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TitleAlma 23
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 23

Alma 23:1–3

1 Behold, now it came to pass that the king of the Lamanites sent a proclamation among all his people, that they should not lay their hands on Ammon, or Aaron, or Omner, or Himni, nor either of their brethren who should go forth preaching the word of God, in whatsoever place they should be, in any part of their land.

2 Yea, he sent a decree among them, that they should not lay their hands on them to bind them, or to cast them into prison; neither should they spit upon them, nor smite them, nor cast them out of their synagogues, nor scourge them; neither should they cast stones at them, but that they should have free access to their houses, and also their temples, and their sanctuaries.

3 And thus they might go forth and preach the word according to their desires, for the king had been converted unto the Lord, and all his household; therefore he sent his proclamation throughout the land unto his people, that the word of God might have no obstruction, but that it might go forth throughout all the land, that his people might be convinced concerning the wicked traditions of their fathers, and that they might be convinced that they were all brethren, and that they ought not to murder, nor to plunder, nor to steal, nor to commit adultery, nor to commit any manner of wickedness.

Comments

Verses 1 and 2 pick up the story that was interrupted in Alma 22:27. The first thing that the repetitive resumption does is to get the text back to the story that was interrupted. Thus, the idea that a proclamation was sent is repeated from Alma 22:27. The second aspect of the resumption is to tell why the proclamation was sent, which was not told before the inserted material on the geography of Lamanite and Nephite lands. The proclamation provided safety for the sons of Mosiah and for those with them in order to preach among the Lamanites. In Alma 22:26, Alma had told of the overking allowing the brothers to preach to those present, and this part of the story extends that permission to the whole of the territory over which the overking had control.

Verse 3 ends the part of the story that would have ended the previous chapter. In Mormon’s writings, it is not unusual for something to trigger him to end a chapter. When that happens, it also often happens that the story that would have ended the chapter isn’t over. That is the case here. Verse 3 summarizes the proclamation, and concludes that part of the story. The story will shift away from the overking and on to the next part of the missionary work, beginning in the next verse.

Alma 23:4–7

4 And now it came to pass that when the king had sent forth this proclamation, that Aaron and his brethren went forth from city to city, and from one house of worship to another, establishing churches, and consecrating priests and teachers throughout the land among the Lamanites, to preach and to teach the word of God among them; and thus they began to have great success.

5 And thousands were brought to the knowledge of the Lord, yea, thousands were brought to believe in the traditions of the Nephites; and they were taught the records and prophecies which were handed down even to the present time.

6 And as sure as the Lord liveth, so sure as many as believed, or as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth, through the preaching of Ammon and his brethren, according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy, and the power of God working miracles in them—yea, I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away.

7 For they became a righteous people; they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more, neither against any of their brethren.

Comments

With the overking’s protection, the missionary work could begin in earnest. No longer threatened with imprisonment as had occurred in Middoni, many could hear their message. That the overking and King Lamoni had both been converted to this message about Jehovah certainly assisted in opening many minds and hearts.

Very important is the last line of verse 6. Those who were converted “never did fall away.” This was a sincere conversion. There is no indication of whether this part of the text was original to Alma’s record, or if it is Mormon’s insertion. Even if it were copied from Alma’s text, however, it served Mormon’s purposes to include it. Mormon wants to show that the Lamanites can be redeemed, and that they may be truly converted. Doubtless, some of this message is aimed at the Lamanites to whom Mormon is writing. He wants them to know that, despite the traditions of their fathers, they are able to come to Jehovah and be truly converted. The idea that they never did fall away is certainly limited to the individuals who were converted and not to all their descendants, but it is still an important implication of the redeemability of the Lamanites.

Verse 7 uses the phrase “lay down the weapons of their rebellion.” This phrase is repeated in verse 13 below, where it clarifies that these were weapons of war. That is also a characteristic of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies. It appears that this laying down of weapons was somehow part of their repentance process. The possible reason will be discussed when we examine the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies.

Alma 23:8–15

8 Now, these are they who were converted unto the Lord:

9 The people of the Lamanites who were in the land of Ishmael;

10 And also of the people of the Lamanites who were in the land of Middoni;

11 And also of the people of the Lamanites who were in the city of Nephi;

12 And also of the people of the Lamanites who were in the land of Shilom, and who were in the land of Shemlon, and in the city of Lemuel, and in the city of Shimnilom.

13 And these are the names of the cities of the Lamanites which were converted unto the Lord; and these are they that laid down the weapons of their rebellion, yea, all their weapons of war; and they were all Lamanites.

14 And the Amalekites were not converted, save only one; neither were any of the Amulonites; but they did harden their hearts, and also the hearts of the Lamanites in that part of the land wheresoever they dwelt, yea, and all their villages and all their cities.

15 Therefore, we have named all the cities of the Lamanites in which they did repent and come to the knowledge of the truth, and were converted.

Comments

The conversions are listed by their land. Typically, there is a city that gives its name to the surrounding land. There is a city of Nephi in the land of Nephi. When verse 12 lists the land of Shemlon, it lists two particular cities, the city of Lemuel and the city of Shimnilom. That might suggest that there were other cities in the land that were not converted, but that is speculation. There is no real information here to understand much more than what is written.

What is important in this list is the culminating statement in verse 13. These cities were converted, and they “laid down the weapons of their rebellion, yea, all their weapons of war.” As noted in the previous verses, this will become an important feature of the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies.

Either Mormon or Alma, since the author is unclear, underscore that all these conversions were Lamanites. Mormon would have either added that line, or made sure to copy it, to make certain that his future readers, whom he assumed would be Lamanites, understood that they, too, were capable of faithful conversion and redemption.

This section of the story ends by noting that the Amalekites, who were apostate Nephites, were not among the converts. It is another theme Mormon emphasizes, that the worst and most implacable enemies were those who apostatized.

Alma 23:16–18

16 And now it came to pass that the king and those who were converted were desirous that they might have a name, that thereby they might be distinguished from their brethren; therefore the king consulted with Aaron and many of their priests, concerning the name that they should take upon them, that they might be distinguished.

17 And it came to pass that they called their names Anti-Nephi-Lehies; and they were called by this name and were no more called Lamanites.

18 And they began to be a very industrious people; yea, and they were friendly with the Nephites; therefore, they did open a correspondence with them, and the curse of God did no more follow them.

Comments

Those who were converted were from multiple cities and lands, but they were considered Lamanites. After their conversion, there was nothing different about their genetic makeup, but they wanted to create a separation from the Lamanites who were not converted. Rather than be understood as a people of a certain city or land, they wanted to be known by their devotion to Jehovah. They name themselves Anti-Nephi-Lehies, and “were no more called Lamanites.”

Verse 18 continues the theme of complete conversion. They were no longer Lamanites, and, therefore, no longer the lazy stereotype. There is no indication that any of these people changed their ways of growing food, but the phrase is included to show that there is a dramatic change. It is written from the perspective of the Nephites. Thus, these Anti-Nephi-Lehies became the opposite of Lamanites. Although they are not called Nephites directly, they are at least symbolic Nephites. Even “the curse of God did no more follow them.”

There have been times in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when the removal of the curse suggested a change in skin pigment. That should be seen as an old cultural misunderstanding of the text. The curse removed the reason for not being able to intermarry with Nephites. There is no evidence in the actions seen in the text that allow the interpretation that there was a skin color difference between Lamanites and Nephites.

There is no known reason for the name Anti-Nephi-Lehies. What can be said is that the “Anti” part of the name does not come from the Greek prefix that meant “against.” There is a city named Ani-Anti (Alma 21:11), which tells us that it is a name, and not a prefix. It certainly had some important meaning, and certainly invoked the fact that they followed the religious teachings of Nephi and his father, Lehi. More than that, there is no definitive answer.

There is no chapter break at this point in the 1830 edition. The story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies continues immediately.

Scripture Reference

Alma 23:1-18