Alma 23

 

The Lord Redeems His Covenant Children

      Alma 1 -- Alma 44


 

 

Alma 23:1 The King of the Lamanites Sent a Proclamation among All His People:

 

     According to Raymond Treat, Mormon was abridging from the large plates of Nephi when he paused in his work of editing and inserted the geographic description of Alma 22:27-34. This becomes clear if we compare Alma 22:27 and Alma 23:1:

     And it came to pass that the king sent a proclamation throughout all the land, amongst all his people . . . (Alma 22:27)

     Behold, now it came to pass that the king of the Lamanites sent a proclamation among all his people . . . (Alma 23:1)

 

     The verses are the same. After engraving the first part of Alma 22:27 from the large plates, Mormon inserted his own information on geography and then picked up the account from the large plates by repeating the same passage in 23:1. This means that all the information between these two verses was written by Mormon.

     In addition, it should be pointed out that almost 400 geographical references in the Book of Mormon passed across the "desk" of the editor, Mormon. Mormon had the expertise to know whether these references were still valid at the time he was working on the abridgment more than 300 years after the upheaval.

     But why did Mormon insert his major references to geography? There are several possibilities to consider:

     1. To aid the Gentiles in locating the remnant of Lehi.

     2. To locate the hill Cumorah.

     3. To provide a historical base similar to the Bible. Mormon knew that to consider this record an allegory would condemn it and make it as useless as if it were a fraud. (see 1 Nephi 22:1-3)

     4. To enrich the understanding of the reader.

 

     Geography is a valid and timely subject. We should no longer relegate it to a secondary position but recognize that we have a clear mandate to pursue this topic. [Raymond C. Treat, "Mormon's Hidden Message," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, pp. 142-143]

 

Alma 23:1 The King of the Lamanites Sent a Proclamation among All His People:

 

     According to the Zarahemla Research Foundation, while abridging from the large plates of Nephi, Mormon inserts what is the main reference on geography in the entire Book of Mormon (Alma 27:27-34). It is significant because it is the only place which describes all the major lands and their relationship to each other. At the beginning of the passage Mormon notes that "the king [of the Lamanites] sent a proclamation throughout all the land, amongst all his people who were in all his land" (Alma 22:27). He then proceeds to describe and relate the geography of the Nephites and Lamanites with that of the Jaredites and People of Zarahemla. At the end of this passage, Mormon repeats the information from Alma 22:27 by declaring: "The king of the Lamanites sent a proclamation among all his people" (Alma 23:1). Thus Mormon is using a Hebrew writing device called epanalepsis, or resumptive repetition, which clearly highlights that everything in between is added by him.

     In the past, internal geographical information was discounted because of the great upheaval of the land during the time of the crucifixion of Christ (3 Nephi 8:11-12, 17). It was surmised that any descriptions given before the upheaval were no longer valid, making identification of lands and cities impossible. But Mormon was the abridger. As such, he was responsible for most of the nearly 400 geographic references. Mormon was also the leading general of his time, which means that he was also an authority on geography. From this we must conclude that the references are accurate and purposeful. [Zarahemla Research Foundation, "Introduction to Geography" in The Book of Mormon: Restored Covenant Edition, p. 997]

 

Alma 23:6 And As Sure As the Lord Liveth:

 

     According to Glenn Scott, in ancient times a man would rather die than break a sacred oath (Hebrew shavuah), but not just any oath would do. To be binding he had to swear by something living. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 70]

 

Alma 23:7 They Did Lay down Their Weapons of Rebellion:

 

     Brant Gardner notes that when we read "they did lay down their weapons of rebellion" we have the immediate picture of arrows, swords, and other weapons which inflict physical wounds However, there is another way in which we may read this verse, perhaps justified by the phrase which follows: "they did not fight against God any more." A weapon of rebellion can be anything that we use in our lives to combat the transformation the spirit is pushing us toward to get closer to God. [Brant Gardner, Book of Mormon Commentary, http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/Alma23.htm, p. 4]

 

Alma 23:7 They Did Not Fight against God [No] More:

 

     According to Barbara Fowler, to most English-speaking people, the use of a double negative, such as, "You cannot have no candy," grates against the ears and conjures up images of a stern English teacher reproaching students with the axiom, "Two negatives equal a positive!"

     However, in Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar it is stated that "Two negatives in the same sentence do not neutralize each other but make the negation the more emphatic."106

     In the process of restoring words from the Original and Printer's manuscripts of the Book of Mormon we found several instances where a negative word had been deleted or changed to a positive word. Its restoration would result in the offensive grammatical occurrence we call the double negative. One such instance is found in Alma 23:7, "they did not fight against God [no] more."

     The restored example points to the Hebrew authorship of the book, and enriches the meaning of this passage. [Barbara Fowler, "Double Negatives in the Book of Mormon? Yes! Yes!," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, pp. 57-58]

 

Alma 23:12 The Land of Shilom:

 

     The locations of the Lamanites who were converted unto the Lord are noted in Alma 23:8-13. The "land of Shilom" mentioned in Alma 23:13 was originally given to Zeniff by the Lamanite king upon Zeniff's return to the land of Lehi-Nephi (Mosiah 9:6). [See the commentary on Mosiah 9:6]

 

Alma 23:12 The Land of Shemlon:

 

     The locations of the Lamanites who were converted unto the Lord are noted in Alma 23:8-13. The "land of Shemlon" mentioned in Alma 23:12 was where the ruling Lamanites lived during the time of Zeniff (Mosiah 10:7). [See the commentary on Mosiah 10:7]

 

Alma 23:12 The City of Lemuel . . . the City of Shimnilom:

 

     The locations of the Lamanites who were converted unto the Lord are noted in Alma 23:8-13. Since the cities of "Lemuel" and "Shimnilom" are mentioned in the same verse with the land of Shilom and the land of Shemlon (Alma 23:12), they might have been fairly close to one another. Both the land of Shilom and the land of Shemlon were mentioned in apparent close approximation to the land of Lehi-Nephi during the times of Zeniff (Mosiah 9:6, 10:7). The reader should note that the city of Lemuel has a purely Lemuelite name.

 

Alma 23:12 Shimnilom (Shimnilon)?:

 

     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 "Shimnilom" (Alma 23:12), which they have changed to read "Shimnilon." [Zarahemla Research Foundation, "Geography Concordance" in The Book of Mormon: Restored Covenant Edition, p. 1012]

     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 23:13 These Are the Names of the Cities of the Lamanites . . . the Land of:

 

     Alma 23:8-13 gives a list of those Lamanites who were converted unto the Lord. Among that list are some cities (Nephi, Lemuel, Shimnilom), but also there were those mentioned who were in "the land of Ishmael . . . the land of Middoni . . . the land of Shilom . . . the land of Shemlon." With this apparent mixture of terms, why would Mormon say in Alma 23:13, "these are the names of the cities of the Lamanites which were converted unto the Lord"?

     Mormon seems to have blended the meaning of the terms "city of" and "land of." It is unclear whether the term "cities" mentioned in verse 13 refers only to the specifically named Nephi, Lemuel and Shimnilom mentioned just previously in verse 12, or whether the implication is that those areas referred to as "the land of Ishmael, . . . the land of Middoni, . . . the land of Shilom, and . . . the land of Shemlon" also were considered as the "cities of the Lamanites which were converted." The reader should note that although there is no city of Shilom mentioned here (only the "land of Shilom"), in Mosiah 7:21 and Mosiah 9:8 we have record of one. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Alma 23:14 Amalekites, Amulonites . . . Their Villages and All Their Cities:

 

     In Alma 23:14, Mormon mentions that "the Amalekites were not converted, save only one; neither were any on the Amulonites; but they did harden their hearts, and also the hearts of the Lamanites in that part of the land wheresoever they dwelt, yea, and all their villages and all their cities." It is unclear in this verse as to what the word "their" refers to. One meaning of "their" might refer to Lamanite cities or villages in general. In other words, the Amalekites and Amulonites were a minority (ruling class?) mixed in with a majority population of Lamanites. On the other hand, the Amalekites and Amulonites might have had certain villages and cities relatively all to themselves. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Alma 23:16-25:2 The Anti-Nephi-Lehi Story (Cultural Background Perspectives):

 

     One of the more famous stories from the Book of Mormon is the inspiring courage of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies who lay down their lives for the gospel rather than pick up arms against their brethren (see Alma 23:16-25:2). According to Brant Gardner, this is a great story, but it is replete with problems. The greatest problem that the story presents is the tremendous contrast between the apparent exaltation of pacifism in this story and the very clear contradiction of that principle in the rest of the Book of Mormon. How is it that pacifism should be so important for the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, but unimportant for the Nephites, who readily take up arms in self-defense? How is it that the principle should be so strong for only a single generation of Anti-Nephi-Lehies, since their sons will take up arms in defense of their new country?

     In Alma 24:9-10, either Lamoni or Anti-Nephi-Lehi states: "I also thank my God, that by opening this correspondence [with these brethren the Nephites] we have been convinced of our sins, and of the many murders which we have committed. And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed . . ."

     The readers should note that the particular sin is "murder." It is a sin that all of the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi apparently accept, even the women and children over a certain age. When had they committed murder? In battle, the casualties are rarely termed murder, and even if we accept that these deaths in battle constituted murder, what of the women and the older children? Why were they under the same condemnation, but the younger children were not?

     The answer lies in both the Mesoamerican politico-religious context of the cult of war, and the phrase "since it has been all that we could do, (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of . . . the many murders" (Alma 24:11). This was a people whose conception of the world was built around the idea that human blood was required by the gods for the continuation of the world. It is hard for modern readers to understand the depth of change that it would entail for someone with that worldview to change to an acceptance of the gospel. It required not only a change of religion, but a change of science, a change of cosmology. Their very understanding of the mechanics of the universe had to change. No wonder it was so hard for them to change. Seeing the world through the eyes of the gospel, it is no wonder that they would have seen the human sacrifices of the cult of war as murders, and that their participation in that religion and worldview would have stained all, even the women and the children old enough to have been indoctrinated into this worldview. When the Anti-Nephi-Lehies lay down their arms, it is not out of any principle of pacifism, but one of fear of recision to their old ways. Like reformed alcoholics, their best chance to maintain their new convictions was to stay far away from the feelings and attitudes of the old way.

     The story is further complicated by the slaughter of these Anti-Nephi-Lehies by the Amulonite and Amalekite led Lamanites. Moreover, the Amulonites and Amalekites decide to attack and destroy the city of Ammonihah. The story of this attack, as well their previous attack on the city of Nephi makes little sense as suggested Ammonihah lies deep in the land of Zarahemla, and only a long coastal march and a surprise attack through the mountain passes into the valley would allow the attack at all. This is an attack that appears to accomplish very little, as the Lamanites make no attempt to secure the area, nor to extract any tribute. Indeed, the only things we know for certain that the Lamanties took from Ammonihah were a sating of a possible blood-thirst and some captives. That is a very long way to go for a drink, even if it is of blood-fury. [Brant Gardner, "A Social History of the Early Nephites," delivered at the FAIR Conference, August 17, 2001, pp. 12-13]

 

Alma 23:17 Anti-Nephi-Lehies:

 

     In the missionary account of the sons of Mosiah we learn that the Lamanite people converted by Ammon and his brethren take upon them the name of "Anti-Nephi-Lehies" (Alma 23:17). The reader should note that the name is not "Lehi-Nephi" like the city that Zeniff inherited, but "Nephi-Lehi." The question one might ask is, Why this name? What significance does this name have?

     It seems that Anti-Nephi-Lehi was the brother of Lamoni and because of their father's death, was now the current king (Alma 24:3). Apparently, Anti-Nephi-Lehi was sympathetic to Ammon's cause (Alma 24:5) and the people might have either taken on his name of their own accord or he had given the people his name (possibly in some connection with rights, freedoms, or privileges that they were allowed). The reader should note that in Alma 24:23-27 not only did the converts refuse to take up their swords, but they also were commanded by their king not to, and it so impressed the other pure Lamanites that they not only stopped their killing, but were converted also. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 24:1,5,23-27]

 

Alma 23:17 Anti-Nephi-Lehies:

 

     In Alma 23:17 we find that the converted Lamanites "called their names Anti-Nephi-Lehies. . ." According to Hugh Nibley, the name Anti-Nephi-Lehi means Nephi brought face to face, or joined together with the other descendants of Lehi. Note that in the name "Anti-Nephi-Lehi" the Lamanites and Lemuelites are not named separately. Rather they are covered by the name "Lehi." Thus "Anti-Nephi-Lehi" means Nephi and Lehi [Laman and Lemuel] brought together again, which they were. . . . In the same manner, Korihor was "Anti-Christ." He confronted Christ face to face and claimed to be him. He claimed to replace him. He was the false Christ. There are lots of Anti-Christs. The Anti-Christ comes and says that he is Christ. This is what Satan does. Remember in the beginning of [the book of] Moses, Satan said, "I am the Only Begotten, worship me," and he ranted upon the ground. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 428]

 

Alma 23:17 Anti-Nephi-Lehies:

 

     According to Kent Jackson and Darrell Matthews, the precise meaning of the name Anti-Nephi-Lehies is not known, but it appears that the Lamanite converts chose it because they desired a name that would identify them as descendants of Lehi who were not descendants of Nephi. Later the people began to be called "Ammonites," after the leader of the Nephite missionaries who had converted them (Alma 27:26.) Still later, their children referred to themselves as "Nephites" (Alma 53:16). According to the Book of Mormon record, these people remained faithful to the gospel and "never did fall away" (Alma 23:6).

     There is no question about the fact that the Book of Mormon holds in extremely high regard these people who, on the grounds of conscience and covenants, refused to bear arms--even in what might normally be considered justifiable self-defense. (See also Alma 24:16-27; 27:2-3, 23-24, 27-30).

     The Anti-Nephi-Lehies obeyed the law of Moses, believing that it was a type of Christ's coming. (Alma 25:15) Obeying the law strengthened their faith in Christ: "They did keep the law of Moses; . . . for it was not all fulfilled. But notwithstanding the law of Moses, they did look forward to the coming of Christ, considering that the law of Moses was a type of his coming, and believing that they must keep those outward performances until the time that he should be revealed unto them. Now they did not suppose that salvation came by the law of Moses; but the law of Moses did serve to strengthen their faith in Christ; and thus they did retain a hope through faith, unto eternal salvation, relaying upon the spirit of prophecy, which spake of those things to come." (Alma 25:15-16)

     This is one of the finest statements in the scriptures about the role of the law of Moses as a"type," a symbol or pattern, of the mission of Christ. [Kent P. Jackson and Darrell L. Matthews, "The Lamanite Converts Firm in the Faith," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, pp. 337-339]

 

Alma 23:18 They Were Friendly with the Nephites:

 

     In Alma 23:18 it states that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies "began to be a very industrious people; yea, and they were friendly with the Nephites; therefore, they did open a correspondence with them, and the curse of God did no more follow them." According to John Sorenson, there was probably a practical reason why the leaders in the peripheral areas (of the land of Nephi) opposed the missionaries and the converted king. His Anti-Nephi-Lehi people chose to "open a correspondence" with the Nephites of Zarahemla through the Nephite missionaries. An interpretation of the situation in terms of Mesoamerican patterns leads to the following hypothesis: if political, economic, and religious cooperation were to break out between the king's people and the Nephites in Zarahemla, the ambitions of the Amalekite and Amulonite leaders for power and wealth would be threatened. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 226] [See the commentary on Alma 24:1]

 

Alma 23:18 They Did Open a Correspondence with Them [the Nephites]:

 

     In Alma 23:18 it states that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies "did open a correspondence with them, and the curse of God did no more follow them." One might wonder just what is meant here by "open[ing] a correspondence." The reader will find that this exact phrasing is used in Alma 31:4 and Alma 43:4 in describing what began as a political alliance but evolved to where "the Zoramites became Lamanites." Thus we might presume that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies initially struck a political alliance with the Nephites and were now considered as Nephites at least by the Lord as He had lifted from them the Lamanite curse. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 31:4; 43:4]