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TitleAlma 16
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsGardner, Brant A.
Book TitleBook of Mormon Minute
PublisherBook of Mormon Central
CitySpringville, UT
KeywordsAlma (Book)

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Alma 16

Alma 16:1–2

1 And it came to pass in the eleventh year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, on the fifth day of the second month, there having been much peace in the land of Zarahemla, there having been no wars nor contentions for a certain number of years, even until the fifth day of the second month in the eleventh year, there was a cry of war heard throughout the land.

2 For behold, the armies of the Lamanites had come in upon the wilderness side, into the borders of the land, even into the city of Ammonihah, and began to slay the people and destroy the city.

Comments

One of the repeated aspects of Mormon’s writing is that when he mentions a time of continual peace, it is a prelude to the disruption of that peace. The previous chapter ended with a statement of the year, and this chapter begins with a statement of the year. In this case, the shift to note both the year and the conflict with the Lamanites tells us that Mormon has temporarily stepped away from his editing of Alma’s personal record and has returned to the large plates for this information.

This return to the large plates does not mean that he is moving away from Alma’s record, but rather that he establishes this Lamanite invasion according to the record on the large plates. This particular interlude tells the Nephite side of the story of the destruction of Ammonihah. Mormon includes it as the fulfillment of the prophecy Alma pronounced upon the city.

Since this insertion of material from the large plates serves the story of Alma and Amulek, Mormon returns to finish their story at the end of the chapter, and after declaring that their pronouncement upon Ammonihah was fulfilled.

Alma 16:3–4

3 And now it came to pass, before the Nephites could raise a sufficient army to drive them out of the land, they had destroyed the people who were in the city of Ammonihah, and also some around the borders of Noah, and taken others captive into the wilderness.

4 Now it came to pass that the Nephites were desirous to obtain those who had been carried away captive into the wilderness.

Comments

Although Alma had declared that Ammonihah would be destroyed if it did not repent, and his personal record showed that they did not repent, Mormon gives us the short version of the destruction of Ammonihah from the perspective of the large plates. There is little information given, but it is important for understanding the later story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, which will provide a Lamanite view of the same battle.

The first important piece of information to file away is that this was a lightning raid on Ammonihah. It was a surprise, and the Nephites didn’t have time to raise an army sufficient to drive the Lamanites from the land.

The second piece of information is that the Lamanites took captives. That will become an important part of the story later, but it is interesting to note that we don’t get that explicit statement of taking captives in most stories of Nephite wars with the Lamanites.

Lastly, this was not a sustained campaign. Where other wars appear to attempt to establish territorial dominance, this was a hit-and-run raid. The Lamanites destroyed Ammonihah, took captives, and immediately left.

All of these features will become important when the other side of the story is told. Their presence here is corroboration that Mormon is dealing with historical records, and seeing them according to the way each faction recorded them.

Alma 16:5–8

5 Therefore, he that had been appointed chief captain over the armies of the Nephites, (and his name was Zoram, and he had two sons, Lehi and Aha)—now Zoram and his two sons, knowing that Alma was high priest over the church, and having heard that he had the spirit of prophecy, therefore they went unto him and desired of him to know whither the Lord would that they should go into the wilderness in search of their brethren, who had been taken captive by the Lamanites.

6 And it came to pass that Alma inquired of the Lord concerning the matter. And Alma returned and said unto them: Behold, the Lamanites will cross the river Sidon in the south wilderness, away up beyond the borders of the land of Manti. And behold there shall ye meet them, on the east of the river Sidon, and there the Lord will deliver unto thee thy brethren who have been taken captive by the Lamanites.

7 And it came to pass that Zoram and his sons crossed over the river Sidon, with their armies, and marched away beyond the borders of Manti into the south wilderness, which was on the east side of the river Sidon.

8 And they came upon the armies of the Lamanites, and the Lamanites were scattered and driven into the wilderness; and they took their brethren who had been taken captive by the Lamanites, and there was not one soul of them had been lost that were taken captive. And they were brought by their brethren to possess their own lands.

Comments

The Nephites could not prevent the raid on Ammonihah, but they could attempt to do damage to the Lamanites as retaliation. To do so, they go to Alma as the high priest to receive knowledge of where to search for the Lamanite army. Alma consults Jehovah, and receives the information on the path that the Lamanites were taking. Most Lamanite invasions came from the south through the pass near Manti, which was near the headwaters of the Sidon. This Lamanite army may have bypassed Manti, but ended up on the same basic path.

The Nephite army heeds Alma’s word, and finds the Lamanite army as promised. They were able to recover the captives even while the “Lamanites were scattered and driven into the wilderness.” The appearance of the captives as a motivation in this story occur multiple times. Captives are mentioned as part of the Lamanite attack, then as a reason to pursue the Lamanites, and finally as a culmination of the Nephites following Jehovah’s information, and recovering the captives as Jehovah had promised. Captives are important to the story for reasons that we will see again as part of the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies.

At this point, however, the return of the captives highlights Jehovah as God of the Nephites, and as a God directly involved with his people.

Alma 16:9–11

9 And thus ended the eleventh year of the judges, the Lamanites having been driven out of the land, and the people of Ammonihah were destroyed; yea, every living soul of the Ammonihahites was destroyed, and also their great city, which they said God could not destroy, because of its greatness.

10 But behold, in one day it was left desolate; and the carcasses were mangled by dogs and wild beasts of the wilderness.

11 Nevertheless, after many days their dead bodies were heaped up upon the face of the earth, and they were covered with a shallow covering. And now so great was the scent thereof that the people did not go in to possess the land of Ammonihah for many years. And it was called Desolation of Nehors; for they were of the profession of Nehor, who were slain; and their lands remained desolate.

Comments

Mormon finishes the successful expulsion of the Lamanites by turning to the city of Ammonihah. He first notes that “every living soul of the Ammonihahites was destroyed.” Of course, that is hyperbole. Typically, some people survive such invasions, and if there was no one else, the returned captives survived. Mormon’s point is not pure and accurate history, however. It is theologically important to note that they were all destroyed, because the best shows the fulfillment of the prophecy. We are to remember that the righteous of Ammonihah had either been killed by the Ammonihahites or had fled to Sidom.

The picture of the heaped dead is meant to invoke destruction, and Mormon specifically says that “in one day it was left desolate.” Mormon places an extra meaning on the word desolate. He will use that word more and more in conjunction with both the lands, and the people of Jared. Mormon is setting up the comparison between desolation for Ammonihahite wickedness and the end of the Jaredites in desolation for their wickedness.

Notice how Mormon emphasizes the idea of desolation. “And it was called Desolation of Nehors.” “Their lands remained desolate.” It is not a coincidence that the land northward, the land that Mormon associates with the Jaredites, is called the Land Desolation, in dramatic counterpoint to the Nephite land to the south, the Land Bountiful. These are names with a purpose.

Alma 16:12

12 And the Lamanites did not come again to war against the Nephites until the fourteenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi. And thus for three years did the people of Nephi have continual peace in all the land.

Comments

This is a fascinating verse because it confirms that noting continual peace leads to an entry about conflict. What is fascinating is that while Mormon tells us that the Lamanites came to war in the fourteenth year of the reign of the judges, he tells us absolutely nothing more. We may assume that the Lamanites were defeated, else, surely, he would have provided some information concerning that. However, at this point in his text he returns to the story of Alma and Amulek, and ends this chapter with the ending of the fourteenth year. There is no more mention of this war with the Lamanites.

Alma 16:13–17

13 And Alma and Amulek went forth preaching repentance to the people in their temples, and in their sanctuaries, and also in their synagogues, which were built after the manner of the Jews.

14 And as many as would hear their words, unto them they did impart the word of God, without any respect of persons, continually.

15 And thus did Alma and Amulek go forth, and also many more who had been chosen for the work, to preach the word throughout all the land. And the establishment of the church became general throughout the land, in all the region round about, among all the people of the Nephites.

16 And there was no inequality among them; the Lord did pour out his Spirit on all the face of the land to prepare the minds of the children of men, or to prepare their hearts to receive the word which should be taught among them at the time of his coming—

17 That they might not be hardened against the word, that they might not be unbelieving, and go on to destruction, but that they might receive the word with joy, and as a branch be grafted into the true vine, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord their God.

Comments

Once brought together by an angel, Alma and Amulek continue as missionary companions. At this point, however, we lose detail. Mormon shifts into generic discussions. He tells us that they preached “in their temples, and in their sanctuaries, and also in their synagogues,” but unlike the quoted sermons, Mormon doesn’t tell us where these places were. The previous itinerary of specific locations is replaced with general statements.

Continuing the vague nature of the descriptions, Alma and Amulek are successful, and they continued to establish the church. In verse 16 Mormon provides the idea of what establishing the church meant: “there was no inequality among them.”

One point of verse 13 has been of some concern, and that is the listing of synagogues. There is a meaning of the synagogue as a specific type of meeting place that postdates the departure of Lehi from Jerusalem. However, the term can also be used in its generic meaning of a gathering place, the literal Greek meaning of the word. Considering that it can simply mean a gathering place, and that we see it in translation, rather than in the original, provides ample explanation for what that term is doing in the text, even if there is a later-developed meaning of the word that would not have been in the Nephite text before translation.

Alma 16:18–21

18 Now those priests who did go forth among the people did preach against all lyings, and deceivings, and envyings, and strifes, and malice, and revilings, and stealing, robbing, plundering, murdering, committing adultery, and all manner of lasciviousness, crying that these things ought not so to be—

19 Holding forth things which must shortly come; yea, holding forth the coming of the Son of God, his sufferings and death, and also the resurrection of the dead.

20 And many of the people did inquire concerning the place where the Son of God should come; and they were taught that he would appear unto them after his resurrection; and this the people did hear with great joy and gladness.

21 And now after the church had been established throughout all the land—having got the victory over the devil, and the word of God being preached in its purity in all the land, and the Lord pouring out his blessings upon the people—thus ended the fourteenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi.

Comments

Mormon continues the list of things that were preached. Among the preaching against lyings and deceivings, there is also the very important teaching about the “coming of the Son of God.”

All of these things simply establish the ending of the story of Alma and Amulek’s preaching tour. Mormon has left specifics, and is simply noting that outside of Ammonihah, good was accomplished. Putting an end to that story allows him to return to Alma’s personal record and the next important story he wanted to take from that record. That begins in the next chapter.

This chapter remained unchanged from the 1830 edition, when the 1879 changes to the chapters were made.

Scripture Reference

Alma 16:1-21