1 Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king
Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of
There are two aspects
to the non-believers that Mormon cites. The first of these is that they "could not understand the words of
king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake…." This is an interesting passage, because it places
Benjamin at a particular point in time. Why was not Benjamin's teaching reinforced? Why did it matter that they
did not understand it when they were small?
The answer might lie is the power of the situation which transcended his words. We know king Benjamin's speech
as powerful today, but in the context of the time and place, it must have been overwhelming. Indeed, the reaction
of the people described underscores the power of the speech to move the heart. The small children would not have
been as cognizant of what they felt at that time. While their parents would have been unable to deny what they
felt, the children had no such powerful memory on which to rest their belief.
The second answer is more literary. Mormon is making a contrast between the teaching of the past prophets and the
teaching of subsequent generations who believe on their words. Significantly, Mormon's second reason that there
were unbelievers was that they "did not believe the tradition of their fathers." Certainly their fathers
had attempted to teach the things that they had heard and felt, but with equal certainty there were those of the
rising generation who listened to other influences, and who dismissed some of the teachings of their parents. Certainly
there are many in this modern world who can easily attest to the tendency of some children to go their own way
- regardless of the passion and conviction with which their parents teach what is in their hearts.
So were these children. Mormon tells us that they were too young to have had the personally transforming experience
that their parents had undergone, and that they had elected not to believe in the teachings of those parents.
Literary: Remembering that in the original Book of Mormon this verse followed immediately after our current
Mosiah 25:24, we should understand that this text is an introduction to a subject that is designed to be diametrically
opposed to the information which preceded it. In the immediately preceding passage, we have the establishment of
the church, and an apparent picture of unity of purpose.
Here we have the contrast. The text makes if fairly clear that this division in belief was already present in Zarahemla
prior to the arrival of Alma and his conception of church. Nevertheless, it is placed in contrast with that story
because the essential tension will be between these non-church Zarahemlaites and the churched Zarahemlaites. By
presenting the stories in this manner, Mormon structurally highlights the social tension by his placement of the
2 They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning
the coming of Christ.
3 And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened.
Verse 2 is fascinating
because it highlights the essential nature of many of the most serious apostasies from the Nephite faith. The issue
is never one of the nature of ritual purity for sacrifice such as many of the theological discussions in the Old
World became. While the absolute dividing lines among Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essense are not at all clear, the
substance of some of the points of issue are better known. All of those differences come from differences in interpretations
and applications of the law of Moses. None of them deal with the denial of an atoning Messiah.
The New World was unique both in its advanced knowledge and understanding of the mission of the atoning Messiah,
but also in the tremendous religious and social divisions that belief caused in their society. The essential apostasy
of Noah and his priests lay in the rejection of the atoning Messiah, which (and we have seen) formed the substance
of Abinadi's preaching. Abinadi preached the atoning Messiah specifically because the priests had denied that message.
Here we have the very same rejection of this doctrine arising in Zarahemla, only a short generation after all those
who were actively fighting against that idea had defected to the Lamanites (see Words of Mormon 1:14-16). Thus
even inside Benjamin's society that had been drawn together as one people in a powerful experience, there is still
something that is leading the younger children away - those children who could not rely upon their personal transformation
to support their adoption of the covenant and name that Benjamin confers upon them.
This situation requires more examination. While it is true that the opportunity for innovation exists in any human
society, the fact is that change occurs less frequently when those societies exist in a vacuum. The study of cultural
change is a complex topic, and there are certainly multiple factors in any change. It is understood that while
change does occur at the level of individuals, there are factors that come from a larger perspective that enable
that change in the individual that eventually spreads to the group (Barnett, H.G. Innovation: The Basis of Cultural
Change. McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1953, p. 39).
The particular type of change witnessed here is one that is a substantial undermining of basic common belief structures
of an entire community. We have an entire adult population with a particular belief structure that they are surely
passing on to their children. In the ancient world, the role of religion as the very definition of reality was
so strong as to be nearly absolute. This conception of the power of religion was so strong that when a cultural
group was defeated by another group, the reason for the defeat was often given as the superiority of the god (and
therefore religion) of the other group.
What is therefore most fascinating in verse 2 is that the children of very committed parents are discarding a fundamental
belief so rapidly, and in reasonably large numbers. That should not happen in a closed society. The change might
occur, but one would not expect it to occur that rapidly. Barnett suggests:
- "Some cultural changes … are derived, incidental, unforeseen, and even unwanted. They are in a sense forced
as a result of a change in some other part of the cultural nexus. The initial and dominant change is the focus
of attention. It may have been instituted by some member of the in-group, imposed by a conquering group, or voluntarily
adopted from an outside source." (Barnett, p. 89).
Barnett is describing something very similar to what we have here. This is clearly an unwanted change from the
perspective of all of the adults who remain committed not only to their covenant of name (name of Christ) but also
to their experience (which the children could not remember - indicating that the adults clearly did). From where
does such unwanted change come? Barnett does suggest that it is possible to come from the inside, but suggests
that there are also influences from the outside.
With what kind of change are we dealing with the Zarahemlaite religion? Was the change internal or external? The
internal change does not seem very likely. The children would have been taught by their parents the religion that
the parents adopted. With no outside influences, we would have to suppose that some individual inside that group
of children was a religious innovator, and a sufficiently important person for his (her?) ideas to become popular
with peers even though they were opposed to their parents.
While that situation is still a possibility, the fact that this is the very same heresy that occurred in Noah's
case, and the one suggested by Sherem even earlier, indicates that this is a tension that has gone on for some
time - for hundreds of years. What the children are doing is not innovating, but copying. This copying perforce
must come from outside of their social group, because the dominant beliefs of the group were different - and unitedly
different. This dissention indicates a continued contact with some group outside of Zarahemla who did not adhere
to the covenant of Benjamin.
The last interesting part of the passage comes in verse 3. Because of their denial of the coming mission of the
atoning Messiah, "they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened." This rejection
of a specific tenant of Nephite religion led them to a rejection of the entire "word of God." In other
words, they rejected not only the mission of the atoning Messiah, but virtually all of the religious of their fathers.
What we have in the children is a rejection of the religion of their fathers. Once again, the connection between
religion and the understanding of reality cannot be emphasized to heavily for the ancient world. By rejecting their
parent's religion, they also rejected a fundamental definition of the way the world worked. That had to be replaced
somehow, and the best explanation is that they adopted a religion from somewhere else. As with other religious
conflicts in the Book of Mormon, this one appears to heavily rely upon the existence of a competing religion that
was prevalent in the world around the Nephites. The prevalence of that "other" religion also appears
to be one of statistical domination, since the very same influences appear in Nephi as well as in Zarahemla.
The Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon suggests precisely this type of religious domination by a competing
religious philosophy. The threads of Mesoamerican thought can be traced from the Olmec through the Maya and later
to the Aztecs (though more significantly modified by the Aztecs). Into a world filled with such a consistent but
diametrically opposed world view we set the Book of Mormon peoples. In such conditions it is not surprising that
there are so many apostasies from Nephite religion.
4 And they would not be baptized; neither would they join the church. And they were a separate people as to their
faith, and remained so ever after, even in their carnal and sinful state; for they would not call upon the Lord
The social segregation
of the dissenters is made clear here. They "were a separate people." This is where the irony of Alma's
churches becomes clear. While the churches provided a tighter community of believers inside of a larger community,
they also allowed for a very clear and obvious distinction between the members and the non-members. Prior to the
institution of the church in Nephite society, religion occurred on a community level, and the individual participation
could be overlooked. Once there were institutions that declared specific allegiances, the dissenters were more
individually obvious. This polarization would tend to increase the cohesiveness is almost the same way as the churches
would have increased the cohesiveness of the believers.
Mormon's conclusion that the dissenters remained separate "ever after" is somewhat problematic in that
he will embark upon the specific stories of some who did not remain separate "ever after." Why does Mormon
appear to give us a statement of pessimistic finality, and then immediately contradict it? The answer is that there
are some exceptions, and the Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah are the most important of those exceptions,
but the general trend was to create a division in Nephite society on religious lines, and that this religious division
and tension would remain with Nephite society "ever after." Indeed, it is quite likely that Mormon was
witnessing first hand some of the same problems created by the Nephite apostasy in his own days.
5 And now in the reign of Mosiah they were not half so numerous as the people of God; but because of the dissensions
among the brethren they became more numerous.
Social: As we
might expect for a revolution in religious thinking, it started small. When Mormon says they were "not half
so numerous" as the people of God, he is describing the beginnings of the group. Remember that this is also
a phenomenon that begins with the children who did not remember the covenant, and certainly would not have begun
with all of those children. What is clear in this verse is that the movement did not remain a "child's movement."
The "dissentions among the brethren" can only mean that there were problems within the people of God,
and that many of them began to follow this different religion espoused by the children. There is something about
the religion of the children that is becoming attractive.
If we remember that this is a process that has happened before, and that previous versions of the apostasy carried
with it the trappings of wealth and social distinctions, we can more readily see that rather than a simple ideological
question this was an issue of the type of society that they would be, with a significant number apparently envying
the lifestyle of the "others" - those who are generically labeled Lamanites in the Book of Mormon even
if they were not literal descendants of Laman.
6 For it came to pass that they did deceive many with their flattering words, who were in the church, and did cause
them to commit many sins; therefore it became expedient that those who committed sin, that were in the church,
should be admonished by the church.
Once again, something
much more than the denial of the atoning Messiah is the message of the competing religion. There could not be that
many flattering words that would deny the mission of the atoning Messiah and retain everything else - and still
lead people to "commit many sins." As Mormon indicated, there is a total rejection of the word of God,
with the very specific rejection of the atoning Messiah. This alternate view of the world would certainly lead
to a difference in practice due to the different understanding. These differences could easily be seen as sin,
and require that they be "admonished by the church."
To understand how differences can lead to "sin," we should examine some of the types of things that might
be altered. In the Mesoamerican context, the shift to a more Mesoamerican religion would require a shift in the
nature of understanding God and the way the world works. This could lead directly to a significant difference in
sacrificial practice. While the conception of sacrificial offerings would be common, the reason for the offering,
the being to whom it was offered, and the nature of the offering would all be significantly different. For a monotheistic
people, this was clearly sin to offer to a different god.
7 And it came to pass that they were brought before the priests, and delivered up unto the priests by the teachers;
and the priests brought them before Alma, who was the high priest.
8 Now king Mosiah had given Alma the authority over the church.
Social: We have
here the growing problem of the divisions in the people over the nature of religion. Alma is given authority over
the churches, and therefore there is a separate power structure relegated to the churches that is separate from
that governing the rest of society. Even though Alma operates under the direction and authority of Mosiah, his
very empowerment separates the nature of government in ways it had never been done before. This dissention will
highlight the problems of the division in the society.
9 And it came to pass that Alma did not know concerning them; but there were many witnesses against them; yea,
the people stood and testified of their iniquity in abundance.
10 Now there had not any such thing happened before in the church; therefore Alma was troubled in his spirit, and
he caused that they should be brought before the king.
Alma probably knows
little about these people because Alma is relatively new to Zarahemlaite society, and has been spending his time
developing the different churches. This suggests that the dissentions had begun prior to the time that Alma showed
up in Zarahemla.
Alma is unable to make a decision. Why? If he has authority, why doesn't he exercise it? The answer again lies
in both the newness of the institution of the church as well as the potential social problems the situation highlights.
Alma brings them to the king because this is a social problem as well as a religious one. The division into two
different belief systems would be difficult on the society, and would require a fundamental alteration of the way
in which the presumptions about society worked. Alma could not make this decision on his own, and therefore brings
it to Mosiah II.
11 And he said unto the king: Behold, here are many whom we have brought before thee, who are accused of their
brethren; yea, and they have been taken in divers iniquities. And they do not repent of their iniquities; therefore
we have brought them before thee, that thou mayest judge them according to their crimes.
Alma turns the people
over the to the king. Why? He specifically says that it is to have them judged "according to their crimes."
What crimes? Mormon is never specific, and we have absolutely no specifics so that we might understand what their
sins were. While they may have been sins of a religious nature, I suspect that the reason they are brought before
the highest social judge of the land is because the nature of their sins is communal. They are disruptive to the
fabric of society, and in that sense are deserving of judgment before the king.
12 But king Mosiah said unto Alma: Behold, I judge them not; therefore I deliver them into thy hands to be judged.
Mosiah declines to
judge, and returns the problem to Alma. We are not told why Mosiah declines. The logic of the situation tells us
that Mosiah saw this as a religious problem and therefore one to be handled by the religious authority. It would
appear that one of the problems that Mosiah was dealing with was a diverse social group. The introduction of the
churches allows Mosiah to rule over a kingdom of diversified beliefs without necessarily dividing the community.
It is perhaps in this light that Mosiah declines to judge.
We know that Mosiah is a believer. We may assume that he would be in sympathy with Alma's teachings since he installed
Alma as the religious authority. It would also appear that Mosiah has taken the stance of separating the religious
function from its direct ties to government. The only good explanation for this move is an attempt to govern in
spite of real religious differences in the community. By giving the decision to Alma, Mosiah can separate himself
from that decision, and therefore from the possible social repercussions that might come from it. Mosiah is retaining
his ability to govern the entire body, which includes an increasing number of people sympathetic to these religious
13 And now the spirit of Alma was again troubled; and he went and inquired of the Lord what he should do concerning
this matter, for he feared that he should do wrong in the sight of God.
14 And it came to pass that after he had poured out his whole soul to God, the voice of the Lord came to him, saying:
Alma is in unprecedented
waters here. This is the first time in the Book of Mormon that there is a division between the government of the
community and the head of the official religion of the community. Mosiah has reinforced that division by requiring
Alma to resolve the problem. Alma doe not know how to handle the problem, so he does what a good religious leader
should do, he takes the problem to Heavenly Father. To his inquiry he receives an answer that will comprise verses
15- 32 of this chapter.
15 Blessed art thou, Alma, and blessed are they who were baptized in the waters of Mormon. Thou art blessed because
of thy exceeding faith in the words alone of my servant Abinadi.
The first message from
the Lord to Alma has little to do with the specific purpose of Alma's inquiry. The Lord doesn't answer Alma's overt
question, but rather supports Alma himself. The Lord's care is for the person as well as the problem, and he bolsters
the person of Alma by telling him that he is considered blessed by God. God accepts Alma and his actions in baptizing.
16 And blessed are they because of their exceeding faith in the words alone which thou hast spoken unto them.
is mildly unfortunate that verse 16 has been separated from 15, as the last phrase of 15 is the first part of a
parallel that is ended in 16. The text should read:
"Thou art blessed because of thy exceeding faith in the words alone of my servant Abinadi.
And blessed are they because of their exceeding faith in the words alone which thou hast spoken unto them."
The Lord is noting blessings for faith. In particular, the Lord emphasizes faith in the words of another. The first
example is Alma's faith in the words of Abinadi. The second example moves Alma into Abinadi's position, and has
people believing upon the words of Alma. The parallel phrases emphasize the overall statement that man may be blessed
if he listens to the words of those who speak for God. We do not need that experience ourselves, but may gain the
full benefits through faith upon the words of others.
17 And blessed art thou because thou hast established a church among this people; and they shall be established,
and they shall be my people.
The Lord explicitly
accepts Alma's churches. Perhaps the recent events had raised some question in Alma's mind about the wisdom of
the churches since they appear to have engendered divisions as a side effect. The Lord may be allaying those fears
by telling Alma that his establishment of the church is accepted.
The most significant part of this passage is the final statement concerning the church. God notes that "they
shall be my people." This is the covenantal promise. The Lord is reaffirming the covenant, but that covenant
has been shifted from the community to the church community. The covenant now does not reside in lineage, but in
the authority and ordinances of the church.
18 Yea, blessed is this people who are willing to bear my name; for in my name shall they be called; and they are
(and relocating) the Abrahamic covenant, the Lord reconfirms the Benjaminic covenant of the name. That covenant
also moves from the people to the church. Where Benjamin's covenant defined a people, this covenant of name will
define a segment of the people.
In both of these moves the Lord establishes in the New World what will not become a reality in the Old World for
another perhaps 150-200 years. The diversity of population and government requires that the covenants become individualized
rather than communal, and the Lord establishes that change here due to the diversity of the Zarahemla kingdom.
That diversity will become more apparent in future chapters.
19 And because thou hast inquired of me concerning the transgressor, thou art blessed.
20 Thou art my servant; and I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life; and thou shalt serve me and
go forth in my name, and shalt gather together my sheep.
The Lord now makes
a third covenant. In the first two, communal covenants were shifted to the church. Now the covenant makes a specific
individual covenant with Alma. Alma's covenant is that he shall have eternal life (the Lord's promise) and that
he shall serve the Lord and "gather together my sheep (Alma's promise).
21 And he that will hear my voice shall be my sheep; and him shall ye receive into the church, and him will I also
22 For behold, this is my church; whosoever is baptized shall be baptized unto repentance. And whomsoever ye receive
shall believe in my name; and him will I freely forgive.
The Lord now makes
a fourth covenant. Alma is told that he is to gather the Lord's "sheep." These "sheep" will
be received into the church, and will be received by God. They will covenant through baptism, and the Lord's covenant
is that through their covenantal baptism they will be forgiven of their sins.
Literary: The Lord uses the word "sheep" here. In a New World context this would be rather out
of place. While one may discuss what other animal might be meant by "sheep" in some verses, the "sheep"
here are clearly humans. This is a literary device, not a specific animal. It may or may not have been the precise
word Alma understood, but it is the term used for similar meaning in the New Testament, and therefore is used here.
It is understandable in its imagery, even though the imagery is more modern than ancient in this context.
23 For it is I that taketh upon me the sins of the world; for it is I that hath created them; and it is I that
granteth unto him that believeth unto the end a place at my right hand.
How is it that the
Lord may make this covenant that through baptism sins will be forgiven? He may make that covenant because he will
be the one who creates the conditions for the fulfilling of the covenant. Once again, the Book of Mormon is dealing
with Jehovah/Christ as their God explicitly. The Lord who teaches them and communicates with them is the very one
who will become incarnate and sacrifice himself for mankind. He may make this promise because he will fulfill the
requirements of this promise.
24 For behold, in my name are they called; and if they know me they shall come forth, and shall have a place eternally
at my right hand.
The blessings promised
are not only for this life, but will transcend this life. In verse 23 the Lord notes that some blessings will be
granted "in the end." The "end" is the time when the purposes of the earth are fulfilled. It
will be the time of the triumphal Messiah.
Translation: The imagery of the right hand comes form the ancient conceptions of the right hand as good
and the left hand as evil. The Latin word for left is siniestra which becomes the English sinister. Thus it is
a blessing to be on the right hand of the Lord. This conceptual division between the left and the right is well
known from the Old World, but less so from the New World.
There is little literature on the meaning of the left hand in Mesoamerica, but there are hints that not only was
it not considered evil, but that it may have been a sign of a connection to the powers of the other world. On a
very simple plane, the left-handed warriors of the Mexica were considered the most fearful. One explanation has
always been that they fought differently, and in that different posture lay a military advantage. However, it is
also possible that there is more to it than that. The name of the Mexica tribal deity was Huitzilopochtli "hummingbird
on the left/of the left." Certainly that context is positive for the Mexica. A fascinating possibility comes
from an analysis of the various stelae at the site of Izapa, a much later description of the underworld from the
Codices Matritenses, and the Mesoamerican fascination with mirrors.
In Izapa, there is a preponderance of actions effected with the left hand. Either the Izapans were statistically
left-handed more than any other known population, or the depiction of actions by the left hand had a different
significance. There is a description in the Codices Matritenses of the Mexican description of the underworld. That
description focuses on the underworld as a place of reversals, where things are reversed from the real world (Codices
Matritenses Fol. 84r/v). As a final point we have the Mesoamerican mirror of polished obsidian or hematite. Mesoamerican
mirrors have symbolic connections to the primordial waters and the underworld (Karen Bassie personal communication).
The mirror effect is so well known that we understand a "mirror image" to transform right to left, and
left to right. In this context, the left hand may be a representation of a connection to the underworld, just as
is the image in a mirror.
What does this mean for this passage? It simply means that when Joseph translated the conception, he used imagery
that was familiar to him, and not necessarily imagery that might have been at home on the plates. Of course we
do not know precisely what the plates would have held, but in the social context of Mesoamerica, it would not have
been likely that the "right is good/left is bad" imagery of the Old World would have survived long enough
to make it onto the plates at this time period.
25 And it shall come to pass that when the second trump shall sound then shall they that never knew me come forth
and shall stand before me.
26 And then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, that I am their Redeemer; but they would not be redeemed.
The Lord has described
for Alma the blessings of those who do associate themselves with the church. That has not answered Alma's original
question, however. What Alma needs to know is what to do with the dissenters. While not yet answering the question,
the Lord is preparing the answer to the question. The Lord indicates that contrasting to the situation of those
who are called by his name (and who are numbered with the church) those who "never knew me" will arise
at "the end" and will be rejected. They are rejected precisely because this Lord who is speaking is the
one who redeems them, and they have not accepted that redemption (i.e. have not been baptized),
27 And then I will confess unto them that I never knew them; and they shall depart into everlasting fire prepared
for the devil and his angels.
Because they never
"knew" the Lord in the sense of accepting him as their redeemer through baptism, the Lord never "knew"
them because they were not his, they were not called by his name. The fate of those who do not accept the Lord's
redemption is that they are not redeemed.
28 Therefore I say unto you, that he that will not hear my voice, the same shall ye not receive into my church,
for him I will not receive at the last day.
Now the Lord begins
to answer Alma's question. The ultimate answer is not part of the immediate world, but of the eternities, and that
is the reasons that the Lord has explained eternal consequences. Understanding the nature of the eternal consequences
makes the temporal consequences more clear. Since these dissenters "will not hear my voice," they are
clearly not the Lord's "sheep" and therefore are not part of the church. They are not part of this "relocated"
covenant. With the Abrahamic and Benjaminic covenants relocated to the authority of the church rather than assigned
to the entire community, these dissenters are not part of the covenant, and receive none of the covenantal blessings.
29 Therefore I say unto you, Go; and whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge according to the sins
which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart,
him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also.
30 Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me.
It is important to
note that the Lord's first clear instruction to Alma deals with repentance. The Lord makes repentance possible,
and stands waiting to forgive us if we will turn to him. Therefore he first provides for those whose hearts may
be touched and who are able to turn to him. These people will be accepted into the church (and the covenant) and
they shall be forgiven (because baptism is part of the their covenant upon joining with the church).
31 And ye shall also forgive one another your trespasses; for verily I say unto you, he that forgiveth not his
neighbor's trespasses when he says that he repents, the same hath brought himself under condemnation.
This admonition is
designed not only to teach the individual what they need to know of the principle of forgiveness, but also to heal
a community that could be torn apart by this coming division of the churched and the unchurched. The Lord is urging
forgiveness, not rancor nor division.
32 Now I say unto you, Go; and whosoever will not repent of his sins the same shall not be numbered among my people;
and this shall be observed from this time forward.
Here is the conclusion
from the Lord. Those who will not repent are not numbered with the church, are not part of God's covenant. That
they may still be part of the community is implicit. They are denied the church, not the community. However, with
the removal of the covenant from the community, those who do not repent are members of the community only, and
no longer may consider themselves as an inheritor of the covenant.
Alma is told that there is now a real division between the church and the rest of the community. While all may
be under Mosiah's rule, only those who accept the atoning Messiah are part of the church, and part of the covenant
33 And it came to pass when Alma had heard these words he wrote them down that he might have them, and that he
might judge the people of that church according to the commandments of God.
Textual: Mormon tells
us that we have these words specifically because Alma wrote them down. Certainly they would be impressed upon Alma's
mind, but Alma wanted more tangible access to them. This was apparently to become part of Alma's "General
Handbook" as he specifically notes that he writes the worlds so that "he might judge the people of that
church according to the commandments of God."
34 And it came to pass that Alma went and judged those that had been taken in iniquity, according to the word of
35 And whosoever repented of their sins and did confess them, them he did number among the people of the church;
36 And those that would not confess their sins and repent of their iniquity, the same were not numbered among the
people of the church, and their names were blotted out.
While it might go without
saying that Alma followed the Lord's instruction, Mormon does not leave it without saying. Mormon explicitly shows
that Alma follows the Lord's commandment.
37 And it came to pass that Alma did regulate all the affairs of the church; and they began again to have peace
and to prosper exceedingly in the affairs of the church, walking circumspectly before God, receiving many, and
38 And now all these things did Alma and his fellow laborers do who were over the church, walking in all diligence,
teaching the word of God in all things, suffering all manner of afflictions, being persecuted by all those who
did not belong to the church of God.
39 And they did admonish their brethren; and they were also admonished, every one by the word of God, according
to his sins, or to the sins which he had committed, being commanded of God to pray without ceasing, and to give
thanks in all things.
Mormon summarizes Alma
as the leader of the church by indicating that he governed it well. They have many baptisms. All is not totally
well, however. Mormon introduces into verse 38 the foreshadowing of the major conflict to follow. Amidst all of
the things that are going well inside the church, there are problems outside of it. The social division has become
so acute that it is resulting in persecution of the church from other members of the same society. This situation
will be discussed more fully in the next chapter.
Along with the details of the particular story, the discussion of the "church" in Mosiah chapters 25-27
provide several models for the modern church:
- "…just within Mosiah 25-27 are the following doctrinal truths: (1) Jesus is the head of the Church (Mosiah
26:22); (2) Jesus directs his Church through revelation to his prophet (Mosiah 26:13-32); (3) baptism must be by
total immersion (Mosiah 18:14; 25:18); (4) Church members who sin must be admonished by the Church (Mosiah 26:6);
(5) the Church may have many congregations, yet there is only one Church - all branches teach the same doctrine
as directed by the living prophet (Mosiah 25:21-22); and (6) baptism is necessary to take upon oneself the name
of Jesus Christ and to enter into his Church (Mosiah 25:18,23). The functioning of the Church in Zarahemla is a
reflection of the operation of the true Church of Jesus Christ in any age. By having this blueprint, readers are
strengthened in their belief that "God is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Mormon 9:9)."
(Largey, Dennis L. "Lessons from the Zarahemla Churches." In: The Book of Mormon: Mosiah, Salvation Only
Through Christ. Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University. 1991. pp. 60-61).
Literary: Mormon is setting up another contrast in his story. He is contrasting the good inside the church
with the persecutions and "bad" outside the church. Even though he touches on the persecutions here,
this is the set up for the "good." He will touch on the "good" later, but will be concentrating
on the "bad" of the persecutions - all of this leading to the resulting good that comes from the situation.
Textual: There is no break here in the 1830 text. Mormon intended this story to continue without chapter
interruption. In fact, there is no paragraph break here in 1830. In the 1830 edition, the paragraph was:
[not the beginning of the paragraph, it started with verse 34]… And they did admonish their brethren; and they
were also admonished, every one by the word of God, according to his sins, or to the sins which he had committed,
being commanded of God to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things. And now it came to pass that
the persecutions which were inflicted on the church by the unbelievers became so great that the church began to
murmur, and complain to their leaders concerning the matter; and they did complain to Alma. And Alma laid the case
before their king, Mosiah. And Mosiah consulted with his priests.
In that original context, the contrasting of the good and the bad is even more clear.
Further reading: These passages one the nature of church discipline can be seen as a model for the way the
church operates today. For a more complete discussion of this topic, see H. Donl Peterson. "Church Discipline
in the Book of Mosiah." In: The Book of Mormon: Mosiah, Salvation Only Through Christ. Religious Studies Center,
Brigham Young University. 1991. pp. 211-226.