Alma Chapter 23
verse 1-3 The story of the king's conversion illustrates what great things can happen when the truth is first accepted by a nation's ruler. It is, of course, usually the poor and humble of the earth who embrace the gospel first.
1 Behold, now it came to pass that the king of the Lamanites sent a proclamation among all his people, that they should not lay their hands on Ammon, or Aaron, or Omner, or Himni, nor either of their brethren who should go forth preaching the word of God, in whatsoever place they should be, in any part of their land.
verse 1 "nor either of their brethren" This verse implies that only two missionaries accompanied the four sons of Mosiah on their mission. We learned previously that "a small number" accompanied them (Mosiah 28:1). If there were only two, then they were Muloki and Ammah (Alma 20:2).
The possessive pronoun in "their land" refers, of course, to "all his [the king's] people" and not the missionaries. The several pronouns in the next verse are easily sorted out.
2 Yea, he sent a decree among them, that they should not lay their hands on them to bind them, or to cast them into prison; neither should they spit upon them, nor smite them, nor cast them out of their synagogues, nor scourge them; neither should they cast stones at them, but that they should have free access to their houses, and also their temples, and their sanctuaries.
3 And thus they might go forth and preach the word according to their desires, for the king had been converted unto the Lord, and all his household; therefore he sent his proclamation throughout the land unto his people, that the word of God might have no obstruction, but that it might go forth throughout all the land, that his people might be convinced concerning the wicked traditions of their fathers, and that they might be convinced that they were all brethren, and that they ought not to murder, nor to plunder, nor to steal, nor to commit adultery, nor to commit any manner of wickedness.
verse 3 "the wicked traditions of their fathers" See the commentary for Alma 20:13.
4 And now it came to pass that when the king had sent forth this proclamation, 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.
verse 4 The missionaries went about "establishing churches, and consecrating priests and teachers." In other words, they were establishing and organizing new congregations of believers.
5 And thousands were brought to the knowledge of the Lord, yea, thousands were brought to believe in the traditions of the Nephites; and they were taught the records and prophecies which were handed down even to the present time.
verse 5 The "traditions of the Nephites" are reviewed in the commentary for Enos 1:14. Briefly they included the belief that father Lehi was brought out of Jerusalem, led through the wilderness, and brought to a choice and promised land-all by the hand of God. This land could be possessed only by those who keep the "commandments of God" which included the law of Moses (Alma 9:8- 14). The Nephite "traditions" included the concept that the birthright was rightly bestowed by Lehi upon Nephi rather than upon his eldest son, Laman. Also contained in these traditions was a belief in the gospel or doctrine of Jesus Christ including a belief in his future mortal advent, atonement, and resurrection (Mosiah 25:12).
"the records and prophecies which were handed down even to the present time" Keep in mind that Mormon is the author here. The "present time" refers to his day. These "records and prophecies" included not only the brass plates of Laban but also the teachings and prophecies of the great Book of Mormon prophets Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Abinadi, and Benjamin. Whether or not they carried with them the prophecies of these Book of Mormon prophets in written form is not known. Certainly all of these scriptures were taught and well known among the believing Book of Mormon peoples.
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.
verse 6 The essential meaning of this verse is: "As sure as the Lord liveth . . . the converted Lamanites never did fall away." The construction of this verse is interesting. It contains much parenthetical material between the phrases "as sure as the Lord liveth" and "many of the Lamanites . . . were converted unto the Lord [and] never did fall away."
In a real sense every conversion to the gospel is a "miracle"-that is, a phenomenon manifesting evidence of divine intervention. Each conversion involves direct personal revelation from God through the Spirit of God.
7 For they became a righteous people; they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more, neither against any of their brethren.
8 Now, these are they who were converted unto the Lord:
9 The people of the Lamanites who were in the land of Ishmael;
10 And also of the people of the Lamanites who were in the land of Middoni;
11 And also of the people of the Lamanites who were in the city of Nephi;
12 And also of the people of the Lamanites who were in the land of Shilom, and who were in the land of Shemlon, and in the city of Lemuel, and in the city of Shimnilom.
13 And these are the names of the cities of the Lamanites which were converted unto the Lord; and these are they that laid down the weapons of their rebellion, yea, all their weapons of war; and they were all Lamanites.
verses 8-13 We learn that the "Anti-Nephi-Lehies" (see below in verse 17) hailed from seven different Lamanite lands or cities (Ishmael, Middoni, city of Nephi, Shilom, Shemlon, city of Lemuel, and city of Shimnilom).
14 And the Amalekites were not converted, save only one; neither were any of the Amulonites; but they did harden their hearts, and also the hearts of the Lamanites in that part of the land wheresoever they dwelt, yea, and all their villages and all their cities.
verse 14 We have previously discussed the fact that the "Amalekites" were really the Amlicites, Nephite dissenters discussed in Alma 2-3 (see the commentary on Alma 21:2). The Amulonites were descendants of the priests of Noah. Won't it be interesting to one day learn the identity and story of the one Amalekite (Amlicite) who was converted?
15 Therefore, we have named all the cities of the Lamanites in which they did repent and come to the knowledge of the truth, and were converted.
16 And now it came to pass that the king and those who were converted were desirous that they might have a name, that thereby they might be distinguished from their brethren; therefore the king consulted with Aaron and many of their priests, concerning the name that they should take upon them, that they might be distinguished.
verse 16 The king consulted with Aaron and with several of the newly-converted and ordained Lamanite priests.
17 And it came to pass that they called their names Anti-Nephi-Lehies; and they were called by this name and were no more called Lamanites.
verse 17 "Anti-Nephi-Lehies" The precise meaning of this name is not known. Intuitively we might interpret this name as meaning "against Nephi and Lehi." Other meanings are, however, are possible and more likely:
1. The 1828 edition of the Webster's Dictionary gives the meaning of anti as "like" or "mirror image of." Hence, the name may mean something more like "with or like Nephi and Lehi." This meaning of this name becomes ever more meaningful if you will take a moment to review the commentary for both Jacob 3:3-9 and Mosiah 28:2. These Lamanite converts sought to emulate or become like Nephi and Lehi.
2. Others have suggested that this group of convert Lamanites chose a name that would identify them as descendants of Lehi but not descendants of Nephi-hence, Anti-Nephi-Lehies. In other words, they were "Lehies" by not through Nephi.
3. The word "Anti" of "Anti-Nephi-Lehies" may be a reflex of the Egyptian nty-"he of, the one of." Thus, rather than having the sense "against," it has the meaning "the one of Nephi and Lehi."
This same group will later become known as "Ammonites" or the "people of Ammon" after the leader of the missionaries who had converted them. We will learn, as is suggested in verse 6, that this group remained faithful to the end and never did fall away (Alma 27:27).
18 And they began to be a very industrious people; yea, and they were friendly with the Nephites; therefore, they did open a correspondence with them, and the curse of God did no more follow them.
verse 18 "the curse of God did no more follow them" These converted Lamanites had the gospel and the priesthood, and they were no longer cut off from the presence of God. It might be presumed that over time the mark of the curse, the dark skin, would also be removed-a change that might be expected to take a few generations.
As we learn more of these Lamanites, we will learn that it is not necessary to wait until the millennium for a righteous people to form and enjoy the association of a peaceful, unified, and blessed society-indeed, a Zion society.