Alma 19


 



MDC Contents

 

 

Alma 19:1

1  And it came to pass that after two days and two nights they were about to take his body and lay it in a sepulchre, which they had made for the purpose of burying their dead.

 

Textual: It would appear that there is a symbolic meaning attached to the two days and two nights of the appearance of death. As noted in the comments on Alma the Younger’s similar experience (see the comments on Mosiah 27:23), the two days and two nights yield four time periods, and four is a ritually significant number among most Mesoamerican cultures. It may be that regardless of the actual time spent in the coma-like state, it became two days and two nights in the writing because this lent added significance to the occasion.

 

Cultural: The placing of the body in a sepulcher is an authentic connection for the known Mesoamerican populations, particularly the Maya (Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube. Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens. London: Thames and Hudson, 2000, p. 19). However, it is known only for the kings or highest royalty. Many Maya kings were laid to rest in the hearts of stepped temples. The most famous of these is the tomb of the king Pacal who reigned in Palenque. The cover of his sarcophagus is a beautiful example of Maya art, but has been variously misinterpreted, included a most fanciful description of an astronaut in a space capsule.

 

Pacal was the first of the entombed kings found, but others have followed. Thus when we read that they are ready to place King Lamoni in a sepulcher, we may imagine what that would be in a Mesoamerican context. During his lifetime he would have built a temple, and had built into the temple the chamber where he would eventually lie. As a king, he would have the right to be buried in such a tomb, and would have had the wherewithal to have it ready, even prior to his death. These details fit with the limited information that we have in this verse.

 

Alma 19:2

2  Now the queen having heard of the fame of Ammon, therefore she sent and desired that he should come in unto her.

 

Mormon has chosen to leave out a piece of this story, which simply was not important to him. Mormon has given us a very rapid transition from the moment the king fell as though dead to the resolution of that state two days later. Surely that very moment would have seen some rather dramatic events. Ammon is speaking with the king, and the king calls upon a new God, then falls down dead (or so it was clearly assumed). This can hardly have passed without notice nor concern.

 

Since Ammon is still alive, and free to attend the queen when she calls, we know that Ammon was not blamed for the king’s state, though he could have been. There would have been great confusion, and perhaps someone might have detained Ammon, or perhaps they still considered him possibly “more than a man” and left him alone. In any case, there could not have been a quiet end to the audience before the king. The silence by Mormon belies what must have been a fuller and more vivid description of the aftermath of this striking occurrence.

 

Alma 19:3

3  And it came to pass that Ammon did as he was commanded, and went in unto the queen, and desired to know what she would that he should do.

Alma 19:4

4  And she said unto him: The servants of my husband have made it known unto me that thou art a prophet of a holy God, and that thou hast power to do many mighty works in his name;

Alma 19:5

5  Therefore, if this is the case, I would that ye should go in and see my husband, for he has been laid upon his bed for the space of two days and two nights; and some say that he is not dead, but others say that he is dead and that he stinketh, and that he ought to be placed in the sepulchre; but as for myself, to me he doth not stink.

 

The ancient world was certainly unacquainted with the techniques of modern medicine, but they were very certainly familiar with death. In this case, however, the condition of the body was such that some had supposed the king must be dead. The king was therefore unmoving and unresponsive. His condition was probably similar to a coma. The queen understood that he was not dead, probably because she was in closer proximity to him than the others. She would know that he did not have the characteristics of death, that he still had the warmth of life about him. Whether or not she could feel the faint breath, or understood the coursing of blood we do not know. We do know that she understood that he was not dead, even though he was dead to the world.

 

Alma 19:6

6  Now, this was what Ammon desired, for he knew that king Lamoni was under the power of God; he knew that the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God—

 

Ammon knows much of this situation, not only by the spirit that was certainly with him, but because of the experience he had shared with his friend Alma the Younger (see Mosiah 27). Indeed, Ammon’s very presence before King Lamoni was the direct result of a similar experience he witnessed as Alma the Younger passed through a similar state. Ammon knew that the king was alive, and knew what was happening to him because it had also happened to Alma.

 

Alma 19:7

7  Therefore, what the queen desired of him was his only desire. Therefore, he went in to see the king according as the queen had desired him; and he saw the king, and he knew that he was not dead.

Alma 19:8

8  And he said unto the queen: He is not dead, but he sleepeth in God, and on the morrow he shall rise again; therefore bury him not.

 

Ammon is taken to the king where he confirms that the king is not dead. The important phrase is that the king “sleepeth in God.” Ammon has tied his abilities to God, and now claims that God has power over the king. The queen must have preferred that Ammon command the king to rise at that very time, but was probably comforted to hear that her husband was in the thrall of a God that had lent such power to Ammon, and that it would not be long before he did rise.

 

Alma 19:9

9  And Ammon said unto her: Believest thou this?  And she said unto him: I have had no witness save thy word, and the word of our servants; nevertheless I believe that it shall be according as thou hast said.

 

The simple action described in this verse belies the import of the event for all who must have faith. Ammon asks the queen if she believes, and she does. What she also indicates is that she has no reason to believe except the word of Ammon and the servants. In other words, there is no overpowering witness of the spirit present. There is no convincing argument that has convinced her. She simply has the word of Ammon and the servants, and their word is sufficient.

 

In this simple ability to believe based upon the word of another, the queen is laying claim to one of the most powerful of the gifts of the spirit:

 

D&C 46:13-14

13 To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.

14 To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.

 

For some, the spirit comes to them directly, and it is their gift to have a personal witness of the truth. Certainly Ammon’s experience with Alma either qualifies or comes close. For King Lamoni, he was in the process of having this very direct and personal witness of the Spirit. While the verse in the Doctrine and Covenants is most specific about those who know that Jesus is the Son of God, the principle may be easily extrapolated to those who may gain an essential knowledge of any gospel principle through direct spiritual confirmation. Those people are indeed blessed.

 

There are others, however, whose ability to believe is much greater. They apparently do not need the personal confirmation of the spirit, but like this Lamanite queen, may sincerely believe because of her faith in the words of others. Of course this requires that one have faith in the others so that their words might be believed, but it remains a powerful and effective faith.

 

Alma 19:10

10  And Ammon said unto her: Blessed art thou because of thy exceeding faith; I say unto thee, woman, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites.

 

Ammon’s comment to the queen confirms the power of this type of faith. It is the faith that Christ extols in his post resurrection experience with Thomas:

 

John 20:26-29

26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

 

The queen was one who had not seen. The queen did not have the advantage of a heritage of belief. The Nephites may not have seen or may not have had a direct witness of the spirit, but they did have a tradition of belief. Their parents believed, their grandparents believed, so it was almost natural for them to believe. The queen was from a different background entirely, sharing with King Lamoni the belief in the Great Spirit, but not knowing the God of Ammon. Nevertheless, coming from such a distance of non-belief, yet she was able to believe based solely on the words of others.

 

It is this type of faith that many of the converts to the church have in the modern day, where their traditions are not one of belief in the church, and they come to believe based upon the words and testimonies of missionaries and other members. For these modern “queens” (and “kings” to complete the analogy) they are yet among those with great faith, and the full rewards of the kingdom are as open to them as to any. Indeed, as Ammon suggests, their faith may be greater than those who do achieve a personal witness.

 

Alma 19:11

11  And it came to pass that she watched over the bed of her husband, from that time even until that time on the morrow which Ammon had appointed that he should rise.

Alma 19:12

12  And it came to pass that he arose, according to the words of Ammon; and as he arose, he stretched forth his hand unto the woman, and said: Blessed be the name of God, and blessed art thou.

 

When the king arises he blesses the name of God. We must remember that this is a man who had not believed in God, did not know if there was a God. After his experience, the king is now abundantly aware of God, and of the mercy of God. What is interesting is that he also calls his wife blessed. We do not know what has triggered this particular blessing. It is certainly deserved, but it is not known whether there was an experience particularly related to her that was fresh in his mind, whether he had been aware of the conversation with Ammon (which is certainly possible), or whether this is simply an expression of his love for her as he found her at his side.

 

Alma 19:13

13  For as sure as thou livest, behold, I have seen my Redeemer; and he shall come forth, and be born of a woman, and he shall redeem all mankind who believe on his name.  Now, when he had said these words, his heart was swollen within him, and he sunk again with joy; and the queen also sunk down, being overpowered by the Spirit.

Alma 19:14

14  Now Ammon seeing the Spirit of the Lord poured out according to his prayers upon the Lamanites, his brethren, who had been the cause of so much mourning among the Nephites, or among all the people of God because of their iniquities and their traditions, he fell upon his knees, and began to pour out his soul in prayer and thanksgiving to God for what he had done for his brethren; and he was also overpowered with joy; and thus they all three had sunk to the earth.

Alma 19:15

15  Now, when the servants of the king had seen that they had fallen, they also began to cry unto God, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them also, for it was they who had stood before the king and testified unto him concerning the great power of Ammon.

 

The power of the spirit comes upon all in the room, save one woman discussed in the next verses. This tremendous spiritual event has begun by the awakening of the king, and his declaration, recorded in verse 13, that he has seen the Redeemer. For the mass fallings, note that this is not an unusual effect of the spirit, and certainly one with which Joseph was familiar (see the comment following Alma 18:43).

 

The communication between king and a god was an expectation of later Maya kings (Friedel, David, Linda Schele, and Joy Parker. Maya Cosmos. William Morrow and Company, 1995, p. 205). Nevertheless, it is clear that this experience with the God of Ammon transcended any other experience to which the king might have laid claim. Regardless of any other experience with the gods, this one was greater, and sufficiently so that the King’s declaration awoke the faith and spiritual feelings of all in the room.

 

Alma 19:16

16  And it came to pass that they did call on the name of the Lord, in their might, even until they had all fallen to the earth, save it were one of the Lamanitish women, whose name was Abish, she having been converted unto the  Lord for many years, on account of a remarkable vision of her father—

 

Abish is already a believer. She is a believer before Ammon arrives, having become converted to the Lord through her father. This statement is given in the text to explain why she is able to resist the outflow of the spirit. It is not that she does not believe, but that her prior belief allows her to feel and understand the spirit without being overcome by the newness of it. Certainly, the conditions required that there be someone to interpret this mass physical effect of the spirit.

 

Her conversion itself, however, is an interesting puzzle. Abish is declared to be Lamanite, and as a Lamanite, she should have followed the beliefs of her people. Doubtless her father, prior to the life-changing vision, was also one who followed the traditions of the father. As Lamanites in a city that has no clear connections to Nephite cities, how does this father understand his vision, and his daughter believe sufficiently to play her role in this event?

 

It is entirely possible, of course, that the vision of her father had no particular precedent that a response from God to the desires of a sincere man. He could easily have seen, and believed. It is also possible that there was some understanding of Nephite religion present in the Lamanite nation. While they did not believe, it is quite possible that they understood their beliefs as standing in contrast to those of the Nephites. That is, while they did not believe, they at least understood the general outlines of what the Nephites believed. Since we know that the Nephites were able to generally categorize Lamanite beliefs, this is completely probable. As a final possibility, we must remember that this is only one generation removed from the departure of Limhi from Lamanite lands, and that generation would be the generation of the father. It is therefore also possible that the father had some contact with the Limhites at Nephi-Lehi, or perhaps with Alma’s people, and that his vision came as a confirmation to questions asked about the God of these people.

 

Textual: Abish is one of the very few named women in the Book of Mormon. That her name is present here is even more remarkable because she was a servant, and the records of the world typically record the names of royalty, but not the names of servants. The presence of her name, and the details of this little aside, suggest that Abish was more important in the original record than we see her in Mormon’s account. While the description of her conversion provides an explanation of why she did not fall down, nevertheless, it would not be anything that would require that she be recorded by name when other women, such as the queen, are not named. This contrast between the named servant and the unnamed Abish hint at a much more important role for Abish in the establishment of the gospel through Ammon than we have in our records.

 

Alma 19:17

17  Thus, having been converted to the Lord, and never having made it known, therefore, when she saw that all the servants of Lamoni had fallen to the earth, and also her mistress, the queen, and the king, and Ammon lay prostrate upon the earth, she knew that it was the power of God; and supposing that this opportunity, by making known unto the people what had happened among them, that by beholding this scene it would cause them to believe in the power of God, therefore she ran forth from house to house, making it known unto the people.

 

Abish had already been converted, so the overwhelming transformational power of the spirit did not overcome her. She is able, therefore, to understand what is happening. Even with her conversion, what let her know what was happening with so many people? Certainly the spirit was with her, but she had also been there when the king, who had been as dead for two days and two nights arose from his bed. Thus she had a very immediate understanding of what had happened, and the awakening of the king, for however briefly, would have given her the confidence needed to declare what would happen in this case.

 

Textual: As a more personal note, we are told that Abish did not make her conversion known prior to this time. This suggests both that she understood that it would be dangerous, or at least difficult for her current position. These were Lamanites, and they would not have taken kindly to a servant in the royal court who contradicted the official beliefs of the court. The fact that we have this piece of information also indicates again the probability that there was a much longer story of Abish available, so that Mormon would have access to these details, and consider them of sufficient interest to include them.

 

Alma 19:18

18  And they began to assemble themselves together unto the house of the king.  And there came a multitude, and to their astonishment they beheld the king, and the queen, and their servants prostrate upon the earth, and they all lay there as though they were dead; and they also saw Ammon, and behold, he was a Nephite.

Alma 19:19

19  And now the people began to murmur among themselves; some saying that it was a great evil that had come upon them, or upon the king and his house, because he had suffered that the Nephite should remain in the land.

 

The reaction of the people is quite understandable. Not having been witness to the spiritual events that had led to this overwhelming by the spirit, the people see only a roomful of people as though dead, and among them a Nephite, the very definition of an enemy. It is not surprising that this should be the Nephite’s fault (which was, in fact, actually true) and that it be counted as evil (which was not true).

 

Cultural: The most interesting statement in these verses is the simple fact that the people could have entered and seen Ammon, and declared him a Nephite. We must ask ourselves how the people would have known that he was a Nephite. In the days before photographs, newspapers, and television, individuals would seldom be known by face unless one had had direct personal contact with them. Ammon had either been among other servants, or in the court of the king himself. It is not likely that all of these people would have known him. It is also probable that they had heard of him, for even though they might not have seen him, certainly the news of Ammon and his feat at the waters of Sebus would have traveled rapidly through the palace.

 

What we cannot tell is whether or not there was a physical distinction between Nephite and Lamanite. It has been traditional in the church to suppose that the Lamanites had Native American pigmentation, while the Nephites were white (or whatever their Israelite ancestry would have made them). However, there is never any indication in the occasions when Lamanites and Nephites meet where there is any remark about skin color as a means of differentiation. Indeed, when we learned of an earlier Ammon who rescued the people of Limhi, he was taken for Lamanite when he was a Nephite by birth.

 

When the people recognize Ammon as Nephite, they must have done so either on his reputation, or clothing. There is nothing that would indicate that they could have recognized him by the color of his skin.

 

Alma 19:20

20  But others rebuked them, saying: The king hath brought this evil upon his house, because he slew his servants who had had their flocks scattered at the waters of Sebus.

 

This verse suggests that the slaying of previous servants at the waters of Sebus were controversial, even though they were ordered by the king. While the order of a king is law in most societies with kings, that does not mean that the orders are universally approved. It is clear that this one was controversial, sufficiently controversial that even the king wondered if Ammon were here to punish him for those deaths (Alma 18:2). Indeed, that hesitance of the king, and this statement, suggest that the killing of those servants for that reason had become an issue in the court.

 

Alma 19:21

21  And they were also rebuked by those men who had stood at the waters of Sebus and scattered the flocks which belonged to the king, for they were  angry with Ammon because of the number which he had slain of their brethren at the waters of Sebus, while defending the flocks of the king.

 

Some of the men who were the “thieves” at the waters of Sebus are in the group of people called to the king’s chamber. This suggests that they were both near, and entitled to information about the king. In Mesoamerican terms, this places them among the elite in the society, and probably of a different lineage than the king. The close proximity of men who had caused such disruption for the king suggests that they had to have been known, and that the king was required to tolerate their actions. Rather than simple thieves, they are probably a rival elite lineage, attempting to weaken the rule of the king. While there isn’t much information, and the only explicit information given is that of Mormon interjecting the idea that these Lamanites are thieves like any other, the rest of the text belies Mormon’s conclusion.

 

The fact that these men would be so soon called to the bedchamber of the king suggests that they were known. The servants who had been executed were only executed after their return, giving them ample time to identify their assailants. The only plausible situation which meets these requirements is a rival elite lineage that the king cannot censure for political reasons. As Mormon would be oblivious to those internal politics, he essentially makes up a reason.

 

Alma 19:22

22  Now, one of them, whose brother had been slain with the sword of Ammon, being exceedingly angry with Ammon, drew his sword and went forth that he might let it fall upon Ammon, to slay him; and as he lifted the sword to smite him, behold, he fell dead.

Alma 19:23

23  Now we see that Ammon could not be slain, for the Lord had said unto Mosiah, his father: I will spare him, and it shall be unto him according to thy faith—therefore, Mosiah trusted him unto the Lord.

 

Textual: Mormon is taking a very literal expansion of the promise the Lord makes to Mosiah:

 

Mosiah 28:6-7

6 And king Mosiah went and inquired of the Lord if he should let his sons go up among the Lamanites to preach the word.

7 And the Lord said unto Mosiah: Let them go up, for many shall believe on their words, and they shall have eternal life; and I will deliver thy sons out of the hands of the Lamanites.

 

Since the Lord has promised to deliver the sons of Mosiah out of the hands of the Lamanites, and since Ammon was in a position to be killed twice, and was not, Mormon concludes that he could not be killed. It is important to remember that this is Mormon’s conclusion, not any statement made by Ammon, and probably nothing that would have occurred to Ammon. There are many modern occasions where we believe that our missionaries have a similar promise of deliverance, and the world has sadly had other ideas. The promises of the Lord are for the Lord to uphold and understand. Ammon did not imprudently place himself in danger simply because he had a promise of deliverance. Neither should we, under a promise of deliverance, test the validity of such a promise by intentionally placing ourselves in harm’s way, believing in an Ammon-like invulnerability.

 

Alma 19:24

24  And it came to pass that when the multitude beheld that the man had fallen dead, who lifted the sword to slay Ammon, fear came upon them all, and they durst not put forth their hands to touch him or any of those who had fallen; and they began to marvel again among themselves what could be the cause of this great power, or what all these things could mean.

 

We can understand the amazement of those who beheld this situation. They had just seen an armed man ready to kill an unarmed and helpless man, and then fall dead. No wonder the rest of them dare not even touch Ammon, nor any of the rest, for good measure. The wonders of this scene were clearly impressed upon the people, setting the stage for a massive conversion.

 

Alma 19:25

25  And it came to pass that there were many among them who said that Ammon was the Great Spirit, and others said he was sent by the Great Spirit;

Alma 19:26

26  But others rebuked them all, saying that he was a monster, who had been sent from the Nephites to torment them.

 

We have here the basic replay of the question King Lamoni pondered in his court. There is something about Ammon, and it was easy for the people to consider him “more than a man.” However, whether or not that numenous category made him beneficent or maleficent was still at issue. Finding the king, his wife, and their inner circle of servants lying as if dead would lend credence to the “monster” theory espoused in verse 26. It should be remembered that in Mesoamerica these semi-divine characters could have both benevolent and malevolent aspects, so the presumption that Ammon was a being of power, but also evil, was a logical conclusion in their cultural milieu.

 

Alma 19:27

27  And there were some who said that Ammon was sent by the Great Spirit to afflict them because of their iniquities; and that it was the Great Spirit that had always attended the Nephites, who had ever delivered them out of  their hands; and they said that it was this Great Spirit who had destroyed so many of their brethren, the Lamanites.

 

These people take a different twist on the “monster” theme. In this case, Ammon is not an evil semi-divine being, but rather an incarnation of the Great Spirit of the Nephites. As a Nephite god, rather than a Lamanite god, it would be understandable that this Nephite God would do damage to the Lamanites – and the evidence most present was the king’s household lying as if dead.

 

Alma 19:28

28  And thus the contention began to be exceedingly sharp among them.  And while they were thus contending, the woman servant who had caused the multitude to be gathered together came, and when she saw the contention which was among the multitude she was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto tears.

 

Abish had gathered this group together to witness the power of the spirit, and was now seeing a discussion of which type of evil Ammon might be. No wonder she was in tears, that her heartfelt intentions were so dramatically twisted into something else.

 

Alma 19:29

29  And it came to pass that she went and took the queen by the hand, that perhaps she might raise her from the ground; and as soon as she touched her hand she arose and stood upon her feet, and cried with a loud voice, saying: O blessed Jesus, who has saved me from an awful hell!  O blessed God, have mercy on this people!

Alma 19:30

30  And when she had said this, she clasped her hands, being filled with joy, speaking many words which were not understood; and when she had done this, she took the king, Lamoni, by the hand, and behold he arose and stood upon his feet.

 

Abish takes the queen’s hand, and the queen revives. Like the king, she declares the blessings of Christ. The queen has moved from one who believed on Ammon’s words to one who now knows for herself of the mission of the Christ. It is important to realize that her reward was no greater after than before, and that the proclamation of her great faith preceded this tremendous spiritual experience.

 

When she arises, se begins to speak “many words which were not understood.” It would appear from this phrase that she was speaking in tongues. This is a manifestation of the power of the spirit that has been known from several ages, and is well attested in the New Testament, as well as early LDS church history. It was also a common sign of the presence of the spirit in many of the revivalist communities of Joseph’s youth. Speaking in tongues, or glossolalia, is not practiced nor encouraged in the modern church. Our current understanding of the gift of tongues relies more on the ability to intelligently communicate than to simply manifest the spirit. In the case of the queen, she speaks things that cannot be understood. While this may indicate the spirit, it does not communicate by the spirit. The communication itself is a much more powerful use of the gift of tongues.

 

Cultural: The fact that Abish, a woman, took first the hand of the queen rather than the king, may suggest that the Lamanite society was patriarchically structured. The woman servant would be attached to the queen, and it is possible that she might have been prohibited from even touching the king.

 

Alma 19:31

31  And he, immediately, seeing the contention among his people, went forth and began to rebuke them, and to teach them the words which he had heard from the mouth of Ammon; and as many as heard his words believed, and were converted unto the Lord.

Alma 19:32

32  But there were many among them who would not hear his words; therefore they went their way.

 

Textual: These two verses show some of the way that Mormon handles his sources. It is quite likely that his original source contained some information about the king attempting to resolve the immediate contention. However, the rest of the information here depends upon events that must have occurred after this point in time. The conversion of the people, and most particularly the understanding that some were not converted, is nothing that could be discerned by an eye witness to the moment. Mormon has taken the basic information, and then added the longer historical perspective without attempting to mark the division between the time frames. Indeed, from Mormon’s distant time frame, there would be no significant different between the beginning of the conversion of the time when it could be said that some were and some were not converted. This  is purely an issue for the nature of historical documents. Mormon is not simply recounting the history he finds in his sources, he is recasting it.

 

Alma 19:33

33  And it came to pass that when Ammon arose he also administered unto them, and also did all the servants of Lamoni; and they did all declare unto the people the selfsame thing—that their hearts had been changed; that they had no more desire to do evil.

 

The essence of the conversion process is embodied in the final phrases. These Lamanites had had their hearts changed, and they had no more desire to do evil. This saving change of heart is reminiscent of Alma the Younger’s discourse to the people of Zarahemla in Alma 5 as he begins his tour of religious retrenchment throughout the land of Zarahemla:

 

Alma 5:6-7

6 And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?

7 Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God…

 

It is not coincidental that we have a similar imagery in the case of the Lamanite king and servants as we have in Alma the Younger’s discourse. Note that Alma specifically uses the imagery of being awakened out of a deep sleep, and awakened unto God. This is precisely the condition we find in the case of King Lamoni. He (and those with him) had been as if in a deep sleep, and had awakened unto God. This was, of course, the very experience that Alma the Younger had which had transformed him. These descriptions of the events of King Lamoni and Alma the Younger are couched in similar terms.

 

The important point for both, however, is the change of heart. The scriptures use the heart as the location of our spiritual feelings, and the imagery of hardening one’s heart is used to show the exclusion of spiritual feelings from one’s life. This contrast between the “hard” and the “soft” heart is the conversion that is meant here. The heart is changed in its ability to deal with the spiritual, and is figuratively changed from hard to “soft.” There is a change in receptiveness, there is a change in attitude. For those who experience this tremendous transformation, there is even a change in the physical countenance. One can actually see the changes in the person. Light replaces dark in ways that can even be perceived with our natural eyes.

 

Alma 19:34

34  And behold, many did declare unto the people that they had seen angels and had conversed with them; and thus they had told them things of God, and of his righteousness.

Alma 19:35

35  And it came to pass that there were many that did believe in their words; and as many as did believe were baptized; and they became a righteous people, and they did establish a church among them.

 

Now that Mormon has set the stage for the miraculous beginnings of the preaching of the gospel, he rapidly comes to the conclusion. Many are converted and the church is established. Mormon gives us no details, because he isn’t interested in the details of maintaining the organization of the church, but rather in the changing of hearts that allow for the establishment of the church. As we see Mormon’s editorial selection of themes, he focuses on this change of heart. Repentance, rather than enduring in the faith, is Mormon’s message. It is quite probably a function of his world where the gospel was being rejected, and the competing religion was dominant both spiritually and militarily. Mormon lived in a world where the most important message was turning to God, not the intricacies of developing priestly bureaucracies to maintain a church.

 

Alma 19:36

36  And thus the work of the Lord did commence among the Lamanites; thus the Lord did begin to pour out his Spirit upon them; and we see that his arm is extended to all people who will repent and believe on his name.

 

Textual: Even though this is clearly a summarizing statement, and a transition to another literary section, it is not a transition to a new chapter in the 1830 edition. In Mormon’s editorial process, this is story continues because it is not just about Ammon and Lamoni, but about the entire mission to the Lamanites. Therefore, he puts a conclusion to a section of the story, but the larger story continues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Brant Gardner. Copyright 2001