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Mosiah 29


Out of Bondage through Covenants

      Jarom -- Mosiah



Mosiah 29:5 I Desire That Ye Should Consider the Cause Which Ye Are Called to Consider--For Ye Are Desirous to Have a King:


     In the 29th chapter of Mosiah, we find a discourse by Mosiah on the problems associated with kingship. The people heed Mosiah's warnings and change to a system of judges.

     According to Robert Matthews, it is interesting that after the time of Moses, a period of judges was established (Deborah Samson, and so forth), but eventually the people of Israel desired to have a king, "like all the nations" (1 Samuel 8:4-5). Certain that such a course would lead to social and political trouble, Samuel the prophet-judge made a solemn protest concerning it. The Lord, however, allowed them an earthly king because they desired it--but not until they had been sufficiently warned through Samuel of the Lord's displeasure (1 Samuel 8:6-22). [Robert J. Matthews, A Burning Light: The Life and Ministry of John the Baptist, p. 13]

     Note* Although both Mosiah and Samuel spoke against kingship, it is interesting to see the differences in perspectives on the problems of kingship that each one brought forth. For the benefit of the reader, so that comparisons might be made between Mosiah's words of warning on kingship (Mosiah 29:1-41) and Samuel's words of warning (1 Samuel 8:6-22), the text of 1 Samuel is as follows:

           But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord.

           And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

           According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.

           Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.

           And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king.

           And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.

           And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.

           And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.

           And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your olive-yards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.

           And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.

           And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.

           He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.

           And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day.

           Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;

           That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.

           And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord.

           And the Lord said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.

[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Ether 6:23]


Mosiah 29:7 And Who Knoweth But What My Son . . . Should Turn to Be Angry and Draw Away a Part of This People After Him:


     King Mosiah's proposal to abolish kingship rule among the people in the land of Zarahemla follows on the heels of his four sons' renouncement of their kingship claims in order to go among the Lamanites to preach the gospel (Mosiah 29:1-6). While a number of factors might have been involved (King Noah for example),* John Tvedtnes notes that the reasons Mosiah subsequently gave his people for abolishing the monarchy did not always have a clear precedent in Nephite history. In fact, Mosiah's reasons appear to have been influenced to a good extent by his knowledge of Jaredite history that he had just recently translated (Mosiah 28:11-19). Moreover, some of those reasons carry specific language contained within that history.

     In his message to the people, Mosiah noted:

           He to whom the kingdom doth rightly belong has declined, and will not take upon him the kingdom. And now if there should be another appointed in his stead, behold I fear there would rise contentions among you. And who knoweth but what my son, to whom the kingdom doth belong, should turn to be angry and draw away a part of this people after him, which would cause wars and contentions among you, which would be the cause of shedding much blood and perverting the way of the Lord, yea, and destroy the souls of many people. (Mosiah 29:6-7)


     No such situation had been specifically detailed among the Nephites.* However, it was common among the Jaredites for brother to rebel against brother or father and draw away part of the people to wage war (Ether 7:4-5, 15-17; 8:2-3; 9:11-12; 10:3, 8-10, 14, 32; 11:4, 15-18). Moreover, the idea of "drawing away" supporters (Mosiah 29:7) is known in the Book of Mormon only from the Jaredite record (Ether 7:4, 15; 9:11; 10:32).

     Mosiah stressed that the wickedness of King Noah had caused the people to come into bondage (Mosiah 29:18-19). However, this is also a common theme in the book of Ether. For example, at the time kingship was first established among the Jaredites, the brother of Jared warned that it would lead to captivity (Ether 6:22-23). During the history of the people, a number of kings were conquered by their own son or brother and made to serve in captivity (Ether 7:5, 7, 17; 8:3-4; 10:14-15, 30-31; 11:9, 18-19, 23; 13:23).

     Another of Mosiah's justifications for allowing the people to elect their judges was that "it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right" (Mosiah 29:26). But he noted that "if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land" (Mosiah 29:27). Since the Nephites had not experienced such "great destruction" on "this land," Mosiah must have had the destruction of the Jaredites in mind [assuming the fact that such details were not chronicled in the "lost 116 pages" portion of the large plates]. [John A. Tvedtnes, "King Mosiah and the Judgeship," in FARMS Update, Number 140, in Insights, November 2000, p. 2]

     Note* For a discussion on other factors involved in the abolishment of Nephite kingship, see Michael Hobby's commentary on the Mulekite connection. While Tvedtnes comments that no previous division because of a kingship dispute among brothers had been specifically detailed among the Nephites, the reader should note that such a dispute over birthright and kingship might very well be implied in the story of Nephi versus Laman & Lemuel (see 1 Nephi 16:37-38; 2 Nephi 5:1-3, 6-9, 34). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 29:9 He Would Recall the Things Which He Had Said:


     In Mosiah 29:9 we find: "And if my son should turn again to his pride and vain things he would recall the things which he had said, and claim his right to the kingdom, which would cause him and also this people to commit much sin."

     According to Brant Gardner, in this verse the word recall does not mean "remember" but rather "retract." The problem will occur if Aaron retracts his renunciation of the throne. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," LDStopics/ Mosiah/Mosiah29.htm, p. 6]


Mosiah 29:11 And We Will Newly Arrange the Affairs of This People:


     At the end of his reign, Mosiah2 makes the statement, "let us appoint judges, to judge this people according to our law; and we will newly arrange the affairs of this people" (Mosiah 29:11). According to John Welch, several details about this significant "new" legal reform are faithfully preserved in the Book of Mormon. This subtle and sometimes technical information embedded in the narrative of the Book of Mormon shows that "the law of Mosiah" (Alma 11:1) was solidly rooted in ancient Near Eastern ideas and legal tradition. [For an in depth discussion on the law of Mosiah see John W. Welch, "The Law of Mosiah," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S.] [See the commentary on Alma 1:1; 1:26]


Mosiah 29:14,36 No Stealing, nor Plundering, nor Murdering:


     In Mosiah 29:14, King Mosiah2 points out he has labored with all his power to "establish peace throughout the land, that there should be no wars nor contentions, no stealing, nor plundering, nor murdering, nor any manner of iniquity." John Welch notes that in the Book of Mormon, in statements relevant to internal domestic affairs, robbery is not mentioned; thus, whether the passages concern Benjamin's people (Mosiah 2:13), or the Lamanites (Mosiah 24:7), or Mosiah's people, the ancient distinction between community theft and external group robbery is maintained. [For an in depth discussion on the differences between the terms "theft" and "robbery," see John W. Welch, "Theft and Robbery in the Book of Mormon and Ancient Near Eastern Law," F.A.R.M.S.]


Mosiah 29:29 Your Lower Judges . . . Shall Judge Your Higher Judges:


     Michael Hobby theorizes that to preserve Nephite freedom, it was necessary to preserve Nephite control. Mosiah2 was successful in persuading the people to adopt a system of judges, with the lower judges elected by the people, most of whom were Mulekites. However, to ensure Nephite control, apparently the higher judges were appointed from selected Nephites (see Alma 4:16-17; 29:42; 46:4; 50:39; Helaman 1:13). According to Hobby’s theory, the reason such care was taken by Mosiah2 during the transfer of power from kings to the judges is that the liberty of the Nephites--ultimately the church--was at risk if a Mulekite, a descendant of Judah, should ever consolidate the reigns of power. While the brass plates were early on a symbol of kingship power for the Nephites, they ultimately contained verses which might have been a key source for disputation regarding kingship. If the Mulekites studied the brass plates, they would soon discover that the right of rule was originally conferred upon the tribe of Judah, not the tribe of Joseph from which the Nephites stemmed: "Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be upon the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee. . . . The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from beneath his feet, until Shiloh come. (Genesis 49:8-12, my italics).

     This was not a religious differentiation, but an ethnic one. Having this newly found right to kingship coupled with their Jaredite kingship heritage, some of the Mulekites would have sufficient ammunition to foster rebellion. [Michael M. Hobby, The Mulekite Connection, pp. 32-34] [See the commentary on Mosiah 28:10; Alma 2:1, 2:11]


Mosiah 29:32 This Inequality Should Be No More in This Land . . . a Land of Liberty:


     According to Hugh Nibley, the reader should note that liberty and equality go together in the message of king Mosiah: "And now I desire that this inequality should be no more in this land, especially among this my people; but I desire that this land be a land of liberty" (Mosiah 29:32) It's very interesting that today we interpret liberty as inequality--the right of anyone who wants to pile up as much power and wealth as he can and take advantage of anybody he can. If they are weaker, that's just too bad. We have free, competitive enterprise now, and you do what you want. So you have the perfect right to be unequal, but you are not going to have liberty with inequality because some people are in bondage to others. . . . But freedom is equality. I mentioned that comment from Philo last time; I just came across that. "Equality is the mother of righteousness." And it's the mother of liberty, too. King Mosiah desired that "every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike." [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 212]


Mosiah 29:37 King Mosiah Had Sent These Things Forth among the People:


     In noting that "king Mosiah had sent these things forth among the people" (Mosiah 29:37), Mormon apparently let's the reader know that the general land of Zarahemla was now extensive enough to make it inconvenient for all the people to come to the capital, where Mosiah2 lived in order to receive his words.


Mosiah 29:41 They Did Appoint Judges to Rule over Them:


     According to Brant Gardner, the Nephite transition from kings to judges (see Mosiah 29:41) has several parallels in Mesoamerican political systems. It is important to understand that the roots of the shift from a monarchic to a more communal government structure were already in place in the Book of Mormon prior to Mosiah's abolition of the monarchy. The "voice of the people" was a communal mechanism that even acted to confirm kingship. (see Mosiah 7:9; 2:11; 29:1)

     In Mesoamerica, the change from a king to a more communal system of judges is clearly seen at Chichen Itza near the end of the Classic Period.203 While not as conclusive as the Chichen case, the argument for an oligarchic political structure at Teotihuacan is also very strong.204

     Just as with the Book of Mormon case, the structures that allowed this power shift away from single kings to a more communal rule were already in place and functioning in the monarchies. Ethnohistorical sources tell us that Maya communities had a popl nah, or a "mat house." The "mat house" was a community location where the "lords convened, where all important community matters were discussed, and where disputes were adjudicated."205 These communal locations for the convening of lords and for judging disputes provides a direct parallel to the Nephite judge system. The shift from a king to judges would have been as natural a change for the Nephites in the land of Zarahemla as it was for the people of Chichen Itza, and probably Teotihuacan. For the Maya, there are tantalizing hints in some of the glyphic material that this process began even during the reign of some kings,206 with the kings being required to share the power and the glory in stone with lordly judges. [Brant Gardner, "A Social History of the Early Nephites," delivered at the FAIR Conference, August 17, 2001, p. 10]


Mosiah 29:42 Alma was appointed to be the first chief judge (Nephite Record Keepers) [Illustration]: Nephite Record Keepers. Adapted from [Church Educational System, Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 155]


Mosiah 29:42 He [Alma] being also the high priest, his father having conferred the office upon him (Nephite Chief Priests) [Illustration]: Nephite Chief Priests. Adapted from [John W. Welch and Morgan A. Ashton, "Charting the Book of Mormon," Packet 1, F.A.R.M.S., 1997]


Mosiah 29:44 And thus commenced the reign of the judges throughout all the land of Zarahemla (Illustration): Chart: "The Nephite Judges." [John W. & J. Gregory Welch, Charting the Book of Mormon: Visual Aids for Personal Study and Teaching, F.A.R.M.S., Chart #33]


Mosiah 29:44 And Alma was the first and chief judge (Illustration): Chart: "Alma as Chief Judge: Years 1-8 of the Reign of the Judges." [John W. & J. Gregory Welch, Charting the Book of Mormon: Visual Aids for Personal Study and Teaching, F.A.R.M.S., Chart #34]