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Relationship to Chapters 25-29. The relationship of Chapter 25 to the rest of Chapters 25-29 is discussed at Mosiah 25-29.
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapter 25 include:
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- Mosiah 25:1-5: Mosiah's written message and Alma's oral message. Does anyone have any ideas of what to make of the contrast between Mosiah's written messages and Alma's oral messages? I have a couple of ideas, but I am not sure that they work. For what they are worth, here they are:
- Mosiah is telling communal stories of exodus and redemption, while Alma calls for individual repentance and faith. The communal nature of Mosiah's narrative calls for the more lasting and public medium of writing, while the personal nature of Alma's narrative calls for the more intimate medium of speech. (Note this is problematic, because as we see in verse 17 conversion turns out to be a communal activity)
- The writing of the communal narrative allows Mosiah to relate the Nephite story back to the story of Moses and the Children of Israel, which is a written story. The writing confirms the link. Alma's message of personal conversion through preaching, however, is something new, so reducing it to writing doesn't have the same effect of recapitulating scripture.
- Mosiah's narrative is about memory and the past, while Alma's preaching is about action in the future. Writing is the medium of memory, while speech is the medium of future action.
- A written narrative is fixed and subject to the control of the author, while an oral narrative is not fixed and has a life of its own. Mosiah's writing is about political control; while Alma's preaching is about spiritual life.
- I'm not sure that any of these interpretations hold any water, but the contrast is striking to me. Thoughts? Reactions?
- Mosiah 25:1. This story opens with an overtly political situation: "king Mosiah caused that all the people should be gathered together." The splits and rejoinings that have characterized the whole book of Mosiah are finally coming to their climax, as all the Nephites are together again, but now in a much more complicated political situation. The gathering is the first gathering of all the Nephites as such, since those who left for the land of Nephi left even before Benjamin's final speech. This gathering seems meant to echo Benjamin's speech in some ways, though it is clearly also intended to go beyond it. The political shifts that characterize especially Mosiah 29 find their official beginnings in this very assembly.
- Mosiah 25:5. Beginning here and continuing through v. 6, King Mosiah begins reading the records of the various Nephite groups. The figure of Mosiah in this chapter seems to be paired with the figure of Alma. One is king and one is something like a priest or prophet. Interestingly, Alma also addresses the people beginning in v. 15 of the chapter, but in contrast to Mosiah he does not read but rather he is preaches (v. 15) and exhorts (v.16). There is some sense in which the "political" discourse of Mosiah is a written discourse, while the "religious" discourse of Alma is oral. However, the categories of political and religious must be treated with some skepticism for as we see in the following verses, Mosiah's "political" message is couched in terms of "religious" stories, and Alma's "religious" message has a "political" aspect to it, as in v. 17 where King Limhi is converted "and all his people were desirous that they might be baptized as well."
- Mosiah 25:18-19. There is an interesting interplay of authority between these two verses. In verse 18, Alma's activity is explicitly compared to his actions at the Waters of Mormon. There his authority seems to have come from the power of the spirit descending upon him. (Although he was a priest of Noah, previously.) Note also that in this verse church is singular, and modified by God. In verse 19, the authority comes not from the spirit or some other explicitly divine source, but rather from the king and it is he that grants the power to ordain priests and teachers. Notice also that in this verse we have "churches" plural and they are unmodified by any other sobriquet. Part of what seems to be going on in these verses is the reconcilliation of the potentially competing authorities of Alma and Mosiah. One might read these verses as suggesting a kind of doctrine of two churches, one spiritual, indivisible, and ultimately responsible to God through his prophet, and the other, plural, earthly, and ultimately responsible to the community through its king.
- Mosiah 25:20. This verses seems to begin reconciliation of the constrast created in verses 18 and 19. Note that the action taken by the king in verse 19 is explained in practical, logistical terms. The verses that follow (v.21-24), however, affirm the transcendent aspect of "the church of God" (v.21).
- Mosiah 25:21-24. One way of reading these verses is to see them as the reconciliation of the tension between the singular "church of God" created by Alma in v. 18 and the plural "churches" authorized by King Mosiah in v. 19. In verse 20-21, Mosiah's action is explained in practical terms. Notice, however, that verse 21 ends with a reference not to the authority of Mosiah, but of Alma ("the word according as it was delivered to him by the mouth of Alma"). Verse 22 affirms the unity of the churches in "all one church, yea even the church of God."
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- Mosiah 25:6: Alma previously in Zarahemla? I have a question about Mosiah 25:6. It suggests that Alma and his people had been in Zarahemla, but my reading of the Book of Mormon indicates that they were never there. Any ideas? A: If we look back at verse 5 we see that Mosiah read the "records of Zeniff" from the time he and his people left Zarahemla to the time they returned. Of course Zeniff himself never returned to Zarahemla. But his people do return when his grandson, Limhi, is leading the people. So clearly Zeniff didn't write this entire record, but, nevertheless, the record is called the records of Zeniff. What verse 6 says is that Mosiah also read another record. He calls this "the account of Alma and his brethren." And as I read this verse the account of Alma and his brethren does not begin at the point that Alma leaves Noah's people. For both groups the critical "beginning" it seems is the time that they leave Zarahemla. In both cases the record covers a longer period of time than the life of the person the account is named after. The statement does make sense if you read it as referring to the groups of people rather than the named individual.
- Mosiah 25:19: How can a king decide who has authority over the Church? Mosiah 6:3 tells us that Benjamin "consecrated his son Mosiah to be a ruler and a king over his poeple, and had given him all the charges concerning the kingdom, and also had appointed preists to teach the people...." This notion of divinely appointed kings with both spiritual and secular authority dates back to Old Testament times (I recently heard a radio interview with Bruce Feiler where he discussed God warning the ancient Israelites about the dangers of a king before David was chosen as king--it'd be interesting to learn more about that and tie in the discussion here).
- Interestingly, we read in 2 Ne 10:11 that "this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles." And in v. 14, "For he that raiseth up a king against me shall perish, for I, the Lord, the king of heaven, will be their king, and I will be a light unto them forever, that hear my words." Do these verses refer to latter-day Gentiles on the American continent? Ancient America also? When Jacob was reciting these words, wasn't there a king in the land then? How long after Jacob said these things were the judges established? Was there any connection?
- Mosiah 25:22: What is the point of the remark that the bodies of believers were called churches? To me, the word 'church' suggests an interpersonal organization. I've heard many complaints about organized religion (and I've made complaints myself!). However, the alternative seems to be only a very weak notion of religion. It is the interaction with each other as believers and our joint interaction with God that makes religion meaningful and effectual. Some related x-refs include:
- Rom 12:4ff "For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."
- 1 Cor 12:12ff "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many."
- The word 'body' has interesting usages in English. "Bodies of believers" (as in "the body of the senate"). "The body of Christ." Is it the same in Greek? Thinking about the church as a body provides a rich analogy suggesting how believers should interact with each other. Not just that we need to interact and get along, but that we each have our function (e.g. what service we do in the ward) and our place (e.g. deferring to Priesthood authority).
- A: Yes, it looks like it's the same in Greek. See Strong's Concordance. (The word is soma, which is the root word of English words such as the second half of "psychosomatic.") I suspect, but don't know, that "body" came to have the expanded meaning because of New Testament influence.
- A: It is interesting that as the word is used here there seems to be some ambiguity between calling the overarching organization the church and each congregation a church. Comparing that today it is like calling the church The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a church and calling wards churches. It wouldn't be too strange to do this today but we don't normally call each ward a church--though we do call the building they meet in a church so it may amount to about the same thing. Verse 21 tells us that each church has their own priests and teachers. This suggests that each congregations has its own hierarchy of those with authority to lead and teach the church. This is also a characteristic that their churches share with our wards. I also think it is interesting to contrast the use of the word church here with Mosiah 21:34. There it says Limhi's people did not form themselves into a church. In that case it seems they are talking about a single overarching body--not congregatoins. But still it is relevant for understanding the word church here to understand why what the level of religious instruction they did have wasn't considered a church. Note that Mosiah 21:31 tells us that they had taken on themselves a covenant. For the whole people to have taken on themselves a covenant suggests that some form of religious instruction and discussions was going on among Limhi's people. Clearly then gathering together for religious instruction is not in enough itself for a church--as the word is used in the Book of Mormon. Mosiah 21:33 seems to connect the fact that they weren't baptized with the fact that they didn't form a church. I'd like to spend more time looking through the references to church in the Book of Mormon. My guess is that the meaning of a church means that there is a formal organization with its own leadership/teachers.
Prompts for life application
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Prompts for further study
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- Mosiah 25:1-3: To which groups do “people of Nephi” and “people of Zarahemla” refer? Why is it important for us to know that the Nephites were a minority, a smaller group than the people of Zarahemla, and that the two groups together were much smaller than the Lamanites? What might account for those relative differences in size?
- Mosiah 25:5-11: How do you account for the see-saw of emotions that we see here?
- Mosiah 25:5-6: King Mosiah here reads to the people. Later in the chapter, Alma -- the priest and prophet -- preaches to and exhorts the same people. Why does Mosiah read while Alma's presentation is purely oral? Is there some connection here between Mosiah's status as a "political" leader and Alma's status as a "religious" leader?
- Mosiah 25:15: It speaks here of "repentance and faith" but usually we reverse the order of those two words and say "faith and repentence." Why the unusual word order in this verse?
- Mosiah 25:19: (See also Mosiah 26:8.) How can a king decide who has authority over the Church? What does your answer to that question tell us about Mosiah and Alma’s society?
- Mosiah 25:22: otice also that "the church of God" is identified with the oral preaching of Alma in verse 15, rather than the written records of Mosiah earlier in the chapter. Why do you think this is?
- Mosiah 25:23: What is the significance, if any, that there were seven churches in the land of Zarahemla?
- Mosiah 25:23-24: In verse 23 those who join the church are desirous of taking on them the name of Christ, but in the next verse they are named the people of God. Is there any significance to these contrasting names?
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