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TitleOmni 1
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsGardner, Brant A.
Book TitleBook of Mormon Minute
PublisherBook of Mormon Central
CitySpringville, UT
KeywordsAbinadom (Son of Chemish); Amaleki (Son of Abinadom); Amaron (Son of Omni); Chemish (Brother of Amaron); Omni (Book); Omni (Son of Jarom)

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Omni 1

Omni Writes

Omni 1:1–3

1 Behold, it came to pass that I, Omni, being commanded by my father, Jarom, that I should write somewhat upon these plates, to preserve our genealogy—

2 Wherefore, in my days, I would that ye should know that I fought much with the sword to preserve my people, the Nephites, from falling into the hands of their enemies, the Lamanites. But behold, I of myself am a wicked man, and I have not kept the statutes and the commandments of the Lord as I ought to have done.

3 And it came to pass that two hundred and seventy and six years had passed away, and we had many seasons of peace; and we had many seasons of serious war and bloodshed. Yea, and in fine, two hundred and eighty and two years had passed away, and I had kept these plates according to the commandments of my fathers; and I conferred them upon my son Amaron. And I make an end.

Comments

The book of Omni opens much as the book of Jarom did. Jarom 1:1 noted that his father had commanded him to keep the genealogy. Omni 1:1 notes that his father commanded him to preserve the genealogy. As with the Comments on Jarom 1:1, it is probable that the term genealogy used in this sense is the father-to-son transmission of the plates and the responsibility to write on them.

The small plates had a very specific command associated with them when Nephi first created them. They were for “the special purpose that there should be an account engraven of the ministry of my people” (1 Nephi 9:3). The large plates contained the “account of the reign of the kings, and the wars and contentions” (1 Nephi 9:4). These commandments concerning the content of the two plate traditions that Nephi created, continued through the existence of both of those traditions. The large plates continued to record the deeds of the kings, or later, chief judges—until Mormon himself wrote on the large plates. The small plates were clearly transmitted with the command that they preserve things of the ministry.

For that reason, Omni notes that he has “fought much with the sword,” and that he had not “kept the statues and the commandments of the Lord” as he ought. Therefore, he did not believe that he had anything to add. The wars or battles in which he had participated would have been recorded on the large plates. Apparently, his life was spent on things that were more suited to the other plates, and not the special command for the small plates. Nevertheless, he keeps his father’s command that he should preserve the lineage record. He writes a little, and then passes the record to his son, Amaron.

Amaron Writes

Omni 1:4–8

4 And now I, Amaron, write the things whatsoever I write, which are few, in the book of my father.

5 Behold, it came to pass that three hundred and twenty years had passed away, and the more wicked part of the Nephites were destroyed.

6 For the Lord would not suffer, after he had led them out of the land of Jerusalem and kept and preserved them from falling into the hands of their enemies, yea, he would not suffer that the words should not be verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying that: Inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall not prosper in the land.

7 Wherefore, the Lord did visit them in great judgment; nevertheless, he did spare the righteous that they should not perish, but did deliver them out of the hands of their enemies.

8 And it came to pass that I did deliver the plates unto my brother Chemish.

Comments

The book of Omni was obviously named for Omni, even though he only wrote what we have as three verses. With such a small entry on the plates, his son apparently decided that there was no reason to create a new book, therefore, he wrote in his father’s book. That decision would influence the rest of those in the lineage who would write on the small plates. Until the last man wrote, the lineage kept the records, but said little. Ammaron’s contribution is in four modern verses, but not much more information than was contained in his father’s three.

The theme that Omni broached was that there were wars and contentions, only implying by noting the wars, that the Nephites were not fulfilling their part of the covenant of the land. Amaron was more explicit. There is destruction among the Nephites, which Amaron suggests was the more wicked part. According to the promise of the land, this was expected. Only wickedness would lead to the absence of the Lord’s protection, which then led to the destruction. Amaron is very clear, in verses 6 and 7, that the Lord did preserve those who were righteous. Thus, Amaron is verifying that the promise of the land still applied.

As with Omni’s record, much of what Amaron has to say is about wars and contentions, and therefore, not the subject to be written in the small plates. Therefore, he has little to say, and passes the plates to his brother, Chemish.

Chemish Writes

Omni 1:9

9 Now I, Chemish, write what few things I write, in the same book with my brother; for behold, I saw the last which he wrote, that he wrote it with his own hand; and he wrote it in the day that he delivered them unto me. And after this manner we keep the records, for it is according to the commandments of our fathers. And I make an end.

Comments

Chemish is Amaron’s brother, not his son. It is probable that Chemish had no son, or at least no living son, who could receive the plates. The plates stay in the lineage, but take a half turn to a brother rather than a son. This transmission of plates, or even of authority, will be seen at various times throughout the Book of Mormon. The preferred transmission was father to son, but in the absence of a son, or perhaps for some other unknown reason, the secondary option was to go through the brother’s line.

Chemish has even less to say than his brother or father. That may be the result of receiving the plates later in life. He notes that he saw what his brother wrote. After noting that the transmission is intended to remain in the family, he felt he had accomplished his purpose. Perhaps he was not much younger than his brother and did not have long to keep the records. He doesn’t tell us. He ends after this brief statement: “And I make an end”.

Abinadom Writes

Omni 1:10–11

10 Behold, I, Abinadom, am the son of Chemish. Behold, it came to pass that I saw much war and contention between my people, the Nephites, and the Lamanites; and I, with my own sword, have taken the lives of many of the Lamanites in the defence of my brethren.

11 And behold, the record of this people is engraven upon plates which is had by the kings, according to the generations; and I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy; wherefore, that which is sufficient is written. And I make an end.

Comments

Abinadom makes explicit the reason that he and his immediate ancestors have written so little. He has been intimately involved with war and contention, and recording those is the purpose of the large plates. Therefore, he has little to say. What he does say touches, if only briefly on the sacred. What he says is that he knows that there are revelations, but they have already been written. Perhaps he was saying that the available scriptures held the gospel, and that there was no new revelation of doctrine.

Throughout history it has been thus with the gospel. The scriptures provide the foundation, and humankind can build their spiritual lives upon that foundation. There is not always change. At times, what has been given is sufficient. In Abinadom’s words, “that which is sufficient is written.”

Amaleki Writes

Omni 1:12–13

12 Behold, I am Amaleki, the son of Abinadom. Behold, I will speak unto you somewhat concerning Mosiah, who was made king over the land of Zarahemla; for behold, he being warned of the Lord that he should flee out of the land of Nephi, and as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord should also depart out of the land with him, into the wilderness—

13 And it came to pass that he did according as the Lord had commanded him. And they departed out of the land into the wilderness, as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord; and they were led by many preachings and prophesyings. And they were admonished continually by the word of God; and they were led by the power of his arm, through the wilderness until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla.

Comments

Amaleki has much more to say and finished both the book of Omni as well as finishing the available space on the small plates. With Amaleki, the small plate tradition ended.

Amaleki lived through momentous times. During his lifetime there occurred one of the greatest disruptions in all of Nephite history. That story began with Mosiah1, whose story must have been told in Mormon’s record, but which was lost with the 116 pages. Much of what we know of the first Mosiah comes from this record that intended to cover the more spiritual aspects of the situation, rather than a full historical account.

The spiritual beginning came when Yahweh warned Mosiah1 to leave the city of Jerusalem and take all who would hearken unto the voice of the Lord into the wilderness. Amaleki intended to couch this historical event in its spiritual context, much as Nephi had used history for a more religious purpose. Thus, the people were led by preachings and prophesying, and were led to a new land. This becomes the first time we learn of the new location that will become the heart of Nephite society for the next nearly four hundred years.

Omni 1:14–16

14 And they discovered a people, who were called the people of Zarahemla. Now, there was great rejoicing among the people of Zarahemla; and also Zarahemla did rejoice exceedingly, because the Lord had sent the people of Mosiah with the plates of brass which contained the record of the Jews.

15 Behold, it came to pass that Mosiah discovered that the people of Zarahemla came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon.

16 And they journeyed in the wilderness, and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, into the land where Mosiah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth.

Comments

Mosiah1 finds the people of Zarahemla. The king of that land was named Zarahemla, and so was the city. The typical practice in the area was to name a city for the founder, as Alma2 explains about the city and land of Ammonihah in Alma 8:7. This would suggest that the city of Zarahemla had been founded within the current generation. It is possible that Zarahemla was named for a distant king, but Mesoamerican data suggest that there were a people who were of a different language and culture than those who would have been the Nephites and who had moved into that region during that approximate time range.

We will learn later that this people descended from Mulek, but we do not see the name Mulek in Amaleki’s account. The history is given, but not the name of the ancestor who left Jerusalem at a similar time to Lehi’s family. Just as the Nephite ancestor had come from Jerusalem, so did the people of Zarahemla. This provided one means of creating the merger among two otherwise different people.

Why would the people of Zarahemla not only accept the Nephites, but defer rulership to Mosiah1? Verse 14 tells us that the people of Mosiah1 arrived with the plates of brass. There were other sacred artifacts, but the presence of this particular artifact not only tied the Nephites to the Old World, but did so with a physical authority. Having those relics would have provided a superior claim to leadership. The plates of brass, along with the other artifacts, will be seen being passed through the line of the kings and the chief judges. They became the symbols of an authority that reached to the Old World.

Omni 1:17

17 And at the time that Mosiah discovered them, they had become exceedingly numerous. Nevertheless, they had had many wars and serious contentions, and had fallen by the sword from time to time; and their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator; and Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could understand them.

Comments

This verse is crucial to understanding the remainder of the Book of Mormon. Much of later Nephite history grew from the seeds planted in this description of the differences between these two peoples who had come from the same place at the same time.

The first is that the people of Zarahemla had been involved in wars and serious contentions. This is Amaleki declaring that the people of Zarahemla were not righteous. The promise of the land was to all who had been led from other countries (2 Nephi 1:5).

The second important point is that their language had become corrupted. That point requires examination. Approximately four hundred years earlier, two peoples left the same place, the same culture, the same religion, and the same language. After that time, they could not communicate with each other. While language certainly changes over time, linguists do not see that amount of time as sufficient to create two unintelligible languages. English has been separated on different continents and has led to different accents and different vocabularies, but not mutual unintelligibility. Therefore, the most likely reason for the mutual unintelligibility is the influence of other languages in the different areas into which the peoples arrived. It is quite possible that the everyday language of the people was that of the surrounding people with whom they had merged.

The idea that they brought no records, and, therefore, there was nothing to prevent language corruption, appears to misread the verse. It does say that they brought no records, but the result of that was that they denied the being of their Creator, not that they couldn’t keep their language. This second change was even more important than the language difference. The religious differences will create a tension that will underly divisions among the Nephite up until the time of the destruction at the coming of the Christ.

Omni 1:18–19

18 But it came to pass that Mosiah caused that they should be taught in his language. And it came to pass that after they were taught in the language of Mosiah, Zarahemla gave a genealogy of his fathers, according to his memory; and they are written, but not in these plates.

19 And it came to pass that the people of Zarahemla, and of Mosiah, did unite together; and Mosiah was appointed to be their king.

Comments

In spite of the problem of language, it was clearly not absolute. There was some way to communicate, some lingua franca that allowed for at least some understanding. Communication was increased by the teaching of the Nephite language. This was essential to ensure that the records would be able to be read by later generations, and kept. It is unknown what these languages were, although there is evidence in many names, which suggest that there was an ability to write in Hebrew to preserve those meanings for our times.

It is significant that the plates are again mentioned prior to noting that the peoples were united. It is very likely that the possession of the plates was the fulcrum on which the Nephites were lifted as rulers over the people of Zarahemla. We remember that verse 17 noted that the people of Zarahemla were very numerous. While the Nephites would also have been numerous, they had fled their city and probably left many behind. Thus, it was a refugee population that merged with the more numerous people of Zarahemla and that accepted Mosiah1 as the king over the united peoples.

A Large Engraved Stone

Omni 1:20–22

20 And it came to pass in the days of Mosiah, there was a large stone brought unto him with engravings on it; and he did interpret the engravings by the gift and power of God.

21 And they gave an account of one Coriantumr, and the slain of his people. And Coriantumr was discovered by the people of Zarahemla; and he dwelt with them for the space of nine moons.

22 It also spake a few words concerning his fathers. And his first parents came out from the tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people; and the severity of the Lord fell upon them according to his judgments, which are just; and their bones lay scattered in the land northward.

Comments

Here we learn of yet another people. We know those people as the Jaredites, but that name is not given here. At this point, we only learn of their last king, Coriantumr, who lived with the people of Zarahemla for a time. The information about them is contained in a record carved into a stone. We get little of that history, beyond that the people have been destroyed and that they were in a land northward of the land of Zarahemla. The rest of the information we must tease out of the hints.

The first point of interest is that there was a stone brought forth that contained a history. In Mesoamerica, this would not be unusual, although it would have been a large stone, based on common practice. The deeds of the kings were commemorated on stones called stelae. Thus, the basic facts about this story are culturally appropriate in that region.

The next important aspect of the stone is that it required Mosiah1 to interpret it. He did so by the gift and power of God. That phrase was also applied to the way the Book of Mormon itself was translated. We will later see Mosiah1’s grandson, named after him, using the interpreters of stone to read the otherwise unreadable twenty-four plates of Ether. The implication is that Mosiah1 may have had interpreters of his own. The process of translation through the use of interpreters is repeated twice in the Book of Mormon, before it was repeated again by Joseph Smith, Junior.

The Small Plates Are Given to King Benjamin

Omni 1:23–26

23 Behold, I, Amaleki, was born in the days of Mosiah; and I have lived to see his death; and Benjamin, his son, reigneth in his stead.

24 And behold, I have seen, in the days of king Benjamin, a serious war and much bloodshed between the Nephites and the Lamanites. But behold, the Nephites did obtain much advantage over them; yea, insomuch that king Benjamin did drive them out of the land of Zarahemla.

25 And it came to pass that I began to be old; and, having no seed, and knowing king Benjamin to be a just man before the Lord, wherefore, I shall deliver up these plates unto him, exhorting all men to come unto God, the Holy One of Israel, and believe in prophesying, and in revelations, and in the ministering of angels, and in the gift of speaking with tongues, and in the gift of interpreting languages, and in all things which are good; for there is nothing which is good save it comes from the Lord: and that which is evil cometh from the devil.

26 And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved.

Comments

Amaleki retained the small plates from the time he and other Nephites fled the city of Nephi through the seating of Mosiah1 as king, and through Mosiah­1’s death and the seating of his son, Benjamin. The small plates do not end with the arrival in Zarahemla, but rather when Amaleki “began to be old.”

In verse 30 Amaleki will note that the plates are full. When he gave the small plates to Benjamin it was a combination of factors. Amaleki had no sons, and perhaps no brother, to whom the plates could be given. That, combined with the physical end of room on the plates, convinced him to complete that record and give it to king Benjamin.

Amaleki understands that the small plates were for the things of the ministry, and therefore, he declares his faithfulness to the gospel, and to Benjamin’s faithfulness. This fulfilled the purpose, and also passed them along to a righteous successor.

A Group of Nephites Returns to the Land of Nephi

Omni 1:27–30

27 And now I would speak somewhat concerning a certain number who went up into the wilderness to return to the land of Nephi; for there was a large number who were desirous to possess the land of their inheritance.

28 Wherefore, they went up into the wilderness. And their leader being a strong and mighty man, and a stiffnecked man, wherefore he caused a contention among them; and they were all slain, save fifty, in the wilderness, and they returned again to the land of Zarahemla.

29 And it came to pass that they also took others to a considerable number, and took their journey again into the wilderness.

30 And I, Amaleki, had a brother, who also went with them; and I have not since known concerning them. And I am about to lie down in my grave; and these plates are full. And I make an end of my speaking.

Comments

Amaleki ends with a brief note about some who left Zarahemla to return to the land of Nephi. This story will be told from the perspective of the large plates, beginning in Mosiah 7, and more elaborately in Mosiah 9. At this point, we get only the briefest mention of those who left Zarahemla. A group of men wanted to recover the land of Nephi from which they had been driven in king Benjamin’s father’s time. During that event there was some contentious division among the party, and they turned on each other. Only fifty returned to Zarahemla. However, the desire to return continued, and many left to live in the land rather than conquer it, one of whom was Amaleki’s brother. That his brother was one of them is the likely reason that he made sure to add this note, even though he had begun to end his account. This information was an addition to his intention, which was probably to end with verse 26.

It is interesting that Omni 1:27 refers to the purpose of the second expedition, but verse 28 refers to the bloody conclusion to the first one. This suggests that Amaleki had the unofficial story from oral sources, and inadvertently conflated what were two different excursions. It also suggests that Amaleki’s brother had gone on the second expedition, but not the first. Had he survived the first, Amaleki would certainly have heard it and it would have been sufficiently impressive that Amaleki would not have conflated the two expeditions into one.

Importantly, Amaleki notes that the plates are full. This suggests that Nephi had created a set of plates that contained a number of blank sheets that later scribes used to write on. This further suggests that the large plates followed that same format. The difference between the two was that the large plates followed the kings or chief judges, who had the resources to create new plates. That ability was apparently not available to Jacob’s descendants. They were unable to create new plates, hence the small plates ended, while the large plates continued.

Scripture Reference

Omni 1:1-30