Alma Chapter 3
Alma 3:6-8 The skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers. And this was done that the Lord might preserve his people, that they might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions.
Alma 3:27 Every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey.
1 And it came to pass that the Nephites who were not slain by the weapons of war, after having buried those who had been slain-now the number of the slain were not numbered, because of the greatness of their number-after they had finished burying their dead they all returned to their lands, and to their houses, and their wives, and their children.
verse 1 This verse illustrates an interesting literary device found in ancient texts known as epanalepsis. It occurs where an author, following a parenthetical aside, repeats certain words previously stated in a lengthy sentence to return the reader's attention to the original train of thought. This is also called "resumptive repetition," and it was apparently helpful in ancient texts since those texts did not have the benefit of modern punctuation or paragraphing. The parenthetical aside in this verse is "now the number of the slain were not numbered, because of the greatness of their number." Just prior to this aside, Mormon had stated, "after having buried those who had been slain." Therefore, following the parenthetical aside, in order to return the reader's attention back to that thought, he says, "after they had finished burying their dead." One Mormon scholar, Larry Childs has identified eighty-four such occurrences of epanalepsis in the Book of Mormon ("Epanalepsis in the Book of Mormon," Reexploring the Book of Mormon, 165-66). A prior example is found in Alma 2:1-2. The "resumptive repetition" in this example is the initial phrase in verse 2: "Now this Amlici."
2 Now many women and children had been slain with the sword, and also many of their flocks and their herds; and also many of their fields of grain were destroyed, for they were trodden down by the hosts of men.
3 And now as many of the Lamanites and the Amlicites who had been slain upon the bank of the river Sidon were cast into the waters of Sidon; and behold their bones are in the depths of the sea, and they are many.
verses 4-19 In your study of these verses, bear in mind that Alma is discussing two separate marks placed upon the Lamanites and those that associate with them-a dark skin and a red mark upon the forehead. Each may be referred to as a "curse," though we know that the marks themselves are not the curse. Rather they identify those with the curse as is additionally discussed in the commentary for verses 6-8 of this chapter.
4 And the Amlicites were distinguished from the Nephites, for they had marked themselves with red in their foreheads after the manner of the Lamanites; nevertheless they had not shorn their heads like unto the Lamanites.
verse 4 This red mark on the foreheads of the Amlicites may have been in part in imitation of the Lamanites who had similarly marked themselves for battle. It also had the practical purpose distinguishing the Amlicites from the Nephites. This would prevent the Lamanites from mistakenly killing their new allies. This mark is also perhaps an unintended fulfillment of a prior prophecy of the prophet Nephi: "Cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing" (2 Nephi 5:23; see also Alma 3:4; Alma 3:13-19).
5 Now the heads of the Lamanites were shorn; and they were naked, save it were skin which was girded about their loins, and also their armor, which was girded about them, and their bows, and their arrows, and their stones, and their slings, and so forth.
verse 5 "and they were naked, save it were skin which was girded about their loins, and also their armor, which was girded about them" The Lamanites initially had armor which was inferior to that of the Nephites (see the discussion of armor in the Book of Mormon in the commentary for Mosiah 21:7). Eventually, however, they will begin to copy the style of Nephite armor (see Alma 49:6).
verses 6-8 We already know that another mark had been set upon the Lamanites and the descendants of the sons of Ishmael to keep them apart from the Nephites, that of the dark skin. The dark skin was not, in and of itself, a curse. There is nothing inherently good or evil about the color of one's skin. It is not only racist but completely false doctrine to believe that white skin is "good" or righteous and that black skin is somehow less than that. The dark skin here is only a mark or symbol which functioned to identify those who had separated themselves from God and his Spirit. That separation is the actual curse. It is apparent that the Lamanites would still have become what they did become even if they had never been marked with the "skin of blackness." See the commentary from 2 Nephi 5:20-21. We have speculated previously that this dark skin may have resulted from the intermarriage between the indigenous peoples of the New World and the families of Laman, Lemuel, and Ishmael (see verse 9).
6 And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men.
7 And their brethren sought to destroy them, therefore they were cursed; and the Lord God set a mark upon them, yea, upon Laman and Lemuel, and also the sons of Ishmael, and Ishmaelitish women.
verse 7 Note that "their brethren" in this verse has a different reference than "their brethren" in the previous verse. In this verse "their brethren" and the pronoun "they" refer to the Lamanites. The first use of the pronoun "them" refers to the descendants of Nephi, Jacob, Joseph, and Sam; while the second "them" refers to the descendants of Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael.
8 And this was done that their seed might be distinguished from the seed of their brethren, that thereby the Lord God might preserve his people, that they might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions which would prove their destruction.
verse 8 "Their seed" refers to the Lamanites. The "seed of their brethren" refers to the descendants of Nephi, Jacob, Joseph, and Sam. The pronouns "they" and "their" refers to the Nephites.
"incorrect traditions which would prove their destruction" We have previously commented upon these false "traditions of the Lamanites" (see the commentary for Enos 1:14 and Mosiah 10:12-17). These are the false oral traditions handed down by the Lamanites from generation to generation which formed the basis of the hatred which the Lamanites held toward the Nephites. All Lamanitish children were doubtless indoctrinated with these traditions from the time they were able to understand. I will again summarize them: Lehi used unrighteous dominion in forcing his family to leave behind their choice possessions and their beloved home and land travel into the wilderness. Once in the wilderness, the family was unfairly dominated not only by their father Lehi, but also by their younger brother Nephi. The birthright or the right to govern, after all, rightfully belonged to the oldest son Laman and not to Nephi. When Laman and Lemuel expressed fear of boarding a ship and sailing into the unknown sea, they received no understanding or sympathy. Rather they were forced to board the boat against their will. Once in the New World in the land of their first inheritance, Nephi continued to rule over them. When they tried to resist, Nephi stole their brass plates and departed into the wilderness.
9 And it came to pass that whosoever did mingle his seed with that of the Lamanites did bring the same curse upon his seed.
verse 9 Note from the previous verse that the Lord's reasons for not wanting his people to intermarry with other peoples centers on his wanting to perpetuate righteous and not false teachings among his people. Thus, those Nephites who do intermarry with the Lamanites bring upon themselves and their progeny the curse of false beliefs and traditions. The mark of the curse, the dark skin, will naturally be placed upon the offspring of those who thus intermarry.
10 Therefore, whosoever suffered himself to be led away by the Lamanites was called under that head, and there was a mark set upon him.
verse 10 The word "head" means title. To be "called under that head" means to be called by that title.
By this time lineal descent was less important in determining whether one was a "Nephite" or "Lamanite" than whether or not one was willing to follow the prophets.
11 And it came to pass that whosoever would not believe in the tradition of the Lamanites, but believed those records which were brought out of the land of Jerusalem, and also in the tradition of their fathers, which were correct, who believed in the commandments of God and kept them, were called the Nephites, or the people of Nephi, from that time forth-
12 And it is they who have kept the records which are true of their people, and also of the people of the Lamanites.
13 Now we will return again to the Amlicites, for they also had a mark set upon them; yea, they set the mark upon themselves, yea, even a mark of red upon their foreheads.
14 Thus the word of God is fulfilled, for these are the words which he said to Nephi: Behold, the Lamanites have I cursed, and I will set a mark on them that they and their seed may be separated from thee and thy seed, from this time henceforth and forever, except they repent of their wickedness and turn to me that I may have mercy upon them.
15 And again: I will set a mark upon him that mingleth his seed with thy brethren, that they may be cursed also.
16 And again: I will set a mark upon him that fighteth against thee and thy seed.
17 And again, I say he that departeth from thee shall no more be called thy seed; and I will bless thee, and whomsoever shall be called thy seed, henceforth and forever; and these were the promises of the Lord unto Nephi and to his seed.
verses 14-17 We learn that in marking their foreheads with red, both the Lamanites and the Amlicites fulfilled a prophecy made by the prophet Nephi. This mark which the Amlicites unwittingly placed upon themselves is later referred to as "the curse."
Other than these verses, we have no other record of this interesting revelation of the Lord to the Nephi. It is not found in the writings of Nephi from the small plates and might have been in the book of Lehi, which was at that time part of the large plates of Nephi. Perhaps this revelation was included on the plates of Mormon and thus might have been found on the 116 pages of lost manuscript.
18 Now the Amlicites knew not that they were fulfilling the words of God when they began to mark themselves in their foreheads; nevertheless they had come out in open rebellion against God; therefore it was expedient that the curse should fall upon them.
19 Now I would that ye should see that they brought upon themselves the curse; and even so doth every man that is cursed bring upon himself his own condemnation.
verse 19 Here Mormon (or Alma) draws an analogy between the Amlicites' willfully placing a red mark on their own foreheads and the fact that every man will be accountable for what he does with his spiritual opportunities.
20 Now it came to pass that not many days after the battle which was fought in the land of Zarahemla, by the Lamanites and the Amlicites, that there was another army of the Lamanites came in upon the people of Nephi, in the same place where the first army met the Amlicites.
verse 20 This second attack apparently occurred in or around the land of Minon.
21 And it came to pass that there was an army sent to drive them out of their land.
22 Now Alma himself being afflicted with a wound did not go up to battle at this time against the Lamanites;
23 But he sent up a numerous army against them; and they went up and slew many of the Lamanites, and drove the remainder of them out of the borders of their land.
24 And then they returned again and began to establish peace in the land, being troubled no more for a time with their enemies.
25 Now all these things were done, yea, all these wars and contentions were commenced and ended in the fifth year of the reign of the judges.
26 And in one year were thousands and tens of thousands of souls sent to the eternal world, that they might reap their rewards according to their works, whether they were good or whether they were bad, to reap eternal happiness or eternal misery, according to the spirit which they listed to obey, whether it be a good spirit or a bad one.
verse 26 Again we encounter the Book of Mormon's simplified version of man's post-mortal destiny consisting of either heaven or outer darkness.
27 For every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey, and this according to the words of the spirit of prophecy; therefore let it be according to the truth. And thus endeth the fifth year of the reign of the judges.
verse 27 Here is a most eloquently stated and profound verse well worth committing to memory!
"And thus endeth the fifth year" In order to provide something of a chronological structure to the Book of Mormon, the prophet Mormon, who inscribed his record on the plates of Mormon, included several different phrases which signify the end of a year. These have been called "year-end marking phrases" (Randall P. Spackman, "Introduction to Book of Mormon Chronology: The Principal Prophecies, Calendars, and Dates," a FARMS reprint), and include such expressions as: "making in the whole . . . years," "also ended," "had ended," "thus ended," "thus endeth," "passed away," and "pass away."
Other units of time used in the Book of Mormon include "day" or "days" (over five-hundred times), "week" (three times-Mosiah 18:25, Alma 31:12; Alma 32:11), and "month," "months," or "moons" (seventeen times).