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Sons of Mosiah2 Go to Preach Among the Lamanites
1 Now it came to pass that after the sons of Mosiah had done all these things, they took a small number with them and returned to their father, the king, and desired of him that he would grant unto them that they might, with these whom they had selected, go up to the land of Nephi that they might preach the things which they had heard, and that they might impart the word of God to their brethren, the Lamanites—
2 That perhaps they might bring them to the knowledge of the Lord their God, and convince them of the iniquity of their fathers; and that perhaps they might cure them of their hatred towards the Nephites, that they might also be brought to rejoice in the Lord their God, that they might become friendly to one another, and that there should be no more contentions in all the land which the Lord their God had given them.
Mormon begins a new chapter with a new story. The intent of this new chapter is to introduce the political problem created when the sons of Mosiah2 decline political leadership in order to instead go on a missionary journey to the Lamanites. This part of the story begins here and continues through verse 10, where Mormon will interrupt the narrative in such a way that he will decide to create a new chapter to return to the essential story he begins with these verses.
The story begins with the repentance of the sons of Mosiah2. That change of heart has them desiring to “preach the things which they had heard.” Specifically, they desire to preach those things to the Lamanites. Why the Lamanites? If their own nation was divided, why go to the Lamanites?
There is no answer to that question in the text. Piecing together a plausible explanation suggests that the ideas that they had previously preached, and of which they had repented, had come from the influence of the Lamanites. Thus, they may have felt compelled to preach the truth to those who had influenced their previous apostasy.
3 Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble.
4 And thus did the Spirit of the Lord work upon them, for they were the very vilest of sinners. And the Lord saw fit in his infinite mercy to spare them; nevertheless they suffered much anguish of soul because of their iniquities, suffering much and fearing that they should be cast off forever.
5 And it came to pass that they did plead with their father many days that they might go up to the land of Nephi.
The sons of Mosiah2 had been “the very vilest of sinners.” Why such strong language if they had simply ceased to believe what their father and Alma2’s father believed? Theirs was not simply the sin of disbelief. So many fall under that condemnation, and do so more than once in their lives. Belief and understanding can change.
What was different for the sons of Mosiah2 was that they had sought to destroy the church (Mosiah 27:10). Rather than keep their sin as an individual consequence, they attempted to influence others and actively deny the correct doctrine to others. That was the serious aspect of their sin, not simply a lack of belief or faith.
As part of their massive change of heart, they petition their father to allow them to preach to the Lamanites in the land of Nephi. This was the Nephite land of inheritance, and the land from which Alma1 the elder and the people of Limhi had fled. It was a land where they probably spoke the language, and possibly had some connections that had influenced their previous apostasy.
6 And king Mosiah went and inquired of the Lord if he should let his sons go up among the Lamanites to preach the word.
7 And the Lord said unto Mosiah: Let them go up, for many shall believe on their words, and they shall have eternal life; and I will deliver thy sons out of the hands of the Lamanites.
8 And it came to pass that Mosiah granted that they might go and do according to their request.
9 And they took their journey into the wilderness to go up to preach the word among the Lamanites; and I shall give an account of their proceedings hereafter.
Mosiah2 takes the question to the Lord, and the Lord sends the sons of Mosiah2 on their mission. It will be an important, and a successful, mission. After Mormon introduces the reason that the sons of Mosiah2 will not be in the land of Zarahemla, he simply notes that he will tell their story later. The point of telling this much of their story is to set up the story of the change to the political organization in the land of Zarahemla.
Mosiah2 Translates the Jaredite Plates
10 Now king Mosiah had no one to confer the kingdom upon, for there was not any of his sons who would accept of the kingdom.
When his sons left, Mosiah2 was left without a political heir. Even though the sons were alive, they were out of communication in a different country. There was no knowing when or if they would ever return.
There is nothing in the text that indicates that Mosiah2 was growing old, so there is no indication that a change in the ruler was imminent. However, in a monarchy, succession is important and occurs with greater continuity if there is an heir in place. Without a clear heir, the society is opened to the probability of jockeying for political position. Clans with some claim to the throne would begin to assert themselves against other claimants. Even without open rebellion or civil war, civil discord was virtually assured. It was not a condition that Mosiah2 wanted to accept.
Mosiah2 therefore sets in motion events that would establish the continuity of government and forestall the political unrest. As he begins to tell that story, however, he is pulled into a tangent for the next nine verses.
11 Therefore he took the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, and also the plates of Nephi, and all the things which he had kept and preserved according to the commandments of God, after having translated and caused to be written the records which were on the plates of gold which had been found by the people of Limhi, which were delivered to him by the hand of Limhi;
12 And this he did because of the great anxiety of his people; for they were desirous beyond measure to know concerning those people who had been destroyed.
Mormon begins to tell the story of the change in government by discussing the transfer of records. The records were part of the set of sacred items that were traditionally passed from one king to the next. Therefore, according to tradition, he prepares to transfer the plates of brass and the plates of Nephi. However, when the people of Limhi arrived, they came with their own records. Not only did they have their equivalent of the plates of Limhi, their record of Zeniff, but they also had twenty-four plates that were discovered in a destroyed land, and which they desired to be translated.
It is those plates that send Mormon onto his aside. He discusses the desire for their translation, and then uses Mosiah2 as the translator. All of this information is interesting and important, but none of it is directly related to the transfer of rulership. This is where Mormon inserts important information that takes him away from his intended storyline.
13 And now he translated them by the means of those two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow.
14 Now these things were prepared from the beginning, and were handed down from generation to generation, for the purpose of interpreting languages;
15 And they have been kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he should discover to every creature who should possess the land the iniquities and abominations of his people;
16 And whosoever has these things is called seer, after the manner of old times.
When Mormon introduced the plates of Ether in Mosiah chapter 8, Limhi asks Ammon if he can translate them. Ammon responds that he knows of a man who can, a man who is a seer. At the time, Mosiah2’s name is not given, but it is clear in these verses that it is indeed Mosiah2, and that Mosiah2 is indeed a seer.
The criteria of what makes one a seer is the possession of two stones fastened into the two rims of a bow. That description fits the interpreters that Joseph Smith received along with Mormon’s plates. Not simply the possession of the stones, but the ability to use them, made one a seer. Thus, Mosiah2 was a seer, and Joseph Smith was a seer.
There is no description of how Mosiah2 used these two stones to translate. However, there must have been some similarity to the way Joseph Smith later used them. These two stones were typically called interpreters in the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith used that term until it was suggested that they might be similar to the Urim and Thummim of the Bible. That term became the common way they were discussed, but, while it correctly associates these two stones with divinatory implements of biblical times, it allows for the confusion that the Old World Urim and Thummim somehow appeared in the New World. That was not the case, and these stones were different.
We will also hear of interpreters that were sealed up with the plates of Ether. These might be them, but even before the plates of Ether arrived, Mosiah2 had interpreters and knew how to use them. It was for that reason that he was already called a seer, and had already translated an old stone, before the plates of Ether and the Jaredite interpreters ever arrived in Zarahemla.
17 Now after Mosiah had finished translating these records, behold, it gave an account of the people who were destroyed, from the time that they were destroyed back to the building of the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people and they were scattered abroad upon the face of all the earth, yea, and even from that time back until the creation of Adam.
18 Now this account did cause the people of Mosiah to mourn exceedingly, yea, they were filled with sorrow; nevertheless it gave them much knowledge, in the which they did rejoice.
19 And this account shall be written hereafter; for behold, it is expedient that all people should know the things which are written in this account.
Mormon concludes his aside with a quick note about what Mosiah2 found on the plates. It was the account of a destroyed people who also had ties to the Old World and to the ancient sacred stories on the brass plates. Mosiah2 was saddened for their destruction. Mormon will use the Jaredites as the prime exemplars of a destroyed nation, the literal examples of how and why the Nephite nation would be destroyed.
Mormon promises that the account of that people would be known. He appears to have left the fulfillment of that prophecy to Moroni. There is no indication in Mormon’s writing that he intended to do it himself. Moroni serves as editor of Ether’s record in a similar way as Mormon edited the plates of Nephi.
This verse ended the chapter in the 1830 version. Orson Pratt decided to move the first sentences of the next chapter to the end of our chapter 28.
The Records Are Delivered to Alma1
20 And now, as I said unto you, that after king Mosiah had done these things, he took the plates of brass, and all the things which he had kept, and conferred them upon Alma, who was the son of Alma; yea, all the records, and also the interpreters, and conferred them upon him, and commanded him that he should keep and preserve them, and also keep a record of the people, handing them down from one generation to another, even as they had been handed down from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem.
Mormon decided that he was far enough off track that he wanted a new chapter beginning for the story of the political change. He had begun to tell the story when he noted that he gathered the records. This verse provides the repetitive resumption that indicates that the insertion of tangential information has ended. We are back on track.
What Mormon had intended with the introduction of the records was to show that they were given to Alma2, the son of Alma1. That same Alma2 will become the first chief judge. We cannot know if Mormon tells this part of the story first because it came before Alma2 was seated as the first chief judge, or if Mosiah2 prepared the records because he knew that Alma2 would be the first chief judge.
There is no chapter break here. This was the introduction to the ending of the book of Mosiah. We know that ending as chapter 29.
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