Alma 19-26, LeGrand Baker, Mormon’s messages
For the most part, the Book of Mormon is the story of a single family, with only three possible breaks in the genealogical record. They are King Mosiah I who was apparently a younger brother of the king of the Nephites, and who took the sacred regalia and fled from the Land of Nephi before it was destroyed by the Lamanites. The second is Alma who is clearly identified as “a descendent of Nephi” even though we are given no definitive statement of how he is connected with the royal family. The third is Mormon himself, who also tells us that he is also “a descendent of Nephi” but whose precise family ties are not given. Thus the story of that family becomes the golden thread that goes from the beginning to the end of the book, giving it structure and continuity
The Book of Mormon is written to the Lamanites but it is about the Nephite royal family, because their family, church, and state records were the sources to which Mormon and Moroni had access. The reason I point that out here is because this story of the Lamanite conversion, and the later story of the miraculous preservation of their “stripling soldier” sons, are among Mormon’s most significant diversions from the mainstream of Nephite history, but even these stories of Lamanite faithfulness are dependent on Nephite records. The missionaries who converted the Lamanites were sons of the Nephite king. The prophet/general Moroni after whom Mormon named his own son was a high ranking member of the Nephite aristocracy. Heleman, Moroni’s military subordinate who commanded the faithful Lamanite youth, was a son of Alma and the father of Heleman who would become the Nephite Chief Judge.
Mormon never tells a story without a purpose, and he usually defines that purpose to us with a phrase like, “and thus we see.” Because this departure into Lamanite history is so unusual, I think it would be wise to focus our attention on the message Mormon wants us to gain from it, rather than on the details of the story.
The chapters that describe these events invite us to stop and consider the underlying principles that support them, but if we do that the Book of Mormon Project may get bogged down in the details. So rather than risk that, Let’s just do a quick overview, stopping only to call attention to the principles Mormon emphasizes.
Let’s pick up his story where Ammon is with King Lamoni.
22 Now, one of them, whose brother had been slain with the sword of Ammon, being exceedingly angry with Ammon, drew his sword and went forth that he might let it fall upon Ammon, to slay him; and as he lifted the sword to smite him, behold, he fell dead.
23 Now we see that Ammon could not be slain, for the Lord had said unto Mosiah, his father: I will spare him, and it shall be unto him according to thy faith—therefore, Mosiah trusted him unto the Lord. (Alma 19:22-23)
After the king and his servants testified of what they had seen and heard,
35 …there were many that did believe in their words; and as many as did believe were baptized; and they became a righteous people, and they did establish a church among them.
36 And thus the work of the Lord did commence among the Lamanites; thus the Lord did begin to pour out his Spirit upon them; and we see that his arm is extended to all people who will repent and believe on his name. (Alma 19:333-36)
From there Mormon takes us with Aaron to the palace of the Lamoni’s father, the king of all the Lamanites.
17 And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying:
18 O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead. (Alma 22:17-18)
The king and queen, and many of their servants were converted.
1 Behold, now it came to pass that the king of the Lamanites sent a proclamation among all his people, ….
4 ….that Aaron and his brethren went forth from city to city, and from one house of worship to another, establishing churches, and consecrating priests and teachers throughout the land among the Lamanites, to preach and to teach the word of God among them; and thus they began to have great success…..
6 And as sure as the Lord liveth, so sure as many as believed, or as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth, through the preaching of Ammon and his brethren, according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy, and the power of God working miracles in them—yea, I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away. (Alma 23:1-6)
A new covenant with God is always associated with a new covenant name. The name is the token of the validity of the covenant. The converter Lamanites chose a name that reminded them of their rich heritage. As we use it, the prefix “anti” usually means “against,” but it also means “like.” The name they chose— Anti-Nephi-Lehi— might be understood as meaning: “Like the ancient prophets Nephi and Lehi.” (Alma 23:16-17)
Righteousness on the part of some, often brings anger and an unexplainable need for retaliation on the part of those who do not repent, as it did here. The Lamanites who were not converted tried to use force to overthrow the king and his followers. However,
6 Now there was not one soul among all the people who had been converted unto the Lord that would take up arms against their brethren; nay, they would not even make any preparations for war; yea, and also their king commanded them that they should not.
As the king’s first prayer had been answered, so he taught its principles to his people.
7 Now, these are the words which he said unto the people concerning the matter: I thank my God, my beloved people, that our great God has in goodness sent these our brethren, the Nephites, unto us to preach unto us, and to convince us of the traditions of our wicked fathers.
8 And behold, I thank my great God that he has given us a portion of his Spirit to soften our hearts, that we have opened a correspondence with these brethren, the Nephites.
9 And behold, I also thank my God, that by opening this correspondence we have been convinced of our sins, and of the many murders which we have committed. ….
11 And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do, (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain— ….
15 Oh, how merciful is our God! And now behold, since it has been as much as we could do to get our stains taken away from us, and our swords are made bright, let us hide them away that they may be kept bright, as a testimony to our God at the last day, or at the day that we shall be brought to stand before him to be judged, that we have not stained our swords in the blood of our brethren since he imparted his word unto us and has made us clean thereby…..(Alma 24:6-15)
To that sermon, Mormon adds:
19 And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace.
The Lamanites attacked, but were met with no resistance.
23 Now when the Lamanites saw that their brethren would not flee from the sword, neither would they turn aside to the right hand or to the left, but that they would lie down and perish, and praised God even in the very act of perishing under the sword—
24 Now when the Lamanites saw this they did forbear from slaying them; and there were many whose hearts had swollen in them for those of their brethren who had fallen under the sword, for they repented of the things which they had done…..
26 And it came to pass that the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain; and those who had been slain were righteous people, therefore we have no reason to doubt but what they were saved.
27 And there was not a wicked man slain among them; but there were more than a thousand brought to the knowledge of the truth; thus we see that the Lord worketh in many ways to the salvation of his people.
28 Now the greatest number of those of the Lamanites who slew so many of their brethren were Amalekites and Amulonites, the greatest number of whom were after the order of the Nehors. ….
Again, Mormon stops to remind us what is happening:
30 And thus we can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things. (Alma 24:19-30.)
The frustrated Lamanites then attacked Nephite cites.
2 But they took their armies and went over into the borders of the land of Zarahemla, and fell upon the people who were in the land of Ammonihah and destroyed them.
3 And after that, they had many battles with the Nephites, in the which they were driven and slain.
4 And among the Lamanites who were slain were almost all the seed of Amulon and his brethren, who were the priests of Noah, and they were slain by the hands of the Nephites;
5 And the remainder, having fled into the east wilderness, and having usurped the power and authority over the Lamanites, caused that many of the Lamanites should perish by fire because of their belief—….
8 Now this martyrdom caused that many of their brethren should be stirred up to anger; and there began to be contention in the wilderness; and the Lamanites began to hunt the seed of Amulon and his brethren and began to slay them; and they fled into the east wilderness.
9 And behold they are hunted at this day by the Lamanites. Thus the words of Abinadi were brought to pass, which he said concerning the seed of the priests who caused that he should suffer death by fire.
The conversion story continues:
13 And it came to pass that when the Lamanites saw that they could not overpower the Nephites they returned again to their own land; and many of them came over to dwell in the land of Ishmael and the land of Nephi, and did join themselves to the people of God, who were the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi.
14 And they did also bury their weapons of war, according as their brethren had, and they began to be a righteous people; and they did walk in the ways of the Lord, and did observe to keep his commandments and his statutes. …. (Alma 25:1-14)
Having told the story in his own way, and calling our attention to the most relevant parts, Mormon returns to the official account kept by the king’s sons, to tell us the missionary’s reaction to their own adventure:
17 And now behold, Ammon, and Aaron, and Omner, and Himni, and their brethren did rejoice exceedingly, for the success which they had had among the Lamanites, seeing that the Lord had granted unto them according to their prayers, and that he had also verified his word unto them in every particular.(Alma 25:17)
Next week, lets read Alma 26, which is Ammon’s joyful summarizing of their missionary success.