26. "Converted unto the Lord"
To be a powerful instrument in the hands of the Lord should be the desire of all faithful members of the Church. The story of the mission of the sons of Mosiah among the Lamanites is full of principles that will help missionaries and members be more successful in their work of sharing the gospel.
The people described in Alma 23 had been taught the “records” and the “prophecies which were handed down even to the present time.” That mixture of teaching that included records and prophecies was a key piece of their teachings.
The account of the mission of Mosiah’s sons to the Lamanites shows the power of the word of God. It also contributes some excellent insights on the preparation needed by those who preach the word of God and examines the relationship between their preparation and their acting as God’s instruments.
"Anti-Nephi-Lehi," BYU Onomasticon
If "Anti" is a transliteration, it might mean "which is." If "Anti" is a translation, the meaning could be "facing." Anti-Nephi-Lehi may mean "those who imitate the teachings of the descendants of Nephi and Lehi."
Kevin Barney summarizes various translation and transliteration theories on the etymology of "Anti-Nephi-Lehi" and proposes his own opinion on the strange name's meaning.
Some interpret the stance that the Ammonites took against war to be pacifist. Some indications point toward this conclusion: their burying their weapons, covenanting never to fight again, allowing themselves to be slaughtered twice, and being motivated in these actions out of love for their Lamanite kin. However, when the text is read more carefully, it can easily be seen that further actions would not necessarily have reflected a pacifist view toward war: not objecting to the Nephite war in their defense, providing Nephite soldiers with food and supplies, and sending their own sons into battle would surely indicate that their personal opposition to war stemmed from the covenants they made during repentance.
Barney compares the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies with that of the Theban legion from the 3rd century A.D. When the Theban army was commanded to kill innocent Christians, they adamantly refused and offered up their own lives so that their hands might not be stained with innocent blood. This similarity is not to suggest that Joseph Smith borrowed the tale, but rather to show that people across time and space have valiantly abstained from killing to avoid the stain of their victims' blood.
In Alma 24 as the Lamanites came against the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi, the evil hearts and intentions of men were softened, “swollen in them ...; and they came down even as their brethren, relying upon the mercies” of Jesus Christ. As our students rely upon the Lord’s mercies, they will valiantly meet the conflicts before them.
Hardy analyzes the role Mormon had in the shaping of the text. Like other editors in antiquity, Mormon had additional information and life experiences that influenced the way he shaped the text.
Mormon crafts the story in Alma in a particular way. The Book of Mormon contains various colophons and source indicators that signal documents or authors that Mormon and the writers of the small plates used, quoted, paraphrased, or summarized in composing the final text. Some of these headers have been italicized and separated out by the printer; others form an integral part of the text but could as well have been separated and italicized. Mormon’s extensive notation of sources is another set of evidence for the intricate and complex nature of the text and, simultaneously, of the magnitude of Mormon’s work as an ancient editor and historian.
"Ammonihah: Measuring Mormon's Purposes," S. Kent Brown, A Witness for the Restoration: Essays in Honor of Robert J. Matthews.
The Amlicites and the Amulonites in their rage led a Lamanite army through the west wilderness and attacked Ammonihah, annihilating the entire population and fulfilling Alma’s dire prophecies about the city's utter destruction. Thus, ironically, Nehorites killed Nehorites.
The Anti-Nephi-Lehi community affected the Nephite church for a generation. It began with the way in which Nephite perceptions of the Lamanites were changed by the missionary success of the sons of Mosiah.
"The Problem of Pride: A Book of Mormon Perspective," Jared M. Halverson, Selections from the Religious Education Student Symposium 2004
People move from destruction to deliverance and from pride to humility by following the simplest formula: "just add God." When he is added, what may have formerly been labeled pride becomes something much more exalted. The best example of this truth is Ammon, who boasted of his God, in whose strength he could do all things.
In Alma 27 we learn that the people of Ammon are not required to take up arms and participate in the military. This is perplexing, since it is expected in Ancient Near Eastern society that one should be ready to defend the polity. In the Book of Mormon, Moroni compels even the unwilling people of Zarahemla to military service. Welch explores various possibilities rooted in Jewish law that might enable the people of Ammon to be exempt from military service.
"Notes and Communications: The Hebrew Origin of Some Book of Mormon Place Names," Stephen D. Ricks, John A. Tvedtnes, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 6, no. 2
The place-names Cumorah, Jershon, and Zarahemla have possible Hebrew origins.
As in Hebrew biblical narrative, wordplay on (or play on the meaning of) toponyms, or “place names,” is a discernable feature of Book of Mormon narrative. The text repeatedly juxtaposes the toponym Jershon (“place of inheritance” or “place of possession”) with terms inherit, inheritance, possess, possession, etc. Similarly, the Mulekite personal name Zarahemla (“seed of compassion,” “seed of pity”), which becomes the paramount Nephite toponym as their national capital after the time of Mosiah I, is juxtaposed with the term compassion. Both wordplays occur and recur at crucial points in Nephite/Lamanite history. Moreover, both occur in connection with the migration of the first generation Lamanite converts. The Jershon wordplay recurs in the second generation, when the people of Ammon receive the Zoramite (re)converts into the land of Jershon, and wordplay on Zarahemla recurs subsequently, when the sons of these Lamanite converts come to the rescue of the Nephite nation. Rhetorical wordplay on Zarahemla also surfaces in important speeches later in the Book of Mormon.
This short article discusses the etymology and meaning of the name Jershon. In Hebrew, Jershon can mean "place of inheritance." This is particularly insightful as the location is indeed described as a place of inheritance for the people of Ammon.
As in the book of Mosiah, there are two significant flashbacks in the first part of the book of Alma. They highlight successful episodes in the missionary work of the sons of Mosiah among the Lamanites. The text in Alma 1–16 covers events in the land of Zarahemla through the fourteenth year of the reign of the judges. In Alma 17 the narrative reverts back to the first year of the judges and then covers events in the lands of Ishmael and Nephi those same fourteen years (see Alma 17:4). The first flashback recounts Ammon's ministry to the people of Lamoni (see Alma 17–20), and the second records how Lamoni's father and his household were converted through the preaching of Aaron, resulting in the conversion of thousands throughout the land (see Alma 21–23). Approximate dates are listed both by standard configuration (B.C.) and Nephite time (reign of the judges, or R.J.). These flashbacks are yet another evidence of the complexity of the Book of Mormon. It is quite remarkable how these historical accounts fit so neatly together, all coming together again with the Lamanite attacks in the eleventh (16:2 = 25:2) and fourteenth (16:12 = 28:2) years. In addition, another flashback (not shown on this chart) is found in Alma 56:1 and 56:9, which returns from the thirteenth year to the twenty-sixth to pick up the story of Helaman's stripling warriors.
Alma bears open testimony of his deepest spiritual desire and of vital eternal truths after thousands of bodies were laid low in the earth.
Tvedtnes explores the incidents where angels show up in the Book of Mormon text, particularly in reference to Alma's conversion story. In Alma 29, Alma speaks of his longing to be like an angel to declare repentance. He is likely harkening back to his memory of the angel that declared repentance unto him.
Alma uses his conversion experience as a persuasive teaching tool. The three-day period during which he received a visit from an angel and underwent a remarkable change enabled him later to speak from experience as he preached repentance and the cleansing power of the word of God. Not only did he illumine the dark, awful state in which persons find themselves if they do not repent, but he could especially beam light on the indescribable joy that accompanies forgiveness of sin. At base, he sought earnestly that others be born of God as he had been.
"King Benjamin’s Speech in the Context of Ancient Israelite Festivals," Terrence L. Szink, John W. Welch, King Benjamin’s Speech: "That Ye May Learn Wisdom"
Welch gives a detailed analysis of the clues in the Book of Mormon text that find resonance with Ancient Israelite autumn festivals. Particularly in King Benjamin's speech, one finds traces of the Israelite Feast of Tabernacles. This celebration was an autumn festival commemorating the wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness.