Alma Chapter 24
Alma 24 The Anti-Nephi-Lehies bury their weapons and covenant not to make war. They are attacked by their fellow Lamanites and 1,005 are slain.
1 And it came to pass that the Amalekites and the Amulonites and the Lamanites who were in the land of Amulon, and also in the land of Helam, and who were in the land of Jerusalem, and in fine, in all the land round about, who had not been converted and had not taken upon them the name of Anti-Nephi-Lehi, were stirred up by the Amalekites and by the Amulonites to anger against their brethren.
verse 1 There is an unmistakable and inevitable tendency for the wicked to resent and hate the righteous and to contend against them. It is also perhaps somewhat ironic that the "Amalekites [Amlicites] and the Amulonites" were not, by heredity actually Lamanites. Rather they were both from the line of Nephite dissenters.
2 And their hatred became exceedingly sore against them, even insomuch that they began to rebel against their king, insomuch that they would not that he should be their king; therefore, they took up arms against the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi.
3 Now the king conferred the kingdom upon his son, and he called his name Anti-Nephi-Lehi.
verse 3 Here is compelling evidence that the "diplomatic" part of the mission of the sons of Mosiah spoken of in the commentary for Mosiah 28:2 has been successful with the Lamanite king. He has overcome in his own life the traditions of his fathers. He is even giving his son, who is heir to his throne, a name which likely means "with Nephi and Lehi" (see commentary for Alma 23:17). The spiritual or gospel aspect of their mission was obviously successful with the Lamanite king as well.
4 And the king died in that selfsame year that the Lamanites began to make preparations for war against the people of God.
verse 4 "the Lamanites began to make preparations for war against the people of God" It is evident that the "Lamanites" consisted of both Nephite dissenters (Amlicites and Amulonites) and some hereditary Lamanites with the former goading the latter to hatred against the Anti-Nephi-Lehies.
5 Now when Ammon and his brethren and all those who had come up with him saw the preparations of the Lamanites to destroy their brethren, they came forth to the land of Midian, and there Ammon met all his brethren; and from thence they came to the land of Ishmael that they might hold a council with Lamoni and also with his brother Anti-Nephi-Lehi, what they should do to defend themselves against the Lamanites.
6 Now there was not one soul among all the people who had been converted unto the Lord that would take up arms against their brethren; nay, they would not even make any preparations for war; yea, and also their king commanded them that they should not.
verse 6 Here is evidence of the complete conversion of these people. Knowing that it might well cost them their mortal lives, they held firmly to their eternal convictions which included a love for their Lamanite brethren and a complete faith in the Lord's promises.
"also their king commanded them that they should not" This king is their new king, Anti-Nephi-Lehi, the brother of king Lamoni.
7 Now, these are the words which he said unto the people concerning the matter: I thank my God, my beloved people, that our great God has in goodness sent these our brethren, the Nephites, unto us to preach unto us, and to convince us of the traditions of our wicked fathers.
verse 7 "these are the words which he said unto the people" These are the words of the king, Anti-Nephi-Lehi.
"the traditions of our wicked fathers" See the commentary for Alma 20:13.
8 And behold, I thank my great God that he has given us a portion of his Spirit to soften our hearts, that we have opened a correspondence with these brethren, the Nephites.
verse 8 Here, again, is that expression unique to the Book of Mormon, "a portion of his Spirit." It means simply the influence of the Holy Ghost.
9 And behold, I also thank my God, that by opening this correspondence we have been convinced of our sins, and of the many murders which we have committed.
10 And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son.
verse 10 "he hath forgiven us of those . . . murders which we have committed" We have discussed the question of whether or not a person can be forgiven for committing murder (see the commentary for Alma 20:17). The willful and premeditated taking of another human life has been referred to in the scriptures as the "sin unto death" (1 John 5:16). A person guilty of this type of murder may repent but he can never receive a kingdom higher than the telestial kingdom-he cannot be exalted. We therefore have good reason to believe that these new converts had been guilty of a lesser sin-such as slaying innocent people in unrighteous wars (see Three Most Abominable Sins, in volume 3, chapter 18, in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine. The remorse they felt, however, was so strong that they felt that complete repentance required a special offering to the Lord, "a testimony to God" (verse 8). Thus, they vowed to never again take up arms in combat.
We will learn that after these people travel with Ammon and the sons of Mosiah to Zarahemla, they will be granted an extraordinary exemption from active military duty on condition they would help to sustain the Nephite armies with provisions (see Alma 27:23-24). This is somewhat surprising since generally ancient peoples were absolutely obligated to take up arms in defense of their tribe or nations (see 1 Samuel 11:1-11; 1 Samuel 15:4). However, we will learn that the exemption granted to the people of Ammon is consistent with ancient Israelite law which placed a high civic obligation on all citizens to contribute, as appropriate, to the defense of their country, their God, their religion, and their people. The laws of Deuteronomy afforded humanitarian exemptions for people under variable circumstances. One of the circumstances that would excuse a man from being a soldier in war was if he was "fearful and fainthearted because of the transgressions he had committed" (Babylonian Talmud, Sotah VIII, 3, 4a). Even though the Talmud was written long after Lehi and his family departed Jerusalem, it often reflected older oral material, especially from Deuteronomy. Certainly the Nephites would have recognized that the profound fears of the Ammonites who were afraid to break their oath rendered them unsuitable for military duty under such a rule. Consistent with ancient Israelite law, their exemption was granted only "on condition that they will give us [the Nephites] a portion of their substance to assist us that we may maintain our armies" (Alma 27:24).
11 And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do, (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain-
12 Now, my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains, and our swords have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren.
13 Behold, I say unto you, Nay, let us retain our swords that they be not stained with the blood of our brethren; for perhaps, if we should stain our swords again they can no more be washed bright through the blood of the Son of our great God, which shall be shed for the atonement of our sins.
verse 13 Notice that the believers in that day were fully conversant with the concept of the atonement and they begged for forgiveness through Christ's atoning blood. And through his precious blood, their sins were forgiven them, though that blood would not be shed for a century or so.
14 And the great God has had mercy on us, and made these things known unto us that we might not perish; yea, and he has made these things known unto us beforehand, because he loveth our souls as well as he loveth our children; therefore, in his mercy he doth visit us by his angels, that the plan of salvation might be made known unto us as well as unto future generations.
verse 14 "he has made these things known unto us beforehand" "Beforehand" refers to before Christ's mortal ministry (see Alma 39:17-19).
"by his angels" It seems likely here that the king is referring to Ammon and his brethren as "angels."
"plan of salvation" For a discussion of this interesting term see the commentary for 2 Nephi 9:6.
15 Oh, how merciful is our God! And now behold, since it has been as much as we could do to get our stains taken away from us, and our swords are made bright, let us hide them away that they may be kept bright, as a testimony to our God at the last day, or at the day that we shall be brought to stand before him to be judged, that we have not stained our swords in the blood of our brethren since he imparted his word unto us and has made us clean thereby.
verse 15 "he imparted his word unto us and has made us clean thereby" It is clear that these Anti-Nephi-Lehies have come to an understanding that the Lord is willing to completely forgive them for their prior transgressions even though many of them had taken the lives of their brethren.
16 And now, my brethren, if our brethren seek to destroy us, behold, we will hide away our swords, yea, even we will bury them deep in the earth, that they may be kept bright, as a testimony that we have never used them, at the last day; and if our brethren destroy us, behold, we shall go to our God and shall be saved.
17 And now it came to pass that when the king had made an end of these sayings, and all the people were assembled together, they took their swords, and all the weapons which were used for the shedding of man's blood, and they did bury them up deep in the earth.
18 And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man's blood; and this they did, vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives; and rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands.
verse 18 Vouching is bearing witness; giving testimony or full attestation.
We learn that the covenant the Anti-Nephi-Lehies made with God included more than just their commitment never to take up their weapons in battle. They also committed themselves to "give unto" their brothers rather than "take away" from them; and to "labor abundantly with their hands" rather than "spend their days in idleness."
19 And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace.
verse 19 "thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace" One wonders if this is not an example of a "typo" made by the prophet Mormon. It obviously was not possible to erase a mistake from the gold plates. Rather than cross out the error, he simple corrected himself and went on (see Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976], 210).
It is instructive to note that the Book of Mormon writers speak positively of the steadfastly-maintained covenants of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies not to bear arms, yet it also teaches that military action taken in self defense is justifiable. The prophet Mormon will yet have something to say on this issue: "Know ye that ye must lay down your weapons of war, and delight no more in the shedding of blood, and take them not again, save it be that God shall command you" (Mormon 7:4).
20 And it came to pass that their brethren, the Lamanites, made preparations for war, and came up to the land of Nephi for the purpose of destroying the king, and to place another in his stead, and also of destroying the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi out of the land.
21 Now when the people saw that they were coming against them they went out to meet them, and prostrated themselves before them to the earth, and began to call on the name of the Lord; and thus they were in this attitude when the Lamanites began to fall upon them, and began to slay them with the sword.
22 And thus without meeting any resistance, they did slay a thousand and five of them; and we know that they are blessed, for they have gone to dwell with their God.
23 Now when the Lamanites saw that their brethren would not flee from the sword, neither would they turn aside to the right hand or to the left, but that they would lie down and perish, and praised God even in the very act of perishing under the sword-
24 Now when the Lamanites saw this they did forbear from slaying them; and there were many whose hearts had swollen in them for those of their brethren who had fallen under the sword, for they repented of the things which they had done.
25 And it came to pass that they threw down their weapons of war, and they would not take them again, for they were stung for the murders which they had committed; and they came down even as their brethren, relying upon the mercies of those whose arms were lifted to slay them.
verse 25 This verse refers to the attacking Lamanites and not to the Anti-Nephi-Lehies.
"they came down even as their brethren" These attacking Lamanites were so disgusted at having slain many of their defenseless brethren, that they also discarded their weapons and prostrated themselves before the remainder of the force of invading Lamanites.
26 And it came to pass that the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain; and those who had been slain were righteous people, therefore we have no reason to doubt but what they were saved.
verse 26 The selfless actions of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies resulted in the conversion of many of the invading Lamanites-more than 1,005, the number of Anti-Nephi-Lehies who had been slain. This incident is a dramatic example of the compelling motivating power of "righteous suffering" (see the commentary for 2 Nephi 26:24).
27 And there was not a wicked man slain among them; but there were more than a thousand brought to the knowledge of the truth; thus we see that the Lord worketh in many ways to the salvation of his people.
28 Now the greatest number of those of the Lamanites who slew so many of their brethren were Amalekites and Amulonites, the greatest number of whom were after the order of the Nehors.
verse 28 Here it is confirmed that the real spirit of this attack was provoked by the Amlicites and Amulonites who were dissenting Nephites and not Lamanites by birth.
29 Now, among those who joined the people of the Lord, there were none who were Amalekites or Amulonites, or who were of the order of Nehor, but they were actual descendants of Laman and Lemuel.
verse 29 The new converts among the invading force of Lamanites were true Lamanites by birth, that is, descendants of Laman and Lemuel or perhaps the sons of Ishmael. They were not the apostate dissenter Nephites. The latter were actually descendants of Nephi or Jacob or Joseph or Sam or Zoram.
30 And thus we can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things.
verse 30 This verse is a comment by the prophet Mormon. In early church history, a member once vowed that he would never do the church any harm if he were to leave it. Joseph counseled him: "You don't know what you would do. . . . Before you joined the church you stood on neutral ground. When the gospel was preached, good and evil were set before you. You could choose either or neither. There were two opposite masters inviting you to serve them. When you joined this church you enlisted to serve God. When you did that you left the neutral ground, and you never can get back on to it. Should you forsake the Master you enlisted to serve, it will be by the instigation of the evil one, and you will follow his dictation and be his servant" (Juvenile Instructor 27:492). When Ammon and his brethren taught the gospel to the Lamanites, those Lamanites had the advantage of being on neutral ground. They had the ability to be objective about the gospel message. They could choose to accept or reject it. The dissenting Nephites, the Amalekites and Ammulonites, had no such advantage. They were disinclined to admit their own mistakes when their fellow Nephites taught them the poignant and discerning truths of the gospel.
An individual can never remain stagnant in his relationship to God once he has received a witness of the Spirit. At any subsequent moment he must either be progressing toward light and eternal life or sinking into darkness toward spiritual death. President Harold B. Lee taught: "A testimony isn't something you have today, and you are going to have always. A testimony is fragile. It is as hard to hold as a moonbeam. It is something you have to recapture every day of your life" (Church News [15 July 1972] 4).