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TitleAlma 22
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsGardner, Brant A.
Book TitleBook of Mormon Minute
PublisherBook of Mormon Central
CitySpringville, UT
KeywordsAlma (Book)

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Alma 22

Alma 22:1–2

1 Now, as Ammon was thus teaching the people of Lamoni continually, we will return to the account of Aaron and his brethren; for after he departed from the land of Middoni he was led by the Spirit to the land of Nephi, even to the house of the king which was over all the land save it were the land of Ishmael; and he was the father of Lamoni.

2 And it came to pass that he went in unto him into the king’s palace, with his brethren, and bowed himself before the king, and said unto him: Behold, O king, we are the brethren of Ammon, whom thou hast delivered out of prison.

Comments

The division into a separate chapter at this point makes it more difficult to see the function of the beginning of verse 1. In the original, longer chapter, it was the transition to move from the ending of the events of Ammon and Lamoni to the beginning of the story of Aaron and Lamoni’s father. Alma had interweaved the ending of Ammon and Lamoni’s story with the freeing of the brothers from Middoni and some of the events that happened to both those who had been imprisoned and Ammon. The very last was about Ammon and Lamoni, and, therefore, Alma notes that “we will return to the account of Aaron and his brethren.”

Although this beginning makes it clear that Aaron and his brothers, and perhaps others, were part of the beginning of this story, it will quickly concentrate only on Aaron. Nevertheless, Alma clearly notes that all the brothers, save Ammon, appear before the overking in the land of Nephi: “we are the brethren of Ammon.”

Alma 22:3–6

3 And now, O king, if thou wilt spare our lives, we will be thy servants. And the king said unto them: Arise, for I will grant unto you your lives, and I will not suffer that ye shall be my servants; but I will insist that ye shall administer unto me; for I have been somewhat troubled in mind because of the generosity and the greatness of the words of thy brother Ammon; and I desire to know the cause why he has not come up out of Middoni with thee.

4 And Aaron said unto the king: Behold, the Spirit of the Lord has called him another way; he has gone to the land of Ishmael, to teach the people of Lamoni.

5 Now the king said unto them: What is this that ye have said concerning the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, this is the thing which doth trouble me.

6 And also, what is this that Ammon said—If ye will repent ye shall be saved, and if ye will not repent, ye shall be cast off at the last day?

Comments

Aaron, Omner, and Himni present themselves to Lamoni’s father using the same offer that Ammon had. They offer to be servants. The overking is beyond that. He had already had an encounter with Aaron that left him with questions, and the overking left Aaron with the request that Ammon visit him in the land of Nephi. Ammon wasn’t there, but the overking hopes that Ammon’s brothers might be similar to Ammon.

The king has questions. When the story was given of Ammon’s meeting and conflict with Lamoni’s father on the road to Middoni, we were told that Lamoni had told his father “all the cause of his tarrying in his own kingdom, that he did not go unto his father to the feast which he had prepared” (Alma 20:12). Few details of what he said were recorded at that time, but the story must have included some of Ammon’s teachings, for Lamoni’s father poses questions that he indicates came from Ammon’s teaching. Specifically, the overking does not understand the Spirit’s ability to communicate with Ammon, and he does not understand the principle of repentance.

This last sentence should be interpreted. It certainly was not true that Lamoni’s father would not understand that someone might do something wrong and be sorry for it, and then change. That part of repentance is human and universal. What he did not understand was the role of the coming Messiah in creating the conditions whereupon repentance could enact a removal of the stain of sin and could create the condition that would allow one to not be “cast off at the last day.”

Alma 22:7

7 And Aaron answered him and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God? And the king said: I know that the Amalekites say that there is a God, and I have granted unto them that they should build sanctuaries, that they may assemble themselves together to worship him. And if now thou sayest there is a God, behold I will believe.

Comments

The beginning of the discussion with Lamoni’s father is essentially the same as the beginning of Ammon’s discussion with Lamoni. The lesson begins with the question: “Believest thou that there is a God?” See Alma 18:24 for Ammon’s very similar question to Lamoni.

There is an interesting side note to the story of the overking’s conversion. The overking’s answer is different from Lamoni’s. Where Lamoni had not believed in God, but in a Great Spirit, his father understands that there is a god named Jehovah. The issue is not a belief in any divine being, but rather in a specific one. Ammon and Aaron asked if they believed in Jehovah. Lamoni was unfamiliar with Jehovah. Lamoni’s father is familiar with Jehovah, because Jehovah was the God of the Amalekites. They, and the followers of the priests of Noah, followed the Order of the Nehors, which did believe that Jehovah was their God. Thus, Lamoni’s father had familiarity because he had allowed the Amalekites to have their own form of worship.

This tells us that even though there might have been some Lamanites who remembered something of the law of Moses, it was not the most common religion in the land. It was apostate Nephites, not the typical Lamanite, who believed in Jehovah.

The very last sentence is critical to the story. While Lamoni’s father does not believe in Jehovah, he is willing to accept that He exists. At this point, however, it does not mean that the overking accepts Jehovah as the sole God, but rather that He is a god among many. That change is yet to come. At this point, it is a willingness to believe that is important.

Alma 22:8–11

8 And now when Aaron heard this, his heart began to rejoice, and he said: Behold, assuredly as thou livest, O king, there is a God.

9 And the king said: Is God that Great Spirit that brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem?

10 And Aaron said unto him: Yea, he is that Great Spirit, and he created all things both in heaven and in earth. Believest thou this?

11 And he said: Yea, I believe that the Great Spirit created all things, and I desire that ye should tell me concerning all these things, and I will believe thy words.

Comments

To this point, the conversation between Aaron and Lamoni’s father proceeds much as did the conversation between Ammon and Lamoni. Aaron declares that there is a God, meaning Jehovah. As did Lamoni, his father equates Jehovah with “that great Spirit that brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem.” The heritage was not lost, but the name of God was.

As did Lamoni, his father is willing to understand that Jehovah is the God who the Lamanites understood as the Great Spirit. Once again, Lamoni’s father expresses the willingness to believe Aaron’s words. This willingness is likely still based on his remarkable experience with Ammon on the road to Middoni.

Alma 22:12–14

12 And it came to pass that when Aaron saw that the king would believe his words, he began from the creation of Adam, reading the scriptures unto the king—how God created man after his own image, and that God gave him commandments, and that because of transgression, man had fallen.

13 And Aaron did expound unto him the scriptures from the creation of Adam, laying the fall of man before him, and their carnal state and also the plan of redemption, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, through Christ, for all whosoever would believe on his name.

14 And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth; and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory; and Aaron did expound all these things unto the king.

Comments

When Aaron sees that the overking is willing to believe, Aaron understands that what is required is the foundation upon which lies the essential understanding of Jehovah, and especially of the Messiah, who will be Jehovah come to earth. Therefore, Aaron lays out the scriptures. Why begin with the fall of Adam? The requirement for a redeemer was part of the plan that included the fall from Eden. Death of the body and spirit required a redeemer who could remove those two penalties that resulted from the fall.

Since man cannot redeem himself, the Messiah (Jehovah), who will condescend to come to earth, is required to create the redemption. Only this God on earth could rob the grave and reverse the separation from God caused by sin.

Alma 22:15–17

15 And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.

16 But Aaron said unto him: If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.

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:

Comments

The overking’s willingness to believe led him to see the answer to the question that he had asked in verse 6. He wanted to know what it meant that one could be saved upon repentance. Now he had the scriptural basis for that understanding, and, therefore, he sincerely asks: “what shall I do that I may be born of God.” There are many who may ask that question and receive an answer. In Lehi’s dream, there were those who ate of the fruit and still eventually walked away. What Lamoni’s father will demonstrate is that his question was sincere, and his willingness to do what was required was not only sincere, but strong.

Aaron informs the overking that he must pray for a remission of sins. In modern conversion processes, we would also include baptism as a requirement for the remission of sins. While the sons of Mosiah certainly understood that aspect of baptism, it is still preceded by the process of sincere repentance. Therefore, the requirement is not baptism, but a prayer which will lead to the understanding that one’s life should change.

The overking offers a prayer.

Alma 22:18

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.

Comments

In Alma 32:27, Alma will teach that the beginning of faith is to “exercise a particle of faith, ye even if ye can no more than desire to believe.” Lamoni’s father exemplifies the nature of a “particle of faith,” as well as what it means to exercise it.

The very beginning of the prayer is: “God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me.” What a small particle of faith it is to pray, solely upon the word of another. In this case, the overking doesn’t even know if there is a God such as Aaron has described, or if the God to whom he is praying really is that God. There is no knowledge here. There is a large amount of doubt, or at least a lack of confirmation.

What is important, however, is that the overking was willing to exercise that particle of faith. To what extent? “I will give away all my sins to know thee.” That was clearly not an idle promise. When threatened with his mortal life, he was willing to give Ammon half of his kingdom. When he learned that his immortal life was threatened, he was willing to give away all his sins.

As with other powerful spiritual experiences in the Book of Mormon, the overking “was struck as if he were dead.” His experience followed that of his son, and the queen.

Alma 22:19

19 And it came to pass that his servants ran and told the queen all that had happened unto the king. And she came in unto the king; and when she saw him lay as if he were dead, and also Aaron and his brethren standing as though they had been the cause of his fall, she was angry with them, and commanded that her servants, or the servants of the king, should take them and slay them.

Comments

When the queen sees her husband revive, and then shares in the spiritual experience, the queen sees only the apparently dead king and Nephites in his presence. Clearly, the Nephites must have been the cause. Rather than be converted as was her daughter-in-law, this queen orders that Aaron and his brothers be taken and executed.

Alma 22:20–23

20 Now the servants had seen the cause of the king’s fall, therefore they durst not lay their hands on Aaron and his brethren; and they pled with the queen saying: Why commandest thou that we should slay these men, when behold one of them is mightier than us all? Therefore we shall fall before them.

21 Now when the queen saw the fear of the servants she also began to fear exceedingly, lest there should some evil come upon her. And she commanded her servants that they should go and call the people, that they might slay Aaron and his brethren.

22 Now when Aaron saw the determination of the queen, he, also knowing the hardness of the hearts of the people, feared lest that a multitude should assemble themselves together, and there should be a great contention and a disturbance among them; therefore he put forth his hand and raised the king from the earth, and said unto him: Stand. And he stood upon his feet, receiving his strength.

23 Now this was done in the presence of the queen and many of the servants. And when they saw it they greatly marveled, and began to fear. And the king stood forth, and began to minister unto them. And he did minister unto them, insomuch that his whole household were converted unto the Lord.

Comments

There are clear parallels between the story of Ammon and Lamoni and Aaron and Lamoni’s father. However, they are not exactly parallel, for this queen cannot be pacified. Even though those who had witnessed what had happened to the overking were in fear of Aaron and his brothers, the queen is adamant that the Nephites should be killed.

The solution, however, is similar. The king was awakened from the spiritual trance in which he had fallen. As with Lamoni, upon rising from his trance, his father also let his conversion be known. The details are not given, but the result was the same. Many were also converted, including his whole household, which we may presume included his wife, the queen.

Alma 22:24–26

24 Now there was a multitude gathered together because of the commandment of the queen, and there began to be great murmurings among them because of Aaron and his brethren.

25 But the king stood forth among them and administered unto them. And they were pacified towards Aaron and those who were with him.

26 And it came to pass that when the king saw that the people were pacified, he caused that Aaron and his brethren should stand forth in the midst of the multitude, and that they should preach the word unto them.

Comments

The process of conversion extended beyond the king’s household that was mentioned in verse 23. The queen had commanded that others be gathered, and while those others may not have witnessed the apparent miracle, they did hear their king teach them. Many were converted. The result is that the king allows the brothers to teach. He had earlier permitted the Amalekites to have their synagogues, so he was not averse to having a different religion preached among his people. The difference in this case is that, where the Amalekites were permitted to have their own separate religion, Aaron and his brothers were allowed to preach to all the Lamanites. The Lamanites were free to choose how to believe, and they were given the opportunity.

Alma 22:27, Part A

27 And it came to pass that the king sent a proclamation throughout all the land, amongst all his people who were in all his land, who were in all the regions round about, which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west, and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and round about on the borders of the seashore, and the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla, through the borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east towards the west—and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided.

Comments

This verse begins with the overking sending a proclamation. The story of the proclamation will pick up again in Chapter 23:1. The material in between is Mormon’s insertion into the text. What happens in these inserted verses is Mormon’s description of the relative Lamanite and Nephite geography. Although it was probably triggered by the need to explain the extent to which the proclamation was sent, Mormon uses this insertion to extend the picture in order to give his readers a more general idea of the lay of the land discussed in the Book of Mormon.

This is a case of repetitive resumption. The exit text is found in Alma 22:27, where the proclamation is sent, and then it returns with two statements. The first is Alma 22:35 where Mormon indicates that he is returning to the story, and then in Alma 23:1 we have the repetition of the proclamation, and the story associated with the proclamation.

Although most of these chapters have been copied from Alma’s personal record, and the narration is attributable to Alma, the repetitive resumption highlights that verses 27 through 24 are an insertion into Alma’s text, and therefore we may confidently attribute them to Mormon. In addition to the repetitive resumption, there was no reason for Alma to describe the lands, as he knew them. Only Mormon knew that he was writing for a future audience that would not know the extent of the lands.

Alma 22:27, Part B

27 And it came to pass that the king sent a proclamation throughout all the land, amongst all his people who were in all his land, who were in all the regions round about, which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west, and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and round about on the borders of the seashore, and the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla, through the borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east towards the west—and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided.

Comments

The geography lesson begins with the description of lands beholding to Lamoni’s father, the overking. Mormon specifically notes that the proclamation was sent to “all his people who were in all his land.”

That land was bordered by the sea on the west and on the east. Thus, Lamanite territory is covers all the land between two seas. For those attempting to use this information to find Book of Mormon lands on a map, that suggests that the east-west dimensions from sea to sea cannot be that large. Very few ancient civilizations could cover extensive territories, and those known from the New World postdate the Book of Mormon.

The next geographic clue is the dividing line between Lamanite and Nephite lands. The Nephite lands are represented only by the land of Zarahemla at this point, though Mormon will add other descriptions that fit his later time, rather than this date. The dividing line is called a wilderness. Other texts tell us that the land of Nephi is at a higher elevation than the lands of Zarahemla.

Mormon mentions Manti which is “by the head of the river Sidon.” The phrase “running form the east towards the west” is anomalous in that it might describe the river Sidon, or it might describe the wilderness line itself. In any case, the typical understanding of the head of the Sidon is that it represents the source of the river. This reading is not only based on the common meaning of the “head” of the river, but also the fact that the Land of Nephi is higher and the land of Zarahemla lower. With the wilderness between, it is reasonable that at least some of that wilderness is also higher than Zarahemla. The Sidon is never mentioned in the land of Nephi, and is associated with the land and city of Zarahemla. The property of water has it flowing downhill, therefore, confirming the reading of it not only beginning in the strip of wilderness, but also that it flows roughly northward (reading the east to west phrase as referring to the wilderness rather than the river).

Mormon intentionally includes Manti because that is the typical route taken between the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla, and certainly was the reason that the city of Manti was built in that strategic location.

Alma 22:28–29

28 Now, the more idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness, and dwelt in tents; and they were spread through the wilderness on the west, in the land of Nephi; yea, and also on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore, and on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers’ first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore.

29 And also there were many Lamanites on the east by the seashore, whither the Nephites had driven them. And thus the Nephites were nearly surrounded by the Lamanites; nevertheless the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness, at the head of the river Sidon, from the east to the west, round about on the wilderness side; on the north, even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful.

Comments

It is difficult to know how historically accurate Mormon’s description of the idle Lamanites in the wilderness might have been. Certainly, there could have been, but the descriptions of Lamanite culture we see during the mission of the sons of Mosiah to the Lamanites do not describe any such idleness. The Lamanites that the sons of Mosiah encountered were anything but idle, based on the clues we have in the text. However, it is also possible that, since it is Mormon providing this information, he is describing what he understands from perhaps six hundred years after the mission of the sons of Mosiah.

What Mormon describes is a time when there are not only Lamanites in the south, but also to the west and east of the Nephites. That description also appears to apply to later times. To this point in Nephite history, we have not seen evidence of Lamanites on the west and east. They seem to arrive through the pass near Manti on the south of Nephite lands.

Alma 22:30–31

30 And it bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken, which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla, it being the place of their first landing.

31 And they came from there up into the south wilderness. Thus the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful, it being the wilderness which is filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind, a part of which had come from the land northward for food.

Comments

Understanding verse 30 requires recalling the final statement of verse 29: “on the north, even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful.” Nephite lands were bounded on the north by the land called Bountiful. On the other side, farther north, was the land called Desolation. Although Mormon is ostensibly outlining Lamanite and Nephite lands, he has another purpose in mind. The land Desolation plays no part in this earlier history of the Nephites, but it will be important later. The name, however, is one that Mormon has already used in connection with Ammonihah, which he called the “desolation of the Nehors” (see Alma 16:11).

The important part of the desolation of the Nehors was the destruction of Ammonihah, and that “their lands remained desolate” (Alma 16:11). The important definition of the land Desolation was “the land which had been peopled and been destroyed.” Mormon associates the land northward not only with the Jaredites, but specifically with destroyed Jaredites. This verse is here for Mormon’s literary purposes, not to further the information about the story of the sons of Mosiah in Lamanite lands.

Verse 31 tells modern readers that the desolation of destroyed Jaredites is contrasted with the bountiful nature of the land under the righteous Nephites. In Mormon times, the Nephites will physically, and symbolically, move into the norther lands, into Desolation. It will be a time when they will have left behind their covenant to follow God, and thus they will move from God’s Bounty to the Jaredite Desolation, where the Nephites will also be destroyed.

Alma 22:32

32 And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward.

Comments

Verse 32 may be the most well-known geographic reference in the Book of Mormon. There was “a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward.” That definition is also given as the line between Desolation and Bountiful. Thus, this narrow neck is the northern reach of Nephite lands until the ending years when the Nephites are pushed north into the land northward, or Desolation. The two names may be seen as representing the physical direction (northward) and the spiritual state (Desolation).

The narrow neck is only “the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite.” What that means is not precise. It is also difficult to interpret in light of Helaman 4:7 remarking that “And there they did fortify against the Lamanites, from the west sea, even unto the east; it being a day’s journey for a Nephite, on the line which they had fortified and stationed their armies to defend their north country”. It is possible that the difference is that one is the defended line, and the longer distance measures something more than the defended line.

Also of note is that neither of the two references (verse 32 and Helaman 4:7) says that the line is from sea to sea, even though that might be implied. In both statements, the west sea is mentioned, but some other point on the east boundary does not have a sea associated with it. It is possible that the distance to measure begins at or near the west sea, but that it does not extend all the way to the east sea. That would suggest that there was some impassible part of the small neck on the east, between the measured line and the east sea.

Alma 22:33–35

33 And it came to pass that the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea, and thus the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies, had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they should have no more possession on the north, that they might not overrun the land northward.

34 Therefore the Lamanites could have no more possessions only in the land of Nephi, and the wilderness round about. Now this was wisdom in the Nephites—as the Lamanites were an enemy to them, they would not suffer their afflictions on every hand, and also that they might have a country whither they might flee, according to their desires.

35 And now I, after having said this, return again to the account of Ammon and Aaron, Omner and Himni, and their brethren.

Comments

Mormon sees three lands that might be conceptually seen as layers, although the geography itself would not be so neatly represented. At the far south was the land of the Lamanites, including the land of Nephi, which was Nephite territory until Mosiah, the father of King Benjamin, left for the land of Zarahemla.

The next layer is the Nephite lands, bounded on the south by the narrow wilderness, and on the north to the line in the small neck which was also called the land Bountiful. It is interesting that in verse 33, Mormon notes that the Lamanites “should have no more possession on the north, that they might not overrun the land northward.” In this case, “the land northward” is only a relative direction. It is not the land of Desolation, but rather the Nephite lands themselves, those lands being northward of the Lamanite lands.

The final layer was the land Desolation. Note that in verse 34, the Nephites are protecting the land Bountiful so “that they might have a country whither they might flee.” The Nephites do not see heading south as any kind of salvation. Indeed, when forced to flee, they flee northward from their lands into Desolation, above the small neck.

Our current Chapters 21 and 22 were a single chapter in 1830. That chapter ends at this point. Even though there is a chapter break, the story of the sons of Mosiah among the Lamanites is far from ended.

Scripture Reference

Alma 22:1-35