Alma 56

 

The Lord Confirms the Covenant Way

      Alma 45 -- 3 Nephi 10


 

 

Alma 56:3 These Were Descendants of Laman:

 

     According to John Tvedtnes, among the Nephites, we find that there were clear-cut tribal distinctions. For example, though the sons of the people of Ammon, who fought under Helaman in the great war, called themselves by the more general term of Nephites (see Alma 53:16), they nevertheless appear to have been segregated from the main Nephite army. Helaman noted that his two thousand Ammonite warriors "were descendants of Laman, who was the eldest son of our father Lehi" (Alma 56:3). This implies that none of them was descended from Lemuel or the sons of Ishmael, who also formed the Lamanite league. The fact that they did not mingle with the other Nephties is demonstrated by Helaman, who wrote in Alma 57:6 that "we received a supply of provisions, and also an addition to our army, from the land of Zarahemla, and from the land round about, to the number of six thousand men, besides sixty of the sons of the Ammonites," who had come to join their brethren." That these "brethren" were part of the same tribal affiliation is later confirmed by Helaman when he refers to "my little band of two thousand and sixty" (Alma 57:19-20) [John A. Tvedtnes, "Book of Mormon Tribal Affiliation and Military Castes," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 303]

     How does this square with the fact that most of the Lamanite converts of Ammon apparently came from the land of Ishmael, "the land being called after the sons of Ishmael, who also became Lamanites" (Alma 17:19)? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Alma 56:9 These Two Thousand Young Men:

  

     Helaman refers to his two thousand warriors as "young men" (Alma 56:9) but their age is not stated. Spencer Condie notes that Helaman once referred to them as "men" (Alma 53:20), sometimes as "striplings" (Alma 53:22; 56:57), other times as his "little sons" (Alma 56:30 and 56:39), but most frequently as "my sons" (Alma 56:10, 27, 44, 46, 57:22). [Spencer J. Condie, "Righteous Oaths, Reproof, and Reconciliation," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 2, p. 85]

 

Alma 56:9 I, Helaman, did march at the head of these two thousand young men (Illustration): Helaman Leads an Army of 2,000 Ammonite Youths. Painting by Arnold Friberg. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Book of Mormon, Seminary Edition, 1962.

 

Alma 56 1-29 Theory Map Helaman's Epistle- Helaman & 2000 March to Judea

 

Alma 56:9 The City of Judea:

 

     Helaman and his 2000 stripling soldiers marched from the land of Melek "to the city of Judea" (Alma 56:9). We might guess that the city of Judea was the most convenient place for Helaman to join forces with Antipus and thus, Helaman did not have to pass by any of the other listed cities (Manti, Zeezrom, Cumeni, and Antiparah). But what was the route of Helaman?

     If we assume a Chiapas, Mexico setting, Helaman could have either gone through the mountains, or around and down along the Pacific seashore. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Alma 56:9 Judea (Judeah)?:

 

     In 1999, the Zarahemla Research Foundation (RLDS) finished an exhaustive review of all known manuscripts and editions of the Book of Mormon in order to restore the text "to its purity." The result was the Restored Covenant Edition of the Book of Mormon. One of their "restorations" involves the geographical place name "Judea" (Alma 56:9), which they have changed to read "Judeah." [Zarahemla Research Foundation, "Geography Concordance" in The Book of Mormon: Restored Covenant Edition, p. 1004]

     Note* This must be considered tentative subject to the verification of Royal Skousen, director of the Book of Mormon manuscript project, who will not comment at this time relative to such changes. [Personal communication, 11/22/1999]

 

Alma 56:13-14 Manti . . . Zeezrom . . . Cumeni . . . Antiparah (Location of Cities):

 

     In Alma 56:13-14 we find mention of "the cities of which the Lamanites have obtained by the shedding of blood." These are recorded as, "the land of Manti, or the city of Manti, and the city of Zeezrom, and the city of Cumeni, and the city of Antiparah."

     Alma 22:27 implies that the first mentioned location, the land of Manti, was near or "by the head of the river Sidon." In Alma 56:31 we find that one could go from the city of Antiparah to a "city beyond, in the borders by the seashore." According to John Sorenson, it is possible that these two (first and last mentioned) locations, plus the two cities in the middle (Zeezrom and Cumeni) lay in a line parallel to the narrow strip of wilderness or the southern border of the general land of Zarahemla. If so, then the lack of mention of "lands" [Manti excepted] could mean that they were only garrison cities with little agricultural land about them. (Source Book, p. 275) Alma 57:8-11,17 implies that the armies were dependant on imported provisions.

 

Alma 56:14 The Land of Manti, or the City of Manti:

 

     One might wonder if Helaman made a mistake when he said in Alma 56:14, "the land of Manti, or the city of Manti." Is there a difference between a "land" and a "city"? [For a good discussion on this subject see the commentary on Alma 51:25]

 

Alma 56:14 The Land of Manti, or the City of Manti:

 

     In his epistle to Moroni, Helaman states that "these are the cities which they [the Lamanites] possessed when I arrived at the city of Judea . . .The land of Manti, or the city of Manti, and the city of Zeezrom, and the city of Cumeni, and the city of Antiparah" (Alma 56:15,14)

     According to John Sorenson, Manti itself seems likely to have been at the major ruin of La Libertad. It sits at the confluence of three large tributaries that form the Grijalva River just below the big archaeological site, and the required wilderness is immediately adjacent to the site. La Libertad was the largest city in the entire upper tributaries region of the Grijalva River (the proposed Sidon River) at about this time period.35 [John L. Sorenson An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, p. 259]

 

Alma 56:14 Manti (Illustration): John Sorenson's proposed site for the city of Manti (La Libertad). Topographic Map of the Pacific Coast of Chiapas and Guatemala. Map drawn by topographer Eduardo Martinez E. with the collaboration of Gonzalo Utrilla. New World Archaeological Foundation, Brigham Young University, 1982.

 

Alma 56:14 The City of Antiparah:

 

     According to John Sorenson, the Sierra Madre mountains form an all but impossible barrier to regular travel between the Pacific seacoast and the interior depression of Chiapas36 (Sorenson's proposed greater land of Zarahemla) all along it's southern extremity, with one noteworthy exception: a pass links the upper tributaries region of the Grijalva River via the town of Motozintla to the wide, rich foothill and Pacific coastland strip known as the Soconusco. Additionally, from Motozintla, a narrow river valley leads the other way down toward the Grijalva and the interior depression of Chiapas, and toward the Chicomuselo area, the proposed site for the city of Judea. Thus the location of the city of Antiparah fits well near the site of Motozintla.

     We see why Antiparah would fit this scenario by examining the Nephite recapture of Antiparah. Antipus and Helaman, the Nephite leaders on this front, used "a stratagem" to get the Lamanites to come out from within the city's defenses. They sent a small party past the place, teasing the Lamanites to pursue them. The group's destination was meant to be obvious by the route it took: "as if we were going to the city beyond, in the borders by the seashore" (Alma 56:30-31). So Antiparah lay in or near a pass on a route that led down toward the shore from Antiparah on the one hand and toward Zarahemla via Judea on the other. A band of men moving seaward within sight of a defense location in the river valley near Motozintla would obviously be headed over the nearby pass and down [to the Pacific coast] to Izapa or some other city in the Soconusco region.

     Helaman's 2000 warriors had apparently first traveled from the land of Melek to the local land of Zarahemla (Helaman's home). From there, they would have traveled from the interior depression to help thwart a Lamanite attack on the city of Judea. Having saved Antipus at Judea, they would then have come up the narrow river valley leading to modern day Motozintla to take part in the operation to regain the city of Antiparah

     Having drawn the Lamanite forces out of their stronghold at Antiparah, Helaman's company retreated "northward" (northwest) "into the wilderness" (Alma 56:36-39). Along the open, flattish top of the line of mountains they raced through pine or oak forest.37 Had they tried to move down through one of the canyons wending toward Judea, their base, the Lamanites would have suspected a trap and turned back; and the purpose of the maneuver, to draw the Lamanites away from Antiparah, would have been foiled. After long pursuit, the forces met in a battle that gave the Nephites victory. The prisoners were then guarded from the battle site down to Zarahemla, while the main Nephite force returned to their base at Judea. [John L. Sorenson An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, pp. 257-258]

 

Alma 56:14 The city of Antiparah (Illustration): John Sorenson's proposed site for the city of Antiparah (Motozintla). Topographic Map of the Pacific Coast of Chiapas and Guatemala. Map drawn by topographer Eduardo Martinez E. with the collaboration of Gonzalo Utrilla. New World Archaeological Foundation, Brigham Young University, 1982.

 

Alma 56:14 The City of Cumeni:

 

     According to John Sorenson, the "city of Cumeni" (Alma 56:14) might correlate with an archaeological site near Amatenango de la Frontera, which is located farther down the valley from Motozintla, the proposed site for the city of Antiparah (see the previous commentary by Sorenson on Alma 56:14). Reports indicate that ruins of significant size are located there.38 [John L. Sorenson An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, p. 258]

 

Alma 56:14 The city of Cumeni (Illustration): John Sorenson's proposed site for the city of Cumeni (an archaeological site near Amatenango de la Frontera). Topographic Map of the Pacific Coast of Chiapas and Guatemala. Map drawn by topographer Eduardo Martinez E. with the collaboration of Gonzalo Utrilla. New World Archaeological Foundation, Brigham Young University, 1982.

 

Alma 56:14 The City of Zeezrom:

 

     According to John Sorenson, the "city of Zeezrom" (Alma 56:14) might correlate with the archaeological site of Guajilar, which was investigated in 1976 and 1977. This site would be located farther down the valley from Amatenango de la Frontera, the proposed site for the city of Cumeni, and even farther down from Motozintla, the proposed site for the city of Antiparah, lying somewhat nearer to La Libertad, the proposed site for the land or city of Manti (see the previous commentary by Sorenson on Alma 56:14). The site of Guajilar was a large settlement in the period of these Nephite wars.39 [John L. Sorenson An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, pp. 258-259]

 

Alma 56:14 The city of Zeezrom (Illustration): John Sorenson's proposed site for the city of Zeezrom (farther down the valley from Amatenango de la Frontera). Topographic Map of the Pacific Coast of Chiapas and Guatemala. Map drawn by topographer Eduardo Martinez E. with the collaboration of Gonzalo Utrilla. New World Archaeological Foundation, Brigham Young University, 1982.

 

Geographical Theory Map: Alma 56:1-29 Helaman & 2000 March to Judea (26th Year)

 

Alma 56:31 The City Beyond, in the Borders by the Seashore:

 

     The fact that only "the city beyond" is referred to in Alma 56:31 with no proper name might indicate a desire on Helaman's part either to keep his description simple, or to describe the action without getting into a city name which might have made things unclear for Mormon. While there might have been only one unnamed city that the Nephites held in the coastal area, Antiparah could have also been in the borders by the seashore. The lowland route ("in the borders by the seashore") would have probably been the easiest and most traveled route to the land northward. If so, then there would have been reason why the Lamanites stationed their strongest army in Antiparah (Alma 56:34)

 

Geographical Theory Map: Alma 56:30-41 Nephite Battle Plan--The Lamanites Are Led into the Wilderness (27th Year)

 

Geographical Theory Map: Alma 56:41-57 Nephites Surround and Capture the Lamanites (27th Year)

 

Alma 56:52 When Helaman . . . upon Helaman:

 

     According to John Tvedtnes, if we presume that Mormon had access to ancient records, it seems likely that he would sometimes selectively rewrite the stories in his possession, while, at other times, he would paraphrase or abridge them. In some cases, he might wish to quote extracts from the texts. In all but complete rewrites, evidence for Mormon's hand might be reflected in the switch between first- and third-person accounts.

     An example of this phenomenon can be found in Alma 56:52:

           And it came to pass that the Lamanites took courage, and began to pursue them; and thus were the Lamanites pursuing them with great vigor when Helaman came upon their rear with his two thousand, and began to slay them exceedingly, insomuch that the whole army of the Lamanites halted and turned upon Helaman.

 

     This passage mentions Helaman by name and speaks of him in third person, despite the fact that it is in the middle of a letter (Alma 56-58) written by Helaman in which all other references to him are in the first person. It is likely that Mormon, when including the letter in his account, simply slipped into the role of historian and, in retrospection, employed third person this one time. [John A. Tvedtnes, "Mormon As an Abridger of Ancient Records," in The Most Correct Book, p. 13]