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1 And behold, now it came to pass that those Lamanites were more angry because they had slain their brethren; therefore they swore vengeance upon the Nephites; and they did no more attempt to slay the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi at that time.
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.
At this point it is highly likely that we are seeing Mormon’s synopsis of the information in Alma’s record. Neither Alma nor Mormon would have known the reason that the Lamanites ceased to kill the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, but instead chose to attack Ammonihah in Nephite lands. The idea that it was because they were “more angry because they had slain their brethren, therefore they swore vengeance upon the Nephites,” does not make much historical sense.
Mormon has already told Alma’s Nephite-side of the story of the destruction of Ammonihah, and now Mormon makes certain to include that destruction in its Lamanite context. He will explain it in terms of what it meant to the Nephites, but he may not have understood what it meant to the Lamanites.
We now have the information we need to provide the Lamanite context for the raid on Ammonihah. The essential elements are:
- The Lamanites were attempting to install a new king. Alma 24:20.
- The Anti-Nephi-Lehites did not resist. Alma 24:22.
- It was a surprise raid on Ammonihah. Alma 16:2–3.
- In the raid on Ammonihah, the Lamanites didn’t attempt to establish a tribute relationship, but did attempt to take back captives. Alma 16:3.
All of these aspects of the Lamanite actions fit together if we place them in Mesoamerica. The first important piece of information is that the Lamanites wanted to seat a new king. Certainly, they were able to remove the previous king, because they fought and won.
Maya art contains depictions and texts of the later seating of kings, and what has been learned is that it is part of the ceremony to sacrifice captives who were taken in battle. This underscores the Lamanite problem when the Anti-Nephi-Lehies did not resist. They were certainly available captives, but they hadn’t fought back.
In later Maya art and texts, it is discovered that, in many cases, the new king conducted a lightning raid on an unsuspecting city so that captives might be acquired. This gives ample reason for the attack on Ammonihah, even though the Lamanites would not have understood that they were fulfilling prophecy by doing so.
Thus, these events, that might otherwise be difficult to explain, are easily understood as part of the common story of the seating of a new king in at least the Maya regions of Mesoamerica.
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—
6 For many of them, after having suffered much loss and so many afflictions, began to be stirred up in remembrance of the words which Aaron and his brethren had preached to them in their land; therefore they began to disbelieve the traditions of their fathers, and to believe in the Lord, and that he gave great power unto the Nephites; and thus there were many of them converted in the wilderness.
Mormon finished this part of the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, but continues with the story of later conflicts with the Nephites. This part of the story fits well with Mormon’s larger picture of Nephite history, but it is also connected to Alma the Younger’s father, whose conversion led to his separation from the priests of Noah. Therefore, this discussion of the “seed of Amulon,” who was the leader of Noah’s priests, would have been interesting to Alma’s son, Alma.
This part of the story will continue to emphasize Mormon’s contention that apostate Nephites are the most dangerous enemies. When some of those associated with the Amulonites began to be converted, they suffered retribution, as will be seen in the next verses.
7 And it came to pass that those rulers who were the remnant of the children of Amulon caused that they should be put to death, yea, all those that believed in these things.
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.
The Amulonite rulers caused that those who were converted to the Nephite gospel be put to death. This caused a rebellion and the people turned on their leaders and hunted them. Either Alma the Younger or Mormon included this information to set up the next verses which will testify to a fulfilled prophecy.
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.
10 For he said unto them: What ye shall do unto me shall be a type of things to come.
11 And now Abinadi was the first that suffered death by fire because of his belief in God; now this is what he meant, that many should suffer death by fire, according as he had suffered.
12 And he said unto the priests of Noah that their seed should cause many to be put to death, in the like manner as he was, and that they should be scattered abroad and slain, even as a sheep having no shepherd is driven and slain by wild beasts; and now behold, these words were verified, for they were driven by the Lamanites, and they were hunted, and they were smitten.
These verses are included to show that prophecy is fulfilled. Abinadi had prophesied that the seed of the priests who caused that Abinadi should suffer death by fire should themselves suffer death by fire. Verse 12 specifically notes that many were put to death by fire, thus fulfilling the prophecy. Nevertheless, not all were. Many were simply hunted and then killed, “even as a sheep having no shepherd is driven and slain by wild beasts.”
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.
Verse 13 states: “when the Lamanites saw that they could not overpower the Nephites they returned again to their own land.” It is not clear how that statement relates to the death of the Amulonites. However, it was a part of the story that Mormon intended to tell. We will see the repetition of this story at the beginning of Chapter 27, verses 1 through 3. In Alma 28:10 we will learn that there were many battles between the first and fifteenth year of the reign of the judges. It appears that Mormon is attempting to connect this story with what was happening with the Nephites, but does so without sufficient details to be clear.
The converted Lamanites joined with the Anti-Nephi-Lehies and accepted their covenant of burying their weapons of war. The result was that they were truly converted. They “did observe to keep [Jehovah’s] commandments and his statues.”
15 Yea, and they did keep the law of Moses; for it was expedient that they should keep the law of Moses as yet, for it was not all fulfilled. But notwithstanding the law of Moses, they did look forward to the coming of Christ, considering that the law of Moses was a type of his coming, and believing that they must keep those outward performances until the time that he should be revealed unto them.
16 Now they did not suppose that salvation came by the law of Moses; but the law of Moses did serve to strengthen their faith in Christ; and thus they did retain a hope through faith, unto eternal salvation, relying upon the spirit of prophecy, which spake of those things to come.
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.
Keeping Jehovah’s commandments and statutes meant keeping the law of Moses. The statement that “they should keep the law of Moses as yet, for it was not all fulfilled,” is almost certainly Mormon’s text. Since Mormon lived after that fulfillment, he was more aware of the differences than Alma the Younger would have been. Alma the Younger would have kept the law of Moses and looked forward to the Messiah, but would not have understood the ways in which the gospel of Christ superseded the law of Moses.
There is no chapter break at this point in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. Therefore, there was no division between verse 17 and the next verse, Alma 26:1. Verse 17 is the introduction to Ammon’s discourse, and sets the stage for it. It would really be best to read this verse as being part of the next chapter rather than the end of this one.
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