You are here

Mosiah 27


Out of Bondage through Covenants

      Jarom -- Mosiah



Mosiah 27:6 In All Quarters of the Land:


     Apparently the land of Zarahemla was divided up in "quarters" (Mosiah 27:6). How far these quarters extended is not explained at this time. [However, see the commentary on Alma 52:10]

     According to research by Diane Wirth and Steven Olsen, good evidence exists that ancient Americans divided their territorial lands into four quadrants for administrative purposes. In an effort to keep the traditions of their fathers alive, the Nahua and Maya (Mesoamerican) nations established four rulers, four governors, or four chiefs, each responsible for one quadrant of land. This makes a striking parallel to the administration in other high cultures in the Old World where the kingdom was divided into four provinces linked with the cardinal points.

     In the Bible, the immediate land is divided into quarters (see, i.e., Joshua 15:5; 18:15-15; Isaiah 47:15; 56:11). Likewise, the heavens (see Jeremiah 49:36) and the earth (see Genesis 19:4) are seen in quadrants. In Egyptian texts, four beings or creatures often depicted the four cardinal points of the earth.

     In Guatemala, records envisioned the world and the heavens divided into quadrants. The Mayan Lords of Totonicapan speaks of "the four parts of the world." Mesoamerican art commonly portrays four godlike creatures (bacabs and/or chacs) holding up the four corners of the earth and sky. [Diane E. Wirth and Steven L. Olsen, "Four Quarters," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 145-146]


Mosiah 27:6 In all quarters of the land (Illustration): Medieval representation of the city of Jerusalem showing it divided into four quarters. [Diane E. Wirth and Steven L. Olsen, "Four Quarters," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 149]


Mosiah 27:10 [Alma] Was Going About to Destroy the Church of God:


     In considering the life and circumstances of Alma the Younger, one finds striking parallels between him and another great leader, one whose life and teachings are recounted in the New Testament, the apostle Paul. Critics of the Book of Mormon point to these parallels as proof of Joseph Smith's plagiarizing of the Bible in authoring the Book of Mormon. They propose a list of parallels between the Apostle Paul and Alma in which Alma "almost duplicates Paul's life and ministry."195 As with many anti-Mormon writings, the authors are much too quick to propose conclusions based on shaky assumptions.      

     In response to the accusations regarding the parallels between Alma and Paul, the reader should be aware that patterns and parallels are an essential part of scripture. According to Alan Goff, a primary characteristic of biblical narrative is extensive allusion, connecting it to other biblical narratives. When the Bible "borrows" from other stories within its corpus, such a practice increases our appreciation for the text.196 In other words, similarities are purposely included in scriptural stories so as to direct one's thoughts to other parallel scripture. However, despite the similarities, one should also be aware of the differences. For the benefit of the reader I have charted not only the similarities between the accounts of Alma and Saul (Paul), but the differences as well (see illustrations below). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 14:22; 17:23]


Mosiah 27:10 [Alma] was going bout to destroy the church of God (Illustration): Similarities between the Conversion of Alma and Saul (Paul). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

     Similarities between the Conversion of Alma2 and Saul (Paul)

     1. Both Alma and Paul were very wicked men before their conversion. (Mosiah 27:8; 1 Timothy 1:12-13)

     2. Both were very skillful, talented and influential. (see Mosiah 27:8; Acts 22:3; Acts 9:1-2)

     3. Both Alma and Paul traveled about trying to destroy the church of God. (Alma 36:6; 1 Corinthians 15:9)

     4. Both persecuted the followers of Christ. (see Mosiah 27:9-10; Acts 8:3)

     5. Both Alma and Paul were vigorous in their persecution of the church. (Alma 36:14; Acts 22:4)

     6. Both Alma and Paul were out on one of their missions of persecution on the day of their conversion. (Mosiah 27:10-11; Acts 26:11-13)

     7. Alma and Saul each received a divine manifestation which resulted in their conversion to the gospel of Christ. (see Mosiah 27:11-12; Acts 9:3-6)

     8. In both cases the people present fell to the earth. (Mosiah 27:12; Acts 26:14)

     9. The companions of both Alma and Paul were unable to understand the voice that spoke. (Mosiah 27:12; Acts 22:9)

     10. In the vision both Alma and Paul were asked why they fought against the work of the Lord. (Mosiah 27:13; Acts 9:4; 22:7)

     11. Both Alma and Paul became helpless after the vision and had to be helped by their friends. (Mosiah 27:19; Acts 9:8)      

     12. Both Alma and Saul's were afflicted as a result of the powerful manifestations they received, which afflictions were followed by their respective conversions to the gospel. In each case, the affliction lasted three days. (see Alma 356:6-26; Acts 9:9, 18-20)

     13. Apparently both went without food for a period of three days. (Mosiah 27:23, see Alma 36:10; Acts 9:9)

     14. In each case, a righteous man was an instrument in God's hands in bringing about the recovery and conversion of Alma and Saul. (See Mosiah 27:14, 20-23; Acts 9:10-18.)

     15. Both Alma and Paul were greatly affected by the Spirit or Holy Ghost. Alma was "born of the Spirit" (Mosiah 27:23-24) and Paul was "filled with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 9:17)

     16. In the cases of both Alma and Saul, their earlier pride led them to seek to destroy the Church of Christ, but they each learned great humility that helped them to be content in their allotted circumstances. (See Alma 29:3-6; Philippians 4:11-12)

     17. After their conversion both Alma and Paul traveled about preaching the word of God. (Mosiah 27:32; Acts 9:20)

     18. Both accounts are told more than once in the scriptural text. (Alma 27, 36; Acts 9, 26)


Mosiah 27:10 [Alma] was going about to destroy the church of God (Illustration): Differences between the Conversion of Alma and Saul (Paul). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

     Some Differences between the Conversion of Alma and Saul (Paul)





He lead members astray by preaching (Mos 27:10)

He persecuted members by legal "letters," by "compelling them to blaspheme," leading to punishment, prison and death (Acts 9:1-2; 26:10-11)


He persecuted members illegally (27:2, 10)

He persecuted members by official sanction (9:1-2)


An angel descended upon them "as it were in a cloud" (27:11)

At midday a light shone round about them above the brightness of the sun (Acts 9:3; 26:13)


A voice spoke as thunder which shook the earth (27:11)

Just a voice spoke, no modifying words or phrases (9:4)


An angel of the Lord appeared (27:11)

Jesus Christ appeared (Acts 9:5, 17; 26:15)


His companions fell to the earth (27:12; 27:18)

Two accounts: 1st they stood (9:7) 2nd they all fell (26:14)


No mention is made of language. "Why persecutest thou the church of God" (27:13; see Mos 26:22)

Christ spoke to Paul in Hebrew. "Saul, Saul, Why persecustest thou me?" But He used a phrase also found in the writings of Euripedes ("Why kick against the pricks") (9:4-5; 26:14)


Angel came in response to the prayers of the people and Alma's father (27:14) Came to convince Alma of the power & authority of God.

No mention


Companions beheld the angel (27:18) They understood not at first (27:12)

Companions heard a voice but saw no man (9:7)


Alma did not hear after initial message (Alma 36:11) Companions heard angel (36:11)

Paul could apparently still hear (9:6, 17)


Saw God sitting upon throne (36:22)

No mention      


Alma's speech taken away (struck dumb) (27:19; 36:10)

Paul's sight taken away by "scales" (9:9, 18)


Limbs lost their strength (27:22)

Paul stood and walked (9:8)


Taken to his father (27:19)

Ananias came to Paul (Christ had spoken to Ananias in vision) (9:10-17)


Alma's father called the priests to fast & pray (27:22)

No mention is made of any help


His account deals with his redemption process (27:23-31 Racked with eternal torment (36:17-21) ) An additional theme was deliverance from bondage as a people (36:28-30)

Account focuses on Paul's calling to testify of Christ. Paul a "chosen vessel to declare Christ's name to the Gentiles, to kings, and the children of Israel. (9:15) Turning them from darkness to light. (26:18)




Mosiah 27:11 The Angel of the Lord Appeared unto [Alma and the Sons of Mosiah]:


     According to an article by John Welch, not all readers are aware that the Book of Mormon contains three accounts of the conversion of Alma the Younger. Mosiah 27: 8-37 gives a contemporary account of how Alma2 had agitated against the church of God and of his extraordinary conversion. In Alma 36:4-26 and 38:6-8, Alma twice recounts his conversion story as he blesses his sons Helaman and Shiblon. Interesting results come from a careful comparison of these three texts. [John W. Welch, "Three Accounts of Alma's Conversion," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 150] [See the commentary on Alma 36:4-26]


Mosiah 27:11 The angel of the Lord appeared unto them [Alma & the sons of Mosiah] (Illustration): Conversion of Alma the Younger. An angel appeared to Alma and the sons of Mosiah and told them to "seek to destroy the church no more." Artist: Gary Kapp. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 253]


Mosiah 27:11 The angel of the Lord appeared unto them [the sons of Mosiah] (Illustration): Sons of Mosiah [Gary Kapp, Verse Markers, Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 2]


Mosiah 27:22 He Caused That the Priests Should Assemble Themselves Together; and They Began to Fast:


     According to Stephen Ricks, spontaneous fasting, both in public and in private, for a specific purpose, is attested several times in the Book of Mormon and in the Old Testament. When Alma the Younger lay speechless and paralyzed, his father assembled the priests "to fast, and to pray to the Lord their God that he would open the mouth of Alma, that he might speak" (Mosiah 27:22-23; see also Alma 10:7). Similarly, in the Old Testament we find that David "fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth" as he prayed to the Lord to spare the life of his first son by Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:16ff.; for other examples of petitionary fasting see Nehemiah 1:4; Psalms 35:13; 69:10; 109:24; Daniel 6:18; 9:3). Ester 4:16 provides an instance of communal petitionary fasting, and accounts of public petitionary fasting are found in Judges 20:26; 2 Chronicles 20:3; Ezra 8:21, 23; Jeremiah 14:12; 36:6, 9. [Stephen D. Ricks, "Fasting in the Book of Mormon and the Bible" in The Book of Mormon: The Keystone Scripture, p. 130] [For a listing and description of all references to fasting in both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon, see the commentary illustrations for Alma 45:1; see also the commentary on Helaman 9:10; Alma 17:3, 9]


Mosiah 27:23 After They Had Fasted and Prayed for the Space of Two Days and Two Nights, . . . [Alma] Began to Speak:


     [See the commentary on Alma 36:10]


Mosiah 27:23 The limbs of Alma received their strength (Illustration): Alma the Younger. After his father and the priests had fasted for two days and two nights, "the limbs of alma received their strength." Artist: Robert T. Barrett. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 255]


Mosiah 27:25 Marvel Not:


     After Alma2 recovered from his vision and received his strength, he said something interesting. He said:

           "I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit. And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God." (Mosiah 27:25-26)


     Why did Alma marvel in the first place? Did Alma just marvel because he had become a "new creature"? Or could this doctrinal question have been at the heart of Alma's persecution of the church? (see Mosiah 27:8-9) In other words, was there any question in his mind about the need for a covenant ordinance like baptism among the Nephites to signify that they were one of God's children? Did he think that a "chosen people" were made such by birth (like the Jews did)? Was this a similar situation as that of the vision of Saul (Paul) on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9)? Was the question of universal covenant baptism the same that confounded Peter (see Acts 10)? In Acts 10:35 we find the words, "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 27:29 Redeemed from the Gall of Bitterness:


     According to McConkie and Millet, our first scriptural reference to gall, a bitter and poisonous herb, is found in Deuteronomy 29:18, where it is used as a metaphor to describe the spiritual state of those who turn from the God of Israel to embrace idolatry. The phrase Moses used was "gall and wormwood." Wormwood also was a plant with a bitter taste. The doctrine being taught by Alma's comment is that to leave righteousness and truth to embrace wickedness and falsehood embitters and poisons the soul toward those covenants that have been abandoned. Thus it is to be expected that those leaving the Church to satiate carnal appetites will not be able to remain neutral toward it but rather will be characterized by a bitter and poisonous spirit. Alma2 was a classic example of this sequence and here announces that he has been freed from the spirit of bitterness. (See also Alma 36:18; 41:11; Mormon 8:31; Moroni 8:14; Acts 8:23.) [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. II, p. 308]


Mosiah 27:29 I Was in the Darkest Abyss; but Now I Behold the Marvelous Light of God:


     In response to his life-changing vision, Alma exclaimed:

           My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more. (Mosiah 27:29)


     According to Hugh Nibley, this is the epopteia. This was the thing that was recited in the Jewish and Christian mysteries, when you go from the darkness to the day. It was imitated in the ancient temples in Egypt. You would go through darkness and trials and through three levels. Then in the final stage you went through a veil into a sunlit courtyard at noon day. Everything was white alabaster and absolutely dazzling in this celestial room. It was the same thing in the epopteia with the Greeks. You went into a room that was brilliantly lighted after you had been in the dark. It's called the epopteia, "the seeing of the light," the sudden vision that pops on you when you realize. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 194]


Mosiah 27:29 My Soul Was Racked With Eternal Torment, but . . . My Soul Is Pained No More:


     In response to his life-changing vision, Alma exclaimed:

           My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more. (Mosiah 27:29)


     According to Hugh Nibley, there is your definition of "eternal torment." You might ask, "Well, how could Alma be out of it? It was eternal. If his soul was racked with eternal torment, he would still be there, wouldn't he?" No, he said, I'm out of it now, "I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more." That means the torment by nature is eternal. Anybody who qualifies for it [eternal torment] will get it from now to the end of time. It's there all the time, not that you have to suffer it all the time. This is one of the errors of christian theology. According to them it's eternal torment, meaning that once you go to hell, it's eternal--forever and forever. Well, Alma had been as most people who go to hell, but it's not eternal. He gets out of it now. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 194]

     So once again we see that the Book of Mormon was not just a part of Joseph Smith's Protestant environment.


Mosiah 27:34 The Sons of Mosiah . . . Ammon, and Aaron, and Omner, and Himni:


     According to Daniel Ludlow, the order of the birth of the four sons of Mosiah2 is never made clear in the Book of Mormon. The listing in Mosiah 27:34 would indicate that Ammon was the first born followed by Aaron, then Omner, and Himni. Also, the fact that Ammon was the leader on their missionary journey to the Lamanites would seem to indicate that Ammon was the eldest (see Alma chapters 17-26).

     However, when king Mosiah2 asked his people to select his successor, they first desired that Aaron should be their king and their ruler (Mosiah 29:1-2). In this single instance it appears as though Aaron may have been the eldest son. [Daniel Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 192]


Mosiah 27:34 Himni:


     Himni was one of the four sons of Mosiah who went on a mission to the Lamanites (see Mosiah 27:34; Alma 22:35; 23:1; 25:17; 27:19; 31:6). According to a FARMS article, the name Himni is clearly Hebrew and is represented by the unvocalized form, Hmn on two Israelite seals. The first, from the eighth century B.C., was found at Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley. The other is from the first half of the seventh century B.C.

     Because the seal inscriptions do not have vowels, we cannot know precisely how the name is to be read. The Bible knows of a non-Israelite Haman from the time of Esther, and Heman was a noted poet and musician in the time of David and Solomon. The vowel at the end of Himni suggest that it is a gentillic form, meaning "Hemanite." [FARMS, "What's New at Farms: Excerpts from the Insights newsletter and the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies.]


Mosiah 27:35 They Traveled . . . among All the People Who Were under the Reign of King Mosiah:


     The sons of Mosiah2 traveled "throughout all the land of Zarahemla and among all the people who were under the reign of king Mosiah" (Mosiah 27:35, my italics). Is this verse saying that there were more people of Mosiah2 than just in the general land of Zarahemla (possibly in Bountiful, etc.?), or is it just stating the same thing in two different ways? According to Mosiah 27:6 the people had become "numerous" and had begun to "scatter abroad." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 27:36 Bringing Many to the Knowledge of the Truth, Yea, to the Knowledge of Their Redeemer:


     [See the commentary on Alma 32:21]