Alma 25


 



MDC Contents

 

 

Alma 25:1

1  And behold, now it came to pass that those Lamanites were more angry because they had slain their brethren; therefore they swore vengeance upon the Nephites; and they did no more attempt to slay the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi at that time.

 

Textual: Yet again we have Mormon explaining the mindset of a people for whom he could not know the mindset. Mormon is taking his account from Ammon’s account, and while Ammon apparently finds out much about the aftermath of the invasion of Nephite territory, it is unlikely that his information would have included the precise reasons for the invasion. Mormon has just told us that the prime instigators of the rebellion, the Amulonites and Amalekites, were willing to continue the slaughter, and were unrepentant. Nevertheless, he has this unrepentant majority somehow become angry at the slaughter they had perpetrated, and therefore decide to slaughter some Nephites.

 

The sequencing of events would make this reason somewhat unlikely. The political reasons for the attack on Nephi was to overthrow the king. With the lack of resistance to the coup, it would appear that the purpose was accomplished, and without any loss of life for the attacking army. The Lamanites intended to wrest control of the government, and they appear to have succeeded. The next major piece of our story will have the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi fleeing to Zarahemla, something they would not have needed to do had their king, Anti-Nephi-Lehi, remained on his throne.

 

With the overthrow of the government, the Lamanites would be ready to seat their own king. In the canons of known Maya kingship rituals, the seating of the king was intimately linked with the capture and sacrifice of prisoners of war (see Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube. Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens. Thames and Hudson, 2000. The translation of the glyphs makes it clear that captives were an important part of the seating rituals). With the passive resistance of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, there would have been no war captives to use in the ascension of the new king. Under such circumstances, it would make sense that the army that was still intact, and lacking the real combat they had expected, would be willing to engage in another battle to supply the requisite ritual prisoners for the seating of the new king. Indeed, when we read the story of this invasion in Alma 16 we read that captives were taken, and were being taken back to Lamanite territory (see verses 3-6).

 

The last part of the attack on Ammonihah that is rather curious is the lack of an attempt to establish tribute or a Lamanite outpost. Indeed, this would have been virtually impossible, given the location of Ammonihah so deep in Nephite territory. This war has only one real purpose, and that is the acquisition of the captives that are being led back to the land of Nephi. The need for these captives in the situation of the installation of a new Maya king provides a direct parallel to the situation described in the Book of Mormon.

 

Alma 25:2

2  But they took their armies and went over into the borders of the land of Zarahemla, and fell upon the people who were in the land of Ammonihah and destroyed them.

Alma 25:3

3  And after that, they had many battles with the Nephites, in the which they were driven and slain.

 

Textual: This is Mormon’s summary of the battles of the Nephites and Lamanites, and clearly is given from his later Nephite perspective. Mormon does not give us the political importance of the raid on Ammonihah because it he is uninterested in Lamanite politics in his writings, though it would be fair to assume that he did understand the political motivations behind the attack. At this point he simply treats the attack as any other, and lumps them with other attacks on the Nephites, which were rebutted. From Mormon’s perspective, it is important to add the verse that tells us that the Nephites did win many battles after his brief mention of a very spectacular loss that they had incurred. From Mormon’s perspective, he doesn’t want to leave the impression of any lasting power in the Lamanites at this point.

 

Alma 25:4

4  And among the Lamanites who were slain were almost all the seed of Amulon and his brethren, who were the priests of Noah, and they were slain by the hands of the Nephites;

 

Historical: Mormon uses this next section to create some moral balance in the Nephite history. The Amulonites were apostate Nephites, and responsible for the death of Abinadi. Mormon makes these things “right” by noting the final disposition of the Amulonites. First, we have many of them killed by Nephites. This “balances” the apostasy by having the Nephites exact a form of justice upon them.

 

The historical problem with this entire section is the dubious nature of the possible sources for this information. It is unlikely, though perhaps possible, that the Amulonites would wear some mark that identified them as Amulonites so that they might be counted separately in the casualties of war. That could possibly account for Mormon’s ability to say that many Amulonites had been killed, but certainly not a statement like “almost all the seed of Amulon….”

 

Indeed, it is hard to see where Mormon is going to get an authentic source for any of this information. It is most probable that he is basing this information on tradition rather than text. The nature of the balancing of scales with the Amulonites, and the final indication that their descendants were still hunted are all aspects which seem to suggest a traditional tale here rather than a document. As with many traditional tales, the balancing aspects may have been more important than historical fact. As a moral tale, this section has value. As history, it is suspect.

 

Alma 25:5

5  And the remainder, having fled into the east wilderness, and having usurped the power and authority over the Lamanites, caused that many of the Lamanites should perish by fire because of their belief—

Alma 25:6

6  For many of them, after having suffered much loss and so many afflictions, began to be stirred up in remembrance of the words which Aaron and his brethren had preached to them in their land; therefore they began to disbelieve the traditions of their fathers, and to believe in the Lord, and that he gave great power unto the Nephites; and thus there were many of them converted in the wilderness.

Alma 25:7

7  And it came to pass that those rulers who were the remnant of the children of Amulon caused that they should be put to death, yea, all those that believed in these things.

Alma 25:8

8  Now this martyrdom caused that many of their brethren should be stirred up to anger; and there began to be contention in the wilderness; and the Lamanites began to hunt the seed of Amulon and his brethren and began to slay them; and they fled into the east wilderness.

Alma 25:9

9  And behold they are hunted at this day by the Lamanites.  Thus the words of Abinadi were brought to pass, which he said concerning the seed of the priests who caused that he should suffer death by fire.

Alma 25:10

10  For he said unto them: What ye shall do unto me shall be a type of things to come.

Alma 25:11

11  And now Abinadi was the first that suffered death by fire because of his belief in God; now this is what he meant, that many should suffer death by fire, according as he had suffered.

Alma 25:12

12  And he said unto the priests of Noah that their seed should cause many to be put to death, in the like manner as he was, and that they should be scattered abroad and slain, even as a sheep having no shepherd is driven and slain by wild beasts; and now behold, these words were verified, for they were driven by the Lamanites, and they were hunted, and they were smitten.

 

Historical: This section of the story of the destruction of the Amulonites begins with the statement that many Amulonites perished by fire at the hands of the Lamanites, and then ends with the “balance” of that statement with the prophecy of Abinidi. Mormon’s intent here is to show prophecy fulfilled. From that standpoint, he makes his moral point. As history, it is very unclear how any of this information could have been available to a Nephite historian. These were actions taken out of Nephite-controlled lands, and internal to Lamanite politics. Verse 9 appears to show some knowledge of this event from Mormon’s time, but it is quite unlikely that this very event should have been so dramatically present in Lamanite thinking four hundred years later. As noted earlier, the entire account has the markings of tradition rather than history.

 

It is possible that there are some known historical events behind Mormon’s explication of the story of the Amulonites. The internal Lamanite tensions leading to the death by fire of various peoples might have a historical touchstone in the inter-city wars that are now known to have occurred in Maya culture. Death by fire was one of the modes of sacrifice, and while not the most statistically prevalent, it was still a mode of human sacrifice. Since the death by fire creates the “balance” with Abinidi’s death, it would not be surprising if Mormon selected this particular facet precisely to make his moral case stronger.

 

Alma 25:13

13  And it came to pass that when the Lamanites saw that they could not overpower the Nephites they returned again to their own land; and many of them came over to dwell in the land of Ishmael and the land of Nephi, and did join themselves to the people of God, who were the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi.

Alma 25:14

14  And they did also bury their weapons of war, according as their brethren had, and they began to be a righteous people; and they did walk in the ways of the Lord, and did observe to keep his commandments and his statutes.

 

It is quite certain that Mormon has historical records of more Lamanites joining with the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi. The reason given, that they “saw that they could not overpower the Nephites” may justify a return to their lands, but not a conversion. We don’t know why there were Lamanites who continued to come to the Anti-Nephi-Lehies. They could have been some who were previously converted but not gathered into a single body that made the journey. They could have been some who were considering the message of the Nephite missionaries, and accepted it later than the others. Since they also bury their weapons, we may presume that they were converted to the gospel, and not simply desiring a new place to live.

 

Alma 25:15

15  Yea, and they did keep the law of Moses; for it was expedient that they should keep the law of Moses as yet, for it was not all fulfilled.  But notwithstanding the law of Moses, they did look forward to the coming of Christ, considering that the law of Moses was a type of his coming, and believing that they must keep those outward performances until the time that he should be revealed unto them.

Alma 25:16

16  Now they did not suppose that salvation came by the law of Moses; but the law of Moses did serve to strengthen their faith in Christ; and thus they did retain a hope through faith, unto eternal salvation, relying upon the spirit of prophecy, which spake of those things to come.

 

Textual: These verses come at the end of Mormon’s moral story which justifies Abinidi’s prophecy. In verse 10 above Mormon cites Abinidi’s words, and so it is reasonable to presume that he was consulting either his sources for Abinidi’s speech, or his own record of that speech when this section was written. With that understanding, we may therefore suspect that what was written in the account of Abinidi has directly influenced these two verses. Note the similarities with a declaration by Abinidi:

 

Mosiah 13:27-33

 27 And now ye have said that salvation cometh by the law of Moses. I say unto you that it is expedient that ye should keep the law of Moses as yet; but I say unto you, that the time shall come when it shall no more be expedient to keep the law of Moses.

28 And moreover, I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses.

 29 And now I say unto you that it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel, yea, even a very strict law; for they were a stiffnecked people, quick to do iniquity, and slow to remember the Lord their God;

30 Therefore there was a law given them, yea, a law of performances and of ordinances, a law which they were to observe strictly from day to day, to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him.

31 But behold, I say unto you, that all these things were types of things to come.

32 And now, did they understand the law? I say unto you, Nay, they did not all understand the law; and this because of the hardness of their hearts; for they understood not that there could not any man be saved except it were through the redemption of God.

33 For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people? Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began—have they not spoken more or less concerning these things?

 

We have not only the same theme, but also some of the same language in Alma that we do in Mosiah 13. In both it is “expedient to keep the law of Moses.” The justification for keeping the law of Moses is then set into the context of a preparation for the coming of Christ. The similarities between the two passages and the proximity to a reference to Abinidi suggest that the verses in Alma are related to those in Mosiah.

 

Alma 25:17

17  And now behold, Ammon, and Aaron, and Omner, and Himni, and their brethren did rejoice exceedingly, for the success which they had had among the Lamanites, seeing that the Lord had granted unto them according to their prayers, and that he had also verified his word unto them in every particular.

 

Textual: There is a rather abrupt transition between the unit describing the Lamanites joining with the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi and this verse. However, this verse clearly provides the capping information for this entire section. It is also a transition into the next section which is a discourse of Ammon concerning their successes. In the 1830 edition, there is no chapter break at this point, so we need to understand that this verse is transitional, not final. Mormon is not so much concluding a story as he is providing the link to the next thing he wants to include.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Brant Gardner. Copyright 2001