Alma 35

 

The Lord Redeems His Covenant Children

      Alma 1 -- Alma 44


 

 

Alma 35:1,6 [The Missionaries] . . . Came over into the Land of Jershon:

 

     In Alma 35:1 it says that the missionaries "came over into the land of Jershon." For the Book of Mormon geography student, we have two questions to ponder here. First, what is the reference point? By using the word "came," does that imply that Jershon was closer to the location of the recordkeeper than Antionum? Secondly, the use of the word "over" has previously been applied to elevation. Is that the same implication here? According to John Sorenson, since both Jershon and Antionum are in the east lowlands, "over" might mean across a bounding river or perhaps across a low divide (see Sorenson, A Source Book, p. 254).

     Note* The Book of Mormon geography student should realize that if the meaning of "over" now can include crossing over a river, then all references to traveling "over" should be re-evaluated to see if they might relate to a body of water rather than elevation. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Alma 35:3 They Were Angry Because of the Word, For It Did Destroy Their Craft:

 

     Brant Gardner notes that the phrase "they [the Zoramites] were angry because of the word, for it did destroy their craft" indicates that Mormon certainly doesn't consider the Zoramites to be true religion, but rather a "craft." What he means by the destruction of the craft is that the gospel would destroy something in the Zoramite culture, but what? In the Zoramite case, the religio-political structure was firmly rooted in the establishment and maintenance of a social hierarchy. The gospel was egalitarian, and completely opposed to the very organization of privilege that the Zoramites had elected in preference to Nephite egalitarianism. The gospel would have clearly destroyed not only the "craft" but the entire political organization. Had the Zoramites been converted, their entire way of life would have changed, their entire social and political structure would have changed along with their religion. Those things could not have been separated. [Brant Gardner, Book of Mormon Commentary, http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/Alma35.htm, pp. 1-2] .

 

Alma 35:10 [The Zoramites] Began to Mix with the Lamanites:

 

     In Alma 35:10 it says that the Zoramites "began to mix with the Lamanites." According to John Sorenson, this phrase implies that there wasn't a very big distance between the two peoples.

 

Alma 35:13 [The People of Ammon] . . . Came over into the Land of Melek:

 

     Alma 35:13 states that the people of Ammon "came over into the land of Melek." Once again, for the Book of Mormon geography student, we have the modifiers "came," "over," and "into," implying that (1) their direction was somewhat toward the recordkeeper, (2) that there was an elevation or a river in between, and (3) that the land of Melek might have been situated in a valley.

     The people of Ammon were moved from the land of Jershon, where they seemed to be vulnerable to Lamanite attack, to the land of Melek. Yet the land of Melek bordered on the wilderness west of the land of Zarahemla. One might wonder why the people of Ammon were considered safe from the Lamanites in the land of Melek in the end of the 17th year, while the city of Ammonihah, situated three days northward, was attacked and destroyed about 6 years previous (11th year). First, according to John Sorenson, the west wilderness of the land of Zarahemla might have been so nearly impassable at the area of Melek as to preclude Lamanite armies from crossing it, while further north leading to Ammonihah they could. A second part of the answer might come in the fact that when the Lamanite king's armies attacked the city of Ammonihah in the 19th year, they were soundly rebuffed by a strong Nephite defense system (see Alma 49). Perhaps this defensive system was initiated or under construction when the move of the people of Ammon was decided upon at the end of the 17th year. However, the reader will note that in the earlier part of the 19th year, the land of Melek seemed to be quite accessible to the servants of the Lamanite king in Alma 47:29-30, who fled from the city of Nephi to the land of Melek in order to avoid the king of the Lamanites. Perhaps this easy access was only because these servants apparently just desired refuge and peace, or because they approached the land of Melek from a different route (by way of the local land of Zarahemla). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Alma 35:13 The People of Ammon Departed out of the Land of Jershon, and Came over into the Land of Melek:

 

     The reader should take note of the parallels to Melchizedek evoked in the story of the redemption of the Lamanites that eventually came to be called the people of Ammon:

     1. Alma and the sons of Mosiah were redeemed of the Lord. (Mosiah 27:8-24)

     2. They learned that "all mankind" must be redeemed in order to inherit the kingdom of God. (Mosiah 27:25-27)

     3. They began to "publish peace." (Mosiah 27:32-37)

     4. The sons of Mosiah desired to preach repentance to their brethren the Lamanites. (Mosiah 28:1-5)

     5. Aaron went to a place called Jerusalem. (Alma 21:1)

     6. There the Amalekites and Amulonites "did cause the Lamanites [at Jerusalem] that they should harden their hearts, that they should wax strong in wickedness and their abominations." (Alma 21:3)

     7. Ammon converted the king of the land of Ishmael, who reigned under his father, the king over all the land. (Alma 18-19)

     8. The converted Lamanites were so righteous, that even though they covenanted to not take up arms, they overcame their enemies in battle. (Alma 23-26)

     9. The converted Lamanites joined the covenant people (the Nephites) and were given the land of Jershon, which literally means "a land of inheritance," or in Book of Mormon terms "a land of promise." (Alma 27)

     10. They took upon themselves the name of "the people of Ammon," which means "the people of God" (Ammon = God). (Alma 27:26)

     11. They were protected from the Lamanites by the armies of the Nephites (the covenant people). (Alma 28:1-3)

     12 They kept their covenants perfectly. (Alma 27:27)

     13. They eventually were given the land of Melek which literally means "the land of the king" (in Hebrew Melekh = king). (Alma 35:13)

     14. The commander of the covenant people (Moroni) established a covenant of peace. (Alma 44:14-15)

     15. Those who fought against the covenant people and who refused the covenant of peace suffered death. (Alma 44:14)

     16. Alma was on his way to the land of Melek when he was "taken up by the Spirit or buried by the hand of the Lord" (translated). (Alma 45:18-19)

     17. This people of Ammon ("people of God" or covenant people) had children who also lived by the covenant. (Alma 56:3-9)

     18. When the covenant people (the Nephites) were threatened by the Lamanites, 2000 Ammonite young men brought up under the priesthood covenant (but not the covenant refusing to take up arms) came to the defense of their people and helped save them. Not one Ammonite young man was lost. (Alma 56-59) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 13:14-19]

 

Alma 35:13 An Account Shall Be Given of Their Wars Hereafter:

 

     According to John Tvedtnes, anyone can make a promise to return to a particular subject and give further details, but it if Joseph Smith would have been making up the Book of Mormon narrative as he went along in dictation (which he dictated only once through to Oliver Cowdery) it would have been difficult for Joseph Smith to fulfill all such promises. As an abridger of the Nephite records, Mormon makes several important promises which are later fulfilled. One example is found in Alma 35:13. Here Mormon promised to give an account of the Nephite-Lamanite war which began in the eighteenth year, but since he proposed to first copy Alma's admonitions to his sons (Alma 36-42), he deferred the story of the war until Alma 43:3, where he introduced the topic by the words, "And now I return to an account of the wars." [John A. Tvedtnes, "Mormon As an Abridger of Ancient Records," in The Most Correct Book, p. 9]

 

Geographical Theory Map: Alma 35:13 The People of Ammon in Jershon Come over into Melek (17th Year)

 

Alma 35:16 He Caused That His Sons Should Be Gathered Together, That He Might Give unto Them Every One His Charge, Separately:

 

     In an article by Gordon Thomasson and John Welch, it says that in August 1984 for the first time, several stunning similarities between Alma 35-42 and the traditional Israelite observance of Passover were discovered. According to traditions at least as early as the time of Christ and probably earlier, after gathering his family the father then instructed his sons and answered their questions. His words were not fixed but were "to fit the knowledge and understanding of the child" and were supposed "to spell out the sequence of sin, suffering, repentance, and redemption." Each of Alma's admonitions to his sons, Helaman (Alma 36-37), Shiblon (Alma 38), and Corianton (Alma 39-42), does this precisely, each in its own way.

     Moreover, three Passover questions are found in the Bible. Traditionally, each of these questions was asked in turn by the sons and was answered by the father. In time, each of these questions came to be associated with a different type of son.

     First, "What is the meaning of the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord our God hath commanded you?" (Deuteronomy 6:20). This question was asked at Passover by a wise son. In the Book of Mormon, Helaman stands as the wise son: In talking to Helaman, Alma mentions "wisdom" at least eight times in Alma 37. Notice also how Alma explains the meaning of the laws and testimonies of God as he explains the meaning of the plates of Nephi (preserved for a "wise purpose"), the twenty-four gold plates, and the Liahona in Alma 37. The Jewish father was especially expected to explain the meaning of traditional things to "future generations" and to use "allegorical interpretations." Alma does exactly this. See Alma 37:19 ("future generations") and Alma 37:45 ("is there not a type in this thing?").

     Second, "What mean ye by this service?" (Exodus 12:26). This question was asked by a wicked son. This son is depicted in the Jewish literature as one guilty of social crimes, who had excluded himself from the community, and believed in false doctrines. According to Jewish practice, he is to be told, in a manner that will "set his teeth on edge," that he will be punished for his own sins, and that, had he been in Egypt, he would not have been redeemed. Such is unmistakably the thrust of Alma's words to Corianton - who had left the ministry (see Alma 39:3), caused social problems (see Alma 39:11), followed false doctrines (see Alma 41:9), and is taught by his father about nothing but redemption and one's personal suffering for sin (see Alma 41:3-4,7).

     Third, "What is This?" (Exodus 13:14) Israelite tradition said that the uninformed son who asked this question needed to be taught the law and given preventative instruction to keep him well away from any risk of breaking the law. This, indeed, is what Alma tells Shiblon, as he teaches him to be diligent (see Alma 38:10) and gives him a high code of conduct (see Alma 38:11-14). [Gordon C. Thomasson and John W. Welch, "The Sons of the Passover," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 196-197]

     According to Matthew Brown, in addition to the three sons pattern there are also several other Passover themes that can be seen in chapters 35 through 42 of the book of Alma:

 

PASSOVER THEME

OLD TESTAMENT

BOOK OF MORMON

 

Crying out for deliverance

Deuteronomy 26:6-7

Alma 36:3, 18, 27

 

Bitter suffering

Exodus 12:8

Alma 36:18, 21

 

Hardness of heart

Exodus 11:10

Alma 35:15

 

Three days and nights of darkness

Exodus 10:22

Alma 36:16

 

 

 

[Matthew B. Brown, All Things Restored: Confirming the Authenticity of LDS Beliefs, pp. 222-223]

 

Alma 35:16 We Have an Account of His Commandments, Which He Gave unto Them according to His Own Record:

 

     According to John Tvedtnes, much of the book of Alma comes to us in the form of Mormon's abridgment, but Mormon occasionally quotes directly from Alma's record, usually marking it with a colophon, or prefacing remarks. Thus, for example, he introduces Alma's instruction's to his sons by saying, "We have an account of his commandments, which he gave unto them according to his own record" (Alma 35:16). The admonitions of each son are clearly the words of Alma and are marked as such by Mormon, who included a preface before each of the discourses (before Alma 36, 38, and 39). [John A. Tvedtnes, "The Voice of an Angel," in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 319-320]

     Note* the phrases in these prefaces, "Comprising chapters 36 and 37" and "Comprising chapters 39-42 inclusive" are not the words of Mormon. They have been inserted by committees editing the Book of Mormon. They do not appear in the 1830 edition.