "establish"--Alma 45:22) the church. In Alma 46:13, Moroni "prays mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land." At this point in time, the Lamanites had driven all the Christians out of the land of Nephi, and so the only places that Christians might be living were in the land of Zarahemla and possibly in the land of Bountiful. Therefore, once Moroni received the inspiration from the Lord, he was able to embark on his crusade and name the parameters of his mission. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 46:17 A Land Desolation . . . a Chosen Land, and the Land of Liberty:
According to Hugh Nibley, we find in Alma 46:17 some very interesting cultural ideas:
And it came to pass that when he [Moroni] had poured out his soul to god, he named all the land which was south of the land Desolation, yea, and in fine, all the land, both on the north and on the south [all the rest of the land, including some of the south lands]--A chosen land, and the land of liberty.
"Chosen land" should have been capitalized because that's exactly what the priest does here [in The Dead Sea Scrolls]. Before the battle the high priest goes out between the ranks of the army who are lined up. It describes how they should be lined in proper array in straight lines, holding their weapons. . . . When they are deployed and ready for battle, the high priest goes out in front of the army. He walks back and forth and pronounces a curse on the enemy land. That is the shema or sh mamah, or it can be horeb, or hormah, "land Desolation." Horeb is the Semitic word for war. Or desolation is hormah. But in the Dead Sea Scrolls it says, "It shall be called sh mamah, which means "nothingness or wiping out." That's what's going to happen. In the story of David after a certain king's land was cursed it was called sh mamah. But here is where they have this ritual thing. The other side is the land b rakhah. It's the land that is chosen. Here's a very interesting thing. In Hebrew barakh means "to bless" and bahar "to choose." The one means "the blessed land." The other means "the chosen land." . . . Here he calls it the "chosen land." This is a remarkable custom, but it's not in the Bible. You don't find this [in the Bible]. Before the war the high priest dedicates the land of the enemy and calls it "desolation." This is a doctrine of the chosen land, and it's very ancient. . . .
And again here it is [in the Battle Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls], "The high priest shall go forth from the middle in the interval [the space between the lines]. The priests, the sons of Aaron, clad in garments of white, shall curse the land desolation and bless the land bountiful." The other land is the land bountiful, the blessed land and the chosen land. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, pp. 55-57]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 46:17 A Chosen Land--The Land of Liberty (19th Year)
Alma 46:18 We Who Are Despised Because We Take upon Us the Name of Christ:
Hugh Nibley notes from the Battle Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls:
"When war cometh to your land against the enemy that oppresseth you [notice, they--the Nephites- are being oppressed by the enemy all the way along here] . . . and you shall be saved from your enemies. . . . Thou hast chosen for thyself from all the nations a people holy through the covenant, taught the statutes, enlightened in understanding, hearing the glorious voices, seeing holy angels, open of ear, understanding deep things, even the mysteries . . . by the hand of the poor ones that are to be redeemed by Thee . . .
Notice that just like in the Scrolls we find them referring to themselves as the "poor ones," the Nephites describe themselves as "we who are despised because we take upon us the name of Christ" (Alma 46:18). Notice also that Moroni is saying this while he is waving the banner. Here on the banner mentioned in the Scrolls we find,
. . . by the hand of the poor ones that are to be redeemed by Thee with power and retribution . . . for into the hand of the poor ones wilt thou deliver the enemies from all lands into the hands of them that are prostrate in the dust so as to bring low all mighty men of the nations, to render the recompense to the wicked upon the head of thine enemies and thy truth upon all the sons of men.
[Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 57]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 46:17 A Chosen Land--The Land of Liberty (19th Year)
Alma 46:19 Waving the Rent Part of His Garment in the Air:
According to John Tvedtnes, the Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon help persuade us that it is authentic. The following story will illustrate:
During the years 1968-71, I taught Hebrew at the University of Utah. My practice was to ask new students to respond to a questionaire, giving some idea of their interests and linguistic background. One student wrote that she wanted to study Hebrew in order to prove the Book of Mormon was a fraud. She approached me after class to explain.
When I inquired why she felt the Book of Mormon was fraudulent, she stated that it was full of errors. I asked for an example. She drew my attention to Alma 46:19, where we read, "When Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air." She noted that in the 1830 edition (p. 351), this read simply "waving the rent of his garment." In English, the rent is the hole in the garment, not the piece torn out of the garment. Therefore, Moroni could not have waved it. This was an error, she contended, and adding the word part later was mere deception.
This was my first introduction to variations in different editions of the Book of Mormon. Without a Hebrew background, I might have been bothered by it. But the explanation was clear when I considered how Mormon would have written that sentence. Hebrew does not have to add the word part to a verbal substantive like rent as English requires. Thus, broken in Hebrew can refer to a broken thing or a broken part, while new can refer to a new thing. In the verse the student cited, rent would mean rent thing or rent part. Thus, the "error" she saw as evidence of fraud was really a Hebraism that was evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.
Significantly, the first (1830) edition of the Book of Mormon contains many more Hebraisms than later editions. Later editions, especially in 1837, 1840, and 1876, were edited to improve the English areas where the text appeared to be awkward. Unfortunately, this destroyed some of the evidence for a Hebrew original. [John A. Tvedtnes, "The Hebrew Background of the Book of Mormon," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 78]
Alma 46:20 Whoso Will Maintain This Title . . . and Enter into a Covenant:
In Alma 46:22 we again find Moroni using the term "covenant." According to Thomas Valletta, critical to understanding Captain Moroni's actions is the Old Testament view that the formation of all social, political, and religious community is based upon the covenant. The central idea and foundational principle of ancient Israel was the covenant. . . . The covenant enabled "Israel to make sense--moral sense--of historical experience" (Levenson, 55). The word "covenant" or its derivatives appear 26 times in the Book of Alma chapters dealing with Moroni (Alma 43-62), while they appear only three other times in the rest of the book. "Covenant" appears seven times in Alma 46 and five times in Alma 44, a frequency surpassed only by the Lord's discourse in 3 Nephi 20, where the term or a derivative appears ten times. Additionally, the term "oath" appears twelve times in the Captain Moroni chapters, while it doesn't appear at all elsewhere in the book of Alma. The closest match is in the book of Mosiah, where it appears nine times. [Thomas R. Valletta, "The Captain and the Covenant," in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of the Word, pp. 228, 230]
Alma 46:20 Enter into a Covenant:
In Alma 46:20 the word "covenant" is used by Moroni. According to Thomas Valletta, a brief quantitative summary of the word "covenant" reveals that Captain Moroni was steeped in covenant theology. The word "covenant" or its derivatives appear 26 times in the book of Alma chapters dealing with Moroni (Alma 43-62), while they appear only three other times in the rest of the book. "Covenant" appears seven times in Alma 46 and five times in Alma 44, a frequency surpassed only by the Lord's discourse in 3 Nephi 20.
Although the etymology of the Hebrew word for "covenant," berith, is debatable, "the most plausible solution" seems to tie it to the Akkadian biritu, meaning to "clasp," "fetter" or "bind." The original meaning of the word was not "agreement or settlement between two parties," but as Weinfeld indicates:
berith implies first and foremost the notion of "imposition," "liability," or "obligation." Thus we find that berith is commanded (tsivvah beritho, "he has commanded his covenant,"--Psalms 111:9; Judges 2:20), which certainly cannot be said about a mutual agreement. . . . Berith is synonymous with law and commandment (eg Deuteronomy 4:13; 33:9; Isaiah 24:5; Psalms 50:16; 103:18), and the covenant at Sinai in Exodus 24 is in its essence an imposition of laws and obligations upon the people (vv 3-8). (Weinfeld, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, 2: 255)
According to the LDS Bible Dictionary:
covenant sometimes denotes an agreement between persons (1 Samuel 23:18) or nations (1 Samuel 11:1); more often between God and man; but in this latter case it is important to notice that the two parties to the agreement do not stand in the relation of independent and equal contractors. God in his good pleasure fixes the terms, which man accepts. (p. 651)
Like the Israelites before them, the Latter-day Saints are a covenant people conversant with the need and importance of covenant-making. Less familiar, yet critical to understanding Captain Moroni's actions is the Old Testament view that the formation of all social, political, and religious community is based upon the covenant. The central idea and foundational principle of ancient Israel was the covenant. The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible indicates: "the covenant is not merely a theological concept, but is rather the original form of social and religious organization. . . . Thus the covenant, though a religious rather than a political structure, was no more a mere theological concept than politics is purely a philosophical concept today (p. 719). In ancient Israel, all history was viewed through the lens of the covenant. Every man was expected to study the law and statutes of God (Deuteronomy 17:19; 31:11; Joshua 8:34; 2 Kings 22:8). The covenant enabled "Israel to make sense--moral sense--of historical experience" (Levenson, 55). [Thomas R. Valletta, "The Captain and the Covenant," in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of the Word, pp. 225-230]
Alma 46:21 The People Came . . . Rending Their Garments in Token, or As a Covenant:
Hugh Nibley notes that "the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments" (Alma 46:21). Here [in the 1QM, the Battle Scroll] they do that in column four, line six the same way. . . . When they rush to sign up [and make a covenant to come under the terms on the banner], naturally they put on their armor. They have to be armed. That's also a very important thing, that rending their garments. . . . There was recently an article by Johnathan Z. Smith called "The Garments of Shame" in which he discusses this old Jewish custom of coming and rending your garments, putting them in a pile, and stamping on them. You say, "May we be trampled on if we break our covenants." That's exactly what they do here. You'll find that article in the journal, History of Religions, 1966, p. 224. It's the same custom we have here. Again, it's not described in the Bible, but it's the old Jewish custom. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 59]
Alma 46:22 We Shall be Destroyed, Even As Our Brethren in the Land Northward:
John Sorenson notes:
In Alma 46:22, captain Moroni has his followers "covenant with our God, that we shall be destroyed, even as our brethren in the land northward, if we shall fall into transgression." Unquestionably, the reference is to the Jaredites. The only reason apparent to me why the term "brethren" would be applied by Nephites to Jaredites is because the former recognized that some of the people living with them were descended from the Jaredites. [John L. Sorenson, "When Lehi's Party Arrived, Did They Find Others in the Land?," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 1/1, FARMS, Fall 1992, p. 9]
Alma 46:22 Even As We Have Cast Our Garments at Thy Feet to Be Trodden Under Foot:
According to an article by Donald Parry, prophetic symbolic curses are well attested in the Bible. The people of the Book of Mormon demonstrated this Old World tradition of performing symbolic actions that revealed a prophetic curse. For example, according to the Bible, Isaiah was instructed by the Lord to remove his garment and shoes and walk "naked [like a slave, without an upper garment] and barefoot" among the people. Isaiah's action was to be a sign, for as Isaiah walked like a slave, even so would the Egyptians become slaves to the Assyrians (Isaiah 20:2-4) The incident of the title of liberty was much more than a rally behind a standard. Those who witnessed Moroni's symbolic activity responded in turn with another symbolic action by casting their garments at Moroni's feet and then promising not to fall into transgression lest God "cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet to be trodden under foot" (Alma 46:22). A curse is clearly implied. [Donald W. Parry, "Symbolic Action as Prophetic Curse," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 206-207] [See also Mark J. Morrise, "Simile Curses in the Ancient Near East, Old Testament, and Book of Mormon," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Spring 1993, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 124-138]
Alma 46:22 Even As We Have Cast Our Garments at Thy Feet to Be Trodden under Foot:
After Moroni raised his Title of Liberty, Mormon records:
the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments. Now this was the covenant which they made, and they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: We covenant with our God, that we shall be destroyed, even as our brethren in the land northward, if we shall fall into transgression; yea, he may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet to be trodden under foot, if we shall fall into transgression. (Alma 46:21-22)
According to Terrence Szink, the well-known title-of-liberty episode in Alma 46 of the Book of Mormon includes an example of Near Eastern and Old Testament oaths of allegiance called "simile oaths." The clearest Near Eastern example of this is the so-called Hittite Soldiers' Oath uncovered at Boghazkoy in present-day Turkey. The tablet dates roughly to the middle of the second millennium B.C. and is designated as the second in a series entitled "When they lead the troops to the oath." . . . Two sections will be cited:
Then he places wax and mutton fat in their hands. He throws them on a flame and says: "Just as this wax melts, and just as the mutton fat dissolves, whoever breaks these oaths [shows disrespect to the king] of Hatti [land], let [him] melt like [wax], let him dissolve like [mutton fat]!" [The men] declare: "So be it!"
As in the Book of Mormon, an object is "likened" to the participants in the ritual. In this case, wax and mutton fat are used instead of a piece of clothing. Should the soldiers break their oath, they would suffer the fate of the object. The second section is strikingly similar to the Book of Mormon passage:
He [the priest] presents to them [a . . . ]. Before their eyes he [throws] it on the ground; they trample it under foot and he speaks as follows: "Whosoever breaks these oaths, even so let the Hatti people come and trample that man's town under foot."
[Terrence L. Szink, "An Oath of Allegiance in the Book of Mormon," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 35-37]
Alma 46:23 Let Us Remember . . . or Our Garments Shall Be Rent by Our Brethren, and We Be Cast into Prison, or Be Sold, or Be Slain:
According to an article by Donald Parry, prophetic symbolic curses are well attested in the Bible. The people of the Book of Mormon demonstrated this Old World tradition of performing symbolic actions that revealed a prophetic curse. The incident of the title of liberty was much more than a rally behind a standard. After Moroni made the title of liberty and went forth with it among the people, he likened his rent coat to the garment of Joseph that had been rent by Joseph's brothers and proclaimed, "Let us remember to keep the commandments of God, or our garments shall be rent by our brethren, and we be cast into prison, or be sold, or be slain" (Alma 46:23). A curse is clearly implied. [Donald W. Parry, "Symbolic Action as Prophetic Curse," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 206-207]
Alma 46:24 Let Us Preserve Our Liberty As a Remnant of Joseph:
As Moroni raised the Title of Liberty and swore his people to a covenant oath he declared, "Let us preserve our liberty as a remnant of Joseph" (Alma 46:24). According to Thomas Valleta, the appropriateness of this typology cannot be overstated. . . . Anciently, Joseph was a symbol of freedom and liberty. Midrashic commentators have considerable to say about the story of Joseph, and particularly his struggles with his brothers. One account has God telling the guilty brothers: "By your lives you sold Joseph into slavery, and therefore you will recite the tale of your own Egyptian bondage until the end of time" (Graves 253).
First time readers of the Book of Mormon are often suprised at the number of references to "freedom" and "liberty." Actually, "freedom" appears 26 times in Alma, all between chapters 43 and 63. There are only three other direct references in the entire Book of Mormon. The term "liberty" or its derivative appears thirty-three times in these same Alma chapters, more than the rest of the Book of Mormon put together. . . . Both "freedom" and "liberty" (Hebrew: deror and hopsi) have their Hebrew roots in emancipation from slavery. As is true of Joseph as an individual and Israel as a nation, freedom and liberty came about because of making and keeping covenants with God. . . . Moroni realized that freedom came from diligence and giving heed to the word of God, and not from Nephite cunning and military might. [Thomas R. Valletta, "The Captain and the Covenant," in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of the Word, pp. 236-237]
Alma 46:24 [Jacob] Saw That a Part of the Remnant of the Coat of Joseph Was Preserved and Had Not Decayed:
According to Hugh Nibley, when the Persians were converted to Islam they had been fire worshipers before. They knew nothing of the prophets [of the Bible]. Islam is based on the Bible. The prophets Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are constantly mentioned in the Koran. They had never heard of them. They didn't know who they were. So the great Tha' labi made a famous commentary. This is the account of the prophets, how to explain them. . . . He made this survey at the end of the tenth and beginning of the eleventh century so the Persians would know what they were talking about when they read the Koran, who the prophets were and what they did. . . .
After the time of the Romans in the year A.D. 70, when Jerusalem fell, most of the Jews fled to the one safe place, the very tolerant and receptive Persian empire. They fled to the Persian Empire at the time and were accommodated there. So there you find settlements of the Jews. What Tha' labi did was to go out and visit these old settlements where he could find the old-fashioned Jews and ask them for stories about the prophets. They would tell him, and he was very careful to document who his informers were. Sometimes he would go back five to eight generations to find out where a story came from. But this is what the Jews used to tell before the fall of the temple, and this is one of the stories that Tha' labi picked up. It's a very important one. He explains this story of the garment of Joseph.
He is talking here about the shirt of Joseph and the two things. This is what he says: "And when Joseph made himself known to his brethren, he asked them about his father. 'What happened to our father, Jacob?' " He was in Egypt and he was the important man. The brethren had been brought before him, and he said, "What happened to my father after I left?" They said, "He lost his eyesight from weeping." Then Joseph gave them the garment. He had the good half of the garment with him. That's the part that clung to him and he still wore. Joseph handed them the garment, which is called the qamis. Our word chemise comes from that. "And this garment was the garment of the Garden of Eden. It had the weave and the pattern of the janna." That is the Garden of Eden. It is usually rendered just as paradise, before man fell. "It had in it the breath of the garden." . . . The half [Joseph] had was the part that "never rotted, never decayed, and its threads never deteriorated. That was its true state." It kept its true state. There were two parts. " . . . the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed," whereas the other half [retained by Jacob and his other sons] "shall perish even as the remnant of his garment" . It [the part retained by Jacob and his other sons] was decayed and rotten (see Alma 46:24). . . . "Joseph gave that [preserved] garment to them, and this was a garment that had belonged to Abraham."
The idea of a garment of many colors is an invention. If you look in your Bible every time it mentions many colors the word colors (even in the commentary) is in italics because it is put in there by modern editors. It's found in no ancient source. It's not a garment of many colors at all. A garment of certain marks is the term that's used here. We'll see what it is in a second. This garment had belonged to Abraham, and it already had a long history. It's history was lengthy because it went back to the Garden of Eden, you see. That's the garment; it's the only one. Just as we treat the story of Cain and Abel, we trivialize this. We say, "Joseph was the youngest kid, so his father favored him and gave him a pretty garment of many colors." There is no mention in any ancient source of a garment of many colors. That's an invention of modern editors trying to explain it. But here it was, the garment he gave him. It was the garment of the priesthood. No wonder they were jealous of him, they being the elder brothers and he the younger in the patriarchal line coming down from Abraham. This garment had belonged to Abraham and had come down to Joseph instead of to the other brethren. . . .
"And he [Joseph] said to them [his brethren], 'Go with this very garment and place it upon the face of my father, and his sight will return to him.' " It's a miraculous garment. "And then come back to me and bring all the family with you." . . .
Then Judah says, "It was I who took the shirt which was dipped in blood to Jacob, and it was I who reported to him that Joseph had been eaten by a bear." That's what caused him such terrible sorrow. He asked Joseph, "Therefore, to atone for that let me be the one to take the sound part to him." Another source tells us that Judah says "It was I who took the shirt that was dabbled in blood and gave it to Jacob and made him cry his eyes out; therefore, it is only right I should be permitted to take this whole part of the shirt to him that his rejoicing in receiving it may be as great as his sorrow was in receiving the other, and joy would follow sorrow." Notice that his [Jacob's] joy would be a great as his sorrow was. It says here [in Alma 46:25], "Now behold, this giveth my soul sorrow; nevertheless, my soul hath joy." It's the same story he [Tha' labi] is telling here. The only person that reports this anywhere is Tha' labi. You won't find it in the Talmud. You won't find it in the Midrash or the Mishnah. You won't find it in the Bible. Where did Joseph Smith pick it up? He tells us it was an old story, familiar to the Nephites. He [Moroni] says here [in Alma 46:24] "Let us remember the words of Jacob." He [Moroni] is telling the same story [as Tha' labi] here. . . .
". . . [So Judah and his brethren returned to their homeland.] . . . And when they had turned their faces toward Canaan and finally arrived there, their father, Jacob said to them, 'Behold, I detect in this garment the odor.' " [The Arabic word here is ] Riha . . . The Hebrew word ruakh is the Spirit, the Holy Ghost. The same word in Arabic is riha. . . . This means [Jacob said] "I detect, I perceive, I note" . . . (He's blind, you see) . . . "the odor, the spirit, the smell of Joseph, if you do not think me out of my head from old age and a bit barmy." . . . (And this is an important thing.) "When they placed it upon the face of Jacob, he smelled also the smell of the Garden of Eden. For behold there is not in all the earth another garment that has that smell in it." This is a unique thing; this is the garment. "For there is not in any other garment on earth of the winds of the Garden of Eden, unless it is in this one garment." So you can see why the brethren were so jealous; it was the garment of the priesthood. The commentator says he [Jacob] recognized that it was Joseph's garment by feeling it first because it had three marks in it. . . . Of course, they couldn't have been colored marks because he was blind when he felt the marks. He recognized it as belonging to his son Joseph. . . .
Now let's see what we left out here. Oh, the garment was rent. There's no tradition anywhere that the garment was rent, except the Arabs again have a famous story: A student was working for a master as an apprentice, and they said to him, "Does your master feed you well? Does he care for you well?" The student says, "Verily, if my master owned a house full of needles and Jacob came to him and begged for the use of a needle for one hour that he might sew up the torn garment of his son Joseph, he would refuse to lend it to him. That's the kind of man I'm working for." The point is that [the story] takes for granted the torn garment that Jacob wanted to sew up, that Joseph's garment was torn in two parts. The one part was spoiled, and one part never rotted. It belonged to Abraham, and it went back to Adam. In the tradition it was the garment of the garden, and it had the marks on it. That's why Jacob recognized it, and that's why the brethren were jealous obviously. It was the greatest favor he could possibly give him. This is a great thing. Here we get something in the Book of Mormon that really "sews things up."
[The story] says all this happened on Jacob's death bed. . . . This is very important here because Moroni says, "Let us remember the words of Jacob, before his death . . ." (Alma 46:24). [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, pp. 60-63]
Note* The significance and symbolism of the entire story surrounding Joseph's life (as apparently taken from the brass plates--also included in the Inspired Version) is central to the covenant promises contained in the Book of Mormon. The reader is referred to the commentary on the ancient patriarch Joseph contained in Lehi's blessing to his son Joseph in 2 Nephi 3, as well as the additional commentary here in Alma 46. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 46:24 For Behold, He (Jacob) Saw That a Part of the Remnant of the Coat of Joseph Was Preserved:
The Book of Mormon elaboration on "the coat of Joseph" (Alma 46:24) coordinates well with apocryphal accounts and provides the biblical scholar with additional information on the famed "coat of many colors" which was given to Joseph by his father, Jacob. The Bible does not mention what happened to Joseph's coat after it was smeared with blood by Joseph's brothers and taken to Jacob, but according to the Book of Mormon, the coat was preserved, and, miraculously, part of the coat never decayed. The Book of Mormon account is partially substantiated by the following story by the great Moslem historian, Muhammad ibn-Ibrahim ath-Tha'labi, concerning what took place when Joseph finally met his brothers in Egypt:
And when Joseph had made himself known unto them (his brethren) he asked them about his father, saying, "What did my father after (I left)?" They answered, "He lost his eyesight (from weeping)." Then he gave them his garment (gamis, long outer shirt). According to ad-Dahak that garment was of the weave (pattern, design) of Paradise, and the breath (spirit, odor) of Paradise was in it, so that it never decayed or in any way deteriorated (and that was) a sign (omen). And Joseph gave them that garment, and it was the very one that had belonged to Abraham, having already had a long history. And he said to them, "Go, take this garment of mine and place it upon the face of my father so he may have sight again, and return (to me) with all your families." And when they had put Egypt behind them and come to Canaan their father Jacob said, "Behold, I perceive the spirit (breath, odor) of Joseph, if you will not think me wandering in my mind and weakheaded from age . . ." (for he knew that upon all the earth there was no spirit (breath, odor) of Paradise save in that garment alone . . . And as-Sadi says that Judah said to Joseph, "It was I who took the garment bedaubed with blood to Jacob, and reported to him that the bear had eaten Joseph, so give me this day thy garment that I might tell him that thou art living, that I might cause him to rejoice now as greatly as I caused him to sorrow then." And Ibn-Abbas says that Judah took the garment and went forth in great haste, panting with exertion and anxiety. . .and when he brought the garment he laid it upon his face, so that his sight returned to him. And ad-Dahak says that his sight returned after blindness, and his strength after weakness, and youth after age, and joy after sorrow.
[Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, pp. 187-188]
According to Thomas Valletta, in this account, we not only have the preserved remnant of the garment sent by Joseph to his father to show he was alive, and the torn one mingled with blood which Judah took to his father as evidence of Joseph's death, but we also have a tradition that the one preserved once belonged to Abraham. This peculiar garment had in it the "weave" and "breath" of Paradise. Here is evidence of what might be a symbolic use of garments to represent the covenants of the Lord. Israel traced their covenants with God back to Abraham (Exodus 2:24; Leviticus 26:42; 2 Kings 13:23; 1 Chronicles 16:16; Psalms 105:9; Acts 3:25; 7:8). In this apocryphal story Joseph's garment, which once belonged to Abraham, is preserved through Joseph. The evidence of Paradise in the garment's "weave" and "breath" may reflect the "coats of skins" with which God clothed Adam and Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:21) [Thomas R. Valletta, "The Captain and the Covenant," in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of the Word, p. 238]
Alma 46:24 For Behold, He (Jacob) Saw That a Part of the Remnant of the Coat of Joseph Was Preserved:
Incidental facts related in conjunction with the mention of "the coat of Joseph" (Alma 46:24) not only provide the biblical scholar with additional information on the famed "coat of many colors," but coordinate very interestingly with apocryphal accounts. According to Joseph McConkie, the biblical account tells us that Jacob made Joseph a "coat of many colours" (Genesis 37:3) and that this added to the envy of his brothers. The marginal reading in our old missionary Bible indicates that "colours" could have been translated "pieces," while more modern translations render it "long, sleeved robe" (NEB) or "coat with long sleeves" (JB), all of which suggests that our story has not been fully told. . . .
Writing about the myths and legends of the Old Testament, Theodore H. Gaster says:
What Joseph received from his father is described in original Hebrew as a "coat of pasaim." . . . Now, pasaim is the plural of the word pas, which normally means "length, extension." The Greek Septuagint and some of the other ancient translators took this to mean a garment made out of various lengths of different materials--that is, a kind of quilted or patch work tunic, and it is from this interpretation that the familiar "coat of many colors" is derived. What was really intended, however, was a coat which was extra long and extended to the ankles. (Myth, p. 216)
The late Professor Speiser . . . describes the garment as a "ceremonial robe." . . . According to the view of later authors, Joseph's coat was the holy tunic of the priest." . . . Among the Jews, there are a number of traditions to this effect. Along with the phrase "garments of light," these traditions refer to the garments given by God to Adam as the "celestial garments," the "priestly garments," or "high-priestly garments," which were said to have "supernatural qualities" and to be the garments worn by Adam and his descendants when offering sacrifices (Legends 5:103-4). Such traditions also hold that these were "the priestly garments worn by the firstborn who performed the priestly service before Aaron's time" (ibid. 5:283).
Though the story of Joseph's coat is still shrouded in some mystery, it is evident that it was more than a mere expression of his father's favoritism. It bespoke Joseph's position of superiority over his brothers; it apparently announced that the coveted birthright was to be his. The "coat" given to Joseph by Jacob was a priesthood garment, and may in some way have been related with Joseph's ability to dream dreams and speak by way of revelation which, in the chronology of the Bible story, he then commenced to do. [Joseph F. McConkie, Gospel Symbolism, pp. 30-33] [See the commentary on Alma 46:12]
According to Thomas Valletta, another story from the same Moslem source documents the garment's symbolism of the covenant. As Dr. Nibley paraphrases it: "Joseph's brethren bring his torn garment to their father as proof that he is dead, but Jacob after examining the garment ('and there were in the garment of Joseph three marks or tokens when they brought it to his father') declares that the way the cloth is torn shows him that their story is not true" (Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 218). Moroni quotes a prophecy of Jacob, the Old World patriarch whose name was changed to Israel: "Even as this remnant of garment of my son [Joseph] hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son [Joseph] be preserved by the hand of God, and be taken unto himself, while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment" (Alma 46:24). The rent garment symbolized the covenants of God to preserve a posterity unto Jacob and Joseph. While those of Joseph who reject the covenants through apostasy and dissension shall perish, God will preserve a remnant of the seed of Joseph (compare Ether 13:6). Moroni says it could very well be that "the remnant of the seed of Joseph, which shall perish as his garment, are those who have dissented from us." In fact, he forewarns, "it shall be ourselves if we do not stand fast in the faith of Christ" (Alma 46:27). [Thomas R. Valletta, "The Captain and the Covenant," in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of the Word, pp. 238-239]
Alma 46:26 Now Behold, This Was the Language of Jacob:
In Alma 46:26 it says, "Now behold, this was the language of Jacob." According to Hugh Nibley, this means that they had the written document [of this story about the garment remnant]; it was among the brass plates probably. . . . Moroni says, "Let us remember the words of Jacob" when he starts out (see Alma 46:24). Then he ends up by saying, "Now behold, this was the language of Jacob." They had the records. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 63]
Alma 46:28 [Moroni] Went Forth, and Also Sent Forth in All the Parts of the Land Where There Were Dissensions:
According to Terrence Szink, the well-known title-of-liberty episode in Alma 46 of the Book of Mormon includes an example of Near Eastern and Old Testament oaths of allegiance called "simile oaths." It is interesting that the Book of Mormon first records that Moroni "rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it . . . and he fastened it upon a pole" (Alma 46:12, emphasis added). Later on, Mormon documents the following:
And now it came to pass that when Moroni had said these words he went forth, and also sent forth in all the parts of the land where there were dissensions, and gathered together all the people who were desirous to maintain their liberty, to stand against Amalickiah and those who had dissented, who were called Amalickiahites. (Alma 46:28, emphasis added)
We see a pattern here similar to Biblical examples. One such incident is reported in 1 Samuel 11. In this story, Jabesh-gilead, the same city that had earlier been destroyed for not complying with the oath requiring all Israel to send representatives to Mizpeh in time of need, was saved by an army gathered by that same oath. Amorites had attacked the city, and the Gileadites sent messengers to inform Saul of the situation. Upon hearing of Jabesh's plight, Saul "took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen. And the fear of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out with one consent" (1 Samuel 11:7). P. Kyle McCarter has suggested that in the original text the people themselves, not just their oxen, were to be the recipients of the potential punishment (1 Samuel, Anchor Bible, 203). Whatever the punishment, the Israelites gathered in great numbers and delivered Jabesh from the Amorites. . . .
That [the oath accompanying Moroni's Title of Liberty and similar banners "sent forth in all the parts of the land"] was taken just as seriously as the biblical one is demonstrated in the following verse: "Whomsoever of the Amalickiahites that would not enter into a covenant to support the cause of freedom, that they might maintain a free government, he [Moroni] caused to be put to death; and there were but few who denied the covenant of freedom" (Alma 46:35) [Terrence L. Szink, "An Oath of Allegiance in the Book of Mormon," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 35-36, 41-43]
Alma 46:31 [Moroni's Armies] Had Gathered Themselves Together and Armed Themselves . . . and He Took His Armies and Marched out with His TENTS into the Wilderness:
According to John Sorenson, when the famous historian Fr. Diego Duran arrived in New Spain in 1542, only twenty-one years after the Conquest, he saw for himself a way of life changed only in part since Cortez arrived. Duran lived amidst Indians who acted as detailed informants, he had access to and utilized many native manuscripts, and he read reams of Spanish reports of visits and administration. From these he synthesized a history of the Aztecs colored with fascinating ethnography; it was completed in 1581.6
Motecuzoma (popularly known as Montezuma in English) and his spokesman told the Mexican army while they were en route to Chalco, "on this plain [where they were stopped] are many straw houses and huts ('casas pajizas y chozas') where we are staying until this business is finished."7
The combined armies of the Mexicans prepared for an expedition against the city of Tepaeaca by getting their encampment set up, "pitching their tents and huts ('armando sus tiendas y jacales')--that is what they call their war tents--very nicely ordered and arranged, placing the squadron or unit of the Mexica by themselves, [that of] the Tezcocans by themselves, the Chalcas by themselves, the Xochimilcas by themselves, and the Tepanecs by themselves."8
Preparation for a campaign involved ordering barrio leaders in the capital city to furnish supplies, including "many tents and huts ('tiendas y jacales') for the war, with much other apparatus and munitions of war."9
"And when morning came, they left there, and they did the same thing in whatever place they reached. And one day's journey before they arrived (at their destination), they sent ahead those charged with logistics to the place where they were going to set up the camp, and they pitched the tents ('tiendas') for all the lords of the provinces, so that when they arrived they had nothing more to do than each one to go to his place that the advance party had got ready, and they did the same thing along the road when night was coming on."10 [John L. Sorenson, "Viva Zapato! Hurray for the Shoe! in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 6, Num. 1, pp. 333-335] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 5:7; Mosiah 2:6; Mosiah 18:34; Alma 2:20; Mormon 6:4]
Alma 46:31 Cut off the Course of Amalickiah in the Wilderness:
If Amalickiah took the regular route towards the land of Nephi and assuming a Chiapas setting, the Amalickiahites would have headed up through a well traveled mountain valley or gorge which led to the headwaters of the Grijalva (Sidon) river. The phrase "cut off the course" (Alma 46:31) might lead us to believe that the two groups were coming from different places. Thus according to John Sorenson, Amalickiah and his party, wherever they had been based, might have headed for the land of Nephi without going through the local land of Zarahemla, where the army of Moroni was probably based.
Alma 46:33 Taken Back into the Land of Zarahemla:
It is hard to tell at what point the army of Moroni intercepted the army of Amalickiah, the text just says it was "in the wilderness" (Alma 46:31). However, if the remainder of Amalickiah's army were "taken back into the land of Zarahemla" (Alma 46:33), and if the phrase "land of Zarahemla" means the general land of Zarahemla rather than the local land of Zarahemla, then the interception point was probably beyond the land of Manti within the "narrow strip of wilderness" which ran round by the head of the river Sidon (Alma 22:27). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 46:29-33 Moroni Overtakes Amalickiah in the Wilderness (19th Year)
Alma 46:35 Whomsoever of the Amalickiahites That Would Not Enter into a Covenant . . . [Moroni] Caused to Be Put to Death:
In Alma 46:35 it states that "whomsoever of the Amalickiahites that would not enter into a covenant to support the cause of freedom, that they might maintain a free government, he [Moroni] caused to be put to death; and there were but few who denied the covenant of freedom."
Hugh Nibley notes that Amalickiah's own people were "doubtful concerning the justice of the cause in which they had undertaken" (Alma 46:29). They were going to surrender willingly. They did because they had doubts all along. Only a few held out. They were still the enemy under arms. They refused to make any concession at all, so the battle went on as far as they were concerned. They continued fighting. Moroni wasn't executing prisoners of war or anything like that. He was just continuing the battle, as he does later with Zerahemnah. The battle would continue until the opposition was stopped. Whoever wanted to stop was free to do so [on the other hand, if you don't sign the surrender you were still at war]. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 64]
Alma 46:36 Moroni caused the title of liberty to be hoisted upon every high tower in all the land (Illustration): Moroni caused the title of liberty to be hoisted upon every high tower in all the land. [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 3, p. 3109]
Alma 46:40 Fevers . . . at Some Seasons of the Year:
In Alma 46:40 we find reference to "some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year was very frequent in the land." This comment provides us with a clue concerning the geographical setting of the Book of Mormon story because hot weather and high humidity, where mosquitos abound and fevers like malaria and yellow fever are known to be killers, are tropical conditions. And while we do find the word "seasons," it blends with the conditions of the tropics, where there are seasons of dry and wet weather. According to Neil Simmons, an examination of the text of the Book of Mormon, looking for weather words, gives powerful evidence that Joseph Smith, Jr., was not the author of the book, and furthermore, that the people of the Book of Mormon lived in the tropics.
Consider Joseph Smith, Jr., who was born in Vermont and lived in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Missouri, and died in Illinois. If he made up the Book of Mormon he would undoubtedly have used his own life experiences to infuse the book with its sense of reality. He experienced winter and its weather extremes every year of his life. He even commented on it in his personal journal:
November 12, "rain and snow still falling . . . wind very heavy;"
November 18, "cool and cloudy;"
November 24, "freezing, some snow on ground;"
November 28: Cold and stormy, snow falling;"
December 1, "snow yet falling." (The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints 1:600-611)
It is very curious, but the Book of Mormon does not have any cold words. If it had been authored or invented by Joseph Smith, Jr., or anyone who lived in the northeastern part of North America, we would expect some kind of reference to the changing seasons and to the effect of winter weather on the history of the people. Certainly the historical records of the United States show how our country has been seriously influenced by cold, frost, freezes, snow, seasons of cold, blizzards, snowdrifts, and the like. These terms all appear in the histories of the people who colonized North America because of the tremendous influence the weather had upon them.
Strangely, in the Book of Mormon there is hardly any mention of cold words. Only once is the word "snow" used in the text, but that is in reference to the "whiteness" of the tree of life in Lehi's (and Nephi's) dream--"the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow" (1 Nephi 11:8). Even though "snow" is used in a metaphorical sense, it can be pointed out that Nephi had lived in Jerusalem, a part of the world which does experience some snow. The word "cold" is also used once, but it is used by Lehi in a descriptive sense in referring to "the cold and silent grave from whence no traveler can return" (2 Nephi 1:14).
While Abinadi prophecies that the people of wicked King Noah would be afflicted with "hail," he also says that they would be afflicted by the "east wind." (Mosiah 12:6), [which terms can be metaphorically traced to the Old Testament]. [Hail is also not uncommon to Central America--see the commentary on Mosiah 12:6] But beyond that, there is an absence of any mention of the traditional seasons of winter, spring, summer and fall. Nor is there mention of cold, frost, freezing, seasons of cold, blizzards, or snowdrifts.
This absence of cold words and the absence of associated words such as coats, furs, heavy garments, hibernating animals, and the like, provide the student with internal clues to the real location of the peoples of the Book of Mormon. We are reinforced in this view by checking the many remarks about the clothing, or lack of clothing, of the Lamanites. Several references are made to the Lamanite warriors having shorn heads and fighting with only animal sins girded about their loins. This means that they fought naked, with animal skin belts to hold their weapons. There is certainly nothing to indicate that they were fighting in winter weather.
The absence of cold in the Book of Mormon is a powerful indicator that the story of the Book of Mormon occurs south of the frost line. It also tells us that the setting of the Book of Mormon could not be too high in the mountains. High altitude, like high latitude, brings cold weather. Altitudes above 8000 feet will have snow, ice, and even permafrost as far south as the equator. Thus, the setting of the Book of Mormon cannot be in the mountains of Peru. The Inca area is not the land of Nephi, neither is any location in North America which is at a higher latitude than about Tampico, Mexico. Furthermore, if hurricanes were the fulfillment of Abinadi's prophecy concerning destruction by the "east wind," then it also should be noted that devastating east winds are a phenomena of the northern hemisphere. South of the equator the wind pattern is reversed, and the evil winds are west winds.
In summary we can see that the internal evidence of the Book of Mormon shows that the setting of the story is in a warm, tropical climate. Neil Simmons, "No Cold Words in the Book of Mormon," in The Witness, #103 March 2002, pp. 1-3] [See the commentary on Mosiah 12:6]
Alma 46:40 Fevers . . . at Some Seasons of the Year:
Limited information is provided in the Book of Mormon concerning the climate where the Nephites and Lamanites lived. Some scholars have assumed that the reference to "fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land" (Alma 46:40) might indicate that this particular land was in a tropical or semi-tropical area. It is also very interesting that Mormon makes note of the fact that the effects of this fever were not too serious "because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases" (Alma 46:40).
According to Joseph Allen, "the lowland jungle area of Guatemala, along the Usumacinta and Grijalva Rivers that are proposed as the general area of the Land of Zarahemla, certainly meets such climatic descriptions." [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 170]
Alma 46:40 Seasons of the Year:
Alma 46:40 mentions "some seasons of the year." According to Joseph Allen, those familiar with the seasons of Mesoamerica well know that, as opposed to winter, summer, spring, and fall, the seasons in Mesoamerica are measured in terms of the "rainy season" (May-October) or the "dry season" (October-May). A deeper understanding of the Book of Mormon [especially military actions] is realized as we understand the climatic conditions of Mesoamerica. The people of Mesoamerica absolutely depend on the rainy season for production of their crops. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 170]
Alma 46:40 The Excellent Qualities of the Many Plants and Roots Which God Had Prepared to Remove the Cause of Diseases:
E. L. Peay notes that the Maya are reported to have great skill with their treatment of illnesses with herbs. Many herbs used by the ancient Maya are listed in the United States Pharmacopeia.11 [E. L. Peay, The Lands of Zarahemla: Nephi's Land of Promise, p. 91] [See the commentary on Alma 62:52]
Alma 46:40 Because of the Excellent Qualities of the Many Plants and Roots:
Hugh Nibley notes that we have an extremely interesting verse here in Alma 46:40:
And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land--but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate--
It says by nature of the climate there were certain diseases, especially fevers, in the land. they were able to get the best of them by many plants and roots. You notice how desperately we are searching in the jungles of Central and South America for roots. We know there are thousands of possible remedies that are disappearing every day. They say every fifteen seconds [another] species of plant disappears forever the way they are cutting down those forests there at tremendous rates to make grazing land for MacDonalds. That's where the meat goes, incidentally. But notice how the Book of Mormon is ahead here with fevers, etc. the plants and roots which God had prepared could conquer the fevers. They were able to control fevers because of the very good remedies they had from these tropical plants. Quinine wasn't discovered until 1840. Nobody knew that the quinine bark would cure these fevers until then. They didn't know what could cure them. They didn't know about mosquitoes or anything else. Again, here we have a wonderful insight. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 65]
Alma 46:40 Diseases to which men were subject (Illustration): Several types of disease are depicted on ancient figurines. This one showing an ulcerous growth on the face dates before 600 B.C., but no doubt the condition continued into later times. John Sorenson notes that Mesoamericans treated ailments mainly through herbal remedies12 and ritual healing at the hands of several sorts of curers. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, pp. 84, 85]