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1 Now it came to pass that when those Lamanites who had gone to war against the Nephites had found, after their many struggles to destroy them, that it was in vain to seek their destruction, they returned again to the land of Nephi.
2 And it came to pass that the Amalekites, because of their loss, were exceedingly angry. And when they saw that they could not seek revenge from the Nephites, they began to stir up the people in anger against their brethren, the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi; therefore they began again to destroy them.
3 Now this people again refused to take their arms, and they suffered themselves to be slain according to the desires of their enemies.
Verse 1 picks up the thread of a story from Alma 25:13–14 (see the comments on those verses for a possible reason for these related, but slightly different, stories). In those verses, Mormon had indicated that Lamanites had gone to war against Nephites and returned without success. The result of the failed raids is different here from the context in Alma 25:13–14. In those verses, the failure caused some of the Lamanites to join with, and become, Anti-Nephi-Lehies.
In verse 2, those raids anger those who wanted to defeat the Nephites, and they turn their anger on the Anti-Nephi-Lehies. Once again, the Anti-Nephi-Lehies are shown to be faithful to their covenants, and they do not take up arms. This sets up the crisis that will cause the Anti-Nephi-Lehies to flee to Zarahemla, as explained in the next verses.
Although Mormon continues to tell the ending of the story that he took from the record of the sons of Mosiah, which was from Alma’s personal record, he is shifting away from that record and returning to the story that had to have come from the Nephite large plates. He has not finished with Alma’s record, but is temporarily moving back to his main source of historical information. Our chapter 28, which was part of the original chapter, will see a return to Alma’s personal record for information and quotations.
4 Now when Ammon and his brethren saw this work of destruction among those whom they so dearly beloved, and among those who had so dearly beloved them—for they were treated as though they were angels sent from God to save them from everlasting destruction—therefore, when Ammon and his brethren saw this great work of destruction, they were moved with compassion, and they said unto the king:
5 Let us gather together this people of the Lord, and let us go down to the land of Zarahemla to our brethren the Nephites, and flee out of the hands of our enemies, that we be not destroyed.
6 But the king said unto them: Behold, the Nephites will destroy us, because of the many murders and sins we have committed against them.
7 And Ammon said: I will go and inquire of the Lord, and if he say unto us, go down unto our brethren, will ye go?
The original attack on the Anti-Nephi-Lehies may be ascribed to the overthrow of the government and the seating of the new king. Because that had already happened, perhaps the Anti-Nephi-Lehies felt that any great threat was behind them. This more recent attack proved that they were in grave danger. Therefore, Ammon and his brothers believe that their only salvation was to leave the land. They had already become a different type of people from the Lamanites, believing more like their enemy, the Nephites. Now they were to become Nephites not only in belief, but in land and political affiliation.
The king, Anti-Nephi-Lehi, is fearful because all understood that there was hatred on both sides of the Lamanite-Nephite divide. He would correctly fear that “the Nephites will destroy us.” It is the reverse of the fear that Ammon and his brothers would have had as they entered Lamanite lands.
Ammon asks if they will go to Zarahemla if the Lord tells them to. For a people who were willing to lay down their lives for the covenants that they had made to follow God, that would have been an easy answer. Of course, they would go.
8 And the king said unto him: Yea, if the Lord saith unto us go, we will go down unto our brethren, and we will be their slaves until we repair unto them the many murders and sins which we have committed against them.
9 But Ammon said unto him: It is against the law of our brethren, which was established by my father, that there should be any slaves among them; therefore let us go down and rely upon the mercies of our brethren.
10 But the king said unto him: Inquire of the Lord, and if he saith unto us go, we will go; otherwise we will perish in the land.
11 And it came to pass that Ammon went and inquired of the Lord, and the Lord said unto him:
12 Get this people out of this land, that they perish not; for Satan has great hold on the hearts of the Amalekites, who do stir up the Lamanites to anger against their brethren to slay them; therefore get thee out of this land; and blessed are this people in this generation, for I will preserve them.
Verse 10 confirms that if the Lord told the Anti-Nephi-Lehies to go to Zarahemla, they would go. However, there wasn’t much that could be done to calm their fears. When the king says that they might be slaves to the Nephites, it was not significantly different than the offer Ammon and Aaron made to become a servant. Even that option was not open to them.
The Anti-Nephi-Lehies once again were required to live their faith. This is the definition of exercising faith: the doing of what God asks, even when we do not fully understand it.
Ammon asks. Jehovah answers: “get this people out of this land. . . I will preserve them.” With the strength of their faith, that was answer enough for them to leave, even if they still feared to hope for mercy from a people who had been a sworn enemy.
13 And now it came to pass that Ammon went and told the king all the words which the Lord had said unto him.
14 And they gathered together all their people, yea, all the people of the Lord, and did gather together all their flocks and herds, and departed out of the land, and came into the wilderness which divided the land of Nephi from the land of Zarahemla, and came over near the borders of the land.
15 And it came to pass that Ammon said unto them: Behold, I and my brethren will go forth into the land of Zarahemla, and ye shall remain here until we return; and we will try the hearts of our brethren, whether they will that ye shall come into their land.
16 And it came to pass that as Ammon was going forth into the land, that he and his brethren met Alma, over in the place of which has been spoken; and behold, this was a joyful meeting.
Even though God had promised that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies would be preserved, Ammon and his brothers return to the land of Zarahemla to prepare for them to come. That preparation was perhaps not only to let the people of Zarahemla know that the former Lamanites were coming, but also to prepare a place for them. There were apparently thousands who were coming, and that would mean that thousands had to be fed and housed while they were building their lives and farms in a new land.
It is at this point that the flashback story catches up with the departure point. The meeting between the sons of Mosiah and Alma was told in Alma 17:1–4. Although Mormon still uses Alma’s personal record for his information, it is Mormon who has constructed this method of adding the events into the Book of Mormon, and it is Mormon’s descriptions, which are based on Alma’s record, that we will see in the next verses.
17 Now the joy of Ammon was so great even that he was full; yea, he was swallowed up in the joy of his God, even to the exhausting of his strength; and he fell again to the earth.
18 Now was not this exceeding joy? Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness.
19 Now the joy of Alma in meeting his brethren was truly great, and also the joy of Aaron, of Omner, and Himni; but behold their joy was not that to exceed their strength.
When Mormon originally told of this meeting in Alma 17:1–4, he mentioned Alma’s response, but did not give us Ammon’s response. Ammon was as joyful as Alma, but to the point where that joy “exhaust[ed] his strength; and he fell again to the earth.” This is the powerful presence of the Spirit that Alma had felt in his experience with the angel, and which King Lamoni, the queen, and later, Lamoni’s father, had felt.
In this occasion, Ammon is overcome. Mormon mentions that his brothers were not overcome in the same way, but gives no explanation for the difference. Modern readers may simply imply that different people feel the Spirit in different ways, and that there is no single way to demonstrate that what one feels is truly the Spirit.
20 And now it came to pass that Alma conducted his brethren back to the land of Zarahemla; even to his own house. And they went and told the chief judge all the things that had happened unto them in the land of Nephi, among their brethren, the Lamanites.
21 And it came to pass that the chief judge sent a proclamation throughout all the land, desiring the voice of the people concerning the admitting their brethren, who were the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi.
22 And it came to pass that the voice of the people came, saying: Behold, we will give up the land of Jershon, which is on the east by the sea, which joins the land Bountiful, which is on the south of the land Bountiful; and this land Jershon is the land which we will give unto our brethren for an inheritance.
23 And behold, we will set our armies between the land Jershon and the land Nephi, that we may protect our brethren in the land Jershon; and this we do for our brethren, on account of their fear to take up arms against their brethren lest they should commit sin; and this their great fear came because of their sore repentance which they had, on account of their many murders and their awful wickedness.
24 And now behold, this will we do unto our brethren, that they may inherit the land Jershon; and we will guard them from their enemies with our armies, on condition that they will give us a portion of their substance to assist us that we may maintain our armies.
The question of what to do with the Anti-Nephi-Lehies is taken to the Chief Judge, Nephihah (see Alma 4:17). A proclamation is sent out. Modern readers easily assume that this was written out and that individuals would read it. It is more likely that the ability to read was restricted to a few in the upper classes, as was common in most ancient cultures. Thus, it was probable that the proclamation was indeed written, but that a messenger would read it to gathered groups of people.
The decision is made to place the Anti-Nephi-Lehies in Jershon. Giving them land meant that they were given a way to sustain themselves. Although they were being brought into Nephite lands and society, it was also understood that they had made a covenant not to take up arms. The Nephite people understand the importance of a covenant with God, and, therefore, the Anti-Nephi-Lehies are given a land that is deeper into Nephite territory, where it will be easier to defend themselves against a future Lamanite incursion.
In exchange, the Nephites do not ask them to violate their covenant, but only to support those who will defend them so that they need not break the covenant.
25 Now, it came to pass that when Ammon had heard this, he returned to the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi, and also Alma with him, into the wilderness, where they had pitched their tents, and made known unto them all these things. And Alma also related unto them his conversion, with Ammon and Aaron, and his brethren.
26 And it came to pass that it did cause great joy among them. And they went down into the land of Jershon, and took possession of the land of Jershon; and they were called by the Nephites the people of Ammon; therefore they were distinguished by that name ever after.
27 And they were among the people of Nephi, and also numbered among the people who were of the church of God. And they were also distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end.
28 And they did look upon shedding the blood of their brethren with the greatest abhorrence; and they never could be prevailed upon to take up arms against their brethren; and they never did look upon death with any degree of terror, for their hope and views of Christ and the resurrection; therefore, death was swallowed up to them by the victory of Christ over it.
29 Therefore, they would suffer death in the most aggravating and distressing manner which could be inflicted by their brethren, before they would take the sword or cimeter to smite them.
30 And thus they were a zealous and beloved people, a highly favored people of the Lord.
The Anti-Nephi-Lehies happily accept the Nephite proposal and leave their homes and ancestral lands for a new place among a people who had once been their enemies. Once again, they elect to change their name. The name Anti-Nephi-Lehi had some important distinction in the land of the Lamanites, identifying them as religious followers of Nephi and Lehi, although politically still Lamanites. After moving to Nephite lands, the distinctive naming was no longer useful.
The former Anti-Nephi-Lehies had been numbered among the church, and no longer needed to distinguish their beliefs. They take upon themselves Ammon’s name, becoming the people of Ammon, or Ammonites. Although verse 30 is certainly the ending of this story, we will see the Ammonites again in Alma 56:57, where we will read the story of the “stripling Ammonites.”
There is no chapter break at this point in the 1830 edition. The information that the Ammonites were given the land of Jershon will lead into the next story that Mormon is telling.
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