Mosiah 27

 


MDC Contents

   

Mosiah 27:1

1  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.

Historical: The separation of church and state that occurs in the kingdom of Zarahemla allows for the underlying tensions to become explicit. Once there is a separate entity that is not completely bound with the government of the land, disagreement with that separate church is easier, and takes off rapidly. The rapidity with which these tensions arise is again suggestive that they have never really gone away. Despite Benjamin’s attempt to unify his people under the name of Christ, a single generation later that unity has disappeared. The religious tensions that cause the internal strife noted at the end of Words of Mormon have returned with a vengeance.

It is of value to note the social conditions of the kingdom of Zarahemla as we can deduce them. First, we know that Zarahemla is the head city, but that there are probably dependent cities that are beholding to Zarahemla. One way of understanding this is the seven churches that are created. Those churches make the most sense if they are distributed to communities rather than remaining inside Zarahemla itself. Mesoamerican cities have ceremonial centers, but the living areas are typically widely dispersed around the ceremonial center. Comparatively few cities from this time period would have had the size to accommodate seven “churches” in a single ceremonial center.

We know that the makeup of Zarahemla society consists of at least four groups of people at this point. They are the lineal Nephites, the lineal Zarahemlaites/Mulekites, the people of Limhi, and the people of Alma. With these last two entering Zarahemla with a cohesive unit that was probably larger than could be easily absorbed into the current structure of the town/city of Zarahemla, it is virtually certain that these last two would have been assigned a separate location. As Alma’s group had already created one city for themselves (Helam) it would not be surprising if they were to start their own.

Thus we have a picture of Zarahemla as the head city in a confederation of cities. Because of travel times, each city would have its own organization and government (this will become more obvious as we discuss Alma’s travels in the book of Alma). With all of this division, it need not be surprising that entire city organizations would coalesce as pro- or anti- “church.”

Once again assuming a Mesoamerican context, a heritage that would have been strong among the Zarahemla-Mulekites and reinforced through trade contacts, the competition between the Mesoamerican religion and the Nephite religion would always be present. That this very conflict resurfaces so frequently in precisely the same arena of conflict suggests that the Nephite religion was continuously opposed by a competing, and present, alternative religion. It does appear that to some extent the law of Moses was easier to accommodate in this competing religion, as that variation is the one we saw in the city of Lehi-Nephi under Noah. Indeed, some of the grave hostility against the Nephite religion may have to do with the opposition being a variant of the law of Moses. Typically, it is the religions that are close in beliefs and therefore in direct competition where grave and dangerous feelings arise. The persecutions suggest some of this closeness.

Textual: As noted at the end of chapter 26, the 1830 version of the Book of Mormon has no chapter break at this location. While there is a shift in context, in the original, the literary contrasts were more evident when the contrasting sections followed each other directly. The separation into chapters misses the structure of the original.

Mosiah 27:2

2  And it came to pass that king Mosiah sent a proclamation throughout the land round about that there should not any unbeliever persecute any of those who belonged to the church of God.

Mosiah 27:3

3  And there was a strict command throughout all the churches that there should be no persecutions among them, that there should be an equality among all men;

Mormon is not completely clear in his description of Mosiah’s reaction to the problem of the persecutions. Clearly Mosiah pronounces that persecution of the church would end. Whether he similarly proscribed persecution from the church is not as clear. As a ruler we would expect the parallel declarations. However, since Mosiah is clearly a churchman, he may have assumed that. One way or the other, it was clear that there were restrictions put into place that were attempting to restore the harmony and singleness of purpose of the kingdom.

The last phrase of verse 3 is interesting. It can certainly be read in the modern sense of equality among men. There is no reason to believe that it could not have had our very modern understanding of equality before the law. However, it is also possible that Mosiah is describing the unity of the people rather than their legal rights. Given the social disruptions, and the inheritance of Benjamin’s attempt to unify the people, we would expect that Mosiah would similarly attempt to unify his people. The “equality” might not be for rights, but social standing. This may be a call for social unity rather than fair laws.

Mosiah 27:4

4  That they should let no pride nor haughtiness disturb their peace; that every man should esteem his neighbor as himself, laboring with their own hands for their support.

Here is the confirmation of the nature of the equality in verse 3. Mormon links this phrase to the previous one. To reconstruct the original phrasing, we have: “…that there should be an equality among all men; that they should let no pride nor haughtiness disturb their peace; that every man should esteem his neighbor as himself, laboring with their own hands for their support.”

Mormon’s “equality” is not political or legal equality, but an equality of social dimensions. Just as Benjamin was concerned with the unification of his people, so too is Mosiah concerned with maintaining a single society rather than a separated one.

While not mentioned, the social stratification that was a pressure under Benjamin’s reign appears to resurface as well. At the end of verse 5 and all of verse 6 enjoins the people to “labor with their own hands for their support.” As was noted previously, the social stratification that tended to occur in Nephite society was a direct outgrowth of economic pressures that spilled over into alterations of the social structure based on those new economics. What Mosiah is attempting to hold off (as did his father, Benjamin) was a social order of elites whose livelihood did not depend upon their own labor, but upon the labor of others. In ancient Mesoamerica this did not come from a class of employers who received the labor of their employees, but of an elite class who were considered to be entitled to some of the fruit of the labor of others.

In the inter-city wars that are now known to have been a constant threat or reality among the Classic Maya, the result was the presentation of tribute from the conquered to the conquering king, and through the king to the nobility. This is one mode of receiving goods without the labor of one’s hands among the Classic Maya. Still more important, however, is the very social stratification into an elite and a subservient population. While there may have been some prohibition of inter-city warfare in Mosiah’s proclamation, the intent is most clearly internal. The internal threat comes from the creation and maintenance of an elite.

Mosiah 27:5

5  Yea, and all their priests and teachers should labor with their own hands for their support, in all cases save it were in sickness, or in much want; and doing these things, they did abound in the grace of God.

Social: Some of the elite in a society would be the nobility related to the king through lineage. Others would be other important ruling clans. It would appear that Mosiah was attempting to “equalize” this element in society by requiring that all be treated as equal. Another important way in which stratification could occur is in the religious elite. Those who are specially set apart to perform religious practices for the community have prestige, and it is a short step from prestige to privilege. Not only does Mosiah attempt to “equalize” the political social structure, he attempts to “equalize” the religious social structure. Note that while all of these units of society have specific roles, the social effect of the stratification was felt economically first – which is why the most clear command declares that each of these potentially privileged peoples work with their own hands. Mosiah is cutting off the principle social distinguisher of access to prestige economic materials. We don’t have the descriptions of them here, but Benjamin specifically noted the fine clothing.

Clothing is a marker of social status in virtually all human societies, and Mesoamerican cultures were no exceptions. Clothing had meaning not only in what one could wear, but how it could be worn, and styles that were appropriate to station. It is no wonder that in a culture so oriented to understand the social divisions that can be created by clothing that the “fine clothes” becomes one of the important points describing the divisions in society.

Mosiah 27:6

6  And there began to be much peace again in the land; and the people began to be very numerous, and began to scatter abroad upon the face of the earth, yea, on the north and on the south, on the east and on the west, building large cities and villages in all quarters of the land.

Social: It appears that Mosiah’s attempts to “equalize” society do have some effect. He is at least able to hold his kingdom together. In fact, they are sufficiently stable that they not only do not fission, but they actually expand. Mormon notes that they: “began to scatter abroad upon the face of the earth, yea, on the north and on the south, on the east and on the west, building large cities and villages in all quarters of the land.” This large expansion and building project appears to take place after the arrival of Alma and the creation of the churches, and before the events unfolding in future chapters. In other words, we don’t have a large time span in which this expansion takes place.

Some of the expansion clearly comes from the addition of the peoples of Alma and Limhi. While those two groups qualify for the plural nouns associated with building in verse 6, they do not seem to explain the plural in both cities and villages – not to mention all compass directions. Somehow the kingdom of Zarahemla undergoes a population explosion in a fairly short period of time that results in large building projects. Building projects are expensive in terms of labor, and the ability to carry on multiple building projects that would contain more than one “large city” as Mormon describes them is an impressive feat. Where did all of this population and labor come from in such a short time?

The most reasonable answer is the annexation of other communities as the “land” of Zarahemla increased. Rather than waiting for a natural increase of population, there must have been large groups of people added as a unit. With the addition of these communities, probably already at least hamlets, there was sufficient population looking to the same hegemony that new city centers could be built to centralize (and unify) those populations would be important and possible. Once again, the internal descriptions of the Book of Mormon best fit the model of many other peoples in the land who are being variously incorporated into the Nephites rather than the “Nephites/Lamanites were alone” premise.

Historical: Mormon mentions that cities and villages were built “in all quarters of the land.” Mesoamerican cultures developed a strong significance to the number four, based upon the four cardinal points. That conceptual division of the world into four quarters carried over into the establishment of other social systems that relied upon four parts:

“In an effort to keep the traditions of their fathers alive, the Nahua and Maya nations established four rulers, four governors, or four chiefs, each responsible for one quadrant of land. In Mexico we find that the four executive officers were the chiefs or representatives of the four quarters of the City of Mexico…. The entire dominion of Mexico was also divided into four equal quarters, the rule administration of which was attended to by four lords…” (“Four Quarters.” In: Reexploring the Book of Mormon. FARMS 1992, pp. 145-6).

Mosiah 27:7

7  And the Lord did visit them and prosper them, and they became a large and wealthy people.

Social: Mormon credits the Lord with the prosperity of the Zarahemla kingdom. While this may certainly be true, what more mundane factors could create a “large and wealthy” people? Once again, it is essential that we consider this question in the light of ancient cultures and economies rather than modern ones.

First, what is  “large… people”? Verse 6 tells us that they were numerous, and here they are “large.” What might Mormon be saying with this possible distinction between “numerous” and “large”? It is important to note that it is quite possible that Mormon simply considered “numerous” and “large” as synonyms, and means nothing more than varying the terms used for the same concept. However, it is also possible that there is a distinction between the sheer numbers of peoples and a “large” people.

A possibility for the “large” people is the extent to which they covered a territory of beholding cities. The larger the number of beholding cities, the greater the presence of the Zarahemla kingdom as an important land and kingdom. With a large kingdom covering multiple city-states, Zarahemla presents a more powerful potential ally and, even more importantly, trading partner. As has been noted before, the increase in wealth comes in the ability of a people to increase their physical possessions. Internally, all may become wealthy relative to an outside community when the industry of the internal unit produces more of the markings of wealth. Thus the larger labor base could create more elaborate civil/religious structures, and those embodiments and visualizations of the wealth of a people (seen as the ability to harness excess labor) becomes apparent to all.

This universal wealth as measured against outsiders reinforces the values of the community. To the degree that wealth is accumulated roughly equally, it strengthens the connections to the community that creates that wealth. Modern society sees some of this in the establishment of economic “communities” such as multi-level marketing companies that develop a communal nature based upon the perceived sharing of a mode of wealth as opposed to those outside of the multi-level marketing company.  In the ancient world, the wealth of a city state that could be visibly displayed against the civil architecture of other city states would reinforce the allegiance to the community that was able to produce that wealth.

The danger of wealth comes not in the wealth itself, but in the uneven distribution of wealth within the same culture/community. When this occurs, rather than become a means of integration, it is a sign of disintegration and stratification. That was the particular problem that Benjamin fought when he proposed his social reforms.

In the current case, Mormon appears to be describing a society that is growing large and increasing its dependent city-states. This pool of labor appears to allow for excess labor to be used in the improvement of the public architecture of the cities (verse 6’s “building large cities”). This communal use of their excess labor creates a situation where the community wealth is increased vis a vis communities not part of the kingdom of Zarahemla. This comparative wealth also serves to provide an incentive for hamlets to join with the kingdom of Zarahemla to avail themselves of that same access to excess labor for their benefit. Thus the communal wealth comes from growth and leads to growth at the same time. The peace that Mormon describes comes from either the communal nature of the creation of wealth, or the early stages of internal social stratification by wealth.

Literary: Mormon is building his story with a series of contrasts. He gives the good, and then the bad. These are not disassociated goods and bads, however, but linked sets. In this particular case, it is very likely that the coming discussion of the rebellion of the sons of Mosiah and Alma the Younger are directly related to this accumulation of wealth.

As we have seen previously, wealth is defined socially. Even in monetary economies, wealth is recognized by the display of objects that are socially recognized as denoting wealth. We know a person is wealthy when they have a mansion, expensive cars, expensive clothing, etc. We consider such people wealthy even when their accumulation of such goods is built upon heavy debt. Conversely, we here stories of janitors who accumulate a million dollars, but live a simple life. Those stories surprise us precisely because those people have the money to be wealthy, but they are not perceived as wealthy! We are wealthy only when we are recognized as wealthy by the trappings of wealth we display.

This phenomenon is even more marked in a non-monetary society precisely because there is no way to hide the capability for wealth. One cannot have a hidden bankroll and be surreptitiously wealthy in an ancient culture. One either has, or does not have. What a person has therefore defines the perception of wealth.

With this background we now must turn to what kinds of things could be accumulated to create the trappings and markings of wealth. One that was mentioned was the public architecture. While this is quite correct as a general principle, there is more to it than the simple construction of a building. The type of building makes as much a difference as the building itself. We understand buildings to be important and “wealthy” when they exhibit the trappings of wealth. Those trappings are also defined communally.

A simple example is the comparison between the traveling tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant and Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. Both were locations for the sacred. As a means of communicating with God, both worked. However, it is quite obvious that Solomon’s temple was a more obvious sign of wealth. The function did not create the display of wealth. How much more spiritually wealthy can man become than to have a temple where God may come? Nevertheless, the more elaborate building was created.

Why was Solomon’s temple decorated in the way it was? The architecture and the accoutrements of Solomon’s temple were a direct reflection of the things that were deemed culturally valuable. To contrast this quintessential Old World temple with a Mesoamerican temple, we have in the Old World a large amount of gold. In a new world temple there would rarely be a lot of gold. When Hanab Pacal was buried in Palenque, his ornamentation was jade, not gold. Hanab Pacal entered his grave with the trappings of great wealth, but it was marked with a green stone that modern western society considers only semi-precious. For the Maya, the value of jade far exceeded the gold that the conquistadors destroyed the New World to find.

The sons of Mosiah and Alma the Younger would be participants in the accumulation of wealth. On a personal basis, what would constitute their definition of wealthy? As always, the trappings of wealth are something seen as valuable but in short supply. In frontier America, an orange might have been considered a prize Christmas gift. Now it is of no import at all as a gift. It is common where it was once rare.

The rarity must come from lack of availability, but universally defined value. That tends to happen in comparison with others rather than within a small community. As noted before, the trade connections with outside communities would most likely define the nature of wealth. Along with the physical trappings of wealth, however, comes the other intellectual and religious ideas that are part of the other cultures. The definition of the conflict between the sons of Mosiah and Alma the Younger are religious, not political. They do not persecute the kingdom of Zarahemla, but rather the “church.” Thus they appear to be quite willing to participate in the increase in wealth, but they have rejected the religious component of Zarahemla society. With what did they replace it?

Religion functioned as the primary definition of reality for the ancient world. Mankind cannot function without a definition of reality. If the sons of Mosiah and Alma the Younger reject their parents definition, with what did they replace it? The hypothesis of this commentary is that they replaced it with the religious conceptions of the trading partners. Those peoples who were admired for their wealth, and whose displays of wealth were copied, were also copied for their belief systems. In Mesoamerican society, clothing was a marker of both social status, and religious symbolism. If something as simple as clothing style imported not only a social distinction but an affiliation of the wearer with the symbology of the clothing, then the accumulation of wealth led directly to the disassociation with the Nephite religion and a return to the pagan religion that always surrounded (and tempted) the Nephites throughout the Book of Mormon.

Mosiah 27:8

8  Now the sons of Mosiah were numbered among the unbelievers; and also one of the sons of Alma was numbered among them, he being called Alma, after his father; nevertheless, he became a very wicked and an idolatrous man.  And he was a man of many words, and did speak much flattery to the people; therefore he led many of the people to do after the manner of his iniquities.

We are now introduced to the main characters of this particular story. The sons of Mosiah and one of the sons of Alma are “numbered among the unbelievers.” The focus is on Alma the Younger at this point as a foreshadowing of the story of his conversion. What is most interesting for the Mesoamerican background of the text is that Alma the Younger is not simply an unbeliever, he is “wicked and an idolatrous man.” The “wicked” might lead us to think of any number of possible sins, but why is Alma the Younger “idolatrous?” Clearly to be guilty of that sin he is not only an unbeliever in the Nephite religion, but is apparently a believer in an idolatrous religion. In the context in which we have been viewing these events, Alma the Younger has adopted the idolatrous “outside” religion. Having adopted that position, he actively encourages others to follow his lead.

Personal application: In this story many modern parents may take some small comfort and hope. We have all indications that Mosiah and Alma the Elder would have taught their children the gospel. They would have provided a home that was probably above standard, as Mosiah was king and Alma the chief priest. Nevertheless, both of these families had at least one child who rejected the teachings of their parents, and followed after ideas that were antithetical to their parents’ beliefs.

There are many in the modern world who must watch their children do the same. While these modern Mosiahs and Almas may or may not be able to witness the miraculous conversion of their children, they can at least take some comfort in understanding that such happens to even the best parents.

Mosiah 27:9

9  And he became a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church of God; stealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his power over them.

Alma the Younger is hindering the growth of the church of God. Remember that this is now a possibility because there is a difference between the church and the kingdom of Zarahemla. Thus it is possible that the church might not grow when the city does.

The last phrase is important in the Book of Mormon. We are told that Alma the Younger’s actions give “a chance for the enemy of God….” Who is this enemy? We have seen this very language in Benjamin’s discourse:

“Mosiah 2:37-8

37 I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples.

38 Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever.

In these verses, the “evil spirit” is the one who causes one to become an enemy to God. This “evil spirit” is clearly Satan, and we are being told that Alma the Younger is opening doors for Satan. What doors are being opened?  What is happening is that Alma is preaching the “other” religion, which denies the atoning Messiah. No wonder Benjamin could say that such an action makes it so that “the Lord has no place in him.”

Mosiah 27:10

10  And now it came to pass that while he was going about to destroy the church of God, for he did go about secretly with the sons of Mosiah seeking to destroy the church, and to lead astray the people of the Lord, contrary to the commandments of God, or even the king—

Mosiah 27:11

11  And as I said unto you, as they were going about rebelling against God, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto them; and he descended as it were in a cloud; and he spake as it were with a voice of thunder, which caused the earth to shake upon which they stood;

While the concentration of this text will be primarily on Alma the Younger and, to a much lesser extent, the sons of Mosiah, there appear to have been others in this group of persecutors who were traveling together. See Mosiah 27: 33-34)

Scriptural Parallel: the vision of Paul: One should not pass by the story of Alma the Younger without noting the similarities and differences with the story of Saul/Paul in the book of Acts. Both men are actively countering the gospel of Christ. Both men are traveling, and both see a vision. The basic passage from Acts is:

Acts 9:1-9

1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,

2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

This text will be examined more closely in the verses that follow, but certain differences may be noted at the beginning. The differences are more subtle than the clear similarities, but they are important to highlight.

The first difference is in the nature of the belief system behind the persecution. Saul is a Hebrew, and a believer in Jehovah. His persecution stems from his being a part of the established religion that is fending off an off-shoot. Saul is a defender of the status quo, a defender of the more mainline religion of the day. In contrast, Alma the Younger is a member of the minority religion. Alma has rejected the main religion of his people for that of another group. Thus Saul begins his persecutions with the assumption of that he is fighting to preserve God’s religion, where Alma comes from the position of having already rejected that religion (and world-view) and espousing a “foreign” religion (and world-view).

The next slight difference comes in the appearance of the angel among them. To Alma the angel comes in a cloud, and to Saul the messenger comes with a bright light from heaven (Acts 9:3). This difference may be more significant than it would first appear. The appearance of the Lord to Israel was as a pillar of fire, and so Saul would be culturally predisposed to recognize deity accompanied by fire, and by extension, light.

The cultural context of Mesoamerica may have been enough different that the appearance in a cloud was equally significant for Alma the Younger as was the light for Saul. While the evidence for the cultural meaning of clouds comes from a later period than the Book of Mormon, the conceptions of the sacred appear to have a long history in Mesoamerica, and one cannot discount the probability that these concepts could have been present during the times of the Book of Mormon.

Schele and Mathews describe several Maya structures in their book The Code of Kings.  In their discussion of a building that is known as the nunnery in Uxmal (located in the Peten, Yucatan, Mexico) they discuss a symbol that appears on the buildings. The symbol is an S shape lying on its side with dots around them.

“Alternating with the flower lattice are squared, S-shaped scrolls. These scrolls have glyphic counterparts in a sign that reads muyal, “cloud…”  They further note that “…Maya artists often depicted their visions floating in clouds, sometimes clouds of incense, sometimes the clouds of the sky: these are the muyal of the entablature.” (Schele, Linda and Peter Mathews. The Code of Kings. Scribner, 1998, pp. 270 and 271).

When we remember that it is hypothesized that Alma the Younger has become a believer in the alternate religion, the Mesoamerican religion, the clouds (be they incense or sky-clouds) would be markers of the presence of the gods. Thus the appearance in a cloud would mark the occasion as a communication with the divine for Alma in a very powerful way.

This creates an interesting context for this particular variation from the story of Saul. While the similarities are so obvious as to not require recounting, this particular difference is rather obscure. In spite of its obscurity, however, it is entirely possible that it was highly significant in the Alma the Younger’s Mesoamerican context.

The next difference comes in the description of the voice. It is absent in Paul’s account, and described as a voice of thunder that shook the earth for Alma. While the result of both appearances to Saul and Alma the Younger was that the party fell to the ground, in Saul/Paul, the falling appears to be the result of the recognition of majesty. With Alma the Younger, it may be perceived to be related to the shaking of the earth.

Miller and Taube describe the religious connotations of lightning and thunder:

“Among the most potent and dramatic natural phenomena of Mexico are lightning storms which light up the sky and shake the earth with thunder.” (Miller, Mary, and Karl Taube. An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya. Thames and Hudson, 1993, p. 106).

Note their connection between the thunder and the shaking of the earth, just as in the account of Alma’s experience. A modern Chamulan tale ties the sound of thunder to the voice of the gods:

“When Our Father still waked the earth, he talked to the earth gods. He told them that they could not make it rain without talking to him first, so that he could punish the people if the did not “want” the rain enough (if they had not prayed enough). When there are thunderheads, the earth gods are talking to Our Father. Whether rain falls or not depends on him.” (Gossen, Gary. Chamulas in the World of the Sun. Harvard University Press. 1974, p. 330).

Just as with the appearance in a cloud, the voice of thunder and the shaking of the earth may be related to the Mesoamerican context where high religious meaning was associated with thunder and with the shaking of the ground. As with the imagery of the cloud, Alma the Younger’s apparent acceptance of the competing Mesoamerican religion would key him to certain modes of divine communication. With a being coming in a cloud, accompanied by thunder and shakings, it would present to Alma unmistakable evidence of the authenticity and divine authority of his visitor.

Textual: Verses 10 and 11 are one sentence. During the times that Joseph Smith was translating the plates, long sentences were fairly standard practice. We see this many times in Joseph’s writing, and even among such literary giants as Charles Dickens. What makes this particular sentence difficult is that it has a long aside in it. The aside is sufficiently long that Mormon has to resort to reminding us of the original subject when he picks up that subject again in verse 11.

Internal Comparison: This experience is also retold by Alma to two of his sons, Helaman and Shiblon. The more extensive account is found in Alma 36:4-26 and the other in Alma 38:6-8. Additionally, S. Kent Brown has examined Alma’s various sermons for indications of the impact of this experience on Alma’s preaching. He finds that:

“…virtually every one of Alma’s recorded sermons, whether they were formal discourses or spontaneous addresses, are characterized by the recollection of one or more features of his three-day conversion experience…” (Brown, S. Kent. “Alma’s Conversion: Reminiscences in His Sermons.” In: From Jerusalem to Zarahemla. Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University. 1998, p. 126).

As the version in Alma 36 is the most extensive, see that chapter for a more complete comparison and commentary analyzing the three versions.

Mosiah 27:12

12  And so great was their astonishment, that they fell to the earth, and understood not the words which he spake unto them.

Textual: The similarity between this account and that of Saul is that there is a falling to the earth, and all hear the voice (see Acts 9:4, 7). The difference is that in the Book of Mormon account all have fallen to the ground, and all see the messenger (see verse 18). Since Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah have all heard the voice, and assuming that they are all adherents to the Mesoamerican religion, they would all have experienced the thunder and tremblings that marked this occasion as divine. In the Old World example, the companions heard a voice, but that does not mean that they understood it at all, let alone assumed it to be divine. In keeping with the nature of the Book of Mormon event, all would have fallen to the earth as each of them would have perceived the markings of the divine appearance, and would have fallen to the earth before the majesty of the appearance.

Social: It is possible that there was a cultural expression of humility before god that involved prostration on the earth. While these men might have fallen because the earth shook, it is more likely that they fell in response to the spiritual power of the event, not the physical power of the event. Note that after King Benjamin’s powerful address, the people also prostrated themselves:

Mosiah 4:1And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had made an end of speaking the words which had been delivered unto him by the angel of the Lord, that he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and behold they had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.

The fear of the Lord caused Benjamin’s people to fall to the earth, and the astonishment of Alma and the sons of Mosiah cause them to fall to the earth. In both cases, it is probable that it was the spiritual power of the moment, and their unity of action reflected a common cultural response to that kind of divine presence.

Mosiah 27:13

13  Nevertheless he cried again, saying: Alma, arise and stand forth, for why persecutest thou the church of God?  For the Lord hath said: This is my church, and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people.

Textual: The similarity here is that the term persecution is directly applied in both cases. The difference is that in the Saul text, it is the Lord who is persecuted. Here it is th. e church that is persecuted. The fact of persecution exists in both cases, but in the New World, the persecution is prior to the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Thus in one sense, there was no direct person with which the church might be identified and against whom one might persecute as did Saul in the Old World. Even though the New World church emphasized the coming atoning Messiah, that person was still understood to be Jehovah, and it is possible that Alma’s version of apostasy was similar to that of Noah and his priests, where he accepted much of the competing religion, but continued to hold to some of the Mosaic law. If this were the case with Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah, they could not have understood a declaration similar to that given to Saul because they would not have believed that they were persecuting Jehovah, only those who believed in the future atoning Messiah. The difference in the message was essential to have them understand the import of their actions; that the church was equated with Jehovah, and should not be persecuted.

Mosiah 27:14

14  And again, the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.

Perhaps the most emotionally paradoxical passage in the Book of Mormon is this. Men who are actively fighting against the church receive a powerful visitation. There are many who are faithful in the church for a lifetime and never receive anything quite so transcendentally powerful as the experience of Alma theYounger and the sons of Mosiah. It might be easy to be discouraged if one approaches the passage in this way. The visitation comes not as a reward, but as a rather dramatic means of changing lives. For those who server faithfully it must be remembered that the ultimate blessing is the same. There is no eternal advantage to Alma the Younger for having this experience. Faith in this life, and following the plan of the gospel will lead to the same rewards in the next world, even if we do not have such a powerful witness in this world. In fact, as the resurrected Christ noted to Thomas, those who may believe without having seen are blessed more greatly (John 20:29)

The opposite pole of this emotional passage is the joy of a parent to know that their prayers can be effective for their children. Note that the visitation comes at the behest of the people, and particularly of Alma the Elder. While not all parental prayers are answered so dramatically, there are any number of parents who are fervently praying for their children, both faithful and wayward. These prayers are effective in the Lords time.

Daniel H. Ludlow has commented on this aspect of this verse and the two that follow:

“The Lord has promised that if we ask in faith for that which is right, we shall receive. (3 Nephi 18:20.) However, he has not promised the manner or the time in which the prayer will be answered. When the angel appeared to Alma the younger and the four sons of Mosiah, the angel made it clear that he had not appeared to them because of their own worthiness. Rather, he said, "for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith." (Mosiah 27:14. Italics added.) Also the angel pled with them to repent of their sins and "seek to destroy the church no more" that the prayers of the righteous members of the church might be answered. (Mosiah 27:16. Italics added.) Evidently it was primarily because of the faithful prayers of Alma the elder and the other members of the church that the angel appeared to Alma the younger and the four sons of Mosiah.” (Ludlow, Daniel H. A Companion to your Study of the Book of Mormon. Deseret Book. 1976, p.192).

Mosiah 27:15

15  And now behold, can ye dispute the power of God?  For behold, doth not my voice shake the earth?  And can ye not also behold me before you?  And I am sent from God.

The messenger (an angel, which is clarified in verse 17) declares his authority to Alma. In addition to declaring his authority (having been sent from God) he also reminds Alma of the proof of his power. This proof is to remind Alma that he is first of all being seen at all, and secondly that his voice shook the earth. Note the discussion above concerning the possible Mesoamerican significance of both the voice and the shaking. The angel explicitly uses those two markers as the proof of his divinity. While the presence of the angel does not mention the cloud, the original description of the vision explicitly places his person in the cloud. Thus the angel very specifically repeats to Alma the three markers of his divinity that were first noted; the cloud, the voice as thunder, and the shaking of the earth. The repetition and highlighting by the angel should confirm to us that the specific markers are intended to be significant, and not simply a description of the appearance.

Mosiah 27:16

16  Now I say unto thee: Go, and remember the captivity of thy fathers in the land of Helam, and in the land of Nephi; and remember how great things he has done for them; for they were in bondage, and he has delivered them.  And  now I say unto thee, Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, that their prayers may be answered, and this even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off.

Mosiah 27:17

17  And now it came to pass that these were the last words which the angel spake unto Alma, and he departed.

Textual: The message is most directly for Alma, even though the sons of Mosiah hear it, and are also affected by it. It is not clear whether or not verse 16 addresses one Alma alone, or Alma and the sons of Mosiah. In English, “thee” and the command form of the verb “go” can both serve for singular and plural; even “thy” serves for both plural and singular. The possibility that the address is to all listeners comes from the very specific address to Alma that begins with “and now.” This “and now” appears to be a conjunction that stands in contrast to the previous clause, not one that is complementary to it. Thus the first clause would have plurals, and the last sentence is exclusively for Alma.

If we read the first part as a plural address, then we have the complication of “thy fathers in the land of Helam, and in the land of Nephi.” The plural “fathers” would make sense for multiple listeners. The problem is that if the group consists only of Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah (as implied in verse 10) then we have another problem, as only the Alma the Younger could consider any of Helam or Lehi-Nephi as his “fathers.”

A possible solution to this problem would be that the text is using “fathers” to refer to a generation rather than a lineage. If the “fathers” mean those of their fathers’ generation who were delivered from Helam and Lehi-Nephi, then this passage fits for the multiple listeners as noted by the text.

Mosiah 27:18

18  And now Alma and those that were with him fell again to the earth, for great was their astonishment; for with their own eyes they had beheld an angel of the Lord; and his voice was as thunder, which shook the earth; and they knew that there was nothing save the power of God that could shake the earth and cause it to tremble as though it would part asunder.

Alma and his brethren “fell again” to the earth. Certainly they were capable of rising at least somewhat, or they could not have fallen again. This further suggests that the falling to the earth was a cultural response rather than a physical weakness. It also perhaps suggests that they may not have arisen to their feet but rather perhaps to their knees.

It is also very interesting that once again the specific markers of the divine occurrence are repeated. We have once again the listing of the voice of thunder and the shaking of the earth. Both of those are again noted as proofs of the divine nature of the visitor.

Mosiah 27:19

19  And now the astonishment of Alma was so great that he became dumb, that he could not open his mouth; yea, and he became weak, even that he could not move his hands; therefore he was taken by those that were with him, and carried helpless, even until he was laid before his father.

Textual: The similarity to Saul/Paul is clear in the physical incapacity that resulted from the visitation (see Acts 9:8). Indeed, just as with Saul, the only one so physically debilitated is Saul and Alma. The companions are fully functional and able to take them to assistance.

In Alma’s case the debilitation was even greater than Saul’s, for Saul was only blind. Alma was dumb, and so physically weak that he needed to be “carried helpless.” That he was laid before his father indicates that he was, at that time, too weak to even sit.

This physical weakness apparently came as a result of an internal spiritual struggle, which will be recounted later. Perhaps he was so preoccupied with the internal that his body was unable to cope with the external. Whatever the cause or explanation, it was a situation that was clearly related to his experience with the angel.

Mosiah 27:20

20  And they rehearsed unto his father all that had happened unto them; and his father rejoiced, for he knew that it was the power of God.

Mormon glosses over the moment of arrival before Alma the Elder, and jumps to the ultimate import of the story, which is that Alma recognized in this experience the hand of God, and rejoiced. That ultimate rejoicing, however, was probably preceded by ultimate anguish as seeing his son being carried helpless into his presence. He had to have taken that appearance for its worst possible meaning prior to receiving the explanation. A great deal of his joy must have come not simply from the recognition of the hand of the Lord, but from the tremendous relief that would have come when he understood that his son was not near death – but, in a very real sense, very near true life.

Mosiah 27:21

21  And he caused that a multitude should be gathered together that they might witness what the Lord had done for his son, and also for those that were with him.

Mosiah 27:22

22  And he caused that the priests should assemble themselves together; and they began to fast, and to pray to the Lord their God that he would open the  mouth of Alma, that he might speak, and also that his limbs might receive their strength—that the eyes of the people might be opened to see and know of the goodness and glory of God.

Alma the Elder sees in the condition of his son the hand of God. He sees in the hand of God a way that his son will make dramatic atonement for his actions against the church. Rather than the persecutor he has been in the past, Alma the Younger will serve as a healer and promoter of the church of God. With this understanding, Alma the Elder initiates two actions. He assembles a multitude to watch, and he sets apart the priests to pray. The prayers of the priests are for Alma’s recovery. That Alma assembled the multitude first shows his faith in God. The people would see the transformation from powerful persecutor to complete invalid, and then the transformation from one appearing near death to one powerfully brought back to life.

In the context of the Book of Mormon, Alma the Younger has been fighting against the church, and particularly against the coming atoning Messiah. The prophecies of that Messiah are that he will die and be resurrected. In a very dramatic fashion, Alma the Younger becomes the visual symbol of that coming atoning Messiah. Alma the Younger, symbolically dead, will be resurrected to life. As with the atoning Messiah, where the pre-death being was mortal and subject to the world (as Alma had proved to be) the post-resurrection being would be God. While Alma was certainly not resurrected to the status of god, his transformation was still tremendous, and the new person was a powerful advocate for the church he had once persecuted.

This possible resurrection theme places a context to this particular difference between the experiences of Alma the Younger and Saul. Where Saul is blinded (perhaps symbolic of his prior refusal to “see” the reality of Jesus as Savior), Alma is debilitated. Symbolically, Alma the Younger also underwent an experience that was highly symbolic, but in Alma’s case, most directly related to the nature of his particular apostasy.

Social: The separation of the multitude and the priests demonstrates that the priests were considered a different social group from the “multitude.” They were specially appointed to their roles, and performed specific functions in behalf of the multitude. Their separate action highlights both their separation, and their function as servants to the multitude in the performance of religious ritual.

Mosiah 27:23

23  And it came to pass after they had fasted and prayed for the space of two days and two nights, the limbs of Alma received their strength, and he stood up and began to speak unto them, bidding them to be of good comfort:

Even after the prayers of the faithful that had brought Alma the Younger to this experience, yet more prayers were offered in his behalf to complete the process and bring him back to strength.

Textual: This verse is both similar and different. Similar to Saul’s experience, Alma is incapacitated for multiple days. The difference is that Saul was incapacitated for three days (Acts 9:9), and Alma the Younger for “two days and two nights.” Once again, there is the possibility that the different symbol systems of the two worlds plays a part in the number of days they are incapacitated.

For Saul, the three days have at least two references; the days Jonah spent in the belly of the “great fish,” and the days Christ spent in the tomb before resurrection. In Saul’s Old World context, and particularly so close to Christ’s resurrection, it makes great symbolic sense for Saul to be in darkness for three days, just as Jonah and Christ were in darkness for three days. When Saul emerges from darkness he was a new man – or a man reborn to a new spiritual life.

Alma underwent a similar spiritual transformation, but did it in two days and two nights, rather than the three days for Jonah and Christ. In the case of Alma the Younger, it may be that we are seeing an importance laid to the typically rhetorical “two days and two nights.” While that phrase in the Bible is simply an intensifier of the number of days, it may be in this case that they were meant to be seen separately so that the total “number” was four time periods that Alma the Younger spend in the “dark.” For Mesoamerica, four was a particularly auspicious number. Four was the number of perfection. In a much later myth, an important demi-god, Mixcoatl, is born after only four days gestation, signaling his birth as a miracle. The miracle was not simply in the short time period, but the very specific notation of the four days. His was a magical, and “perfect” birth. (Leyenda de los soles. In: Codice Chimalpopoca. Ed. And tr. Feliciano Velazquez. Mexico: Imprenta Universitaria. 1945. 124).

In the Mesoamerican context, we have a late legend showing a “perfect” birth after four days. With Alma, he may also have had a “perfect rebirth” after a similar “four” time periods.

Internal Comparison: This verse has Alma under the influence of the spirit for two days and two nights. The companion description of Alma’s experience that comes in Alma 36:10 indicates that the experience was for three days and three nights. John W. Welch suggests that this difference in days may be easily explained:

“Even what superficially appears to be a difference is not. Alma 36:16 states that Alma was racked for three days and three nights. Mosiah 27:23, however, says that the priests fasted for two days and two nights. This is because, under Nephite practice, the fast would not have begun until the morning of the next day after the decision to fast (Helaman 9:10).” Welch, John W. “Three Accounts of Alma’s Conversion.” In: Reexploring the Book of Mormon. FARMS, 1992. p. 151).

This is a distinctly possible explanation, even though the single citation given does not clearly indicate a customary practice. Alma the Younger could easily have been weakened for nearly a whole day by the time he was laid before his father and a fast had begun. Does this negate the possibility of the numerical significance noted above?

The passage in Mosiah 27 is recorded by some third party, and edited by Mormon. The passage in Alma 36 is a quotation of Alma. There are two different sources for the information. The amount of time that passed can easily be the very same. The difference lies in the way the numbers are selected to describe the event. For Alma, he is being more precise in the passage of time. It is just possible that the first scribe selects the time period of the fasting precisely because it fits into his 2+2=4 scenario that leads to the “right” number.

Mosiah 27:24

24  For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.

In keeping with the resurrection/new birth theme, Alma declares that when he arises form his affliction that he is “born of the Spirit.” Alma tells the people that while he has been “gone” that he has both repented of his sins and been redeemed from them. This redemption is the critical piece of teaching information in this experience. Not only is Alma the Younger’s experience prefiguring the death and resurrection of the atoning Messiah, it is the confirmation of that atoning mission – these are the very things that Alma the Younger had been denying and fighting against. Thus when Alma awakens, his theme is to so completely reverse his persecution that he is the embodiment of the meaning of that future mission of the Messiah.

Textual: This verse begins a quotation from the words of Alma. This citation will continue through verse 31. While these are Alma’s words, it is most probable that Alma is not recording them. Alma the Younger would not have been a keeper of the records at this point, and so we are receiving his words through another scribe that Mormon had been editing.

Mosiah 27:25

25  And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;

Mosiah 27:26

26  And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

The words of the Lord to Alma the Younger while in his coma/trancelike state were that he should “marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women….must be born again…” Alma’s terminology is familiar to us, but there are linkages in his usage that fit into the Book of Mormon doctrine of the time more tightly that they do our usual conceptions.

The first clear difference between this birth of the spirit and the events that modern Saints typically equate with being born of the spirit is that Alma’s experience follows neither baptism nor the gift of the Holy Ghost. While it is possible that Alma had received these ordinances earlier, the particular “birth” that he receives is the very specific redemption form sin (see Alma 36: 12-21 for the details of his sin/redemption contrast). Alma the Younger’s birth by the spirit is directly related to applying the atonement of Jesus Christ to his soul. This is a new birth in that his soul is born again, new again as a small child – freed from the bonds of sin.

It is into this context that we should also place the admonition of King Benjamin:

Mosiah 5:7”And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.”

Note that Benjamin also describes this process as being “spiritually begotten.” What Alma the Younger has just done is the make the same covenant that he had rejected. Mormon began this particular discussion of Alma the Younger with a direct reference to the Benjaminic covenant:

Mosiah 26:1 “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 their fathers.”

Alma’s experience is one of making the covenant that he has previously rejected, a point apparently not lost on Mormon, who so structured the text so that Benjamin’s covenant would be the frame in which we saw Alma’s “birth.” It is important to remember that the break between chapters and 26 and 27 is modern. Mormon intended this block of text to be read together.

Mosiah 27:27

27  I say unto you, unless this be the case, they must be cast off; and this I know, because I was like to be cast off.

The experience right prior to his transformation showed him the logical extension of his current behavior. He was “like to be cast off.” We should see this experience in that described by Benjamin:

“Mosiah 3:18  For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.

Mosiah 3:19

19  For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

Benjamin had clearly taught what Alma has now so clearly experienced. Alma felt what it means to be an enemy to God, and to “drink damnation to [his] own soul.” Just as Benjamin describes the resolution of the damnation as the acceptance of Jesus Christ, so too will Alma be delivered because he accepts the atonement of the Savior.

Mosiah 27:28

28  Nevertheless, after wading through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God.

Mosiah 27:29

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

Alma contrasts the darkness and tribulation with the everlasting burning after his redemption. Note that he very clearly (verse 28) creates the contrast between being “nigh unto death” and “I am born of God.” The symbolism of the situation is abundantly clear to Alma immediately after the experience. Alma has been born of God, and is now a “son” of the Savior (Mosiah 5:7  And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.)

Mosiah 27:30

30  I rejected my Redeemer, and denied that which had been spoken of by our fathers; but now that they may foresee that he will come, and that he remembereth every creature of his creating, he will make himself manifest unto all.

Here is Alma’s clear confession of the nature of his sin. Notice that it is not specifically fighting against “the church,” but very specifically rejecting his Redeemer. Alma had fallen into the same religious trap that had previously held his father when his father was a priest to Noah. His father had broken free of that trap through the words of a prophet, and had gone on to become a powerful voice for the Savior he had once rejected. Now his son treads the same path. Through the medium of an angel he has also come to understand the truth of the coming atoning Messiah, and he too will use this pivotal experience to become a mighty servant of the Lord.

Mosiah 27:31

31  Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him.  Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God; then shall they confess, who live without God in the world, that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them; and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his all-searching eye.

Literary: Alma continues with his testimony of the coming Messiah. What is interesting is that he manages to translate his personal experience into a universal one. Just has he has now confessed the Messiah, so too will “every tongue confess before him.” Just as Alma has undergone the judgment, so too will all men undergo the judgment. Just as Alma quaked and trembled (perhaps an oblique reference to the voice of thunder shaking the ground?) so too will all quake and tremble before the Lord.

Textual: This ends the citation of Alma’s words.

Mosiah 27:32

32  And now it came to pass that Alma began from this time forward to teach the people, and those who were with Alma at the time the angel appeared unto them, traveling round about through all the land, publishing to all the people the things which they had heard and seen, and preaching the word of God in much tribulation, being greatly persecuted by those who were unbelievers, being smitten by many of them.

Mosiah 27:33

33  But notwithstanding all this, they did impart much consolation to the church, confirming their faith, and exhorting them with long-suffering and much travail to keep the commandments of God.

Alma and the sons of Mosiah are all converted, although we hear little of the nature of the conversion of the sons of Mosiah. A part of their conversion process spiritually required them to attempt to undo the damage they had done, and so they travel through the land “publishing to all the people the things which they had heard and seen.” Nevertheless, they are not met with universal approval. Certainly those who were believers would have accepted them with open arms, but what of the non-believers? How would they have been received by those with whom they used to be co-believers, and against whom they were now preaching? We may easily understood that this situation created the condition where they would be “preaching the word of God in much tribulation, being greatly persecuted by those who were unbelievers, being smitten by many of them.”

Mosiah 27:34

34  And four of them were the sons of Mosiah; and their names were Ammon, and Aaron, and Omner, and Himni; these were the names of the sons of Mosiah.

This is the first time we have the naming of the sons of Mosiah. These four names are give three other times in the Book of Mormon, and are repeated in precisely this order (see also Alma 23:1, 25:17, 31:6. There is another mention of the first three in Alma 31:32). This consistency of ordering the names suggests that there was a reason behind the ordering, which would be expected to be birth order. Thus we may speculate that Ammon was the oldest of the four. However, Daniel Ludlow notes:

“The order of the birth of the four sons of Mosiah is never made clear in the Book of Mormon. The listing in Mosiah 27:34 would indicate that Ammon was the first born followed by Aaron, then Omner, and Himni. Also, the fact that Ammon was the leader on their missionary journey to the Lamanites would seem to indicate that Ammon was the eldest. (See Alma, chapters 17-26.) However, when King Mosiah asked his people to select his successor, they first desired that Aaron should be their king and their ruler. (Mosiah 29:1-2.) In this single instance it appears as though Aaron may have been the eldest son.” (Ludlow, Daniel H. A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon. Deseret Book, 1976, p. 192).

Mosiah 27:35

35  And they traveled throughout all the land of Zarahemla, and among all the people who were under the reign of king Mosiah, zealously striving to repair all the injuries which they had done to the church, confessing all their sins, and publishing all the things which they had seen, and explaining the prophecies and the scriptures to all who desired to hear them.

Mosiah 27:36

36  And thus they were instruments in the hands of God in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, to the knowledge of their Redeemer.

Mosiah 27:37

37  And how blessed are they!  For they did publish peace; they did publish good tidings of good; and they did declare unto the people that the Lord reigneth.

These final verses repeat the idea that they traveled trying to teach what they had learned (first seen in verse 32). The difference is that the first occasion was only clear about Alma the Younger. In these verses, the four sons of Mosiah are explicitly added to the body of those who travel about.

Textual: These verses conclude a chapter in the 1830 edition, and therefore a concept. Mormon closes out his record of this transformation be clearly including the most notable participants by name. Alma the Younger, Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni all preach the word. Where the earlier discussion of Alma the Younger’s mission also included a note that they were persecuted for doing so, this final conclusion leaves that detail out. Mormon elects to leave the story on the most positive level. These men who began by denying the Lord, now actively declare him.

       
      by Brant Gardner. Copyright 2000