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Mosiah Chapter 20

1 Now there was a place in Shemlon where the daughters of the Lamanites did gather themselves together to sing, and to dance, and to make themselves merry.

verse 1 It is interesting to learn that in ancient Israel there was a widely celebrated holiday or festival which occurred for several centuries. It occurred on the 15th day of the fifth month, called Av. It was a matrimonial holiday during which the maidens of Israel gathered to dance. Their purpose was to attract prospective husbands. In turn, the young men attended this event to watch the dancing and hunt for a suitable bride. Noah's priests may well have known of the time and place of this event in advance. Perhaps this explains the fact that the young Lamanite women were not terribly unwilling to become the priests' wives. There is no indication that any of them tried to escape. And after all, they would have been dancing to attract husbands. All of them later pled with their brothers and fathers not to kill their husbands (Mosiah 23:33) (Based on research by John W. Welch, Robert F. Smith, and Gordon C. Thomasson. "Dancing Maidens and the Fifteenth of Av" in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, 139-41).

2 And it came to pass that there was one day a small number of them gathered together to sing and to dance.

3 And now the priests of king Noah, being ashamed to return to the city of Nephi, yea, and also fearing that the people would slay them, therefore they durst not return to their wives and their children.

4 And having tarried in the wilderness, and having discovered the daughters of the Lamanites, they laid and watched them;

5 And when there were but few of them gathered together to dance, they came forth out of their secret places and took them and carried them into the wilderness; yea, twenty and four of the daughters of the Lamanites they carried into the wilderness.

verse 5 How many priests of Noah had he maintained in his court? Although the number is never given, some have regarded this verse as evidence that there had been twenty-five counting, of course, Alma.

It has been pointed out by critics of the Book of Mormon that this story of the kidnapping of young Lamanite women is similar to a story in the Bible in which men of the tribe of Benjamin kidnapped daughters of Israel at Shiloh (Judges 21:19-21). Following a civil war among the Israelites, most of the tribe of Benjamin was destroyed. It was recognized by other Israelites that this tribe was in danger of extinction. In order to preserve and rejuvenate the tribe, wives were needed by the Benjaminites. The other tribes, however, had vowed not to allow their daughters to marry the Benjaminites. To get around this vow, a plan was devised. The Benjaminites were instructed to kidnap some young Israelite women who lived at Shiloh while these young women danced in the vineyards. As these young women danced, the Benjaminites lay hidden. They then emerged from hiding, and each caught a wife and retreated to the land of Benjamin. While some may see this story of the kidnapper Amulonites as one which Joseph Smith plagiarized as he wrote the Book of Mormon, one LDS scholar sees it as a purposeful and effective re-emphasis of the lessons taught in the biblical story (Alan Goff, "The Stealing of the Daughters of the Lamanites" in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, 67-74). The author of this story in Mosiah 20:1-5 probably did know of the similar story in Judges to which he had access from the brass plates. He likely included this story of the Amulonites as a parallel account intended to emphasize the important negative lessons which we may learn from these former priests of Noah.

6 And it came to pass that when the Lamanites found that their daughters had been missing, they were angry with the people of Limhi, for they thought it was the people of Limhi.

7 Therefore they sent their armies forth; yea, even the king himself went before his people; and they went up to the land of Nephi to destroy the people of Limhi.

8 And now Limhi had discovered them from the tower, even all their preparations for war did he discover; therefore he gathered his people together, and laid wait for them in the fields and in the forests.

9 And it came to pass that when the Lamanites had come up, that the people of Limhi began to fall upon them from their waiting places, and began to slay them.

10 And it came to pass that the battle became exceedingly sore, for they fought like lions for their prey.

11 And it came to pass that the people of Limhi began to drive the Lamanites before them; yet they were not half so numerous as the Lamanites. But they fought for their lives, and for their wives, and for their children; therefore they exerted themselves and like dragons did they fight.

verse 11 The simile of "fighting like dragons" is unique to the Book of Mormon. It is found also in Alma 43:44.

12 And it came to pass that they found the king of the Lamanites among the number of their dead; yet he was not dead, having been wounded and left upon the ground, so speedy was the flight of his people.

13 And they took him and bound up his wounds, and brought him before Limhi, and said: Behold, here is the king of the Lamanites; he having received a wound has fallen among their dead, and they have left him; and behold, we have brought him before you; and now let us slay him.

14 But Limhi said unto them: Ye shall not slay him, but bring him hither that I may see him. And they brought him. And Limhi said unto him: What cause have ye to come up to war against my people? Behold, my people have not broken the oath that I made unto you; therefore, why should ye break the oath which ye made unto my people?

verse 14 We have discussed previously the sacred and binding nature of oaths in this ancient culture even when made by the wicked. Apart from the one in this verse, there are no other instances of broken oaths in the Book of Mormon. We will read in the next verse the Lamanite king's justification for breaking his oath in this instance.

15 And now the king said: I have broken the oath because thy people did carry away the daughters of my people; therefore, in my anger I did cause my people to come up to war against thy people.

16 And now Limhi had heard nothing concerning this matter; therefore he said: I will search among my people and whosoever has done this thing shall perish. Therefore he caused a search to be made among his people.

17 Now when Gideon had heard these things, he being the king's captain, he went forth and said unto the king: I pray thee forbear, and do not search this people, and lay not this thing to their charge.

verse 17 To "forbear" means to stop what you are doing. This is not to be confused with a "forebear" which is an ancestor.

18 For do ye not remember the priests of thy father, whom this people sought to destroy? And are they not in the wilderness? And are not they the ones who have stolen the daughters of the Lamanites?

19 And now, behold, and tell the king of these things, that he may tell his people that they may be pacified towards us; for behold they are already preparing to come against us; and behold also there are but few of us.

verse 19 Gideon urgently counsels King Limhi to explain the situation immediately to the Lamanite king-including informing him of the situation of the priests of Noah. Gideon's military intelligence had informed Gideon that the Lamanites had already regrouped and were approaching again the city of Nephi to do battle.

20 And behold, they come with their numerous hosts; and except the king doth pacify them towards us we must perish.

21 For are not the words of Abinadi fulfilled, which he prophesied against us-and all this because we would not hearken unto the words of the Lord, and turn from our iniquities?

verse 21 "are not the words of Abinadi fulfilled, which he prophesied against us" It is helpful for the reader to pause here and reread Mosiah 12:1-7 wherein Abinadi prophesies what fate will befall the people of King Noah because of their iniquities.

22 And now let us pacify the king, and we fulfil the oath which we have made unto him; for it is better that we should be in bondage than that we should lose our lives; therefore, let us put a stop to the shedding of so much blood.

23 And now Limhi told the king all the things concerning his father, and the priests that had fled into the wilderness, and attributed the carrying away of their daughters to them.

24 And it came to pass that the king was pacified towards his people; and he said unto them: Let us go forth to meet my people, without arms; and I swear unto you with an oath that my people shall not slay thy people.

verse 24 "the king was pacified towards his people" The Lamanite king was satisfied with Limhi's explanation of the likely culprits in the kidnapping of the Lamanite girls, and he was therefore "pacified towards his [Limhi's] people." The Lamanite king then proposed that he, Limhi, Gideon, and perhaps a few others who were present disarm themselves and go forth together to meet the attacking Lamanites. The Nephites must have been comforted by the Lamanite king's swearing an oath that no harm would come to them.

25 And it came to pass that they followed the king, and went forth without arms to meet the Lamanites. And it came to pass that they did meet the Lamanites; and the king of the Lamanites did bow himself down before them, and did plead in behalf of the people of Limhi.

verse 25 The Lamanite king bowed down before his own people and plead for them to spare the people of Limhi.

26 And when the Lamanites saw the people of Limhi, that they were without arms, they had compassion on them and were pacified towards them, and returned with their king in peace to their own land.

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