Mosiah 29 to Alma 4 – “They Were Steadfast and Immovable”

May 25, 2020 to May 31, 2020

Systems of government, punishment, and traitors are the focus of the chapters in this lesson. King Mosiah developed a system of judges and established new laws, while Nehor and Amlici caused dissension and rebellion.

“Kingship, Democracy, and the Message of the Book of Mormon,” by Gregory Steven Dundas, BYU Studies Quarterly 56, no. 2
Many readers view the change of government from kings to judges in Mosiah 29 as a move toward democracy. But how did it work? Peace did not last, and in many ways the judgeship was a failure. For the Nephites, judgeship was a way for people to be held accountable for their own actions.

“The Law of Mosiah,” John W. Welch, Reexploring the Book of Mormon
King Mosiah established new specific laws throughout the land. Welch details the changes King Mosiah made to the existing law system and finds parallels to these laws in ancient Near Eastern society. While King Mosiah’s law code was the basis for future rulings in judgment, these laws did not radically change the law of Moses or Nephite society as a whole. Rather, it clarified certain laws and made minor adjustments to procedure in Nephite society.

“‘Stretch Forth Thy Hand and Prophecy’: Hand Gestures in the Book of Mormon,” David Calabro, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol.  21, no. 1
In Mosiah 29, Alma speaks of how the Lord is “extending the arm of mercy”. This article discusses the meaning and significance of four specific gestures referred to in the Book of Mormon: stretching forth one’s hand(s), stretching forth the hand to exert divine power, extending the arm(s) in mercy, and clapping the hands to express joys.

“The Trial of Nehor,” John W. Welch, Legal Cases in the Book of Mormon
In Alma 1, a man named Nehor arises and causes great apostasy in the church. Nehor is tried and sentenced to death. In this article, Welch analyzes the trial of Nehor and what causes his capital punishment. While it seems harsh for Nehor to be put to death for a differing opinion, in ancient Israelite law, Nehor’s brand of blasphemy was indeed punishable by death.

“What’s in a Name? Alma as a Hebrew Name,” Paul Y. Hoskisson, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 7, no. 1
The name Alma appears more frequently in the Book of Mormon than any other name besides Nephi. The name has a logical derivation from a Hebrew root that means “youth” or “lad.”

“New Light: Further Evidence for a Semitic Alma,” Terrence L. Szink, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 8, no. 1
Szink identifies another possible Semitic source for the name Alma in the tablets of Ebla uncovered in Syria. This article is named “The So-Called Lehi Cave,” as that is the first of the short articles in this section.

“Confession of Sins Before Execution,” John A. Tvedtnes, Insights, Vol. 23, no. 5
In the story of Nehor’s death, it may seem odd that they had Nehor confess his sin before being executed. If Nehor was condemned to die, there would have been little merit in his confessing that he was wrong. However, Tvedtnes explains that in Israelite religion, confessing before an execution could help a convict at the final judgment of God.

“Alma’s Enemies: The Case of the Lamanites, Amlicites, and Mysterious Amalekites,” J. Christopher Conkling, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 14, no. 1
In Alma 21 a new group of troublemakers is introduced—the Amalekites—without explanation or introduction. This article offers arguments that this is the same group called Amlicites in Alma 2 and that the confusion is caused by Oliver Cowdery’s inconsistency in spelling. If this theory is accurate, then Alma structured his narrative record more tightly and carefully than previously realized. The concept also challenges the simplicity of the good Nephite/bad Lamanite rubric so often used to describe the players in the book of Mormon.

“The Charge of Racism in the Book of Mormon,” John A. Tvedtnes, The FARMS Review, Vol. 15, no. 2
Alma 3 mentions the mark and curse upon the Lamanites and how the Nephites did not intermarry or mix with their seed. Some critics of the Book of Mormon reject the ancient text on account of its supposedly racist commentary. In response to these critics, this article incorporates biblical examples and traditions to show how certain words and phrases that could be seen as racist were used to illustrate a larger message.

“Skins as Garments in the Book of Mormon: A Textual Exegesis,” Ethan Sproat, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 24
What about Alma 3:5-6? Traditional interpretations of the various-colored or cursed skins in the Book of Mormon have asserted variations of two basic perspectives: first, the Book of Mormon describes God as darkening the flesh pigmentation of some wicked peoples as a mark of a curse; or alternately, the descriptions of “white” skins and “dark” skins in the Book of Mormon are only metaphorical descriptions and not necessarily descriptions of flesh pigmentation. However, a careful textual analysis of all the relevant terms and passages in the Book of Mormon strongly suggests that the various-colored skins in the Book of Mormon can be understood more coherently as a kind of authoritative garment. The relevant texts further lend themselves to associating such garment-skins with both the Nephite temple and competing Lamanite claims to kingship.