Alma 1

 

The Lord Redeems His Covenant Children

      Alma 1 -- Alma 44


 

 

 

 

ALMA

 

 

 

Alma 1:1 Having Warred a Good Warfare:

 

     According to Roy Weldon, the Book of Mormon is replete with Hebraic phrases. One classification of these Hebraisms involves verbs with cognate nouns. In the Bible some examples are found in Job 3:25 ("Feared a fear") and Jeremiah 46:5 ("Fled a flight"). One good example in the Book of Mormon is found in Alma 1:1, "king Mosiah having gone the way of all the earth, having warred a good warfare, walking uprightly before God . . ." (emphasis mine) [Roy E. Weldon, Book of Mormon Deeps, Vol. III, p. 275]

 

Alma 1:2 The Reign of Alma:

 

     According to the theory of Michael Hobby, the reason such care was taken by Mosiah2 during the transfer of power from kings to the judges was that the liberty of the Nephites--ultimately the church--was at risk if a Mulekite, a descendant of Judah, should ever consolidate the reigns of power. While the brass plates were early on a symbol of kingship power for the Nephites, they ultimately contained verses which might have been a key source for disputation regarding kingship. If the Mulekites studied the brass plates, they would soon discover that the right of rule was originally conferred upon the tribe of Judah (see Genesis 49:8-12). . . . Having this newly found right to kingship coupled with their Jaredite kingship heritage, some of the Mulekites would have sufficient ammunition to foster rebellion. With this background in mind, it is interesting that according to Alma 1:2, and despite the fact that judges were now in control and not kings, there was no mistaking in the Nephite mind that the chief judge reigned. [Michael M. Hobby, The Mulekite Connection, pp. 32-34] [See the commentary on Mosiah 29:39; Alma 4:16-17; Helaman 1:13]

 

Alma 1:2 The Judgment-Seat:

 

     An idiom is an expression of thought that is peculiar to a given culture. . . . According to Dr. Sami Hanna, who was assigned by the Church in the mid 1970's to translate the Book of Mormon from English back into its native Semitic tongue, the term "judgment-seat" (Alma 1:2) is a peculiar Semitic term. It is odd that Joseph Smith, if he truly composed the Book of Mormon himself, used the Semitic phrase "judgment-seat" rather than using the terms "senate," "president," or "ruler." In the Arabic custom, the place of power rests in the judgment-seat, and whoever occupies that seat is the authority. The authority goes with the seat, not with the office or the person. Thus, a perfect Semitic phrase! [Brenton Yorgason, Little Known Evidences of the Book of Mormon, p. 38]

 

Alma 1:2 There Was A Man . . . Who Was Large, and Was Noted for His Much Strength:

 

     In Alma 1:2 we find that in the very first year of the reign of Alma (as if to challenge Alma's authority) "there was a man brought before him to be judged. Without giving his name we are told he "was large, and was noted for his much strength." These words are very similar to those which will later in the text describe another leader of rebellion against Nephite leadership: "Now the leader of those who were wroth against their brethren was a large and a strong man; and his name was Amalickiah" (Alma 46:3). Mormon's uses these descriptive words, along with the name Amalickiah to link their rebellions.

     The "man . . . who was large" here in Alma 1:2 is finally identified ("Nehor") in Alma 1:15. He is linked with "the order of Nehor" as explained in the next chapter where the reader will encounter a man "after the order of [Nehor]" who leads a rebellion against the Nephite leadership. His name is Am lici. When pronounced with the accent on the first syllable and using a "k" sound for the "c", the name is very similar to Amalicki (pronounced with the accent on the first syllable also). This linkage should not be ignored as it is a key to unlocking understanding concerning the continued troubles of the Nephites in the Book of Alma. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [For more cultural background information on Nehor, see the commentary on Alma 1:15; For information on Amlici see the commentary on Alma 2:1]

 

Alma 1:3 [Nehor] had gone about among the people, preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God (Illustration): Three Diverse Nephite Opponents. [John W. Welch and Morgan Ashton, Charting the Book of Mormon, Packet 1, 1997]

 

Alma 1:3 [Nehor] had gone about among the people, preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God. (Illustration) Teancum slays Amalickiah in his tent.

 

 

Alma 1:3 Every Priest and Teacher Ought to Become Popular:

 

     According to the philosophy of Nehor, "every priest and teacher ought to become popular" (Alma 1:3). It is interesting that Nephi warned of what might happen to any church that might uphold this philosophy. In 1 Nephi 22:23, the "popular" preaching and teaching is accompanied by some parallel attributes which might help the reader understand why such a philosophy as Nehor's was so potentially destructive:

     For the time speedily shall come that

           [1] all churches which are built up to get gain, and

           [2] all those who are built up to get power over the flesh, and

           [3] those who are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world, and

           [4] those who seek the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, and to do all manner

                 of iniquity;

           yea, in fine, all those who belong to the kingdom of the devil are they who need fear, and tremble, and quake; they are those who must be brought low in the dust; they are those who must be consumed as stubble; and this is according to the words of the prophet.

 

     Another parallel to the term "popular" is found in Luke 6:26, "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! For so did their fathers to the false prophets." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 22:23]

 

Alma 1:5 They Began to Support Him with Money:

 

     As Nehor spread his message, many of the Nephites "began to support him and give him money" (Alma 1:5). In view of the fact that all religions need money to operate, one might ask, What is wrong with being supported by money? According to Hugh Nibley, all religions are supported by money, but the immorality of it (as Plato shows in the Protagoras and the Gorgias) is when you start giving it to individuals. When you have a line veto that it be used for this [person] or that [project], then you are not giving it at all. If I give money to the church specifying that it can only be used for this, I'm not giving it to the Lord or trusting him at all. I don't specify what it's for; I just pay my tithing and that's that. If it's misused that's none of my affair; I've done what the Lord requires of me. . . . One might also wonder, What is wrong with winning souls [and money] for Jesus? The answer is that it requires rhetoric. This type of missionary must be a crowd pleaser. Truth tellers are something else, as we learn from Samuel the Lamanite, Abinadi, and people like that. We wouldn't need prophets at all if they told us only what we wanted to hear. We wouldn't need the scriptures if they told us only what we wanted. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, pp. 217-218]

 

Alma 1:6 He [Nehor] Began to Be Lifted Up . . . to Wear Very Costly Apparel:

 

     In Alma 1:6 it says that as a result of his popular gospel message, Nehor "began to be lifted up in the pride of his heart, and to wear very costly apparel, yea, and even began to establish a church after the manner of his preaching." According to Hugh Nibley we have some very interesting Old World [and New World] documents about this sort of thing. The Chilam Balam, the oldest record from Central America, talks about this sort of thing--how the priests would be lifted up on people's shoulders dressed in elaborate apparel and carried about town. It talks about this later on when Samuel the Lamanite chastises the people saying, "And if a man shall come among you and say this [what you want to hear], ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet; yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel" (Helaman 13:27-28). We have pictures of these overdressed priests being carried in on poles [see illustration--Helaman 13:28]. . . . Notice also that they never call it "beautiful apparel." It's just costly. . . . As you know if you've seen the vase paintings and the murals from Central America, Mexico, etc. They are all horribly overdressed; they look like walking Christmas trees--these grandees being carried around. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, pp. 217-218, 259] [See the commentary on Helaman 13:27-28]

 

Alma 1:8 It Was He [Gideon] Who Was an Instrument in the Hands of God in Delivering the People of Limhi out of Bondage:

 

     [For the details of this reference to Gideon, see the commentary on Mosiah 19:4]

 

Alma 1:12 This Is the First Time That Priestcraft Has Been Introduced among This People:

 

     It is interesting that as soon as the Nephite kings relinquish their absolute power over the people of Zarahemla, "priestcraft" appears (Alma 1:12). According to 2 Nephi 26:29, "priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion." This would shed light on the statement in Alma 1:3 where Nehor taught that "every priest and teacher ought to become popular."

     According to Bruce R. McConkie, "when ministers claim but do not possess the priesthood; when they set themselves up as lights to their congregations, but do not preach the pure and full gospel; when their interest is in gaining personal popularity and financial gain, rather than in caring for the poor and ministering to the wants and needs of their fellow men--they are engaged, in a greater or lesser degree, in the practice of priestcrafts." [Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 593]

 

Alma 1:12 This Is the First Time That Priestcraft Has Been Introduced among This People:

 

     According to Hugh Nibley, it is interesting that Alma not only introduces the term "priestcraft"--"This is the first time that priestcraft has been introduced among this people" (Alma 1:12)--but that he seems to have a historical knowledge of it's destructive capabilities--"were priestcraft to be enforced among this people it would prove their entire destruction." Alma doesn't specifically say where he got this historical perspective; however, it is interesting to note that about the time of Lehi, in the twenty-sixth dynasty [of Egypt], priestcraft ruled the world. . . . Incidentally, the first high priest [of the twenty-first dynasty in Egypt] was called Korihor [the same name as Korihor the anti-Christ mentioned in Alma 30] and his son was called Pianki [the same name as Paanchi, who contended for the judgment-seat at the time Kishkumen and his band (the Gadianton robbers) came into power--see Helaman 1-2] [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 219]

 

Alma 1:12 This Is the First Time That Priestcraft Has Been Introduced among This People:

 

     Referring to the teachings of Nehor, Alma records, "This is the first time that priestcraft has been introduced among this people" (Alma 1:12). This statement adds chronological meaning to a statement in Alma 21 referring to the missionary efforts of the sons of Mosiah in the land of Nephi, specifically at the city of Jerusalem:

     Alma 21:4: And it came to pass that Aaron came to the city of Jerusalem, and first began to preach to the Amalekites. And he began to preach to them in their synagogues, for they had built synagogues after the order of the Nehors; for many of the Amalekites and the Amulonites were after the order of the Nehors.

 

     If these statements reflect Nephite chronology; that is, if the order of Nehor originated exclusively with the Nephites, then these synagogues would have had to have been built since the execution of Nehor. The reader might wonder, How could this be so?

     According to Michael Hobby, the key to unlocking this dilemma might be tied to Jaredite culture which the Mulekites (the people of Zarahemla) had apparently brought with them when they became subject to Nephite kings. The fact that the Mulekites were deeply involved in Jaredite culture is obvious . . . the fact that they spoke the Jaredite tongue is evidenced by their personal and city names, names of coinage, etc. One direct example is the name Nehor [Mulekite] in Alma 1:2-15. There is also a Nehor [Jaredite] mentioned in Ether 7:4. In all, as much as 30-40 percent of all Nephite/Mulekite names may have been Jaredite or contained one or more Jaredite elements. This could hardly have resulted from reading the record of a fallen people. [Michael M. Hobby, The Mulekite Connection, pp. 21-22]

     Thus, the reader should not find it surprising that in a very short period of time, this "order of Nehor" would be the dominating political force in such diverse locations as the city of Ammonihah (Alma 14:16) (located somewhat to the northwest of the local land of Zarahemla--Alma 8:3,6) and the city of Jerusalem (Alma 21:1-3) (located near the borders of Mormon--Alma 21:1). One should also notice that Nehor was executed on the hill Manti (see Alma 1:15), and that the land Manti was located near the border between the general land of Nephi and the general land of Zarahemla (see Alma 22:27).

     If, in a few short years, the people at Jerusalem "had built synagogues after the order of the Nehors; for many of the Amalekites and the Amulonites were after the order of the Nehors," then what cultural phenomenon would account for such a spread of the "order of Nehor"? Did the Nephites or Mulekites in the land of Zarahemla establish intercultural communications with the Lamanites in the land of Nephi? Or did the "order of Nehor" really begin in Nephite times? Perhaps a Jaredite/Mulekite order of Nehor had established cultural ties with the Lamanites through the Amalekites and Amulonites. And perhaps the name Nehor is an example of "metonymy" by the editor Mormon in order to provide the reader with this cultural connection. In other words, in writing his edited story, Mormon gave this person the Jaredite name "Nehor" in order to link him to the same philosophies that arose in the Jaredite civilization where the name "Nehor" also appears. What this then might imply is that the Jaredites were destroyed because of priestcraft! [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 8:20; Ether 8:9]

 

Alma 1:12 Were Priestcraft to Be Enforced among This People It Would Prove Their Entire Destruction:

 

     The reader should note that this Nehor doctrine is exactly the same approach which Satan took in the premortal existence saying:

           Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost . . . Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down. (Moses 4:1,3)

 

     According to Tom Cherrington, a significant point to ponder here is that this destructive Nehor/Satan philosophy not only would prove the "destruction" of the Lord's people here on earth, but it would have proved the "entire destruction" (Alma 1:12) of the people. How is this so? Simply put, the priestcraft philosophy would prove the entire destruction of the Lord's eternal plan--"the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). Had Satan's (Nehor's) plan been accepted in the premortal existence, it would have negated all the varying degrees of progression that had been attained up to that point in man's premortal existence. Thus, there would have been no "noble and great ones" because all the laws upon which they were judged to be "noble and great" would have been made void. There would have been no allowance for birthright blessings which would accompany man into his earthly existence. There would be no reward for righteousness on the highest level during earthly existence, for Satan would save everybody. But in order to do that, just like Nehor, he would have made himself popular by lowering the standards, thus negating the Lord's plan which had been in existence from the beginning. "To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man," is to raise man to the Lord's level of eternal life--to become like God. Satan's plan would have destroyed the agency of man in premortal existence. It would have removed accountability by making it of no effect. It wasn't so much that Satan was going to force people to do good, it was that Satan was going to alter God's standards so that God's children would not have any accountability, which in effect is damnation. [Adapted from personal communication with Tom Cherrington]

 

Alma 1:15 Nehor:

 

     According to Paul Hoskisson, the name "Nehor" is a Jaredite name, and the Nephite apostate movements might have been inspired by Jaredite history. If this was the case, then the Jaredite cities (of the order of Nehor) might have been located more to the "north" (or downstream) of Zarahemla (due to the southern migrations of Jaredites and "Mulekites" from the land northward). Such a location was the case with the city of Ammonihah, which was a "city of Nehors" (Alma 16:11). This area is a possibility for the origin of the Amlicites. [Paul Hoskisson, "An Introduction to the Relevance and a Methodology for a Study of the Proper Names of the Book of Mormon," in By Study and Also by Faith, Vol 2, F.A.R.M.S., p. 130] [See the commentary on Alma 1:2; 2:1]      

 

Alma 1:15 They Carried Him upon the Top of the Hill Manti:

 

     If Nehor "was . . . brought" (Alma 1:2) to be judged of Alma, and if the judgment seat of Alma was in the local land of Zarahemla, then the place of execution or the hill Manti might have been close by if we take the words "they carried him upon the top of the hill Manti" (Alma 1:15) in a literal sense. However, if the term "hill Manti" has any reference to a location within the land of Manti, then Nehor might have been taken back to his land of origin (the land Manti) to be executed. According to Alma 22:27, the land of Manti was apparently located near the head of the river Sidon, close to or in the narrow strip of wilderness which separated Nephite territory from Lamanite territory. It is interesting that an area possibly near the land of Manti ("the land of Minon, above the land of Zarahemla, in the course of the land of Nephi"--Alma 2:24) is associated with the Amlicite War that followed Nehor's preaching and execution. This association was between "Lamanites" apparently coming from the land of Nephi (upstream from Zarahemla) and the Amlicites (downstream from Zarahemla). Amlici was "after the order of the man that slew Gideon" [Nehor] (Alma 2:1).

     In Mesoamerica, near the headwaters of the Grijalva river (a proposed river Sidon) or the Usumacinta river (a proposed river Sidon), there are a number of distinctive "hills" which distinguish highland Guatemala from the lowland Chiapas depression or lowland Peten. These "hills" are majestic volcanoes which form part of the Cuchumatanes mountain range. They are tall enough to imply to the onlooker that anybody who was carried to their top would truly be situated "between the heavens and the earth" (Alma 1:15). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 2:1, 2:15, 21:4, 24:28-29]

 

Alma 1:15 And they carried him upon the top of the Hill Manti (Illustration): The Tacana volcanic peak, 4,064 meters (13,208 ft.) above sea level, as seen from a point just west of Tapachula on the Interamerican Highway. [Gareth Lowe, Thomas Lee, and Eduardo Martinez, Izapa: An Introduction to the Ruins and Monuments, N.W.A.F., p. 42]

 

Alma 1:15 The Hill Manti:

 

     According to Hunter and Ferguson (Ancient America, page 363), it is an interesting fact that all mountains, regardless of size, are referred to as "hills" in the Book of Mormon. The Hebrew term "harar" is translated "hill or mountain." It is the term used for referring to large elevations. The translators of the Old Testament have sometimes rendered the term "hill" and sometimes rendered the term "mountain." Apparently Joseph Smith saw fit to render it "hill" in all instances where an elevation was referred to by name in the Nephite account. In doing so he was doing an excellent job of translating. [Roy E. Weldon, Book of Mormon Deeps, Vol. III, p. 296]

 

Alma 1:15 Or Rather:

 

     The reader should notice how Mormon (or Joseph Smith) apparently uses the phrase "or rather" to clarify language already inscribed on the metal plates. Here it says that Nehor "was caused, or rather did acknowledge, between the heavens and the earth, that what he had taught to the people was contrary to the word of God" (Alma 1:15). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Alma 1:15 Between the Heavens and the Earth:

 

     It says in Alma 1:15, "And it came to pass that they took him; and his name was Nehor, and they carried him upon the top of the hill Manti, and there he was caused, or rather did acknowledge, between the heavens and the earth that what he had taught to the people was contrary to the word of God; and there he suffered an ignominious death." According to Hugh Nibley, the phrase "between the heavens and the earth" has a ritual connection with an ancient literary legend--the legend of Harut and Marut. In the days of Enoch the Watchers came to the earth and started corrupting men. They started taking the sacred ordinances and claiming them, but perverting them. They claimed that they had the right gospel. They gave a false slant and a false teaching to it, and justified all sorts of immorality. Therefore, Harut and Marut [the Watchers] were hanged on a high hill because the earth would not accept them. They were the first to betray the law of God to men. There was plenty of wickedness and murder, etc., but they were doing it in the name of the gospel and the priesthood. They introduced the temple ordinances but falsified them. There is quite a story about the Watchers here. . . . They were hanged between heaven and earth because the earth wouldn't receive them, just as it wouldn't receive Cain. Remember, the earth refused her strength to Cain. And heaven wouldn't receive them. So what can you do? You can just leave them hanging there because neither would receive them. And they hang there until the Day of Judgment--that's the point. That's very widespread; everybody knows about the story of Harut and Marut suspended between heaven and earth because they were the first corrupters of the human race in the name of preaching religion. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, pp. 219-220]

 

Geographical Theory Map: Alma 1:15 Nehor Is Carried to the Hill Manti (1st Year)

 

Alma 1:29 An Abundance of Flocks and Herds and . . . and . . . and:

 

     Hugh Pinnock writes that polysyndeton is among the easiest of repetitious ancient Hebrew writing forms to identify because it repeats "the word and at the beginning of successive clauses." A good example of polysyndeton in the Book of Mormon is found in Alma 1:29:

     an abundance of flocks

     and herds

     and fatlings of every kind,

     and also abundance of grain,

     and of gold,

     and of silver,

     and of precious things,

     and abundance of silk

     and fine-twined linen,

     and all manner or good homely cloth.

 

     Easily recognizable, polysyndeton was a tool frequently used by Hebrew writers and is an obvious support for the Book of Mormon's Hebraic roots. [Hugh W. Pinnock, Finding Biblical Hebrew and Other Ancient Literary Forms in the Book of Mormon, FARMS, 1999, pp. 21-23, 27] [See the commentary on Helaman 3:14, 3 Nephi 11:19-20]

     Note* Richardson, Richardson and Bentley note that other uses of polysyndeton in the Book of Mormon are found in 1 Nephi 2:4; 49; 2 Nephi 33:9; Enos 1:21; Alma 7:27; 8:21-23; 9:21; Helaman 3:14; 3 Nephi 4:7; 11:19-20; 17:13-25; 4 Nephi 1:5-7; Mormon 8:37 and Ether 9:17-27. [Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson and Anthony E. Bentley, 1000 Evidences for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Part Two-A Voice from the Dust: 500 Evidences in Support of the Book of Mormon, p. 262]

 

Alma 1:29 Flocks and Herds:

 

     According to Brant Gardner, in the Book of Mormon, "flocks and herds" are a paired set. "Herds" are not mentioned except as in conjunction with "flocks." For example, we have Nephi's statement about flocks and herds (2 Nephi 5:11), and another example from Alma:

           And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need--an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind . . . (Alma 1:29)

 

     This usage of the paired terms "flocks and herds" matches well with Old Testament usage, where the vast majority of cases have "flocks and herds" paired (see for example, Exodus 12:38). This consistent pairing indicates that there was a linguistically tied phrase common in the Old World that was perpetuated in the New World, where mention of "herds" would also automatically require the paired word "flocks." This pairing was required only by the presence of the term "herd," however, as "flocks" could appear singly (and "herd" could rarely occur on its own in the Old Testament, but never in the Book of Mormon).

     In Old Testament usage, "flocks" refer to sheep (as in Genesis 29:2). Similarly, "herds" were typically associated with cattle. However, the KJV translation will at times use the word "cattle" as a translation for miqneh "a possession, thing purchased" (Strong's Analytical Concordance). . . .

     While there is no direct evidence, there is the possibility that the Old Testament usage of miqneh "possessions" could have become the transferred meaning of the paired "flocks/herds." The usage of "flocks and herds" could easily fit into this meaning, where the singly used "flocks" might not (such as Mosiah 2:3 "And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses"' where a specific animal for sacrifice is intended rather than a generic "possessed animal").

     John L. Sorenson suggests that flocks and herds may have been categories for smaller and larger animals respectively. He includes fowl in the flocks, which is completely expected in the English usage of the term, but not supported in Biblical usage (Sorenson, Setting, p. 293). His discussion of the possible animals under semi-domestication is worthwhile, but the meaning of "flocks and herds" may have been much different than his more conventional analysis suggests. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," at http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/Alma1.htm]

 

Alma 1:29 Silk:

 

     In Alma 1:29 "silk" is mentioned. According to an article by John Sorenson, dictionaries define silk as a "fine, lustrous fiber produced by the larvae of certain insects." It refers especially to the fiber from which an Asian moth, Bombyx mori, spins its cocoon, but also to cloth more generally "something silklike." Silk from cocoons gathered from the wild in Mexico and spun into expensive cloth at the time of the Spanish conquest provides the most literal parallel to Asiatic "silk."

     Silklike fiber (kapok) from the pod of the Ceiba (or "silk-cotton") tree was gathered in Yucatan and spun; this seems to be what Landa referred to as "silk." Father Clavigero said of this kapok that it was "as soft and delicate, and perhaps more so, than silk." Furthermore, the silky fiber of the wild pineapple plant was prized in tropical America; it yielded a fiber, "finer and perhaps more durable than agave (henequen), derived from the pita floja ('silk-grass,' aecmea magdalenae)."

     Moreover, a silklike fabric was made by the Aztecs from fine rabbit hair. But even cotton cloth was sometimes woven so fine that specimens excavated at Teotihuacan and dating to the fourth century A.D. have been characterized as "of irreproachable evenness, woven . . . exceedingly fine," and "of gossamer thinness." [John L. Sorenson, "Possible 'Silk' and 'Linen' in the Book of Mormon," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 162] [See the commentary on Alma 4:6]

 

Alma 1:29 Fine-Twined Linen:

 

     We are told in Alma 1:29 that the Nephites produced "fine-twined linen" (Alma 1:29). According to an article by John Sorenson, linen is defined as a cloth, quite stiffish and hard-wearing, made of fibers from flax or hemp plants prepared by soaking and pounding. Although the flax plant was apparently not known in pre-Spanish America, several fabrics in Mesoamerica were made from vegetable fabrics that look and feel much like European linen. One was made from fibers (called henequen) of the leaf of the ixtle (maguey or agave plant), but fibers from the yucca and other plants gave similar results. Conquistador Bernal Diaz said of henequen garments that they were "like linen." Bark cloth, made by stripping bark from the fig tree and soaking and pounding it, was common in Mesoamerica and also has some of the characteristics of linen. [John L. Sorenson, "Possible 'Silk' and 'Linen' in the Book of Mormon," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 162]

 

Alma 1:29 Good Homely Cloth:

 

     In Alma 1:29 it mentions "good homely cloth." According to Webster's New World Dictionary, the term "homely" means of the home, domestic. It refers to characteristics suitable for home life or everday living. Thus, "good homely cloth" was apparently very nice, practical cloth suitable for everyday living. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Alma 1:29 All manner of good homely cloth (Illustration): Only rarely do we get glimpses of actual cloth preserved from the past, like this undated fragment now in the regional museum in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 92]

 

Alma 1:29 All manner of good homely cloth (Illustration): (a) A weaver from thirteen hundred years ago, shown in a Jaina clay sculpture, uses a type of freestanding loom that was no longer used by the time of the Spanish Conquest. (There may well have been other cultural losses too.) (b) A woman weaves on a typical pre-Columbian-style back-strap loom, with Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, in the background. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, pp. 92, 93]

 

Alma 1:32 Those Who Did Not Belong to [the Church] Did Indulge Themselves in Sorceries:

 

     In Alma 1:32 we find that "those who did not belong to [the] church did indulge themselves in sorceries." According to Hunter and Ferguson, the Mesoamerican native historian, Ixtlilxochitl, wrote that to a certain extent, "they [the ancient recordkeepers called Tultecas] were necromancers, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers." Usually those who sought or practiced the black arts were endeavoring to obtain some unfair advantage over their fellows.

     There is a law given in Deuteronomy as follows: "There shall not be found among you anyone that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of time, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee" (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). Virtually the same law existed in Middle America, even as late as the Conquest period. Sorcery and witchcraft were illegal if employed to injure the community or the individual. [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and The Book of Mormon, pp. 289-291] [See also Mormon 1:19; 3 Nephi 21:16,19]