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Mosiah 18


Out of Bondage through Covenants

      Jarom -- Mosiah



Mosiah 18:1 Alma . . . Repented of His Sins and Iniquities:


     Mormon notes that Alma "repented of his sins and iniquities" (Mosiah 18:1). Just how long it took for Alma1 to complete this process is not known. Did he spend time reading through the scriptures? Was writing the words of Abinadi (Mosiah 17:4) part of this process? Notice in Mosiah 23:10 that Alma himself says that this repentance took place "after much tribulation." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 18:3 And He Taught Them Privately:


     When Alma1 first fled from King Noah, Mormon notes that Alma "hid himself that they found him not. And he being concealed for many days did write all the words which Abinadi had spoken" (Mosiah 17:4). How long this process took and how long Alma was alone are subject to interpretation, but it apparently was long enough to allow the threat of retaliation or death by king Noah to subside somewhat. Mormon notes that when Alma finally emerged from this concealment he taught "as many as would hear his word" . . . "And he taught them privately, that it might not come to the knowledge of the king" (Mosiah 18:3). Mormon also notes that Alma "went about privately among the people, and began to teach the words of Abinadi" (Mosiah 18:1). Thus, although Alma might have conducted his teaching process with great care, he was probably not going about it in complete secrecy. For instance, if Alma preached "among the people," then how did Alma hope to control those people who refused his message? Would they go to the king? Or what about the neighbors of those who accepted his message? Perhaps by the time Alma emerged from his concealment, tensions had eased somewhat between him and King Noah. Perhaps Noah, who initially "sent his servants after [Alma] that they might slay him" (Mosiah 17:3) no longer considered Alma a great political threat. Nevertheless, this "privately" conducted preaching process could not go on for very long before Alma substantially increased the number of his contacts and thus increased the chances for a political confrontation with the king. Mormon notes that "as many as did believe [Alma] did go forth to a place which was called Mormon" (Mosiah 18:4), perhaps because the formation of a new religious group soon become too much of a political irritation for Noah in the local land of Lehi-Nephi. This flight of converts to the place called Mormon might have helped control the situation for a time, but one has to ponder here that if Noah was really serious about killing Alma, it wouldn't have taken him long to discover that people were packing up their belongings and moving out of Lehi-Nephi.

     Because of the apparent secrecy surrounding Alma's location, we might assume, as many have, that Noah knew nothing concerning Alma's location. This might have been true, but the reasons for Alma being left alone might have had more to do with politics. If Alma was well thought of by the people of Noah, and there was a significant distance between the waters of Mormon (where Alma was located) and Lehi-Nephi (where Noah was located), then Noah might not have considered the need to deal with Alma an imminent priority. Thus, while King Noah perhaps made token "searches" (Mosiah 18:5), catching Alma might not have been his top priority as king. Nevertheless, if Alma started to influence the attitudes of the people toward their government, and the numbers of people moving out of Lehi-Nephi started increasing, then Alma and his followers would most definitely start to become a real political threat to King Noah.

     Where is all this reasoning leading to? Just this, that (1) the "privately" conducted or politically sensitive manner of Alma's preaching could have allowed for some time to pass between Alma's flight and Noah's final decision to send his army after Alma and his followers; and (2) the distance between the waters of Mormon and Lehi-Nephi might have been just as much of a factor in keeping Noah's servants from thorough searches of that area as it's secrecy. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 18:4 A Place Which Was Called Mormon:


     The location of the "place which was called Mormon" (Mosiah 18:4) is somewhat critical to the distance between the land of Lehi-Nephi and the land of Zarahemla because we have an almost definite account of how much time it took Alma's group to travel the other segments that make up the journey to the land of Zarahemla. In other words, the only segment lacking between the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla is the distance from Lehi-Nephi to the "place which was called Mormon" (Mosiah 18:4). Below is a list of approximate times for each segment of the journey to the land of Zarahemla:

     Mosiah 18:4 -- ? days from Lehi-Nephi to Mormon

     Mosiah 23:3, 4, -- 8 days from Mormon to Helam

     Mosiah 24:20 -- 1 day from Helam to the Valley of Alma

     Mosiah 24:24-25 -- 12 days from Alma to Zarahemla

Estimated Maximum Total: Somewhat more than 21 days from Lehi-Nephi to the land of Zarahemla

     The reader should keep in mind that Ammon and his brethren "wandered" 40 days in covering this distance. (see Mosiah 7:4-5)

[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 18:4 A Place Which Was Called Mormon:


     According to Joseph Allen, we know that the city of Jerusalem was also associated with the borders of Mormon (Alma 21:1-2), and that it was covered with water at the time of the crucifixion of Christ (3 Nephi 9:7). Assuming that Jerusalem was located around a lake, and knowing that Jerusalem bordered the land of Mormon, it is possible that Lake Atitlan, Guatemala might have been the Waters of Mormon. Lake Atitlan, which is located about 70 highway miles and 40 air miles northwest of Guatemala City, is one of the world's most beautiful settings. Flanked by three volcanoes, this freshwater lake is nestled picturesquely in the valley of a geologically massive, extinct volcano, and has several villages surrounding it. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 323]

     According to Warren and Ferguson, "during a period of low water in the 1930's, ruins were detected in the water (of Lake Atitlan), and Samuel Lothrop, then with Harvard, was able to recover some ceramics which had the same style and pattern as the Miraflores ceramics from nearby Kaminaljuyu (city of Nephi) and dated from about the time of Christ, as did the ash layer immediately beneath the Ilopango volcano in El Salvador. It is reasonable to hypothesize that this city in the lake was Pre-Classic, was occupied near the time of Christ, and was covered subsequently by the lake waters." [Bruce W. Warren and Thomas S. Ferguson, The Messiah in Ancient America, p. 44]


Geographical Theory Map: Mosiah 17:1--18:29 Alma Flees to a Place Called Mormon (Year 460)


Mosiah 18:4 A Place Which Was Called Mormon, Having Received Its Name from the King:


     In Mosiah 18:4 we read that those who believed Alma "did go forth to a place which was called Mormon, having received its name from the king, being in the borders of the land having been infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts."

     John Tvedtnes notes that on the surface, one might suspect that it was King Noah, who reigned in Nephi in Alma's time, who had given the name Mormon to the site. But there is another possibility. In an unpublished paper, Charles Eads has suggested that the king from whom the place received its name was a man named Mormon and that he was one of the Nephite kings who reigned in the land of Nephi before the departure of Mosiah. Eads draws attention to the Nephite practice described in Alma 8:7: "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 . . ." [John A. Tvedtnes, "Contents of the 116 Lost Pages and the Large Plates," in The Most Correct Book, p. 47]


Mosiah 18:4 A Place Which Was Called Mormon, Having Received Its Name from the King:


     According to Daniel Ludlow, the word "Mormon" is used chronologically for the first time in Mosiah 18:4. Although the word Mormon appears earlier than this in the Book of Mormon it has always referred to the name of the great prophet, historian, and military leader who lived several hundred years after the time of Christ. . . . According to Ludlow, the place which was called Mormon "received its name from the king"; therefore, it was apparently named after a king called Mormon. [Daniel Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, pp. 188, 80]

     According to Joseph Allen, Lake Atitlan is precisely the kind of place that the riotously-living King Noah would favor as a resort for himself and his priests. After all, King Noah named the place Mormon (Mosiah 18:4). [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 325]


Mosiah 18:4 Being in the Borders of the Land:


     The place called Mormon "was in the borders of the land" (Mosiah 18:4). But in the borders of what land? Was it the land of Mormon? Was it the local land of Nephi? Was it the land of Shilom? Or was it the general land of Nephi? Or was it possibly some unnamed land? I will presume it was in the borders of the general land of Nephi. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 5:3]

     Note* Is the term "borders" a political boundary term, or a natural boundary term, or both? {Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 18:5,30 A Fountain of Pure Water (the Waters of Mormon):


     In Mosiah 18:5 it says that "there was in Mormon a fountain of pure water." This phrase may describe a lake and those streams feeding into it, but it also could be describing an area where indeed fountains (or springs) are found. Whatever the case, the place which was called Mormon was known for its "fountains of pure water," also called "the waters of Mormon" (Mosiah 18:30). According to John Sorenson, it is interesting that the next settlement Alma chose (the land of Helam) was again notable for pure water. Mormon, in abridging Alma's account, describes this land of Helam as "a very beautiful and pleasant land, a land of pure water" (Mosiah 23:19). The repetitive association of Alma's people with "pure water" may have more significance than meets the eye. In Mesoamerica, water was an exceedingly powerful symbol. That which came from inside the earth was particularly sacred. For ceremonial purposes men made trips down into caverns to gather containers of this fluid, which they considered unpolluted. The practice was related to the concept of a vast freshwater sea beneath the earth's surface. At certain points, such as at an artificial mountain/pyramid where both the upper world and underworld were particularly accessible, this water has the potential of bursting forth. One should notice that the temple at Jerusalem was also considered to sit over a watery abyss, confining the contents from bursting forth as a flood. Ezekiel saw in vision a time when life-giving waters poured as a river from beneath the temple to green a millennial Zion (Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12). [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 176]


Mosiah 18:5,30 The waters of Mormon (Illustration): Lake Atitlan, located in the Department of Solola. Proposed candidate for the Waters of Mormon. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 240]


Mosiah 18:5,30 The waters of Mormon (Illustration): Lake Atitlan [Merrill Oaks, "Some Perspectives on Book of Mormon Geography," Slides 46-48]


Mosiah 18:5,30 The waters of Mormon (Illustration): Clouds catch first light as morning moves upon beautiful Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. Rimmed by three major volcanoes, with San Pedro visible at the left, the nine-mile-long by four-mile-wide lake itself is a caldera (a collapsed volcano) over 1,000 feet deep. From the internal clues of the Book of Mormon, this is a likely candidate for the area of the great city of Jerusalem. Wicked Jerusalem was destroyed at the crucifixion, being covered by water. Remnants of an ancient city have been discovered in the depths of this lake. [Scot and Maurine Proctor, Light from the Dust, pp. 154-155]


Mosiah 18:5,30 The waters of Mormon . . . how beautiful are they (Illustration): Sunset over Lake Atitlan, view from Panajachel. [F.A.R.M.S. Staff, Lands of the Book of Mormon, Slide #59]


Mosiah 18:5 A Fountain of Pure Water (the Waters of Mormon):


     According to Clate Mask, "although it might be popular from a traditional and tourist standpoint to label Lake Atitlan as the waters of Mormon, we ought to leave the door open to other possibilities. Richard Hauck has the waters of Mormon located on the Pixcaya River between Chimaltenango and Mixco Viejo, Guatemala. I have proposed Los Aposentos (an area of natural springs often used by Guatemalans). It is a much better fit for being just a couple of days from either Mixco Viejo (Hauck's Lehi-Nephi) or Kaminaljuyu (Sorenson's and Allen's Lehi-Nephi), and it is eight days from Almolonga (Allen's proposed land of Helam). It also fits the Book of Mormon description of a secluded spring much better than the Lake Atitlan area.” [Clate Mask, personal correspondence] [See the illustrations for the waters of Mormon -- Mosiah 18:30]


Mosiah 18:5 A Fountain of Pure Water . . . There Being Near the Water a Thicket of Small Trees:


     Mormon recounts that "there was in Mormon a fountain of pure water, and Alma resorted thither, there being near the water a thicket of small trees, where he did hide himself in the daytime from the searches of the king" (Mosiah 18:5).

     Jerry Ainsworth notes that today, a fountain of pure warm water exists somewhat north of Lake Atitlan near the city of Chimaltenango (see illustration). This spring and pond may be a candidate for the actual place of baptism of Alma's followers (see Mosiah 18:10-16). It is probable that in order to evade the "searches of the king" Alma's followers moved around in that area rather than meeting in a single location. [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p. 92]

     Note* From the picture and location (see illustration below), this site is probably at Los Aposentos. If so, then this site has been proposed previously as the Waters of Mormon by Clate Mask. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 18:5 A fountain of pure water . . . there being near the water a thicket of small trees (Illustration): Pure warm spring of water of thicket of trees, close to Lake Atitlan; possible location of where Alma hid from the king. [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p. 93]


Mosiah 18:8 Behold, here are the waters of Mormon . . . what have you against being baptized (Illustration): Alma Baptizes in the Waters of Mormon. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Art, #309]


Mosiah 18:10 What Have You Against Being Baptized . . . As a Witness . . . That Ye Have Entered into a Covenant with Him:


     According to Kent Brown, it is possible to see Alma1 as a type of Moses . . . the parallels are intriguing. Among other things, each led his group through the wilderness to the land from which their ancestors had set out. Moreover, each gave the law to his people and placed them under covenant to obey the Lord. For Alma's group, the terms of the covenant are rehearsed in Mosiah 18:8-10; the sign of the covenant consisted in baptism (Mosiah 18:12-16); the name of the covenant people was "the church of God, or the church of Christ" (Mosiah 18:17); and the terms of the new law, including the priesthood offices, are outlined in Mosiah 18:18-28. [S. Kent Brown, "The Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon" in From Jerusalem to Zarahemla, pp. 79, 92]


Mosiah 18:12 Helam:


     Brant Gardner notes that the printer's manuscript for Mosiah 18:12 contains the name Helaman rather than the current Helam. This change occurs in changes to the printer's manuscript. Yet the change appears in the first edition of the Book of Mormon as Helam. This precise change from Helaman to Helam occurs 12 times in the corrections to the printer's manuscript: Mosiah 18:12,13,14; Mosiah 23:19,20,25,26,29,35,37,38, 39. (see Book of Mormon Critical Text, FARMS, 1987, pp. 453-454, 475-479) [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," LDStopics/ Mosiah/Mosiah18.htm, p. 18]


Mosiah 18:12 Helam:


     It is interesting that according to Joseph and Norrene Salonimer, the meaning of the name Helam is related to the name Helaman, and is defined as "faithfulness, truth, truthfulness, certainty." [Joseph and Norrene Salonimer, I Know Thee By Name, p. 53]

     Note* What is intriguing with this definition is that according to the meaning of his name, Helam is symbolically qualified to be baptized. Moreover, Alma and his followers will eventually take up residence in a land of Helam. Although they will be subjected to adversity in this land, symbolically they will doing so in faithfulness, truthfulness, and a certainty of their cause. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Mosiah 23:19]


Mosiah 18:14 Both Alma and Helam Were Buried in the Water:


     According to Rodney Turner, the joint baptism of Alma and Helam is without precedent in all scripture. Alma must have felt impressed to share in the first baptism and thereby set the example for all who were to follow. There is no other account of Alma's being baptized. The baptisms performed by Alma are the first recorded in the Book of Mormon. [Rodney Turner, "Two Prophets: Abinadi and Alma," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, pp. 258-259]


Mosiah 18:14 Both Alma and Helam Were Buried in the Water:


     When "both Alma and Helam were buried in the water" (Mosiah 18:14), was Alma baptizing himself for the first time? And where did he get his authority? According to McConkie and Millet, there is no question but that Alma held the priesthood (see commentary on Mosiah 18:18), and that he was ordained after the holy order of God. Thus he would have been baptized previously. "Therefore, when Alma baptized himself with Helam that was not a case of Alma baptizing himself, but merely as a token to the Lord of his humility and full repentance." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:203-4) [Joseph F. McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. II, p. 258]


Mosiah 18:14 Both Alma and Helam Were Buried in the Water:


     In Mosiah 18:14 it says that after Alma had pronounced a covenant prayer of baptism, "both Alma and Helaman were buried in the water; and they arose and came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit. And again; Alma took another and went forth a second time into the water, and baptized him according to the first, only he did not bury himself again in the water."

     Question: Where did Alma get his authority? And, Was Alma baptizing himself at this time?


     According to Joseph Fielding Smith, we may conclude that Alma held the priesthood before he, with others, became disturbed with King Noah. . . . If he had authority to baptize that is evidence that he had been baptized. Therefore, when Alma baptized himself with Helam that was not a case of Alma baptizing himself, but merely as a token to the Lord of his humility and full repentance. . . . If I remember correctly, there is no reference to the baptism of Alma the elder or Helaman nor of Nephi and his brother Jacob, but we know they were baptized as were all the faithful members in the Church. [Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 3, pp. 203-204]


Mosiah 18:17 And They Were Called the Church of God, or the Church of Christ from That Time Forward:


     In Mosiah 18:17 reference is made to a "church of God," or a "church of Christ." According to McConkie and Millet, critics have objected to the Book of Mormon because of its constant reference to Christ and his church prior to what the world calls the Christian era. The strength of this argument rests in the fact that neither the name Christ or the word church appears in modern translations of the Old Testament. It is reasoned that there could have been no church organization until the meridian of time and that the peoples and prophets of the Old Testament did not know of Christ. [Joseph F. McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. I, p. 10] [For a thorough discussion on the "Church of God" see the commentary on 1 Nephi 4:26]

     Upon reviewing the commentary of 1 Nephi 4:26, we can see that the situations of Lehi and Alma were very much alike. This let's us understand a statement by Joseph Fielding Smith:

           "In Alma 5:3 we learn that Alma [the younger] was consecrated the high priest over the Church under his father. Now Alma [the elder] did not organize the Church with the idea that they had no church before that time. They had a church from the days of Lehi and Alma only set things in order." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:203-4) [Joseph F. McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. II, p. 258]


     Note* It might prove interesting to the reader to compare the parallels between what happened with Lehi and Nephi, and what happened with Abinadi and Alma1. Both sets of prophets were called by the Lord to warn their people of what was going wrong. Upon rejection and the threat of death (Abinadi did in fact lose his life) they were required to establish churches in the wilderness. Both sets of prophets emphasized certain themes in their teachings which the compilers of the Book of Mormon have been careful to record. Perhaps those teachings contain clues as to how the order of the church had become lost and why it needed to be set straight. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 4:26; 2 Nephi 6:2, Mosiah 6:3; and Mosiah 25:19,23]


Mosiah 18:17 And They Were Called the Church of God . . . from That Time Forward:


     Alma baptized 204 men and women. According to Rodney Turner, these souls constituted the nucleus of the second Nephite church--"the church of God, or the Church of Christ"--to be established by the Nephites up to that time. (Mosiah 18:17.) It was, in fact, a restored church. Alma had received "power and authority from God" to establish the church in his day, and he was acknowledged by the Nephites as its founder and first presiding high priest. (Mosiah 23:16; 29:47; Alma 5:3; 3 Nephi 5:12) Thus the first specific Book of Mormon reference to a church as an organized body of believers in Christ is in connection with events in the land of Nephi about 145 B.C. [Rodney Turner, "Two Prophets: Abinadi and Alma," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, p. 255, 259] [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 5:12]

     Note* How was the "church" established by Alma different from that which existed before? The Nephites had worshipped under a Kingship format, with the King apparently directing the worship and ordinances by appointing "priests and teachers" (Jacob 1:18) The power given to Alma was a "restored" power, or restored covenant between God & man that all ordinances performed thereby could eventually be recognized as a valid step towards salvation and exaltation, yet the organizational structure was apparently directed by king Mosiah (see Mosiah 25:19). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 18:17 The Church of God:


     The reference in Mosiah 18:17 to "the church of God" is the first time in the Book of Mormon that any mention is made of a formal church organization among the Nephites. Much later in his abridgment, Mormon makes an interesting statement: "And behold, I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon, the land in which Alma did establish the church among the people, yea, the first church which was established among them after their transgression" (3 Nephi 5:12).

     What people was Mormon referring to and what was their transgression?


Option #1:

     According to Sidney Sperry, "I take it that the 'transgression' referred to by Mormon is the situation that caused the Lord to call the elder Mosiah and his followers from among the main body of the Nephites. At any rate, from the days of the elder Mosiah until Alma set it up, there had been no formal church organization among the Nephites." [Sidney B. Sperry, Book of Mormon Compendium, p. 312]


Option #2:

     It is interesting that when all the groups of Nephites, the people of Mosiah2, the people of Limhi, and the people of Alma1 were all gathered in the land of Zarahemla (Mosiah 25:4-6); it was apparently only necessary for Alma to baptize the people of Limhi (Mosiah 25:17-18). Mormon makes the comment that while still in the land of Lehi-Nephi, "king Limhi and many of his people were desirous to be baptized; but there was none in the land that had authority from God" (Mosiah 21:33). If the need for baptism was a sign of the "transgression" mentioned in 3 Nephi 5:12, then the transgression probably happened among the descendants of Zeniff's group. But when? Perhaps it began with Zeniff himself. He certainly was a religious man because he mentions that, "in the strength of the Lord did we go forth to battle against the Lamanites" (Mosiah 9:17) and Limhi mentions that Zeniff "was made king by the voice of the people" (Mosiah 7:9). Nevertheless, he mentions that he was "over-zealous to inherit the land of our fathers" (Mosiah 9:3). Mention is also made that he "went in unto the [Lamanite] king, and he covenanted with me that I might possess the land of Lehi-Nephi, and the land of Shilom" (Mosiah 9:6). When Ammon came from the land of Zarahemla to rescue Limhi's people, Limhi gathered his people together and reiterated this information, "ye all are witnesses this day, that Zeniff, who was made king over this people, he being over-zealous to inherit the land of his fathers, therefore being deceived by the cunning and craftiness of king Laman, who having entered into a treaty with king Zeniff, and having yielded up into his hands the possessions of a part of the land . . . and all this he did, for the sole purpose of bringing this people into subjection or into bondage" (Mosiah 7:21-22). Was the covenant with king Laman the beginning of the "transgression" mentioned in 3 Nephi 5:12? It is interesting that Zeniff's people never bothered to make contact with the Nephites in the land of Zarahemla. King Mosiah1, King Benjamin, and King Mosiah2 all apparently had authority from God. Perhaps Zeniff began the "transgression" by placing his people away from that authority and under covenant not to make contact with that authority.


Option #3:

     On the other hand, perhaps the "transgression" happened with King Noah. The record states that "he did not walk in the ways of his father. For behold, he did not keep the commandments of God, but he did walk after the desires of his own heart" (Mosiah 11:1-2). It also says that he "changed the affairs of the kingdom. For he put down all the priests that had been consecrated by his father, and consecrated new ones in their stead" (Mosiah 11:4-5). King Noah and his priests were also guilty of killing the Lord's prophet Abinadi (Mosiah 17:11:13). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 4:26; 2 Nephi 6:2; Mosiah 6:3; and Mosiah 25:19,23]


Mosiah 18:18 Alma, Having Authority from God:


     In Mosiah 18:18 it says that Alma had "authority from God." According to McConkie and Millet, the reference here is to the priesthood which Alma held (see Mosiah 23:16; Alma 5:3). Exactly when or where he was ordained is not given in the Book of Mormon. It may be that his office of high priest in King Noah's court (see Mosiah 11:4,11; 12:17,25) was an actual priesthood office, an office to which he had been formally ordained by one having proper authority, this in spite of the abominations of the day. Second, it is not inconceivable that Alma could have been ordained by Abinadi. A third possibility is that heavenly messengers could have been sent to ordain Alma if circumstances precluded his having contact with some mortal holding proper authority. [Joseph F. McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. II, p. 260]


Mosiah 18:18 One Priest to Every Fifty of Their Number:


     If mention is made of "one priest to every fifty" of Alma's group (Mosiah 18:18), then the number of Alma's followers had probably grown to at least 100 or more people by this time. Mormon later affirms the number of Alma's followers to be 450 (Mosiah 18:35)


Mosiah 18:20 He Commanded Them That They Should Preach Nothing Save It Were Repentance and Faith on the Lord:


     According to Brant Gardner, when Alma commands that they preach "nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord" (Mosiah 18:20) we must see that as a positive command, not a negative one. Alma is not telling them to stop teaching other things, but to emphasize the mission of the atoning Messiah, of the Lord that Abinadi has declared so forcefully. These were people who were acquainted with the law of Moses, but who had previously believed it in a version that denied the Savior. Alma wants to make sure that his congregation understands the critical mission of this coming Savior. Therefore, his people are to preach nothing else. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," LDStopics/ Mosiah/Mosiah18.htm, p. 23]


Mosiah 18:23-24 <----> 18:25-26 (Repetition):


     Note* There is a repetition in what is said in Mosiah 18:23-24 and what follows in Mosiah 18:25-26. What significance does this have? .


Mosiah 18 29 Alma fees to a place called Mormon (Illustration) Proposed route between the Land of Nephi/Guatemala and the Land of Zarahemla/Chiapas with distances between each


Mosiah 18:30 The forest that was near the waters of Mormon (Illustration): The coast of Lake Atitlan seen from the Panajachel delta, suggested scene of the Forest of Mormon. (Courtesy Kirk Magleby) Panajachel delta on Lake Atitlan, suggested scene of the Forest of Mormon (Courtesy Richard Jones). [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, p. 177]


Mosiah 18:30 The waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer (Illustration): (a) The beauty of "the waters of Mormon" deeply impressed Alma1 and his companions (Mosiah 18:30). [According to John Sorenson] Lake Atitlan, west of Guatemala City, fits the scriptural text's characterization of the "fountain of pure water" (Mosiah 18:5) adjacent to Mormon. (b) This delta of the little Panajachel River at the northeast corner of Lake Atitlan could be where Alma1 hid from the armies of King Noah in a "thicket of small trees" (Mosiah 18:5). [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 198]


Mosiah 18:32 The King, Having Discovered a Movement among His People, Sent His Servants:


     In Mosiah 18:32 it says that King Noah "discovered a movement among his people," so he sent his servants to watch them. And when they were assembling, they were "discovered unto the king." This verse has traditionally been read to mean that the king's men discovered Alma and his followers assembled in the place of Mormon. However, this verse could also mean that the servants of the king spied on a group of Alma's followers meeting within the local lands of Lehi-Nephi, and after interrogating them, learned more about the distant location of Alma and his followers at the waters of Mormon.

     Noah sent an army to destroy Alma's group (Mosiah 18:33). The army apparently had some distance to go because of two reasons: (1) it seems that Alma's group did not realize they had been discovered until the army was assembled and on its way (Mosiah 18:34), and (2) apparently after the army had begun its march, Alma's group of 450 still had time to gather their flocks, assemble their goods and depart, outdistancing the pursuit of the military so that Noah's army "searched in vain" (Mosiah 19:1). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Mosiah 18:4, Alma 5:3]


Geographical Theory Map: Mosiah 18:30--19:1; 23:1-20 Noah's Army Approaches--Alma Flees to Helam (Year 462)

Mosiah 18:30 19:1: 23:1-20: Noah's army approaches -- Alma Flees to Helam. (Illustration) [John L. Sorenson]


Mosiah 18:34 They Took Their Tents and Their Families and Departed into the Wilderness:


     According to John Sorenson, every army in the world [or group of people on the move] has had to find culturally and ecologically effective ways to cope with the problem of shelter in the field. As long as there are armies, there must be cross-cultural equivalents of "tents." The only questions in relation to a specific culture have to do with form, materials, and names.

     According to the Motul dictionary,163 a classic sixteenth-century work that scholars automatically turn to for supplementary light on pre-Spanish Yucatec Maya language and culture, the definition for the Maya word pazel is "choza o tienda en el campo, o casilla pequena de paja" (hut or tent for use in the field, or small straw booth).164

     Mesoamerican farmers have long and widely used a similar type of hut. For example, the Zoques of Santa Maria Chimalapa in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec still construct "very small chozas of palm fronds and grass, almost level with the ground, where they sleep during the days when they work in the fields" away from home.165 [John L. Sorenson, "Viva Zapato! Hurray for the Shoe! in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 6, Num. 1, pp. 334-335] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 5:7; Mosiah 2:6; Alma 2:20; Alma 46:31; Mormon 6:4]


Mosiah 18:35 (450 Souls):


     Mormon notes that those of Alma's group "were in number about four hundred and fifty souls" (Mosiah 18:35). Thus, we can assume that the "place called Mormon" could sustain a living for at least 450 people. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]