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Relationship to Alma. The relationship of Chapters 43-44 to the rest of Alma is discussed at Alma.
Story. Chapters 43-44 recount a Lamanite invasion instigated by Zoramites and led by a man named Zarahemna, who may have been a Zoramite himiself. Like the invasion instigated by Amlici in Alma 1-3, this battle involves an army crossing the River Sidon and trying to gain the crest of the riverbank. But in chapters 1-3 Alma succeeded in leading his army over the top of the embankment, whereas here the Lamanite army is trapped and destroyed in the river bottom.
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 43-44 include:
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- Alma 43:14: Descendants. The word "descendants" here seems to be a mistranscription by Oliver Cowdery of "dissenters," as in verse 13 (see reference to Royal Skousen's work below).
- Alma 43:20: Sciemeter. A scimeter is a sword.
- Alma 43:47. The Lord gives commandments that we should not kill--yet here he as an exception the command that we defend our families even unto the shedding of blood. This emphasizes the importance of the family to God and is just more evidence of the sacred nature of the family.
- Alma 44:10. An interesting distinction arises beginning in this verse. Although in verse 8 Zarahemnah surrenders "his sword and his cimeter and his bow," in verse 10 Moroni returns "the sword and the weapons of war." This distinction between "sword" and "weapons of war" continues until verse 20. The sword is further singled out in verse 12, where Zarahemnah rushes to kill Moroni, who is defended by one of his soldiers: "as he raised his sword, behold, one of Moroni's soldiers smote it even to the earth, and it broke by the hilt" (emphasis added). Not only is the word "sword" distinguished from the all-inclusive "weapons of war," but this dramatic moment is related in detail; Zarahemnah's sword is shattered at the hilt and falls to the earth, followed by the shameful scalping of this Lamanite leader, who the retreats to hide among the throng of his armies, leaving the borken sword at Moroni's feet. What does the sword symbolize in this culture? Is it involved in a kind of ritual of surrender? Or does it have something to do with the sword of Laban and its role in the legitimacy of Nephite government?
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Prompts for life application
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Prompts for further study
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- Alma 44:4: What is "the true faith of God" Moroni is talking about?
- Alma 44:7: The nature of covenants. Are these "covenants" as we think of them today? Or merely oaths/promises? (It is called an "oath" up until verse 14, where it specifically mentions the "covenant of peace.") If the former, how can it be a true covenant when the only other option is destruction?
- Alma 44:8-9: Zarahemnah refuses on the grounds that he won't be able to keep the oath? Isn't this honorable--refusing to promise something you won't be able to do? Or is it proud--refusing to take the oath, because he doesn't want to maintain peace for the rest of his life? Which of the two does Zarahemnah mean when he says "we will not suffer ourselves to take an oath unto you, which we know that we shall break"? He goes on to speak of his children as also being unable to keep this oath--how can he speak for them? Does this support the latter interpretation of his refusal?
- Alma 44:18: The Nephite soldier is said to have "prophesied"--was this prophesy as we think of it today? What is prophecy, and what does it have to do with this soldier's seemingly spontaneous, perhaps somewhat arrogant, bold speech?
- Alma 44:24: It is apparent that Alma has not yet passed the plates on to his son, Helaman. Why is that? Alma's discourse in Alma 36 was contextualized precisely by the event of passing on the records. Is it possible that Helaman wasn't quite prepared, or even had misgivings about his role as record-keeper (see Alma 45:2-8)?
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- Alma 43:14: Descendants. See a preview of Royal Skousen's Anaylsis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon (forthcoming summer 2007) in the FARMS newsletter Insights, v. 27/2, 2007, p. 8 (electronic edition is not available as of May 8, 2008, but should be coming soon).
- Brady, Parrish and Shon Hopkin. "The Zoramites and Costly Apparel: Symbolism and Irony." In Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture, 22/1 (2013): p. 40-53 Provo, Utah: BYU University: Neil A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.
Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.