Mosiah 22


Out of Bondage through Covenants

      Jarom -- Mosiah



Mosiah 22:6-11 (Back Pass/Secret Pass):


     Much further in the text, in the book of Alma, we find a description of the liberation of a Nephite city called Nephihah, which was being held by the Lamanite army. Mention is made that the Lamanite camp was "on the east, by the entrance" (Alma 62:21). If the city of Lehi-Nephi was planned in the same way that the city of Nephihah was, then the front entrance would also have been "on the east." If this were the case, then the "back pass" might have led toward the west. The Lamanite guards were apparently blocking the main, or east, gate. The Lamanite camp was probably blocking the direct route to Zarahemla, which would have been somewhat north of Lehi-Nephi. By escaping to the west through the "secret pass" (Mosiah 22:7) or "back pass" (Mosiah 22:6), Limhi's group could "pass on the left" (Mosiah 22:7) of the Lamanite camp situated somewhat to the north and east, and also completely avoid those drunken Lamanite guards at the main, east entrance to the city. Such a route would have allowed Limhi's people with "flocks and herds" (Mosiah 22:8) to move along the southern and western borders of the land of Shilom as far from the Lamanite camp as possible. This route, in addition to allowing Limhi's group to put some distance between them and the Lamanite army, might also have created a difficult trail to follow because Limhi's group "bent their course" (Mosiah 22:11) apparently northward towards the mountain wilderness and the land of Zarahemla. (See illustration) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 22:7 We Will Pass through the Secret Pass:


     It is interesting that in the account of Limhi's escape from the Lamanites, a "secret pass" (Mosiah 22:7) was utilized. In his illustrated history of Guatemala (Guatemala Historia Grafica), Gerardo Gordillo Barrios relates the details of the Spanish conquest of the Cachiquel Indians of highland Guatemala. The capital city of the Cachiquel Indians was in the city of Iximche' [about 60 miles to the west of present day Guatemala City]. The Spanish initially tried to take the city of Iximche, and succeeded in setting fire to much of it, but had stalled when its commander, don Pedro Alvarado was ordered to Honduras by Hernan Cortes. When he returned, he brought with him a good part of Cortes' army. During Alvarado's absence, the Indians at Iximche had forced the remaining Spanish troops to retreat back to the city of Quezaltenango. With Alvarado's return, the battle over Iximche began anew with increased vigor. Alvarado's troops had soon taken control over the entire city of Iximche, but were still unable to reach the Cachiquel kings, who had retreated to their "castle" in the nearby hills called "Holon-Balam." From this position, the Cachiqueles were able to withstand every attempt at total victory by the Spanish troops. With the outcome uncertain, don Pedro Alvarado had to return to Spain and left his soldiers to continue the fight. After much time and many attempts, the Spanish were at the point of giving up. They had decided to offer a formal peace treaty to the Cachiqueles, but a stroke of luck would alter history. At the very time that a Spanish soldier was taking a formal offer of peace to the Cachiquel kings, a Cachiquel "traitor" stumbled into the Spanish camp and offered them the exact information they needed to overcome the Cachiquel kings. This Cachiquel "traitor" led them to a secret underground passageway which allowed the Spanish to penetrate the Cachiquel defenses all the way to their castle. The Spanish forces arrived just as the Cachiqueles were about to execute the Spanish soldier who had been sent to offer peace. [Adapted from Gerrardo Gordillo Barrios, Guatemala Historia Grafica, Segundo tomo, pp. 27-28]


Mosiah 22:7 We will pass through the secret pass (Illustration): The Cachiquel traitor shows the Spanish the secret underground passageway leading to the castle of the Cachiquel kings. [Adapted from Gerrardo Gordillo Barrios, Guatemala Historia Grafica, Segundo tomo, p. 28]


Mosiah 22:8 We Will Depart with Our . . . Flocks, and Our Herds into the Wilderness:


     According to Kent Brown, several similarities between the Israelite exodus and that of Limhi's group and Alma's group are immediately obvious. In all instances the captives escaped into the wilderness with flocks and herds (Exodus 12:32, 38; Mosiah 22:8, 10-11; 23:1; 24:18). Escaping with their livestock was no small matter, for according to David Daube, taking one's possessions was one of the rights of a slave when freed. (Exodus Pattern, pp. 48-61). Deuteronomy 15:16 makes it clear that the slave should have been happy under the master's rule. Because the Lamanites were harsh, in the view of the Mosaic code this aspect of the relationship was ruptured as well, justifying the Nephites' desertion.

     It is also interesting that Limhi explicitly compares the Nephites to the captive Israelites in his impassioned speech at the temple in the city of Lehi-Nephi where he rehearses what God has done for His two peoples in the past, referring first to the events of the Exodus from Egypt and then to the events of Lehi's departure from Jerusalem:

           "Lift up your heads, and rejoice, and put your trust in God, in that God who was the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; and also, that God who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, . . . And again, that same God has brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem, and has kept and preserved his people even until now. (Mosiah 7:19-20).


     In Mosiah 8:1, Mormon notes that Limhi had said a good deal more on this occasion "and only a few of them have I written in this book." Incidentally, Limhi immediately quotes in succession three sayings of the Lord that are not part of Abinadi's recorded preaching, nor do they come from any known source (see Mosiah 7:29-31). Furthermore, the three passages all share a concern for "my people," a term familiar from the Exodus narrative that also denotes a covenant relationship (see Exodus 6:7; 8:20-21, 23; 9:13; 10:3-4; etc.) [S. Kent Brown, "The Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon," in BYU Studies, Summer 1990, pp. 113-114, 124]


Mosiah 22:11 Bent Their Course:


     Apparently, Limhi's people were not initially able to travel directly on the route leading to the land of Zarahemla. In coming to the land of Lehi-Nephi, Ammon stopped at a hill north of Shilom (Mosiah 7:5). If that hill marked the route, then we might presume that the escaping group had that hill as a goal, and possibly the Lamanite army was in the way. To resolve this problem, it says in Mosiah 22:11 that the Limhi group "did depart by night into the wilderness" (apparently by the "back pass" toward the west) and "went round about the land of Shilom in the wilderness, and bent their course [apparently northward] towards the land of Zarahemla" (which course was marked by the hill north of Shilom). (See Illustration) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]



Mosiah 22:1-13 Ammon and Limhi escape from Lehi-Nephi to Zarahemla. (Illustration) [John L. Sorenson]

Geographical Theory Map: Mosiah 22:1-13 Ammon and Limhi Escape from Lehi-Nephi to Zarahemla (Year 480)


Mosiah 22:13 They Arrived in the Land of Zarahemla (Travel Route):


     Limhi's group might have partly retraced the steps of the 43-man Limhi Expedition which had just returned to the land of Lehi-Nephi shortly before the arrival of Ammon. According to Joseph Allen, travel from Kaminaljuyu [his proposed land of Lehi-Nephi/Guatemala City] to the Guatemala-Mexico border must pass by Huehuetenango, Guatemala, which for centuries has been a military outpost because of its strategic location at this critical mountain pass at the headwaters of the Grijalva river [his proposed Sidon river]. At this place both the Grijalva River and the Usumacinta River have the same origin. In fact, had Limhi's 43 men started on the beginning tributary, at some point downriver they would have come to a fork in the river where they would have had to choose which way to go. Apparently, Limhi and his people now followed the tributaries which led them down the Grijalva (Sidon) river and on to Santa Rosa (Zarahemla). [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 355]


Mosiah 22:15-16 Lost in the Wilderness:


     The Lamanite army pursued Limhi's group into the wilderness, but after two days found themselves "lost" (Mosiah 22:16). Would the mountain wilderness surrounding Kaminaljuyu be dense or confusing enough to disorient people in two days, especially when the armies of Noah had pursued Alma and his 450 followers and had returned without incident (Mosiah 19:1)? Perhaps the Lamanites had originally become "lost" because they could not find Limhi's tracks, and not because they couldn't find their way back. I find it hard to believe that they immediately tried to find their way back home or were even worried about it because of the following:

     1. Later on the text says that this same Lamanite army was lost in the wilderness for "many days" (Mosiah 23:30). Once they realized they were lost (after only 2 days), a concerned Lamanite army would have immediately headed back toward the general direction of the land of Shemlon by following the path of the sun, so that after "many" days they would have not only made up for their original two days of pursuit, but probably bypassed Shemlon going in the opposite direction from when they first started to pursue Limhi if they were still lost. In other words, if they originally started tracking Limhi in a northerly direction from Lehi-Nephi, after "many days" of travel and an attempt to return home after "two days," they would have probably ended up still lost but in a southerly direction from Lehi-Nephi. Keeping this in mind, it is strange that when the Lamanite army eventually found Alma in the land of Helam (Mosiah 23:35), this land was at the most only 13 days away from Zarahemla (see Mosiah 24:20,24-25). Why is this significant? Well, if it took Ama’s group a little more than 21 days to travel from the land of Nephi to the land of Zarahemla, and if the land of Helam was 13 days away from the land of Zarahemla, then the land of Helam could only be a little more than eight days journey from the land of Nephi. If the Lamanites were lost after two days, then they would have had to continue to travel at least 6 more days away from their Lamanite homeland of Shemlon in order even to reach the land of Helam.

     2. A Lamanite people that "did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey" (2 Nephi 5:24) would know the surrounding countryside for at least two days’ distance away from their homes. Thus, the Lamanite army might have been "lost" due to factors other than a two day distance away from their homeland of Shemlon or from Lehi-Nephi.

[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 22:16 And after They Had Pursued Them Two Days, They . . . Were Lost in the Wilderness:


     Cleon Skousen states that he has personally been in deep mountain gorges where perpetual cloudcover made it virtually impossible to keep track of directions without a compass. The high Andes of South America have many such places, and there are others in Central America and Mexico. [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 2, p. 2164]


Mosiah 22:16 They were lost in the wilderness (Illustration): Tree-covered mountains in the state of Huehuetenango near the border of Mexico and Guatemala. The Book of Mormon refers a number of times to parties who became lost in the wilderness. Dense jungle growth soon covers the tracks of travelers here, and in the mountainous terrain tracks are quickly washed away in an afternoon downpour. [Scot and Maurine Proctor, Light from the Dust, p. 67]


Mosiah 22:15-16; 23:25-35 The Lamanites pursue Limhi, Discover Helam (Illustration) (John L. Sorenson)


Mosia 22 15 16 23 25-35 The Lamanites pursue Limhi, Discover Helam (Illustration) Proposed Land of Amulon in relation to the proposed Valley of Almolonga


Geographical Theory Map: Mosiah 22:15-16; 23:25-35 The Lamanites Pursue Limhi, Discover Helam (Year 480)