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Mosiah Chapter 21

Scripture Mastery

Mosiah 21:25-28 King Limhi had sent, previous to the coming of Ammon, a small number of men to search for the land of Zarahemla; but they could not find it .

1 And it came to pass that Limhi and his people returned to the city of Nephi, and began to dwell in the land again in peace.

2 And it came to pass that after many days the Lamanites began again to be stirred up in anger against the Nephites, and they began to come into the borders of the land round about.

3 Now they durst not slay them, because of the oath which their king had made unto Limhi; but they would smite them on their cheeks, and exercise authority over them; and began to put heavy burdens upon their backs, and drive them as they would a dumb ass-

4 Yea, all this was done that the word of the Lord might be fulfilled.

verse 4 If you still have not reread the persecutions of the Nephites by the Lamanites that were prophesied by Abinadi in Mosiah 12:1-7, then please do so now.

5 And now the afflictions of the Nephites were great, and there was no way that they could deliver themselves out of their hands, for the Lamanites had surrounded them on every side.

verse 5 "the Lamanites had surrounded them on every side" It seems likely that the Nephites were now largely confined to the city of Nephi and perhaps the area immediately around the city. The Lamanites seemed to occupy much of the surrounding land of Nephi.

6 And it came to pass that the people began to murmur with the king because of their afflictions; and they began to be desirous to go against them to battle. And they did afflict the king sorely with their complaints; therefore he granted unto them that they should do according to their desires.

7 And they gathered themselves together again, and put on their armor, and went forth against the Lamanites to drive them out of their land.

verse 7 The subject of armor in the Book of Mormon is an interesting one. The Book of Mormon uses eight terms for armor: breast-plates, shields, armor, head-plates, arm-shields, animal skins, thick clothing, and bucklers (a type of shield). The standard system of armor described in the Book of Mormon consists of a basic cloak or vest of thick fabric or animal skin, a breastplate, a headplate, and a shield, which broadly corresponds with artistic and archaeological evidence of pre-Columbian armor from Mesoamerica. Book of Mormon armor also differs from the biblical descriptions of armor. Although coats of mail or scale (small overlapping pieces of metal sewn onto a leather jacket), greaves (leg armor), and helmets are conspicuous in biblical accounts of warfare (1 Samuel 17:5-6), they are absent from the Book of Mormon. Likewise, scale or mail armor and greaves are not found in early classic artistic and archaeological records in the New World (Hamblin, William J. "Armor in the Book of Mormon." Warfare in the Book of Mormon. Edited by Stephen D. Ricks and William J. Hamblin. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1990).

8 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did beat them, and drove them back, and slew many of them.

9 And now there was a great mourning and lamentation among the people of Limhi, the widow mourning for her husband, the son and the daughter mourning for their father, and the brothers for their brethren.

10 Now there were a great many widows in the land, and they did cry mightily from day to day, for a great fear of the Lamanites had come upon them.

11 And it came to pass that their continual cries did stir up the remainder of the people of Limhi to anger against the Lamanites; and they went again to battle, but they were driven back again, suffering much loss.

12 Yea, they went again even the third time, and suffered in the like manner; and those that were not slain returned again to the city of Nephi.

13 And they did humble themselves even to the dust, subjecting themselves to the yoke of bondage, submitting themselves to be smitten, and to be driven to and fro, and burdened, according to the desires of their enemies.

14 And they did humble themselves even in the depths of humility; and they did cry mightily to God; yea, even all the day long did they cry unto their God that he would deliver them out of their afflictions.

15 And now the Lord was slow to hear their cry because of their iniquities; nevertheless the Lord did hear their cries, and began to soften the hearts of the Lamanites that they began to ease their burdens; yet the Lord did not see fit to deliver them out of bondage.

16 And it came to pass that they began to prosper by degrees in the land, and began to raise grain more abundantly, and flocks, and herds, that they did not suffer with hunger.

17 Now there was a great number of women, more than there was of men; therefore king Limhi commanded that every man should impart to the support of the widows and their children, that they might not perish with hunger; and this they did because of the greatness of their number that had been slain.

verse 17 It is interesting to see how the Book of Mormon people dealt with the situation of having more women than men (see also verse 10). Historically their Israelite ancestors had been commanded to practice the principle of polygamy-the taking of more than one wife and concubines-in order to adequately care for these women (Numbers 31:9; Deuteronomy 21:11). However, in the New World the situation was apparently different. The Lord had commanded that these people not practice plural marriage (Jacob 2:27). Rather they were simply to care for the widows' temporal needs, and they established a type of welfare system to accomplish that end.

18 Now the people of Limhi kept together in a body as much as it was possible, and secured their grain and their flocks;

19 And the king himself did not trust his person without the walls of the city, unless he took his guards with him, fearing that he might by some means fall into the hands of the Lamanites.

20 And he caused that his people should watch the land round about, that by some means they might take those priests that fled into the wilderness, who had stolen the daughters of the Lamanites, and that had caused such a great destruction to come upon them.

21 For they were desirous to take them that they might punish them; for they had come into the land of Nephi by night, and carried off their grain and many of their precious things; therefore they laid wait for them.

22 And it came to pass that there was no more disturbance between the Lamanites and the people of Limhi, even until the time that Ammon and his brethren came into the land.

verse 22 We have already studied a more detailed account of the arrival of Ammon and his men and their sojourn among the people of Limhi. It is found in Mosiah chapters 7 and 8. It might be well to review both of those chapters before continuing on.

23 And the king having been without the gates of the city with his guard, discovered Ammon and his brethren; and supposing them to be priests of Noah therefore he caused that they should be taken, and bound, and cast into prison. And had they been the priests of Noah he would have caused that they should be put to death.

24 But when he found that they were not, but that they were his brethren, and had come from the land of Zarahemla, he was filled with exceedingly great joy.

25 Now king Limhi had sent, previous to the coming of Ammon, a small number of men to search for the land of Zarahemla; but they could not find it, and they were lost in the wilderness.

26 Nevertheless, they did find a land which had been peopled; yea, a land which was covered with dry bones; yea, a land which had been peopled and which had been destroyed; and they, having supposed it to be the land of Zarahemla, returned to the land of Nephi, having arrived in the borders of the land not many days before the coming of Ammon.

27 And they brought a record with them, even a record of the people whose bones they had found; and it was engraven on plates of ore.

verse 25-27 The account in these verses, though briefly told both here and in Mosiah 8:7-11, gives us considerable insight into the size of the Book of Mormon lands. An exploring party of forty-three men (Mosiah 8:7) was sent out by King Limhi and was given the charge of finding the city of Zarahemla. Limhi wanted to ask for help from those in Zarahemla to assist in the escape of him and his people from Lamanite captivity in the land of Nephi. Apparently the route of this exploring party inadvertently bypassed Zarahemla, their intended destination, and took them instead through the "narrow neck of land." There they believed they had arrived in Zarahemla. However, they were actually in the land Desolation, the final battle ground of the Jaredites. Here they found ruins and a set of twenty-four gold plates left by the final Jaredite prophet, Ether (Ether 15:33). Sorrowfully, the explorers returned to their home in the land of Nephi to report to King Limhi that the remains they found must have been those of Zarahemla destroyed.

28 And now Limhi was again filled with joy on learning from the mouth of Ammon that king Mosiah had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings; yea, and Ammon also did rejoice.

verse 28 "Mosiah had a gift from God" We have already learned that Mosiah, the son of Benjamin, had not only been designated by God to translate ancient records, but he also possessed the Urim and Thummim or, as they are called in the Book of Mormon, the "interpreters" (see Mosiah 8:13-14 and the commentary for those verses).

One of the more interesting changes between the original Book of Mormon manuscript and our present edition is found in this passage and in Ether 4:1. The original manuscript had "Benjamin" where "Mosiah" now appears. King Benjamin would not likely have still been living at the time of this interaction between Limhi and Ammon. The year of this meeting between the two was 120 BC. Benjamin died three years following his turning the kingship over to his son Mosiah in 124 BC. Thus, Benjamin had probably been dead less than a year. The Prophet Joseph changed the 1837 edition reading of this verse. The change in Ether was made in the 1849 edition.

We can only speculate about who made the original "error" and included Benjamin's name in this passage. Dr. Sidney B. Sperry asked, "Was it an inadvertent slip of the tongue on the part of Joseph Smith as he dictated his translation to Oliver Cowdery, or did he translate correctly enough an original error on the part of Mormon, the abridger of the Book of Mormon? The latter of these two suggestions is probably the correct one" (Problems of the Book of Mormon, 203). Hugh Nibley disagreed and felt the change from "Benjamin" to "Mosiah" was probably not necessary in the first place. He wrote: "For though it is certain that Mosiah kept the records in question, it is by no means certain that his father, Benjamin, did not also have a share in keeping them. It was Benjamin who displayed the zeal of a life-long book lover in the keeping and studying of records; and after he handed over the throne to his son Mosiah he lived on and may well have spent many days among his beloved records. And among these records could have been the Jaredite plates, which were brought to Zarahemla early in the reign of Mosiah when his father could still have been living (Mosiah 8:9-15)" (Since Cumorah: The Book of Mormon in the Modern World [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1967], 7).

29 Yet Ammon and his brethren were filled with sorrow because so many of their brethren had been slain;

verse 29 "Their brethren" here does not refer to men in Ammon's rescue party. Rather it refers to those among the Zeniffite/Nephites who had been killed. Those that came up to the land of Nephi with Ammon to rescue the Zeniffites were obviously a caring and empathetic group.

30 And also that king Noah and his priests had caused the people to commit so many sins and iniquities against God; and they also did mourn for the death of Abinadi; and also for the departure of Alma and the people that went with him, who had formed a church of God through the strength and power of God, and faith on the words which had been spoken by Abinadi.

31 Yea, they did mourn for their departure, for they knew not whither they had fled. Now they would have gladly joined with them, for they themselves had entered into a covenant with God to serve him and keep his commandments.

verse 31 "they did mourn for their departure" Ammon's group of rescuers sorrowed for Alma and the people that had followed him, assuming that they were lost in the wilderness.

32 And now since the coming of Ammon, king Limhi had also entered into a covenant with God, and also many of his people, to serve him and keep his commandments.

33 And it came to pass that king Limhi and many of his people were desirous to be baptized; but there was none in the land that had authority from God. And Ammon declined doing this thing, considering himself an unworthy servant.

verse 33 "Ammon declined doing this thing, considering himself an unworthy servant" The reasons for Ammon's considering himself unworthy to baptize are not clear. He likely did hold the priesthood. The text leaves no doubt that proper authority is necessary to perform the ordinances of salvation.

34 Therefore they did not at that time form themselves into a church, waiting upon the Spirit of the Lord. Now they were desirous to become even as Alma and his brethren, who had fled into the wilderness.

35 They were desirous to be baptized as a witness and a testimony that they were willing to serve God with all their hearts; nevertheless they did prolong the time; and an account of their baptism shall be given hereafter.

verse 35 It is apparent that Limhi's people had repented of their previous iniquities and were now fully committed to serve God. Their period of bondage and persecution at the hands of the Lamanites was likely intended by the Lord to teach them dependence upon him. The phrase "they did prolong the time" may be a bit misleading. If Limhi and his people had had their way, it would seem they would certainly would have been baptized there and then without delay. As it turns out, they will later be baptized by Alma in the land of Zarahemla (Mosiah 25:18) probably a few to several months later. Perhaps "they did prolong the time" simply means they decided to wait.

"an account of their baptism shall be given hereafter" This phrase has been pointed out by John A. Tvedtnes as being an example of one of Mormon's "editorial promises" ("Mormon's Editorial Promises" in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, 29-31). Brother Tvedtnes points out that an author may promise in the course of writing to return to a subject later to supply further details, but actually keeping such promises can prove difficult. Even with modern writing aids, memory can betray a person into failing to tuck in the corners of plot or information. Mormon, the editor of much of the Book of Mormon, made these types of promises several other times. In each case, he or his son Moroni followed through perfectly. In this particular case Mormon makes good his promise about a hundred verses later when he describes the baptism of Limhi's people (Mosiah 25:17-18).

Rather than mentioning the other examples in context, we will summarize them here:

1. In Mosiah 28:9; Mosiah 28:19-20, Mormon says that he will later describe the mission of the sons of Mosiah. Eighteen chapters later, in Alma 17-26, he does describe that mission.

2. In Alma 35:13, Mormon promises to describe the Nephite-Lamanite war that began in the eighteenth year. But, since he wanted to first report Alma's teachings to his sons, he postponed the story of the war until Alma 43, where in verse three he introduced the topic with the words, "And now I return to an account of the wars."

3. Writing in Mosiah 28:11-19, Mormon said that he would later provide the reader with the story of the Jaredites. He made this statement at the point where he mentioned that King Mosiah had translated the record of that people. Apparently the problems he faced in his role as commander of the Nephite armies prevented him from including the Jaredite record. But, his son Moroni later fulfilled this promise by engraving onto the plates of Mormon the Book of Ether. Moroni doubtless included the Jaredite record at the bidding of his father.

4. In Helaman 2:12-14, Mormon said that he would speak more of Gadianton and his secret band "hereafter." Indeed he did. The problems caused by the robbers and much about their characteristics were detailed in Helaman 6; 3 Nephi 1:27-29; 3 Nephi 2:11-18; 3 Nephi 3:1 through 4:29; and 4 Nephi.

In 1829 Joseph Smith dictated to Oliver Cowdery most of the scripture attributed to Mormon within the period of a few weeks, without reviewing, proofreading, or revising. Under these circumstances, if Joseph were the original author, then leaving no gaps in the promised materials would have been a remarkable achievement. This makes it much more likely that Joseph was translating rather than creating, and that the editorial consistency is Mormon's work. The internal consistency of the Book of Mormon is remarkable and most complex!

36 And now all the study of Ammon and his people, and king Limhi and his people, was to deliver themselves out of the hands of the Lamanites and from bondage.

verse 36 The phrase "all the study" might be alternatively rendered: "the sole intent and purpose."

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