The Lord Redeems His Covenant Children
Alma 1 -- Alma 44
Alma 8:3 The Land of Melek:
Alma traveled "over into" the land of Melek (Alma 8:3), a phrase that not only indicates hilly or mountainous terrain "over into" a valley, but possibly a crossing "over" of a body of water before going "into" a new land. The reader should note that the land of Melek was just "west" of the (local) land of Zarahemla "by the borders of the wilderness" (Alma 8:3), whereas the wilderness of Hermounts was "north and west" (Alma 2:37). In Alma 22:28 it talks about Lamanites living on the west of the land of Zarahemla, but just in the "borders by the sea" (if we interpret right) which could have been on the other side of the wilderness from the land of Melek. No city of Melek is mentioned at this time, although there may have been one. Alma taught "throughout all the land of Melek" (Alma 8:4) apparently going to certain villages, and people sought baptism from "throughout all the borders of the land which was by the wilderness side" (Alma 8:5). This might refer to what could have been a considerable stretch of foothill country .
Using the Mesoamerican map (and the River Grijalva = the Sidon River theory), the Chiapas depression (general land of Zarahemla area) is bordered on the west by a mountain range that runs parallel with the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The land of Melek would seem to correspond well with an area in that mountain range. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]
Alma 8:3 Melek:
John Sorenson notes that the second leg of Alma's preaching circuit took the Nephite high priest to Melek, near the west wilderness. This place is implied in the several references to it to be some distance from Zarahemla (Alma 8:3; Alma 45:18). On the western edge of the central depression of Chiapas [Sorenson's greater land of Zarahemla] one major settlement area stands out. Called the Frailesca, its name came from the fact that the friars of the Dominican religious order of the Catholic Church controlled this productive territory in Spanish colonial days. Near Villa Flores, the heart of the area, is an impressive ruined site now labeled Vera Cruz II. It is the largest settlement in the whole western zone that dates to the late second century B.C. when Alma made his journey.31 (However, the Book of Mormon never mentions any city of Melek, so no large center need be expected.) A primary route directly linked Santa Rosa (the proposed local land of Zarahemla) with this Frailesca (Melek) region. The several adjacent valleys that together constitute the western zone would have constituted "all the borders of the land which was by the wilderness side," whose people flocked together to hear Alma preach (Alma 8:5). The route taken by Alma towards Ammonihah ran "on the north" parallel to the mountain wilderness on his left. Beyond it lay a narrow coastal strip. During his "three-day journey on the north of the land of Melek" (Alma 8:6), he seems not to have gone through any settlement worth mentioning. Since he was an older man by this time, we should not suppose he would cover in three days more than 50 or 60 miles.32 From the Frailesca such a trip would have brought him to the archaeological site of Mirador, a major regional center of western Chiapas from Jaredite times until after the Nephites disappeared. [John L. Sorenson An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, pp. 198, 201]
Alma 8:3 Melek (Illustration): John Sorenson's proposed site for Melek (the Frailesca region near Villa Flores). 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 8:3 Alma . . . Took His Journey (Shoes):
According to Hunter and Ferguson, in The Writings of Ixtlilxochitl we find that in regards to the Tultecas (an ancient Mesoamerican people known for their recordkeepers), "very seldom did they wear shoes, except when they went out, and on a long journey." [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and The Book of Mormon, p. 321]
Alma 8:3 Alma . . . took his journey [shoes] (Illustration): Figure 49 shows ancient Israelite footwear. The custom of removing sandals and going barefooted in the temples, as mentioned by Ixtlilxochitl was practiced also by the ancient Israelites. In fact it was incumbent on Israelites to remove sandals when in a holy place. Figure 50 shows sandals worn in Ancient Middle America. From S.G. Morley's The Ancient Maya. Maya sandals or Xanab (a,b,c,d,e,f) examples of sandals from the New Empire monuments; (k) ancient method of fastening sandals with two cords, one passing between the first and second toes, the other between the third and fourth toes; (l) modern method of fastening sandals with a single cord passing between the first toe and the second toe. [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, p. 321]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 6:7--8:4 Alma's Mission to Gideon, Melek & Ammonihah (9th--10th Year)
Geographical theory map:( Illustration)Alma 8:6-18 Alma Travels Towards Aaron & Returns to Ammonihah (10th Year)
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 8:6-18 Alma Travels Towards Aaron & Returns to Ammonihah (10th Year)
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 15:1-18 Alma & Amulek Depart to Sidom and Then to Zarahemla (10th Year)
Alma 8:6 A City Which Was Called Ammonihah:
Alma traveled a "three days' journey on the north of the land of Melek" and came to "a city which was called Ammonihah" (Alma 8:6). His travel route would have probably taken him along the eastern side of a western wilderness (mountains?) for a distance of between 30-60 miles. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 22:27-29]
Alma 8:6 Ammonihah [Ammonidah]:
In the Printer's Manuscript we find the name "Ammonidah" in a number of places. This was corrected to "Ammonihah" before the script was submitted for publication. [FARMS Staff, Book of Mormon Critical Text, 1987, vol. 2, critical apparatus for chapter 9]
Alma 8:6 Ammonihah:
According to the geographical theory of Joseph Allen, a possible candidate for the city of Ammonihah in the Chiapas region of Mexico (general land of Zarahemla) is the ancient site of Mirador (not to be confused with El Mirador in Guatemala). This archaeological site is located near the town of Cintalapa, Chiapas. The New World Archaeological Foundation (NWAF) did some preliminary excavations at the site. . . . Today, a simple dirt mound stands in the area proposed as the city of Ammonihah. It is a dirt mound that stands as a monument to a wicked people who said, "How can this city be destroyed?" [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 383]
According to John Sorenson, Mirador's cultural connections with the Zarahemla/Santa Rosa area were definite though not intimate, the same type of relationship implied in the Ammonihah people's guardedly hostile response to Alma's message in Alma 8:11-12 and Alma 9:4. The site of Mirador was a major regional center of western Chiapas from Jaredite times until after the Nephites disappeared. Its 30 major mounds are impressively concentrated in an area about 400 meters on each side. This place was prominent enough to justify the pride of the Ammonihahites in its importance. . . . Mirador (Ammonihah) was the key to a distinct geographical zone, the Jiquipilas-Cintalapa valley. This flattish zone is the most northwesterly extension of the central depression and thus the major route from Chiapas to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The city's immediate position is at a low point of the valley, just before the river draining the valley enters a deep canyon on its way to join the Grijalva/Sidon. Immediately east of Mirador the road inland rises dramatically almost 2,500 feet onto an intermediate plateau, so the site appears to be in a "hole" of sorts. This situation may be related to the statement about Ammonihah, that Alma and Amulek, his new companion, "came out even into the land of Sidom" (Alma 15:1) Later settlers were also said to "go in" to the place (Alma 16:11). Excavation at Mirador has revealed that the place was an important center in Alma's day. One tomb contained remnants of two ancient bark paper books or codices. These are the only definite books recovered so far in Mesoamerican excavations. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 201]
Alma 8:6 Ammonihah (Illustration): Top: The large mound at Mirador in western Chiapas gives the site its name, "Lookout," and could have been one reason the people of Ammonihah were so proud of their city. Bottom: The flat Cintalapa River valley in which Mirador lies is the chief route between central Chiapas and the Pacific coast. (Photo by Daniel Bates. Courtesy David A. Palmer and the Society for Early Historic Archaeology.) [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 200]
Alma 8:6 Ammonihah (Ha/Hah Ending):
According to Joseph Allen, the "ha" ending is common both in the Maya language and in proper names and cities in the Book of Mormon. For example, the names of Nephi(hah), Moroni(hah), and Ammoni(hah) all display the "ha" sound. Compare these names with Maya place names such as Xel(ha), Balam(ha), Altun(ha), Pulsi(ha), etc. Apparently, the "ha" ending performs the same function as the Hebrew word "Beth" and the Aztec word "Tenango"--that is, "house of," "near to," or "place of." The "ha" ending in the Maya language of the Yucatan today means water. Hence, the word Balam-ha means the water or well of the tiger. It also may refer to a person of that name. This ha/water concept makes an interesting correlation with the "hah" ending of proper names in the Book of Mormon. The analogy in words such as Nephihah or Moronihah may mean "from the waters of Nephi" or "from the waters of Moroni," such as in the term, "from the loins of Judah." As a mother gives birth to a baby, her water breaks. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 37]
Question* Does the name "Ammon" in "Ammon-ihah have any significance to the stories which take place at this location? Is the name "Ammonihah" Mulekite? Geographically, the city of Ammonihah would be far enough away in a northward direction from the local land of Zarahemla to have retained some of the culture of the people of Zarahemla. In Mosiah 7:3 we find that the person who was sent to inquire concerning the people of Zeniff who had gone up to the land of Nephi was named Ammon, and he was "a descendant of Zarahemla." Could these people be Mulekite descendants with a high degree of the blood of Judah? Is there a cultural connection or message here in the name Ammon-ihah? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes][See the commentary on Alma 4:18; Mosiah 7-8]
Alma 8:7 It Was the Custom of the People of Nephi to Call Their Lands . . . after the Name of Him Who First Possessed Them:
As the Zarahemla Research Foundation staff looked at the headings for each major land--such as "land of Nephi" and the "land of Zarahemla"--someone commented, "[The lands of] Bountiful and Desolation don't seem to fit the Nephite custom of naming lands [after a person]." The Nephite custom is described by Mormon as follows:
Now it was the custom of the people of Nephi to call their lands and their cities and their villages, yea, even all their small villages, after the name of him who first possessed them; and thus it was with the land of Ammonihah. (Alma 8:7)
So, does the Book of Mormon give any possible explanation as to why we have the names Bountiful and Desolation? Perhaps! In Alma 22:31 we are told that these lands were associated with a people which had "been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken" [The only bones spoken of by the recordkeeper Mormon are referred to in Mosiah 8:8 in association with the Limhi expedition which returned with 24 plates of gold, a Jaredite record of a fallen people.] . . . The Hebrew word samem and its derivatives are translated "desolate" or "desolation." The meaning is "a barren, empty land, wasted and made bleak by some disaster. The disaster may be natural or a result of war. But usually this word group is associated with divine judgment." It usually applies to places and things.33 [This would fit the Jaredites perfectly]
In Alma 22:31 we find that "they [either the Jaredites or the people of Zarahemla] came from there [the land Desolation] up into the south wilderness. Thus . . . the land on the southward was called Bountiful, it being the wilderness which is filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind, a part of which had come from the land northward for food." In the Jaredite record, it verifies the fact the Jaredites "did preserve the land southward for a wilderness, to get game. And the whole face of the land northward was covered with inhabitants" (Ether 10:21). The Jaredite record also verifies the fact that during a time of drought, the Jaredites "did go into the land southward, to hunt food for the people of the land, for the land was covered with animals of the forest" (Ether 10:19). . . . Checking our Hebrew sources, we find that the Hebrew word for "bountiful" is tob or tov. Associated with its meanings are such descriptions as "good," "beautiful,," "bountiful," "prosperous," "agreeable for eating," "fruitful" and "fertile."34 . . . Here we are also reminded of the area in the Old World named Bountiful by the Lehi and his family "because of its much fruit and also wild honey" (1 Nephi 17:5).
Still we wondered, Why these exceptions to the prescribed manner of naming lands? . . . This significant departure from the Nephite custom of naming their lands for the first person to possess them seems to imply that maybe the lands Bountiful and Desolation were not "possessed" by a people in the usual sense. This insight led us to another question, Could it be that the regions extended over specific "possessed" lands or boundaries rather than being specific boundaried lands--similar to national parks, or the "plains area," or even the "desert Southwest" in the United States which spreads across state lines?
Ultimately, all references to the lands Bountiful and Desolation warrant reexamination for new understanding in relation to the geography of the Book of Mormon. Once again the "learning of the Jews" provides an increased understanding of Book of Mormon geography. [Adapted from ZRF Staff, "Why Bountiful? Why Desolation?," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, p. 148]
Alma 8:7 It Was the Custom of the People of Nephi to Call Their Lands . . . after the Name of Him Who First Possessed Them:
The custom of the Nephites to "call their lands . . . after the name of him who first possessed them" (Alma 8:7) seems to have a correlation with customs in Mesoamerica. According to Hunter and Ferguson, in Mesoamerica each kingdom or province kept the name, according as to who was the lord or king who first settled it, as can be seen in the lands, kingdoms, and provinces of the Tultecas, which were generally called Tullan, because the first king they had was so called. Further, the foregoing custom conforms to ancient Hebrew-Arabic practice in the Near East. [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas S. Ferguson, Ancient America and The Book of Mormon, p. 153]
Alma 8:10 Wrestling with God in Mighty Prayer:
In Alma 8:10 it informs us that "Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer . . . Hugh Nibley queries, Wrestling with God? Does God resist you? Do you have to resist him? No, you have to put yourself into position, in the right state of mind. Remember, in our daily walks of life as we go around doing things, we're far removed. If you're bowling, or if you're in business, or if you're jogging or something like that, doing the things you usually do, and then you have to go from there to prayer, it's quite a transition. It's like a culture shock if your really take it seriously. You have to get yourself in form, like a wrestler having to look around for a hold or get a grip, as Jacob did when he wrestled with the Lord. You have to size yourself up, take your stance, circle the ring, and try to find out how you're going to deal with this particular problem. You're not wrestling with the Lord; you're wrestling with yourself. Remember, Enos is the one who really wrestled (see Enos 1:2). And he told us what he meant when he was wrestling; he was wrestling with himself, his own inadequacies. How can I possibly face the Lord in my condition, is what he says. So this is what we're doing. . . . It takes a great mental effort to confront the Lord in all seriousness. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, pp. 301-302] [See the commentary on Enos 1:2]
Alma 8:13 [And] He Departed Thence and Took His Journey:
According to Shirley Heater, in some places words on the Printer's Manuscript [which help to establish the Manuscript as a literal translation of an ancient text] were omitted in the 1830 edition (and subsequent editions). In the 1981 LDS edition, Alma 8:13 reads, "Now when the people had said this, and withstood all his words, and reviled him, and spit upon him, and caused that he should be cast out of their city, [. . .] he departed thence and took his journey towards the city which was called Aaron." In the Printer's Manuscript we find that the verse reads, "and he departed thence and took his journey . . ." [Shirley R. Heater, "The 1830 Edition: History and Manuscript Comparison," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, pp. 95-97]
Thus, there seems to have been an abundant usage of the word "and" in the Manuscript. According to Angela Crowell, in Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, the author states, "Contrary to English usage, which in lengthy enumerations uses the and to connect only the last member of the series, in Hebrew polysyndeton is customary"35 (i.e., "and" stands before each word or phrase in a series). A perfect example is found in Genesis 24:35 of the Old Testament:
And the Lord hath blessed my master greatly,
and he is become great;
And he hath given him flocks and herds,
And silver and gold;
And men servants and maid servants . . .
[Angela M. Crowell, "Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, p. 4]
Alma 8:13 [Alma] Departed . . . towards the City Which Was Called Aaron:
When Alma left Ammonihah he went "towards the city which was called Aaron" (Alma 8:13). How far he had to go in order to reach that city it doesn't say. What direction he went in going "towards" the city of Aaron it doesn't say. It is also unknown whether this city of Aaron was the same city of Aaron mentioned later on in Alma 50:14 In Alma 50:14 it states that the Nephites "began a foundation for a city between the city of Moroni (which was 'by the east sea; and it was on the south by the line of the possessions of the Lamanites'--Alma 50:13) and the city of Aaron, joining the borders of Aaron and Moroni." This description creates some problems because the city of Aaron referred to here in Alma 8:13 is associated with the land of Melek, which was "on the west of the river Sidon . . . by the borders of the wilderness" (Alma 8:3). The city of Aaron here in Alma 8:13 is also associated with the city of Ammonihah, which was "three days' journey on the north of the land of Melek" (Alma 8:6).
According to John Clark [who postulates an "hourglass" shape for the Book of Mormon lands and assumes no duplication of place names], the relative position of Aaron can be deduced by the following reasoning:
1. Alma was cast out of Ammonihah, and he "took his journey towards the city which was called Aaron" (Alma 8:13). Thus:
a. A route connected Aaron and Ammonihah (Alma 8:13).
b. The route was probably not westward (the wilderness side -- also the Lamanite invasion route).
c. The route was probably not southward (Alma had just traversed this route coming from Melek).
2. When Alma returned to Ammonihah, "he entered the city by another way, yea, by the way which is on the south of the city of Ammonihah" (Alma 8:18). Because of this phrase "another way," we might presume that Alma had not entered (or been cast out of) this southern entrance on his previous visit: Thus, Aaron was probably either north or east of Ammonihah. [Note* If all Nephite cities were situated so that the main entrance was towards the east (as in Nephihah -- see Alma 62:18-23), then the phrase "another way on the south" might be saying that Alma was to enter the city of Ammonihah by a "south" entrance rather than the main "east" entrance.]
3. A city named Aaron is mentioned in association with the land of Nephihah (Alma 50:13), which was located in the east wilderness. Thus, Aaron was located on a route that probably led eastward from Ammonihah. [John Clark, "A Key for Evaluating Nephite Geographies," in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, 1989, F.A.R.M.S., p. 47] [See Geographical Theory Maps]
Alma 8:13 The city which was called Aaron (Illustration): The Southern and Western Borders of Nephite Lands [John Clark, "A Key for Evaluating Nephite Geographies," in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, 1989, F.A.R.M.S., p. 44]
Alma 8:13 The City Which Was Called Aaron:
According to the geographical theory of John Sorenson (a Chiapas Depression setting for the general land of Zarahemla), Alma likely at first followed the route toward Ocozocoautla/Noah but branched off toward Aaron before reaching Noah. Later, however, when he and Amulek "came out" of the Ammonihah valley and over the intervening elevation heading to Sidom, they would have passed through Noah. One ancient site dominated the middle sector of the land, San Isidro. San Isidro was found to be the economic and political key to the whole Middle Grijalva zone and the largest site on the river downstream from Chiapa de Corzo. A person going from Mirador/Ammonihah toward the [east lowlands] would naturally pass through this city. Traveling on or near the great river through the hilly tangle that separates the central depression from the lowlands. The road from Mirador to the [east] coast would head in a direction such that the traveler would miss Ocozocoautla, as Alma appears to have done at first. The entire arrangement of distances, topography, and drainage involving San Isidro provides a neat solution for the Aaron problem. Incidentally, the excavation at San Isidro showed that it was not occupied during the first century B.C., the period following Alma's day. This would explain why we hear nothing further of the place through the period of wars and migrations covered later in the books of Alma and Helaman. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 203]
Alma 8:13 The city which was called Aaron (Illustration): Ammonihah (Mirador); Noah (Ocozocoautla); Aaron (San Isidro); Sidom (Chiapa de Corzo): Projection of the Coast and Highlands of Chiapas indicating Modern and Ancient Routes of Communication. [Gareth Lowe, Thomas Lee, and Eduardo Martinez, Izapa: An Introduction to the Ruins and Monuments, N.W.A.F., p. 73]
Alma 8:15 I Am He That Delivered It unto You:
When Alma was weighed down and feeling like a failure in his mission to the people of the city of Ammonihah, an angel appeared to him and told him to rejoice. Interestingly, this angel told him that "thou hast great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from him. Behold, I am he that delivered it [the first message] unto you" (Alma 8:15). The account of that "first message" is found in Mosiah 27:11-16. According to Hugh Nibley, we used to teach much more about guardian angels in the Church. We used to teach much more of that doctrine. We don't do it anymore. I don't know why not, because it's a very real thing, the presence of another world. . . . Remember in Luke when the gospel was first being established, an angel went around and visited various people, namely Mary, the shepherds in the field, and Zacharias in the temple. It was the same angel; it was Gabriel. He said, I'm Gabriel. That was his particular mission, to introduce that dispensation of time. In the same manner, obviously, this angel was assigned to Alma. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 303]
Alma 8:15 Behold, I Am He That Delivered It unto You:
As Alma was journeying towards the city which was called Aaron, being weighed down with sorrow because of the wickedness of the people in the city of Ammonihah, an angel of the Lord appeared to him. He declared: "thou has great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of Gd from the time thou receivedst thy first message from him. Behold, I am he that delivered it unto you" (Alma 8:15; emphasis added).
Larry Dahl notes that apparently this was the same angel who appeared to Alma when Alma was converted. (See Mosiah 27) [Larry E. Dahl, "The Plan of Redemption," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, p. 318]
Alma 8:18-19 It Came to Pass . . . It Came to Pass . . . It Came to Pass:
According to Royal Skousen, the original text of the Book of Mormon contains expressions which seem inappropriate or improper in some of their uses. For example, in the original text a good many occurrences of the phrase "and it came to pass" are found in inappropriate contexts. In his editing for the 1837 edition, Joseph Smith removed at least 47 of these apparently extraneous uses of this well-worked phrase. In most cases, there were two or more examples of "it came to pass" in close proximity; in some cases, nothing new had "come to pass." Now the King James phrase "and it came to pass" corresponds to the Hebrew word for "and it happened." When translating the Hebrew Bible, the King James translators avoided translating this Hebrew word whenever it wouldn't make sense in English, especially when too many events were "coming to pass" or when nothing had really "come to pass"--in other words, in those very places that the original text of the Book of Mormon "inappropriately" allows "and it came to pass" to occur. Consider the following Book of Mormon example (where the deleted phrase "it came to pass that" is in italics) with a corresponding example from Genesis, given in the King James version, where the Hebrew word for "and it happened" is given as "it came to pass that" (and where the originally untranslated example is placed in square brackets):
now it came to pass that after Alma had received his message from the angel of the Lord he returned speedily to the land of Ammonihah and it came to pass that he entered the city by another way yea by the way which was on the south of the city Ammonihah and it came to pass that as he entered the city he was an hungered and he sayeth to a man will ye give to a humble servant of God something to eat. (1837)
and they journeyed from Bethel and [it came to pass that] there was but a little way to come to Ephrath and Rachel travailed and she had hard labour and it came to pass when she was in hard labour that the midwife said unto her fear not thou shalt have this son also and it came to pass as her soul was in departing for she died that she called his name Benoni but his father called him Benjamin.
What is important here is to realize that the original text of the Book of Mormon apparently contains expressions that are not characteristic of English at any place or time, in particular neither Joseph Smith's upstate New York dialect nor the King James Bible. Subsequent editing of the text into standard English has systematically removed these non-English expressions from the text--the very expressions that provide the strongest support for the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is a literal translation of a non-English text. Further, the potential Hebraisms found in the original text are consistent with the belief, but do not prove, that the source text is related to the language of the Hebrew Bible. [Royal Skousen, "The Original Language of the Book of Mormon: Upstate New York Dialect, King James English, or Hebrew?," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 3/1 1994, pp. 35-37] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 4:10; Alma 14:4-5]
Alma 8:20 I Am a Nephite:
According to John Sorenson, the reader should note that Amulek's first statement to Alma in the city of Ammonihah was "I am a Nephite" (Alma 8:20). Obviously most people there would not have said that; otherwise it would have been absurd for him to begin that way. . . . A Mayan practice at the time of the Spanish conquest shows the same principle governing how to get along in strange territory: "When anyone finds himself in a strange region and in need, he has recourse to those of his name [kin group]; and if there are any, they receive him and treat him with all kindness." [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 205, 213]
The fact that Amulek had to specifically mention to Alma2 that "I am a Nephite" (Alma 8:20) intimates that Amulek was living with a group of people in Ammonihah who, for the most part, were not Nephites. The following evidence suggests that they were Mulekites (with a Jaredite culture heritage):
1. The city of Ammonihah, which was the location of Amulek's home (Alma 8:21), is identified in the book of Alma as a city associated with the order of Nehor (see Alma 14:16-18; 15:15; 16:11).
2. Nehor is a name that is found in the Jaredite record (Ether 7:4).
3. The last Jaredite king, Coriantumr, was "discovered by the people of Zarahemla; and he dwelt with them for the space of nine moons" (Omni 1:21). In Mosiah 25:2, it says that "Zarahemla was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness."
4. In Alma 22:30-31, it says that the land called Desolation (Jaredite lands?) was the place of the first landing for the people of Zarahemla before they came up into the south wilderness.
Amulek's association with Mulekites is also demonstrated in his name, A-mulek. Amulek's name could be a situation of metonymy. According to Gordon Thomasson, "metonymy or metonymic naming involves 'naming by association,' a metophoric process of linking two concepts or persons together in such a way as to tell us more about the latter by means of what we already know about the former." (see Gordon C. Thomasson, "What's in a Name? Book of Mormon Language, Names, and [Metonymic] Naming," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Spring 1994, p. 15)
In other words, perhaps Mormon, in his editing process, deliberately chose the name "Amulek" for this Nephite helper of Alma2 to emphasize the fact that, although Amulek lists his Nephite lineage back to Lehi (Alma 10:1-4), he was in some way associated with a Mulekite culture. [See the commentary on Alma 2:11]
Alma 8:20 Thou Art the Man Whom an Angel Said in a Vision: Thou Shalt Receive:
As Alma was in the process of leaving Ammonihah, he received a message from an angel instructing him to return. As he entered the city, he was hungry and ask a man if he wouldn't give a humble servant of God something to eat. The man (Amulek) answered by saying: "I know that thou art a holy prophet of God, for thou art the man whom an angel said in a vision: Thou shalt receive" (Alma 8:20).
John Tvedtnes notes that a similar event happened nearly two millennia later. In 1886, Jacob Spori, a missionary for the LDS Church in the Middle East, on board a ship bound for the Palestinian port-city of Haifa, had a dream in which he learned that he should walk down a certain street. In his dream, he saw a blacksmith with a short coal-black beard, whom he was told would be prepared to receive the message of the restored gospel. Spori reported that, while walking down the street in Haifa (during his first visit to that city), he was met by the blacksmith, Georg Johann Grau. Grau came running out to see him and informed him that he had seen Spori in a dream and had been told that the stranger would have a divine message for him. On August 29, 1886, Georg and Magdalena Grau were the first persons baptized by priesthood authority in modern times in Israel, the land of Jesus. [John A. Tvedtnes, "He Shall Prepare a Way," in The Most Correct Book, p. 109]
Alma 8:20 Therefore, go with me into my house and I will impart unto thee of my food (Illustration): In A.D. 1500 the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, utilized housing units somewhat like those from nearby Teotihuacan a thousand years earlier. This artist's reconstruction is said to show a "middle-class" Aztec house, but that may be an overstatement in terms of today's connotation. A typical home probably was less consciously decorated and somewhat more shopworn. Sorenson notes that most people would have had houses only large enough to contain their immediate family (consider "the poor" in Mosiah 4:24, Alma 5:55, etc.) But upper-class people must have had larger units into which guests could be received. Amulek, a man of means (see Alma 10:4), had a sizeable household; his establishment included "my women, and my children," and, perhaps in the same household, "my father and my kinsfolk" (Alma 10:11). The hospitality he offered Alma was returned to him when destitute and exiled from his home community (see Alma 15:16), Amulek was taken into Alma's own house (see Alma 15:18). [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, pp. 61, 63]
Alma 8:22 Alma Ate Bread and Was Filled; and He . . . Gave Thanks unto God:
According to Angela Crowell and John Tvedtnes, in Judaism [and contrary to the custom of Joseph Smith's time], while a brief blessing is recited before eating, a series of longer blessings, the birkat ha-mazon, follows the meal. . . . The basis for this practice is Deuteronomy 8:10, which calls for a blessing only if one has eaten and is full:
When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.
Blessing the Lord after eating one's fill ensured that the Israelites would not forget the source of their blessings (Compare Deuteronomy 6:11-12; 31:20; Nehemiah 9:25-26).
It is interesting to compare this practice with the wording of Alma 8:22, "And it came to pass that Alma ate bread and was filled; and he blessed Amulek and his house, and he gave thanks unto God." Here, too, the blessing and thanks to God are offered only after being "filled." . . .
John W. Welch has noted that an early Christian document, Didache 10:1-2,5, enjoins prayer "after being filled" during communion.36 In this connection, it is interesting to see that similar thoughts are expressed on both occasions when the resurrected Christ blessed the sacrament for the Nephites. In 3 Nephi 18:8-18 we read that the Nephites partook of the bread and wine and "were filled" (3 Nephi 18:9), after which Jesus instructed them to pray. Third Nephi 20:9 contains the slight variation that "when the multitude had all eaten and drunk, behold, they were filled with the Spirit; and they did cry out with one voice, and gave glory to Jesus, whom they both saw and heard." In this case, the people were filled not with the bread and wine, but with the Spirit. Nevertheless, it is interesting that they "gave glory to Jesus" on this occasion. [Angela M. Crowell and John A. Tvedtnes, "The Nephite and Jewish Practice of Blessing God after Eating One's Fill," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 6/2 1997, pp. 251-254] [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 20:9]