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Alma 21: Chapter Header
An account of the preaching of Aaron, and Muloki, and their brethren, to the Lamanites.
Mormon includes chapter headers when he begins sections that change sources. In this case, the ultimate source changed from Ammon to Aaron, and Muloki. Their story had to have been recorded separately from Ammon’s, but the most logical explanation of where Mormon got these stories continues to be Alma the Younger’s personal record. Just as Mormon included stories from other sources in the book he created, Alma took the stories he either read, or heard, from the sons of Mosiah and added them into his personal record. As with the story of Ammon and King Lamoni, when the narration happens in the third person, it is probable that we are usually seeing Mormon copying what Alma had written.
1 Now when Ammon and his brethren separated themselves in the borders of the land of the Lamanites, behold Aaron took his journey towards the land which was called by the Lamanites, Jerusalem, calling it after the land of their fathers’ nativity; and it was away joining the borders of Mormon.
2 Now the Lamanites and the Amalekites and the people of Amulon had built a great city, which was called Jerusalem.
3 Now the Lamanites of themselves were sufficiently hardened, but the Amalekites and the Amulonites were still harder; therefore they did cause the Lamanites that they should harden their hearts, that they should wax strong in wickedness and their abominations.
The story of Aaron’s missionary labors obviously began when he, Ammon, and the others separated and went different ways. That event was recorded in Ammon’s story (see Alma 17:17). It is told in less detail here, not because Aaron didn’t say anything about it, but because Alma knew he had already described it. The mention here is to situate this story as happening parallel to Ammon’s story. Therefore, Alma notes that they start at the same time.
Aaron has a different experience because he goes not to just Lamanites, but also to apostate Nephites who had become Lamanites. The Amalekites were dissenters from the Nephites, and the people of Amulon followed the man who was once priest under King Noah. Mormon will consistently paint the Lamanites as enemies, but will just as consistently suggest that the worst enemies were those who had once been Nephites and consciously turned their backs on Nephite beliefs.
4 And it came to pass that Aaron came to the city of Jerusalem, and first began to preach to the Amalekites. And he began to preach to them in their synagogues, for they had built synagogues after the order of the Nehors; for many of the Amalekites and the Amulonites were after the order of the Nehors.
5 Therefore, as Aaron entered into one of their synagogues to preach unto the people, and as he was speaking unto them, behold there arose an Amalekite and began to contend with him, saying: What is that thou hast testified? Hast thou seen an angel? Why do not angels appear unto us? Behold are not this people as good as thy people?
6 Thou also sayest, except we repent we shall perish. How knowest thou the thought and intent of our hearts? How knowest thou that we have cause to repent? How knowest thou that we are not a righteous people? Behold, we have built sanctuaries, and we do assemble ourselves together to worship God. We do believe that God will save all men.
The last time we saw the Order of the Nehors was in the story of Alma and Amulek in Ammonihah. Although this story occurs almost fourteen years before the events in Ammonihah, they nevertheless deal with the same type of Nephite religious apostasy. The Amalekites and Amulonites “were after the Order of the Nehors,” even though there is no way that the priests of Noah would have known anything about Nehor. While Mormon may have assigned Nehor’s name to the set of religious beliefs, it is pretty clear that this particular form of Nephite apostasy had existed prior to Nehor, and was represented by the priests in the court of Noah, even if not originally among the Amalikites. The general teachings of the Order of the Nehors represents the most common way that Nephites apostatized from their religion.
One of the common expressions of the apostasy was the idea that Jehovah would save all men. That contrasts with the Nephite teaching that an atoning Messiah would be required. That is the last part of the statement that we see in verse 6. The rest of this introduction simply has the people denying that there was a need for Aaron to teach them anything.
When King Lamoni had asked how Ammon knew what he was thinking, Lamoni had reason to believe that Ammon had already discerned his thoughts. The people in the city of Jerusalem had no such sincere question. Their question was one of disbelief. How did he know what they thought? How did Aaron know that they should repent? Hadn’t the people in this Jerusalem built sanctuaries, and worshipped God?
7 Now Aaron said unto him: Believest thou that the Son of God shall come to redeem mankind from their sins?
8 And the man said unto him: We do not believe that thou knowest any such thing. We do not believe in these foolish traditions. We do not believe that thou knowest of things to come, neither do we believe that thy fathers and also that our fathers did know concerning the things which they spake, of that which is to come.
9 Now Aaron began to open the scriptures unto them concerning the coming of Christ, and also concerning the resurrection of the dead, and that there could be no redemption for mankind save it were through the death and sufferings of Christ, and the atonement of his blood.
10 And it came to pass as he began to expound these things unto them they were angry with him, and began to mock him; and they would not hear the words which he spake.
Aaron understood precisely where the people of the city of Jerusalem differed from what he knew Jehovah wanted them to understand. They had said that Jehovah would save everyone, and that statement clearly indicated that they rejected the coming Messiah. Nevertheless, Aaron asks to have them commit to their belief.
When Aaron asks if they believe that the Son of God would come to redeem mankind, they respond that Aaron could not know that, since it was in the future. Those things promised in the far distant future did not seem real to them. Thus, this Jerusalem expelled a prophet teaching about the coming Messiah, even as the Old World Jerusalem had expelled Lehi, a prophet teaching about the coming Messiah.
11 Therefore, when he saw that they would not hear his words, he departed out of their synagogue, and came over to a village which was called Ani-Anti, and there he found Muloki preaching the word unto them; and also Ammah and his brethren. And they contended with many about the word.
12 And it came to pass that they saw that the people would harden their hearts, therefore they departed and came over into the land of Middoni. And they did preach the word unto many, and few believed on the words which they taught.
13 Nevertheless, Aaron and a certain number of his brethren were taken and cast into prison, and the remainder of them fled out of the land of Middoni unto the regions round about.
14 And those who were cast into prison suffered many things, and they were delivered by the hand of Lamoni and Ammon, and they were fed and clothed.
Aaron leaves the city of Jerusalem after having no success. He meets with others from the original party, including two of his brothers, and finds that they have had no success either. All of them travel to Middoni to try again. This time they are imprisoned. We are not told how long they were in prison, but they were released when Lamoni and Ammon arrived. At this point, Alma has caught his readers up to the point in the story where Lamoni and Ammon’s story ended. Thus, this part is no longer the flashback to the parallel timing of the missions, but is caught up to the main story line. Indeed, the story of Lamoni and Ammon set up this next major missionary success, and the story of Aaron, up to this part, has been one of missionary frustration, rather than success.
15 And they went forth again to declare the word, and thus they were delivered for the first time out of prison; and thus they had suffered.
16 And they went forth whithersoever they were led by the Spirit of the Lord, preaching the word of God in every synagogue of the Amalekites, or in every assembly of the Lamanites where they could be admitted.
17 And it came to pass that the Lord began to bless them, insomuch that they brought many to the knowledge of the truth; yea, they did convince many of their sins, and of the traditions of their fathers, which were not correct.
As the story is shifting, Alma gives us the general story of all the brothers, and then returns to finish Lamoni and Ammon’s story. For the imprisoned brothers, they were delivered. The text doesn’t dwell on what they had suffered, but reading between the lines indicates that it was hardly a pleasant experience. Nevertheless, they continued their preaching and began to have some success, even in the Amalekite synagogues.
18 And it came to pass that Ammon and Lamoni returned from the land of Middoni to the land of Ishmael, which was the land of their inheritance.
19 And king Lamoni would not suffer that Ammon should serve him, or be his servant.
20 But he caused that there should be synagogues built in the land of Ishmael; and he caused that his people, or the people who were under his reign, should assemble themselves together.
21 And he did rejoice over them, and he did teach them many things. And he did also declare unto them that they were a people who were under him, and that they were a free people, that they were free from the oppressions of the king, his father; for that his father had granted unto him that he might reign over the people who were in the land of Ishmael, and in all the land round about.
22 And he also declared unto them that they might have the liberty of worshiping the Lord their God according to their desires, in whatsoever place they were in, if it were in the land which was under the reign of king Lamoni.
23 And Ammon did preach unto the people of king Lamoni; and it came to pass that he did teach them all things concerning things pertaining to righteousness. And he did exhort them daily, with all diligence; and they gave heed unto his word, and they were zealous for keeping the commandments of God.
The conclusion to the story of Ammon and Lamoni has them return together. While Ammon was willing to continue as a servant, Lamoni elevated his position. The Nephite church was established. The fact that a church was established suggests that the conversion was not universal. The function of the church among the Nephites was to establish a separation of religious belief, allowing for at least two different beliefs in the same city. That appears to be what happens here as well. Many are converted. Some number are not. Churches allowed for both types of religious believers to exist in the same community.
There is no chapter break at this point. This part of the story is the setup to the story of Aaron and Lamoni’s father. That story begins in earnest in the next modern chapter, but it was part of the same chapter in 1830.
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