Mosiah Chapter 25
Chapter 25 reports the reactions of the people of Zarahemla as they listened to the accounts of Zeniff and his people and to the account of Alma and his people and the afflictions they suffered. It also recounts Alma's labors in establishing the church in Zarahemla.
One latter-day church scholar observed: "Some Christians have criticized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for being church-centered instead of Christ-centered in worship. Perhaps this belief comes from repeated testimonies of members that the Church is true, as they attempt to bear witness of the truth of the restoration. Chapters 25-27 of Mosiah reveal the true relationship between Christ and his Church. One must come to Christ through faith and repentance of all sin, and then receive the ordinances of salvation provided by the Church" (Dennis L. Largey, "Lessons from the Zarahemla Churches" in The Book of Mormon: Mosiah, Salvation Only Through Christ, 61).
1 And now king Mosiah caused that all the people should be gathered together.
2 Now there were not so many of the children of Nephi, or so many of those who were descendants of Nephi, as there were of the people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness.
verse 2 Obviously the people of Zarahemla or "Mulekites" significantly outnumbered the Nephites. The "Nephites" in Zarahemla at this time are obviously not all literal "descendants of Nephi." Numbered among the Nephites were certainly some who were also descendants of Nephi's brothers Sam, Jacob, and Joseph, as well as some who descended from Zoram. While King Zarahemla himself was apparently a literal descendant of Mulek, the Mulekites or people of Zarahemla were descendants of the mixed group that came to the New World aboard ship with Mulek, including the ship's crew who may well have been non-Israelites.
This is the first mention in the Book of Mormon text of the name "Mulek," even though we have discussed the people of Zarahemla previously (Omni 1:13-20). Mulek was a son of King Zedekiah of Judah. His name is of interest. In the printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon it appeared as Muloch and as Mulok in editions from 1830 to 1852. Then it became Mulek (Book of Mormon Critical Text: A Tool for Scholarly Reference, Volume 2: Mosiah-Alma, 1st ed. [Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1989], 483). It seems clear, regardless of how we spell it, that we are dealing with the Hebrew root mlk, as in Hebrew melek, which means "little king" or simply "king."
Some research by Mormon scholars Robert F. Smith, Benjamin Urrutia, and John L. Sorenson has brought to light some truly exciting information about Mulek. To summarize this information, I will quote from the article "Mulek, Son of the King" found in the publication Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch, 142-44:
Mulek, the son of Zedekiah, is mentioned several times in the Book of Mormon (see Mosiah 25:2; Helaman 6:10; Helaman 8:21) but not in the Bible-at least not in a way that people have recognized, until just recently. Biblical scholarship now bears out this Book of Mormon claim: King Zedekiah had a son named Mulek.
In the summer of 586 BC, when the troops of King Nebuchadrezzar breached the walls of Jerusalem, King Zedekiah of Judah and a large company of warriors attempted to escape by night to the East. Babylonian troops caught up with them in the plains of Jericho. Many presumably escaped, but Zedekiah himself was seized and taken to Nebuchadrezzar's operational headquarters at Riblah (in what is now Syria). There, as punishment for breaking his sacred oath of fealty to King Nebuchadrezzar, the Babylonians forced Zedekiah to witness the execution of his captured sons, had his own eyes put out, and took him in bronze fetters to Babylon (see 2 Kings 25:4-7; 2 Chronicles 36:13).
According to the Book of Mormon, that was not the end of the matter. One son named Mulek was not killed by the Babylonians. He had escaped (see Omni 1:15-16; Helaman 8:21), even though the details remain shadowy.
The first biblical clue to the existence and escape of Mulek, son of Zedekiah, can be found in 2 Kings 25:1-10, which reports that Nebuchadrezzar and "all his host" scattered "all the men" and "all [the king's] army" and burnt "all the houses of Jerusalem," and with "all the army" they destroyed the walls. In the midst of all this, however, 2 Kings 25:7 omits the word all when it reports only that "the sons" of Zedekiah were killed, leaving open the question whether all of his sons were slain.
Biblical scholars have recently had interesting things to say about a person named Malchiah. Jeremiah 38:6 speaks of a "dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech . . . in the court of the prison." [this name in the Hebrew is pronounced Malkiyahu ben hamelek. The name Malkiyahu was reasonably rendered into English as "Malchiah" by the King James scholars, and the word ben was accurately translated as son. But the King James term Hammelech-pronounced ha'-melek-is not really a name; it is a transliteration. In Hebrew, hamelek means "the king" (ha is the definite article "the," and melek is the word for "king." Thus, accurately translated, Jeremiah 38:6 refers to "Malkiyahu son of the king." Noted biblical scholar John Bright translates the phrase as "Prince Malkiah"-the term prince referring to a royal son-in his Anchor Bible commentary on Jeremiah.]
Was this MalkiYahu a son of King Zedekiah? Several factors indicate that he was. For one thing, the title "son of the king" was used throughout the ancient Near East to refer to actual sons of kings who served as high officers of imperial administration. The same is certainly true of the Bible, in which kings' sons ran prisons (see 1 Kings 22:26-27; Jeremiah 36:26; Jeremiah 38:6) or performed other official functions (see 2 Kings 15:5; 2 Chronicles 28:7). Moreover, in view of the fact that the name MalkiYahu has been found on two ostraca from Arad (in southern Judah), the late head of the Department of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, Yohanan Aharoni, said that "MalkiYahu is a common name and was even borne by the contemporary son of King Zedekiah."
But was the MalkiYahu the same person as Mulek? Study of these names tells us he may very well be. In the case of Baruch, scribe of Jeremiah, for example, the long form of his name, BerekhYahu, has been discovered on a seal impression by Nahman Avigad of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The full name has been shortened in Jeremiah's record to "Baruch." [In like manner, then, we might suppose that the name MalkiYahu might be shortened to Mulek.]
In view of this shortening, as in many other biblical names, there is no reason why a short form such as Mulek might not be possible.
A prominent non-Mormon ancient Near Eastern specialist declared recently of the Book of Mormon's naming "Mulek" as a son of Zedekiah, "If Joseph Smith came up with that one, he did pretty good!" He added that the vowels in the name could be accounted for as the Phoenician style of pronunciation. He found himself in general agreement that "MalkiYahu, son of the King" might very well be a son of King Zedekiah, and that the short-form of the name could indeed be Mulek (references may be found in original article).
But was Malkiyahu the son of the specific king Zedekiah? Since the passage in Jeremiah 38:6 does not specifically stipulate that Zedekiah was the king to whom Malkiyahu was related, we may only assume that this was so. But there are strong points of evidence for this assumption. The first point is the context of Jeremiah 38, where Zedekiah is the king with whom Jeremiah and his opponents are interacting. Because Zedekiah is mentioned by name in Jeremiah 38:5, it is probable that the scribe composing the text in the subsequent reference to Malkiyahu (verse 6) used the term ben hamelek rather than awkwardly repeating the royal name Zedekiah in a phrase like son of Zedekiah. It appears that this was an acceptable way of referring to a royal son and his kingly father without specifically using the father's name. Indeed, if Jeremiah 38:6 refers to any king other than Zedekiah, we should expect that king to be specifically named in the course of the story, for such was the care taken by Judean scribes. That no other monarch's name was recorded in Jeremiah 38 suggests very strongly that the king who was the father of Malkiyahu was Zedekiah.
A major question would be the age of Malkiyahu in Jeremiah 38, the chapter that records events during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 586 BC, not long before the fall of the city. Was he old enough to have his name mentioned in the context described in Jeremiah 38? In this chapter, Jeremiah was put into confinement: "Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire" (verse 6). A problem with this verse is the misconceptions which arise from certain incorrect terms used by the King James translators. Not only should Hammelech be rendered as "the king," but the Hebrew word that they translated as "dungeon" does not mean "dungeon." Rather, the Hebrew word means "pit," and in the context of Jeremiah 38 it means a pit for water storage, properly a cistern. Note that there was no water in the "dungeon" (cistern) and that "Jeremiah sunk in the mire" (mud). Also the King James use of the word prison in Jeremiah 38:6 cannot be correct either. The Hebrew term is matarah and does not really mean prison, but rather "aim," "objective," or "target." A more accurate rendition of Jeremiah 38:6 suggests that within a palace courtyard used by the royal guard for, among other things, archery practice (as in 1 Samuel 20:20), was the wellhead of a cistern connected with his name.
So how old would a royal son have to be in order to have a cistern connected with his name? What was the connection? And how old could Malkiyahu have been, as the son of King Zedekiah, in the context of Jeremiah 38? It is reported in the Bible that Zedekiah was 21 years old when he began to reign (see 2 Kings 24:18). His reign began in 597 B.C. and ended eleven years later in 586 B.C., when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians and Zedekiah was captured. It was during Zedekiah's eleventh year that the events of Jeremiah 38 occurred, which would make Zedekiah 32 years old at that point. Taking into consideration that a young man in the royal family could marry and father children as early as 15 or 16 year of age, it is perfectly conceivable [no pun intended] that Zedekiah could, at age 32, have had a son who was 15 or 16 years old by 586 BC. If, therefore, Malkiyahu were the first son of Zedekiah, and thus the heir apparent to the throne, as the owner of the title ben hamelek might well be, he could have been as old as 15 or 16 years himself in the context of Jeremiah 38. A teenage crown prince might very well have been assigned his own personal wing or apartment in the royal palace complex, whether he had married or not, and that wing or apartment could have abutted a courtyard where the royal guard held archery practice. One cistern (there might have been more) that was accessed by a wellhead in that courtyard could easily have stretched underneath the princely quarters, so that it was designed as the "cistern of Malkiyahu son of the king." In other words, it is entirely plausible that the Malkiyahu of Jeremiah 38:6 could have been the teenage son of Zedekiah and that a cistern in a courtyard of the royal palace could have carried his name. And if that is true, it is entirely possible that Malkiyahu the son of Zedekiah could have been the Mulek of whom the Book of Mormon reports.
Other options for Mulek's age at the fall of Jerusalem have been suggested. John L. Sorenson, in his detailed BYU Studies article on the "Mulekites," seems to have preferred a model in which Mulek was much younger: "We do not know that Mulek was more than an infant. The younger he was, the greater the likelihood that he could have escaped the notice of the Babylonians and subsequent slaughter at their hands. Whatever his age, he may have been secreted away to Egypt by family retainers and close associates of the king along with the king's daughters (Jeremiah 43:6-7)."
Probably the only way that an infant or a teenage Mulek could have gone undetected by the Babylonians was that he was not in Judah at the Jerusalem fall. In 589 BC Zedekiah rebelled against Babylon, apparently in a conspiracy with Phoenicia and Ammon, to aid Egypt's efforts to take control of western Asia. Young Prince Mulek (Malkiyahu), perhaps barely 13, could have been sent to Egypt by his father either as part of an ambassadorial mission or as part of the liaison that would coordinate Judah's role in the rebellious coalition. Another scenario, perhaps more likely, is that a 15-year-old Mulek was sent to Egypt during 587 BC, when the Babylonian siege, which had commenced early in 588, was lifted so that Nebuchadnezzar's forces could deal with an Egyptian advance in the south (see Jeremiah 37:5-8). Others evidently traveled safely to Egypt during this time, and it may be that Mulek did as well, either to bear messages to Egypt and help coordinate the war or to secure his safety as heir to the throne of Judah, or both. In any case, the choice of Egypt as a safe haven for Mulek was also suggested by Sorenson, who maintained: "It is obvious that in order to leave by sea for America, he would have to reach a port. Since the Babylonians controlled the ports of Israel and Phoenicia at the time, going south to Egypt (among his father's allies) would be about the only possibility."
What does the Book of Mormon say about Mulek? Would the model of a teenage Mulek going to Egypt at the behest of his father, King Zedekiah, before the actual fall of Jerusalem fit with the references to Mulek in the Book of Mormon? There are only three places in the Book of Mormon that mention Mulek, and one of them (Helaman 6:10) is not germane to the discussion of his movements.
A passage in Omni alludes to Mulek's travel party without naming him specifically. Key phrases from these pertinent passages are of interest:
"The people of Zarahemla came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon. And they journeyed in the wilderness, and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters" (Omni 1:15-16).
"The people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness . . ." (Mosiah 25:2).
"The sons of Zedekiah were . . . slain, all except it were Mulek [and] . . . the seed of Zedekiah are with us, and they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem" (Helaman 8:21).
Addressing these passages in reverse order, Helaman 8:21 suggests that Mulek and his people "were driven out of the land of Jerusalem." In a technical sense, whether Mulek was an infant or a teenage prince acting on behalf of his father, his travel to Egypt would not have been the result of having been "driven out." Rather, it was an escape. The passage does not address whether Mulek escaped from Jerusalem earlier than the party that eventually cross the ocean with him or whether they all left Jerusalem at once. It is worth noting that the very next verse (verse 22) maintains that "Lehi was driven out of Jerusalem," which is also technically incorrect-Lehi, too, made an orderly and planned departure from Jerusalem. The inaccurate idea of the parties of Lehi and Mulek being "driven out" of Jerusalem may have developed late in Nephite thought. In any case, Helaman 8 says nothing that would contradict the idea of a teenage Mulek leaving Jerusalem for Egypt before the city's fall to the Babylonians.
The reference in Mosiah 25:2 is of interest because it specifically identifies Zarahemla as a descendant of Mulek. In other words, had the Judean monarch survived, a direct heir to the throne of Jerusalem, Zarahemla, would ironically have been found in ancient America. A key phrase in the verse mentions Mulek's party going "into the wilderness." This theme also appears in Omni. But, again, nothing in Mosiah 25:2 contradicts the proposition that Mulek went to Egypt before Jerusalem's fall.
Omni 1:15-16 gives the most specific information. Written upon the small plates of Nephi (not the plates of Mormon), the words of Amaleki in Omni represent a far earlier record of events than the other two references. Curiously, Mulek is not mentioned by name in Omni. The passage correctly specifies that "the people of Zarahemla came out [not "were driven out"] from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon." This would place the departure from Jerusalem of at least some of Mulek's party, perhaps the bulk of it, sometime in late 586 BC, more than a year after the point suggested for teenage Mulek himself to have gone to Egypt.
However, since Omni 1:15 does not specifically mention Mulek by name, it does not contradict the proposal that he went to Egypt earlier than the party with whom he eventually came across the sea. It is certainly possible that the party included some of the people who left Jerusalem in Jeremiah 43, as Sorenson suggested. And with the later reference in Mosiah 25:2, Omni 1:16 specifies that the group "journeyed in the wilderness." That wilderness might have been the trail across northern Sinai from Judah to Egypt, as also suggested by Sorenson ("The Mulekites," BYU Studies, 30/3 , 9), or it could even refer to a subsequent trip from Egypt westward across the desert of North Africa (Ibid., 9). But returning to the subject at hand, nothing in Omni contradicts the model of a teenage Mulek going to Egypt a year before the fall of Jerusalem.
There is yet another biblical reference which some have interpreted as referring to Mulek. In Ezekiel 17:1-21, the Lord gave to Ezekiel a parable concerning the king of Judah and his seed being taken into Babylon. As an apparent addendum to this prophecy the Lord said: "Thus saith the Lord God; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent: In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it: and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar: and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell" (Ezekiel 17:22- 23).
Elder Orson Pratt, to whom the Lord had given the gift of prophecy (D&C 34:10), interpreted these verses as a prophecy concerning the Mulekites:
When Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon, the Lord took one of his sons, whose name was Mulok [sic], with a company of those who would hearken unto his words, and brought them over the ocean, and planted them in America. This was done in fulfillment of the 22nd and 23rd verses of the seventeenth chapter of Ezekiel . . . By reading this chapter, it will be seen that the Jews were the "high cedar," that Zedekiah the king was the "highest branch," that the "tender one" cropped off from the top of his young twigs, was one of his sons, whom the Lord brought out and planted him and his company upon the choice land of America, which he had given unto a remnant of the tribe of Joseph for an inheritance, in fulfillment of the blessing of Jacob and Moses upon the head of that tribe (Orson Pratt's Works, compiled by Parker Pratt Robinson [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press], 1945).
Recently, an ancient Judean stamp seal has been identified as bearing the Hebrew form of the name "Malchiah son of Hammelech" (Jeffrey R. Chadwick, "Has the Seal of Mulek Been Found?" in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 12/2, 2003, 72-83). A stamp seal is a small stone, usually about the size of a jelly bean, with at least one side that is flat or slightly convex, engraved with a name, a title, a design, or some combination of these in mirror image so that it might be used as a stamp. The stamp seal might be encased in a ring to be worn on the finger or might be perforated with a single hole through which a string was passed, allowing the seal to be worn around the neck. The function of the seal was to be pressed into wet clay to leave an impression of the name, title, or design of the seal's owner. Ancient documents were often sealed by tying them with string and then pressing a stamp seal into a marble-sized ball of clay on the string ends to bond them together. Clay seal impressions are often called bullae (the singular form is bulla) by scholars. The stamp seal might also be impressed into the wet clay of a newly made ceramic jar before kiln firing, on either one or more of the jar handles, or even on the shoulder of the jar. Archaeologists have discovered numerous stamp seals, stamped jar handles, and clay bullae in excavations throughout the land of Israel. Those with names or titles upon them provide valuable data for many fields of biblical and Near Eastern studies.
The oval-shaped stamp seal of Malkiyahu ben hamelek was fashioned of bluish green malchite stone and is very small, measuring just 15 mm long by 11 mm wide (smaller than a dime) and only 7 mm thick. The printing face of the seal is convex, which leaves a concave image on imprinted clay.
Just where and when the seal was originally found is not known. It was probably excavated illegally or kept (stolen) by a workman at a legitimate excavation in Jerusalem during the 1980s. Work was still being carried out then in the city of David, the southern Temple Mount, and the Jewish Quarter areas. The seal first appeared on the international antiquities market in a 1991 catalog of Numismatic Fine Arts Inc. of New York. It was purchased by Jewish millionaire Shlomo Moussaieff, of London, who has a large collection of ancient stamp seals and other antiquities. The first scholarly reference to the seal appeared in 1995 in an article in French by Andre Lemaire. The initial English-language publication of the seal appeared in 1997 in the magnum opus of Israeli scholars Nahman Avigad and Benjamin Sass, entitled Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals, which included a photo of a modern impression from the seal. A subsequent publication in English appeared in 2000 in Biblical Period Personal Seals in the Shlomo Moussaieff Collection, by Robert Deutsch and Andre Lemaire, which included photos of the seal as well as a modern impression.
The authenticity of the Malkiyahu seal is supported by the existence of a number of other seals of similar design and content. Also, it is of interest that the Hebrew Bible contains thirteen occurrences of the term ben hamelek in the singular form, referring to eight different men. Eight of the thirteen of these references (referring to four of the eight men) are known for certain to refer to be biologic sons of the mentioned king. The biological veracity of the titles in the others are uncertain. Of the five biblical ben hamelek references in the Bible that do not clearly identify a son-to-father relationship to the king, not a single one indicates that any man called ben hamelek was a son of someone other than the king. There is simply no positive evidence that ben hamelek meant anything other than a biological son of the king.
So was Mulek the "Malkiyahu the son of the king" mentioned in Jeremiah 38:6? Nothing in the Bible or the Book of Mormon negates this identification. And the evidence rehearsed above lends significant support to it. the m-l-k basis of both Hebrew names is clear, and the case of Berekhyahu/Baruch demonstrates that there is theoretical precedent for a person being called both Malkiyahu and Mulek-the one a longer, more formal version of the name with a theophoric yahu element, and the other a shorter form lacking that element but featuring a different vowel vocalization. Malkiyahu/Mulek would not have been killed by the Babylonians before Zedekiah's eyes, as were his brothers (all younger than himself), because as the king's eldest son and heir to the throne, he was likely sent to Egypt by his father well before the fall of Jerusalem and the capture of the royal family. Whether Mulek was sent to Egypt as a royal messenger or ambassador or in an effort to ensure his safety, it is unlikely that he could have taken all of his possessions with him to Egypt. Other men in Judah with the ben hamelek title are known to have possessed multiple stamp seals, and if Malkiyahu/Mulek did also it would have been easy for him to have left one behind. Some 2,570 years or so later, that seal was found by someone digging in Jerusalem and was surreptitiously sold. The stamp seal of "Malkiyahu son of the king" now in the London collection of Shlomo Moussaieff seems to be authentic. It is quite possible that an archaeological artifact of a Book of Mormon personality has been identified. It appears that the seal of Mulek has been found.
3 And there were not so many of the people of Nephi and of the people of Zarahemla as there were of the Lamanites; yea, they were not half so numerous.
verse 3 As Mormon discusses here the relative numbers of Nephites, Mulekites, and Lamanites, one might get the impression that Lamanites joined in this gathering-see verse 1. This is unlikely, however, in view of the following verse.
During most of the Book of Mormon history, the Lamanites far outnumbered the Nephites. The possibility exists that the descendants of Laman and Lemuel intermarried with the native inhabitants of the land who already lived in the area when Lehi and his group landed, thus adding to their numbers (see also 4 Nephi 1:40).
4 And now all the people of Nephi were assembled together, and also all the people of Zarahemla, and they were gathered together in two bodies.
verse 4 When the Nephites originally arrived in Zarahemla (210 BC) and found the people of Zarahemla, they joined with them under the leadership of Mosiah as king. It is interesting to note that in spite of this political amalgamation, here the people of Zarahemla are still numbered separately from the people of Nephi. Some ninety years have passed, yet they still "gathered together in two bodies." The differences between the two groups are interesting to consider. They likely spoke two different languages, though they apparently did have at least one language in common. They probably lived in different sections of the city of Zarahemla and the land of Zarahemla. We know nothing about how much, if any, intermarriage might have occurred between the two groups. We will learn that the Mulekites will never combine with the Nephites to form a completely homogenized population. "The Mulekites seemed to remain a separate social and ethnic group responsible for civil wars within the land of Zarahemla, led by Amlici (Alma 2-4) and Zerahemnah (Alma 43-44), both of whom appear to have Mulekite names and support" (John W. Welch, "Finding Answers to B. H. Roberts' Questions and an Unparallel," a FARMS reprint, 9).
There is a most interesting archaeological correlate of this particular verse. The archaeological site known forty years ago as Santa Rosa, which sat beside the Grijalva River in the Mexican state of Chiapas (the ruin now lies beneath waters impounded by a large dam), meets all the geographical requirements for the Nephite city of Zarahemla (see Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, 46-47, 153-57). Test excavations in a limited portion of Santa Rosa were made in 1958. An exact chronology and full picture of life there could not be determined in detail, but it was concluded that a "tremendous amount of building activity" likely took place in about the first century BC. In addition to earthen mound foundations up to more than 40 feet high, a huge platform built in the center of the place measured over 150 feet wide by 180 feet long and 22 feet high; this platform lay directly on the center line through the site. Presumably, various public buildings had once been built on top of the giant platform, although no search was made for evidence of such structures. At some point, likely in the first century BC (approximately when Mosiah, son of Benjamin, was alive) this platform was newly covered with a layer of gravel, and a plaster floor was laid over that. The gravel on either side of a line that ran exactly through the middle of this "temple" was found to be of distinct composition, half from one geological source, the other half of a different origin. The excavator suggested that the divided floor "may be taken to imply two separate groups, each working on its section" in a ceremonial context. The surrounding residential area was also divided into two sections that were separated along an extension of the line between the gravels. The archaeologist involved thought that a division of the community into two social groups had prevailed and that the gravel laying had been a ceremonial act acknowledging the social separation (See Donald L. Brockington, The Ceramic History of Santa Rosa, Chiapas, Mexico, Papers of the New World Archaeological Foundation, BYU, no. 23 , especially 1, 2, 60, and 61. The archaeologists who produced these results were not Latter-day Saints).
This dual pattern recalls the situation in the city of Zarahemla at the time of King Mosiah when his subjects, who spoke two different languages, assembled to hear him-"all the people of Nephi . . . and also all the people of Zarahemla, and they were gathered together in two bodies." At the least, Santa Rosa provides an example of the type of ethnically or linguistically divided Mesoamerican community reflected in this particular verse, whether or not it was the actual scene of the historical event reported there.
5 And it came to pass that Mosiah did read, and caused to be read, the records of Zeniff to his people; yea, he read the records of the people of Zeniff, from the time they left the land of Zarahemla until they returned again.
6 And he also read the account of Alma and his brethren, and all their afflictions, from the time they left the land of Zarahemla until the time they returned again.
verse 6 "the account of Alma . . . from the time they left the land of Zarahemla" The "records of Zeniff" and the "account of Alma" were presumably identical until Alma's people departed the land of Nephi for the waters of Mormon.
7 And now, when Mosiah had made an end of reading the records, his people who tarried in the land were struck with wonder and amazement.
8 For they knew not what to think; for when they beheld those that had been delivered out of bondage they were filled with exceedingly great joy.
9 And again, when they thought of their brethren who had been slain by the Lamanites they were filled with sorrow, and even shed many tears of sorrow.
verse 9 There had been no bloodshed among the people of Alma. Those "who had been slain by the Lamanites" were all among the people of Noah and Limhi.
10 And again, when they thought of the immediate goodness of God, and his power in delivering Alma and his brethren out of the hands of the Lamanites and of bondage, they did raise their voices and give thanks to God.
11 And again, when they thought upon the Lamanites, who were their brethren, of their sinful and polluted state, they were filled with pain and anguish for the welfare of their souls.
12 And it came to pass that those who were the children of Amulon and his brethren, who had taken to wife the daughters of the Lamanites, were displeased with the conduct of their fathers, and they would no longer be called by the names of their fathers, therefore they took upon themselves the name of Nephi, that they might be called the children of Nephi and be numbered among those who were called Nephites.
verse 12 Presumably the ignoble Amulon and his fellow priests of Noah were Nephites. Hence their children, whom they had left behind in the city of Nephi when they panicked and fled from their Lamanite attackers, were also Nephites by descent. Here the offspring of these cowardly priests disown them. The children did not wish to be known as "Amulonites." Rather they will go by the more general title Nephites.
13 And now all the people of Zarahemla were numbered with the Nephites, and this because the kingdom had been conferred upon none but those who were descendants of Nephi.
verse 13 We have already discussed the concept that the Nephites and Mulekites will never completely unite (see the commentary for verse 4). Rightful leadership of this combined group will always remain in the hands of the Nephites.
14 And now it came to pass that when Mosiah had made an end of speaking and reading to the people, he desired that Alma should also speak to the people.
15 And Alma did speak unto them, when they were assembled together in large bodies, and he went from one body to another, preaching unto the people repentance and faith on the Lord.
16 And he did exhort the people of Limhi and his brethren, all those that had been delivered out of bondage, that they should remember that it was the Lord that did deliver them.
verses 15-16 Grant R. Hardy in his helpful article "Mormon as Editor" (in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, edited by John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne, 15-28) has suggested that these verses may show an interesting example of the biases of the prophet Mormon as he edited the large plates of Nephi. Brother Hardy points out two major tendencies Mormon evidenced as he made his editorial choices. First, he interpreted political events in spiritual terms, and he highlighted the distinction between the obedient and the disobedient.
Two assumptions about this passage seem reasonable: Limhi and his brethren made up one of these large bodies of people, and Mormon had access to records of Alma's words to each of these groups. Mormon mentioned general preachings of repentance and faith, but the only specific instruction he recounted was the exhortation to Limhi's people to remember that the Lord was responsible for their deliverance. This editorial choice is puzzling when we recall that Limhi's people had freed themselves by getting their Lamanite guards drunk (see Mosiah 22). We even know the name of the man who concocted the scheme-Gideon. We also remember the conference in which Ammon and Limhi "began to consult with the people how they should deliver themselves out of bondage" (Mosiah 22:1). Their liberation seemed to be the result of sheer cunning-chapter twenty-two does not mention God once. And yet here in chapter twenty-five, Mormon's editing stresses that, despite appearances, God delivered Limhi's people just as much as he did Alma's people who had made a genuinely miraculous escape (Mosiah 24:16-25).
We thus see evidence of the point behind Mormon's editing-no matter what we may think about our own resourcefulness, decisiveness, and timing, God is still in charge. Mormon tends to interpret political and historical events in spiritual terms. This inclination is evident in his editing as well as in his direct "thus we see" comments.
Further evidence of Mormon's editing can be seen in this chapter. Look again at verses 7-11. Notice how Mormon probably takes some license with the reaction of the crowd to their being read the records of Zeniff and Alma. He has them all shifting back and forth simultaneously, from joy in verse eight to sorrow in verse nine, to praise in verse ten, and back to pain and anguish in verse eleven. In each case the pains of the disobedient contrast sharply and immediately with the joys of the obedient. The exposition of God's justice is clear, simple, and concise, and it owes its striking form to Mormon's editorial hand.
This type of editing is characteristic of the entire Book of Mormon. Mormon's motives for what he includes and what he does not are clear. His goal is not to give us a detailed historical account of ancient Nephite culture. Rather it is to turn our hearts to God. One of the ways Mormon does this is by emphasizing that those who follow God are blessed, while those who reject him suffer. The problem however, is that life is more complicated than this. We all know of instances in which good people suffer while the evil go unpunished. And most people are neither entirely righteous nor wholly wicked. Yet because the principle of God's justice is ultimately true, Mormon helps us out in the Book of Mormon by simplifying stories so that we can clearly see the results of good and bad behavior. Because of Mormon's editing, there is no question as to who is righteous and who is wicked, and that the bad things that happen are truly terrible, while the good things are wondrous indeed.
In some of Mormon's interpolations, Mormon identifies himself (see Words of Mormon; 3 Nephi 5:8-26; 3 Nephi 26:6-12; 3 Nephi 28:24; 4 Nephi 1:23), but more often he uses signals such as "thus we see," and "behold," and "I will show you" in an attempt to stress matters of particular spiritual importance to his readers (see Alma 24:19; Alma 24:27; Alma 50:19-23; Helaman 3:27-30; Helaman 12:1-2).
17 And it came to pass that after Alma had taught the people many things, and had made an end of speaking to them, that king Limhi was desirous that he might be baptized; and all his people were desirous that they might be baptized also.
18 Therefore, Alma did go forth into the water and did baptize them; yea, he did baptize them after the manner he did his brethren in the waters of Mormon; yea, and as many as he did baptize did belong to the church of God; and this because of their belief on the words of Alma.
verses 17-18 You will recall that King Limhi and his people had wanted to be baptized while they were still in the land of Nephi. Yet there was no one with the proper authority available to baptize them (Mosiah 21:33-35).
verse 18 "as many as he did baptize did belong to the church of God" Here is a teaching that we have learned since childhood. Baptism is necessary for entry into the church and required in order to take upon oneself the name of Christ (see verse 23).
19 And it came to pass that king Mosiah granted unto Alma that he might establish churches throughout all the land of Zarahemla; and gave him power to ordain priests and teachers over every church.
verse 19 "king Mosiah granted unto Alma . . . power to ordain priests and teachers over every church" Previously the right to administer the church and to ordain priests and teachers had belonged solely to the Nephite king who obviously held the priesthood keys or right of presidency. Here is the first instance in the Book of Mormon of separation of church and state.
Alma will preside over the church in Zarahemla for about thirty years, from his arrival in Zarahemla in about 122 BC until his death in 91 BC at the age of 82. He is considered to be the great builder of the church in the Book of Mormon, and is given credit for founding the church both in Mormon (at the "waters of Mormon") and in Zarahemla.
"granted unto Alma that he might establish churches throughout all the land of Zarahemla" Each of the Nephite congregations is referred to as a "church." The church likely already existed in Zarahemla, but Alma was called to divide it into congregations and bring to it more organization and leadership.
We will learn that in spite of delegating the responsibility of administering the church to Alma, Mosiah maintained his own council of priest advisers (Mosiah 27:1). This should not be surprising. These priests, notwithstanding their ecclesiastical designation, were likely the best educated and most astute men in the kingdom, and might be expected to form a body well qualified to counsel the king, even on political matters.
We have already concluded that these priests and teachers held the Melchizedek priesthood (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:87). Elder McConkie has added to our understanding of these offices: "In general terms, a priest is a minister." While a priest must hold the priesthood, the "designation [priest] . . . has no reference to any particular office in the priesthood" (Mormon Doctrine, 598). "Among the Nephites, brethren holding the Melchizedek priesthood were consecrated teachers and given teaching and administrative powers and responsibilities. . . . They had jurisdiction over the churches [congregations] and, along with the priests, were 'to preach and to teach the word of God' (Alma 23:4)" (Ibid., 776).
20 Now this was done because there were so many people that they could not all be governed by one teacher; neither could they all hear the word of God in one assembly;
21 Therefore they did assemble themselves together in different bodies, being called churches; every church having their priests and their teachers, and every priest preaching the word according as it was delivered to him by the mouth of Alma.
22 And thus, notwithstanding there being many churches they were all one church, yea, even the church of God; for there was nothing preached in all the churches except it were repentance and faith in God.
verses 21-22 The church consisted of many "churches" or congregations, yet they all taught the same doctrine.
verse 22 "even the church of God" Elder Bruce R. McConkie's definition of the church of God is beautiful in its simplicity. The church is, he said, "God's kingdom, the kingdom of God on earth, and as such is designed to prepare men for an inheritance in the kingdom of God in heaven, which is the celestial kingdom. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Eternal King" (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 335).
"there was nothing preached in all the churches except it were repentance and faith in God" To preach "repentance" is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is to teach of Christ's atonement and resurrection and their implications in our eternal lives.
23 And now there were seven churches in the land of Zarahemla. And it came to pass that whosoever were desirous to take upon them the name of Christ, or of God, they did join the churches of God;
verse 23 "seven churches" In Zarahemla there was one "church," but it was made up of subordinate local units also called "churches." For a discussion of the possible significance of the number seven, see the commentary for Jacob 1:13.
24 And they were called the people of God. And the Lord did pour out his Spirit upon them, and they were blessed, and prospered in the land.