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Mosiah2 Gather’s the People in Zarahemla
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.
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.
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.
Verses 1 and 4 form a repetitive resumption. The middle two verses speak of the relative sizes of the political entities. When Mormon calls the Nephites descendants of Nephi, he was using that term in its generic meaning, not a lineal designation. We also learn that the people of Zarahemla were descendants of Mulek. This is the first time we learn that. We do not learn that Mulek was a son of Zedekiah until Helaman 8:21.
Concerning the relative sizes of the political entities, there were Nephites who merged with the more populous people of Zarahemla. Combined they were not half as many as the Lamanites. This relative size continues to reinforce the idea that the term Lamanite simply meant “not us” and that they represented all of the surrounding peoples, whether they had a lineal connection to Laman or not.
As Mormon moves from his aside on population sizes back to the story, he adds that as Mosiah2 gathered the people, they gathered in two bodies. Without stating it, it is clear that the two bodies were Nephites and Zarahemlaites. They had merged, but it was an uneasy merger.
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.
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.
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.
Both the peoples of Limhi and Alma1 arrived in Zarahemla at nearly the same time. After arrival, Mosiah2 introduces them to the people by reading their records. We do not know if he read the whole of their records or selected sections, but ancient audiences would have had a better tolerance for long meetings than do modern readers more accustomed to modern media. Even during Joseph Smith’s time, long sermons were hardly unusual. The level of entertainment was significantly different prior to the modern age.
What follows are descriptions of the reactions to Mosiah2’s readings. Mormon shows the various reactions by creating contrasts. There is joy for deliverance and sorrow for loss of life. There is joy in Yahweh’s salvation, but sorrow for the state of the Lamanites.
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.
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.
The significance of the labeling of names that Mormon used is underscored by the children of Amulon (as representative of all the priests of Noah) who decided that they are no longer to be designated by the name of their fathers, but rather that they should be called “children of Nephi.” This was a symbolic move which declared their political affiliation as well as a rejection of their fathers’ actions.
Mormon uses this action to note that even though he has indicated that there was still a separation between Nephites and Zarahemlaites and that, for political purposes, they were all called under the name of Nephi. Thus, there are lineage connections and divisions, but the overall political allegiance is still defined as Nephite and Lamanite, or, us and them.
Churches are Established Throughout the Land
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.
We do not learn of the meeting between Mosiah2 and Alma1. There must have been one so that Mosiah2 would know that there was reason to have Alma1 preach to the people. Alma1 clearly impressed Mosiah2, and Alma1’s ideas will be seen in the events that lead to the reign of the judges.
Alma1 does not preach to the whole group, however. It appears that the basic meeting breaks up, and Alma1 travels to the different groups. It is probable that there were specific areas in Zarahemla where each separate group would reside. It would have been unusual for them to be very well integrated physically, particularly since we will see that there was an uneasy political and religious integration.
Specifically, Alma1 has the opportunity to speak with Limhi’s people. They were, of course, much the same people, with Alma1 having separated from them only recently.
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.
Limhi and his people had already desired of Ammon that they be baptized. Ammon had declined. Now that they were in Zarahemla, King Mosiah2 had clearly given Alma1 authority under the Nephite government to perform religious rituals. It is therefore Alma1 who baptizes Limhi and his people, symbolically uniting all that people under their new covenant. Unstated, but important, is that they are also baptized with the new meaning that Alma1 has placed over the cleansing-from-sin aspect of baptism. It is also now an entry vehicle to the new community of faith. That is the next subject that Mormon addresses.
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.
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.
Mormon explicitly states that Alma1 operates through King Mosiah2’s authority. What is also important is that Alma1’s innovation of the concept of church is implemented in Zarahemla. The difference stems from two aspects of Nephite society in Zarahemla. The first is the one that explicitly mentions that there were too many people to hear the gospel in a single congregation. Thus, there are multiple congregations that “did assemble themselves together in different bodies, being called churches.” What is not as clear is the second aspect: that these divisions within the city also allowed for the separation from those who might not believe in the same way. The cultural and religious divide between the Nephites and Zarahemlaites was both allowed and given an outward form.
Churches were a separate unit within the larger city. This differed from the communal practice of religion that had dominated both Israel and Israel’s New World incarnation among the Nephites. Where the old way had priests who operated on behalf of all the community, churches operated with divisions in the community, and focused more on the smaller group than the people as a whole.
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.
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;
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.
The organization of the churches allowed for divisions, but there was an intended unity among them. They were all to preach the same gospel even while operating more locally. It is unclear whether the seven churches in the land of Zarahemla correspond to the municipalities or not. It is tempting to suggest that there was a church in each separate city, thus suggesting that there were seven cities beholding to the Nephite hegemony. There could have been several smaller communities that each surrounded and that looked to a particular larger city as their center for political structure, religion, and perhaps, more importantly, their market.
Mormon ends the discussion of the creation of churches with the typical indication that they were blessed and prospered.
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