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Mosiah 18:1-5

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  • Mosiah 18:9: Those that mourn. Merriam-Webster defines mourn (verse 9) as "to feel or express grief or sorrow." In the scriptures mourning is usually used in the context of expressing grief over someone's death.
One way to understand the phrase those that mourn (verse 9) is to think about anyone who is experiencing grief or sorrow. In this way we have a responsibility to connect with the people around us in grief and sorrow and share in that sorrow.
Another interpretation is to take those that mourn as a reference to those who mourn for the Savior, his death and suffering. In that case we are asked if we are willing to join the community of people who mourn for the sins of this world and the resulting suffering and death that our Savior went through in order to save us from those sins. A similar invitation is given in the hymn "He Died the Great Redeemer Died." (See the related link below.)
It is also interesting to note the way verse 9 introduces the themes that will then be played out in the narratives of chapters 19-24. If we look at the two main stories of trial and deliverance—the people of Limhi and the people of Alma—we have both an example of a people who mourn and a people who stand in need of comfort.
The people of Limhi will fight battle after battle, both in their defense and in their pursuit of freedom. Their losses are extremely numerous (enough so that in Mosiah 21:17 Limhi has to command the remaining men to help support the widows and their children): throughout this process they are truly a people acquainted with mourning.
The people of Alma will be persecuted by Amulon: they will be in bondage, they will carry impossibly heavy burdens, they will be refused the comfort of vocal prayer. As such, they will truly be a people who stand in need of comfort.
  • Mosiah 18:8-10.' Echoes of Verses 8-10 and Their Profound Implications for Our Relationship with God. These verses are echoed to great effect when Alma and his people are in trouble in the Land of Helam (which is named after the person Alma is now baptizing). See exegesis on Mosiah 24:11-15.
  • Mosiah 18:17. Despite the fact that the word "church" appears a good number of times before this point in the Book of Mormon, this verse marks the first reference to an official Nephite church, or, in other words, this is the first Nephite church mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Mosiah 25:18 seems quite clearly to confirm this, as it mentions Mosiah II's authorization of Alma to create like churches throughout the land of Zarahemla, the suggestion being that there were none before that time. But even as this cross-reference seems to confirm the origins of the Nephite church in this passage, it also clarifies what the word "church" means here: if Alma was to go on to found a number of churches, then this "church" is not a system of faith, but a congregational organization, a regional gathering of people. From the very start, churches among the Nephites seem to have been a question of a number of people who worship together in a sort of gathered community.
Also interesting to the meaning of the word "church" as used in the Book of Mormon is the attribution of the name "the church of God, or the church of Christ," in this verse, to some unnamed source: those gathered by Alma were simply "called" so. Because the phrase uses the passive voice "they were called," what would otherwise be the subject (the one or the ones doing the calling) escapes notice, and the author of the passage can leave ambiguous the source of the title. In other words, whereas the author might have said that "Alma and his people called themselves the church of God, or the church of Christ," he rather says that "they were called" so, the implication being simply that someone besides those of the church called them that. It remains entirely unclear whence the epithet comes. There is a hint in all of this, then, that "church" was a term used somewhat commonly among the Nephites, that it was not a term that those gathered into the church specifically rooted out of, say, Nephi's writings in order to proclaim their justified foundation or any such thing. Rather, it seems, the concept of a church was not unfamiliar to the Nephites, and this gathering was simply so named because others recognized an already common structure among them.
All these details come together somewhat paradoxically: it seems that Alma is at once doing something entirely unprecedented and also doing something completely familiar to outsiders. The paradox is, however, quite understandable: an idea that has been around for quite some time, and something the people generally are familiar with, but Alma takes upon himself the overwhelming task of actually accomplishing it. Everyone knew what he was doing, but that does not at all mean that it was a common proceeding: Alma has done something rather radical in forming a church. He himself has grounded it by an ostensibly granted authority (see verse 13), and this verse adds that anyone "baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his [meaning God's] church." The implication is clear: Alma's radical movement is his authorized development of something everyone has been expecting for nearly five hundred years, but no one has felt authorized to do.
Now, it might be asked why no one had created a church before this time, even as the idea seems to have been completely familiar to everyone. Or it might be asked more specifically why God had not authorized any to accomplish the task. The answer, however, seems to be buried in a few details of the following story, as well as in some major events that happen later (see verses 31-33 of this chapter, and then especially the complex development that extends across Mosiah 25-29). The answer, put quite simply, is this: the existence of a monarchical system seems to exclude not only the need for churches, but also the possibility of churches. Under the monarchy, the cult seems to have been performed under the auspices of the king and a royal priesthood, but the church assumes a sort of local priesthood, a regionalism replacing the universal authority usually claimed by a king. In other words, since a monarchy seems to have obtained from the very start of Nephite civilization, there has never been need or room for churches. Alma's formation of this first church is taken quite specifically as an act of rebellion, and when he is given royal authority in Zarahemla to establish a number of churches, it leads rather quickly to the dissolution of the monarchy. Perhaps all of this is considered rather simply in a single, weighty phrsae in the following verse: the church is a question of "the kingdom of God."
  • Mosiah 18:18. As soon as there is a unity in this plurality--as soon as the church is a church--Alma ordains a local priesthood. The move may be what most incites the cry of rebellion from Noah by the end of the chapter. The move to ordain priests is a rather complex one, and it must be understood in the right light, lest it be considered from an entirely too protracted view. First to be said about the ordination of these priests: the ordination cannot be understood--culturally, historically--to have been a natural consequence of the gathering of the baptized, but rather should be understood as a radical innovation that ultimately redefines for the Nephites the very meaning of priesthood, and this altered meaning ultimately calls for a restructuring of the entire government. This ordination is ultimately the first step toward undoing the Nephite monarchy, though it happens among a small gathering on the outskirts of a Nephite settlement in Lamanite territory. But regardless of the broadest implications of the action, there seems to be a sort of pragmatism about the verse: the ordination was not an act of defiance, but an act of charity, a way of strengthening those baptized so that they might move from church to kingdom (the kingdom of God).
With the pragmatic character of the ordination drawn out, the differences between this priesthood and priesthood in the restored Church of the latter days are quite clear: Alma does not establish quorums, nor does it appear that he has two separate priesthoods with their several offices, nor again does it appear that these priests wield authority to perform any particular ordinances. The priesthood Alma sets up is, in the end, a rather simple priesthood, a stripped-down priesthood meant to perform the task merely of teaching, though teaching the highest principles, "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." That a great deal happens concerning "the priesthood" between these first ordinations and Alma the Younger's discourse in Alma 13 is obvious: but that development must traced rather carefully and in great detail to accomplish any satisfactory explanation of these questions. At the very least, what is unquestionably clear here is this: by the same "authority" he had to baptize, Alma ordains priests (note that he does not organize a priesthood, per se), and only a rather small number at that (no more than nine would have been ordained by the time the group flees into the wilderness), to take upon themselves the task of preaching and teaching those baptized and gathered together into the church.
  • Mosiah 18:19. If teaching "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" seems an overwhelming task, even a boundless task, this verse imposes some limits on it: these priests are limited to "the things which [Alma] had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." The verses seems thus rather simple and self-explanatory, but it does raise an issue that ought to be dealt with: one can only wonder why Alma would impose limits at all on the teaching task. In other words, since other scriptures promote a rather radical form of teaching--namely, teaching by the Spirit, taking no thought for the words to say, etc.--this rather limited task, hemmed in by what has been said before, seems conservative to say the least. This may not, however, be a commandment to teach in a manner other than that of teaching by the Spirit: there are at least two ways of reading this, in fact, as a commandment to teach by the Spirit. On the one hand, Alma might be suggesting that the Spirit would only lead one to speak of that which has been spoken before. This interpretation seems somewhat flawed, as the Spirit seems in a number of places to be That which specifically goes beyond previous knowledge. On the other hand--and this seems a more likely explanation--Alma might be suggesting that the role of the Spirit in teaching is precisely to help one to interpret the words of the prophets, that the Spirit enlarges upon those words, rather than providing to the teacher new words in the moment. This interpretation presents a sort of division of labors between priests (whatever priests are here) and prophets: the prophets have experiences beyond the Spirit, but priests are to work in the Spirit so as to interpret the prophetic word. The division and correlation might be compared to the gift of tongues (prophets) and the gift of the interpretation of tongues (priests). At any rate, the suggestion is that the Spirit works upon the teaching priest precisely in his attendance upon the words of the prophets.
With all of these details worked out, there is a rather careful phrasing at work in this verse which is all to easily missed: though one might see Alma equating himself with the prophets, the wording actually suggests that he equates himself with the priests in their division of labor, over against the prophets. The clue is the word "teach": the priests are to "teach" only what Alma had "taught," which suggests that they are to do what he himself has done. If their task then extends to teaching what "had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets," there may be here an implication that Alma's mode of teaching had been quite specifically a work of interpretation (in fact, a work of interpreting Abinadi?). Alma sees himself, according to the language presented in this verse, as a priest, rather than as a prophet. As such, the priests have a model for their work: Alma.
  • Mosiah 18:20. Again the priestly task is clarified, though a different verb appears in this verse: "preach." But the instance of "preach" marks a chiastic structure that runs through verses 18-20:
  • ...did he ordain to preach unto them
  • and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
  • And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, etc.
  • Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were...
Similar, in a manner, to the division of labor implicit in the last verse, there appears here a division of sorts, though it is a division within the priestly task: the priests are to preach and to teach, and these seem to be different things. Preaching, in verse 18, seems to be quite open ended, while the teaching of verse 18 seems to be quite specific (concerning the kingdom of God). Parallel to this, verse 19 offers certain bounds (or at least a sort of regional limitation) for teaching, while verse 20 remains rather open ended about preaching. What this means, however, remains to be worked out in detail.
A brief return to verse 19 would prove helpful. The phrasing there is incredibly negative, and verse 20 follows with a parallel structure: the priests are to preach and teach nothing... save... etc. The point is that it would be better for these to preach absolutely nothing whatsoever than to preach something other than what Alma provides them as a task. As for teaching, verse 19 provides the priests with textual boundaries, as it were: the priests are to teach the words of the prophets (apparently interpreting them according to the Spirit), even as Alma has done, and so their bounds there are ultimately textual, for they are to stay within the texts of the prophets. Preaching, however, is a different matter: the bounds for preaching seem to be practical: only two topics are provided, both of which are really more a question of action than of doctrine. In other words, "repentance" and "faith on the Lord" are probably not here understood as doctrines or principles, but as things to be done. Whereas "teaching" carries with it--inevitably--the implication of an intellectual process of sorting things out, "preaching" seems to carry with it rather the implication of exhortation, of invitation, of praxis.
The task of the priest, then: to urge his hearers to trust the Lord and to repent before Him, and to explore in the Spirit the words of the prophets. In the end, there seems to be no reason to read Alma as trying to keep the priests of his church under his thumb, or limited in what they can say: rather, he sees the work of the priest to be the work of edification according to the Spirit that works upon the prophetic texts and the work of reminding the people continually of their double duty to the Lord (the double duty of faith and repentance).
  • Mosiah 18:20: Similarity to D&C 42. These verses on teaching from Mosiah 18 are very similar to those regarding teaching in D&C 42. D&C 42:11 discusses ordination, similar to Mosiah 18:18. D&C 42:12 explains that teachers should "teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon," which is similar to Mosiah 18: 19's direction to teach "the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." D&C 42:12 also commanded teachers to focus on the "principles of the gospel" which are found in the scriptures/words of the prophets, perhaps similar to Alma's direction to teach nothing but "repentance" and "faith" in Mosiah 18:20. (In addition, also note that both Mosiah 18:27-28 and D&C 42: 30 etc, talk about taking care of the poor.)
  • Mosiah 18:21. After instructions concerning teaching and preaching are laid down, Alma commands the priests further (and it is clear that the priests specifically are the ones receiving this command and all those following up through verse 26: in verse 27, Alma will turn specifically to the members of the church to begin to offer them commandments) to avoid contention among themselves. That this commandment is given specifically to the priesthood is an interesting detail, and it deserves some attention.
At first, it would appear as if this commandment against contention is redundant (the covenants the people have made quite explicitly would seem to have covered this question--see verses 8-9), but that it is directed toward the priests seems to cancel the redundancy. Rather, it is a specific clarification for those ordained to preach and teach, for the priesthood. In other words, even as the people have covenanted to uphold one another and to suffer each other, there will remain among the priests a tendency to contend. This commandment, then, seems to be issued as a corrective to the tendency toward competition among the ordained priests. Having separate stewardships (each is set over a separate group of fifty people, a group assigned, apparently, by Alma), the priests do not seem overly likely to find themselves in contention, but then it is perhaps precisely because they have separate stewardships that Alma is concerned that contention might arise. As soon as the people are split up into several groups, there is a tendency towards schism, and each priest, having a sort of autonomy with his fifty, might all too easily make them his.
What Alma wants to have happen is quite clear: rather than contention, he would have them unified (one eye, one faith, one baptism). The way this is phrased is interesting: they are to "look forward with one eye." It may be that Alma phrases the question of unity in this way so as to emphasize that the priests should not be looking at each other, but forward. The words install a very real sense of progress, and the "having" that opens the following phrase then seems to lay the groundwork for that sense of promise: "having one faith and one baptism." The single and shared faith and baptism are together apparently the foundation for the progressive looking forward: faith and baptism together point these priests forward to something yet to come (most likely the "kingdom of God"). With another "having," Alma doubles the foundation that opens the possibility of a forward orientation: "having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another." Of interest here is a sort of redirection of the priests: whereas they were pointed forward before, now they are pointed "one towards another." But this redirection is not really a redirection: their eyes are to remain looking forward, while their hearts are turned to each other. The priests are to be bound to each other precisely in their progressive vision.
The two phrases beginning with "having" come together in an interesting manner. Both are pairs (on the one hand "faith" and "baptism," and on the other hand "unity" and "love"), and they are clearly parallel, in fact, might well be read as an inverted parallelism: faith is paired with love, while baptism and unity are paired between them. That faith is tied to love is suggestive, since "look forward with one eye" can only suggest hope. Baptism and unity are clearly tied in the covenant laid out earlier in the chapter. In short, the unity performed in the covenant of their baptism lays out for these priests an intertwining of faith, hope, and love that is to define their whole being in this work. That intertwining is of some interest, perhaps most because it seems to be a different model than is offered elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. Here, faith and love are the groundwork that open the possibility of hope (hope for the "kingdom of God"), they combine necessarily to open the possibility of hope. If faith is their trust in God and love is their union to each other, then hope becomes the possibility of uniting in one their relations to God and their relations to each other (hence, the "kingdom of God," a people gathered together, yet under the perfect rule of God). This curious reading of faith, hope, and love seems to be unique to this passage. As the next verse will show, it had, for this people, an incredible effect.
  • Mosiah 18:22. The first half of this verse reads as a sort of conclusion to all of what has gone before, and the second half confirms that conclusive spirit. But the second half deserves some close attention, bringing into this question the phrase "the children of God." There is, throughout scripture, a most important connection between sonship and the kingdom. Ostensibly, the idea seems usually to be that the son of God is the one who will inherit the throne, the kingdom. To become the "children of God" seems to mean that one enters into the reality of the kingdom. That one must become a child of God, however, is curious in another way: some rite of adoption seems to be implied. It may be that the ritual of Ex 21:1-7 is implied, or there may be some other ritual at work, but it should not be missed that there is some form of official adoption at work in this verse. In keeping the several commandments Alma offers the priests, they become--together--the "children of God," and this seems then to open onto the possibility of the commandments that follow. In other words, though this verse seems to have a conclusive spirit, in the end, it is not so: there is a sort of conclusion here, but it is a conclusion that opens the possibilties of the further commandments issued next. Alma seems to have offered some commandments that brought them to this point of adoption, and then he seems to have given them further commandments, due to the road that still might be taken ahead (still looking forward). At any rate, the adoption of this verse apparently must be taken into consideration before the further commandments in the next verses.
  • Mosiah 18:23. Beyond adoption, then, Alma issues some further commandments. The first pertains quite explicitly to the ritual side of this church. Whereas the task of preaching and teaching was explicitly non-ritual (as far as one can read into the text, at least), the commandment to observe the sabbath day--and especially to "keep it holy"--is undeniably a question of ritual. With the observance and maintenance of the sabbath, these priests have entered the realm of sacred time (and the gathering place of verse 25 will suggest sacred space as well), which inevitably summons the themes of ritual, of the temple. It is not clear, it must be noted, that there is anything quite like a temple yet (there is reason to believe that any construction of a temple would be mentioned), but there is quite clearly a cultus developing among these several churches.
The phrasing of this commandment is interesting further, because it sets the sabbath in the context of daily ritual: "every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God." There is here quite clearly a sanctification of the whole of time, though there is a specific setting apart of the sabbath. That these priests--and with them, one can only assume, the people--are living in sacred time, a sacred time punctuated by even more sacred time, is suggestive of a promised land (something more profound and more explicit than the passing reference in verse 25, mentioned above). There may be some evidence that this is at work in the song of praise to the place of Mormon offered later in this chapter (verse 30). Such a pattern follows quite closely, incidentally, the early history of the Restored Church: at first the several offices are restored, but without quorum organization or a saturating ritual complex; but by the Missouri period, the nature of the sabbath (and the accompanying sanctification of all time) is taught and enjoined upon the saints, precisely as they settle into the promised land in Jackson County. The formation in verse 25 of what seem to be a quorum of these priests is also rather interesting. (It might be noted then that there is reason to understand this chapter to be quite important for the pattern of the latter-day Restoration.) At any rate, the point is quite clear: there is, following the rites of adoption in verse 22, a sort of reification of the priesthood, a hypostasis, as it were, of their work, as they enter into ritual space and time and the kingdom of God begins to be established in their midst (hope being fulfilled?).
  • Mosiah 18:24. Interjected between the sanctification of time in verse 23 and the sanctification of space in verse 25 is this peculiar command: "that the priests whom [Alma] had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support." That it comes between these two works of sanctification is doubly suggestive: it is suggestive on the one hand because it seems to suggest that one should read this command as a question of sanctification as well; and it is suggestive on the other hand because it suggests that there is some change in the structure of the priesthood's means of living even as there is a movement towards the ritualization of the church. In other words, there is in this verse at least the hint that before the adoption rites of verse 22, the priests were living off of the labor of the people, like itinerant preachers. The change is significant (it again follows the pattern of the Restoration), as it seems (as mentioned) to be connected with the development of the cultus that sanctifies everything in the world of the church. That this commandment is central, in fact, the center of a rather simple chiasm, is quite suggestive: there is a hint that this commandment is the most important one, the one that changes everything. In other words, this verse seems to be the most important shift after the rites of adoption: that the priests now begin to labor for their own support seems to suggest that a very real community is formed, and that the people are at this very moment beginning to live the law of consecration. The theme is doubled in verse 26, and it is confirmed powerfully in verses 27-28: the law of consecration grounds the sanctification (ultimately the consecration) of time and space. All of this, it must be noticed, rides on the back of the adoption marked in verse 22.
  • Mosiah 18:25. It is necessary, after all of the above, to look quite carefully at the sanctification of space that seems to be implied in this verse, but there is a great deal more at work here as well. For example, there seems to be a separation of sorts between "the sabbath day" of verse 23 and the "one day in every week that was set apart" of this verse. In other words, the "regular" (regular as in every week, though the phrase seems to suggest something not exactly strictly scheduled) meetings for teaching and worship seem not to have necessarily been scheduled specifically on the Sabbath: worship might have been a non-Sabbath activity for these people. Rather, the Sabbath may have been something more fundamental than a day simply sanctified by the act of worship (a theme that might best be explored elsewhere in scripture). This disconnection of sorts between verses 23 and 25 highlights a number of other curiosities in the present verse: the gathering is a gathering of priests (albeit "to teach the people), and the implication of the following phrase, "and to worship the Lord their God," is that the priests were gathering to worship, and not necessarily the people. This focus on the priests culminates in the final clause of the verse: the priests were, "as often as it was in their power, to assemble themselves together." This inordinate focus on the priests as the very center of worship is of some interest, and it deserves some sustained attention, especially because it seems also to have something to do with the sanctification of space implied in the "regular" gatherings.
This verse could be read in a rather democratic way—that is, it could be that the priests comprise most of the people and so separating out the other, non-priests in the congregation would be less necessary than if the priests were only a small percentage of the congregation. Also, it may be that the themselves in the first part of the verse is referring to the priests but in the second part of the verse themselves refers to the priests and the other congregation members (future priests and priestesses?). On this reading the reconciliatoin of God to priests and priests to other church members furthers the unity theme of surrounding verses (v. 21 in particular). In verse 23 the focus seems to be on individual church members sanctifying the Sabbath in relation with God (a private type of worship), whereas here the public community aspect of worship seems the focus. Whether or not these activities take place on the same day, the parallel seems unmistakeable: individual worship of God is not sufficient, community worship must accompany it. This follows the pattern in many other scriptures where individual conversion is followed immediately by a concern for the conversion of friends and family (e.g. Enos 1, Lehi's dream in 1 Ne 8, and Isa 6)—indeed, this pattern parallels the order of the great two commandments as spoken by Christ in Matt 22:34-40.
  • Mosiah 18:30. This verse appears to employ different literary styles than is consistent with the rest of the account.
  • First there is the excessive location explanation: "done in Mormon, ...waters of Mormon, ....Mormon; ... the place of Mormon, ...the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon,"
  • Second, there is a very prosaic passage almost out of the blue: "how beautiful are they to the eyes of them ... for they shall sing to his praise forever."
It is hard to know whether this is Mormon, as abridger, emphasizing the geography that bears his name or Alma's original record. It is very difficult to jump to an unusual geographic orientation and then quickly to an aesthetic style in the middle of doing a narration by a more sedate method. (This is perhaps evidence of abridgement work in that Joseph Smith would not have thought to change styles so abruptly mid-narration if he were the author.)
  • Mosiah 19.2: Gideon. In Hebrew, the name Gideon means "hacker." The root verb is used elsewhere to describe the hacking down idolatrous images or shrines (cf. Deut 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chr 14:3; 31:1). The Old Testament judge Gideon may have recieved this name as a likely foreshadowing of either hacking down of the altar of Baal in Judg 6:25-32, or the hacking down of Israel's enemies depicted in Judg 7. The Book of Mormon Gideon is similarly a man of the sword; he draws it here in fighting King Noah, and is ultimately killed by the sword in Alma 1:9.
  • Mosiah 19.24: Ceremony. Regarding the use of "ceremony" in verse 24, it's possible that it is a reference to some type of ritual killing or death of a king. The text prior to verse 24 contains a sense of building urgency and the implication that the actions could be happening quickly, one right after the other. For example, we are told that the people were "angry" (v. 19) and that they acted in anger when they "caused that he should suffer, even unto death by fire" (v. 19). In the following verses "they were about to take the priests" (v. 21, emphasis added), the priests "fled" (v. 21), the people "were about to return" (v. 22, emphasis added) when they met the men of Gideon, and they immediately tell the men of Gideon everything. The textual image is that of an impassioned people acting on their impulses; the men of Gideon could very well have arrived in the middle of events not yet wrapped up, and it is possible that there remained some unfinished ritual or ceremony with regards to Noah's death that the people had yet to perform, especially if he was offered in their anger as a sacrifice so that the people could regain their families.
Another possibility is discussed by Hugh Nibley in the transcripts of his Book of Mormon class. He sees the word as a clear reference to some type of reconciliation or peace ceremony in which two factions—the men of Gideon versus the men who originally left their families and followed Noah into the wilderness—ritually agree to not fight against each other. Given the political context at the time, it is not unlikely that some kind of formal treaty or ritual of reconciliation would be performed.
The use of the word "ceremony" stands out awkwardly among these verses, in the same way that Mosiah 17:11 stands out among its neighboring verses. In addition to its possible reference as a "ritual killing" or "death of a king," the word "ceremony" could denote an execution. In Mosiah 17:9, Abinadi refuses to recall his words, and then, in v. 10 he proclaims his suffering, death, and refusal to recall his words as testimonies. He levels his own evidence, as it were, against the king and his priests, and in v. 11, Noah responds with fear. The following verses--Abinadi's prophecy--are famous, but the overlooked preceding verses lend a sense that not only was Abinadi making a prophetic statement in verses 15-19--he was pronouncing another sentence. His own death would be evidence of their corruption--evidence which could justify their own trial and eventual execution.

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  • Why is it that Alma has success in preaching where Abinadi didn't? Or did they have different callings or objectives?
  • Mosiah 18:4: Is this verse offered as an etymology of the name "Mormon"? In other words, did the king call the place "Mormon" because it was in the borders of the land or because it was infested with wild beasts, the implication is that this is the meaning of "Mormon"?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What do we make of the name Mormon coming from the wicked king Noah?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What does it mean to be "infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts"? What kind of animals might these have been, and why would an influx of these animals constitute an infestation?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant by a "fountain" of water? Why would it be considered pure water?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant here by a "thicket of small trees"? Is this an isolated cluster of trees in a cleared area, or a brushy area within a forest?
  • Mosiah 18:7: How could a "goodly number" of people gather to a "thicket of small trees" without being observed?
  • Mosiah 18:8: What does it mean to "come into the fold of God"
  • Mosiah 18:8: How are we called the people of God? What does it mean to be his people?
  • Mosiah 18:9: What does it mean to mourn with those who mourn? Is this different in some way than comforting those who morn? (We are told that our savior comforts those who mourn in Isa 61:2).
  • Mosiah 18:9: How can we "stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places"? How can we know how well we are doing at this?
  • Mosiah 18:9: How much should we desire our own redemption and eternal life? Is it selfish to be motivated by our own eternal rewards?
  • Mosiah 18:10: What does it mean to covenant to serve the LORD and keep his commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:10: How can "his Spirit" be poured out "more abundantly" upon us? What does this terminology add to our understanding of the gift of the Holy Ghost?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Who is this Helam, and why does he have the same name as the (presumably) royal Mulekite brother of Ammon (Mosiah 7:6) sent later to inquire about the whereabouts of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Why does Alma pray like this before baptizing Helam? Is this just an example of praying before performing anything unto the LORD, or is there something else going on here?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Where did Alma get his power and authority to baptize?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Why does this baptismal prayer differ from the one we use today?
  • Mosiah 18:13: What does it mean for Christ to have been "prepared from the foundation fo the world"? What is the "foundation" of the world?
  • Mosiah 18:14: Why would Alma and Helam both be "buried in the water" in this baptism? Was Alma baptizing himself?
  • Mosiah 18:14: What does it mean that they both "arose" after the baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:15: Why didn't Alma "bury himself again in the water" after the first baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:16: What does it mean for the people to be "filled with the grace of God"? How is grace something that can fill you?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: There are several places in the scriptures where teachers are counseled to teach nothing but repentance and faith on the Lord. Verse 20 here is one example. How literally can we interpret this? Is it applicable to us today in all situations where we are teaches? Or just some?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: Did these priests have access to written scriptures in order to teach that "which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets" or were they dependent on Alma and oral transmission of teachings?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: How can we preach "nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord"?
  • Mosiah 18:21: How does Alma's injunction against "contention" contrast with the continual rounds of contention described in the Record of Zeniff?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean to "look forward with one eye?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean for hearts to be "knit together in unity"? Is there a difference between being knit and being sealed? Does this involve a priesthood ordinance of some type, or is it merely a representation of people bonding to each other?
  • Mosiah 18:22: How do the people become the "children of God"? Aren't we already the children of a Heavenly Father? How is this different and what is the distinction?
  • Mosiah 18:23: Why is sabbath day observance specifically mentioned here, rather than other commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:23: According to Alma, giving thanks to God every day is a commandment. Was this a specific commandment just for his people, or is this a commandment that is in effect for our day as well?
  • Mosiah 18:24: How does this verse serve as a precedent for modern LDS practice of a lay priesthood?
  • Mosiah 18:24: What does it mean to "labor with [our] own hands"?
  • Mosiah 18:26: What does it mean to "receive the grace of God" for [our] labor?
  • Mosiah 19.3: Why might a minority of the people have been upset with the king?
  • Mosiah 19.3: What does it mean to "breathe out threatenings"?
  • Mosiah 19.3: How does the theme of contention play throughout the history of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How might this Gideon's role as liberator echo that of the Old Testament judge Gideon?
  • Mosiah 19.4: What are we to make of Gideon? Is he a role model? A cautionary figure? What can we learn from his experience?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How should we judge Gideon's wrath, swearing, and threats of violence?
  • Mosiah 19.4: After reading this account, should we be surprised by how Gideon meets his eventual end?
  • Mosiah 19.5: Why are we told here that Noah "fled and ran"? Aren't these pretty much the same thing?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What might be the significance of a tower being "near" the temple, rather than part of the temple?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What do we know about this Nephite temple?
  • Mosiah 19.6-10: We are presented here with a rather colorful narrative of fleeing, fighting, and negotiating. What is the purpose of this account? Why would Mormon bother to include it? Why don't we just have a more abbreviated account? Is there something more here that we should be getting from these stories?
  • Mosiah 19.8: Why might Gideon have spared King Noah? Why not just kill him and then go off to flee or fight the Lamanites?
  • Mosiah 19.11: Why might King Noah have tried to get the men to leave their wives and children?
  • Mosiah 19.15: Are the Nephites expected to pay 1/2 of all they have every year, or is this just a one time payment with an unspecified level of tribute to be paid afterwards?
  • Mosiah 19.16: Why wouldn't a son of Noah have followed his father and fled into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.17: What does it mean for Limhi to be described as a "just" man?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What position in society might Gideon have had that allowed him to send scouts out into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What do the Nephites mean by wilderness? Does this just mean uninhabited lands, or is there some other meaning?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What does it mean that the men had sworn "in their hearts"? Wasn't this a fairly public decision?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What are we to make of this desire to seek revenge? Is this a noble desire? How are we supposed to feel about these men who first leave their families to potentially perish, then get upset and want to seek revenge for their deaths?
  • Mosiah 19.20: These men have killed the king? What standing might they have under Old Testament law? Was this a justified killing, or something much more grievous?
  • Mosiah 19.21: How could these men have been able to grab and kill the king, but not the priests?

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Mosiah 18:6-10

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  • Mosiah 18:9: Those that mourn. Merriam-Webster defines mourn (verse 9) as "to feel or express grief or sorrow." In the scriptures mourning is usually used in the context of expressing grief over someone's death.
One way to understand the phrase those that mourn (verse 9) is to think about anyone who is experiencing grief or sorrow. In this way we have a responsibility to connect with the people around us in grief and sorrow and share in that sorrow.
Another interpretation is to take those that mourn as a reference to those who mourn for the Savior, his death and suffering. In that case we are asked if we are willing to join the community of people who mourn for the sins of this world and the resulting suffering and death that our Savior went through in order to save us from those sins. A similar invitation is given in the hymn "He Died the Great Redeemer Died." (See the related link below.)
It is also interesting to note the way verse 9 introduces the themes that will then be played out in the narratives of chapters 19-24. If we look at the two main stories of trial and deliverance—the people of Limhi and the people of Alma—we have both an example of a people who mourn and a people who stand in need of comfort.
The people of Limhi will fight battle after battle, both in their defense and in their pursuit of freedom. Their losses are extremely numerous (enough so that in Mosiah 21:17 Limhi has to command the remaining men to help support the widows and their children): throughout this process they are truly a people acquainted with mourning.
The people of Alma will be persecuted by Amulon: they will be in bondage, they will carry impossibly heavy burdens, they will be refused the comfort of vocal prayer. As such, they will truly be a people who stand in need of comfort.
  • Mosiah 18:8-10.' Echoes of Verses 8-10 and Their Profound Implications for Our Relationship with God. These verses are echoed to great effect when Alma and his people are in trouble in the Land of Helam (which is named after the person Alma is now baptizing). See exegesis on Mosiah 24:11-15.
  • Mosiah 18:17. Despite the fact that the word "church" appears a good number of times before this point in the Book of Mormon, this verse marks the first reference to an official Nephite church, or, in other words, this is the first Nephite church mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Mosiah 25:18 seems quite clearly to confirm this, as it mentions Mosiah II's authorization of Alma to create like churches throughout the land of Zarahemla, the suggestion being that there were none before that time. But even as this cross-reference seems to confirm the origins of the Nephite church in this passage, it also clarifies what the word "church" means here: if Alma was to go on to found a number of churches, then this "church" is not a system of faith, but a congregational organization, a regional gathering of people. From the very start, churches among the Nephites seem to have been a question of a number of people who worship together in a sort of gathered community.
Also interesting to the meaning of the word "church" as used in the Book of Mormon is the attribution of the name "the church of God, or the church of Christ," in this verse, to some unnamed source: those gathered by Alma were simply "called" so. Because the phrase uses the passive voice "they were called," what would otherwise be the subject (the one or the ones doing the calling) escapes notice, and the author of the passage can leave ambiguous the source of the title. In other words, whereas the author might have said that "Alma and his people called themselves the church of God, or the church of Christ," he rather says that "they were called" so, the implication being simply that someone besides those of the church called them that. It remains entirely unclear whence the epithet comes. There is a hint in all of this, then, that "church" was a term used somewhat commonly among the Nephites, that it was not a term that those gathered into the church specifically rooted out of, say, Nephi's writings in order to proclaim their justified foundation or any such thing. Rather, it seems, the concept of a church was not unfamiliar to the Nephites, and this gathering was simply so named because others recognized an already common structure among them.
All these details come together somewhat paradoxically: it seems that Alma is at once doing something entirely unprecedented and also doing something completely familiar to outsiders. The paradox is, however, quite understandable: an idea that has been around for quite some time, and something the people generally are familiar with, but Alma takes upon himself the overwhelming task of actually accomplishing it. Everyone knew what he was doing, but that does not at all mean that it was a common proceeding: Alma has done something rather radical in forming a church. He himself has grounded it by an ostensibly granted authority (see verse 13), and this verse adds that anyone "baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his [meaning God's] church." The implication is clear: Alma's radical movement is his authorized development of something everyone has been expecting for nearly five hundred years, but no one has felt authorized to do.
Now, it might be asked why no one had created a church before this time, even as the idea seems to have been completely familiar to everyone. Or it might be asked more specifically why God had not authorized any to accomplish the task. The answer, however, seems to be buried in a few details of the following story, as well as in some major events that happen later (see verses 31-33 of this chapter, and then especially the complex development that extends across Mosiah 25-29). The answer, put quite simply, is this: the existence of a monarchical system seems to exclude not only the need for churches, but also the possibility of churches. Under the monarchy, the cult seems to have been performed under the auspices of the king and a royal priesthood, but the church assumes a sort of local priesthood, a regionalism replacing the universal authority usually claimed by a king. In other words, since a monarchy seems to have obtained from the very start of Nephite civilization, there has never been need or room for churches. Alma's formation of this first church is taken quite specifically as an act of rebellion, and when he is given royal authority in Zarahemla to establish a number of churches, it leads rather quickly to the dissolution of the monarchy. Perhaps all of this is considered rather simply in a single, weighty phrsae in the following verse: the church is a question of "the kingdom of God."
  • Mosiah 18:18. As soon as there is a unity in this plurality--as soon as the church is a church--Alma ordains a local priesthood. The move may be what most incites the cry of rebellion from Noah by the end of the chapter. The move to ordain priests is a rather complex one, and it must be understood in the right light, lest it be considered from an entirely too protracted view. First to be said about the ordination of these priests: the ordination cannot be understood--culturally, historically--to have been a natural consequence of the gathering of the baptized, but rather should be understood as a radical innovation that ultimately redefines for the Nephites the very meaning of priesthood, and this altered meaning ultimately calls for a restructuring of the entire government. This ordination is ultimately the first step toward undoing the Nephite monarchy, though it happens among a small gathering on the outskirts of a Nephite settlement in Lamanite territory. But regardless of the broadest implications of the action, there seems to be a sort of pragmatism about the verse: the ordination was not an act of defiance, but an act of charity, a way of strengthening those baptized so that they might move from church to kingdom (the kingdom of God).
With the pragmatic character of the ordination drawn out, the differences between this priesthood and priesthood in the restored Church of the latter days are quite clear: Alma does not establish quorums, nor does it appear that he has two separate priesthoods with their several offices, nor again does it appear that these priests wield authority to perform any particular ordinances. The priesthood Alma sets up is, in the end, a rather simple priesthood, a stripped-down priesthood meant to perform the task merely of teaching, though teaching the highest principles, "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." That a great deal happens concerning "the priesthood" between these first ordinations and Alma the Younger's discourse in Alma 13 is obvious: but that development must traced rather carefully and in great detail to accomplish any satisfactory explanation of these questions. At the very least, what is unquestionably clear here is this: by the same "authority" he had to baptize, Alma ordains priests (note that he does not organize a priesthood, per se), and only a rather small number at that (no more than nine would have been ordained by the time the group flees into the wilderness), to take upon themselves the task of preaching and teaching those baptized and gathered together into the church.
  • Mosiah 18:19. If teaching "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" seems an overwhelming task, even a boundless task, this verse imposes some limits on it: these priests are limited to "the things which [Alma] had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." The verses seems thus rather simple and self-explanatory, but it does raise an issue that ought to be dealt with: one can only wonder why Alma would impose limits at all on the teaching task. In other words, since other scriptures promote a rather radical form of teaching--namely, teaching by the Spirit, taking no thought for the words to say, etc.--this rather limited task, hemmed in by what has been said before, seems conservative to say the least. This may not, however, be a commandment to teach in a manner other than that of teaching by the Spirit: there are at least two ways of reading this, in fact, as a commandment to teach by the Spirit. On the one hand, Alma might be suggesting that the Spirit would only lead one to speak of that which has been spoken before. This interpretation seems somewhat flawed, as the Spirit seems in a number of places to be That which specifically goes beyond previous knowledge. On the other hand--and this seems a more likely explanation--Alma might be suggesting that the role of the Spirit in teaching is precisely to help one to interpret the words of the prophets, that the Spirit enlarges upon those words, rather than providing to the teacher new words in the moment. This interpretation presents a sort of division of labors between priests (whatever priests are here) and prophets: the prophets have experiences beyond the Spirit, but priests are to work in the Spirit so as to interpret the prophetic word. The division and correlation might be compared to the gift of tongues (prophets) and the gift of the interpretation of tongues (priests). At any rate, the suggestion is that the Spirit works upon the teaching priest precisely in his attendance upon the words of the prophets.
With all of these details worked out, there is a rather careful phrasing at work in this verse which is all to easily missed: though one might see Alma equating himself with the prophets, the wording actually suggests that he equates himself with the priests in their division of labor, over against the prophets. The clue is the word "teach": the priests are to "teach" only what Alma had "taught," which suggests that they are to do what he himself has done. If their task then extends to teaching what "had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets," there may be here an implication that Alma's mode of teaching had been quite specifically a work of interpretation (in fact, a work of interpreting Abinadi?). Alma sees himself, according to the language presented in this verse, as a priest, rather than as a prophet. As such, the priests have a model for their work: Alma.
  • Mosiah 18:20. Again the priestly task is clarified, though a different verb appears in this verse: "preach." But the instance of "preach" marks a chiastic structure that runs through verses 18-20:
  • ...did he ordain to preach unto them
  • and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
  • And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, etc.
  • Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were...
Similar, in a manner, to the division of labor implicit in the last verse, there appears here a division of sorts, though it is a division within the priestly task: the priests are to preach and to teach, and these seem to be different things. Preaching, in verse 18, seems to be quite open ended, while the teaching of verse 18 seems to be quite specific (concerning the kingdom of God). Parallel to this, verse 19 offers certain bounds (or at least a sort of regional limitation) for teaching, while verse 20 remains rather open ended about preaching. What this means, however, remains to be worked out in detail.
A brief return to verse 19 would prove helpful. The phrasing there is incredibly negative, and verse 20 follows with a parallel structure: the priests are to preach and teach nothing... save... etc. The point is that it would be better for these to preach absolutely nothing whatsoever than to preach something other than what Alma provides them as a task. As for teaching, verse 19 provides the priests with textual boundaries, as it were: the priests are to teach the words of the prophets (apparently interpreting them according to the Spirit), even as Alma has done, and so their bounds there are ultimately textual, for they are to stay within the texts of the prophets. Preaching, however, is a different matter: the bounds for preaching seem to be practical: only two topics are provided, both of which are really more a question of action than of doctrine. In other words, "repentance" and "faith on the Lord" are probably not here understood as doctrines or principles, but as things to be done. Whereas "teaching" carries with it--inevitably--the implication of an intellectual process of sorting things out, "preaching" seems to carry with it rather the implication of exhortation, of invitation, of praxis.
The task of the priest, then: to urge his hearers to trust the Lord and to repent before Him, and to explore in the Spirit the words of the prophets. In the end, there seems to be no reason to read Alma as trying to keep the priests of his church under his thumb, or limited in what they can say: rather, he sees the work of the priest to be the work of edification according to the Spirit that works upon the prophetic texts and the work of reminding the people continually of their double duty to the Lord (the double duty of faith and repentance).
  • Mosiah 18:20: Similarity to D&C 42. These verses on teaching from Mosiah 18 are very similar to those regarding teaching in D&C 42. D&C 42:11 discusses ordination, similar to Mosiah 18:18. D&C 42:12 explains that teachers should "teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon," which is similar to Mosiah 18: 19's direction to teach "the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." D&C 42:12 also commanded teachers to focus on the "principles of the gospel" which are found in the scriptures/words of the prophets, perhaps similar to Alma's direction to teach nothing but "repentance" and "faith" in Mosiah 18:20. (In addition, also note that both Mosiah 18:27-28 and D&C 42: 30 etc, talk about taking care of the poor.)
  • Mosiah 18:21. After instructions concerning teaching and preaching are laid down, Alma commands the priests further (and it is clear that the priests specifically are the ones receiving this command and all those following up through verse 26: in verse 27, Alma will turn specifically to the members of the church to begin to offer them commandments) to avoid contention among themselves. That this commandment is given specifically to the priesthood is an interesting detail, and it deserves some attention.
At first, it would appear as if this commandment against contention is redundant (the covenants the people have made quite explicitly would seem to have covered this question--see verses 8-9), but that it is directed toward the priests seems to cancel the redundancy. Rather, it is a specific clarification for those ordained to preach and teach, for the priesthood. In other words, even as the people have covenanted to uphold one another and to suffer each other, there will remain among the priests a tendency to contend. This commandment, then, seems to be issued as a corrective to the tendency toward competition among the ordained priests. Having separate stewardships (each is set over a separate group of fifty people, a group assigned, apparently, by Alma), the priests do not seem overly likely to find themselves in contention, but then it is perhaps precisely because they have separate stewardships that Alma is concerned that contention might arise. As soon as the people are split up into several groups, there is a tendency towards schism, and each priest, having a sort of autonomy with his fifty, might all too easily make them his.
What Alma wants to have happen is quite clear: rather than contention, he would have them unified (one eye, one faith, one baptism). The way this is phrased is interesting: they are to "look forward with one eye." It may be that Alma phrases the question of unity in this way so as to emphasize that the priests should not be looking at each other, but forward. The words install a very real sense of progress, and the "having" that opens the following phrase then seems to lay the groundwork for that sense of promise: "having one faith and one baptism." The single and shared faith and baptism are together apparently the foundation for the progressive looking forward: faith and baptism together point these priests forward to something yet to come (most likely the "kingdom of God"). With another "having," Alma doubles the foundation that opens the possibility of a forward orientation: "having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another." Of interest here is a sort of redirection of the priests: whereas they were pointed forward before, now they are pointed "one towards another." But this redirection is not really a redirection: their eyes are to remain looking forward, while their hearts are turned to each other. The priests are to be bound to each other precisely in their progressive vision.
The two phrases beginning with "having" come together in an interesting manner. Both are pairs (on the one hand "faith" and "baptism," and on the other hand "unity" and "love"), and they are clearly parallel, in fact, might well be read as an inverted parallelism: faith is paired with love, while baptism and unity are paired between them. That faith is tied to love is suggestive, since "look forward with one eye" can only suggest hope. Baptism and unity are clearly tied in the covenant laid out earlier in the chapter. In short, the unity performed in the covenant of their baptism lays out for these priests an intertwining of faith, hope, and love that is to define their whole being in this work. That intertwining is of some interest, perhaps most because it seems to be a different model than is offered elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. Here, faith and love are the groundwork that open the possibility of hope (hope for the "kingdom of God"), they combine necessarily to open the possibility of hope. If faith is their trust in God and love is their union to each other, then hope becomes the possibility of uniting in one their relations to God and their relations to each other (hence, the "kingdom of God," a people gathered together, yet under the perfect rule of God). This curious reading of faith, hope, and love seems to be unique to this passage. As the next verse will show, it had, for this people, an incredible effect.
  • Mosiah 18:22. The first half of this verse reads as a sort of conclusion to all of what has gone before, and the second half confirms that conclusive spirit. But the second half deserves some close attention, bringing into this question the phrase "the children of God." There is, throughout scripture, a most important connection between sonship and the kingdom. Ostensibly, the idea seems usually to be that the son of God is the one who will inherit the throne, the kingdom. To become the "children of God" seems to mean that one enters into the reality of the kingdom. That one must become a child of God, however, is curious in another way: some rite of adoption seems to be implied. It may be that the ritual of Ex 21:1-7 is implied, or there may be some other ritual at work, but it should not be missed that there is some form of official adoption at work in this verse. In keeping the several commandments Alma offers the priests, they become--together--the "children of God," and this seems then to open onto the possibility of the commandments that follow. In other words, though this verse seems to have a conclusive spirit, in the end, it is not so: there is a sort of conclusion here, but it is a conclusion that opens the possibilties of the further commandments issued next. Alma seems to have offered some commandments that brought them to this point of adoption, and then he seems to have given them further commandments, due to the road that still might be taken ahead (still looking forward). At any rate, the adoption of this verse apparently must be taken into consideration before the further commandments in the next verses.
  • Mosiah 18:23. Beyond adoption, then, Alma issues some further commandments. The first pertains quite explicitly to the ritual side of this church. Whereas the task of preaching and teaching was explicitly non-ritual (as far as one can read into the text, at least), the commandment to observe the sabbath day--and especially to "keep it holy"--is undeniably a question of ritual. With the observance and maintenance of the sabbath, these priests have entered the realm of sacred time (and the gathering place of verse 25 will suggest sacred space as well), which inevitably summons the themes of ritual, of the temple. It is not clear, it must be noted, that there is anything quite like a temple yet (there is reason to believe that any construction of a temple would be mentioned), but there is quite clearly a cultus developing among these several churches.
The phrasing of this commandment is interesting further, because it sets the sabbath in the context of daily ritual: "every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God." There is here quite clearly a sanctification of the whole of time, though there is a specific setting apart of the sabbath. That these priests--and with them, one can only assume, the people--are living in sacred time, a sacred time punctuated by even more sacred time, is suggestive of a promised land (something more profound and more explicit than the passing reference in verse 25, mentioned above). There may be some evidence that this is at work in the song of praise to the place of Mormon offered later in this chapter (verse 30). Such a pattern follows quite closely, incidentally, the early history of the Restored Church: at first the several offices are restored, but without quorum organization or a saturating ritual complex; but by the Missouri period, the nature of the sabbath (and the accompanying sanctification of all time) is taught and enjoined upon the saints, precisely as they settle into the promised land in Jackson County. The formation in verse 25 of what seem to be a quorum of these priests is also rather interesting. (It might be noted then that there is reason to understand this chapter to be quite important for the pattern of the latter-day Restoration.) At any rate, the point is quite clear: there is, following the rites of adoption in verse 22, a sort of reification of the priesthood, a hypostasis, as it were, of their work, as they enter into ritual space and time and the kingdom of God begins to be established in their midst (hope being fulfilled?).
  • Mosiah 18:24. Interjected between the sanctification of time in verse 23 and the sanctification of space in verse 25 is this peculiar command: "that the priests whom [Alma] had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support." That it comes between these two works of sanctification is doubly suggestive: it is suggestive on the one hand because it seems to suggest that one should read this command as a question of sanctification as well; and it is suggestive on the other hand because it suggests that there is some change in the structure of the priesthood's means of living even as there is a movement towards the ritualization of the church. In other words, there is in this verse at least the hint that before the adoption rites of verse 22, the priests were living off of the labor of the people, like itinerant preachers. The change is significant (it again follows the pattern of the Restoration), as it seems (as mentioned) to be connected with the development of the cultus that sanctifies everything in the world of the church. That this commandment is central, in fact, the center of a rather simple chiasm, is quite suggestive: there is a hint that this commandment is the most important one, the one that changes everything. In other words, this verse seems to be the most important shift after the rites of adoption: that the priests now begin to labor for their own support seems to suggest that a very real community is formed, and that the people are at this very moment beginning to live the law of consecration. The theme is doubled in verse 26, and it is confirmed powerfully in verses 27-28: the law of consecration grounds the sanctification (ultimately the consecration) of time and space. All of this, it must be noticed, rides on the back of the adoption marked in verse 22.
  • Mosiah 18:25. It is necessary, after all of the above, to look quite carefully at the sanctification of space that seems to be implied in this verse, but there is a great deal more at work here as well. For example, there seems to be a separation of sorts between "the sabbath day" of verse 23 and the "one day in every week that was set apart" of this verse. In other words, the "regular" (regular as in every week, though the phrase seems to suggest something not exactly strictly scheduled) meetings for teaching and worship seem not to have necessarily been scheduled specifically on the Sabbath: worship might have been a non-Sabbath activity for these people. Rather, the Sabbath may have been something more fundamental than a day simply sanctified by the act of worship (a theme that might best be explored elsewhere in scripture). This disconnection of sorts between verses 23 and 25 highlights a number of other curiosities in the present verse: the gathering is a gathering of priests (albeit "to teach the people), and the implication of the following phrase, "and to worship the Lord their God," is that the priests were gathering to worship, and not necessarily the people. This focus on the priests culminates in the final clause of the verse: the priests were, "as often as it was in their power, to assemble themselves together." This inordinate focus on the priests as the very center of worship is of some interest, and it deserves some sustained attention, especially because it seems also to have something to do with the sanctification of space implied in the "regular" gatherings.
This verse could be read in a rather democratic way—that is, it could be that the priests comprise most of the people and so separating out the other, non-priests in the congregation would be less necessary than if the priests were only a small percentage of the congregation. Also, it may be that the themselves in the first part of the verse is referring to the priests but in the second part of the verse themselves refers to the priests and the other congregation members (future priests and priestesses?). On this reading the reconciliatoin of God to priests and priests to other church members furthers the unity theme of surrounding verses (v. 21 in particular). In verse 23 the focus seems to be on individual church members sanctifying the Sabbath in relation with God (a private type of worship), whereas here the public community aspect of worship seems the focus. Whether or not these activities take place on the same day, the parallel seems unmistakeable: individual worship of God is not sufficient, community worship must accompany it. This follows the pattern in many other scriptures where individual conversion is followed immediately by a concern for the conversion of friends and family (e.g. Enos 1, Lehi's dream in 1 Ne 8, and Isa 6)—indeed, this pattern parallels the order of the great two commandments as spoken by Christ in Matt 22:34-40.
  • Mosiah 18:30. This verse appears to employ different literary styles than is consistent with the rest of the account.
  • First there is the excessive location explanation: "done in Mormon, ...waters of Mormon, ....Mormon; ... the place of Mormon, ...the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon,"
  • Second, there is a very prosaic passage almost out of the blue: "how beautiful are they to the eyes of them ... for they shall sing to his praise forever."
It is hard to know whether this is Mormon, as abridger, emphasizing the geography that bears his name or Alma's original record. It is very difficult to jump to an unusual geographic orientation and then quickly to an aesthetic style in the middle of doing a narration by a more sedate method. (This is perhaps evidence of abridgement work in that Joseph Smith would not have thought to change styles so abruptly mid-narration if he were the author.)
  • Mosiah 19.2: Gideon. In Hebrew, the name Gideon means "hacker." The root verb is used elsewhere to describe the hacking down idolatrous images or shrines (cf. Deut 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chr 14:3; 31:1). The Old Testament judge Gideon may have recieved this name as a likely foreshadowing of either hacking down of the altar of Baal in Judg 6:25-32, or the hacking down of Israel's enemies depicted in Judg 7. The Book of Mormon Gideon is similarly a man of the sword; he draws it here in fighting King Noah, and is ultimately killed by the sword in Alma 1:9.
  • Mosiah 19.24: Ceremony. Regarding the use of "ceremony" in verse 24, it's possible that it is a reference to some type of ritual killing or death of a king. The text prior to verse 24 contains a sense of building urgency and the implication that the actions could be happening quickly, one right after the other. For example, we are told that the people were "angry" (v. 19) and that they acted in anger when they "caused that he should suffer, even unto death by fire" (v. 19). In the following verses "they were about to take the priests" (v. 21, emphasis added), the priests "fled" (v. 21), the people "were about to return" (v. 22, emphasis added) when they met the men of Gideon, and they immediately tell the men of Gideon everything. The textual image is that of an impassioned people acting on their impulses; the men of Gideon could very well have arrived in the middle of events not yet wrapped up, and it is possible that there remained some unfinished ritual or ceremony with regards to Noah's death that the people had yet to perform, especially if he was offered in their anger as a sacrifice so that the people could regain their families.
Another possibility is discussed by Hugh Nibley in the transcripts of his Book of Mormon class. He sees the word as a clear reference to some type of reconciliation or peace ceremony in which two factions—the men of Gideon versus the men who originally left their families and followed Noah into the wilderness—ritually agree to not fight against each other. Given the political context at the time, it is not unlikely that some kind of formal treaty or ritual of reconciliation would be performed.
The use of the word "ceremony" stands out awkwardly among these verses, in the same way that Mosiah 17:11 stands out among its neighboring verses. In addition to its possible reference as a "ritual killing" or "death of a king," the word "ceremony" could denote an execution. In Mosiah 17:9, Abinadi refuses to recall his words, and then, in v. 10 he proclaims his suffering, death, and refusal to recall his words as testimonies. He levels his own evidence, as it were, against the king and his priests, and in v. 11, Noah responds with fear. The following verses--Abinadi's prophecy--are famous, but the overlooked preceding verses lend a sense that not only was Abinadi making a prophetic statement in verses 15-19--he was pronouncing another sentence. His own death would be evidence of their corruption--evidence which could justify their own trial and eventual execution.

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  • Why is it that Alma has success in preaching where Abinadi didn't? Or did they have different callings or objectives?
  • Mosiah 18:4: Is this verse offered as an etymology of the name "Mormon"? In other words, did the king call the place "Mormon" because it was in the borders of the land or because it was infested with wild beasts, the implication is that this is the meaning of "Mormon"?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What do we make of the name Mormon coming from the wicked king Noah?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What does it mean to be "infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts"? What kind of animals might these have been, and why would an influx of these animals constitute an infestation?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant by a "fountain" of water? Why would it be considered pure water?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant here by a "thicket of small trees"? Is this an isolated cluster of trees in a cleared area, or a brushy area within a forest?
  • Mosiah 18:7: How could a "goodly number" of people gather to a "thicket of small trees" without being observed?
  • Mosiah 18:8: What does it mean to "come into the fold of God"
  • Mosiah 18:8: How are we called the people of God? What does it mean to be his people?
  • Mosiah 18:9: What does it mean to mourn with those who mourn? Is this different in some way than comforting those who morn? (We are told that our savior comforts those who mourn in Isa 61:2).
  • Mosiah 18:9: How can we "stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places"? How can we know how well we are doing at this?
  • Mosiah 18:9: How much should we desire our own redemption and eternal life? Is it selfish to be motivated by our own eternal rewards?
  • Mosiah 18:10: What does it mean to covenant to serve the LORD and keep his commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:10: How can "his Spirit" be poured out "more abundantly" upon us? What does this terminology add to our understanding of the gift of the Holy Ghost?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Who is this Helam, and why does he have the same name as the (presumably) royal Mulekite brother of Ammon (Mosiah 7:6) sent later to inquire about the whereabouts of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Why does Alma pray like this before baptizing Helam? Is this just an example of praying before performing anything unto the LORD, or is there something else going on here?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Where did Alma get his power and authority to baptize?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Why does this baptismal prayer differ from the one we use today?
  • Mosiah 18:13: What does it mean for Christ to have been "prepared from the foundation fo the world"? What is the "foundation" of the world?
  • Mosiah 18:14: Why would Alma and Helam both be "buried in the water" in this baptism? Was Alma baptizing himself?
  • Mosiah 18:14: What does it mean that they both "arose" after the baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:15: Why didn't Alma "bury himself again in the water" after the first baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:16: What does it mean for the people to be "filled with the grace of God"? How is grace something that can fill you?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: There are several places in the scriptures where teachers are counseled to teach nothing but repentance and faith on the Lord. Verse 20 here is one example. How literally can we interpret this? Is it applicable to us today in all situations where we are teaches? Or just some?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: Did these priests have access to written scriptures in order to teach that "which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets" or were they dependent on Alma and oral transmission of teachings?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: How can we preach "nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord"?
  • Mosiah 18:21: How does Alma's injunction against "contention" contrast with the continual rounds of contention described in the Record of Zeniff?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean to "look forward with one eye?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean for hearts to be "knit together in unity"? Is there a difference between being knit and being sealed? Does this involve a priesthood ordinance of some type, or is it merely a representation of people bonding to each other?
  • Mosiah 18:22: How do the people become the "children of God"? Aren't we already the children of a Heavenly Father? How is this different and what is the distinction?
  • Mosiah 18:23: Why is sabbath day observance specifically mentioned here, rather than other commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:23: According to Alma, giving thanks to God every day is a commandment. Was this a specific commandment just for his people, or is this a commandment that is in effect for our day as well?
  • Mosiah 18:24: How does this verse serve as a precedent for modern LDS practice of a lay priesthood?
  • Mosiah 18:24: What does it mean to "labor with [our] own hands"?
  • Mosiah 18:26: What does it mean to "receive the grace of God" for [our] labor?
  • Mosiah 19.3: Why might a minority of the people have been upset with the king?
  • Mosiah 19.3: What does it mean to "breathe out threatenings"?
  • Mosiah 19.3: How does the theme of contention play throughout the history of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How might this Gideon's role as liberator echo that of the Old Testament judge Gideon?
  • Mosiah 19.4: What are we to make of Gideon? Is he a role model? A cautionary figure? What can we learn from his experience?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How should we judge Gideon's wrath, swearing, and threats of violence?
  • Mosiah 19.4: After reading this account, should we be surprised by how Gideon meets his eventual end?
  • Mosiah 19.5: Why are we told here that Noah "fled and ran"? Aren't these pretty much the same thing?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What might be the significance of a tower being "near" the temple, rather than part of the temple?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What do we know about this Nephite temple?
  • Mosiah 19.6-10: We are presented here with a rather colorful narrative of fleeing, fighting, and negotiating. What is the purpose of this account? Why would Mormon bother to include it? Why don't we just have a more abbreviated account? Is there something more here that we should be getting from these stories?
  • Mosiah 19.8: Why might Gideon have spared King Noah? Why not just kill him and then go off to flee or fight the Lamanites?
  • Mosiah 19.11: Why might King Noah have tried to get the men to leave their wives and children?
  • Mosiah 19.15: Are the Nephites expected to pay 1/2 of all they have every year, or is this just a one time payment with an unspecified level of tribute to be paid afterwards?
  • Mosiah 19.16: Why wouldn't a son of Noah have followed his father and fled into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.17: What does it mean for Limhi to be described as a "just" man?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What position in society might Gideon have had that allowed him to send scouts out into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What do the Nephites mean by wilderness? Does this just mean uninhabited lands, or is there some other meaning?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What does it mean that the men had sworn "in their hearts"? Wasn't this a fairly public decision?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What are we to make of this desire to seek revenge? Is this a noble desire? How are we supposed to feel about these men who first leave their families to potentially perish, then get upset and want to seek revenge for their deaths?
  • Mosiah 19.20: These men have killed the king? What standing might they have under Old Testament law? Was this a justified killing, or something much more grievous?
  • Mosiah 19.21: How could these men have been able to grab and kill the king, but not the priests?

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Mosiah 18:11-15

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  • Mosiah 18:9: Those that mourn. Merriam-Webster defines mourn (verse 9) as "to feel or express grief or sorrow." In the scriptures mourning is usually used in the context of expressing grief over someone's death.
One way to understand the phrase those that mourn (verse 9) is to think about anyone who is experiencing grief or sorrow. In this way we have a responsibility to connect with the people around us in grief and sorrow and share in that sorrow.
Another interpretation is to take those that mourn as a reference to those who mourn for the Savior, his death and suffering. In that case we are asked if we are willing to join the community of people who mourn for the sins of this world and the resulting suffering and death that our Savior went through in order to save us from those sins. A similar invitation is given in the hymn "He Died the Great Redeemer Died." (See the related link below.)
It is also interesting to note the way verse 9 introduces the themes that will then be played out in the narratives of chapters 19-24. If we look at the two main stories of trial and deliverance—the people of Limhi and the people of Alma—we have both an example of a people who mourn and a people who stand in need of comfort.
The people of Limhi will fight battle after battle, both in their defense and in their pursuit of freedom. Their losses are extremely numerous (enough so that in Mosiah 21:17 Limhi has to command the remaining men to help support the widows and their children): throughout this process they are truly a people acquainted with mourning.
The people of Alma will be persecuted by Amulon: they will be in bondage, they will carry impossibly heavy burdens, they will be refused the comfort of vocal prayer. As such, they will truly be a people who stand in need of comfort.
  • Mosiah 18:8-10.' Echoes of Verses 8-10 and Their Profound Implications for Our Relationship with God. These verses are echoed to great effect when Alma and his people are in trouble in the Land of Helam (which is named after the person Alma is now baptizing). See exegesis on Mosiah 24:11-15.
  • Mosiah 18:17. Despite the fact that the word "church" appears a good number of times before this point in the Book of Mormon, this verse marks the first reference to an official Nephite church, or, in other words, this is the first Nephite church mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Mosiah 25:18 seems quite clearly to confirm this, as it mentions Mosiah II's authorization of Alma to create like churches throughout the land of Zarahemla, the suggestion being that there were none before that time. But even as this cross-reference seems to confirm the origins of the Nephite church in this passage, it also clarifies what the word "church" means here: if Alma was to go on to found a number of churches, then this "church" is not a system of faith, but a congregational organization, a regional gathering of people. From the very start, churches among the Nephites seem to have been a question of a number of people who worship together in a sort of gathered community.
Also interesting to the meaning of the word "church" as used in the Book of Mormon is the attribution of the name "the church of God, or the church of Christ," in this verse, to some unnamed source: those gathered by Alma were simply "called" so. Because the phrase uses the passive voice "they were called," what would otherwise be the subject (the one or the ones doing the calling) escapes notice, and the author of the passage can leave ambiguous the source of the title. In other words, whereas the author might have said that "Alma and his people called themselves the church of God, or the church of Christ," he rather says that "they were called" so, the implication being simply that someone besides those of the church called them that. It remains entirely unclear whence the epithet comes. There is a hint in all of this, then, that "church" was a term used somewhat commonly among the Nephites, that it was not a term that those gathered into the church specifically rooted out of, say, Nephi's writings in order to proclaim their justified foundation or any such thing. Rather, it seems, the concept of a church was not unfamiliar to the Nephites, and this gathering was simply so named because others recognized an already common structure among them.
All these details come together somewhat paradoxically: it seems that Alma is at once doing something entirely unprecedented and also doing something completely familiar to outsiders. The paradox is, however, quite understandable: an idea that has been around for quite some time, and something the people generally are familiar with, but Alma takes upon himself the overwhelming task of actually accomplishing it. Everyone knew what he was doing, but that does not at all mean that it was a common proceeding: Alma has done something rather radical in forming a church. He himself has grounded it by an ostensibly granted authority (see verse 13), and this verse adds that anyone "baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his [meaning God's] church." The implication is clear: Alma's radical movement is his authorized development of something everyone has been expecting for nearly five hundred years, but no one has felt authorized to do.
Now, it might be asked why no one had created a church before this time, even as the idea seems to have been completely familiar to everyone. Or it might be asked more specifically why God had not authorized any to accomplish the task. The answer, however, seems to be buried in a few details of the following story, as well as in some major events that happen later (see verses 31-33 of this chapter, and then especially the complex development that extends across Mosiah 25-29). The answer, put quite simply, is this: the existence of a monarchical system seems to exclude not only the need for churches, but also the possibility of churches. Under the monarchy, the cult seems to have been performed under the auspices of the king and a royal priesthood, but the church assumes a sort of local priesthood, a regionalism replacing the universal authority usually claimed by a king. In other words, since a monarchy seems to have obtained from the very start of Nephite civilization, there has never been need or room for churches. Alma's formation of this first church is taken quite specifically as an act of rebellion, and when he is given royal authority in Zarahemla to establish a number of churches, it leads rather quickly to the dissolution of the monarchy. Perhaps all of this is considered rather simply in a single, weighty phrsae in the following verse: the church is a question of "the kingdom of God."
  • Mosiah 18:18. As soon as there is a unity in this plurality--as soon as the church is a church--Alma ordains a local priesthood. The move may be what most incites the cry of rebellion from Noah by the end of the chapter. The move to ordain priests is a rather complex one, and it must be understood in the right light, lest it be considered from an entirely too protracted view. First to be said about the ordination of these priests: the ordination cannot be understood--culturally, historically--to have been a natural consequence of the gathering of the baptized, but rather should be understood as a radical innovation that ultimately redefines for the Nephites the very meaning of priesthood, and this altered meaning ultimately calls for a restructuring of the entire government. This ordination is ultimately the first step toward undoing the Nephite monarchy, though it happens among a small gathering on the outskirts of a Nephite settlement in Lamanite territory. But regardless of the broadest implications of the action, there seems to be a sort of pragmatism about the verse: the ordination was not an act of defiance, but an act of charity, a way of strengthening those baptized so that they might move from church to kingdom (the kingdom of God).
With the pragmatic character of the ordination drawn out, the differences between this priesthood and priesthood in the restored Church of the latter days are quite clear: Alma does not establish quorums, nor does it appear that he has two separate priesthoods with their several offices, nor again does it appear that these priests wield authority to perform any particular ordinances. The priesthood Alma sets up is, in the end, a rather simple priesthood, a stripped-down priesthood meant to perform the task merely of teaching, though teaching the highest principles, "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." That a great deal happens concerning "the priesthood" between these first ordinations and Alma the Younger's discourse in Alma 13 is obvious: but that development must traced rather carefully and in great detail to accomplish any satisfactory explanation of these questions. At the very least, what is unquestionably clear here is this: by the same "authority" he had to baptize, Alma ordains priests (note that he does not organize a priesthood, per se), and only a rather small number at that (no more than nine would have been ordained by the time the group flees into the wilderness), to take upon themselves the task of preaching and teaching those baptized and gathered together into the church.
  • Mosiah 18:19. If teaching "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" seems an overwhelming task, even a boundless task, this verse imposes some limits on it: these priests are limited to "the things which [Alma] had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." The verses seems thus rather simple and self-explanatory, but it does raise an issue that ought to be dealt with: one can only wonder why Alma would impose limits at all on the teaching task. In other words, since other scriptures promote a rather radical form of teaching--namely, teaching by the Spirit, taking no thought for the words to say, etc.--this rather limited task, hemmed in by what has been said before, seems conservative to say the least. This may not, however, be a commandment to teach in a manner other than that of teaching by the Spirit: there are at least two ways of reading this, in fact, as a commandment to teach by the Spirit. On the one hand, Alma might be suggesting that the Spirit would only lead one to speak of that which has been spoken before. This interpretation seems somewhat flawed, as the Spirit seems in a number of places to be That which specifically goes beyond previous knowledge. On the other hand--and this seems a more likely explanation--Alma might be suggesting that the role of the Spirit in teaching is precisely to help one to interpret the words of the prophets, that the Spirit enlarges upon those words, rather than providing to the teacher new words in the moment. This interpretation presents a sort of division of labors between priests (whatever priests are here) and prophets: the prophets have experiences beyond the Spirit, but priests are to work in the Spirit so as to interpret the prophetic word. The division and correlation might be compared to the gift of tongues (prophets) and the gift of the interpretation of tongues (priests). At any rate, the suggestion is that the Spirit works upon the teaching priest precisely in his attendance upon the words of the prophets.
With all of these details worked out, there is a rather careful phrasing at work in this verse which is all to easily missed: though one might see Alma equating himself with the prophets, the wording actually suggests that he equates himself with the priests in their division of labor, over against the prophets. The clue is the word "teach": the priests are to "teach" only what Alma had "taught," which suggests that they are to do what he himself has done. If their task then extends to teaching what "had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets," there may be here an implication that Alma's mode of teaching had been quite specifically a work of interpretation (in fact, a work of interpreting Abinadi?). Alma sees himself, according to the language presented in this verse, as a priest, rather than as a prophet. As such, the priests have a model for their work: Alma.
  • Mosiah 18:20. Again the priestly task is clarified, though a different verb appears in this verse: "preach." But the instance of "preach" marks a chiastic structure that runs through verses 18-20:
  • ...did he ordain to preach unto them
  • and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
  • And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, etc.
  • Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were...
Similar, in a manner, to the division of labor implicit in the last verse, there appears here a division of sorts, though it is a division within the priestly task: the priests are to preach and to teach, and these seem to be different things. Preaching, in verse 18, seems to be quite open ended, while the teaching of verse 18 seems to be quite specific (concerning the kingdom of God). Parallel to this, verse 19 offers certain bounds (or at least a sort of regional limitation) for teaching, while verse 20 remains rather open ended about preaching. What this means, however, remains to be worked out in detail.
A brief return to verse 19 would prove helpful. The phrasing there is incredibly negative, and verse 20 follows with a parallel structure: the priests are to preach and teach nothing... save... etc. The point is that it would be better for these to preach absolutely nothing whatsoever than to preach something other than what Alma provides them as a task. As for teaching, verse 19 provides the priests with textual boundaries, as it were: the priests are to teach the words of the prophets (apparently interpreting them according to the Spirit), even as Alma has done, and so their bounds there are ultimately textual, for they are to stay within the texts of the prophets. Preaching, however, is a different matter: the bounds for preaching seem to be practical: only two topics are provided, both of which are really more a question of action than of doctrine. In other words, "repentance" and "faith on the Lord" are probably not here understood as doctrines or principles, but as things to be done. Whereas "teaching" carries with it--inevitably--the implication of an intellectual process of sorting things out, "preaching" seems to carry with it rather the implication of exhortation, of invitation, of praxis.
The task of the priest, then: to urge his hearers to trust the Lord and to repent before Him, and to explore in the Spirit the words of the prophets. In the end, there seems to be no reason to read Alma as trying to keep the priests of his church under his thumb, or limited in what they can say: rather, he sees the work of the priest to be the work of edification according to the Spirit that works upon the prophetic texts and the work of reminding the people continually of their double duty to the Lord (the double duty of faith and repentance).
  • Mosiah 18:20: Similarity to D&C 42. These verses on teaching from Mosiah 18 are very similar to those regarding teaching in D&C 42. D&C 42:11 discusses ordination, similar to Mosiah 18:18. D&C 42:12 explains that teachers should "teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon," which is similar to Mosiah 18: 19's direction to teach "the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." D&C 42:12 also commanded teachers to focus on the "principles of the gospel" which are found in the scriptures/words of the prophets, perhaps similar to Alma's direction to teach nothing but "repentance" and "faith" in Mosiah 18:20. (In addition, also note that both Mosiah 18:27-28 and D&C 42: 30 etc, talk about taking care of the poor.)
  • Mosiah 18:21. After instructions concerning teaching and preaching are laid down, Alma commands the priests further (and it is clear that the priests specifically are the ones receiving this command and all those following up through verse 26: in verse 27, Alma will turn specifically to the members of the church to begin to offer them commandments) to avoid contention among themselves. That this commandment is given specifically to the priesthood is an interesting detail, and it deserves some attention.
At first, it would appear as if this commandment against contention is redundant (the covenants the people have made quite explicitly would seem to have covered this question--see verses 8-9), but that it is directed toward the priests seems to cancel the redundancy. Rather, it is a specific clarification for those ordained to preach and teach, for the priesthood. In other words, even as the people have covenanted to uphold one another and to suffer each other, there will remain among the priests a tendency to contend. This commandment, then, seems to be issued as a corrective to the tendency toward competition among the ordained priests. Having separate stewardships (each is set over a separate group of fifty people, a group assigned, apparently, by Alma), the priests do not seem overly likely to find themselves in contention, but then it is perhaps precisely because they have separate stewardships that Alma is concerned that contention might arise. As soon as the people are split up into several groups, there is a tendency towards schism, and each priest, having a sort of autonomy with his fifty, might all too easily make them his.
What Alma wants to have happen is quite clear: rather than contention, he would have them unified (one eye, one faith, one baptism). The way this is phrased is interesting: they are to "look forward with one eye." It may be that Alma phrases the question of unity in this way so as to emphasize that the priests should not be looking at each other, but forward. The words install a very real sense of progress, and the "having" that opens the following phrase then seems to lay the groundwork for that sense of promise: "having one faith and one baptism." The single and shared faith and baptism are together apparently the foundation for the progressive looking forward: faith and baptism together point these priests forward to something yet to come (most likely the "kingdom of God"). With another "having," Alma doubles the foundation that opens the possibility of a forward orientation: "having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another." Of interest here is a sort of redirection of the priests: whereas they were pointed forward before, now they are pointed "one towards another." But this redirection is not really a redirection: their eyes are to remain looking forward, while their hearts are turned to each other. The priests are to be bound to each other precisely in their progressive vision.
The two phrases beginning with "having" come together in an interesting manner. Both are pairs (on the one hand "faith" and "baptism," and on the other hand "unity" and "love"), and they are clearly parallel, in fact, might well be read as an inverted parallelism: faith is paired with love, while baptism and unity are paired between them. That faith is tied to love is suggestive, since "look forward with one eye" can only suggest hope. Baptism and unity are clearly tied in the covenant laid out earlier in the chapter. In short, the unity performed in the covenant of their baptism lays out for these priests an intertwining of faith, hope, and love that is to define their whole being in this work. That intertwining is of some interest, perhaps most because it seems to be a different model than is offered elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. Here, faith and love are the groundwork that open the possibility of hope (hope for the "kingdom of God"), they combine necessarily to open the possibility of hope. If faith is their trust in God and love is their union to each other, then hope becomes the possibility of uniting in one their relations to God and their relations to each other (hence, the "kingdom of God," a people gathered together, yet under the perfect rule of God). This curious reading of faith, hope, and love seems to be unique to this passage. As the next verse will show, it had, for this people, an incredible effect.
  • Mosiah 18:22. The first half of this verse reads as a sort of conclusion to all of what has gone before, and the second half confirms that conclusive spirit. But the second half deserves some close attention, bringing into this question the phrase "the children of God." There is, throughout scripture, a most important connection between sonship and the kingdom. Ostensibly, the idea seems usually to be that the son of God is the one who will inherit the throne, the kingdom. To become the "children of God" seems to mean that one enters into the reality of the kingdom. That one must become a child of God, however, is curious in another way: some rite of adoption seems to be implied. It may be that the ritual of Ex 21:1-7 is implied, or there may be some other ritual at work, but it should not be missed that there is some form of official adoption at work in this verse. In keeping the several commandments Alma offers the priests, they become--together--the "children of God," and this seems then to open onto the possibility of the commandments that follow. In other words, though this verse seems to have a conclusive spirit, in the end, it is not so: there is a sort of conclusion here, but it is a conclusion that opens the possibilties of the further commandments issued next. Alma seems to have offered some commandments that brought them to this point of adoption, and then he seems to have given them further commandments, due to the road that still might be taken ahead (still looking forward). At any rate, the adoption of this verse apparently must be taken into consideration before the further commandments in the next verses.
  • Mosiah 18:23. Beyond adoption, then, Alma issues some further commandments. The first pertains quite explicitly to the ritual side of this church. Whereas the task of preaching and teaching was explicitly non-ritual (as far as one can read into the text, at least), the commandment to observe the sabbath day--and especially to "keep it holy"--is undeniably a question of ritual. With the observance and maintenance of the sabbath, these priests have entered the realm of sacred time (and the gathering place of verse 25 will suggest sacred space as well), which inevitably summons the themes of ritual, of the temple. It is not clear, it must be noted, that there is anything quite like a temple yet (there is reason to believe that any construction of a temple would be mentioned), but there is quite clearly a cultus developing among these several churches.
The phrasing of this commandment is interesting further, because it sets the sabbath in the context of daily ritual: "every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God." There is here quite clearly a sanctification of the whole of time, though there is a specific setting apart of the sabbath. That these priests--and with them, one can only assume, the people--are living in sacred time, a sacred time punctuated by even more sacred time, is suggestive of a promised land (something more profound and more explicit than the passing reference in verse 25, mentioned above). There may be some evidence that this is at work in the song of praise to the place of Mormon offered later in this chapter (verse 30). Such a pattern follows quite closely, incidentally, the early history of the Restored Church: at first the several offices are restored, but without quorum organization or a saturating ritual complex; but by the Missouri period, the nature of the sabbath (and the accompanying sanctification of all time) is taught and enjoined upon the saints, precisely as they settle into the promised land in Jackson County. The formation in verse 25 of what seem to be a quorum of these priests is also rather interesting. (It might be noted then that there is reason to understand this chapter to be quite important for the pattern of the latter-day Restoration.) At any rate, the point is quite clear: there is, following the rites of adoption in verse 22, a sort of reification of the priesthood, a hypostasis, as it were, of their work, as they enter into ritual space and time and the kingdom of God begins to be established in their midst (hope being fulfilled?).
  • Mosiah 18:24. Interjected between the sanctification of time in verse 23 and the sanctification of space in verse 25 is this peculiar command: "that the priests whom [Alma] had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support." That it comes between these two works of sanctification is doubly suggestive: it is suggestive on the one hand because it seems to suggest that one should read this command as a question of sanctification as well; and it is suggestive on the other hand because it suggests that there is some change in the structure of the priesthood's means of living even as there is a movement towards the ritualization of the church. In other words, there is in this verse at least the hint that before the adoption rites of verse 22, the priests were living off of the labor of the people, like itinerant preachers. The change is significant (it again follows the pattern of the Restoration), as it seems (as mentioned) to be connected with the development of the cultus that sanctifies everything in the world of the church. That this commandment is central, in fact, the center of a rather simple chiasm, is quite suggestive: there is a hint that this commandment is the most important one, the one that changes everything. In other words, this verse seems to be the most important shift after the rites of adoption: that the priests now begin to labor for their own support seems to suggest that a very real community is formed, and that the people are at this very moment beginning to live the law of consecration. The theme is doubled in verse 26, and it is confirmed powerfully in verses 27-28: the law of consecration grounds the sanctification (ultimately the consecration) of time and space. All of this, it must be noticed, rides on the back of the adoption marked in verse 22.
  • Mosiah 18:25. It is necessary, after all of the above, to look quite carefully at the sanctification of space that seems to be implied in this verse, but there is a great deal more at work here as well. For example, there seems to be a separation of sorts between "the sabbath day" of verse 23 and the "one day in every week that was set apart" of this verse. In other words, the "regular" (regular as in every week, though the phrase seems to suggest something not exactly strictly scheduled) meetings for teaching and worship seem not to have necessarily been scheduled specifically on the Sabbath: worship might have been a non-Sabbath activity for these people. Rather, the Sabbath may have been something more fundamental than a day simply sanctified by the act of worship (a theme that might best be explored elsewhere in scripture). This disconnection of sorts between verses 23 and 25 highlights a number of other curiosities in the present verse: the gathering is a gathering of priests (albeit "to teach the people), and the implication of the following phrase, "and to worship the Lord their God," is that the priests were gathering to worship, and not necessarily the people. This focus on the priests culminates in the final clause of the verse: the priests were, "as often as it was in their power, to assemble themselves together." This inordinate focus on the priests as the very center of worship is of some interest, and it deserves some sustained attention, especially because it seems also to have something to do with the sanctification of space implied in the "regular" gatherings.
This verse could be read in a rather democratic way—that is, it could be that the priests comprise most of the people and so separating out the other, non-priests in the congregation would be less necessary than if the priests were only a small percentage of the congregation. Also, it may be that the themselves in the first part of the verse is referring to the priests but in the second part of the verse themselves refers to the priests and the other congregation members (future priests and priestesses?). On this reading the reconciliatoin of God to priests and priests to other church members furthers the unity theme of surrounding verses (v. 21 in particular). In verse 23 the focus seems to be on individual church members sanctifying the Sabbath in relation with God (a private type of worship), whereas here the public community aspect of worship seems the focus. Whether or not these activities take place on the same day, the parallel seems unmistakeable: individual worship of God is not sufficient, community worship must accompany it. This follows the pattern in many other scriptures where individual conversion is followed immediately by a concern for the conversion of friends and family (e.g. Enos 1, Lehi's dream in 1 Ne 8, and Isa 6)—indeed, this pattern parallels the order of the great two commandments as spoken by Christ in Matt 22:34-40.
  • Mosiah 18:30. This verse appears to employ different literary styles than is consistent with the rest of the account.
  • First there is the excessive location explanation: "done in Mormon, ...waters of Mormon, ....Mormon; ... the place of Mormon, ...the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon,"
  • Second, there is a very prosaic passage almost out of the blue: "how beautiful are they to the eyes of them ... for they shall sing to his praise forever."
It is hard to know whether this is Mormon, as abridger, emphasizing the geography that bears his name or Alma's original record. It is very difficult to jump to an unusual geographic orientation and then quickly to an aesthetic style in the middle of doing a narration by a more sedate method. (This is perhaps evidence of abridgement work in that Joseph Smith would not have thought to change styles so abruptly mid-narration if he were the author.)
  • Mosiah 19.2: Gideon. In Hebrew, the name Gideon means "hacker." The root verb is used elsewhere to describe the hacking down idolatrous images or shrines (cf. Deut 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chr 14:3; 31:1). The Old Testament judge Gideon may have recieved this name as a likely foreshadowing of either hacking down of the altar of Baal in Judg 6:25-32, or the hacking down of Israel's enemies depicted in Judg 7. The Book of Mormon Gideon is similarly a man of the sword; he draws it here in fighting King Noah, and is ultimately killed by the sword in Alma 1:9.
  • Mosiah 19.24: Ceremony. Regarding the use of "ceremony" in verse 24, it's possible that it is a reference to some type of ritual killing or death of a king. The text prior to verse 24 contains a sense of building urgency and the implication that the actions could be happening quickly, one right after the other. For example, we are told that the people were "angry" (v. 19) and that they acted in anger when they "caused that he should suffer, even unto death by fire" (v. 19). In the following verses "they were about to take the priests" (v. 21, emphasis added), the priests "fled" (v. 21), the people "were about to return" (v. 22, emphasis added) when they met the men of Gideon, and they immediately tell the men of Gideon everything. The textual image is that of an impassioned people acting on their impulses; the men of Gideon could very well have arrived in the middle of events not yet wrapped up, and it is possible that there remained some unfinished ritual or ceremony with regards to Noah's death that the people had yet to perform, especially if he was offered in their anger as a sacrifice so that the people could regain their families.
Another possibility is discussed by Hugh Nibley in the transcripts of his Book of Mormon class. He sees the word as a clear reference to some type of reconciliation or peace ceremony in which two factions—the men of Gideon versus the men who originally left their families and followed Noah into the wilderness—ritually agree to not fight against each other. Given the political context at the time, it is not unlikely that some kind of formal treaty or ritual of reconciliation would be performed.
The use of the word "ceremony" stands out awkwardly among these verses, in the same way that Mosiah 17:11 stands out among its neighboring verses. In addition to its possible reference as a "ritual killing" or "death of a king," the word "ceremony" could denote an execution. In Mosiah 17:9, Abinadi refuses to recall his words, and then, in v. 10 he proclaims his suffering, death, and refusal to recall his words as testimonies. He levels his own evidence, as it were, against the king and his priests, and in v. 11, Noah responds with fear. The following verses--Abinadi's prophecy--are famous, but the overlooked preceding verses lend a sense that not only was Abinadi making a prophetic statement in verses 15-19--he was pronouncing another sentence. His own death would be evidence of their corruption--evidence which could justify their own trial and eventual execution.

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  • Why is it that Alma has success in preaching where Abinadi didn't? Or did they have different callings or objectives?
  • Mosiah 18:4: Is this verse offered as an etymology of the name "Mormon"? In other words, did the king call the place "Mormon" because it was in the borders of the land or because it was infested with wild beasts, the implication is that this is the meaning of "Mormon"?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What do we make of the name Mormon coming from the wicked king Noah?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What does it mean to be "infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts"? What kind of animals might these have been, and why would an influx of these animals constitute an infestation?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant by a "fountain" of water? Why would it be considered pure water?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant here by a "thicket of small trees"? Is this an isolated cluster of trees in a cleared area, or a brushy area within a forest?
  • Mosiah 18:7: How could a "goodly number" of people gather to a "thicket of small trees" without being observed?
  • Mosiah 18:8: What does it mean to "come into the fold of God"
  • Mosiah 18:8: How are we called the people of God? What does it mean to be his people?
  • Mosiah 18:9: What does it mean to mourn with those who mourn? Is this different in some way than comforting those who morn? (We are told that our savior comforts those who mourn in Isa 61:2).
  • Mosiah 18:9: How can we "stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places"? How can we know how well we are doing at this?
  • Mosiah 18:9: How much should we desire our own redemption and eternal life? Is it selfish to be motivated by our own eternal rewards?
  • Mosiah 18:10: What does it mean to covenant to serve the LORD and keep his commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:10: How can "his Spirit" be poured out "more abundantly" upon us? What does this terminology add to our understanding of the gift of the Holy Ghost?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Who is this Helam, and why does he have the same name as the (presumably) royal Mulekite brother of Ammon (Mosiah 7:6) sent later to inquire about the whereabouts of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Why does Alma pray like this before baptizing Helam? Is this just an example of praying before performing anything unto the LORD, or is there something else going on here?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Where did Alma get his power and authority to baptize?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Why does this baptismal prayer differ from the one we use today?
  • Mosiah 18:13: What does it mean for Christ to have been "prepared from the foundation fo the world"? What is the "foundation" of the world?
  • Mosiah 18:14: Why would Alma and Helam both be "buried in the water" in this baptism? Was Alma baptizing himself?
  • Mosiah 18:14: What does it mean that they both "arose" after the baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:15: Why didn't Alma "bury himself again in the water" after the first baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:16: What does it mean for the people to be "filled with the grace of God"? How is grace something that can fill you?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: There are several places in the scriptures where teachers are counseled to teach nothing but repentance and faith on the Lord. Verse 20 here is one example. How literally can we interpret this? Is it applicable to us today in all situations where we are teaches? Or just some?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: Did these priests have access to written scriptures in order to teach that "which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets" or were they dependent on Alma and oral transmission of teachings?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: How can we preach "nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord"?
  • Mosiah 18:21: How does Alma's injunction against "contention" contrast with the continual rounds of contention described in the Record of Zeniff?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean to "look forward with one eye?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean for hearts to be "knit together in unity"? Is there a difference between being knit and being sealed? Does this involve a priesthood ordinance of some type, or is it merely a representation of people bonding to each other?
  • Mosiah 18:22: How do the people become the "children of God"? Aren't we already the children of a Heavenly Father? How is this different and what is the distinction?
  • Mosiah 18:23: Why is sabbath day observance specifically mentioned here, rather than other commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:23: According to Alma, giving thanks to God every day is a commandment. Was this a specific commandment just for his people, or is this a commandment that is in effect for our day as well?
  • Mosiah 18:24: How does this verse serve as a precedent for modern LDS practice of a lay priesthood?
  • Mosiah 18:24: What does it mean to "labor with [our] own hands"?
  • Mosiah 18:26: What does it mean to "receive the grace of God" for [our] labor?
  • Mosiah 19.3: Why might a minority of the people have been upset with the king?
  • Mosiah 19.3: What does it mean to "breathe out threatenings"?
  • Mosiah 19.3: How does the theme of contention play throughout the history of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How might this Gideon's role as liberator echo that of the Old Testament judge Gideon?
  • Mosiah 19.4: What are we to make of Gideon? Is he a role model? A cautionary figure? What can we learn from his experience?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How should we judge Gideon's wrath, swearing, and threats of violence?
  • Mosiah 19.4: After reading this account, should we be surprised by how Gideon meets his eventual end?
  • Mosiah 19.5: Why are we told here that Noah "fled and ran"? Aren't these pretty much the same thing?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What might be the significance of a tower being "near" the temple, rather than part of the temple?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What do we know about this Nephite temple?
  • Mosiah 19.6-10: We are presented here with a rather colorful narrative of fleeing, fighting, and negotiating. What is the purpose of this account? Why would Mormon bother to include it? Why don't we just have a more abbreviated account? Is there something more here that we should be getting from these stories?
  • Mosiah 19.8: Why might Gideon have spared King Noah? Why not just kill him and then go off to flee or fight the Lamanites?
  • Mosiah 19.11: Why might King Noah have tried to get the men to leave their wives and children?
  • Mosiah 19.15: Are the Nephites expected to pay 1/2 of all they have every year, or is this just a one time payment with an unspecified level of tribute to be paid afterwards?
  • Mosiah 19.16: Why wouldn't a son of Noah have followed his father and fled into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.17: What does it mean for Limhi to be described as a "just" man?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What position in society might Gideon have had that allowed him to send scouts out into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What do the Nephites mean by wilderness? Does this just mean uninhabited lands, or is there some other meaning?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What does it mean that the men had sworn "in their hearts"? Wasn't this a fairly public decision?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What are we to make of this desire to seek revenge? Is this a noble desire? How are we supposed to feel about these men who first leave their families to potentially perish, then get upset and want to seek revenge for their deaths?
  • Mosiah 19.20: These men have killed the king? What standing might they have under Old Testament law? Was this a justified killing, or something much more grievous?
  • Mosiah 19.21: How could these men have been able to grab and kill the king, but not the priests?

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Mosiah 18:16-20

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  • Mosiah 18:9: Those that mourn. Merriam-Webster defines mourn (verse 9) as "to feel or express grief or sorrow." In the scriptures mourning is usually used in the context of expressing grief over someone's death.
One way to understand the phrase those that mourn (verse 9) is to think about anyone who is experiencing grief or sorrow. In this way we have a responsibility to connect with the people around us in grief and sorrow and share in that sorrow.
Another interpretation is to take those that mourn as a reference to those who mourn for the Savior, his death and suffering. In that case we are asked if we are willing to join the community of people who mourn for the sins of this world and the resulting suffering and death that our Savior went through in order to save us from those sins. A similar invitation is given in the hymn "He Died the Great Redeemer Died." (See the related link below.)
It is also interesting to note the way verse 9 introduces the themes that will then be played out in the narratives of chapters 19-24. If we look at the two main stories of trial and deliverance—the people of Limhi and the people of Alma—we have both an example of a people who mourn and a people who stand in need of comfort.
The people of Limhi will fight battle after battle, both in their defense and in their pursuit of freedom. Their losses are extremely numerous (enough so that in Mosiah 21:17 Limhi has to command the remaining men to help support the widows and their children): throughout this process they are truly a people acquainted with mourning.
The people of Alma will be persecuted by Amulon: they will be in bondage, they will carry impossibly heavy burdens, they will be refused the comfort of vocal prayer. As such, they will truly be a people who stand in need of comfort.
  • Mosiah 18:8-10.' Echoes of Verses 8-10 and Their Profound Implications for Our Relationship with God. These verses are echoed to great effect when Alma and his people are in trouble in the Land of Helam (which is named after the person Alma is now baptizing). See exegesis on Mosiah 24:11-15.
  • Mosiah 18:17. Despite the fact that the word "church" appears a good number of times before this point in the Book of Mormon, this verse marks the first reference to an official Nephite church, or, in other words, this is the first Nephite church mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Mosiah 25:18 seems quite clearly to confirm this, as it mentions Mosiah II's authorization of Alma to create like churches throughout the land of Zarahemla, the suggestion being that there were none before that time. But even as this cross-reference seems to confirm the origins of the Nephite church in this passage, it also clarifies what the word "church" means here: if Alma was to go on to found a number of churches, then this "church" is not a system of faith, but a congregational organization, a regional gathering of people. From the very start, churches among the Nephites seem to have been a question of a number of people who worship together in a sort of gathered community.
Also interesting to the meaning of the word "church" as used in the Book of Mormon is the attribution of the name "the church of God, or the church of Christ," in this verse, to some unnamed source: those gathered by Alma were simply "called" so. Because the phrase uses the passive voice "they were called," what would otherwise be the subject (the one or the ones doing the calling) escapes notice, and the author of the passage can leave ambiguous the source of the title. In other words, whereas the author might have said that "Alma and his people called themselves the church of God, or the church of Christ," he rather says that "they were called" so, the implication being simply that someone besides those of the church called them that. It remains entirely unclear whence the epithet comes. There is a hint in all of this, then, that "church" was a term used somewhat commonly among the Nephites, that it was not a term that those gathered into the church specifically rooted out of, say, Nephi's writings in order to proclaim their justified foundation or any such thing. Rather, it seems, the concept of a church was not unfamiliar to the Nephites, and this gathering was simply so named because others recognized an already common structure among them.
All these details come together somewhat paradoxically: it seems that Alma is at once doing something entirely unprecedented and also doing something completely familiar to outsiders. The paradox is, however, quite understandable: an idea that has been around for quite some time, and something the people generally are familiar with, but Alma takes upon himself the overwhelming task of actually accomplishing it. Everyone knew what he was doing, but that does not at all mean that it was a common proceeding: Alma has done something rather radical in forming a church. He himself has grounded it by an ostensibly granted authority (see verse 13), and this verse adds that anyone "baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his [meaning God's] church." The implication is clear: Alma's radical movement is his authorized development of something everyone has been expecting for nearly five hundred years, but no one has felt authorized to do.
Now, it might be asked why no one had created a church before this time, even as the idea seems to have been completely familiar to everyone. Or it might be asked more specifically why God had not authorized any to accomplish the task. The answer, however, seems to be buried in a few details of the following story, as well as in some major events that happen later (see verses 31-33 of this chapter, and then especially the complex development that extends across Mosiah 25-29). The answer, put quite simply, is this: the existence of a monarchical system seems to exclude not only the need for churches, but also the possibility of churches. Under the monarchy, the cult seems to have been performed under the auspices of the king and a royal priesthood, but the church assumes a sort of local priesthood, a regionalism replacing the universal authority usually claimed by a king. In other words, since a monarchy seems to have obtained from the very start of Nephite civilization, there has never been need or room for churches. Alma's formation of this first church is taken quite specifically as an act of rebellion, and when he is given royal authority in Zarahemla to establish a number of churches, it leads rather quickly to the dissolution of the monarchy. Perhaps all of this is considered rather simply in a single, weighty phrsae in the following verse: the church is a question of "the kingdom of God."
  • Mosiah 18:18. As soon as there is a unity in this plurality--as soon as the church is a church--Alma ordains a local priesthood. The move may be what most incites the cry of rebellion from Noah by the end of the chapter. The move to ordain priests is a rather complex one, and it must be understood in the right light, lest it be considered from an entirely too protracted view. First to be said about the ordination of these priests: the ordination cannot be understood--culturally, historically--to have been a natural consequence of the gathering of the baptized, but rather should be understood as a radical innovation that ultimately redefines for the Nephites the very meaning of priesthood, and this altered meaning ultimately calls for a restructuring of the entire government. This ordination is ultimately the first step toward undoing the Nephite monarchy, though it happens among a small gathering on the outskirts of a Nephite settlement in Lamanite territory. But regardless of the broadest implications of the action, there seems to be a sort of pragmatism about the verse: the ordination was not an act of defiance, but an act of charity, a way of strengthening those baptized so that they might move from church to kingdom (the kingdom of God).
With the pragmatic character of the ordination drawn out, the differences between this priesthood and priesthood in the restored Church of the latter days are quite clear: Alma does not establish quorums, nor does it appear that he has two separate priesthoods with their several offices, nor again does it appear that these priests wield authority to perform any particular ordinances. The priesthood Alma sets up is, in the end, a rather simple priesthood, a stripped-down priesthood meant to perform the task merely of teaching, though teaching the highest principles, "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." That a great deal happens concerning "the priesthood" between these first ordinations and Alma the Younger's discourse in Alma 13 is obvious: but that development must traced rather carefully and in great detail to accomplish any satisfactory explanation of these questions. At the very least, what is unquestionably clear here is this: by the same "authority" he had to baptize, Alma ordains priests (note that he does not organize a priesthood, per se), and only a rather small number at that (no more than nine would have been ordained by the time the group flees into the wilderness), to take upon themselves the task of preaching and teaching those baptized and gathered together into the church.
  • Mosiah 18:19. If teaching "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" seems an overwhelming task, even a boundless task, this verse imposes some limits on it: these priests are limited to "the things which [Alma] had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." The verses seems thus rather simple and self-explanatory, but it does raise an issue that ought to be dealt with: one can only wonder why Alma would impose limits at all on the teaching task. In other words, since other scriptures promote a rather radical form of teaching--namely, teaching by the Spirit, taking no thought for the words to say, etc.--this rather limited task, hemmed in by what has been said before, seems conservative to say the least. This may not, however, be a commandment to teach in a manner other than that of teaching by the Spirit: there are at least two ways of reading this, in fact, as a commandment to teach by the Spirit. On the one hand, Alma might be suggesting that the Spirit would only lead one to speak of that which has been spoken before. This interpretation seems somewhat flawed, as the Spirit seems in a number of places to be That which specifically goes beyond previous knowledge. On the other hand--and this seems a more likely explanation--Alma might be suggesting that the role of the Spirit in teaching is precisely to help one to interpret the words of the prophets, that the Spirit enlarges upon those words, rather than providing to the teacher new words in the moment. This interpretation presents a sort of division of labors between priests (whatever priests are here) and prophets: the prophets have experiences beyond the Spirit, but priests are to work in the Spirit so as to interpret the prophetic word. The division and correlation might be compared to the gift of tongues (prophets) and the gift of the interpretation of tongues (priests). At any rate, the suggestion is that the Spirit works upon the teaching priest precisely in his attendance upon the words of the prophets.
With all of these details worked out, there is a rather careful phrasing at work in this verse which is all to easily missed: though one might see Alma equating himself with the prophets, the wording actually suggests that he equates himself with the priests in their division of labor, over against the prophets. The clue is the word "teach": the priests are to "teach" only what Alma had "taught," which suggests that they are to do what he himself has done. If their task then extends to teaching what "had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets," there may be here an implication that Alma's mode of teaching had been quite specifically a work of interpretation (in fact, a work of interpreting Abinadi?). Alma sees himself, according to the language presented in this verse, as a priest, rather than as a prophet. As such, the priests have a model for their work: Alma.
  • Mosiah 18:20. Again the priestly task is clarified, though a different verb appears in this verse: "preach." But the instance of "preach" marks a chiastic structure that runs through verses 18-20:
  • ...did he ordain to preach unto them
  • and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
  • And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, etc.
  • Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were...
Similar, in a manner, to the division of labor implicit in the last verse, there appears here a division of sorts, though it is a division within the priestly task: the priests are to preach and to teach, and these seem to be different things. Preaching, in verse 18, seems to be quite open ended, while the teaching of verse 18 seems to be quite specific (concerning the kingdom of God). Parallel to this, verse 19 offers certain bounds (or at least a sort of regional limitation) for teaching, while verse 20 remains rather open ended about preaching. What this means, however, remains to be worked out in detail.
A brief return to verse 19 would prove helpful. The phrasing there is incredibly negative, and verse 20 follows with a parallel structure: the priests are to preach and teach nothing... save... etc. The point is that it would be better for these to preach absolutely nothing whatsoever than to preach something other than what Alma provides them as a task. As for teaching, verse 19 provides the priests with textual boundaries, as it were: the priests are to teach the words of the prophets (apparently interpreting them according to the Spirit), even as Alma has done, and so their bounds there are ultimately textual, for they are to stay within the texts of the prophets. Preaching, however, is a different matter: the bounds for preaching seem to be practical: only two topics are provided, both of which are really more a question of action than of doctrine. In other words, "repentance" and "faith on the Lord" are probably not here understood as doctrines or principles, but as things to be done. Whereas "teaching" carries with it--inevitably--the implication of an intellectual process of sorting things out, "preaching" seems to carry with it rather the implication of exhortation, of invitation, of praxis.
The task of the priest, then: to urge his hearers to trust the Lord and to repent before Him, and to explore in the Spirit the words of the prophets. In the end, there seems to be no reason to read Alma as trying to keep the priests of his church under his thumb, or limited in what they can say: rather, he sees the work of the priest to be the work of edification according to the Spirit that works upon the prophetic texts and the work of reminding the people continually of their double duty to the Lord (the double duty of faith and repentance).
  • Mosiah 18:20: Similarity to D&C 42. These verses on teaching from Mosiah 18 are very similar to those regarding teaching in D&C 42. D&C 42:11 discusses ordination, similar to Mosiah 18:18. D&C 42:12 explains that teachers should "teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon," which is similar to Mosiah 18: 19's direction to teach "the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." D&C 42:12 also commanded teachers to focus on the "principles of the gospel" which are found in the scriptures/words of the prophets, perhaps similar to Alma's direction to teach nothing but "repentance" and "faith" in Mosiah 18:20. (In addition, also note that both Mosiah 18:27-28 and D&C 42: 30 etc, talk about taking care of the poor.)
  • Mosiah 18:21. After instructions concerning teaching and preaching are laid down, Alma commands the priests further (and it is clear that the priests specifically are the ones receiving this command and all those following up through verse 26: in verse 27, Alma will turn specifically to the members of the church to begin to offer them commandments) to avoid contention among themselves. That this commandment is given specifically to the priesthood is an interesting detail, and it deserves some attention.
At first, it would appear as if this commandment against contention is redundant (the covenants the people have made quite explicitly would seem to have covered this question--see verses 8-9), but that it is directed toward the priests seems to cancel the redundancy. Rather, it is a specific clarification for those ordained to preach and teach, for the priesthood. In other words, even as the people have covenanted to uphold one another and to suffer each other, there will remain among the priests a tendency to contend. This commandment, then, seems to be issued as a corrective to the tendency toward competition among the ordained priests. Having separate stewardships (each is set over a separate group of fifty people, a group assigned, apparently, by Alma), the priests do not seem overly likely to find themselves in contention, but then it is perhaps precisely because they have separate stewardships that Alma is concerned that contention might arise. As soon as the people are split up into several groups, there is a tendency towards schism, and each priest, having a sort of autonomy with his fifty, might all too easily make them his.
What Alma wants to have happen is quite clear: rather than contention, he would have them unified (one eye, one faith, one baptism). The way this is phrased is interesting: they are to "look forward with one eye." It may be that Alma phrases the question of unity in this way so as to emphasize that the priests should not be looking at each other, but forward. The words install a very real sense of progress, and the "having" that opens the following phrase then seems to lay the groundwork for that sense of promise: "having one faith and one baptism." The single and shared faith and baptism are together apparently the foundation for the progressive looking forward: faith and baptism together point these priests forward to something yet to come (most likely the "kingdom of God"). With another "having," Alma doubles the foundation that opens the possibility of a forward orientation: "having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another." Of interest here is a sort of redirection of the priests: whereas they were pointed forward before, now they are pointed "one towards another." But this redirection is not really a redirection: their eyes are to remain looking forward, while their hearts are turned to each other. The priests are to be bound to each other precisely in their progressive vision.
The two phrases beginning with "having" come together in an interesting manner. Both are pairs (on the one hand "faith" and "baptism," and on the other hand "unity" and "love"), and they are clearly parallel, in fact, might well be read as an inverted parallelism: faith is paired with love, while baptism and unity are paired between them. That faith is tied to love is suggestive, since "look forward with one eye" can only suggest hope. Baptism and unity are clearly tied in the covenant laid out earlier in the chapter. In short, the unity performed in the covenant of their baptism lays out for these priests an intertwining of faith, hope, and love that is to define their whole being in this work. That intertwining is of some interest, perhaps most because it seems to be a different model than is offered elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. Here, faith and love are the groundwork that open the possibility of hope (hope for the "kingdom of God"), they combine necessarily to open the possibility of hope. If faith is their trust in God and love is their union to each other, then hope becomes the possibility of uniting in one their relations to God and their relations to each other (hence, the "kingdom of God," a people gathered together, yet under the perfect rule of God). This curious reading of faith, hope, and love seems to be unique to this passage. As the next verse will show, it had, for this people, an incredible effect.
  • Mosiah 18:22. The first half of this verse reads as a sort of conclusion to all of what has gone before, and the second half confirms that conclusive spirit. But the second half deserves some close attention, bringing into this question the phrase "the children of God." There is, throughout scripture, a most important connection between sonship and the kingdom. Ostensibly, the idea seems usually to be that the son of God is the one who will inherit the throne, the kingdom. To become the "children of God" seems to mean that one enters into the reality of the kingdom. That one must become a child of God, however, is curious in another way: some rite of adoption seems to be implied. It may be that the ritual of Ex 21:1-7 is implied, or there may be some other ritual at work, but it should not be missed that there is some form of official adoption at work in this verse. In keeping the several commandments Alma offers the priests, they become--together--the "children of God," and this seems then to open onto the possibility of the commandments that follow. In other words, though this verse seems to have a conclusive spirit, in the end, it is not so: there is a sort of conclusion here, but it is a conclusion that opens the possibilties of the further commandments issued next. Alma seems to have offered some commandments that brought them to this point of adoption, and then he seems to have given them further commandments, due to the road that still might be taken ahead (still looking forward). At any rate, the adoption of this verse apparently must be taken into consideration before the further commandments in the next verses.
  • Mosiah 18:23. Beyond adoption, then, Alma issues some further commandments. The first pertains quite explicitly to the ritual side of this church. Whereas the task of preaching and teaching was explicitly non-ritual (as far as one can read into the text, at least), the commandment to observe the sabbath day--and especially to "keep it holy"--is undeniably a question of ritual. With the observance and maintenance of the sabbath, these priests have entered the realm of sacred time (and the gathering place of verse 25 will suggest sacred space as well), which inevitably summons the themes of ritual, of the temple. It is not clear, it must be noted, that there is anything quite like a temple yet (there is reason to believe that any construction of a temple would be mentioned), but there is quite clearly a cultus developing among these several churches.
The phrasing of this commandment is interesting further, because it sets the sabbath in the context of daily ritual: "every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God." There is here quite clearly a sanctification of the whole of time, though there is a specific setting apart of the sabbath. That these priests--and with them, one can only assume, the people--are living in sacred time, a sacred time punctuated by even more sacred time, is suggestive of a promised land (something more profound and more explicit than the passing reference in verse 25, mentioned above). There may be some evidence that this is at work in the song of praise to the place of Mormon offered later in this chapter (verse 30). Such a pattern follows quite closely, incidentally, the early history of the Restored Church: at first the several offices are restored, but without quorum organization or a saturating ritual complex; but by the Missouri period, the nature of the sabbath (and the accompanying sanctification of all time) is taught and enjoined upon the saints, precisely as they settle into the promised land in Jackson County. The formation in verse 25 of what seem to be a quorum of these priests is also rather interesting. (It might be noted then that there is reason to understand this chapter to be quite important for the pattern of the latter-day Restoration.) At any rate, the point is quite clear: there is, following the rites of adoption in verse 22, a sort of reification of the priesthood, a hypostasis, as it were, of their work, as they enter into ritual space and time and the kingdom of God begins to be established in their midst (hope being fulfilled?).
  • Mosiah 18:24. Interjected between the sanctification of time in verse 23 and the sanctification of space in verse 25 is this peculiar command: "that the priests whom [Alma] had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support." That it comes between these two works of sanctification is doubly suggestive: it is suggestive on the one hand because it seems to suggest that one should read this command as a question of sanctification as well; and it is suggestive on the other hand because it suggests that there is some change in the structure of the priesthood's means of living even as there is a movement towards the ritualization of the church. In other words, there is in this verse at least the hint that before the adoption rites of verse 22, the priests were living off of the labor of the people, like itinerant preachers. The change is significant (it again follows the pattern of the Restoration), as it seems (as mentioned) to be connected with the development of the cultus that sanctifies everything in the world of the church. That this commandment is central, in fact, the center of a rather simple chiasm, is quite suggestive: there is a hint that this commandment is the most important one, the one that changes everything. In other words, this verse seems to be the most important shift after the rites of adoption: that the priests now begin to labor for their own support seems to suggest that a very real community is formed, and that the people are at this very moment beginning to live the law of consecration. The theme is doubled in verse 26, and it is confirmed powerfully in verses 27-28: the law of consecration grounds the sanctification (ultimately the consecration) of time and space. All of this, it must be noticed, rides on the back of the adoption marked in verse 22.
  • Mosiah 18:25. It is necessary, after all of the above, to look quite carefully at the sanctification of space that seems to be implied in this verse, but there is a great deal more at work here as well. For example, there seems to be a separation of sorts between "the sabbath day" of verse 23 and the "one day in every week that was set apart" of this verse. In other words, the "regular" (regular as in every week, though the phrase seems to suggest something not exactly strictly scheduled) meetings for teaching and worship seem not to have necessarily been scheduled specifically on the Sabbath: worship might have been a non-Sabbath activity for these people. Rather, the Sabbath may have been something more fundamental than a day simply sanctified by the act of worship (a theme that might best be explored elsewhere in scripture). This disconnection of sorts between verses 23 and 25 highlights a number of other curiosities in the present verse: the gathering is a gathering of priests (albeit "to teach the people), and the implication of the following phrase, "and to worship the Lord their God," is that the priests were gathering to worship, and not necessarily the people. This focus on the priests culminates in the final clause of the verse: the priests were, "as often as it was in their power, to assemble themselves together." This inordinate focus on the priests as the very center of worship is of some interest, and it deserves some sustained attention, especially because it seems also to have something to do with the sanctification of space implied in the "regular" gatherings.
This verse could be read in a rather democratic way—that is, it could be that the priests comprise most of the people and so separating out the other, non-priests in the congregation would be less necessary than if the priests were only a small percentage of the congregation. Also, it may be that the themselves in the first part of the verse is referring to the priests but in the second part of the verse themselves refers to the priests and the other congregation members (future priests and priestesses?). On this reading the reconciliatoin of God to priests and priests to other church members furthers the unity theme of surrounding verses (v. 21 in particular). In verse 23 the focus seems to be on individual church members sanctifying the Sabbath in relation with God (a private type of worship), whereas here the public community aspect of worship seems the focus. Whether or not these activities take place on the same day, the parallel seems unmistakeable: individual worship of God is not sufficient, community worship must accompany it. This follows the pattern in many other scriptures where individual conversion is followed immediately by a concern for the conversion of friends and family (e.g. Enos 1, Lehi's dream in 1 Ne 8, and Isa 6)—indeed, this pattern parallels the order of the great two commandments as spoken by Christ in Matt 22:34-40.
  • Mosiah 18:30. This verse appears to employ different literary styles than is consistent with the rest of the account.
  • First there is the excessive location explanation: "done in Mormon, ...waters of Mormon, ....Mormon; ... the place of Mormon, ...the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon,"
  • Second, there is a very prosaic passage almost out of the blue: "how beautiful are they to the eyes of them ... for they shall sing to his praise forever."
It is hard to know whether this is Mormon, as abridger, emphasizing the geography that bears his name or Alma's original record. It is very difficult to jump to an unusual geographic orientation and then quickly to an aesthetic style in the middle of doing a narration by a more sedate method. (This is perhaps evidence of abridgement work in that Joseph Smith would not have thought to change styles so abruptly mid-narration if he were the author.)
  • Mosiah 19.2: Gideon. In Hebrew, the name Gideon means "hacker." The root verb is used elsewhere to describe the hacking down idolatrous images or shrines (cf. Deut 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chr 14:3; 31:1). The Old Testament judge Gideon may have recieved this name as a likely foreshadowing of either hacking down of the altar of Baal in Judg 6:25-32, or the hacking down of Israel's enemies depicted in Judg 7. The Book of Mormon Gideon is similarly a man of the sword; he draws it here in fighting King Noah, and is ultimately killed by the sword in Alma 1:9.
  • Mosiah 19.24: Ceremony. Regarding the use of "ceremony" in verse 24, it's possible that it is a reference to some type of ritual killing or death of a king. The text prior to verse 24 contains a sense of building urgency and the implication that the actions could be happening quickly, one right after the other. For example, we are told that the people were "angry" (v. 19) and that they acted in anger when they "caused that he should suffer, even unto death by fire" (v. 19). In the following verses "they were about to take the priests" (v. 21, emphasis added), the priests "fled" (v. 21), the people "were about to return" (v. 22, emphasis added) when they met the men of Gideon, and they immediately tell the men of Gideon everything. The textual image is that of an impassioned people acting on their impulses; the men of Gideon could very well have arrived in the middle of events not yet wrapped up, and it is possible that there remained some unfinished ritual or ceremony with regards to Noah's death that the people had yet to perform, especially if he was offered in their anger as a sacrifice so that the people could regain their families.
Another possibility is discussed by Hugh Nibley in the transcripts of his Book of Mormon class. He sees the word as a clear reference to some type of reconciliation or peace ceremony in which two factions—the men of Gideon versus the men who originally left their families and followed Noah into the wilderness—ritually agree to not fight against each other. Given the political context at the time, it is not unlikely that some kind of formal treaty or ritual of reconciliation would be performed.
The use of the word "ceremony" stands out awkwardly among these verses, in the same way that Mosiah 17:11 stands out among its neighboring verses. In addition to its possible reference as a "ritual killing" or "death of a king," the word "ceremony" could denote an execution. In Mosiah 17:9, Abinadi refuses to recall his words, and then, in v. 10 he proclaims his suffering, death, and refusal to recall his words as testimonies. He levels his own evidence, as it were, against the king and his priests, and in v. 11, Noah responds with fear. The following verses--Abinadi's prophecy--are famous, but the overlooked preceding verses lend a sense that not only was Abinadi making a prophetic statement in verses 15-19--he was pronouncing another sentence. His own death would be evidence of their corruption--evidence which could justify their own trial and eventual execution.

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  • Why is it that Alma has success in preaching where Abinadi didn't? Or did they have different callings or objectives?
  • Mosiah 18:4: Is this verse offered as an etymology of the name "Mormon"? In other words, did the king call the place "Mormon" because it was in the borders of the land or because it was infested with wild beasts, the implication is that this is the meaning of "Mormon"?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What do we make of the name Mormon coming from the wicked king Noah?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What does it mean to be "infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts"? What kind of animals might these have been, and why would an influx of these animals constitute an infestation?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant by a "fountain" of water? Why would it be considered pure water?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant here by a "thicket of small trees"? Is this an isolated cluster of trees in a cleared area, or a brushy area within a forest?
  • Mosiah 18:7: How could a "goodly number" of people gather to a "thicket of small trees" without being observed?
  • Mosiah 18:8: What does it mean to "come into the fold of God"
  • Mosiah 18:8: How are we called the people of God? What does it mean to be his people?
  • Mosiah 18:9: What does it mean to mourn with those who mourn? Is this different in some way than comforting those who morn? (We are told that our savior comforts those who mourn in Isa 61:2).
  • Mosiah 18:9: How can we "stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places"? How can we know how well we are doing at this?
  • Mosiah 18:9: How much should we desire our own redemption and eternal life? Is it selfish to be motivated by our own eternal rewards?
  • Mosiah 18:10: What does it mean to covenant to serve the LORD and keep his commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:10: How can "his Spirit" be poured out "more abundantly" upon us? What does this terminology add to our understanding of the gift of the Holy Ghost?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Who is this Helam, and why does he have the same name as the (presumably) royal Mulekite brother of Ammon (Mosiah 7:6) sent later to inquire about the whereabouts of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Why does Alma pray like this before baptizing Helam? Is this just an example of praying before performing anything unto the LORD, or is there something else going on here?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Where did Alma get his power and authority to baptize?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Why does this baptismal prayer differ from the one we use today?
  • Mosiah 18:13: What does it mean for Christ to have been "prepared from the foundation fo the world"? What is the "foundation" of the world?
  • Mosiah 18:14: Why would Alma and Helam both be "buried in the water" in this baptism? Was Alma baptizing himself?
  • Mosiah 18:14: What does it mean that they both "arose" after the baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:15: Why didn't Alma "bury himself again in the water" after the first baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:16: What does it mean for the people to be "filled with the grace of God"? How is grace something that can fill you?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: There are several places in the scriptures where teachers are counseled to teach nothing but repentance and faith on the Lord. Verse 20 here is one example. How literally can we interpret this? Is it applicable to us today in all situations where we are teaches? Or just some?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: Did these priests have access to written scriptures in order to teach that "which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets" or were they dependent on Alma and oral transmission of teachings?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: How can we preach "nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord"?
  • Mosiah 18:21: How does Alma's injunction against "contention" contrast with the continual rounds of contention described in the Record of Zeniff?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean to "look forward with one eye?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean for hearts to be "knit together in unity"? Is there a difference between being knit and being sealed? Does this involve a priesthood ordinance of some type, or is it merely a representation of people bonding to each other?
  • Mosiah 18:22: How do the people become the "children of God"? Aren't we already the children of a Heavenly Father? How is this different and what is the distinction?
  • Mosiah 18:23: Why is sabbath day observance specifically mentioned here, rather than other commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:23: According to Alma, giving thanks to God every day is a commandment. Was this a specific commandment just for his people, or is this a commandment that is in effect for our day as well?
  • Mosiah 18:24: How does this verse serve as a precedent for modern LDS practice of a lay priesthood?
  • Mosiah 18:24: What does it mean to "labor with [our] own hands"?
  • Mosiah 18:26: What does it mean to "receive the grace of God" for [our] labor?
  • Mosiah 19.3: Why might a minority of the people have been upset with the king?
  • Mosiah 19.3: What does it mean to "breathe out threatenings"?
  • Mosiah 19.3: How does the theme of contention play throughout the history of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How might this Gideon's role as liberator echo that of the Old Testament judge Gideon?
  • Mosiah 19.4: What are we to make of Gideon? Is he a role model? A cautionary figure? What can we learn from his experience?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How should we judge Gideon's wrath, swearing, and threats of violence?
  • Mosiah 19.4: After reading this account, should we be surprised by how Gideon meets his eventual end?
  • Mosiah 19.5: Why are we told here that Noah "fled and ran"? Aren't these pretty much the same thing?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What might be the significance of a tower being "near" the temple, rather than part of the temple?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What do we know about this Nephite temple?
  • Mosiah 19.6-10: We are presented here with a rather colorful narrative of fleeing, fighting, and negotiating. What is the purpose of this account? Why would Mormon bother to include it? Why don't we just have a more abbreviated account? Is there something more here that we should be getting from these stories?
  • Mosiah 19.8: Why might Gideon have spared King Noah? Why not just kill him and then go off to flee or fight the Lamanites?
  • Mosiah 19.11: Why might King Noah have tried to get the men to leave their wives and children?
  • Mosiah 19.15: Are the Nephites expected to pay 1/2 of all they have every year, or is this just a one time payment with an unspecified level of tribute to be paid afterwards?
  • Mosiah 19.16: Why wouldn't a son of Noah have followed his father and fled into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.17: What does it mean for Limhi to be described as a "just" man?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What position in society might Gideon have had that allowed him to send scouts out into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What do the Nephites mean by wilderness? Does this just mean uninhabited lands, or is there some other meaning?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What does it mean that the men had sworn "in their hearts"? Wasn't this a fairly public decision?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What are we to make of this desire to seek revenge? Is this a noble desire? How are we supposed to feel about these men who first leave their families to potentially perish, then get upset and want to seek revenge for their deaths?
  • Mosiah 19.20: These men have killed the king? What standing might they have under Old Testament law? Was this a justified killing, or something much more grievous?
  • Mosiah 19.21: How could these men have been able to grab and kill the king, but not the priests?

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Mosiah 18:21-25

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  • Mosiah 18:9: Those that mourn. Merriam-Webster defines mourn (verse 9) as "to feel or express grief or sorrow." In the scriptures mourning is usually used in the context of expressing grief over someone's death.
One way to understand the phrase those that mourn (verse 9) is to think about anyone who is experiencing grief or sorrow. In this way we have a responsibility to connect with the people around us in grief and sorrow and share in that sorrow.
Another interpretation is to take those that mourn as a reference to those who mourn for the Savior, his death and suffering. In that case we are asked if we are willing to join the community of people who mourn for the sins of this world and the resulting suffering and death that our Savior went through in order to save us from those sins. A similar invitation is given in the hymn "He Died the Great Redeemer Died." (See the related link below.)
It is also interesting to note the way verse 9 introduces the themes that will then be played out in the narratives of chapters 19-24. If we look at the two main stories of trial and deliverance—the people of Limhi and the people of Alma—we have both an example of a people who mourn and a people who stand in need of comfort.
The people of Limhi will fight battle after battle, both in their defense and in their pursuit of freedom. Their losses are extremely numerous (enough so that in Mosiah 21:17 Limhi has to command the remaining men to help support the widows and their children): throughout this process they are truly a people acquainted with mourning.
The people of Alma will be persecuted by Amulon: they will be in bondage, they will carry impossibly heavy burdens, they will be refused the comfort of vocal prayer. As such, they will truly be a people who stand in need of comfort.
  • Mosiah 18:8-10.' Echoes of Verses 8-10 and Their Profound Implications for Our Relationship with God. These verses are echoed to great effect when Alma and his people are in trouble in the Land of Helam (which is named after the person Alma is now baptizing). See exegesis on Mosiah 24:11-15.
  • Mosiah 18:17. Despite the fact that the word "church" appears a good number of times before this point in the Book of Mormon, this verse marks the first reference to an official Nephite church, or, in other words, this is the first Nephite church mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Mosiah 25:18 seems quite clearly to confirm this, as it mentions Mosiah II's authorization of Alma to create like churches throughout the land of Zarahemla, the suggestion being that there were none before that time. But even as this cross-reference seems to confirm the origins of the Nephite church in this passage, it also clarifies what the word "church" means here: if Alma was to go on to found a number of churches, then this "church" is not a system of faith, but a congregational organization, a regional gathering of people. From the very start, churches among the Nephites seem to have been a question of a number of people who worship together in a sort of gathered community.
Also interesting to the meaning of the word "church" as used in the Book of Mormon is the attribution of the name "the church of God, or the church of Christ," in this verse, to some unnamed source: those gathered by Alma were simply "called" so. Because the phrase uses the passive voice "they were called," what would otherwise be the subject (the one or the ones doing the calling) escapes notice, and the author of the passage can leave ambiguous the source of the title. In other words, whereas the author might have said that "Alma and his people called themselves the church of God, or the church of Christ," he rather says that "they were called" so, the implication being simply that someone besides those of the church called them that. It remains entirely unclear whence the epithet comes. There is a hint in all of this, then, that "church" was a term used somewhat commonly among the Nephites, that it was not a term that those gathered into the church specifically rooted out of, say, Nephi's writings in order to proclaim their justified foundation or any such thing. Rather, it seems, the concept of a church was not unfamiliar to the Nephites, and this gathering was simply so named because others recognized an already common structure among them.
All these details come together somewhat paradoxically: it seems that Alma is at once doing something entirely unprecedented and also doing something completely familiar to outsiders. The paradox is, however, quite understandable: an idea that has been around for quite some time, and something the people generally are familiar with, but Alma takes upon himself the overwhelming task of actually accomplishing it. Everyone knew what he was doing, but that does not at all mean that it was a common proceeding: Alma has done something rather radical in forming a church. He himself has grounded it by an ostensibly granted authority (see verse 13), and this verse adds that anyone "baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his [meaning God's] church." The implication is clear: Alma's radical movement is his authorized development of something everyone has been expecting for nearly five hundred years, but no one has felt authorized to do.
Now, it might be asked why no one had created a church before this time, even as the idea seems to have been completely familiar to everyone. Or it might be asked more specifically why God had not authorized any to accomplish the task. The answer, however, seems to be buried in a few details of the following story, as well as in some major events that happen later (see verses 31-33 of this chapter, and then especially the complex development that extends across Mosiah 25-29). The answer, put quite simply, is this: the existence of a monarchical system seems to exclude not only the need for churches, but also the possibility of churches. Under the monarchy, the cult seems to have been performed under the auspices of the king and a royal priesthood, but the church assumes a sort of local priesthood, a regionalism replacing the universal authority usually claimed by a king. In other words, since a monarchy seems to have obtained from the very start of Nephite civilization, there has never been need or room for churches. Alma's formation of this first church is taken quite specifically as an act of rebellion, and when he is given royal authority in Zarahemla to establish a number of churches, it leads rather quickly to the dissolution of the monarchy. Perhaps all of this is considered rather simply in a single, weighty phrsae in the following verse: the church is a question of "the kingdom of God."
  • Mosiah 18:18. As soon as there is a unity in this plurality--as soon as the church is a church--Alma ordains a local priesthood. The move may be what most incites the cry of rebellion from Noah by the end of the chapter. The move to ordain priests is a rather complex one, and it must be understood in the right light, lest it be considered from an entirely too protracted view. First to be said about the ordination of these priests: the ordination cannot be understood--culturally, historically--to have been a natural consequence of the gathering of the baptized, but rather should be understood as a radical innovation that ultimately redefines for the Nephites the very meaning of priesthood, and this altered meaning ultimately calls for a restructuring of the entire government. This ordination is ultimately the first step toward undoing the Nephite monarchy, though it happens among a small gathering on the outskirts of a Nephite settlement in Lamanite territory. But regardless of the broadest implications of the action, there seems to be a sort of pragmatism about the verse: the ordination was not an act of defiance, but an act of charity, a way of strengthening those baptized so that they might move from church to kingdom (the kingdom of God).
With the pragmatic character of the ordination drawn out, the differences between this priesthood and priesthood in the restored Church of the latter days are quite clear: Alma does not establish quorums, nor does it appear that he has two separate priesthoods with their several offices, nor again does it appear that these priests wield authority to perform any particular ordinances. The priesthood Alma sets up is, in the end, a rather simple priesthood, a stripped-down priesthood meant to perform the task merely of teaching, though teaching the highest principles, "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." That a great deal happens concerning "the priesthood" between these first ordinations and Alma the Younger's discourse in Alma 13 is obvious: but that development must traced rather carefully and in great detail to accomplish any satisfactory explanation of these questions. At the very least, what is unquestionably clear here is this: by the same "authority" he had to baptize, Alma ordains priests (note that he does not organize a priesthood, per se), and only a rather small number at that (no more than nine would have been ordained by the time the group flees into the wilderness), to take upon themselves the task of preaching and teaching those baptized and gathered together into the church.
  • Mosiah 18:19. If teaching "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" seems an overwhelming task, even a boundless task, this verse imposes some limits on it: these priests are limited to "the things which [Alma] had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." The verses seems thus rather simple and self-explanatory, but it does raise an issue that ought to be dealt with: one can only wonder why Alma would impose limits at all on the teaching task. In other words, since other scriptures promote a rather radical form of teaching--namely, teaching by the Spirit, taking no thought for the words to say, etc.--this rather limited task, hemmed in by what has been said before, seems conservative to say the least. This may not, however, be a commandment to teach in a manner other than that of teaching by the Spirit: there are at least two ways of reading this, in fact, as a commandment to teach by the Spirit. On the one hand, Alma might be suggesting that the Spirit would only lead one to speak of that which has been spoken before. This interpretation seems somewhat flawed, as the Spirit seems in a number of places to be That which specifically goes beyond previous knowledge. On the other hand--and this seems a more likely explanation--Alma might be suggesting that the role of the Spirit in teaching is precisely to help one to interpret the words of the prophets, that the Spirit enlarges upon those words, rather than providing to the teacher new words in the moment. This interpretation presents a sort of division of labors between priests (whatever priests are here) and prophets: the prophets have experiences beyond the Spirit, but priests are to work in the Spirit so as to interpret the prophetic word. The division and correlation might be compared to the gift of tongues (prophets) and the gift of the interpretation of tongues (priests). At any rate, the suggestion is that the Spirit works upon the teaching priest precisely in his attendance upon the words of the prophets.
With all of these details worked out, there is a rather careful phrasing at work in this verse which is all to easily missed: though one might see Alma equating himself with the prophets, the wording actually suggests that he equates himself with the priests in their division of labor, over against the prophets. The clue is the word "teach": the priests are to "teach" only what Alma had "taught," which suggests that they are to do what he himself has done. If their task then extends to teaching what "had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets," there may be here an implication that Alma's mode of teaching had been quite specifically a work of interpretation (in fact, a work of interpreting Abinadi?). Alma sees himself, according to the language presented in this verse, as a priest, rather than as a prophet. As such, the priests have a model for their work: Alma.
  • Mosiah 18:20. Again the priestly task is clarified, though a different verb appears in this verse: "preach." But the instance of "preach" marks a chiastic structure that runs through verses 18-20:
  • ...did he ordain to preach unto them
  • and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
  • And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, etc.
  • Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were...
Similar, in a manner, to the division of labor implicit in the last verse, there appears here a division of sorts, though it is a division within the priestly task: the priests are to preach and to teach, and these seem to be different things. Preaching, in verse 18, seems to be quite open ended, while the teaching of verse 18 seems to be quite specific (concerning the kingdom of God). Parallel to this, verse 19 offers certain bounds (or at least a sort of regional limitation) for teaching, while verse 20 remains rather open ended about preaching. What this means, however, remains to be worked out in detail.
A brief return to verse 19 would prove helpful. The phrasing there is incredibly negative, and verse 20 follows with a parallel structure: the priests are to preach and teach nothing... save... etc. The point is that it would be better for these to preach absolutely nothing whatsoever than to preach something other than what Alma provides them as a task. As for teaching, verse 19 provides the priests with textual boundaries, as it were: the priests are to teach the words of the prophets (apparently interpreting them according to the Spirit), even as Alma has done, and so their bounds there are ultimately textual, for they are to stay within the texts of the prophets. Preaching, however, is a different matter: the bounds for preaching seem to be practical: only two topics are provided, both of which are really more a question of action than of doctrine. In other words, "repentance" and "faith on the Lord" are probably not here understood as doctrines or principles, but as things to be done. Whereas "teaching" carries with it--inevitably--the implication of an intellectual process of sorting things out, "preaching" seems to carry with it rather the implication of exhortation, of invitation, of praxis.
The task of the priest, then: to urge his hearers to trust the Lord and to repent before Him, and to explore in the Spirit the words of the prophets. In the end, there seems to be no reason to read Alma as trying to keep the priests of his church under his thumb, or limited in what they can say: rather, he sees the work of the priest to be the work of edification according to the Spirit that works upon the prophetic texts and the work of reminding the people continually of their double duty to the Lord (the double duty of faith and repentance).
  • Mosiah 18:20: Similarity to D&C 42. These verses on teaching from Mosiah 18 are very similar to those regarding teaching in D&C 42. D&C 42:11 discusses ordination, similar to Mosiah 18:18. D&C 42:12 explains that teachers should "teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon," which is similar to Mosiah 18: 19's direction to teach "the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." D&C 42:12 also commanded teachers to focus on the "principles of the gospel" which are found in the scriptures/words of the prophets, perhaps similar to Alma's direction to teach nothing but "repentance" and "faith" in Mosiah 18:20. (In addition, also note that both Mosiah 18:27-28 and D&C 42: 30 etc, talk about taking care of the poor.)
  • Mosiah 18:21. After instructions concerning teaching and preaching are laid down, Alma commands the priests further (and it is clear that the priests specifically are the ones receiving this command and all those following up through verse 26: in verse 27, Alma will turn specifically to the members of the church to begin to offer them commandments) to avoid contention among themselves. That this commandment is given specifically to the priesthood is an interesting detail, and it deserves some attention.
At first, it would appear as if this commandment against contention is redundant (the covenants the people have made quite explicitly would seem to have covered this question--see verses 8-9), but that it is directed toward the priests seems to cancel the redundancy. Rather, it is a specific clarification for those ordained to preach and teach, for the priesthood. In other words, even as the people have covenanted to uphold one another and to suffer each other, there will remain among the priests a tendency to contend. This commandment, then, seems to be issued as a corrective to the tendency toward competition among the ordained priests. Having separate stewardships (each is set over a separate group of fifty people, a group assigned, apparently, by Alma), the priests do not seem overly likely to find themselves in contention, but then it is perhaps precisely because they have separate stewardships that Alma is concerned that contention might arise. As soon as the people are split up into several groups, there is a tendency towards schism, and each priest, having a sort of autonomy with his fifty, might all too easily make them his.
What Alma wants to have happen is quite clear: rather than contention, he would have them unified (one eye, one faith, one baptism). The way this is phrased is interesting: they are to "look forward with one eye." It may be that Alma phrases the question of unity in this way so as to emphasize that the priests should not be looking at each other, but forward. The words install a very real sense of progress, and the "having" that opens the following phrase then seems to lay the groundwork for that sense of promise: "having one faith and one baptism." The single and shared faith and baptism are together apparently the foundation for the progressive looking forward: faith and baptism together point these priests forward to something yet to come (most likely the "kingdom of God"). With another "having," Alma doubles the foundation that opens the possibility of a forward orientation: "having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another." Of interest here is a sort of redirection of the priests: whereas they were pointed forward before, now they are pointed "one towards another." But this redirection is not really a redirection: their eyes are to remain looking forward, while their hearts are turned to each other. The priests are to be bound to each other precisely in their progressive vision.
The two phrases beginning with "having" come together in an interesting manner. Both are pairs (on the one hand "faith" and "baptism," and on the other hand "unity" and "love"), and they are clearly parallel, in fact, might well be read as an inverted parallelism: faith is paired with love, while baptism and unity are paired between them. That faith is tied to love is suggestive, since "look forward with one eye" can only suggest hope. Baptism and unity are clearly tied in the covenant laid out earlier in the chapter. In short, the unity performed in the covenant of their baptism lays out for these priests an intertwining of faith, hope, and love that is to define their whole being in this work. That intertwining is of some interest, perhaps most because it seems to be a different model than is offered elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. Here, faith and love are the groundwork that open the possibility of hope (hope for the "kingdom of God"), they combine necessarily to open the possibility of hope. If faith is their trust in God and love is their union to each other, then hope becomes the possibility of uniting in one their relations to God and their relations to each other (hence, the "kingdom of God," a people gathered together, yet under the perfect rule of God). This curious reading of faith, hope, and love seems to be unique to this passage. As the next verse will show, it had, for this people, an incredible effect.
  • Mosiah 18:22. The first half of this verse reads as a sort of conclusion to all of what has gone before, and the second half confirms that conclusive spirit. But the second half deserves some close attention, bringing into this question the phrase "the children of God." There is, throughout scripture, a most important connection between sonship and the kingdom. Ostensibly, the idea seems usually to be that the son of God is the one who will inherit the throne, the kingdom. To become the "children of God" seems to mean that one enters into the reality of the kingdom. That one must become a child of God, however, is curious in another way: some rite of adoption seems to be implied. It may be that the ritual of Ex 21:1-7 is implied, or there may be some other ritual at work, but it should not be missed that there is some form of official adoption at work in this verse. In keeping the several commandments Alma offers the priests, they become--together--the "children of God," and this seems then to open onto the possibility of the commandments that follow. In other words, though this verse seems to have a conclusive spirit, in the end, it is not so: there is a sort of conclusion here, but it is a conclusion that opens the possibilties of the further commandments issued next. Alma seems to have offered some commandments that brought them to this point of adoption, and then he seems to have given them further commandments, due to the road that still might be taken ahead (still looking forward). At any rate, the adoption of this verse apparently must be taken into consideration before the further commandments in the next verses.
  • Mosiah 18:23. Beyond adoption, then, Alma issues some further commandments. The first pertains quite explicitly to the ritual side of this church. Whereas the task of preaching and teaching was explicitly non-ritual (as far as one can read into the text, at least), the commandment to observe the sabbath day--and especially to "keep it holy"--is undeniably a question of ritual. With the observance and maintenance of the sabbath, these priests have entered the realm of sacred time (and the gathering place of verse 25 will suggest sacred space as well), which inevitably summons the themes of ritual, of the temple. It is not clear, it must be noted, that there is anything quite like a temple yet (there is reason to believe that any construction of a temple would be mentioned), but there is quite clearly a cultus developing among these several churches.
The phrasing of this commandment is interesting further, because it sets the sabbath in the context of daily ritual: "every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God." There is here quite clearly a sanctification of the whole of time, though there is a specific setting apart of the sabbath. That these priests--and with them, one can only assume, the people--are living in sacred time, a sacred time punctuated by even more sacred time, is suggestive of a promised land (something more profound and more explicit than the passing reference in verse 25, mentioned above). There may be some evidence that this is at work in the song of praise to the place of Mormon offered later in this chapter (verse 30). Such a pattern follows quite closely, incidentally, the early history of the Restored Church: at first the several offices are restored, but without quorum organization or a saturating ritual complex; but by the Missouri period, the nature of the sabbath (and the accompanying sanctification of all time) is taught and enjoined upon the saints, precisely as they settle into the promised land in Jackson County. The formation in verse 25 of what seem to be a quorum of these priests is also rather interesting. (It might be noted then that there is reason to understand this chapter to be quite important for the pattern of the latter-day Restoration.) At any rate, the point is quite clear: there is, following the rites of adoption in verse 22, a sort of reification of the priesthood, a hypostasis, as it were, of their work, as they enter into ritual space and time and the kingdom of God begins to be established in their midst (hope being fulfilled?).
  • Mosiah 18:24. Interjected between the sanctification of time in verse 23 and the sanctification of space in verse 25 is this peculiar command: "that the priests whom [Alma] had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support." That it comes between these two works of sanctification is doubly suggestive: it is suggestive on the one hand because it seems to suggest that one should read this command as a question of sanctification as well; and it is suggestive on the other hand because it suggests that there is some change in the structure of the priesthood's means of living even as there is a movement towards the ritualization of the church. In other words, there is in this verse at least the hint that before the adoption rites of verse 22, the priests were living off of the labor of the people, like itinerant preachers. The change is significant (it again follows the pattern of the Restoration), as it seems (as mentioned) to be connected with the development of the cultus that sanctifies everything in the world of the church. That this commandment is central, in fact, the center of a rather simple chiasm, is quite suggestive: there is a hint that this commandment is the most important one, the one that changes everything. In other words, this verse seems to be the most important shift after the rites of adoption: that the priests now begin to labor for their own support seems to suggest that a very real community is formed, and that the people are at this very moment beginning to live the law of consecration. The theme is doubled in verse 26, and it is confirmed powerfully in verses 27-28: the law of consecration grounds the sanctification (ultimately the consecration) of time and space. All of this, it must be noticed, rides on the back of the adoption marked in verse 22.
  • Mosiah 18:25. It is necessary, after all of the above, to look quite carefully at the sanctification of space that seems to be implied in this verse, but there is a great deal more at work here as well. For example, there seems to be a separation of sorts between "the sabbath day" of verse 23 and the "one day in every week that was set apart" of this verse. In other words, the "regular" (regular as in every week, though the phrase seems to suggest something not exactly strictly scheduled) meetings for teaching and worship seem not to have necessarily been scheduled specifically on the Sabbath: worship might have been a non-Sabbath activity for these people. Rather, the Sabbath may have been something more fundamental than a day simply sanctified by the act of worship (a theme that might best be explored elsewhere in scripture). This disconnection of sorts between verses 23 and 25 highlights a number of other curiosities in the present verse: the gathering is a gathering of priests (albeit "to teach the people), and the implication of the following phrase, "and to worship the Lord their God," is that the priests were gathering to worship, and not necessarily the people. This focus on the priests culminates in the final clause of the verse: the priests were, "as often as it was in their power, to assemble themselves together." This inordinate focus on the priests as the very center of worship is of some interest, and it deserves some sustained attention, especially because it seems also to have something to do with the sanctification of space implied in the "regular" gatherings.
This verse could be read in a rather democratic way—that is, it could be that the priests comprise most of the people and so separating out the other, non-priests in the congregation would be less necessary than if the priests were only a small percentage of the congregation. Also, it may be that the themselves in the first part of the verse is referring to the priests but in the second part of the verse themselves refers to the priests and the other congregation members (future priests and priestesses?). On this reading the reconciliatoin of God to priests and priests to other church members furthers the unity theme of surrounding verses (v. 21 in particular). In verse 23 the focus seems to be on individual church members sanctifying the Sabbath in relation with God (a private type of worship), whereas here the public community aspect of worship seems the focus. Whether or not these activities take place on the same day, the parallel seems unmistakeable: individual worship of God is not sufficient, community worship must accompany it. This follows the pattern in many other scriptures where individual conversion is followed immediately by a concern for the conversion of friends and family (e.g. Enos 1, Lehi's dream in 1 Ne 8, and Isa 6)—indeed, this pattern parallels the order of the great two commandments as spoken by Christ in Matt 22:34-40.
  • Mosiah 18:30. This verse appears to employ different literary styles than is consistent with the rest of the account.
  • First there is the excessive location explanation: "done in Mormon, ...waters of Mormon, ....Mormon; ... the place of Mormon, ...the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon,"
  • Second, there is a very prosaic passage almost out of the blue: "how beautiful are they to the eyes of them ... for they shall sing to his praise forever."
It is hard to know whether this is Mormon, as abridger, emphasizing the geography that bears his name or Alma's original record. It is very difficult to jump to an unusual geographic orientation and then quickly to an aesthetic style in the middle of doing a narration by a more sedate method. (This is perhaps evidence of abridgement work in that Joseph Smith would not have thought to change styles so abruptly mid-narration if he were the author.)
  • Mosiah 19.2: Gideon. In Hebrew, the name Gideon means "hacker." The root verb is used elsewhere to describe the hacking down idolatrous images or shrines (cf. Deut 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chr 14:3; 31:1). The Old Testament judge Gideon may have recieved this name as a likely foreshadowing of either hacking down of the altar of Baal in Judg 6:25-32, or the hacking down of Israel's enemies depicted in Judg 7. The Book of Mormon Gideon is similarly a man of the sword; he draws it here in fighting King Noah, and is ultimately killed by the sword in Alma 1:9.
  • Mosiah 19.24: Ceremony. Regarding the use of "ceremony" in verse 24, it's possible that it is a reference to some type of ritual killing or death of a king. The text prior to verse 24 contains a sense of building urgency and the implication that the actions could be happening quickly, one right after the other. For example, we are told that the people were "angry" (v. 19) and that they acted in anger when they "caused that he should suffer, even unto death by fire" (v. 19). In the following verses "they were about to take the priests" (v. 21, emphasis added), the priests "fled" (v. 21), the people "were about to return" (v. 22, emphasis added) when they met the men of Gideon, and they immediately tell the men of Gideon everything. The textual image is that of an impassioned people acting on their impulses; the men of Gideon could very well have arrived in the middle of events not yet wrapped up, and it is possible that there remained some unfinished ritual or ceremony with regards to Noah's death that the people had yet to perform, especially if he was offered in their anger as a sacrifice so that the people could regain their families.
Another possibility is discussed by Hugh Nibley in the transcripts of his Book of Mormon class. He sees the word as a clear reference to some type of reconciliation or peace ceremony in which two factions—the men of Gideon versus the men who originally left their families and followed Noah into the wilderness—ritually agree to not fight against each other. Given the political context at the time, it is not unlikely that some kind of formal treaty or ritual of reconciliation would be performed.
The use of the word "ceremony" stands out awkwardly among these verses, in the same way that Mosiah 17:11 stands out among its neighboring verses. In addition to its possible reference as a "ritual killing" or "death of a king," the word "ceremony" could denote an execution. In Mosiah 17:9, Abinadi refuses to recall his words, and then, in v. 10 he proclaims his suffering, death, and refusal to recall his words as testimonies. He levels his own evidence, as it were, against the king and his priests, and in v. 11, Noah responds with fear. The following verses--Abinadi's prophecy--are famous, but the overlooked preceding verses lend a sense that not only was Abinadi making a prophetic statement in verses 15-19--he was pronouncing another sentence. His own death would be evidence of their corruption--evidence which could justify their own trial and eventual execution.

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  • Why is it that Alma has success in preaching where Abinadi didn't? Or did they have different callings or objectives?
  • Mosiah 18:4: Is this verse offered as an etymology of the name "Mormon"? In other words, did the king call the place "Mormon" because it was in the borders of the land or because it was infested with wild beasts, the implication is that this is the meaning of "Mormon"?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What do we make of the name Mormon coming from the wicked king Noah?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What does it mean to be "infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts"? What kind of animals might these have been, and why would an influx of these animals constitute an infestation?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant by a "fountain" of water? Why would it be considered pure water?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant here by a "thicket of small trees"? Is this an isolated cluster of trees in a cleared area, or a brushy area within a forest?
  • Mosiah 18:7: How could a "goodly number" of people gather to a "thicket of small trees" without being observed?
  • Mosiah 18:8: What does it mean to "come into the fold of God"
  • Mosiah 18:8: How are we called the people of God? What does it mean to be his people?
  • Mosiah 18:9: What does it mean to mourn with those who mourn? Is this different in some way than comforting those who morn? (We are told that our savior comforts those who mourn in Isa 61:2).
  • Mosiah 18:9: How can we "stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places"? How can we know how well we are doing at this?
  • Mosiah 18:9: How much should we desire our own redemption and eternal life? Is it selfish to be motivated by our own eternal rewards?
  • Mosiah 18:10: What does it mean to covenant to serve the LORD and keep his commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:10: How can "his Spirit" be poured out "more abundantly" upon us? What does this terminology add to our understanding of the gift of the Holy Ghost?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Who is this Helam, and why does he have the same name as the (presumably) royal Mulekite brother of Ammon (Mosiah 7:6) sent later to inquire about the whereabouts of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Why does Alma pray like this before baptizing Helam? Is this just an example of praying before performing anything unto the LORD, or is there something else going on here?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Where did Alma get his power and authority to baptize?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Why does this baptismal prayer differ from the one we use today?
  • Mosiah 18:13: What does it mean for Christ to have been "prepared from the foundation fo the world"? What is the "foundation" of the world?
  • Mosiah 18:14: Why would Alma and Helam both be "buried in the water" in this baptism? Was Alma baptizing himself?
  • Mosiah 18:14: What does it mean that they both "arose" after the baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:15: Why didn't Alma "bury himself again in the water" after the first baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:16: What does it mean for the people to be "filled with the grace of God"? How is grace something that can fill you?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: There are several places in the scriptures where teachers are counseled to teach nothing but repentance and faith on the Lord. Verse 20 here is one example. How literally can we interpret this? Is it applicable to us today in all situations where we are teaches? Or just some?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: Did these priests have access to written scriptures in order to teach that "which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets" or were they dependent on Alma and oral transmission of teachings?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: How can we preach "nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord"?
  • Mosiah 18:21: How does Alma's injunction against "contention" contrast with the continual rounds of contention described in the Record of Zeniff?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean to "look forward with one eye?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean for hearts to be "knit together in unity"? Is there a difference between being knit and being sealed? Does this involve a priesthood ordinance of some type, or is it merely a representation of people bonding to each other?
  • Mosiah 18:22: How do the people become the "children of God"? Aren't we already the children of a Heavenly Father? How is this different and what is the distinction?
  • Mosiah 18:23: Why is sabbath day observance specifically mentioned here, rather than other commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:23: According to Alma, giving thanks to God every day is a commandment. Was this a specific commandment just for his people, or is this a commandment that is in effect for our day as well?
  • Mosiah 18:24: How does this verse serve as a precedent for modern LDS practice of a lay priesthood?
  • Mosiah 18:24: What does it mean to "labor with [our] own hands"?
  • Mosiah 18:26: What does it mean to "receive the grace of God" for [our] labor?
  • Mosiah 19.3: Why might a minority of the people have been upset with the king?
  • Mosiah 19.3: What does it mean to "breathe out threatenings"?
  • Mosiah 19.3: How does the theme of contention play throughout the history of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How might this Gideon's role as liberator echo that of the Old Testament judge Gideon?
  • Mosiah 19.4: What are we to make of Gideon? Is he a role model? A cautionary figure? What can we learn from his experience?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How should we judge Gideon's wrath, swearing, and threats of violence?
  • Mosiah 19.4: After reading this account, should we be surprised by how Gideon meets his eventual end?
  • Mosiah 19.5: Why are we told here that Noah "fled and ran"? Aren't these pretty much the same thing?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What might be the significance of a tower being "near" the temple, rather than part of the temple?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What do we know about this Nephite temple?
  • Mosiah 19.6-10: We are presented here with a rather colorful narrative of fleeing, fighting, and negotiating. What is the purpose of this account? Why would Mormon bother to include it? Why don't we just have a more abbreviated account? Is there something more here that we should be getting from these stories?
  • Mosiah 19.8: Why might Gideon have spared King Noah? Why not just kill him and then go off to flee or fight the Lamanites?
  • Mosiah 19.11: Why might King Noah have tried to get the men to leave their wives and children?
  • Mosiah 19.15: Are the Nephites expected to pay 1/2 of all they have every year, or is this just a one time payment with an unspecified level of tribute to be paid afterwards?
  • Mosiah 19.16: Why wouldn't a son of Noah have followed his father and fled into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.17: What does it mean for Limhi to be described as a "just" man?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What position in society might Gideon have had that allowed him to send scouts out into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What do the Nephites mean by wilderness? Does this just mean uninhabited lands, or is there some other meaning?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What does it mean that the men had sworn "in their hearts"? Wasn't this a fairly public decision?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What are we to make of this desire to seek revenge? Is this a noble desire? How are we supposed to feel about these men who first leave their families to potentially perish, then get upset and want to seek revenge for their deaths?
  • Mosiah 19.20: These men have killed the king? What standing might they have under Old Testament law? Was this a justified killing, or something much more grievous?
  • Mosiah 19.21: How could these men have been able to grab and kill the king, but not the priests?

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Mosiah 18:26-30

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  • Mosiah 18:9: Those that mourn. Merriam-Webster defines mourn (verse 9) as "to feel or express grief or sorrow." In the scriptures mourning is usually used in the context of expressing grief over someone's death.
One way to understand the phrase those that mourn (verse 9) is to think about anyone who is experiencing grief or sorrow. In this way we have a responsibility to connect with the people around us in grief and sorrow and share in that sorrow.
Another interpretation is to take those that mourn as a reference to those who mourn for the Savior, his death and suffering. In that case we are asked if we are willing to join the community of people who mourn for the sins of this world and the resulting suffering and death that our Savior went through in order to save us from those sins. A similar invitation is given in the hymn "He Died the Great Redeemer Died." (See the related link below.)
It is also interesting to note the way verse 9 introduces the themes that will then be played out in the narratives of chapters 19-24. If we look at the two main stories of trial and deliverance—the people of Limhi and the people of Alma—we have both an example of a people who mourn and a people who stand in need of comfort.
The people of Limhi will fight battle after battle, both in their defense and in their pursuit of freedom. Their losses are extremely numerous (enough so that in Mosiah 21:17 Limhi has to command the remaining men to help support the widows and their children): throughout this process they are truly a people acquainted with mourning.
The people of Alma will be persecuted by Amulon: they will be in bondage, they will carry impossibly heavy burdens, they will be refused the comfort of vocal prayer. As such, they will truly be a people who stand in need of comfort.
  • Mosiah 18:8-10.' Echoes of Verses 8-10 and Their Profound Implications for Our Relationship with God. These verses are echoed to great effect when Alma and his people are in trouble in the Land of Helam (which is named after the person Alma is now baptizing). See exegesis on Mosiah 24:11-15.
  • Mosiah 18:17. Despite the fact that the word "church" appears a good number of times before this point in the Book of Mormon, this verse marks the first reference to an official Nephite church, or, in other words, this is the first Nephite church mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Mosiah 25:18 seems quite clearly to confirm this, as it mentions Mosiah II's authorization of Alma to create like churches throughout the land of Zarahemla, the suggestion being that there were none before that time. But even as this cross-reference seems to confirm the origins of the Nephite church in this passage, it also clarifies what the word "church" means here: if Alma was to go on to found a number of churches, then this "church" is not a system of faith, but a congregational organization, a regional gathering of people. From the very start, churches among the Nephites seem to have been a question of a number of people who worship together in a sort of gathered community.
Also interesting to the meaning of the word "church" as used in the Book of Mormon is the attribution of the name "the church of God, or the church of Christ," in this verse, to some unnamed source: those gathered by Alma were simply "called" so. Because the phrase uses the passive voice "they were called," what would otherwise be the subject (the one or the ones doing the calling) escapes notice, and the author of the passage can leave ambiguous the source of the title. In other words, whereas the author might have said that "Alma and his people called themselves the church of God, or the church of Christ," he rather says that "they were called" so, the implication being simply that someone besides those of the church called them that. It remains entirely unclear whence the epithet comes. There is a hint in all of this, then, that "church" was a term used somewhat commonly among the Nephites, that it was not a term that those gathered into the church specifically rooted out of, say, Nephi's writings in order to proclaim their justified foundation or any such thing. Rather, it seems, the concept of a church was not unfamiliar to the Nephites, and this gathering was simply so named because others recognized an already common structure among them.
All these details come together somewhat paradoxically: it seems that Alma is at once doing something entirely unprecedented and also doing something completely familiar to outsiders. The paradox is, however, quite understandable: an idea that has been around for quite some time, and something the people generally are familiar with, but Alma takes upon himself the overwhelming task of actually accomplishing it. Everyone knew what he was doing, but that does not at all mean that it was a common proceeding: Alma has done something rather radical in forming a church. He himself has grounded it by an ostensibly granted authority (see verse 13), and this verse adds that anyone "baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his [meaning God's] church." The implication is clear: Alma's radical movement is his authorized development of something everyone has been expecting for nearly five hundred years, but no one has felt authorized to do.
Now, it might be asked why no one had created a church before this time, even as the idea seems to have been completely familiar to everyone. Or it might be asked more specifically why God had not authorized any to accomplish the task. The answer, however, seems to be buried in a few details of the following story, as well as in some major events that happen later (see verses 31-33 of this chapter, and then especially the complex development that extends across Mosiah 25-29). The answer, put quite simply, is this: the existence of a monarchical system seems to exclude not only the need for churches, but also the possibility of churches. Under the monarchy, the cult seems to have been performed under the auspices of the king and a royal priesthood, but the church assumes a sort of local priesthood, a regionalism replacing the universal authority usually claimed by a king. In other words, since a monarchy seems to have obtained from the very start of Nephite civilization, there has never been need or room for churches. Alma's formation of this first church is taken quite specifically as an act of rebellion, and when he is given royal authority in Zarahemla to establish a number of churches, it leads rather quickly to the dissolution of the monarchy. Perhaps all of this is considered rather simply in a single, weighty phrsae in the following verse: the church is a question of "the kingdom of God."
  • Mosiah 18:18. As soon as there is a unity in this plurality--as soon as the church is a church--Alma ordains a local priesthood. The move may be what most incites the cry of rebellion from Noah by the end of the chapter. The move to ordain priests is a rather complex one, and it must be understood in the right light, lest it be considered from an entirely too protracted view. First to be said about the ordination of these priests: the ordination cannot be understood--culturally, historically--to have been a natural consequence of the gathering of the baptized, but rather should be understood as a radical innovation that ultimately redefines for the Nephites the very meaning of priesthood, and this altered meaning ultimately calls for a restructuring of the entire government. This ordination is ultimately the first step toward undoing the Nephite monarchy, though it happens among a small gathering on the outskirts of a Nephite settlement in Lamanite territory. But regardless of the broadest implications of the action, there seems to be a sort of pragmatism about the verse: the ordination was not an act of defiance, but an act of charity, a way of strengthening those baptized so that they might move from church to kingdom (the kingdom of God).
With the pragmatic character of the ordination drawn out, the differences between this priesthood and priesthood in the restored Church of the latter days are quite clear: Alma does not establish quorums, nor does it appear that he has two separate priesthoods with their several offices, nor again does it appear that these priests wield authority to perform any particular ordinances. The priesthood Alma sets up is, in the end, a rather simple priesthood, a stripped-down priesthood meant to perform the task merely of teaching, though teaching the highest principles, "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." That a great deal happens concerning "the priesthood" between these first ordinations and Alma the Younger's discourse in Alma 13 is obvious: but that development must traced rather carefully and in great detail to accomplish any satisfactory explanation of these questions. At the very least, what is unquestionably clear here is this: by the same "authority" he had to baptize, Alma ordains priests (note that he does not organize a priesthood, per se), and only a rather small number at that (no more than nine would have been ordained by the time the group flees into the wilderness), to take upon themselves the task of preaching and teaching those baptized and gathered together into the church.
  • Mosiah 18:19. If teaching "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" seems an overwhelming task, even a boundless task, this verse imposes some limits on it: these priests are limited to "the things which [Alma] had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." The verses seems thus rather simple and self-explanatory, but it does raise an issue that ought to be dealt with: one can only wonder why Alma would impose limits at all on the teaching task. In other words, since other scriptures promote a rather radical form of teaching--namely, teaching by the Spirit, taking no thought for the words to say, etc.--this rather limited task, hemmed in by what has been said before, seems conservative to say the least. This may not, however, be a commandment to teach in a manner other than that of teaching by the Spirit: there are at least two ways of reading this, in fact, as a commandment to teach by the Spirit. On the one hand, Alma might be suggesting that the Spirit would only lead one to speak of that which has been spoken before. This interpretation seems somewhat flawed, as the Spirit seems in a number of places to be That which specifically goes beyond previous knowledge. On the other hand--and this seems a more likely explanation--Alma might be suggesting that the role of the Spirit in teaching is precisely to help one to interpret the words of the prophets, that the Spirit enlarges upon those words, rather than providing to the teacher new words in the moment. This interpretation presents a sort of division of labors between priests (whatever priests are here) and prophets: the prophets have experiences beyond the Spirit, but priests are to work in the Spirit so as to interpret the prophetic word. The division and correlation might be compared to the gift of tongues (prophets) and the gift of the interpretation of tongues (priests). At any rate, the suggestion is that the Spirit works upon the teaching priest precisely in his attendance upon the words of the prophets.
With all of these details worked out, there is a rather careful phrasing at work in this verse which is all to easily missed: though one might see Alma equating himself with the prophets, the wording actually suggests that he equates himself with the priests in their division of labor, over against the prophets. The clue is the word "teach": the priests are to "teach" only what Alma had "taught," which suggests that they are to do what he himself has done. If their task then extends to teaching what "had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets," there may be here an implication that Alma's mode of teaching had been quite specifically a work of interpretation (in fact, a work of interpreting Abinadi?). Alma sees himself, according to the language presented in this verse, as a priest, rather than as a prophet. As such, the priests have a model for their work: Alma.
  • Mosiah 18:20. Again the priestly task is clarified, though a different verb appears in this verse: "preach." But the instance of "preach" marks a chiastic structure that runs through verses 18-20:
  • ...did he ordain to preach unto them
  • and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
  • And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, etc.
  • Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were...
Similar, in a manner, to the division of labor implicit in the last verse, there appears here a division of sorts, though it is a division within the priestly task: the priests are to preach and to teach, and these seem to be different things. Preaching, in verse 18, seems to be quite open ended, while the teaching of verse 18 seems to be quite specific (concerning the kingdom of God). Parallel to this, verse 19 offers certain bounds (or at least a sort of regional limitation) for teaching, while verse 20 remains rather open ended about preaching. What this means, however, remains to be worked out in detail.
A brief return to verse 19 would prove helpful. The phrasing there is incredibly negative, and verse 20 follows with a parallel structure: the priests are to preach and teach nothing... save... etc. The point is that it would be better for these to preach absolutely nothing whatsoever than to preach something other than what Alma provides them as a task. As for teaching, verse 19 provides the priests with textual boundaries, as it were: the priests are to teach the words of the prophets (apparently interpreting them according to the Spirit), even as Alma has done, and so their bounds there are ultimately textual, for they are to stay within the texts of the prophets. Preaching, however, is a different matter: the bounds for preaching seem to be practical: only two topics are provided, both of which are really more a question of action than of doctrine. In other words, "repentance" and "faith on the Lord" are probably not here understood as doctrines or principles, but as things to be done. Whereas "teaching" carries with it--inevitably--the implication of an intellectual process of sorting things out, "preaching" seems to carry with it rather the implication of exhortation, of invitation, of praxis.
The task of the priest, then: to urge his hearers to trust the Lord and to repent before Him, and to explore in the Spirit the words of the prophets. In the end, there seems to be no reason to read Alma as trying to keep the priests of his church under his thumb, or limited in what they can say: rather, he sees the work of the priest to be the work of edification according to the Spirit that works upon the prophetic texts and the work of reminding the people continually of their double duty to the Lord (the double duty of faith and repentance).
  • Mosiah 18:20: Similarity to D&C 42. These verses on teaching from Mosiah 18 are very similar to those regarding teaching in D&C 42. D&C 42:11 discusses ordination, similar to Mosiah 18:18. D&C 42:12 explains that teachers should "teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon," which is similar to Mosiah 18: 19's direction to teach "the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." D&C 42:12 also commanded teachers to focus on the "principles of the gospel" which are found in the scriptures/words of the prophets, perhaps similar to Alma's direction to teach nothing but "repentance" and "faith" in Mosiah 18:20. (In addition, also note that both Mosiah 18:27-28 and D&C 42: 30 etc, talk about taking care of the poor.)
  • Mosiah 18:21. After instructions concerning teaching and preaching are laid down, Alma commands the priests further (and it is clear that the priests specifically are the ones receiving this command and all those following up through verse 26: in verse 27, Alma will turn specifically to the members of the church to begin to offer them commandments) to avoid contention among themselves. That this commandment is given specifically to the priesthood is an interesting detail, and it deserves some attention.
At first, it would appear as if this commandment against contention is redundant (the covenants the people have made quite explicitly would seem to have covered this question--see verses 8-9), but that it is directed toward the priests seems to cancel the redundancy. Rather, it is a specific clarification for those ordained to preach and teach, for the priesthood. In other words, even as the people have covenanted to uphold one another and to suffer each other, there will remain among the priests a tendency to contend. This commandment, then, seems to be issued as a corrective to the tendency toward competition among the ordained priests. Having separate stewardships (each is set over a separate group of fifty people, a group assigned, apparently, by Alma), the priests do not seem overly likely to find themselves in contention, but then it is perhaps precisely because they have separate stewardships that Alma is concerned that contention might arise. As soon as the people are split up into several groups, there is a tendency towards schism, and each priest, having a sort of autonomy with his fifty, might all too easily make them his.
What Alma wants to have happen is quite clear: rather than contention, he would have them unified (one eye, one faith, one baptism). The way this is phrased is interesting: they are to "look forward with one eye." It may be that Alma phrases the question of unity in this way so as to emphasize that the priests should not be looking at each other, but forward. The words install a very real sense of progress, and the "having" that opens the following phrase then seems to lay the groundwork for that sense of promise: "having one faith and one baptism." The single and shared faith and baptism are together apparently the foundation for the progressive looking forward: faith and baptism together point these priests forward to something yet to come (most likely the "kingdom of God"). With another "having," Alma doubles the foundation that opens the possibility of a forward orientation: "having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another." Of interest here is a sort of redirection of the priests: whereas they were pointed forward before, now they are pointed "one towards another." But this redirection is not really a redirection: their eyes are to remain looking forward, while their hearts are turned to each other. The priests are to be bound to each other precisely in their progressive vision.
The two phrases beginning with "having" come together in an interesting manner. Both are pairs (on the one hand "faith" and "baptism," and on the other hand "unity" and "love"), and they are clearly parallel, in fact, might well be read as an inverted parallelism: faith is paired with love, while baptism and unity are paired between them. That faith is tied to love is suggestive, since "look forward with one eye" can only suggest hope. Baptism and unity are clearly tied in the covenant laid out earlier in the chapter. In short, the unity performed in the covenant of their baptism lays out for these priests an intertwining of faith, hope, and love that is to define their whole being in this work. That intertwining is of some interest, perhaps most because it seems to be a different model than is offered elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. Here, faith and love are the groundwork that open the possibility of hope (hope for the "kingdom of God"), they combine necessarily to open the possibility of hope. If faith is their trust in God and love is their union to each other, then hope becomes the possibility of uniting in one their relations to God and their relations to each other (hence, the "kingdom of God," a people gathered together, yet under the perfect rule of God). This curious reading of faith, hope, and love seems to be unique to this passage. As the next verse will show, it had, for this people, an incredible effect.
  • Mosiah 18:22. The first half of this verse reads as a sort of conclusion to all of what has gone before, and the second half confirms that conclusive spirit. But the second half deserves some close attention, bringing into this question the phrase "the children of God." There is, throughout scripture, a most important connection between sonship and the kingdom. Ostensibly, the idea seems usually to be that the son of God is the one who will inherit the throne, the kingdom. To become the "children of God" seems to mean that one enters into the reality of the kingdom. That one must become a child of God, however, is curious in another way: some rite of adoption seems to be implied. It may be that the ritual of Ex 21:1-7 is implied, or there may be some other ritual at work, but it should not be missed that there is some form of official adoption at work in this verse. In keeping the several commandments Alma offers the priests, they become--together--the "children of God," and this seems then to open onto the possibility of the commandments that follow. In other words, though this verse seems to have a conclusive spirit, in the end, it is not so: there is a sort of conclusion here, but it is a conclusion that opens the possibilties of the further commandments issued next. Alma seems to have offered some commandments that brought them to this point of adoption, and then he seems to have given them further commandments, due to the road that still might be taken ahead (still looking forward). At any rate, the adoption of this verse apparently must be taken into consideration before the further commandments in the next verses.
  • Mosiah 18:23. Beyond adoption, then, Alma issues some further commandments. The first pertains quite explicitly to the ritual side of this church. Whereas the task of preaching and teaching was explicitly non-ritual (as far as one can read into the text, at least), the commandment to observe the sabbath day--and especially to "keep it holy"--is undeniably a question of ritual. With the observance and maintenance of the sabbath, these priests have entered the realm of sacred time (and the gathering place of verse 25 will suggest sacred space as well), which inevitably summons the themes of ritual, of the temple. It is not clear, it must be noted, that there is anything quite like a temple yet (there is reason to believe that any construction of a temple would be mentioned), but there is quite clearly a cultus developing among these several churches.
The phrasing of this commandment is interesting further, because it sets the sabbath in the context of daily ritual: "every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God." There is here quite clearly a sanctification of the whole of time, though there is a specific setting apart of the sabbath. That these priests--and with them, one can only assume, the people--are living in sacred time, a sacred time punctuated by even more sacred time, is suggestive of a promised land (something more profound and more explicit than the passing reference in verse 25, mentioned above). There may be some evidence that this is at work in the song of praise to the place of Mormon offered later in this chapter (verse 30). Such a pattern follows quite closely, incidentally, the early history of the Restored Church: at first the several offices are restored, but without quorum organization or a saturating ritual complex; but by the Missouri period, the nature of the sabbath (and the accompanying sanctification of all time) is taught and enjoined upon the saints, precisely as they settle into the promised land in Jackson County. The formation in verse 25 of what seem to be a quorum of these priests is also rather interesting. (It might be noted then that there is reason to understand this chapter to be quite important for the pattern of the latter-day Restoration.) At any rate, the point is quite clear: there is, following the rites of adoption in verse 22, a sort of reification of the priesthood, a hypostasis, as it were, of their work, as they enter into ritual space and time and the kingdom of God begins to be established in their midst (hope being fulfilled?).
  • Mosiah 18:24. Interjected between the sanctification of time in verse 23 and the sanctification of space in verse 25 is this peculiar command: "that the priests whom [Alma] had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support." That it comes between these two works of sanctification is doubly suggestive: it is suggestive on the one hand because it seems to suggest that one should read this command as a question of sanctification as well; and it is suggestive on the other hand because it suggests that there is some change in the structure of the priesthood's means of living even as there is a movement towards the ritualization of the church. In other words, there is in this verse at least the hint that before the adoption rites of verse 22, the priests were living off of the labor of the people, like itinerant preachers. The change is significant (it again follows the pattern of the Restoration), as it seems (as mentioned) to be connected with the development of the cultus that sanctifies everything in the world of the church. That this commandment is central, in fact, the center of a rather simple chiasm, is quite suggestive: there is a hint that this commandment is the most important one, the one that changes everything. In other words, this verse seems to be the most important shift after the rites of adoption: that the priests now begin to labor for their own support seems to suggest that a very real community is formed, and that the people are at this very moment beginning to live the law of consecration. The theme is doubled in verse 26, and it is confirmed powerfully in verses 27-28: the law of consecration grounds the sanctification (ultimately the consecration) of time and space. All of this, it must be noticed, rides on the back of the adoption marked in verse 22.
  • Mosiah 18:25. It is necessary, after all of the above, to look quite carefully at the sanctification of space that seems to be implied in this verse, but there is a great deal more at work here as well. For example, there seems to be a separation of sorts between "the sabbath day" of verse 23 and the "one day in every week that was set apart" of this verse. In other words, the "regular" (regular as in every week, though the phrase seems to suggest something not exactly strictly scheduled) meetings for teaching and worship seem not to have necessarily been scheduled specifically on the Sabbath: worship might have been a non-Sabbath activity for these people. Rather, the Sabbath may have been something more fundamental than a day simply sanctified by the act of worship (a theme that might best be explored elsewhere in scripture). This disconnection of sorts between verses 23 and 25 highlights a number of other curiosities in the present verse: the gathering is a gathering of priests (albeit "to teach the people), and the implication of the following phrase, "and to worship the Lord their God," is that the priests were gathering to worship, and not necessarily the people. This focus on the priests culminates in the final clause of the verse: the priests were, "as often as it was in their power, to assemble themselves together." This inordinate focus on the priests as the very center of worship is of some interest, and it deserves some sustained attention, especially because it seems also to have something to do with the sanctification of space implied in the "regular" gatherings.
This verse could be read in a rather democratic way—that is, it could be that the priests comprise most of the people and so separating out the other, non-priests in the congregation would be less necessary than if the priests were only a small percentage of the congregation. Also, it may be that the themselves in the first part of the verse is referring to the priests but in the second part of the verse themselves refers to the priests and the other congregation members (future priests and priestesses?). On this reading the reconciliatoin of God to priests and priests to other church members furthers the unity theme of surrounding verses (v. 21 in particular). In verse 23 the focus seems to be on individual church members sanctifying the Sabbath in relation with God (a private type of worship), whereas here the public community aspect of worship seems the focus. Whether or not these activities take place on the same day, the parallel seems unmistakeable: individual worship of God is not sufficient, community worship must accompany it. This follows the pattern in many other scriptures where individual conversion is followed immediately by a concern for the conversion of friends and family (e.g. Enos 1, Lehi's dream in 1 Ne 8, and Isa 6)—indeed, this pattern parallels the order of the great two commandments as spoken by Christ in Matt 22:34-40.
  • Mosiah 18:30. This verse appears to employ different literary styles than is consistent with the rest of the account.
  • First there is the excessive location explanation: "done in Mormon, ...waters of Mormon, ....Mormon; ... the place of Mormon, ...the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon,"
  • Second, there is a very prosaic passage almost out of the blue: "how beautiful are they to the eyes of them ... for they shall sing to his praise forever."
It is hard to know whether this is Mormon, as abridger, emphasizing the geography that bears his name or Alma's original record. It is very difficult to jump to an unusual geographic orientation and then quickly to an aesthetic style in the middle of doing a narration by a more sedate method. (This is perhaps evidence of abridgement work in that Joseph Smith would not have thought to change styles so abruptly mid-narration if he were the author.)
  • Mosiah 19.2: Gideon. In Hebrew, the name Gideon means "hacker." The root verb is used elsewhere to describe the hacking down idolatrous images or shrines (cf. Deut 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chr 14:3; 31:1). The Old Testament judge Gideon may have recieved this name as a likely foreshadowing of either hacking down of the altar of Baal in Judg 6:25-32, or the hacking down of Israel's enemies depicted in Judg 7. The Book of Mormon Gideon is similarly a man of the sword; he draws it here in fighting King Noah, and is ultimately killed by the sword in Alma 1:9.
  • Mosiah 19.24: Ceremony. Regarding the use of "ceremony" in verse 24, it's possible that it is a reference to some type of ritual killing or death of a king. The text prior to verse 24 contains a sense of building urgency and the implication that the actions could be happening quickly, one right after the other. For example, we are told that the people were "angry" (v. 19) and that they acted in anger when they "caused that he should suffer, even unto death by fire" (v. 19). In the following verses "they were about to take the priests" (v. 21, emphasis added), the priests "fled" (v. 21), the people "were about to return" (v. 22, emphasis added) when they met the men of Gideon, and they immediately tell the men of Gideon everything. The textual image is that of an impassioned people acting on their impulses; the men of Gideon could very well have arrived in the middle of events not yet wrapped up, and it is possible that there remained some unfinished ritual or ceremony with regards to Noah's death that the people had yet to perform, especially if he was offered in their anger as a sacrifice so that the people could regain their families.
Another possibility is discussed by Hugh Nibley in the transcripts of his Book of Mormon class. He sees the word as a clear reference to some type of reconciliation or peace ceremony in which two factions—the men of Gideon versus the men who originally left their families and followed Noah into the wilderness—ritually agree to not fight against each other. Given the political context at the time, it is not unlikely that some kind of formal treaty or ritual of reconciliation would be performed.
The use of the word "ceremony" stands out awkwardly among these verses, in the same way that Mosiah 17:11 stands out among its neighboring verses. In addition to its possible reference as a "ritual killing" or "death of a king," the word "ceremony" could denote an execution. In Mosiah 17:9, Abinadi refuses to recall his words, and then, in v. 10 he proclaims his suffering, death, and refusal to recall his words as testimonies. He levels his own evidence, as it were, against the king and his priests, and in v. 11, Noah responds with fear. The following verses--Abinadi's prophecy--are famous, but the overlooked preceding verses lend a sense that not only was Abinadi making a prophetic statement in verses 15-19--he was pronouncing another sentence. His own death would be evidence of their corruption--evidence which could justify their own trial and eventual execution.

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  • Why is it that Alma has success in preaching where Abinadi didn't? Or did they have different callings or objectives?
  • Mosiah 18:4: Is this verse offered as an etymology of the name "Mormon"? In other words, did the king call the place "Mormon" because it was in the borders of the land or because it was infested with wild beasts, the implication is that this is the meaning of "Mormon"?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What do we make of the name Mormon coming from the wicked king Noah?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What does it mean to be "infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts"? What kind of animals might these have been, and why would an influx of these animals constitute an infestation?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant by a "fountain" of water? Why would it be considered pure water?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant here by a "thicket of small trees"? Is this an isolated cluster of trees in a cleared area, or a brushy area within a forest?
  • Mosiah 18:7: How could a "goodly number" of people gather to a "thicket of small trees" without being observed?
  • Mosiah 18:8: What does it mean to "come into the fold of God"
  • Mosiah 18:8: How are we called the people of God? What does it mean to be his people?
  • Mosiah 18:9: What does it mean to mourn with those who mourn? Is this different in some way than comforting those who morn? (We are told that our savior comforts those who mourn in Isa 61:2).
  • Mosiah 18:9: How can we "stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places"? How can we know how well we are doing at this?
  • Mosiah 18:9: How much should we desire our own redemption and eternal life? Is it selfish to be motivated by our own eternal rewards?
  • Mosiah 18:10: What does it mean to covenant to serve the LORD and keep his commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:10: How can "his Spirit" be poured out "more abundantly" upon us? What does this terminology add to our understanding of the gift of the Holy Ghost?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Who is this Helam, and why does he have the same name as the (presumably) royal Mulekite brother of Ammon (Mosiah 7:6) sent later to inquire about the whereabouts of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Why does Alma pray like this before baptizing Helam? Is this just an example of praying before performing anything unto the LORD, or is there something else going on here?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Where did Alma get his power and authority to baptize?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Why does this baptismal prayer differ from the one we use today?
  • Mosiah 18:13: What does it mean for Christ to have been "prepared from the foundation fo the world"? What is the "foundation" of the world?
  • Mosiah 18:14: Why would Alma and Helam both be "buried in the water" in this baptism? Was Alma baptizing himself?
  • Mosiah 18:14: What does it mean that they both "arose" after the baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:15: Why didn't Alma "bury himself again in the water" after the first baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:16: What does it mean for the people to be "filled with the grace of God"? How is grace something that can fill you?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: There are several places in the scriptures where teachers are counseled to teach nothing but repentance and faith on the Lord. Verse 20 here is one example. How literally can we interpret this? Is it applicable to us today in all situations where we are teaches? Or just some?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: Did these priests have access to written scriptures in order to teach that "which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets" or were they dependent on Alma and oral transmission of teachings?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: How can we preach "nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord"?
  • Mosiah 18:21: How does Alma's injunction against "contention" contrast with the continual rounds of contention described in the Record of Zeniff?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean to "look forward with one eye?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean for hearts to be "knit together in unity"? Is there a difference between being knit and being sealed? Does this involve a priesthood ordinance of some type, or is it merely a representation of people bonding to each other?
  • Mosiah 18:22: How do the people become the "children of God"? Aren't we already the children of a Heavenly Father? How is this different and what is the distinction?
  • Mosiah 18:23: Why is sabbath day observance specifically mentioned here, rather than other commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:23: According to Alma, giving thanks to God every day is a commandment. Was this a specific commandment just for his people, or is this a commandment that is in effect for our day as well?
  • Mosiah 18:24: How does this verse serve as a precedent for modern LDS practice of a lay priesthood?
  • Mosiah 18:24: What does it mean to "labor with [our] own hands"?
  • Mosiah 18:26: What does it mean to "receive the grace of God" for [our] labor?
  • Mosiah 19.3: Why might a minority of the people have been upset with the king?
  • Mosiah 19.3: What does it mean to "breathe out threatenings"?
  • Mosiah 19.3: How does the theme of contention play throughout the history of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How might this Gideon's role as liberator echo that of the Old Testament judge Gideon?
  • Mosiah 19.4: What are we to make of Gideon? Is he a role model? A cautionary figure? What can we learn from his experience?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How should we judge Gideon's wrath, swearing, and threats of violence?
  • Mosiah 19.4: After reading this account, should we be surprised by how Gideon meets his eventual end?
  • Mosiah 19.5: Why are we told here that Noah "fled and ran"? Aren't these pretty much the same thing?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What might be the significance of a tower being "near" the temple, rather than part of the temple?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What do we know about this Nephite temple?
  • Mosiah 19.6-10: We are presented here with a rather colorful narrative of fleeing, fighting, and negotiating. What is the purpose of this account? Why would Mormon bother to include it? Why don't we just have a more abbreviated account? Is there something more here that we should be getting from these stories?
  • Mosiah 19.8: Why might Gideon have spared King Noah? Why not just kill him and then go off to flee or fight the Lamanites?
  • Mosiah 19.11: Why might King Noah have tried to get the men to leave their wives and children?
  • Mosiah 19.15: Are the Nephites expected to pay 1/2 of all they have every year, or is this just a one time payment with an unspecified level of tribute to be paid afterwards?
  • Mosiah 19.16: Why wouldn't a son of Noah have followed his father and fled into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.17: What does it mean for Limhi to be described as a "just" man?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What position in society might Gideon have had that allowed him to send scouts out into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What do the Nephites mean by wilderness? Does this just mean uninhabited lands, or is there some other meaning?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What does it mean that the men had sworn "in their hearts"? Wasn't this a fairly public decision?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What are we to make of this desire to seek revenge? Is this a noble desire? How are we supposed to feel about these men who first leave their families to potentially perish, then get upset and want to seek revenge for their deaths?
  • Mosiah 19.20: These men have killed the king? What standing might they have under Old Testament law? Was this a justified killing, or something much more grievous?
  • Mosiah 19.21: How could these men have been able to grab and kill the king, but not the priests?

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Mosiah 18:31-35

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  • Mosiah 18:9: Those that mourn. Merriam-Webster defines mourn (verse 9) as "to feel or express grief or sorrow." In the scriptures mourning is usually used in the context of expressing grief over someone's death.
One way to understand the phrase those that mourn (verse 9) is to think about anyone who is experiencing grief or sorrow. In this way we have a responsibility to connect with the people around us in grief and sorrow and share in that sorrow.
Another interpretation is to take those that mourn as a reference to those who mourn for the Savior, his death and suffering. In that case we are asked if we are willing to join the community of people who mourn for the sins of this world and the resulting suffering and death that our Savior went through in order to save us from those sins. A similar invitation is given in the hymn "He Died the Great Redeemer Died." (See the related link below.)
It is also interesting to note the way verse 9 introduces the themes that will then be played out in the narratives of chapters 19-24. If we look at the two main stories of trial and deliverance—the people of Limhi and the people of Alma—we have both an example of a people who mourn and a people who stand in need of comfort.
The people of Limhi will fight battle after battle, both in their defense and in their pursuit of freedom. Their losses are extremely numerous (enough so that in Mosiah 21:17 Limhi has to command the remaining men to help support the widows and their children): throughout this process they are truly a people acquainted with mourning.
The people of Alma will be persecuted by Amulon: they will be in bondage, they will carry impossibly heavy burdens, they will be refused the comfort of vocal prayer. As such, they will truly be a people who stand in need of comfort.
  • Mosiah 18:8-10.' Echoes of Verses 8-10 and Their Profound Implications for Our Relationship with God. These verses are echoed to great effect when Alma and his people are in trouble in the Land of Helam (which is named after the person Alma is now baptizing). See exegesis on Mosiah 24:11-15.
  • Mosiah 18:17. Despite the fact that the word "church" appears a good number of times before this point in the Book of Mormon, this verse marks the first reference to an official Nephite church, or, in other words, this is the first Nephite church mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Mosiah 25:18 seems quite clearly to confirm this, as it mentions Mosiah II's authorization of Alma to create like churches throughout the land of Zarahemla, the suggestion being that there were none before that time. But even as this cross-reference seems to confirm the origins of the Nephite church in this passage, it also clarifies what the word "church" means here: if Alma was to go on to found a number of churches, then this "church" is not a system of faith, but a congregational organization, a regional gathering of people. From the very start, churches among the Nephites seem to have been a question of a number of people who worship together in a sort of gathered community.
Also interesting to the meaning of the word "church" as used in the Book of Mormon is the attribution of the name "the church of God, or the church of Christ," in this verse, to some unnamed source: those gathered by Alma were simply "called" so. Because the phrase uses the passive voice "they were called," what would otherwise be the subject (the one or the ones doing the calling) escapes notice, and the author of the passage can leave ambiguous the source of the title. In other words, whereas the author might have said that "Alma and his people called themselves the church of God, or the church of Christ," he rather says that "they were called" so, the implication being simply that someone besides those of the church called them that. It remains entirely unclear whence the epithet comes. There is a hint in all of this, then, that "church" was a term used somewhat commonly among the Nephites, that it was not a term that those gathered into the church specifically rooted out of, say, Nephi's writings in order to proclaim their justified foundation or any such thing. Rather, it seems, the concept of a church was not unfamiliar to the Nephites, and this gathering was simply so named because others recognized an already common structure among them.
All these details come together somewhat paradoxically: it seems that Alma is at once doing something entirely unprecedented and also doing something completely familiar to outsiders. The paradox is, however, quite understandable: an idea that has been around for quite some time, and something the people generally are familiar with, but Alma takes upon himself the overwhelming task of actually accomplishing it. Everyone knew what he was doing, but that does not at all mean that it was a common proceeding: Alma has done something rather radical in forming a church. He himself has grounded it by an ostensibly granted authority (see verse 13), and this verse adds that anyone "baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his [meaning God's] church." The implication is clear: Alma's radical movement is his authorized development of something everyone has been expecting for nearly five hundred years, but no one has felt authorized to do.
Now, it might be asked why no one had created a church before this time, even as the idea seems to have been completely familiar to everyone. Or it might be asked more specifically why God had not authorized any to accomplish the task. The answer, however, seems to be buried in a few details of the following story, as well as in some major events that happen later (see verses 31-33 of this chapter, and then especially the complex development that extends across Mosiah 25-29). The answer, put quite simply, is this: the existence of a monarchical system seems to exclude not only the need for churches, but also the possibility of churches. Under the monarchy, the cult seems to have been performed under the auspices of the king and a royal priesthood, but the church assumes a sort of local priesthood, a regionalism replacing the universal authority usually claimed by a king. In other words, since a monarchy seems to have obtained from the very start of Nephite civilization, there has never been need or room for churches. Alma's formation of this first church is taken quite specifically as an act of rebellion, and when he is given royal authority in Zarahemla to establish a number of churches, it leads rather quickly to the dissolution of the monarchy. Perhaps all of this is considered rather simply in a single, weighty phrsae in the following verse: the church is a question of "the kingdom of God."
  • Mosiah 18:18. As soon as there is a unity in this plurality--as soon as the church is a church--Alma ordains a local priesthood. The move may be what most incites the cry of rebellion from Noah by the end of the chapter. The move to ordain priests is a rather complex one, and it must be understood in the right light, lest it be considered from an entirely too protracted view. First to be said about the ordination of these priests: the ordination cannot be understood--culturally, historically--to have been a natural consequence of the gathering of the baptized, but rather should be understood as a radical innovation that ultimately redefines for the Nephites the very meaning of priesthood, and this altered meaning ultimately calls for a restructuring of the entire government. This ordination is ultimately the first step toward undoing the Nephite monarchy, though it happens among a small gathering on the outskirts of a Nephite settlement in Lamanite territory. But regardless of the broadest implications of the action, there seems to be a sort of pragmatism about the verse: the ordination was not an act of defiance, but an act of charity, a way of strengthening those baptized so that they might move from church to kingdom (the kingdom of God).
With the pragmatic character of the ordination drawn out, the differences between this priesthood and priesthood in the restored Church of the latter days are quite clear: Alma does not establish quorums, nor does it appear that he has two separate priesthoods with their several offices, nor again does it appear that these priests wield authority to perform any particular ordinances. The priesthood Alma sets up is, in the end, a rather simple priesthood, a stripped-down priesthood meant to perform the task merely of teaching, though teaching the highest principles, "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." That a great deal happens concerning "the priesthood" between these first ordinations and Alma the Younger's discourse in Alma 13 is obvious: but that development must traced rather carefully and in great detail to accomplish any satisfactory explanation of these questions. At the very least, what is unquestionably clear here is this: by the same "authority" he had to baptize, Alma ordains priests (note that he does not organize a priesthood, per se), and only a rather small number at that (no more than nine would have been ordained by the time the group flees into the wilderness), to take upon themselves the task of preaching and teaching those baptized and gathered together into the church.
  • Mosiah 18:19. If teaching "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" seems an overwhelming task, even a boundless task, this verse imposes some limits on it: these priests are limited to "the things which [Alma] had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." The verses seems thus rather simple and self-explanatory, but it does raise an issue that ought to be dealt with: one can only wonder why Alma would impose limits at all on the teaching task. In other words, since other scriptures promote a rather radical form of teaching--namely, teaching by the Spirit, taking no thought for the words to say, etc.--this rather limited task, hemmed in by what has been said before, seems conservative to say the least. This may not, however, be a commandment to teach in a manner other than that of teaching by the Spirit: there are at least two ways of reading this, in fact, as a commandment to teach by the Spirit. On the one hand, Alma might be suggesting that the Spirit would only lead one to speak of that which has been spoken before. This interpretation seems somewhat flawed, as the Spirit seems in a number of places to be That which specifically goes beyond previous knowledge. On the other hand--and this seems a more likely explanation--Alma might be suggesting that the role of the Spirit in teaching is precisely to help one to interpret the words of the prophets, that the Spirit enlarges upon those words, rather than providing to the teacher new words in the moment. This interpretation presents a sort of division of labors between priests (whatever priests are here) and prophets: the prophets have experiences beyond the Spirit, but priests are to work in the Spirit so as to interpret the prophetic word. The division and correlation might be compared to the gift of tongues (prophets) and the gift of the interpretation of tongues (priests). At any rate, the suggestion is that the Spirit works upon the teaching priest precisely in his attendance upon the words of the prophets.
With all of these details worked out, there is a rather careful phrasing at work in this verse which is all to easily missed: though one might see Alma equating himself with the prophets, the wording actually suggests that he equates himself with the priests in their division of labor, over against the prophets. The clue is the word "teach": the priests are to "teach" only what Alma had "taught," which suggests that they are to do what he himself has done. If their task then extends to teaching what "had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets," there may be here an implication that Alma's mode of teaching had been quite specifically a work of interpretation (in fact, a work of interpreting Abinadi?). Alma sees himself, according to the language presented in this verse, as a priest, rather than as a prophet. As such, the priests have a model for their work: Alma.
  • Mosiah 18:20. Again the priestly task is clarified, though a different verb appears in this verse: "preach." But the instance of "preach" marks a chiastic structure that runs through verses 18-20:
  • ...did he ordain to preach unto them
  • and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
  • And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, etc.
  • Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were...
Similar, in a manner, to the division of labor implicit in the last verse, there appears here a division of sorts, though it is a division within the priestly task: the priests are to preach and to teach, and these seem to be different things. Preaching, in verse 18, seems to be quite open ended, while the teaching of verse 18 seems to be quite specific (concerning the kingdom of God). Parallel to this, verse 19 offers certain bounds (or at least a sort of regional limitation) for teaching, while verse 20 remains rather open ended about preaching. What this means, however, remains to be worked out in detail.
A brief return to verse 19 would prove helpful. The phrasing there is incredibly negative, and verse 20 follows with a parallel structure: the priests are to preach and teach nothing... save... etc. The point is that it would be better for these to preach absolutely nothing whatsoever than to preach something other than what Alma provides them as a task. As for teaching, verse 19 provides the priests with textual boundaries, as it were: the priests are to teach the words of the prophets (apparently interpreting them according to the Spirit), even as Alma has done, and so their bounds there are ultimately textual, for they are to stay within the texts of the prophets. Preaching, however, is a different matter: the bounds for preaching seem to be practical: only two topics are provided, both of which are really more a question of action than of doctrine. In other words, "repentance" and "faith on the Lord" are probably not here understood as doctrines or principles, but as things to be done. Whereas "teaching" carries with it--inevitably--the implication of an intellectual process of sorting things out, "preaching" seems to carry with it rather the implication of exhortation, of invitation, of praxis.
The task of the priest, then: to urge his hearers to trust the Lord and to repent before Him, and to explore in the Spirit the words of the prophets. In the end, there seems to be no reason to read Alma as trying to keep the priests of his church under his thumb, or limited in what they can say: rather, he sees the work of the priest to be the work of edification according to the Spirit that works upon the prophetic texts and the work of reminding the people continually of their double duty to the Lord (the double duty of faith and repentance).
  • Mosiah 18:20: Similarity to D&C 42. These verses on teaching from Mosiah 18 are very similar to those regarding teaching in D&C 42. D&C 42:11 discusses ordination, similar to Mosiah 18:18. D&C 42:12 explains that teachers should "teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon," which is similar to Mosiah 18: 19's direction to teach "the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." D&C 42:12 also commanded teachers to focus on the "principles of the gospel" which are found in the scriptures/words of the prophets, perhaps similar to Alma's direction to teach nothing but "repentance" and "faith" in Mosiah 18:20. (In addition, also note that both Mosiah 18:27-28 and D&C 42: 30 etc, talk about taking care of the poor.)
  • Mosiah 18:21. After instructions concerning teaching and preaching are laid down, Alma commands the priests further (and it is clear that the priests specifically are the ones receiving this command and all those following up through verse 26: in verse 27, Alma will turn specifically to the members of the church to begin to offer them commandments) to avoid contention among themselves. That this commandment is given specifically to the priesthood is an interesting detail, and it deserves some attention.
At first, it would appear as if this commandment against contention is redundant (the covenants the people have made quite explicitly would seem to have covered this question--see verses 8-9), but that it is directed toward the priests seems to cancel the redundancy. Rather, it is a specific clarification for those ordained to preach and teach, for the priesthood. In other words, even as the people have covenanted to uphold one another and to suffer each other, there will remain among the priests a tendency to contend. This commandment, then, seems to be issued as a corrective to the tendency toward competition among the ordained priests. Having separate stewardships (each is set over a separate group of fifty people, a group assigned, apparently, by Alma), the priests do not seem overly likely to find themselves in contention, but then it is perhaps precisely because they have separate stewardships that Alma is concerned that contention might arise. As soon as the people are split up into several groups, there is a tendency towards schism, and each priest, having a sort of autonomy with his fifty, might all too easily make them his.
What Alma wants to have happen is quite clear: rather than contention, he would have them unified (one eye, one faith, one baptism). The way this is phrased is interesting: they are to "look forward with one eye." It may be that Alma phrases the question of unity in this way so as to emphasize that the priests should not be looking at each other, but forward. The words install a very real sense of progress, and the "having" that opens the following phrase then seems to lay the groundwork for that sense of promise: "having one faith and one baptism." The single and shared faith and baptism are together apparently the foundation for the progressive looking forward: faith and baptism together point these priests forward to something yet to come (most likely the "kingdom of God"). With another "having," Alma doubles the foundation that opens the possibility of a forward orientation: "having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another." Of interest here is a sort of redirection of the priests: whereas they were pointed forward before, now they are pointed "one towards another." But this redirection is not really a redirection: their eyes are to remain looking forward, while their hearts are turned to each other. The priests are to be bound to each other precisely in their progressive vision.
The two phrases beginning with "having" come together in an interesting manner. Both are pairs (on the one hand "faith" and "baptism," and on the other hand "unity" and "love"), and they are clearly parallel, in fact, might well be read as an inverted parallelism: faith is paired with love, while baptism and unity are paired between them. That faith is tied to love is suggestive, since "look forward with one eye" can only suggest hope. Baptism and unity are clearly tied in the covenant laid out earlier in the chapter. In short, the unity performed in the covenant of their baptism lays out for these priests an intertwining of faith, hope, and love that is to define their whole being in this work. That intertwining is of some interest, perhaps most because it seems to be a different model than is offered elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. Here, faith and love are the groundwork that open the possibility of hope (hope for the "kingdom of God"), they combine necessarily to open the possibility of hope. If faith is their trust in God and love is their union to each other, then hope becomes the possibility of uniting in one their relations to God and their relations to each other (hence, the "kingdom of God," a people gathered together, yet under the perfect rule of God). This curious reading of faith, hope, and love seems to be unique to this passage. As the next verse will show, it had, for this people, an incredible effect.
  • Mosiah 18:22. The first half of this verse reads as a sort of conclusion to all of what has gone before, and the second half confirms that conclusive spirit. But the second half deserves some close attention, bringing into this question the phrase "the children of God." There is, throughout scripture, a most important connection between sonship and the kingdom. Ostensibly, the idea seems usually to be that the son of God is the one who will inherit the throne, the kingdom. To become the "children of God" seems to mean that one enters into the reality of the kingdom. That one must become a child of God, however, is curious in another way: some rite of adoption seems to be implied. It may be that the ritual of Ex 21:1-7 is implied, or there may be some other ritual at work, but it should not be missed that there is some form of official adoption at work in this verse. In keeping the several commandments Alma offers the priests, they become--together--the "children of God," and this seems then to open onto the possibility of the commandments that follow. In other words, though this verse seems to have a conclusive spirit, in the end, it is not so: there is a sort of conclusion here, but it is a conclusion that opens the possibilties of the further commandments issued next. Alma seems to have offered some commandments that brought them to this point of adoption, and then he seems to have given them further commandments, due to the road that still might be taken ahead (still looking forward). At any rate, the adoption of this verse apparently must be taken into consideration before the further commandments in the next verses.
  • Mosiah 18:23. Beyond adoption, then, Alma issues some further commandments. The first pertains quite explicitly to the ritual side of this church. Whereas the task of preaching and teaching was explicitly non-ritual (as far as one can read into the text, at least), the commandment to observe the sabbath day--and especially to "keep it holy"--is undeniably a question of ritual. With the observance and maintenance of the sabbath, these priests have entered the realm of sacred time (and the gathering place of verse 25 will suggest sacred space as well), which inevitably summons the themes of ritual, of the temple. It is not clear, it must be noted, that there is anything quite like a temple yet (there is reason to believe that any construction of a temple would be mentioned), but there is quite clearly a cultus developing among these several churches.
The phrasing of this commandment is interesting further, because it sets the sabbath in the context of daily ritual: "every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God." There is here quite clearly a sanctification of the whole of time, though there is a specific setting apart of the sabbath. That these priests--and with them, one can only assume, the people--are living in sacred time, a sacred time punctuated by even more sacred time, is suggestive of a promised land (something more profound and more explicit than the passing reference in verse 25, mentioned above). There may be some evidence that this is at work in the song of praise to the place of Mormon offered later in this chapter (verse 30). Such a pattern follows quite closely, incidentally, the early history of the Restored Church: at first the several offices are restored, but without quorum organization or a saturating ritual complex; but by the Missouri period, the nature of the sabbath (and the accompanying sanctification of all time) is taught and enjoined upon the saints, precisely as they settle into the promised land in Jackson County. The formation in verse 25 of what seem to be a quorum of these priests is also rather interesting. (It might be noted then that there is reason to understand this chapter to be quite important for the pattern of the latter-day Restoration.) At any rate, the point is quite clear: there is, following the rites of adoption in verse 22, a sort of reification of the priesthood, a hypostasis, as it were, of their work, as they enter into ritual space and time and the kingdom of God begins to be established in their midst (hope being fulfilled?).
  • Mosiah 18:24. Interjected between the sanctification of time in verse 23 and the sanctification of space in verse 25 is this peculiar command: "that the priests whom [Alma] had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support." That it comes between these two works of sanctification is doubly suggestive: it is suggestive on the one hand because it seems to suggest that one should read this command as a question of sanctification as well; and it is suggestive on the other hand because it suggests that there is some change in the structure of the priesthood's means of living even as there is a movement towards the ritualization of the church. In other words, there is in this verse at least the hint that before the adoption rites of verse 22, the priests were living off of the labor of the people, like itinerant preachers. The change is significant (it again follows the pattern of the Restoration), as it seems (as mentioned) to be connected with the development of the cultus that sanctifies everything in the world of the church. That this commandment is central, in fact, the center of a rather simple chiasm, is quite suggestive: there is a hint that this commandment is the most important one, the one that changes everything. In other words, this verse seems to be the most important shift after the rites of adoption: that the priests now begin to labor for their own support seems to suggest that a very real community is formed, and that the people are at this very moment beginning to live the law of consecration. The theme is doubled in verse 26, and it is confirmed powerfully in verses 27-28: the law of consecration grounds the sanctification (ultimately the consecration) of time and space. All of this, it must be noticed, rides on the back of the adoption marked in verse 22.
  • Mosiah 18:25. It is necessary, after all of the above, to look quite carefully at the sanctification of space that seems to be implied in this verse, but there is a great deal more at work here as well. For example, there seems to be a separation of sorts between "the sabbath day" of verse 23 and the "one day in every week that was set apart" of this verse. In other words, the "regular" (regular as in every week, though the phrase seems to suggest something not exactly strictly scheduled) meetings for teaching and worship seem not to have necessarily been scheduled specifically on the Sabbath: worship might have been a non-Sabbath activity for these people. Rather, the Sabbath may have been something more fundamental than a day simply sanctified by the act of worship (a theme that might best be explored elsewhere in scripture). This disconnection of sorts between verses 23 and 25 highlights a number of other curiosities in the present verse: the gathering is a gathering of priests (albeit "to teach the people), and the implication of the following phrase, "and to worship the Lord their God," is that the priests were gathering to worship, and not necessarily the people. This focus on the priests culminates in the final clause of the verse: the priests were, "as often as it was in their power, to assemble themselves together." This inordinate focus on the priests as the very center of worship is of some interest, and it deserves some sustained attention, especially because it seems also to have something to do with the sanctification of space implied in the "regular" gatherings.
This verse could be read in a rather democratic way—that is, it could be that the priests comprise most of the people and so separating out the other, non-priests in the congregation would be less necessary than if the priests were only a small percentage of the congregation. Also, it may be that the themselves in the first part of the verse is referring to the priests but in the second part of the verse themselves refers to the priests and the other congregation members (future priests and priestesses?). On this reading the reconciliatoin of God to priests and priests to other church members furthers the unity theme of surrounding verses (v. 21 in particular). In verse 23 the focus seems to be on individual church members sanctifying the Sabbath in relation with God (a private type of worship), whereas here the public community aspect of worship seems the focus. Whether or not these activities take place on the same day, the parallel seems unmistakeable: individual worship of God is not sufficient, community worship must accompany it. This follows the pattern in many other scriptures where individual conversion is followed immediately by a concern for the conversion of friends and family (e.g. Enos 1, Lehi's dream in 1 Ne 8, and Isa 6)—indeed, this pattern parallels the order of the great two commandments as spoken by Christ in Matt 22:34-40.
  • Mosiah 18:30. This verse appears to employ different literary styles than is consistent with the rest of the account.
  • First there is the excessive location explanation: "done in Mormon, ...waters of Mormon, ....Mormon; ... the place of Mormon, ...the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon,"
  • Second, there is a very prosaic passage almost out of the blue: "how beautiful are they to the eyes of them ... for they shall sing to his praise forever."
It is hard to know whether this is Mormon, as abridger, emphasizing the geography that bears his name or Alma's original record. It is very difficult to jump to an unusual geographic orientation and then quickly to an aesthetic style in the middle of doing a narration by a more sedate method. (This is perhaps evidence of abridgement work in that Joseph Smith would not have thought to change styles so abruptly mid-narration if he were the author.)
  • Mosiah 19.2: Gideon. In Hebrew, the name Gideon means "hacker." The root verb is used elsewhere to describe the hacking down idolatrous images or shrines (cf. Deut 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chr 14:3; 31:1). The Old Testament judge Gideon may have recieved this name as a likely foreshadowing of either hacking down of the altar of Baal in Judg 6:25-32, or the hacking down of Israel's enemies depicted in Judg 7. The Book of Mormon Gideon is similarly a man of the sword; he draws it here in fighting King Noah, and is ultimately killed by the sword in Alma 1:9.
  • Mosiah 19.24: Ceremony. Regarding the use of "ceremony" in verse 24, it's possible that it is a reference to some type of ritual killing or death of a king. The text prior to verse 24 contains a sense of building urgency and the implication that the actions could be happening quickly, one right after the other. For example, we are told that the people were "angry" (v. 19) and that they acted in anger when they "caused that he should suffer, even unto death by fire" (v. 19). In the following verses "they were about to take the priests" (v. 21, emphasis added), the priests "fled" (v. 21), the people "were about to return" (v. 22, emphasis added) when they met the men of Gideon, and they immediately tell the men of Gideon everything. The textual image is that of an impassioned people acting on their impulses; the men of Gideon could very well have arrived in the middle of events not yet wrapped up, and it is possible that there remained some unfinished ritual or ceremony with regards to Noah's death that the people had yet to perform, especially if he was offered in their anger as a sacrifice so that the people could regain their families.
Another possibility is discussed by Hugh Nibley in the transcripts of his Book of Mormon class. He sees the word as a clear reference to some type of reconciliation or peace ceremony in which two factions—the men of Gideon versus the men who originally left their families and followed Noah into the wilderness—ritually agree to not fight against each other. Given the political context at the time, it is not unlikely that some kind of formal treaty or ritual of reconciliation would be performed.
The use of the word "ceremony" stands out awkwardly among these verses, in the same way that Mosiah 17:11 stands out among its neighboring verses. In addition to its possible reference as a "ritual killing" or "death of a king," the word "ceremony" could denote an execution. In Mosiah 17:9, Abinadi refuses to recall his words, and then, in v. 10 he proclaims his suffering, death, and refusal to recall his words as testimonies. He levels his own evidence, as it were, against the king and his priests, and in v. 11, Noah responds with fear. The following verses--Abinadi's prophecy--are famous, but the overlooked preceding verses lend a sense that not only was Abinadi making a prophetic statement in verses 15-19--he was pronouncing another sentence. His own death would be evidence of their corruption--evidence which could justify their own trial and eventual execution.

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  • Why is it that Alma has success in preaching where Abinadi didn't? Or did they have different callings or objectives?
  • Mosiah 18:4: Is this verse offered as an etymology of the name "Mormon"? In other words, did the king call the place "Mormon" because it was in the borders of the land or because it was infested with wild beasts, the implication is that this is the meaning of "Mormon"?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What do we make of the name Mormon coming from the wicked king Noah?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What does it mean to be "infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts"? What kind of animals might these have been, and why would an influx of these animals constitute an infestation?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant by a "fountain" of water? Why would it be considered pure water?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant here by a "thicket of small trees"? Is this an isolated cluster of trees in a cleared area, or a brushy area within a forest?
  • Mosiah 18:7: How could a "goodly number" of people gather to a "thicket of small trees" without being observed?
  • Mosiah 18:8: What does it mean to "come into the fold of God"
  • Mosiah 18:8: How are we called the people of God? What does it mean to be his people?
  • Mosiah 18:9: What does it mean to mourn with those who mourn? Is this different in some way than comforting those who morn? (We are told that our savior comforts those who mourn in Isa 61:2).
  • Mosiah 18:9: How can we "stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places"? How can we know how well we are doing at this?
  • Mosiah 18:9: How much should we desire our own redemption and eternal life? Is it selfish to be motivated by our own eternal rewards?
  • Mosiah 18:10: What does it mean to covenant to serve the LORD and keep his commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:10: How can "his Spirit" be poured out "more abundantly" upon us? What does this terminology add to our understanding of the gift of the Holy Ghost?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Who is this Helam, and why does he have the same name as the (presumably) royal Mulekite brother of Ammon (Mosiah 7:6) sent later to inquire about the whereabouts of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Why does Alma pray like this before baptizing Helam? Is this just an example of praying before performing anything unto the LORD, or is there something else going on here?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Where did Alma get his power and authority to baptize?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Why does this baptismal prayer differ from the one we use today?
  • Mosiah 18:13: What does it mean for Christ to have been "prepared from the foundation fo the world"? What is the "foundation" of the world?
  • Mosiah 18:14: Why would Alma and Helam both be "buried in the water" in this baptism? Was Alma baptizing himself?
  • Mosiah 18:14: What does it mean that they both "arose" after the baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:15: Why didn't Alma "bury himself again in the water" after the first baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:16: What does it mean for the people to be "filled with the grace of God"? How is grace something that can fill you?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: There are several places in the scriptures where teachers are counseled to teach nothing but repentance and faith on the Lord. Verse 20 here is one example. How literally can we interpret this? Is it applicable to us today in all situations where we are teaches? Or just some?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: Did these priests have access to written scriptures in order to teach that "which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets" or were they dependent on Alma and oral transmission of teachings?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: How can we preach "nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord"?
  • Mosiah 18:21: How does Alma's injunction against "contention" contrast with the continual rounds of contention described in the Record of Zeniff?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean to "look forward with one eye?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean for hearts to be "knit together in unity"? Is there a difference between being knit and being sealed? Does this involve a priesthood ordinance of some type, or is it merely a representation of people bonding to each other?
  • Mosiah 18:22: How do the people become the "children of God"? Aren't we already the children of a Heavenly Father? How is this different and what is the distinction?
  • Mosiah 18:23: Why is sabbath day observance specifically mentioned here, rather than other commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:23: According to Alma, giving thanks to God every day is a commandment. Was this a specific commandment just for his people, or is this a commandment that is in effect for our day as well?
  • Mosiah 18:24: How does this verse serve as a precedent for modern LDS practice of a lay priesthood?
  • Mosiah 18:24: What does it mean to "labor with [our] own hands"?
  • Mosiah 18:26: What does it mean to "receive the grace of God" for [our] labor?
  • Mosiah 19.3: Why might a minority of the people have been upset with the king?
  • Mosiah 19.3: What does it mean to "breathe out threatenings"?
  • Mosiah 19.3: How does the theme of contention play throughout the history of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How might this Gideon's role as liberator echo that of the Old Testament judge Gideon?
  • Mosiah 19.4: What are we to make of Gideon? Is he a role model? A cautionary figure? What can we learn from his experience?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How should we judge Gideon's wrath, swearing, and threats of violence?
  • Mosiah 19.4: After reading this account, should we be surprised by how Gideon meets his eventual end?
  • Mosiah 19.5: Why are we told here that Noah "fled and ran"? Aren't these pretty much the same thing?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What might be the significance of a tower being "near" the temple, rather than part of the temple?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What do we know about this Nephite temple?
  • Mosiah 19.6-10: We are presented here with a rather colorful narrative of fleeing, fighting, and negotiating. What is the purpose of this account? Why would Mormon bother to include it? Why don't we just have a more abbreviated account? Is there something more here that we should be getting from these stories?
  • Mosiah 19.8: Why might Gideon have spared King Noah? Why not just kill him and then go off to flee or fight the Lamanites?
  • Mosiah 19.11: Why might King Noah have tried to get the men to leave their wives and children?
  • Mosiah 19.15: Are the Nephites expected to pay 1/2 of all they have every year, or is this just a one time payment with an unspecified level of tribute to be paid afterwards?
  • Mosiah 19.16: Why wouldn't a son of Noah have followed his father and fled into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.17: What does it mean for Limhi to be described as a "just" man?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What position in society might Gideon have had that allowed him to send scouts out into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What do the Nephites mean by wilderness? Does this just mean uninhabited lands, or is there some other meaning?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What does it mean that the men had sworn "in their hearts"? Wasn't this a fairly public decision?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What are we to make of this desire to seek revenge? Is this a noble desire? How are we supposed to feel about these men who first leave their families to potentially perish, then get upset and want to seek revenge for their deaths?
  • Mosiah 19.20: These men have killed the king? What standing might they have under Old Testament law? Was this a justified killing, or something much more grievous?
  • Mosiah 19.21: How could these men have been able to grab and kill the king, but not the priests?

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Mosiah 19:1-5

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  • Mosiah 18:9: Those that mourn. Merriam-Webster defines mourn (verse 9) as "to feel or express grief or sorrow." In the scriptures mourning is usually used in the context of expressing grief over someone's death.
One way to understand the phrase those that mourn (verse 9) is to think about anyone who is experiencing grief or sorrow. In this way we have a responsibility to connect with the people around us in grief and sorrow and share in that sorrow.
Another interpretation is to take those that mourn as a reference to those who mourn for the Savior, his death and suffering. In that case we are asked if we are willing to join the community of people who mourn for the sins of this world and the resulting suffering and death that our Savior went through in order to save us from those sins. A similar invitation is given in the hymn "He Died the Great Redeemer Died." (See the related link below.)
It is also interesting to note the way verse 9 introduces the themes that will then be played out in the narratives of chapters 19-24. If we look at the two main stories of trial and deliverance—the people of Limhi and the people of Alma—we have both an example of a people who mourn and a people who stand in need of comfort.
The people of Limhi will fight battle after battle, both in their defense and in their pursuit of freedom. Their losses are extremely numerous (enough so that in Mosiah 21:17 Limhi has to command the remaining men to help support the widows and their children): throughout this process they are truly a people acquainted with mourning.
The people of Alma will be persecuted by Amulon: they will be in bondage, they will carry impossibly heavy burdens, they will be refused the comfort of vocal prayer. As such, they will truly be a people who stand in need of comfort.
  • Mosiah 18:8-10.' Echoes of Verses 8-10 and Their Profound Implications for Our Relationship with God. These verses are echoed to great effect when Alma and his people are in trouble in the Land of Helam (which is named after the person Alma is now baptizing). See exegesis on Mosiah 24:11-15.
  • Mosiah 18:17. Despite the fact that the word "church" appears a good number of times before this point in the Book of Mormon, this verse marks the first reference to an official Nephite church, or, in other words, this is the first Nephite church mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Mosiah 25:18 seems quite clearly to confirm this, as it mentions Mosiah II's authorization of Alma to create like churches throughout the land of Zarahemla, the suggestion being that there were none before that time. But even as this cross-reference seems to confirm the origins of the Nephite church in this passage, it also clarifies what the word "church" means here: if Alma was to go on to found a number of churches, then this "church" is not a system of faith, but a congregational organization, a regional gathering of people. From the very start, churches among the Nephites seem to have been a question of a number of people who worship together in a sort of gathered community.
Also interesting to the meaning of the word "church" as used in the Book of Mormon is the attribution of the name "the church of God, or the church of Christ," in this verse, to some unnamed source: those gathered by Alma were simply "called" so. Because the phrase uses the passive voice "they were called," what would otherwise be the subject (the one or the ones doing the calling) escapes notice, and the author of the passage can leave ambiguous the source of the title. In other words, whereas the author might have said that "Alma and his people called themselves the church of God, or the church of Christ," he rather says that "they were called" so, the implication being simply that someone besides those of the church called them that. It remains entirely unclear whence the epithet comes. There is a hint in all of this, then, that "church" was a term used somewhat commonly among the Nephites, that it was not a term that those gathered into the church specifically rooted out of, say, Nephi's writings in order to proclaim their justified foundation or any such thing. Rather, it seems, the concept of a church was not unfamiliar to the Nephites, and this gathering was simply so named because others recognized an already common structure among them.
All these details come together somewhat paradoxically: it seems that Alma is at once doing something entirely unprecedented and also doing something completely familiar to outsiders. The paradox is, however, quite understandable: an idea that has been around for quite some time, and something the people generally are familiar with, but Alma takes upon himself the overwhelming task of actually accomplishing it. Everyone knew what he was doing, but that does not at all mean that it was a common proceeding: Alma has done something rather radical in forming a church. He himself has grounded it by an ostensibly granted authority (see verse 13), and this verse adds that anyone "baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his [meaning God's] church." The implication is clear: Alma's radical movement is his authorized development of something everyone has been expecting for nearly five hundred years, but no one has felt authorized to do.
Now, it might be asked why no one had created a church before this time, even as the idea seems to have been completely familiar to everyone. Or it might be asked more specifically why God had not authorized any to accomplish the task. The answer, however, seems to be buried in a few details of the following story, as well as in some major events that happen later (see verses 31-33 of this chapter, and then especially the complex development that extends across Mosiah 25-29). The answer, put quite simply, is this: the existence of a monarchical system seems to exclude not only the need for churches, but also the possibility of churches. Under the monarchy, the cult seems to have been performed under the auspices of the king and a royal priesthood, but the church assumes a sort of local priesthood, a regionalism replacing the universal authority usually claimed by a king. In other words, since a monarchy seems to have obtained from the very start of Nephite civilization, there has never been need or room for churches. Alma's formation of this first church is taken quite specifically as an act of rebellion, and when he is given royal authority in Zarahemla to establish a number of churches, it leads rather quickly to the dissolution of the monarchy. Perhaps all of this is considered rather simply in a single, weighty phrsae in the following verse: the church is a question of "the kingdom of God."
  • Mosiah 18:18. As soon as there is a unity in this plurality--as soon as the church is a church--Alma ordains a local priesthood. The move may be what most incites the cry of rebellion from Noah by the end of the chapter. The move to ordain priests is a rather complex one, and it must be understood in the right light, lest it be considered from an entirely too protracted view. First to be said about the ordination of these priests: the ordination cannot be understood--culturally, historically--to have been a natural consequence of the gathering of the baptized, but rather should be understood as a radical innovation that ultimately redefines for the Nephites the very meaning of priesthood, and this altered meaning ultimately calls for a restructuring of the entire government. This ordination is ultimately the first step toward undoing the Nephite monarchy, though it happens among a small gathering on the outskirts of a Nephite settlement in Lamanite territory. But regardless of the broadest implications of the action, there seems to be a sort of pragmatism about the verse: the ordination was not an act of defiance, but an act of charity, a way of strengthening those baptized so that they might move from church to kingdom (the kingdom of God).
With the pragmatic character of the ordination drawn out, the differences between this priesthood and priesthood in the restored Church of the latter days are quite clear: Alma does not establish quorums, nor does it appear that he has two separate priesthoods with their several offices, nor again does it appear that these priests wield authority to perform any particular ordinances. The priesthood Alma sets up is, in the end, a rather simple priesthood, a stripped-down priesthood meant to perform the task merely of teaching, though teaching the highest principles, "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." That a great deal happens concerning "the priesthood" between these first ordinations and Alma the Younger's discourse in Alma 13 is obvious: but that development must traced rather carefully and in great detail to accomplish any satisfactory explanation of these questions. At the very least, what is unquestionably clear here is this: by the same "authority" he had to baptize, Alma ordains priests (note that he does not organize a priesthood, per se), and only a rather small number at that (no more than nine would have been ordained by the time the group flees into the wilderness), to take upon themselves the task of preaching and teaching those baptized and gathered together into the church.
  • Mosiah 18:19. If teaching "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" seems an overwhelming task, even a boundless task, this verse imposes some limits on it: these priests are limited to "the things which [Alma] had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." The verses seems thus rather simple and self-explanatory, but it does raise an issue that ought to be dealt with: one can only wonder why Alma would impose limits at all on the teaching task. In other words, since other scriptures promote a rather radical form of teaching--namely, teaching by the Spirit, taking no thought for the words to say, etc.--this rather limited task, hemmed in by what has been said before, seems conservative to say the least. This may not, however, be a commandment to teach in a manner other than that of teaching by the Spirit: there are at least two ways of reading this, in fact, as a commandment to teach by the Spirit. On the one hand, Alma might be suggesting that the Spirit would only lead one to speak of that which has been spoken before. This interpretation seems somewhat flawed, as the Spirit seems in a number of places to be That which specifically goes beyond previous knowledge. On the other hand--and this seems a more likely explanation--Alma might be suggesting that the role of the Spirit in teaching is precisely to help one to interpret the words of the prophets, that the Spirit enlarges upon those words, rather than providing to the teacher new words in the moment. This interpretation presents a sort of division of labors between priests (whatever priests are here) and prophets: the prophets have experiences beyond the Spirit, but priests are to work in the Spirit so as to interpret the prophetic word. The division and correlation might be compared to the gift of tongues (prophets) and the gift of the interpretation of tongues (priests). At any rate, the suggestion is that the Spirit works upon the teaching priest precisely in his attendance upon the words of the prophets.
With all of these details worked out, there is a rather careful phrasing at work in this verse which is all to easily missed: though one might see Alma equating himself with the prophets, the wording actually suggests that he equates himself with the priests in their division of labor, over against the prophets. The clue is the word "teach": the priests are to "teach" only what Alma had "taught," which suggests that they are to do what he himself has done. If their task then extends to teaching what "had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets," there may be here an implication that Alma's mode of teaching had been quite specifically a work of interpretation (in fact, a work of interpreting Abinadi?). Alma sees himself, according to the language presented in this verse, as a priest, rather than as a prophet. As such, the priests have a model for their work: Alma.
  • Mosiah 18:20. Again the priestly task is clarified, though a different verb appears in this verse: "preach." But the instance of "preach" marks a chiastic structure that runs through verses 18-20:
  • ...did he ordain to preach unto them
  • and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
  • And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, etc.
  • Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were...
Similar, in a manner, to the division of labor implicit in the last verse, there appears here a division of sorts, though it is a division within the priestly task: the priests are to preach and to teach, and these seem to be different things. Preaching, in verse 18, seems to be quite open ended, while the teaching of verse 18 seems to be quite specific (concerning the kingdom of God). Parallel to this, verse 19 offers certain bounds (or at least a sort of regional limitation) for teaching, while verse 20 remains rather open ended about preaching. What this means, however, remains to be worked out in detail.
A brief return to verse 19 would prove helpful. The phrasing there is incredibly negative, and verse 20 follows with a parallel structure: the priests are to preach and teach nothing... save... etc. The point is that it would be better for these to preach absolutely nothing whatsoever than to preach something other than what Alma provides them as a task. As for teaching, verse 19 provides the priests with textual boundaries, as it were: the priests are to teach the words of the prophets (apparently interpreting them according to the Spirit), even as Alma has done, and so their bounds there are ultimately textual, for they are to stay within the texts of the prophets. Preaching, however, is a different matter: the bounds for preaching seem to be practical: only two topics are provided, both of which are really more a question of action than of doctrine. In other words, "repentance" and "faith on the Lord" are probably not here understood as doctrines or principles, but as things to be done. Whereas "teaching" carries with it--inevitably--the implication of an intellectual process of sorting things out, "preaching" seems to carry with it rather the implication of exhortation, of invitation, of praxis.
The task of the priest, then: to urge his hearers to trust the Lord and to repent before Him, and to explore in the Spirit the words of the prophets. In the end, there seems to be no reason to read Alma as trying to keep the priests of his church under his thumb, or limited in what they can say: rather, he sees the work of the priest to be the work of edification according to the Spirit that works upon the prophetic texts and the work of reminding the people continually of their double duty to the Lord (the double duty of faith and repentance).
  • Mosiah 18:20: Similarity to D&C 42. These verses on teaching from Mosiah 18 are very similar to those regarding teaching in D&C 42. D&C 42:11 discusses ordination, similar to Mosiah 18:18. D&C 42:12 explains that teachers should "teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon," which is similar to Mosiah 18: 19's direction to teach "the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." D&C 42:12 also commanded teachers to focus on the "principles of the gospel" which are found in the scriptures/words of the prophets, perhaps similar to Alma's direction to teach nothing but "repentance" and "faith" in Mosiah 18:20. (In addition, also note that both Mosiah 18:27-28 and D&C 42: 30 etc, talk about taking care of the poor.)
  • Mosiah 18:21. After instructions concerning teaching and preaching are laid down, Alma commands the priests further (and it is clear that the priests specifically are the ones receiving this command and all those following up through verse 26: in verse 27, Alma will turn specifically to the members of the church to begin to offer them commandments) to avoid contention among themselves. That this commandment is given specifically to the priesthood is an interesting detail, and it deserves some attention.
At first, it would appear as if this commandment against contention is redundant (the covenants the people have made quite explicitly would seem to have covered this question--see verses 8-9), but that it is directed toward the priests seems to cancel the redundancy. Rather, it is a specific clarification for those ordained to preach and teach, for the priesthood. In other words, even as the people have covenanted to uphold one another and to suffer each other, there will remain among the priests a tendency to contend. This commandment, then, seems to be issued as a corrective to the tendency toward competition among the ordained priests. Having separate stewardships (each is set over a separate group of fifty people, a group assigned, apparently, by Alma), the priests do not seem overly likely to find themselves in contention, but then it is perhaps precisely because they have separate stewardships that Alma is concerned that contention might arise. As soon as the people are split up into several groups, there is a tendency towards schism, and each priest, having a sort of autonomy with his fifty, might all too easily make them his.
What Alma wants to have happen is quite clear: rather than contention, he would have them unified (one eye, one faith, one baptism). The way this is phrased is interesting: they are to "look forward with one eye." It may be that Alma phrases the question of unity in this way so as to emphasize that the priests should not be looking at each other, but forward. The words install a very real sense of progress, and the "having" that opens the following phrase then seems to lay the groundwork for that sense of promise: "having one faith and one baptism." The single and shared faith and baptism are together apparently the foundation for the progressive looking forward: faith and baptism together point these priests forward to something yet to come (most likely the "kingdom of God"). With another "having," Alma doubles the foundation that opens the possibility of a forward orientation: "having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another." Of interest here is a sort of redirection of the priests: whereas they were pointed forward before, now they are pointed "one towards another." But this redirection is not really a redirection: their eyes are to remain looking forward, while their hearts are turned to each other. The priests are to be bound to each other precisely in their progressive vision.
The two phrases beginning with "having" come together in an interesting manner. Both are pairs (on the one hand "faith" and "baptism," and on the other hand "unity" and "love"), and they are clearly parallel, in fact, might well be read as an inverted parallelism: faith is paired with love, while baptism and unity are paired between them. That faith is tied to love is suggestive, since "look forward with one eye" can only suggest hope. Baptism and unity are clearly tied in the covenant laid out earlier in the chapter. In short, the unity performed in the covenant of their baptism lays out for these priests an intertwining of faith, hope, and love that is to define their whole being in this work. That intertwining is of some interest, perhaps most because it seems to be a different model than is offered elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. Here, faith and love are the groundwork that open the possibility of hope (hope for the "kingdom of God"), they combine necessarily to open the possibility of hope. If faith is their trust in God and love is their union to each other, then hope becomes the possibility of uniting in one their relations to God and their relations to each other (hence, the "kingdom of God," a people gathered together, yet under the perfect rule of God). This curious reading of faith, hope, and love seems to be unique to this passage. As the next verse will show, it had, for this people, an incredible effect.
  • Mosiah 18:22. The first half of this verse reads as a sort of conclusion to all of what has gone before, and the second half confirms that conclusive spirit. But the second half deserves some close attention, bringing into this question the phrase "the children of God." There is, throughout scripture, a most important connection between sonship and the kingdom. Ostensibly, the idea seems usually to be that the son of God is the one who will inherit the throne, the kingdom. To become the "children of God" seems to mean that one enters into the reality of the kingdom. That one must become a child of God, however, is curious in another way: some rite of adoption seems to be implied. It may be that the ritual of Ex 21:1-7 is implied, or there may be some other ritual at work, but it should not be missed that there is some form of official adoption at work in this verse. In keeping the several commandments Alma offers the priests, they become--together--the "children of God," and this seems then to open onto the possibility of the commandments that follow. In other words, though this verse seems to have a conclusive spirit, in the end, it is not so: there is a sort of conclusion here, but it is a conclusion that opens the possibilties of the further commandments issued next. Alma seems to have offered some commandments that brought them to this point of adoption, and then he seems to have given them further commandments, due to the road that still might be taken ahead (still looking forward). At any rate, the adoption of this verse apparently must be taken into consideration before the further commandments in the next verses.
  • Mosiah 18:23. Beyond adoption, then, Alma issues some further commandments. The first pertains quite explicitly to the ritual side of this church. Whereas the task of preaching and teaching was explicitly non-ritual (as far as one can read into the text, at least), the commandment to observe the sabbath day--and especially to "keep it holy"--is undeniably a question of ritual. With the observance and maintenance of the sabbath, these priests have entered the realm of sacred time (and the gathering place of verse 25 will suggest sacred space as well), which inevitably summons the themes of ritual, of the temple. It is not clear, it must be noted, that there is anything quite like a temple yet (there is reason to believe that any construction of a temple would be mentioned), but there is quite clearly a cultus developing among these several churches.
The phrasing of this commandment is interesting further, because it sets the sabbath in the context of daily ritual: "every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God." There is here quite clearly a sanctification of the whole of time, though there is a specific setting apart of the sabbath. That these priests--and with them, one can only assume, the people--are living in sacred time, a sacred time punctuated by even more sacred time, is suggestive of a promised land (something more profound and more explicit than the passing reference in verse 25, mentioned above). There may be some evidence that this is at work in the song of praise to the place of Mormon offered later in this chapter (verse 30). Such a pattern follows quite closely, incidentally, the early history of the Restored Church: at first the several offices are restored, but without quorum organization or a saturating ritual complex; but by the Missouri period, the nature of the sabbath (and the accompanying sanctification of all time) is taught and enjoined upon the saints, precisely as they settle into the promised land in Jackson County. The formation in verse 25 of what seem to be a quorum of these priests is also rather interesting. (It might be noted then that there is reason to understand this chapter to be quite important for the pattern of the latter-day Restoration.) At any rate, the point is quite clear: there is, following the rites of adoption in verse 22, a sort of reification of the priesthood, a hypostasis, as it were, of their work, as they enter into ritual space and time and the kingdom of God begins to be established in their midst (hope being fulfilled?).
  • Mosiah 18:24. Interjected between the sanctification of time in verse 23 and the sanctification of space in verse 25 is this peculiar command: "that the priests whom [Alma] had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support." That it comes between these two works of sanctification is doubly suggestive: it is suggestive on the one hand because it seems to suggest that one should read this command as a question of sanctification as well; and it is suggestive on the other hand because it suggests that there is some change in the structure of the priesthood's means of living even as there is a movement towards the ritualization of the church. In other words, there is in this verse at least the hint that before the adoption rites of verse 22, the priests were living off of the labor of the people, like itinerant preachers. The change is significant (it again follows the pattern of the Restoration), as it seems (as mentioned) to be connected with the development of the cultus that sanctifies everything in the world of the church. That this commandment is central, in fact, the center of a rather simple chiasm, is quite suggestive: there is a hint that this commandment is the most important one, the one that changes everything. In other words, this verse seems to be the most important shift after the rites of adoption: that the priests now begin to labor for their own support seems to suggest that a very real community is formed, and that the people are at this very moment beginning to live the law of consecration. The theme is doubled in verse 26, and it is confirmed powerfully in verses 27-28: the law of consecration grounds the sanctification (ultimately the consecration) of time and space. All of this, it must be noticed, rides on the back of the adoption marked in verse 22.
  • Mosiah 18:25. It is necessary, after all of the above, to look quite carefully at the sanctification of space that seems to be implied in this verse, but there is a great deal more at work here as well. For example, there seems to be a separation of sorts between "the sabbath day" of verse 23 and the "one day in every week that was set apart" of this verse. In other words, the "regular" (regular as in every week, though the phrase seems to suggest something not exactly strictly scheduled) meetings for teaching and worship seem not to have necessarily been scheduled specifically on the Sabbath: worship might have been a non-Sabbath activity for these people. Rather, the Sabbath may have been something more fundamental than a day simply sanctified by the act of worship (a theme that might best be explored elsewhere in scripture). This disconnection of sorts between verses 23 and 25 highlights a number of other curiosities in the present verse: the gathering is a gathering of priests (albeit "to teach the people), and the implication of the following phrase, "and to worship the Lord their God," is that the priests were gathering to worship, and not necessarily the people. This focus on the priests culminates in the final clause of the verse: the priests were, "as often as it was in their power, to assemble themselves together." This inordinate focus on the priests as the very center of worship is of some interest, and it deserves some sustained attention, especially because it seems also to have something to do with the sanctification of space implied in the "regular" gatherings.
This verse could be read in a rather democratic way—that is, it could be that the priests comprise most of the people and so separating out the other, non-priests in the congregation would be less necessary than if the priests were only a small percentage of the congregation. Also, it may be that the themselves in the first part of the verse is referring to the priests but in the second part of the verse themselves refers to the priests and the other congregation members (future priests and priestesses?). On this reading the reconciliatoin of God to priests and priests to other church members furthers the unity theme of surrounding verses (v. 21 in particular). In verse 23 the focus seems to be on individual church members sanctifying the Sabbath in relation with God (a private type of worship), whereas here the public community aspect of worship seems the focus. Whether or not these activities take place on the same day, the parallel seems unmistakeable: individual worship of God is not sufficient, community worship must accompany it. This follows the pattern in many other scriptures where individual conversion is followed immediately by a concern for the conversion of friends and family (e.g. Enos 1, Lehi's dream in 1 Ne 8, and Isa 6)—indeed, this pattern parallels the order of the great two commandments as spoken by Christ in Matt 22:34-40.
  • Mosiah 18:30. This verse appears to employ different literary styles than is consistent with the rest of the account.
  • First there is the excessive location explanation: "done in Mormon, ...waters of Mormon, ....Mormon; ... the place of Mormon, ...the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon,"
  • Second, there is a very prosaic passage almost out of the blue: "how beautiful are they to the eyes of them ... for they shall sing to his praise forever."
It is hard to know whether this is Mormon, as abridger, emphasizing the geography that bears his name or Alma's original record. It is very difficult to jump to an unusual geographic orientation and then quickly to an aesthetic style in the middle of doing a narration by a more sedate method. (This is perhaps evidence of abridgement work in that Joseph Smith would not have thought to change styles so abruptly mid-narration if he were the author.)
  • Mosiah 19.2: Gideon. In Hebrew, the name Gideon means "hacker." The root verb is used elsewhere to describe the hacking down idolatrous images or shrines (cf. Deut 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chr 14:3; 31:1). The Old Testament judge Gideon may have recieved this name as a likely foreshadowing of either hacking down of the altar of Baal in Judg 6:25-32, or the hacking down of Israel's enemies depicted in Judg 7. The Book of Mormon Gideon is similarly a man of the sword; he draws it here in fighting King Noah, and is ultimately killed by the sword in Alma 1:9.
  • Mosiah 19.24: Ceremony. Regarding the use of "ceremony" in verse 24, it's possible that it is a reference to some type of ritual killing or death of a king. The text prior to verse 24 contains a sense of building urgency and the implication that the actions could be happening quickly, one right after the other. For example, we are told that the people were "angry" (v. 19) and that they acted in anger when they "caused that he should suffer, even unto death by fire" (v. 19). In the following verses "they were about to take the priests" (v. 21, emphasis added), the priests "fled" (v. 21), the people "were about to return" (v. 22, emphasis added) when they met the men of Gideon, and they immediately tell the men of Gideon everything. The textual image is that of an impassioned people acting on their impulses; the men of Gideon could very well have arrived in the middle of events not yet wrapped up, and it is possible that there remained some unfinished ritual or ceremony with regards to Noah's death that the people had yet to perform, especially if he was offered in their anger as a sacrifice so that the people could regain their families.
Another possibility is discussed by Hugh Nibley in the transcripts of his Book of Mormon class. He sees the word as a clear reference to some type of reconciliation or peace ceremony in which two factions—the men of Gideon versus the men who originally left their families and followed Noah into the wilderness—ritually agree to not fight against each other. Given the political context at the time, it is not unlikely that some kind of formal treaty or ritual of reconciliation would be performed.
The use of the word "ceremony" stands out awkwardly among these verses, in the same way that Mosiah 17:11 stands out among its neighboring verses. In addition to its possible reference as a "ritual killing" or "death of a king," the word "ceremony" could denote an execution. In Mosiah 17:9, Abinadi refuses to recall his words, and then, in v. 10 he proclaims his suffering, death, and refusal to recall his words as testimonies. He levels his own evidence, as it were, against the king and his priests, and in v. 11, Noah responds with fear. The following verses--Abinadi's prophecy--are famous, but the overlooked preceding verses lend a sense that not only was Abinadi making a prophetic statement in verses 15-19--he was pronouncing another sentence. His own death would be evidence of their corruption--evidence which could justify their own trial and eventual execution.

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  • Why is it that Alma has success in preaching where Abinadi didn't? Or did they have different callings or objectives?
  • Mosiah 18:4: Is this verse offered as an etymology of the name "Mormon"? In other words, did the king call the place "Mormon" because it was in the borders of the land or because it was infested with wild beasts, the implication is that this is the meaning of "Mormon"?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What do we make of the name Mormon coming from the wicked king Noah?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What does it mean to be "infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts"? What kind of animals might these have been, and why would an influx of these animals constitute an infestation?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant by a "fountain" of water? Why would it be considered pure water?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant here by a "thicket of small trees"? Is this an isolated cluster of trees in a cleared area, or a brushy area within a forest?
  • Mosiah 18:7: How could a "goodly number" of people gather to a "thicket of small trees" without being observed?
  • Mosiah 18:8: What does it mean to "come into the fold of God"
  • Mosiah 18:8: How are we called the people of God? What does it mean to be his people?
  • Mosiah 18:9: What does it mean to mourn with those who mourn? Is this different in some way than comforting those who morn? (We are told that our savior comforts those who mourn in Isa 61:2).
  • Mosiah 18:9: How can we "stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places"? How can we know how well we are doing at this?
  • Mosiah 18:9: How much should we desire our own redemption and eternal life? Is it selfish to be motivated by our own eternal rewards?
  • Mosiah 18:10: What does it mean to covenant to serve the LORD and keep his commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:10: How can "his Spirit" be poured out "more abundantly" upon us? What does this terminology add to our understanding of the gift of the Holy Ghost?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Who is this Helam, and why does he have the same name as the (presumably) royal Mulekite brother of Ammon (Mosiah 7:6) sent later to inquire about the whereabouts of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Why does Alma pray like this before baptizing Helam? Is this just an example of praying before performing anything unto the LORD, or is there something else going on here?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Where did Alma get his power and authority to baptize?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Why does this baptismal prayer differ from the one we use today?
  • Mosiah 18:13: What does it mean for Christ to have been "prepared from the foundation fo the world"? What is the "foundation" of the world?
  • Mosiah 18:14: Why would Alma and Helam both be "buried in the water" in this baptism? Was Alma baptizing himself?
  • Mosiah 18:14: What does it mean that they both "arose" after the baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:15: Why didn't Alma "bury himself again in the water" after the first baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:16: What does it mean for the people to be "filled with the grace of God"? How is grace something that can fill you?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: There are several places in the scriptures where teachers are counseled to teach nothing but repentance and faith on the Lord. Verse 20 here is one example. How literally can we interpret this? Is it applicable to us today in all situations where we are teaches? Or just some?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: Did these priests have access to written scriptures in order to teach that "which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets" or were they dependent on Alma and oral transmission of teachings?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: How can we preach "nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord"?
  • Mosiah 18:21: How does Alma's injunction against "contention" contrast with the continual rounds of contention described in the Record of Zeniff?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean to "look forward with one eye?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean for hearts to be "knit together in unity"? Is there a difference between being knit and being sealed? Does this involve a priesthood ordinance of some type, or is it merely a representation of people bonding to each other?
  • Mosiah 18:22: How do the people become the "children of God"? Aren't we already the children of a Heavenly Father? How is this different and what is the distinction?
  • Mosiah 18:23: Why is sabbath day observance specifically mentioned here, rather than other commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:23: According to Alma, giving thanks to God every day is a commandment. Was this a specific commandment just for his people, or is this a commandment that is in effect for our day as well?
  • Mosiah 18:24: How does this verse serve as a precedent for modern LDS practice of a lay priesthood?
  • Mosiah 18:24: What does it mean to "labor with [our] own hands"?
  • Mosiah 18:26: What does it mean to "receive the grace of God" for [our] labor?
  • Mosiah 19.3: Why might a minority of the people have been upset with the king?
  • Mosiah 19.3: What does it mean to "breathe out threatenings"?
  • Mosiah 19.3: How does the theme of contention play throughout the history of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How might this Gideon's role as liberator echo that of the Old Testament judge Gideon?
  • Mosiah 19.4: What are we to make of Gideon? Is he a role model? A cautionary figure? What can we learn from his experience?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How should we judge Gideon's wrath, swearing, and threats of violence?
  • Mosiah 19.4: After reading this account, should we be surprised by how Gideon meets his eventual end?
  • Mosiah 19.5: Why are we told here that Noah "fled and ran"? Aren't these pretty much the same thing?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What might be the significance of a tower being "near" the temple, rather than part of the temple?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What do we know about this Nephite temple?
  • Mosiah 19.6-10: We are presented here with a rather colorful narrative of fleeing, fighting, and negotiating. What is the purpose of this account? Why would Mormon bother to include it? Why don't we just have a more abbreviated account? Is there something more here that we should be getting from these stories?
  • Mosiah 19.8: Why might Gideon have spared King Noah? Why not just kill him and then go off to flee or fight the Lamanites?
  • Mosiah 19.11: Why might King Noah have tried to get the men to leave their wives and children?
  • Mosiah 19.15: Are the Nephites expected to pay 1/2 of all they have every year, or is this just a one time payment with an unspecified level of tribute to be paid afterwards?
  • Mosiah 19.16: Why wouldn't a son of Noah have followed his father and fled into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.17: What does it mean for Limhi to be described as a "just" man?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What position in society might Gideon have had that allowed him to send scouts out into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What do the Nephites mean by wilderness? Does this just mean uninhabited lands, or is there some other meaning?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What does it mean that the men had sworn "in their hearts"? Wasn't this a fairly public decision?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What are we to make of this desire to seek revenge? Is this a noble desire? How are we supposed to feel about these men who first leave their families to potentially perish, then get upset and want to seek revenge for their deaths?
  • Mosiah 19.20: These men have killed the king? What standing might they have under Old Testament law? Was this a justified killing, or something much more grievous?
  • Mosiah 19.21: How could these men have been able to grab and kill the king, but not the priests?

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Mosiah 19:6-10

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  • Mosiah 18:9: Those that mourn. Merriam-Webster defines mourn (verse 9) as "to feel or express grief or sorrow." In the scriptures mourning is usually used in the context of expressing grief over someone's death.
One way to understand the phrase those that mourn (verse 9) is to think about anyone who is experiencing grief or sorrow. In this way we have a responsibility to connect with the people around us in grief and sorrow and share in that sorrow.
Another interpretation is to take those that mourn as a reference to those who mourn for the Savior, his death and suffering. In that case we are asked if we are willing to join the community of people who mourn for the sins of this world and the resulting suffering and death that our Savior went through in order to save us from those sins. A similar invitation is given in the hymn "He Died the Great Redeemer Died." (See the related link below.)
It is also interesting to note the way verse 9 introduces the themes that will then be played out in the narratives of chapters 19-24. If we look at the two main stories of trial and deliverance—the people of Limhi and the people of Alma—we have both an example of a people who mourn and a people who stand in need of comfort.
The people of Limhi will fight battle after battle, both in their defense and in their pursuit of freedom. Their losses are extremely numerous (enough so that in Mosiah 21:17 Limhi has to command the remaining men to help support the widows and their children): throughout this process they are truly a people acquainted with mourning.
The people of Alma will be persecuted by Amulon: they will be in bondage, they will carry impossibly heavy burdens, they will be refused the comfort of vocal prayer. As such, they will truly be a people who stand in need of comfort.
  • Mosiah 18:8-10.' Echoes of Verses 8-10 and Their Profound Implications for Our Relationship with God. These verses are echoed to great effect when Alma and his people are in trouble in the Land of Helam (which is named after the person Alma is now baptizing). See exegesis on Mosiah 24:11-15.
  • Mosiah 18:17. Despite the fact that the word "church" appears a good number of times before this point in the Book of Mormon, this verse marks the first reference to an official Nephite church, or, in other words, this is the first Nephite church mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Mosiah 25:18 seems quite clearly to confirm this, as it mentions Mosiah II's authorization of Alma to create like churches throughout the land of Zarahemla, the suggestion being that there were none before that time. But even as this cross-reference seems to confirm the origins of the Nephite church in this passage, it also clarifies what the word "church" means here: if Alma was to go on to found a number of churches, then this "church" is not a system of faith, but a congregational organization, a regional gathering of people. From the very start, churches among the Nephites seem to have been a question of a number of people who worship together in a sort of gathered community.
Also interesting to the meaning of the word "church" as used in the Book of Mormon is the attribution of the name "the church of God, or the church of Christ," in this verse, to some unnamed source: those gathered by Alma were simply "called" so. Because the phrase uses the passive voice "they were called," what would otherwise be the subject (the one or the ones doing the calling) escapes notice, and the author of the passage can leave ambiguous the source of the title. In other words, whereas the author might have said that "Alma and his people called themselves the church of God, or the church of Christ," he rather says that "they were called" so, the implication being simply that someone besides those of the church called them that. It remains entirely unclear whence the epithet comes. There is a hint in all of this, then, that "church" was a term used somewhat commonly among the Nephites, that it was not a term that those gathered into the church specifically rooted out of, say, Nephi's writings in order to proclaim their justified foundation or any such thing. Rather, it seems, the concept of a church was not unfamiliar to the Nephites, and this gathering was simply so named because others recognized an already common structure among them.
All these details come together somewhat paradoxically: it seems that Alma is at once doing something entirely unprecedented and also doing something completely familiar to outsiders. The paradox is, however, quite understandable: an idea that has been around for quite some time, and something the people generally are familiar with, but Alma takes upon himself the overwhelming task of actually accomplishing it. Everyone knew what he was doing, but that does not at all mean that it was a common proceeding: Alma has done something rather radical in forming a church. He himself has grounded it by an ostensibly granted authority (see verse 13), and this verse adds that anyone "baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his [meaning God's] church." The implication is clear: Alma's radical movement is his authorized development of something everyone has been expecting for nearly five hundred years, but no one has felt authorized to do.
Now, it might be asked why no one had created a church before this time, even as the idea seems to have been completely familiar to everyone. Or it might be asked more specifically why God had not authorized any to accomplish the task. The answer, however, seems to be buried in a few details of the following story, as well as in some major events that happen later (see verses 31-33 of this chapter, and then especially the complex development that extends across Mosiah 25-29). The answer, put quite simply, is this: the existence of a monarchical system seems to exclude not only the need for churches, but also the possibility of churches. Under the monarchy, the cult seems to have been performed under the auspices of the king and a royal priesthood, but the church assumes a sort of local priesthood, a regionalism replacing the universal authority usually claimed by a king. In other words, since a monarchy seems to have obtained from the very start of Nephite civilization, there has never been need or room for churches. Alma's formation of this first church is taken quite specifically as an act of rebellion, and when he is given royal authority in Zarahemla to establish a number of churches, it leads rather quickly to the dissolution of the monarchy. Perhaps all of this is considered rather simply in a single, weighty phrsae in the following verse: the church is a question of "the kingdom of God."
  • Mosiah 18:18. As soon as there is a unity in this plurality--as soon as the church is a church--Alma ordains a local priesthood. The move may be what most incites the cry of rebellion from Noah by the end of the chapter. The move to ordain priests is a rather complex one, and it must be understood in the right light, lest it be considered from an entirely too protracted view. First to be said about the ordination of these priests: the ordination cannot be understood--culturally, historically--to have been a natural consequence of the gathering of the baptized, but rather should be understood as a radical innovation that ultimately redefines for the Nephites the very meaning of priesthood, and this altered meaning ultimately calls for a restructuring of the entire government. This ordination is ultimately the first step toward undoing the Nephite monarchy, though it happens among a small gathering on the outskirts of a Nephite settlement in Lamanite territory. But regardless of the broadest implications of the action, there seems to be a sort of pragmatism about the verse: the ordination was not an act of defiance, but an act of charity, a way of strengthening those baptized so that they might move from church to kingdom (the kingdom of God).
With the pragmatic character of the ordination drawn out, the differences between this priesthood and priesthood in the restored Church of the latter days are quite clear: Alma does not establish quorums, nor does it appear that he has two separate priesthoods with their several offices, nor again does it appear that these priests wield authority to perform any particular ordinances. The priesthood Alma sets up is, in the end, a rather simple priesthood, a stripped-down priesthood meant to perform the task merely of teaching, though teaching the highest principles, "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." That a great deal happens concerning "the priesthood" between these first ordinations and Alma the Younger's discourse in Alma 13 is obvious: but that development must traced rather carefully and in great detail to accomplish any satisfactory explanation of these questions. At the very least, what is unquestionably clear here is this: by the same "authority" he had to baptize, Alma ordains priests (note that he does not organize a priesthood, per se), and only a rather small number at that (no more than nine would have been ordained by the time the group flees into the wilderness), to take upon themselves the task of preaching and teaching those baptized and gathered together into the church.
  • Mosiah 18:19. If teaching "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" seems an overwhelming task, even a boundless task, this verse imposes some limits on it: these priests are limited to "the things which [Alma] had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." The verses seems thus rather simple and self-explanatory, but it does raise an issue that ought to be dealt with: one can only wonder why Alma would impose limits at all on the teaching task. In other words, since other scriptures promote a rather radical form of teaching--namely, teaching by the Spirit, taking no thought for the words to say, etc.--this rather limited task, hemmed in by what has been said before, seems conservative to say the least. This may not, however, be a commandment to teach in a manner other than that of teaching by the Spirit: there are at least two ways of reading this, in fact, as a commandment to teach by the Spirit. On the one hand, Alma might be suggesting that the Spirit would only lead one to speak of that which has been spoken before. This interpretation seems somewhat flawed, as the Spirit seems in a number of places to be That which specifically goes beyond previous knowledge. On the other hand--and this seems a more likely explanation--Alma might be suggesting that the role of the Spirit in teaching is precisely to help one to interpret the words of the prophets, that the Spirit enlarges upon those words, rather than providing to the teacher new words in the moment. This interpretation presents a sort of division of labors between priests (whatever priests are here) and prophets: the prophets have experiences beyond the Spirit, but priests are to work in the Spirit so as to interpret the prophetic word. The division and correlation might be compared to the gift of tongues (prophets) and the gift of the interpretation of tongues (priests). At any rate, the suggestion is that the Spirit works upon the teaching priest precisely in his attendance upon the words of the prophets.
With all of these details worked out, there is a rather careful phrasing at work in this verse which is all to easily missed: though one might see Alma equating himself with the prophets, the wording actually suggests that he equates himself with the priests in their division of labor, over against the prophets. The clue is the word "teach": the priests are to "teach" only what Alma had "taught," which suggests that they are to do what he himself has done. If their task then extends to teaching what "had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets," there may be here an implication that Alma's mode of teaching had been quite specifically a work of interpretation (in fact, a work of interpreting Abinadi?). Alma sees himself, according to the language presented in this verse, as a priest, rather than as a prophet. As such, the priests have a model for their work: Alma.
  • Mosiah 18:20. Again the priestly task is clarified, though a different verb appears in this verse: "preach." But the instance of "preach" marks a chiastic structure that runs through verses 18-20:
  • ...did he ordain to preach unto them
  • and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
  • And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, etc.
  • Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were...
Similar, in a manner, to the division of labor implicit in the last verse, there appears here a division of sorts, though it is a division within the priestly task: the priests are to preach and to teach, and these seem to be different things. Preaching, in verse 18, seems to be quite open ended, while the teaching of verse 18 seems to be quite specific (concerning the kingdom of God). Parallel to this, verse 19 offers certain bounds (or at least a sort of regional limitation) for teaching, while verse 20 remains rather open ended about preaching. What this means, however, remains to be worked out in detail.
A brief return to verse 19 would prove helpful. The phrasing there is incredibly negative, and verse 20 follows with a parallel structure: the priests are to preach and teach nothing... save... etc. The point is that it would be better for these to preach absolutely nothing whatsoever than to preach something other than what Alma provides them as a task. As for teaching, verse 19 provides the priests with textual boundaries, as it were: the priests are to teach the words of the prophets (apparently interpreting them according to the Spirit), even as Alma has done, and so their bounds there are ultimately textual, for they are to stay within the texts of the prophets. Preaching, however, is a different matter: the bounds for preaching seem to be practical: only two topics are provided, both of which are really more a question of action than of doctrine. In other words, "repentance" and "faith on the Lord" are probably not here understood as doctrines or principles, but as things to be done. Whereas "teaching" carries with it--inevitably--the implication of an intellectual process of sorting things out, "preaching" seems to carry with it rather the implication of exhortation, of invitation, of praxis.
The task of the priest, then: to urge his hearers to trust the Lord and to repent before Him, and to explore in the Spirit the words of the prophets. In the end, there seems to be no reason to read Alma as trying to keep the priests of his church under his thumb, or limited in what they can say: rather, he sees the work of the priest to be the work of edification according to the Spirit that works upon the prophetic texts and the work of reminding the people continually of their double duty to the Lord (the double duty of faith and repentance).
  • Mosiah 18:20: Similarity to D&C 42. These verses on teaching from Mosiah 18 are very similar to those regarding teaching in D&C 42. D&C 42:11 discusses ordination, similar to Mosiah 18:18. D&C 42:12 explains that teachers should "teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon," which is similar to Mosiah 18: 19's direction to teach "the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." D&C 42:12 also commanded teachers to focus on the "principles of the gospel" which are found in the scriptures/words of the prophets, perhaps similar to Alma's direction to teach nothing but "repentance" and "faith" in Mosiah 18:20. (In addition, also note that both Mosiah 18:27-28 and D&C 42: 30 etc, talk about taking care of the poor.)
  • Mosiah 18:21. After instructions concerning teaching and preaching are laid down, Alma commands the priests further (and it is clear that the priests specifically are the ones receiving this command and all those following up through verse 26: in verse 27, Alma will turn specifically to the members of the church to begin to offer them commandments) to avoid contention among themselves. That this commandment is given specifically to the priesthood is an interesting detail, and it deserves some attention.
At first, it would appear as if this commandment against contention is redundant (the covenants the people have made quite explicitly would seem to have covered this question--see verses 8-9), but that it is directed toward the priests seems to cancel the redundancy. Rather, it is a specific clarification for those ordained to preach and teach, for the priesthood. In other words, even as the people have covenanted to uphold one another and to suffer each other, there will remain among the priests a tendency to contend. This commandment, then, seems to be issued as a corrective to the tendency toward competition among the ordained priests. Having separate stewardships (each is set over a separate group of fifty people, a group assigned, apparently, by Alma), the priests do not seem overly likely to find themselves in contention, but then it is perhaps precisely because they have separate stewardships that Alma is concerned that contention might arise. As soon as the people are split up into several groups, there is a tendency towards schism, and each priest, having a sort of autonomy with his fifty, might all too easily make them his.
What Alma wants to have happen is quite clear: rather than contention, he would have them unified (one eye, one faith, one baptism). The way this is phrased is interesting: they are to "look forward with one eye." It may be that Alma phrases the question of unity in this way so as to emphasize that the priests should not be looking at each other, but forward. The words install a very real sense of progress, and the "having" that opens the following phrase then seems to lay the groundwork for that sense of promise: "having one faith and one baptism." The single and shared faith and baptism are together apparently the foundation for the progressive looking forward: faith and baptism together point these priests forward to something yet to come (most likely the "kingdom of God"). With another "having," Alma doubles the foundation that opens the possibility of a forward orientation: "having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another." Of interest here is a sort of redirection of the priests: whereas they were pointed forward before, now they are pointed "one towards another." But this redirection is not really a redirection: their eyes are to remain looking forward, while their hearts are turned to each other. The priests are to be bound to each other precisely in their progressive vision.
The two phrases beginning with "having" come together in an interesting manner. Both are pairs (on the one hand "faith" and "baptism," and on the other hand "unity" and "love"), and they are clearly parallel, in fact, might well be read as an inverted parallelism: faith is paired with love, while baptism and unity are paired between them. That faith is tied to love is suggestive, since "look forward with one eye" can only suggest hope. Baptism and unity are clearly tied in the covenant laid out earlier in the chapter. In short, the unity performed in the covenant of their baptism lays out for these priests an intertwining of faith, hope, and love that is to define their whole being in this work. That intertwining is of some interest, perhaps most because it seems to be a different model than is offered elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. Here, faith and love are the groundwork that open the possibility of hope (hope for the "kingdom of God"), they combine necessarily to open the possibility of hope. If faith is their trust in God and love is their union to each other, then hope becomes the possibility of uniting in one their relations to God and their relations to each other (hence, the "kingdom of God," a people gathered together, yet under the perfect rule of God). This curious reading of faith, hope, and love seems to be unique to this passage. As the next verse will show, it had, for this people, an incredible effect.
  • Mosiah 18:22. The first half of this verse reads as a sort of conclusion to all of what has gone before, and the second half confirms that conclusive spirit. But the second half deserves some close attention, bringing into this question the phrase "the children of God." There is, throughout scripture, a most important connection between sonship and the kingdom. Ostensibly, the idea seems usually to be that the son of God is the one who will inherit the throne, the kingdom. To become the "children of God" seems to mean that one enters into the reality of the kingdom. That one must become a child of God, however, is curious in another way: some rite of adoption seems to be implied. It may be that the ritual of Ex 21:1-7 is implied, or there may be some other ritual at work, but it should not be missed that there is some form of official adoption at work in this verse. In keeping the several commandments Alma offers the priests, they become--together--the "children of God," and this seems then to open onto the possibility of the commandments that follow. In other words, though this verse seems to have a conclusive spirit, in the end, it is not so: there is a sort of conclusion here, but it is a conclusion that opens the possibilties of the further commandments issued next. Alma seems to have offered some commandments that brought them to this point of adoption, and then he seems to have given them further commandments, due to the road that still might be taken ahead (still looking forward). At any rate, the adoption of this verse apparently must be taken into consideration before the further commandments in the next verses.
  • Mosiah 18:23. Beyond adoption, then, Alma issues some further commandments. The first pertains quite explicitly to the ritual side of this church. Whereas the task of preaching and teaching was explicitly non-ritual (as far as one can read into the text, at least), the commandment to observe the sabbath day--and especially to "keep it holy"--is undeniably a question of ritual. With the observance and maintenance of the sabbath, these priests have entered the realm of sacred time (and the gathering place of verse 25 will suggest sacred space as well), which inevitably summons the themes of ritual, of the temple. It is not clear, it must be noted, that there is anything quite like a temple yet (there is reason to believe that any construction of a temple would be mentioned), but there is quite clearly a cultus developing among these several churches.
The phrasing of this commandment is interesting further, because it sets the sabbath in the context of daily ritual: "every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God." There is here quite clearly a sanctification of the whole of time, though there is a specific setting apart of the sabbath. That these priests--and with them, one can only assume, the people--are living in sacred time, a sacred time punctuated by even more sacred time, is suggestive of a promised land (something more profound and more explicit than the passing reference in verse 25, mentioned above). There may be some evidence that this is at work in the song of praise to the place of Mormon offered later in this chapter (verse 30). Such a pattern follows quite closely, incidentally, the early history of the Restored Church: at first the several offices are restored, but without quorum organization or a saturating ritual complex; but by the Missouri period, the nature of the sabbath (and the accompanying sanctification of all time) is taught and enjoined upon the saints, precisely as they settle into the promised land in Jackson County. The formation in verse 25 of what seem to be a quorum of these priests is also rather interesting. (It might be noted then that there is reason to understand this chapter to be quite important for the pattern of the latter-day Restoration.) At any rate, the point is quite clear: there is, following the rites of adoption in verse 22, a sort of reification of the priesthood, a hypostasis, as it were, of their work, as they enter into ritual space and time and the kingdom of God begins to be established in their midst (hope being fulfilled?).
  • Mosiah 18:24. Interjected between the sanctification of time in verse 23 and the sanctification of space in verse 25 is this peculiar command: "that the priests whom [Alma] had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support." That it comes between these two works of sanctification is doubly suggestive: it is suggestive on the one hand because it seems to suggest that one should read this command as a question of sanctification as well; and it is suggestive on the other hand because it suggests that there is some change in the structure of the priesthood's means of living even as there is a movement towards the ritualization of the church. In other words, there is in this verse at least the hint that before the adoption rites of verse 22, the priests were living off of the labor of the people, like itinerant preachers. The change is significant (it again follows the pattern of the Restoration), as it seems (as mentioned) to be connected with the development of the cultus that sanctifies everything in the world of the church. That this commandment is central, in fact, the center of a rather simple chiasm, is quite suggestive: there is a hint that this commandment is the most important one, the one that changes everything. In other words, this verse seems to be the most important shift after the rites of adoption: that the priests now begin to labor for their own support seems to suggest that a very real community is formed, and that the people are at this very moment beginning to live the law of consecration. The theme is doubled in verse 26, and it is confirmed powerfully in verses 27-28: the law of consecration grounds the sanctification (ultimately the consecration) of time and space. All of this, it must be noticed, rides on the back of the adoption marked in verse 22.
  • Mosiah 18:25. It is necessary, after all of the above, to look quite carefully at the sanctification of space that seems to be implied in this verse, but there is a great deal more at work here as well. For example, there seems to be a separation of sorts between "the sabbath day" of verse 23 and the "one day in every week that was set apart" of this verse. In other words, the "regular" (regular as in every week, though the phrase seems to suggest something not exactly strictly scheduled) meetings for teaching and worship seem not to have necessarily been scheduled specifically on the Sabbath: worship might have been a non-Sabbath activity for these people. Rather, the Sabbath may have been something more fundamental than a day simply sanctified by the act of worship (a theme that might best be explored elsewhere in scripture). This disconnection of sorts between verses 23 and 25 highlights a number of other curiosities in the present verse: the gathering is a gathering of priests (albeit "to teach the people), and the implication of the following phrase, "and to worship the Lord their God," is that the priests were gathering to worship, and not necessarily the people. This focus on the priests culminates in the final clause of the verse: the priests were, "as often as it was in their power, to assemble themselves together." This inordinate focus on the priests as the very center of worship is of some interest, and it deserves some sustained attention, especially because it seems also to have something to do with the sanctification of space implied in the "regular" gatherings.
This verse could be read in a rather democratic way—that is, it could be that the priests comprise most of the people and so separating out the other, non-priests in the congregation would be less necessary than if the priests were only a small percentage of the congregation. Also, it may be that the themselves in the first part of the verse is referring to the priests but in the second part of the verse themselves refers to the priests and the other congregation members (future priests and priestesses?). On this reading the reconciliatoin of God to priests and priests to other church members furthers the unity theme of surrounding verses (v. 21 in particular). In verse 23 the focus seems to be on individual church members sanctifying the Sabbath in relation with God (a private type of worship), whereas here the public community aspect of worship seems the focus. Whether or not these activities take place on the same day, the parallel seems unmistakeable: individual worship of God is not sufficient, community worship must accompany it. This follows the pattern in many other scriptures where individual conversion is followed immediately by a concern for the conversion of friends and family (e.g. Enos 1, Lehi's dream in 1 Ne 8, and Isa 6)—indeed, this pattern parallels the order of the great two commandments as spoken by Christ in Matt 22:34-40.
  • Mosiah 18:30. This verse appears to employ different literary styles than is consistent with the rest of the account.
  • First there is the excessive location explanation: "done in Mormon, ...waters of Mormon, ....Mormon; ... the place of Mormon, ...the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon,"
  • Second, there is a very prosaic passage almost out of the blue: "how beautiful are they to the eyes of them ... for they shall sing to his praise forever."
It is hard to know whether this is Mormon, as abridger, emphasizing the geography that bears his name or Alma's original record. It is very difficult to jump to an unusual geographic orientation and then quickly to an aesthetic style in the middle of doing a narration by a more sedate method. (This is perhaps evidence of abridgement work in that Joseph Smith would not have thought to change styles so abruptly mid-narration if he were the author.)
  • Mosiah 19.2: Gideon. In Hebrew, the name Gideon means "hacker." The root verb is used elsewhere to describe the hacking down idolatrous images or shrines (cf. Deut 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chr 14:3; 31:1). The Old Testament judge Gideon may have recieved this name as a likely foreshadowing of either hacking down of the altar of Baal in Judg 6:25-32, or the hacking down of Israel's enemies depicted in Judg 7. The Book of Mormon Gideon is similarly a man of the sword; he draws it here in fighting King Noah, and is ultimately killed by the sword in Alma 1:9.
  • Mosiah 19.24: Ceremony. Regarding the use of "ceremony" in verse 24, it's possible that it is a reference to some type of ritual killing or death of a king. The text prior to verse 24 contains a sense of building urgency and the implication that the actions could be happening quickly, one right after the other. For example, we are told that the people were "angry" (v. 19) and that they acted in anger when they "caused that he should suffer, even unto death by fire" (v. 19). In the following verses "they were about to take the priests" (v. 21, emphasis added), the priests "fled" (v. 21), the people "were about to return" (v. 22, emphasis added) when they met the men of Gideon, and they immediately tell the men of Gideon everything. The textual image is that of an impassioned people acting on their impulses; the men of Gideon could very well have arrived in the middle of events not yet wrapped up, and it is possible that there remained some unfinished ritual or ceremony with regards to Noah's death that the people had yet to perform, especially if he was offered in their anger as a sacrifice so that the people could regain their families.
Another possibility is discussed by Hugh Nibley in the transcripts of his Book of Mormon class. He sees the word as a clear reference to some type of reconciliation or peace ceremony in which two factions—the men of Gideon versus the men who originally left their families and followed Noah into the wilderness—ritually agree to not fight against each other. Given the political context at the time, it is not unlikely that some kind of formal treaty or ritual of reconciliation would be performed.
The use of the word "ceremony" stands out awkwardly among these verses, in the same way that Mosiah 17:11 stands out among its neighboring verses. In addition to its possible reference as a "ritual killing" or "death of a king," the word "ceremony" could denote an execution. In Mosiah 17:9, Abinadi refuses to recall his words, and then, in v. 10 he proclaims his suffering, death, and refusal to recall his words as testimonies. He levels his own evidence, as it were, against the king and his priests, and in v. 11, Noah responds with fear. The following verses--Abinadi's prophecy--are famous, but the overlooked preceding verses lend a sense that not only was Abinadi making a prophetic statement in verses 15-19--he was pronouncing another sentence. His own death would be evidence of their corruption--evidence which could justify their own trial and eventual execution.

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  • Why is it that Alma has success in preaching where Abinadi didn't? Or did they have different callings or objectives?
  • Mosiah 18:4: Is this verse offered as an etymology of the name "Mormon"? In other words, did the king call the place "Mormon" because it was in the borders of the land or because it was infested with wild beasts, the implication is that this is the meaning of "Mormon"?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What do we make of the name Mormon coming from the wicked king Noah?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What does it mean to be "infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts"? What kind of animals might these have been, and why would an influx of these animals constitute an infestation?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant by a "fountain" of water? Why would it be considered pure water?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant here by a "thicket of small trees"? Is this an isolated cluster of trees in a cleared area, or a brushy area within a forest?
  • Mosiah 18:7: How could a "goodly number" of people gather to a "thicket of small trees" without being observed?
  • Mosiah 18:8: What does it mean to "come into the fold of God"
  • Mosiah 18:8: How are we called the people of God? What does it mean to be his people?
  • Mosiah 18:9: What does it mean to mourn with those who mourn? Is this different in some way than comforting those who morn? (We are told that our savior comforts those who mourn in Isa 61:2).
  • Mosiah 18:9: How can we "stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places"? How can we know how well we are doing at this?
  • Mosiah 18:9: How much should we desire our own redemption and eternal life? Is it selfish to be motivated by our own eternal rewards?
  • Mosiah 18:10: What does it mean to covenant to serve the LORD and keep his commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:10: How can "his Spirit" be poured out "more abundantly" upon us? What does this terminology add to our understanding of the gift of the Holy Ghost?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Who is this Helam, and why does he have the same name as the (presumably) royal Mulekite brother of Ammon (Mosiah 7:6) sent later to inquire about the whereabouts of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Why does Alma pray like this before baptizing Helam? Is this just an example of praying before performing anything unto the LORD, or is there something else going on here?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Where did Alma get his power and authority to baptize?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Why does this baptismal prayer differ from the one we use today?
  • Mosiah 18:13: What does it mean for Christ to have been "prepared from the foundation fo the world"? What is the "foundation" of the world?
  • Mosiah 18:14: Why would Alma and Helam both be "buried in the water" in this baptism? Was Alma baptizing himself?
  • Mosiah 18:14: What does it mean that they both "arose" after the baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:15: Why didn't Alma "bury himself again in the water" after the first baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:16: What does it mean for the people to be "filled with the grace of God"? How is grace something that can fill you?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: There are several places in the scriptures where teachers are counseled to teach nothing but repentance and faith on the Lord. Verse 20 here is one example. How literally can we interpret this? Is it applicable to us today in all situations where we are teaches? Or just some?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: Did these priests have access to written scriptures in order to teach that "which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets" or were they dependent on Alma and oral transmission of teachings?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: How can we preach "nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord"?
  • Mosiah 18:21: How does Alma's injunction against "contention" contrast with the continual rounds of contention described in the Record of Zeniff?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean to "look forward with one eye?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean for hearts to be "knit together in unity"? Is there a difference between being knit and being sealed? Does this involve a priesthood ordinance of some type, or is it merely a representation of people bonding to each other?
  • Mosiah 18:22: How do the people become the "children of God"? Aren't we already the children of a Heavenly Father? How is this different and what is the distinction?
  • Mosiah 18:23: Why is sabbath day observance specifically mentioned here, rather than other commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:23: According to Alma, giving thanks to God every day is a commandment. Was this a specific commandment just for his people, or is this a commandment that is in effect for our day as well?
  • Mosiah 18:24: How does this verse serve as a precedent for modern LDS practice of a lay priesthood?
  • Mosiah 18:24: What does it mean to "labor with [our] own hands"?
  • Mosiah 18:26: What does it mean to "receive the grace of God" for [our] labor?
  • Mosiah 19.3: Why might a minority of the people have been upset with the king?
  • Mosiah 19.3: What does it mean to "breathe out threatenings"?
  • Mosiah 19.3: How does the theme of contention play throughout the history of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How might this Gideon's role as liberator echo that of the Old Testament judge Gideon?
  • Mosiah 19.4: What are we to make of Gideon? Is he a role model? A cautionary figure? What can we learn from his experience?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How should we judge Gideon's wrath, swearing, and threats of violence?
  • Mosiah 19.4: After reading this account, should we be surprised by how Gideon meets his eventual end?
  • Mosiah 19.5: Why are we told here that Noah "fled and ran"? Aren't these pretty much the same thing?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What might be the significance of a tower being "near" the temple, rather than part of the temple?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What do we know about this Nephite temple?
  • Mosiah 19.6-10: We are presented here with a rather colorful narrative of fleeing, fighting, and negotiating. What is the purpose of this account? Why would Mormon bother to include it? Why don't we just have a more abbreviated account? Is there something more here that we should be getting from these stories?
  • Mosiah 19.8: Why might Gideon have spared King Noah? Why not just kill him and then go off to flee or fight the Lamanites?
  • Mosiah 19.11: Why might King Noah have tried to get the men to leave their wives and children?
  • Mosiah 19.15: Are the Nephites expected to pay 1/2 of all they have every year, or is this just a one time payment with an unspecified level of tribute to be paid afterwards?
  • Mosiah 19.16: Why wouldn't a son of Noah have followed his father and fled into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.17: What does it mean for Limhi to be described as a "just" man?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What position in society might Gideon have had that allowed him to send scouts out into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What do the Nephites mean by wilderness? Does this just mean uninhabited lands, or is there some other meaning?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What does it mean that the men had sworn "in their hearts"? Wasn't this a fairly public decision?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What are we to make of this desire to seek revenge? Is this a noble desire? How are we supposed to feel about these men who first leave their families to potentially perish, then get upset and want to seek revenge for their deaths?
  • Mosiah 19.20: These men have killed the king? What standing might they have under Old Testament law? Was this a justified killing, or something much more grievous?
  • Mosiah 19.21: How could these men have been able to grab and kill the king, but not the priests?

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Mosiah 19:11-15

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  • Mosiah 18:9: Those that mourn. Merriam-Webster defines mourn (verse 9) as "to feel or express grief or sorrow." In the scriptures mourning is usually used in the context of expressing grief over someone's death.
One way to understand the phrase those that mourn (verse 9) is to think about anyone who is experiencing grief or sorrow. In this way we have a responsibility to connect with the people around us in grief and sorrow and share in that sorrow.
Another interpretation is to take those that mourn as a reference to those who mourn for the Savior, his death and suffering. In that case we are asked if we are willing to join the community of people who mourn for the sins of this world and the resulting suffering and death that our Savior went through in order to save us from those sins. A similar invitation is given in the hymn "He Died the Great Redeemer Died." (See the related link below.)
It is also interesting to note the way verse 9 introduces the themes that will then be played out in the narratives of chapters 19-24. If we look at the two main stories of trial and deliverance—the people of Limhi and the people of Alma—we have both an example of a people who mourn and a people who stand in need of comfort.
The people of Limhi will fight battle after battle, both in their defense and in their pursuit of freedom. Their losses are extremely numerous (enough so that in Mosiah 21:17 Limhi has to command the remaining men to help support the widows and their children): throughout this process they are truly a people acquainted with mourning.
The people of Alma will be persecuted by Amulon: they will be in bondage, they will carry impossibly heavy burdens, they will be refused the comfort of vocal prayer. As such, they will truly be a people who stand in need of comfort.
  • Mosiah 18:8-10.' Echoes of Verses 8-10 and Their Profound Implications for Our Relationship with God. These verses are echoed to great effect when Alma and his people are in trouble in the Land of Helam (which is named after the person Alma is now baptizing). See exegesis on Mosiah 24:11-15.
  • Mosiah 18:17. Despite the fact that the word "church" appears a good number of times before this point in the Book of Mormon, this verse marks the first reference to an official Nephite church, or, in other words, this is the first Nephite church mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Mosiah 25:18 seems quite clearly to confirm this, as it mentions Mosiah II's authorization of Alma to create like churches throughout the land of Zarahemla, the suggestion being that there were none before that time. But even as this cross-reference seems to confirm the origins of the Nephite church in this passage, it also clarifies what the word "church" means here: if Alma was to go on to found a number of churches, then this "church" is not a system of faith, but a congregational organization, a regional gathering of people. From the very start, churches among the Nephites seem to have been a question of a number of people who worship together in a sort of gathered community.
Also interesting to the meaning of the word "church" as used in the Book of Mormon is the attribution of the name "the church of God, or the church of Christ," in this verse, to some unnamed source: those gathered by Alma were simply "called" so. Because the phrase uses the passive voice "they were called," what would otherwise be the subject (the one or the ones doing the calling) escapes notice, and the author of the passage can leave ambiguous the source of the title. In other words, whereas the author might have said that "Alma and his people called themselves the church of God, or the church of Christ," he rather says that "they were called" so, the implication being simply that someone besides those of the church called them that. It remains entirely unclear whence the epithet comes. There is a hint in all of this, then, that "church" was a term used somewhat commonly among the Nephites, that it was not a term that those gathered into the church specifically rooted out of, say, Nephi's writings in order to proclaim their justified foundation or any such thing. Rather, it seems, the concept of a church was not unfamiliar to the Nephites, and this gathering was simply so named because others recognized an already common structure among them.
All these details come together somewhat paradoxically: it seems that Alma is at once doing something entirely unprecedented and also doing something completely familiar to outsiders. The paradox is, however, quite understandable: an idea that has been around for quite some time, and something the people generally are familiar with, but Alma takes upon himself the overwhelming task of actually accomplishing it. Everyone knew what he was doing, but that does not at all mean that it was a common proceeding: Alma has done something rather radical in forming a church. He himself has grounded it by an ostensibly granted authority (see verse 13), and this verse adds that anyone "baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his [meaning God's] church." The implication is clear: Alma's radical movement is his authorized development of something everyone has been expecting for nearly five hundred years, but no one has felt authorized to do.
Now, it might be asked why no one had created a church before this time, even as the idea seems to have been completely familiar to everyone. Or it might be asked more specifically why God had not authorized any to accomplish the task. The answer, however, seems to be buried in a few details of the following story, as well as in some major events that happen later (see verses 31-33 of this chapter, and then especially the complex development that extends across Mosiah 25-29). The answer, put quite simply, is this: the existence of a monarchical system seems to exclude not only the need for churches, but also the possibility of churches. Under the monarchy, the cult seems to have been performed under the auspices of the king and a royal priesthood, but the church assumes a sort of local priesthood, a regionalism replacing the universal authority usually claimed by a king. In other words, since a monarchy seems to have obtained from the very start of Nephite civilization, there has never been need or room for churches. Alma's formation of this first church is taken quite specifically as an act of rebellion, and when he is given royal authority in Zarahemla to establish a number of churches, it leads rather quickly to the dissolution of the monarchy. Perhaps all of this is considered rather simply in a single, weighty phrsae in the following verse: the church is a question of "the kingdom of God."
  • Mosiah 18:18. As soon as there is a unity in this plurality--as soon as the church is a church--Alma ordains a local priesthood. The move may be what most incites the cry of rebellion from Noah by the end of the chapter. The move to ordain priests is a rather complex one, and it must be understood in the right light, lest it be considered from an entirely too protracted view. First to be said about the ordination of these priests: the ordination cannot be understood--culturally, historically--to have been a natural consequence of the gathering of the baptized, but rather should be understood as a radical innovation that ultimately redefines for the Nephites the very meaning of priesthood, and this altered meaning ultimately calls for a restructuring of the entire government. This ordination is ultimately the first step toward undoing the Nephite monarchy, though it happens among a small gathering on the outskirts of a Nephite settlement in Lamanite territory. But regardless of the broadest implications of the action, there seems to be a sort of pragmatism about the verse: the ordination was not an act of defiance, but an act of charity, a way of strengthening those baptized so that they might move from church to kingdom (the kingdom of God).
With the pragmatic character of the ordination drawn out, the differences between this priesthood and priesthood in the restored Church of the latter days are quite clear: Alma does not establish quorums, nor does it appear that he has two separate priesthoods with their several offices, nor again does it appear that these priests wield authority to perform any particular ordinances. The priesthood Alma sets up is, in the end, a rather simple priesthood, a stripped-down priesthood meant to perform the task merely of teaching, though teaching the highest principles, "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." That a great deal happens concerning "the priesthood" between these first ordinations and Alma the Younger's discourse in Alma 13 is obvious: but that development must traced rather carefully and in great detail to accomplish any satisfactory explanation of these questions. At the very least, what is unquestionably clear here is this: by the same "authority" he had to baptize, Alma ordains priests (note that he does not organize a priesthood, per se), and only a rather small number at that (no more than nine would have been ordained by the time the group flees into the wilderness), to take upon themselves the task of preaching and teaching those baptized and gathered together into the church.
  • Mosiah 18:19. If teaching "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" seems an overwhelming task, even a boundless task, this verse imposes some limits on it: these priests are limited to "the things which [Alma] had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." The verses seems thus rather simple and self-explanatory, but it does raise an issue that ought to be dealt with: one can only wonder why Alma would impose limits at all on the teaching task. In other words, since other scriptures promote a rather radical form of teaching--namely, teaching by the Spirit, taking no thought for the words to say, etc.--this rather limited task, hemmed in by what has been said before, seems conservative to say the least. This may not, however, be a commandment to teach in a manner other than that of teaching by the Spirit: there are at least two ways of reading this, in fact, as a commandment to teach by the Spirit. On the one hand, Alma might be suggesting that the Spirit would only lead one to speak of that which has been spoken before. This interpretation seems somewhat flawed, as the Spirit seems in a number of places to be That which specifically goes beyond previous knowledge. On the other hand--and this seems a more likely explanation--Alma might be suggesting that the role of the Spirit in teaching is precisely to help one to interpret the words of the prophets, that the Spirit enlarges upon those words, rather than providing to the teacher new words in the moment. This interpretation presents a sort of division of labors between priests (whatever priests are here) and prophets: the prophets have experiences beyond the Spirit, but priests are to work in the Spirit so as to interpret the prophetic word. The division and correlation might be compared to the gift of tongues (prophets) and the gift of the interpretation of tongues (priests). At any rate, the suggestion is that the Spirit works upon the teaching priest precisely in his attendance upon the words of the prophets.
With all of these details worked out, there is a rather careful phrasing at work in this verse which is all to easily missed: though one might see Alma equating himself with the prophets, the wording actually suggests that he equates himself with the priests in their division of labor, over against the prophets. The clue is the word "teach": the priests are to "teach" only what Alma had "taught," which suggests that they are to do what he himself has done. If their task then extends to teaching what "had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets," there may be here an implication that Alma's mode of teaching had been quite specifically a work of interpretation (in fact, a work of interpreting Abinadi?). Alma sees himself, according to the language presented in this verse, as a priest, rather than as a prophet. As such, the priests have a model for their work: Alma.
  • Mosiah 18:20. Again the priestly task is clarified, though a different verb appears in this verse: "preach." But the instance of "preach" marks a chiastic structure that runs through verses 18-20:
  • ...did he ordain to preach unto them
  • and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
  • And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, etc.
  • Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were...
Similar, in a manner, to the division of labor implicit in the last verse, there appears here a division of sorts, though it is a division within the priestly task: the priests are to preach and to teach, and these seem to be different things. Preaching, in verse 18, seems to be quite open ended, while the teaching of verse 18 seems to be quite specific (concerning the kingdom of God). Parallel to this, verse 19 offers certain bounds (or at least a sort of regional limitation) for teaching, while verse 20 remains rather open ended about preaching. What this means, however, remains to be worked out in detail.
A brief return to verse 19 would prove helpful. The phrasing there is incredibly negative, and verse 20 follows with a parallel structure: the priests are to preach and teach nothing... save... etc. The point is that it would be better for these to preach absolutely nothing whatsoever than to preach something other than what Alma provides them as a task. As for teaching, verse 19 provides the priests with textual boundaries, as it were: the priests are to teach the words of the prophets (apparently interpreting them according to the Spirit), even as Alma has done, and so their bounds there are ultimately textual, for they are to stay within the texts of the prophets. Preaching, however, is a different matter: the bounds for preaching seem to be practical: only two topics are provided, both of which are really more a question of action than of doctrine. In other words, "repentance" and "faith on the Lord" are probably not here understood as doctrines or principles, but as things to be done. Whereas "teaching" carries with it--inevitably--the implication of an intellectual process of sorting things out, "preaching" seems to carry with it rather the implication of exhortation, of invitation, of praxis.
The task of the priest, then: to urge his hearers to trust the Lord and to repent before Him, and to explore in the Spirit the words of the prophets. In the end, there seems to be no reason to read Alma as trying to keep the priests of his church under his thumb, or limited in what they can say: rather, he sees the work of the priest to be the work of edification according to the Spirit that works upon the prophetic texts and the work of reminding the people continually of their double duty to the Lord (the double duty of faith and repentance).
  • Mosiah 18:20: Similarity to D&C 42. These verses on teaching from Mosiah 18 are very similar to those regarding teaching in D&C 42. D&C 42:11 discusses ordination, similar to Mosiah 18:18. D&C 42:12 explains that teachers should "teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon," which is similar to Mosiah 18: 19's direction to teach "the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." D&C 42:12 also commanded teachers to focus on the "principles of the gospel" which are found in the scriptures/words of the prophets, perhaps similar to Alma's direction to teach nothing but "repentance" and "faith" in Mosiah 18:20. (In addition, also note that both Mosiah 18:27-28 and D&C 42: 30 etc, talk about taking care of the poor.)
  • Mosiah 18:21. After instructions concerning teaching and preaching are laid down, Alma commands the priests further (and it is clear that the priests specifically are the ones receiving this command and all those following up through verse 26: in verse 27, Alma will turn specifically to the members of the church to begin to offer them commandments) to avoid contention among themselves. That this commandment is given specifically to the priesthood is an interesting detail, and it deserves some attention.
At first, it would appear as if this commandment against contention is redundant (the covenants the people have made quite explicitly would seem to have covered this question--see verses 8-9), but that it is directed toward the priests seems to cancel the redundancy. Rather, it is a specific clarification for those ordained to preach and teach, for the priesthood. In other words, even as the people have covenanted to uphold one another and to suffer each other, there will remain among the priests a tendency to contend. This commandment, then, seems to be issued as a corrective to the tendency toward competition among the ordained priests. Having separate stewardships (each is set over a separate group of fifty people, a group assigned, apparently, by Alma), the priests do not seem overly likely to find themselves in contention, but then it is perhaps precisely because they have separate stewardships that Alma is concerned that contention might arise. As soon as the people are split up into several groups, there is a tendency towards schism, and each priest, having a sort of autonomy with his fifty, might all too easily make them his.
What Alma wants to have happen is quite clear: rather than contention, he would have them unified (one eye, one faith, one baptism). The way this is phrased is interesting: they are to "look forward with one eye." It may be that Alma phrases the question of unity in this way so as to emphasize that the priests should not be looking at each other, but forward. The words install a very real sense of progress, and the "having" that opens the following phrase then seems to lay the groundwork for that sense of promise: "having one faith and one baptism." The single and shared faith and baptism are together apparently the foundation for the progressive looking forward: faith and baptism together point these priests forward to something yet to come (most likely the "kingdom of God"). With another "having," Alma doubles the foundation that opens the possibility of a forward orientation: "having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another." Of interest here is a sort of redirection of the priests: whereas they were pointed forward before, now they are pointed "one towards another." But this redirection is not really a redirection: their eyes are to remain looking forward, while their hearts are turned to each other. The priests are to be bound to each other precisely in their progressive vision.
The two phrases beginning with "having" come together in an interesting manner. Both are pairs (on the one hand "faith" and "baptism," and on the other hand "unity" and "love"), and they are clearly parallel, in fact, might well be read as an inverted parallelism: faith is paired with love, while baptism and unity are paired between them. That faith is tied to love is suggestive, since "look forward with one eye" can only suggest hope. Baptism and unity are clearly tied in the covenant laid out earlier in the chapter. In short, the unity performed in the covenant of their baptism lays out for these priests an intertwining of faith, hope, and love that is to define their whole being in this work. That intertwining is of some interest, perhaps most because it seems to be a different model than is offered elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. Here, faith and love are the groundwork that open the possibility of hope (hope for the "kingdom of God"), they combine necessarily to open the possibility of hope. If faith is their trust in God and love is their union to each other, then hope becomes the possibility of uniting in one their relations to God and their relations to each other (hence, the "kingdom of God," a people gathered together, yet under the perfect rule of God). This curious reading of faith, hope, and love seems to be unique to this passage. As the next verse will show, it had, for this people, an incredible effect.
  • Mosiah 18:22. The first half of this verse reads as a sort of conclusion to all of what has gone before, and the second half confirms that conclusive spirit. But the second half deserves some close attention, bringing into this question the phrase "the children of God." There is, throughout scripture, a most important connection between sonship and the kingdom. Ostensibly, the idea seems usually to be that the son of God is the one who will inherit the throne, the kingdom. To become the "children of God" seems to mean that one enters into the reality of the kingdom. That one must become a child of God, however, is curious in another way: some rite of adoption seems to be implied. It may be that the ritual of Ex 21:1-7 is implied, or there may be some other ritual at work, but it should not be missed that there is some form of official adoption at work in this verse. In keeping the several commandments Alma offers the priests, they become--together--the "children of God," and this seems then to open onto the possibility of the commandments that follow. In other words, though this verse seems to have a conclusive spirit, in the end, it is not so: there is a sort of conclusion here, but it is a conclusion that opens the possibilties of the further commandments issued next. Alma seems to have offered some commandments that brought them to this point of adoption, and then he seems to have given them further commandments, due to the road that still might be taken ahead (still looking forward). At any rate, the adoption of this verse apparently must be taken into consideration before the further commandments in the next verses.
  • Mosiah 18:23. Beyond adoption, then, Alma issues some further commandments. The first pertains quite explicitly to the ritual side of this church. Whereas the task of preaching and teaching was explicitly non-ritual (as far as one can read into the text, at least), the commandment to observe the sabbath day--and especially to "keep it holy"--is undeniably a question of ritual. With the observance and maintenance of the sabbath, these priests have entered the realm of sacred time (and the gathering place of verse 25 will suggest sacred space as well), which inevitably summons the themes of ritual, of the temple. It is not clear, it must be noted, that there is anything quite like a temple yet (there is reason to believe that any construction of a temple would be mentioned), but there is quite clearly a cultus developing among these several churches.
The phrasing of this commandment is interesting further, because it sets the sabbath in the context of daily ritual: "every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God." There is here quite clearly a sanctification of the whole of time, though there is a specific setting apart of the sabbath. That these priests--and with them, one can only assume, the people--are living in sacred time, a sacred time punctuated by even more sacred time, is suggestive of a promised land (something more profound and more explicit than the passing reference in verse 25, mentioned above). There may be some evidence that this is at work in the song of praise to the place of Mormon offered later in this chapter (verse 30). Such a pattern follows quite closely, incidentally, the early history of the Restored Church: at first the several offices are restored, but without quorum organization or a saturating ritual complex; but by the Missouri period, the nature of the sabbath (and the accompanying sanctification of all time) is taught and enjoined upon the saints, precisely as they settle into the promised land in Jackson County. The formation in verse 25 of what seem to be a quorum of these priests is also rather interesting. (It might be noted then that there is reason to understand this chapter to be quite important for the pattern of the latter-day Restoration.) At any rate, the point is quite clear: there is, following the rites of adoption in verse 22, a sort of reification of the priesthood, a hypostasis, as it were, of their work, as they enter into ritual space and time and the kingdom of God begins to be established in their midst (hope being fulfilled?).
  • Mosiah 18:24. Interjected between the sanctification of time in verse 23 and the sanctification of space in verse 25 is this peculiar command: "that the priests whom [Alma] had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support." That it comes between these two works of sanctification is doubly suggestive: it is suggestive on the one hand because it seems to suggest that one should read this command as a question of sanctification as well; and it is suggestive on the other hand because it suggests that there is some change in the structure of the priesthood's means of living even as there is a movement towards the ritualization of the church. In other words, there is in this verse at least the hint that before the adoption rites of verse 22, the priests were living off of the labor of the people, like itinerant preachers. The change is significant (it again follows the pattern of the Restoration), as it seems (as mentioned) to be connected with the development of the cultus that sanctifies everything in the world of the church. That this commandment is central, in fact, the center of a rather simple chiasm, is quite suggestive: there is a hint that this commandment is the most important one, the one that changes everything. In other words, this verse seems to be the most important shift after the rites of adoption: that the priests now begin to labor for their own support seems to suggest that a very real community is formed, and that the people are at this very moment beginning to live the law of consecration. The theme is doubled in verse 26, and it is confirmed powerfully in verses 27-28: the law of consecration grounds the sanctification (ultimately the consecration) of time and space. All of this, it must be noticed, rides on the back of the adoption marked in verse 22.
  • Mosiah 18:25. It is necessary, after all of the above, to look quite carefully at the sanctification of space that seems to be implied in this verse, but there is a great deal more at work here as well. For example, there seems to be a separation of sorts between "the sabbath day" of verse 23 and the "one day in every week that was set apart" of this verse. In other words, the "regular" (regular as in every week, though the phrase seems to suggest something not exactly strictly scheduled) meetings for teaching and worship seem not to have necessarily been scheduled specifically on the Sabbath: worship might have been a non-Sabbath activity for these people. Rather, the Sabbath may have been something more fundamental than a day simply sanctified by the act of worship (a theme that might best be explored elsewhere in scripture). This disconnection of sorts between verses 23 and 25 highlights a number of other curiosities in the present verse: the gathering is a gathering of priests (albeit "to teach the people), and the implication of the following phrase, "and to worship the Lord their God," is that the priests were gathering to worship, and not necessarily the people. This focus on the priests culminates in the final clause of the verse: the priests were, "as often as it was in their power, to assemble themselves together." This inordinate focus on the priests as the very center of worship is of some interest, and it deserves some sustained attention, especially because it seems also to have something to do with the sanctification of space implied in the "regular" gatherings.
This verse could be read in a rather democratic way—that is, it could be that the priests comprise most of the people and so separating out the other, non-priests in the congregation would be less necessary than if the priests were only a small percentage of the congregation. Also, it may be that the themselves in the first part of the verse is referring to the priests but in the second part of the verse themselves refers to the priests and the other congregation members (future priests and priestesses?). On this reading the reconciliatoin of God to priests and priests to other church members furthers the unity theme of surrounding verses (v. 21 in particular). In verse 23 the focus seems to be on individual church members sanctifying the Sabbath in relation with God (a private type of worship), whereas here the public community aspect of worship seems the focus. Whether or not these activities take place on the same day, the parallel seems unmistakeable: individual worship of God is not sufficient, community worship must accompany it. This follows the pattern in many other scriptures where individual conversion is followed immediately by a concern for the conversion of friends and family (e.g. Enos 1, Lehi's dream in 1 Ne 8, and Isa 6)—indeed, this pattern parallels the order of the great two commandments as spoken by Christ in Matt 22:34-40.
  • Mosiah 18:30. This verse appears to employ different literary styles than is consistent with the rest of the account.
  • First there is the excessive location explanation: "done in Mormon, ...waters of Mormon, ....Mormon; ... the place of Mormon, ...the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon,"
  • Second, there is a very prosaic passage almost out of the blue: "how beautiful are they to the eyes of them ... for they shall sing to his praise forever."
It is hard to know whether this is Mormon, as abridger, emphasizing the geography that bears his name or Alma's original record. It is very difficult to jump to an unusual geographic orientation and then quickly to an aesthetic style in the middle of doing a narration by a more sedate method. (This is perhaps evidence of abridgement work in that Joseph Smith would not have thought to change styles so abruptly mid-narration if he were the author.)
  • Mosiah 19.2: Gideon. In Hebrew, the name Gideon means "hacker." The root verb is used elsewhere to describe the hacking down idolatrous images or shrines (cf. Deut 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chr 14:3; 31:1). The Old Testament judge Gideon may have recieved this name as a likely foreshadowing of either hacking down of the altar of Baal in Judg 6:25-32, or the hacking down of Israel's enemies depicted in Judg 7. The Book of Mormon Gideon is similarly a man of the sword; he draws it here in fighting King Noah, and is ultimately killed by the sword in Alma 1:9.
  • Mosiah 19.24: Ceremony. Regarding the use of "ceremony" in verse 24, it's possible that it is a reference to some type of ritual killing or death of a king. The text prior to verse 24 contains a sense of building urgency and the implication that the actions could be happening quickly, one right after the other. For example, we are told that the people were "angry" (v. 19) and that they acted in anger when they "caused that he should suffer, even unto death by fire" (v. 19). In the following verses "they were about to take the priests" (v. 21, emphasis added), the priests "fled" (v. 21), the people "were about to return" (v. 22, emphasis added) when they met the men of Gideon, and they immediately tell the men of Gideon everything. The textual image is that of an impassioned people acting on their impulses; the men of Gideon could very well have arrived in the middle of events not yet wrapped up, and it is possible that there remained some unfinished ritual or ceremony with regards to Noah's death that the people had yet to perform, especially if he was offered in their anger as a sacrifice so that the people could regain their families.
Another possibility is discussed by Hugh Nibley in the transcripts of his Book of Mormon class. He sees the word as a clear reference to some type of reconciliation or peace ceremony in which two factions—the men of Gideon versus the men who originally left their families and followed Noah into the wilderness—ritually agree to not fight against each other. Given the political context at the time, it is not unlikely that some kind of formal treaty or ritual of reconciliation would be performed.
The use of the word "ceremony" stands out awkwardly among these verses, in the same way that Mosiah 17:11 stands out among its neighboring verses. In addition to its possible reference as a "ritual killing" or "death of a king," the word "ceremony" could denote an execution. In Mosiah 17:9, Abinadi refuses to recall his words, and then, in v. 10 he proclaims his suffering, death, and refusal to recall his words as testimonies. He levels his own evidence, as it were, against the king and his priests, and in v. 11, Noah responds with fear. The following verses--Abinadi's prophecy--are famous, but the overlooked preceding verses lend a sense that not only was Abinadi making a prophetic statement in verses 15-19--he was pronouncing another sentence. His own death would be evidence of their corruption--evidence which could justify their own trial and eventual execution.

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  • Why is it that Alma has success in preaching where Abinadi didn't? Or did they have different callings or objectives?
  • Mosiah 18:4: Is this verse offered as an etymology of the name "Mormon"? In other words, did the king call the place "Mormon" because it was in the borders of the land or because it was infested with wild beasts, the implication is that this is the meaning of "Mormon"?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What do we make of the name Mormon coming from the wicked king Noah?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What does it mean to be "infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts"? What kind of animals might these have been, and why would an influx of these animals constitute an infestation?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant by a "fountain" of water? Why would it be considered pure water?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant here by a "thicket of small trees"? Is this an isolated cluster of trees in a cleared area, or a brushy area within a forest?
  • Mosiah 18:7: How could a "goodly number" of people gather to a "thicket of small trees" without being observed?
  • Mosiah 18:8: What does it mean to "come into the fold of God"
  • Mosiah 18:8: How are we called the people of God? What does it mean to be his people?
  • Mosiah 18:9: What does it mean to mourn with those who mourn? Is this different in some way than comforting those who morn? (We are told that our savior comforts those who mourn in Isa 61:2).
  • Mosiah 18:9: How can we "stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places"? How can we know how well we are doing at this?
  • Mosiah 18:9: How much should we desire our own redemption and eternal life? Is it selfish to be motivated by our own eternal rewards?
  • Mosiah 18:10: What does it mean to covenant to serve the LORD and keep his commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:10: How can "his Spirit" be poured out "more abundantly" upon us? What does this terminology add to our understanding of the gift of the Holy Ghost?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Who is this Helam, and why does he have the same name as the (presumably) royal Mulekite brother of Ammon (Mosiah 7:6) sent later to inquire about the whereabouts of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Why does Alma pray like this before baptizing Helam? Is this just an example of praying before performing anything unto the LORD, or is there something else going on here?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Where did Alma get his power and authority to baptize?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Why does this baptismal prayer differ from the one we use today?
  • Mosiah 18:13: What does it mean for Christ to have been "prepared from the foundation fo the world"? What is the "foundation" of the world?
  • Mosiah 18:14: Why would Alma and Helam both be "buried in the water" in this baptism? Was Alma baptizing himself?
  • Mosiah 18:14: What does it mean that they both "arose" after the baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:15: Why didn't Alma "bury himself again in the water" after the first baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:16: What does it mean for the people to be "filled with the grace of God"? How is grace something that can fill you?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: There are several places in the scriptures where teachers are counseled to teach nothing but repentance and faith on the Lord. Verse 20 here is one example. How literally can we interpret this? Is it applicable to us today in all situations where we are teaches? Or just some?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: Did these priests have access to written scriptures in order to teach that "which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets" or were they dependent on Alma and oral transmission of teachings?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: How can we preach "nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord"?
  • Mosiah 18:21: How does Alma's injunction against "contention" contrast with the continual rounds of contention described in the Record of Zeniff?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean to "look forward with one eye?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean for hearts to be "knit together in unity"? Is there a difference between being knit and being sealed? Does this involve a priesthood ordinance of some type, or is it merely a representation of people bonding to each other?
  • Mosiah 18:22: How do the people become the "children of God"? Aren't we already the children of a Heavenly Father? How is this different and what is the distinction?
  • Mosiah 18:23: Why is sabbath day observance specifically mentioned here, rather than other commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:23: According to Alma, giving thanks to God every day is a commandment. Was this a specific commandment just for his people, or is this a commandment that is in effect for our day as well?
  • Mosiah 18:24: How does this verse serve as a precedent for modern LDS practice of a lay priesthood?
  • Mosiah 18:24: What does it mean to "labor with [our] own hands"?
  • Mosiah 18:26: What does it mean to "receive the grace of God" for [our] labor?
  • Mosiah 19.3: Why might a minority of the people have been upset with the king?
  • Mosiah 19.3: What does it mean to "breathe out threatenings"?
  • Mosiah 19.3: How does the theme of contention play throughout the history of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How might this Gideon's role as liberator echo that of the Old Testament judge Gideon?
  • Mosiah 19.4: What are we to make of Gideon? Is he a role model? A cautionary figure? What can we learn from his experience?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How should we judge Gideon's wrath, swearing, and threats of violence?
  • Mosiah 19.4: After reading this account, should we be surprised by how Gideon meets his eventual end?
  • Mosiah 19.5: Why are we told here that Noah "fled and ran"? Aren't these pretty much the same thing?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What might be the significance of a tower being "near" the temple, rather than part of the temple?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What do we know about this Nephite temple?
  • Mosiah 19.6-10: We are presented here with a rather colorful narrative of fleeing, fighting, and negotiating. What is the purpose of this account? Why would Mormon bother to include it? Why don't we just have a more abbreviated account? Is there something more here that we should be getting from these stories?
  • Mosiah 19.8: Why might Gideon have spared King Noah? Why not just kill him and then go off to flee or fight the Lamanites?
  • Mosiah 19.11: Why might King Noah have tried to get the men to leave their wives and children?
  • Mosiah 19.15: Are the Nephites expected to pay 1/2 of all they have every year, or is this just a one time payment with an unspecified level of tribute to be paid afterwards?
  • Mosiah 19.16: Why wouldn't a son of Noah have followed his father and fled into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.17: What does it mean for Limhi to be described as a "just" man?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What position in society might Gideon have had that allowed him to send scouts out into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What do the Nephites mean by wilderness? Does this just mean uninhabited lands, or is there some other meaning?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What does it mean that the men had sworn "in their hearts"? Wasn't this a fairly public decision?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What are we to make of this desire to seek revenge? Is this a noble desire? How are we supposed to feel about these men who first leave their families to potentially perish, then get upset and want to seek revenge for their deaths?
  • Mosiah 19.20: These men have killed the king? What standing might they have under Old Testament law? Was this a justified killing, or something much more grievous?
  • Mosiah 19.21: How could these men have been able to grab and kill the king, but not the priests?

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Mosiah 19:16-20

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  • Mosiah 18:9: Those that mourn. Merriam-Webster defines mourn (verse 9) as "to feel or express grief or sorrow." In the scriptures mourning is usually used in the context of expressing grief over someone's death.
One way to understand the phrase those that mourn (verse 9) is to think about anyone who is experiencing grief or sorrow. In this way we have a responsibility to connect with the people around us in grief and sorrow and share in that sorrow.
Another interpretation is to take those that mourn as a reference to those who mourn for the Savior, his death and suffering. In that case we are asked if we are willing to join the community of people who mourn for the sins of this world and the resulting suffering and death that our Savior went through in order to save us from those sins. A similar invitation is given in the hymn "He Died the Great Redeemer Died." (See the related link below.)
It is also interesting to note the way verse 9 introduces the themes that will then be played out in the narratives of chapters 19-24. If we look at the two main stories of trial and deliverance—the people of Limhi and the people of Alma—we have both an example of a people who mourn and a people who stand in need of comfort.
The people of Limhi will fight battle after battle, both in their defense and in their pursuit of freedom. Their losses are extremely numerous (enough so that in Mosiah 21:17 Limhi has to command the remaining men to help support the widows and their children): throughout this process they are truly a people acquainted with mourning.
The people of Alma will be persecuted by Amulon: they will be in bondage, they will carry impossibly heavy burdens, they will be refused the comfort of vocal prayer. As such, they will truly be a people who stand in need of comfort.
  • Mosiah 18:8-10.' Echoes of Verses 8-10 and Their Profound Implications for Our Relationship with God. These verses are echoed to great effect when Alma and his people are in trouble in the Land of Helam (which is named after the person Alma is now baptizing). See exegesis on Mosiah 24:11-15.
  • Mosiah 18:17. Despite the fact that the word "church" appears a good number of times before this point in the Book of Mormon, this verse marks the first reference to an official Nephite church, or, in other words, this is the first Nephite church mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Mosiah 25:18 seems quite clearly to confirm this, as it mentions Mosiah II's authorization of Alma to create like churches throughout the land of Zarahemla, the suggestion being that there were none before that time. But even as this cross-reference seems to confirm the origins of the Nephite church in this passage, it also clarifies what the word "church" means here: if Alma was to go on to found a number of churches, then this "church" is not a system of faith, but a congregational organization, a regional gathering of people. From the very start, churches among the Nephites seem to have been a question of a number of people who worship together in a sort of gathered community.
Also interesting to the meaning of the word "church" as used in the Book of Mormon is the attribution of the name "the church of God, or the church of Christ," in this verse, to some unnamed source: those gathered by Alma were simply "called" so. Because the phrase uses the passive voice "they were called," what would otherwise be the subject (the one or the ones doing the calling) escapes notice, and the author of the passage can leave ambiguous the source of the title. In other words, whereas the author might have said that "Alma and his people called themselves the church of God, or the church of Christ," he rather says that "they were called" so, the implication being simply that someone besides those of the church called them that. It remains entirely unclear whence the epithet comes. There is a hint in all of this, then, that "church" was a term used somewhat commonly among the Nephites, that it was not a term that those gathered into the church specifically rooted out of, say, Nephi's writings in order to proclaim their justified foundation or any such thing. Rather, it seems, the concept of a church was not unfamiliar to the Nephites, and this gathering was simply so named because others recognized an already common structure among them.
All these details come together somewhat paradoxically: it seems that Alma is at once doing something entirely unprecedented and also doing something completely familiar to outsiders. The paradox is, however, quite understandable: an idea that has been around for quite some time, and something the people generally are familiar with, but Alma takes upon himself the overwhelming task of actually accomplishing it. Everyone knew what he was doing, but that does not at all mean that it was a common proceeding: Alma has done something rather radical in forming a church. He himself has grounded it by an ostensibly granted authority (see verse 13), and this verse adds that anyone "baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his [meaning God's] church." The implication is clear: Alma's radical movement is his authorized development of something everyone has been expecting for nearly five hundred years, but no one has felt authorized to do.
Now, it might be asked why no one had created a church before this time, even as the idea seems to have been completely familiar to everyone. Or it might be asked more specifically why God had not authorized any to accomplish the task. The answer, however, seems to be buried in a few details of the following story, as well as in some major events that happen later (see verses 31-33 of this chapter, and then especially the complex development that extends across Mosiah 25-29). The answer, put quite simply, is this: the existence of a monarchical system seems to exclude not only the need for churches, but also the possibility of churches. Under the monarchy, the cult seems to have been performed under the auspices of the king and a royal priesthood, but the church assumes a sort of local priesthood, a regionalism replacing the universal authority usually claimed by a king. In other words, since a monarchy seems to have obtained from the very start of Nephite civilization, there has never been need or room for churches. Alma's formation of this first church is taken quite specifically as an act of rebellion, and when he is given royal authority in Zarahemla to establish a number of churches, it leads rather quickly to the dissolution of the monarchy. Perhaps all of this is considered rather simply in a single, weighty phrsae in the following verse: the church is a question of "the kingdom of God."
  • Mosiah 18:18. As soon as there is a unity in this plurality--as soon as the church is a church--Alma ordains a local priesthood. The move may be what most incites the cry of rebellion from Noah by the end of the chapter. The move to ordain priests is a rather complex one, and it must be understood in the right light, lest it be considered from an entirely too protracted view. First to be said about the ordination of these priests: the ordination cannot be understood--culturally, historically--to have been a natural consequence of the gathering of the baptized, but rather should be understood as a radical innovation that ultimately redefines for the Nephites the very meaning of priesthood, and this altered meaning ultimately calls for a restructuring of the entire government. This ordination is ultimately the first step toward undoing the Nephite monarchy, though it happens among a small gathering on the outskirts of a Nephite settlement in Lamanite territory. But regardless of the broadest implications of the action, there seems to be a sort of pragmatism about the verse: the ordination was not an act of defiance, but an act of charity, a way of strengthening those baptized so that they might move from church to kingdom (the kingdom of God).
With the pragmatic character of the ordination drawn out, the differences between this priesthood and priesthood in the restored Church of the latter days are quite clear: Alma does not establish quorums, nor does it appear that he has two separate priesthoods with their several offices, nor again does it appear that these priests wield authority to perform any particular ordinances. The priesthood Alma sets up is, in the end, a rather simple priesthood, a stripped-down priesthood meant to perform the task merely of teaching, though teaching the highest principles, "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." That a great deal happens concerning "the priesthood" between these first ordinations and Alma the Younger's discourse in Alma 13 is obvious: but that development must traced rather carefully and in great detail to accomplish any satisfactory explanation of these questions. At the very least, what is unquestionably clear here is this: by the same "authority" he had to baptize, Alma ordains priests (note that he does not organize a priesthood, per se), and only a rather small number at that (no more than nine would have been ordained by the time the group flees into the wilderness), to take upon themselves the task of preaching and teaching those baptized and gathered together into the church.
  • Mosiah 18:19. If teaching "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" seems an overwhelming task, even a boundless task, this verse imposes some limits on it: these priests are limited to "the things which [Alma] had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." The verses seems thus rather simple and self-explanatory, but it does raise an issue that ought to be dealt with: one can only wonder why Alma would impose limits at all on the teaching task. In other words, since other scriptures promote a rather radical form of teaching--namely, teaching by the Spirit, taking no thought for the words to say, etc.--this rather limited task, hemmed in by what has been said before, seems conservative to say the least. This may not, however, be a commandment to teach in a manner other than that of teaching by the Spirit: there are at least two ways of reading this, in fact, as a commandment to teach by the Spirit. On the one hand, Alma might be suggesting that the Spirit would only lead one to speak of that which has been spoken before. This interpretation seems somewhat flawed, as the Spirit seems in a number of places to be That which specifically goes beyond previous knowledge. On the other hand--and this seems a more likely explanation--Alma might be suggesting that the role of the Spirit in teaching is precisely to help one to interpret the words of the prophets, that the Spirit enlarges upon those words, rather than providing to the teacher new words in the moment. This interpretation presents a sort of division of labors between priests (whatever priests are here) and prophets: the prophets have experiences beyond the Spirit, but priests are to work in the Spirit so as to interpret the prophetic word. The division and correlation might be compared to the gift of tongues (prophets) and the gift of the interpretation of tongues (priests). At any rate, the suggestion is that the Spirit works upon the teaching priest precisely in his attendance upon the words of the prophets.
With all of these details worked out, there is a rather careful phrasing at work in this verse which is all to easily missed: though one might see Alma equating himself with the prophets, the wording actually suggests that he equates himself with the priests in their division of labor, over against the prophets. The clue is the word "teach": the priests are to "teach" only what Alma had "taught," which suggests that they are to do what he himself has done. If their task then extends to teaching what "had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets," there may be here an implication that Alma's mode of teaching had been quite specifically a work of interpretation (in fact, a work of interpreting Abinadi?). Alma sees himself, according to the language presented in this verse, as a priest, rather than as a prophet. As such, the priests have a model for their work: Alma.
  • Mosiah 18:20. Again the priestly task is clarified, though a different verb appears in this verse: "preach." But the instance of "preach" marks a chiastic structure that runs through verses 18-20:
  • ...did he ordain to preach unto them
  • and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
  • And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, etc.
  • Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were...
Similar, in a manner, to the division of labor implicit in the last verse, there appears here a division of sorts, though it is a division within the priestly task: the priests are to preach and to teach, and these seem to be different things. Preaching, in verse 18, seems to be quite open ended, while the teaching of verse 18 seems to be quite specific (concerning the kingdom of God). Parallel to this, verse 19 offers certain bounds (or at least a sort of regional limitation) for teaching, while verse 20 remains rather open ended about preaching. What this means, however, remains to be worked out in detail.
A brief return to verse 19 would prove helpful. The phrasing there is incredibly negative, and verse 20 follows with a parallel structure: the priests are to preach and teach nothing... save... etc. The point is that it would be better for these to preach absolutely nothing whatsoever than to preach something other than what Alma provides them as a task. As for teaching, verse 19 provides the priests with textual boundaries, as it were: the priests are to teach the words of the prophets (apparently interpreting them according to the Spirit), even as Alma has done, and so their bounds there are ultimately textual, for they are to stay within the texts of the prophets. Preaching, however, is a different matter: the bounds for preaching seem to be practical: only two topics are provided, both of which are really more a question of action than of doctrine. In other words, "repentance" and "faith on the Lord" are probably not here understood as doctrines or principles, but as things to be done. Whereas "teaching" carries with it--inevitably--the implication of an intellectual process of sorting things out, "preaching" seems to carry with it rather the implication of exhortation, of invitation, of praxis.
The task of the priest, then: to urge his hearers to trust the Lord and to repent before Him, and to explore in the Spirit the words of the prophets. In the end, there seems to be no reason to read Alma as trying to keep the priests of his church under his thumb, or limited in what they can say: rather, he sees the work of the priest to be the work of edification according to the Spirit that works upon the prophetic texts and the work of reminding the people continually of their double duty to the Lord (the double duty of faith and repentance).
  • Mosiah 18:20: Similarity to D&C 42. These verses on teaching from Mosiah 18 are very similar to those regarding teaching in D&C 42. D&C 42:11 discusses ordination, similar to Mosiah 18:18. D&C 42:12 explains that teachers should "teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon," which is similar to Mosiah 18: 19's direction to teach "the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." D&C 42:12 also commanded teachers to focus on the "principles of the gospel" which are found in the scriptures/words of the prophets, perhaps similar to Alma's direction to teach nothing but "repentance" and "faith" in Mosiah 18:20. (In addition, also note that both Mosiah 18:27-28 and D&C 42: 30 etc, talk about taking care of the poor.)
  • Mosiah 18:21. After instructions concerning teaching and preaching are laid down, Alma commands the priests further (and it is clear that the priests specifically are the ones receiving this command and all those following up through verse 26: in verse 27, Alma will turn specifically to the members of the church to begin to offer them commandments) to avoid contention among themselves. That this commandment is given specifically to the priesthood is an interesting detail, and it deserves some attention.
At first, it would appear as if this commandment against contention is redundant (the covenants the people have made quite explicitly would seem to have covered this question--see verses 8-9), but that it is directed toward the priests seems to cancel the redundancy. Rather, it is a specific clarification for those ordained to preach and teach, for the priesthood. In other words, even as the people have covenanted to uphold one another and to suffer each other, there will remain among the priests a tendency to contend. This commandment, then, seems to be issued as a corrective to the tendency toward competition among the ordained priests. Having separate stewardships (each is set over a separate group of fifty people, a group assigned, apparently, by Alma), the priests do not seem overly likely to find themselves in contention, but then it is perhaps precisely because they have separate stewardships that Alma is concerned that contention might arise. As soon as the people are split up into several groups, there is a tendency towards schism, and each priest, having a sort of autonomy with his fifty, might all too easily make them his.
What Alma wants to have happen is quite clear: rather than contention, he would have them unified (one eye, one faith, one baptism). The way this is phrased is interesting: they are to "look forward with one eye." It may be that Alma phrases the question of unity in this way so as to emphasize that the priests should not be looking at each other, but forward. The words install a very real sense of progress, and the "having" that opens the following phrase then seems to lay the groundwork for that sense of promise: "having one faith and one baptism." The single and shared faith and baptism are together apparently the foundation for the progressive looking forward: faith and baptism together point these priests forward to something yet to come (most likely the "kingdom of God"). With another "having," Alma doubles the foundation that opens the possibility of a forward orientation: "having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another." Of interest here is a sort of redirection of the priests: whereas they were pointed forward before, now they are pointed "one towards another." But this redirection is not really a redirection: their eyes are to remain looking forward, while their hearts are turned to each other. The priests are to be bound to each other precisely in their progressive vision.
The two phrases beginning with "having" come together in an interesting manner. Both are pairs (on the one hand "faith" and "baptism," and on the other hand "unity" and "love"), and they are clearly parallel, in fact, might well be read as an inverted parallelism: faith is paired with love, while baptism and unity are paired between them. That faith is tied to love is suggestive, since "look forward with one eye" can only suggest hope. Baptism and unity are clearly tied in the covenant laid out earlier in the chapter. In short, the unity performed in the covenant of their baptism lays out for these priests an intertwining of faith, hope, and love that is to define their whole being in this work. That intertwining is of some interest, perhaps most because it seems to be a different model than is offered elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. Here, faith and love are the groundwork that open the possibility of hope (hope for the "kingdom of God"), they combine necessarily to open the possibility of hope. If faith is their trust in God and love is their union to each other, then hope becomes the possibility of uniting in one their relations to God and their relations to each other (hence, the "kingdom of God," a people gathered together, yet under the perfect rule of God). This curious reading of faith, hope, and love seems to be unique to this passage. As the next verse will show, it had, for this people, an incredible effect.
  • Mosiah 18:22. The first half of this verse reads as a sort of conclusion to all of what has gone before, and the second half confirms that conclusive spirit. But the second half deserves some close attention, bringing into this question the phrase "the children of God." There is, throughout scripture, a most important connection between sonship and the kingdom. Ostensibly, the idea seems usually to be that the son of God is the one who will inherit the throne, the kingdom. To become the "children of God" seems to mean that one enters into the reality of the kingdom. That one must become a child of God, however, is curious in another way: some rite of adoption seems to be implied. It may be that the ritual of Ex 21:1-7 is implied, or there may be some other ritual at work, but it should not be missed that there is some form of official adoption at work in this verse. In keeping the several commandments Alma offers the priests, they become--together--the "children of God," and this seems then to open onto the possibility of the commandments that follow. In other words, though this verse seems to have a conclusive spirit, in the end, it is not so: there is a sort of conclusion here, but it is a conclusion that opens the possibilties of the further commandments issued next. Alma seems to have offered some commandments that brought them to this point of adoption, and then he seems to have given them further commandments, due to the road that still might be taken ahead (still looking forward). At any rate, the adoption of this verse apparently must be taken into consideration before the further commandments in the next verses.
  • Mosiah 18:23. Beyond adoption, then, Alma issues some further commandments. The first pertains quite explicitly to the ritual side of this church. Whereas the task of preaching and teaching was explicitly non-ritual (as far as one can read into the text, at least), the commandment to observe the sabbath day--and especially to "keep it holy"--is undeniably a question of ritual. With the observance and maintenance of the sabbath, these priests have entered the realm of sacred time (and the gathering place of verse 25 will suggest sacred space as well), which inevitably summons the themes of ritual, of the temple. It is not clear, it must be noted, that there is anything quite like a temple yet (there is reason to believe that any construction of a temple would be mentioned), but there is quite clearly a cultus developing among these several churches.
The phrasing of this commandment is interesting further, because it sets the sabbath in the context of daily ritual: "every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God." There is here quite clearly a sanctification of the whole of time, though there is a specific setting apart of the sabbath. That these priests--and with them, one can only assume, the people--are living in sacred time, a sacred time punctuated by even more sacred time, is suggestive of a promised land (something more profound and more explicit than the passing reference in verse 25, mentioned above). There may be some evidence that this is at work in the song of praise to the place of Mormon offered later in this chapter (verse 30). Such a pattern follows quite closely, incidentally, the early history of the Restored Church: at first the several offices are restored, but without quorum organization or a saturating ritual complex; but by the Missouri period, the nature of the sabbath (and the accompanying sanctification of all time) is taught and enjoined upon the saints, precisely as they settle into the promised land in Jackson County. The formation in verse 25 of what seem to be a quorum of these priests is also rather interesting. (It might be noted then that there is reason to understand this chapter to be quite important for the pattern of the latter-day Restoration.) At any rate, the point is quite clear: there is, following the rites of adoption in verse 22, a sort of reification of the priesthood, a hypostasis, as it were, of their work, as they enter into ritual space and time and the kingdom of God begins to be established in their midst (hope being fulfilled?).
  • Mosiah 18:24. Interjected between the sanctification of time in verse 23 and the sanctification of space in verse 25 is this peculiar command: "that the priests whom [Alma] had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support." That it comes between these two works of sanctification is doubly suggestive: it is suggestive on the one hand because it seems to suggest that one should read this command as a question of sanctification as well; and it is suggestive on the other hand because it suggests that there is some change in the structure of the priesthood's means of living even as there is a movement towards the ritualization of the church. In other words, there is in this verse at least the hint that before the adoption rites of verse 22, the priests were living off of the labor of the people, like itinerant preachers. The change is significant (it again follows the pattern of the Restoration), as it seems (as mentioned) to be connected with the development of the cultus that sanctifies everything in the world of the church. That this commandment is central, in fact, the center of a rather simple chiasm, is quite suggestive: there is a hint that this commandment is the most important one, the one that changes everything. In other words, this verse seems to be the most important shift after the rites of adoption: that the priests now begin to labor for their own support seems to suggest that a very real community is formed, and that the people are at this very moment beginning to live the law of consecration. The theme is doubled in verse 26, and it is confirmed powerfully in verses 27-28: the law of consecration grounds the sanctification (ultimately the consecration) of time and space. All of this, it must be noticed, rides on the back of the adoption marked in verse 22.
  • Mosiah 18:25. It is necessary, after all of the above, to look quite carefully at the sanctification of space that seems to be implied in this verse, but there is a great deal more at work here as well. For example, there seems to be a separation of sorts between "the sabbath day" of verse 23 and the "one day in every week that was set apart" of this verse. In other words, the "regular" (regular as in every week, though the phrase seems to suggest something not exactly strictly scheduled) meetings for teaching and worship seem not to have necessarily been scheduled specifically on the Sabbath: worship might have been a non-Sabbath activity for these people. Rather, the Sabbath may have been something more fundamental than a day simply sanctified by the act of worship (a theme that might best be explored elsewhere in scripture). This disconnection of sorts between verses 23 and 25 highlights a number of other curiosities in the present verse: the gathering is a gathering of priests (albeit "to teach the people), and the implication of the following phrase, "and to worship the Lord their God," is that the priests were gathering to worship, and not necessarily the people. This focus on the priests culminates in the final clause of the verse: the priests were, "as often as it was in their power, to assemble themselves together." This inordinate focus on the priests as the very center of worship is of some interest, and it deserves some sustained attention, especially because it seems also to have something to do with the sanctification of space implied in the "regular" gatherings.
This verse could be read in a rather democratic way—that is, it could be that the priests comprise most of the people and so separating out the other, non-priests in the congregation would be less necessary than if the priests were only a small percentage of the congregation. Also, it may be that the themselves in the first part of the verse is referring to the priests but in the second part of the verse themselves refers to the priests and the other congregation members (future priests and priestesses?). On this reading the reconciliatoin of God to priests and priests to other church members furthers the unity theme of surrounding verses (v. 21 in particular). In verse 23 the focus seems to be on individual church members sanctifying the Sabbath in relation with God (a private type of worship), whereas here the public community aspect of worship seems the focus. Whether or not these activities take place on the same day, the parallel seems unmistakeable: individual worship of God is not sufficient, community worship must accompany it. This follows the pattern in many other scriptures where individual conversion is followed immediately by a concern for the conversion of friends and family (e.g. Enos 1, Lehi's dream in 1 Ne 8, and Isa 6)—indeed, this pattern parallels the order of the great two commandments as spoken by Christ in Matt 22:34-40.
  • Mosiah 18:30. This verse appears to employ different literary styles than is consistent with the rest of the account.
  • First there is the excessive location explanation: "done in Mormon, ...waters of Mormon, ....Mormon; ... the place of Mormon, ...the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon,"
  • Second, there is a very prosaic passage almost out of the blue: "how beautiful are they to the eyes of them ... for they shall sing to his praise forever."
It is hard to know whether this is Mormon, as abridger, emphasizing the geography that bears his name or Alma's original record. It is very difficult to jump to an unusual geographic orientation and then quickly to an aesthetic style in the middle of doing a narration by a more sedate method. (This is perhaps evidence of abridgement work in that Joseph Smith would not have thought to change styles so abruptly mid-narration if he were the author.)
  • Mosiah 19.2: Gideon. In Hebrew, the name Gideon means "hacker." The root verb is used elsewhere to describe the hacking down idolatrous images or shrines (cf. Deut 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chr 14:3; 31:1). The Old Testament judge Gideon may have recieved this name as a likely foreshadowing of either hacking down of the altar of Baal in Judg 6:25-32, or the hacking down of Israel's enemies depicted in Judg 7. The Book of Mormon Gideon is similarly a man of the sword; he draws it here in fighting King Noah, and is ultimately killed by the sword in Alma 1:9.
  • Mosiah 19.24: Ceremony. Regarding the use of "ceremony" in verse 24, it's possible that it is a reference to some type of ritual killing or death of a king. The text prior to verse 24 contains a sense of building urgency and the implication that the actions could be happening quickly, one right after the other. For example, we are told that the people were "angry" (v. 19) and that they acted in anger when they "caused that he should suffer, even unto death by fire" (v. 19). In the following verses "they were about to take the priests" (v. 21, emphasis added), the priests "fled" (v. 21), the people "were about to return" (v. 22, emphasis added) when they met the men of Gideon, and they immediately tell the men of Gideon everything. The textual image is that of an impassioned people acting on their impulses; the men of Gideon could very well have arrived in the middle of events not yet wrapped up, and it is possible that there remained some unfinished ritual or ceremony with regards to Noah's death that the people had yet to perform, especially if he was offered in their anger as a sacrifice so that the people could regain their families.
Another possibility is discussed by Hugh Nibley in the transcripts of his Book of Mormon class. He sees the word as a clear reference to some type of reconciliation or peace ceremony in which two factions—the men of Gideon versus the men who originally left their families and followed Noah into the wilderness—ritually agree to not fight against each other. Given the political context at the time, it is not unlikely that some kind of formal treaty or ritual of reconciliation would be performed.
The use of the word "ceremony" stands out awkwardly among these verses, in the same way that Mosiah 17:11 stands out among its neighboring verses. In addition to its possible reference as a "ritual killing" or "death of a king," the word "ceremony" could denote an execution. In Mosiah 17:9, Abinadi refuses to recall his words, and then, in v. 10 he proclaims his suffering, death, and refusal to recall his words as testimonies. He levels his own evidence, as it were, against the king and his priests, and in v. 11, Noah responds with fear. The following verses--Abinadi's prophecy--are famous, but the overlooked preceding verses lend a sense that not only was Abinadi making a prophetic statement in verses 15-19--he was pronouncing another sentence. His own death would be evidence of their corruption--evidence which could justify their own trial and eventual execution.

Points to ponder[edit]

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  • Why is it that Alma has success in preaching where Abinadi didn't? Or did they have different callings or objectives?
  • Mosiah 18:4: Is this verse offered as an etymology of the name "Mormon"? In other words, did the king call the place "Mormon" because it was in the borders of the land or because it was infested with wild beasts, the implication is that this is the meaning of "Mormon"?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What do we make of the name Mormon coming from the wicked king Noah?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What does it mean to be "infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts"? What kind of animals might these have been, and why would an influx of these animals constitute an infestation?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant by a "fountain" of water? Why would it be considered pure water?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant here by a "thicket of small trees"? Is this an isolated cluster of trees in a cleared area, or a brushy area within a forest?
  • Mosiah 18:7: How could a "goodly number" of people gather to a "thicket of small trees" without being observed?
  • Mosiah 18:8: What does it mean to "come into the fold of God"
  • Mosiah 18:8: How are we called the people of God? What does it mean to be his people?
  • Mosiah 18:9: What does it mean to mourn with those who mourn? Is this different in some way than comforting those who morn? (We are told that our savior comforts those who mourn in Isa 61:2).
  • Mosiah 18:9: How can we "stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places"? How can we know how well we are doing at this?
  • Mosiah 18:9: How much should we desire our own redemption and eternal life? Is it selfish to be motivated by our own eternal rewards?
  • Mosiah 18:10: What does it mean to covenant to serve the LORD and keep his commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:10: How can "his Spirit" be poured out "more abundantly" upon us? What does this terminology add to our understanding of the gift of the Holy Ghost?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Who is this Helam, and why does he have the same name as the (presumably) royal Mulekite brother of Ammon (Mosiah 7:6) sent later to inquire about the whereabouts of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Why does Alma pray like this before baptizing Helam? Is this just an example of praying before performing anything unto the LORD, or is there something else going on here?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Where did Alma get his power and authority to baptize?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Why does this baptismal prayer differ from the one we use today?
  • Mosiah 18:13: What does it mean for Christ to have been "prepared from the foundation fo the world"? What is the "foundation" of the world?
  • Mosiah 18:14: Why would Alma and Helam both be "buried in the water" in this baptism? Was Alma baptizing himself?
  • Mosiah 18:14: What does it mean that they both "arose" after the baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:15: Why didn't Alma "bury himself again in the water" after the first baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:16: What does it mean for the people to be "filled with the grace of God"? How is grace something that can fill you?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: There are several places in the scriptures where teachers are counseled to teach nothing but repentance and faith on the Lord. Verse 20 here is one example. How literally can we interpret this? Is it applicable to us today in all situations where we are teaches? Or just some?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: Did these priests have access to written scriptures in order to teach that "which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets" or were they dependent on Alma and oral transmission of teachings?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: How can we preach "nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord"?
  • Mosiah 18:21: How does Alma's injunction against "contention" contrast with the continual rounds of contention described in the Record of Zeniff?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean to "look forward with one eye?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean for hearts to be "knit together in unity"? Is there a difference between being knit and being sealed? Does this involve a priesthood ordinance of some type, or is it merely a representation of people bonding to each other?
  • Mosiah 18:22: How do the people become the "children of God"? Aren't we already the children of a Heavenly Father? How is this different and what is the distinction?
  • Mosiah 18:23: Why is sabbath day observance specifically mentioned here, rather than other commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:23: According to Alma, giving thanks to God every day is a commandment. Was this a specific commandment just for his people, or is this a commandment that is in effect for our day as well?
  • Mosiah 18:24: How does this verse serve as a precedent for modern LDS practice of a lay priesthood?
  • Mosiah 18:24: What does it mean to "labor with [our] own hands"?
  • Mosiah 18:26: What does it mean to "receive the grace of God" for [our] labor?
  • Mosiah 19.3: Why might a minority of the people have been upset with the king?
  • Mosiah 19.3: What does it mean to "breathe out threatenings"?
  • Mosiah 19.3: How does the theme of contention play throughout the history of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How might this Gideon's role as liberator echo that of the Old Testament judge Gideon?
  • Mosiah 19.4: What are we to make of Gideon? Is he a role model? A cautionary figure? What can we learn from his experience?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How should we judge Gideon's wrath, swearing, and threats of violence?
  • Mosiah 19.4: After reading this account, should we be surprised by how Gideon meets his eventual end?
  • Mosiah 19.5: Why are we told here that Noah "fled and ran"? Aren't these pretty much the same thing?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What might be the significance of a tower being "near" the temple, rather than part of the temple?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What do we know about this Nephite temple?
  • Mosiah 19.6-10: We are presented here with a rather colorful narrative of fleeing, fighting, and negotiating. What is the purpose of this account? Why would Mormon bother to include it? Why don't we just have a more abbreviated account? Is there something more here that we should be getting from these stories?
  • Mosiah 19.8: Why might Gideon have spared King Noah? Why not just kill him and then go off to flee or fight the Lamanites?
  • Mosiah 19.11: Why might King Noah have tried to get the men to leave their wives and children?
  • Mosiah 19.15: Are the Nephites expected to pay 1/2 of all they have every year, or is this just a one time payment with an unspecified level of tribute to be paid afterwards?
  • Mosiah 19.16: Why wouldn't a son of Noah have followed his father and fled into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.17: What does it mean for Limhi to be described as a "just" man?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What position in society might Gideon have had that allowed him to send scouts out into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What do the Nephites mean by wilderness? Does this just mean uninhabited lands, or is there some other meaning?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What does it mean that the men had sworn "in their hearts"? Wasn't this a fairly public decision?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What are we to make of this desire to seek revenge? Is this a noble desire? How are we supposed to feel about these men who first leave their families to potentially perish, then get upset and want to seek revenge for their deaths?
  • Mosiah 19.20: These men have killed the king? What standing might they have under Old Testament law? Was this a justified killing, or something much more grievous?
  • Mosiah 19.21: How could these men have been able to grab and kill the king, but not the priests?

Resources[edit]

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Notes[edit]

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Mosiah 19:21-25

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  • Mosiah 18:9: Those that mourn. Merriam-Webster defines mourn (verse 9) as "to feel or express grief or sorrow." In the scriptures mourning is usually used in the context of expressing grief over someone's death.
One way to understand the phrase those that mourn (verse 9) is to think about anyone who is experiencing grief or sorrow. In this way we have a responsibility to connect with the people around us in grief and sorrow and share in that sorrow.
Another interpretation is to take those that mourn as a reference to those who mourn for the Savior, his death and suffering. In that case we are asked if we are willing to join the community of people who mourn for the sins of this world and the resulting suffering and death that our Savior went through in order to save us from those sins. A similar invitation is given in the hymn "He Died the Great Redeemer Died." (See the related link below.)
It is also interesting to note the way verse 9 introduces the themes that will then be played out in the narratives of chapters 19-24. If we look at the two main stories of trial and deliverance—the people of Limhi and the people of Alma—we have both an example of a people who mourn and a people who stand in need of comfort.
The people of Limhi will fight battle after battle, both in their defense and in their pursuit of freedom. Their losses are extremely numerous (enough so that in Mosiah 21:17 Limhi has to command the remaining men to help support the widows and their children): throughout this process they are truly a people acquainted with mourning.
The people of Alma will be persecuted by Amulon: they will be in bondage, they will carry impossibly heavy burdens, they will be refused the comfort of vocal prayer. As such, they will truly be a people who stand in need of comfort.
  • Mosiah 18:8-10.' Echoes of Verses 8-10 and Their Profound Implications for Our Relationship with God. These verses are echoed to great effect when Alma and his people are in trouble in the Land of Helam (which is named after the person Alma is now baptizing). See exegesis on Mosiah 24:11-15.
  • Mosiah 18:17. Despite the fact that the word "church" appears a good number of times before this point in the Book of Mormon, this verse marks the first reference to an official Nephite church, or, in other words, this is the first Nephite church mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Mosiah 25:18 seems quite clearly to confirm this, as it mentions Mosiah II's authorization of Alma to create like churches throughout the land of Zarahemla, the suggestion being that there were none before that time. But even as this cross-reference seems to confirm the origins of the Nephite church in this passage, it also clarifies what the word "church" means here: if Alma was to go on to found a number of churches, then this "church" is not a system of faith, but a congregational organization, a regional gathering of people. From the very start, churches among the Nephites seem to have been a question of a number of people who worship together in a sort of gathered community.
Also interesting to the meaning of the word "church" as used in the Book of Mormon is the attribution of the name "the church of God, or the church of Christ," in this verse, to some unnamed source: those gathered by Alma were simply "called" so. Because the phrase uses the passive voice "they were called," what would otherwise be the subject (the one or the ones doing the calling) escapes notice, and the author of the passage can leave ambiguous the source of the title. In other words, whereas the author might have said that "Alma and his people called themselves the church of God, or the church of Christ," he rather says that "they were called" so, the implication being simply that someone besides those of the church called them that. It remains entirely unclear whence the epithet comes. There is a hint in all of this, then, that "church" was a term used somewhat commonly among the Nephites, that it was not a term that those gathered into the church specifically rooted out of, say, Nephi's writings in order to proclaim their justified foundation or any such thing. Rather, it seems, the concept of a church was not unfamiliar to the Nephites, and this gathering was simply so named because others recognized an already common structure among them.
All these details come together somewhat paradoxically: it seems that Alma is at once doing something entirely unprecedented and also doing something completely familiar to outsiders. The paradox is, however, quite understandable: an idea that has been around for quite some time, and something the people generally are familiar with, but Alma takes upon himself the overwhelming task of actually accomplishing it. Everyone knew what he was doing, but that does not at all mean that it was a common proceeding: Alma has done something rather radical in forming a church. He himself has grounded it by an ostensibly granted authority (see verse 13), and this verse adds that anyone "baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his [meaning God's] church." The implication is clear: Alma's radical movement is his authorized development of something everyone has been expecting for nearly five hundred years, but no one has felt authorized to do.
Now, it might be asked why no one had created a church before this time, even as the idea seems to have been completely familiar to everyone. Or it might be asked more specifically why God had not authorized any to accomplish the task. The answer, however, seems to be buried in a few details of the following story, as well as in some major events that happen later (see verses 31-33 of this chapter, and then especially the complex development that extends across Mosiah 25-29). The answer, put quite simply, is this: the existence of a monarchical system seems to exclude not only the need for churches, but also the possibility of churches. Under the monarchy, the cult seems to have been performed under the auspices of the king and a royal priesthood, but the church assumes a sort of local priesthood, a regionalism replacing the universal authority usually claimed by a king. In other words, since a monarchy seems to have obtained from the very start of Nephite civilization, there has never been need or room for churches. Alma's formation of this first church is taken quite specifically as an act of rebellion, and when he is given royal authority in Zarahemla to establish a number of churches, it leads rather quickly to the dissolution of the monarchy. Perhaps all of this is considered rather simply in a single, weighty phrsae in the following verse: the church is a question of "the kingdom of God."
  • Mosiah 18:18. As soon as there is a unity in this plurality--as soon as the church is a church--Alma ordains a local priesthood. The move may be what most incites the cry of rebellion from Noah by the end of the chapter. The move to ordain priests is a rather complex one, and it must be understood in the right light, lest it be considered from an entirely too protracted view. First to be said about the ordination of these priests: the ordination cannot be understood--culturally, historically--to have been a natural consequence of the gathering of the baptized, but rather should be understood as a radical innovation that ultimately redefines for the Nephites the very meaning of priesthood, and this altered meaning ultimately calls for a restructuring of the entire government. This ordination is ultimately the first step toward undoing the Nephite monarchy, though it happens among a small gathering on the outskirts of a Nephite settlement in Lamanite territory. But regardless of the broadest implications of the action, there seems to be a sort of pragmatism about the verse: the ordination was not an act of defiance, but an act of charity, a way of strengthening those baptized so that they might move from church to kingdom (the kingdom of God).
With the pragmatic character of the ordination drawn out, the differences between this priesthood and priesthood in the restored Church of the latter days are quite clear: Alma does not establish quorums, nor does it appear that he has two separate priesthoods with their several offices, nor again does it appear that these priests wield authority to perform any particular ordinances. The priesthood Alma sets up is, in the end, a rather simple priesthood, a stripped-down priesthood meant to perform the task merely of teaching, though teaching the highest principles, "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." That a great deal happens concerning "the priesthood" between these first ordinations and Alma the Younger's discourse in Alma 13 is obvious: but that development must traced rather carefully and in great detail to accomplish any satisfactory explanation of these questions. At the very least, what is unquestionably clear here is this: by the same "authority" he had to baptize, Alma ordains priests (note that he does not organize a priesthood, per se), and only a rather small number at that (no more than nine would have been ordained by the time the group flees into the wilderness), to take upon themselves the task of preaching and teaching those baptized and gathered together into the church.
  • Mosiah 18:19. If teaching "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" seems an overwhelming task, even a boundless task, this verse imposes some limits on it: these priests are limited to "the things which [Alma] had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." The verses seems thus rather simple and self-explanatory, but it does raise an issue that ought to be dealt with: one can only wonder why Alma would impose limits at all on the teaching task. In other words, since other scriptures promote a rather radical form of teaching--namely, teaching by the Spirit, taking no thought for the words to say, etc.--this rather limited task, hemmed in by what has been said before, seems conservative to say the least. This may not, however, be a commandment to teach in a manner other than that of teaching by the Spirit: there are at least two ways of reading this, in fact, as a commandment to teach by the Spirit. On the one hand, Alma might be suggesting that the Spirit would only lead one to speak of that which has been spoken before. This interpretation seems somewhat flawed, as the Spirit seems in a number of places to be That which specifically goes beyond previous knowledge. On the other hand--and this seems a more likely explanation--Alma might be suggesting that the role of the Spirit in teaching is precisely to help one to interpret the words of the prophets, that the Spirit enlarges upon those words, rather than providing to the teacher new words in the moment. This interpretation presents a sort of division of labors between priests (whatever priests are here) and prophets: the prophets have experiences beyond the Spirit, but priests are to work in the Spirit so as to interpret the prophetic word. The division and correlation might be compared to the gift of tongues (prophets) and the gift of the interpretation of tongues (priests). At any rate, the suggestion is that the Spirit works upon the teaching priest precisely in his attendance upon the words of the prophets.
With all of these details worked out, there is a rather careful phrasing at work in this verse which is all to easily missed: though one might see Alma equating himself with the prophets, the wording actually suggests that he equates himself with the priests in their division of labor, over against the prophets. The clue is the word "teach": the priests are to "teach" only what Alma had "taught," which suggests that they are to do what he himself has done. If their task then extends to teaching what "had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets," there may be here an implication that Alma's mode of teaching had been quite specifically a work of interpretation (in fact, a work of interpreting Abinadi?). Alma sees himself, according to the language presented in this verse, as a priest, rather than as a prophet. As such, the priests have a model for their work: Alma.
  • Mosiah 18:20. Again the priestly task is clarified, though a different verb appears in this verse: "preach." But the instance of "preach" marks a chiastic structure that runs through verses 18-20:
  • ...did he ordain to preach unto them
  • and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
  • And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, etc.
  • Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were...
Similar, in a manner, to the division of labor implicit in the last verse, there appears here a division of sorts, though it is a division within the priestly task: the priests are to preach and to teach, and these seem to be different things. Preaching, in verse 18, seems to be quite open ended, while the teaching of verse 18 seems to be quite specific (concerning the kingdom of God). Parallel to this, verse 19 offers certain bounds (or at least a sort of regional limitation) for teaching, while verse 20 remains rather open ended about preaching. What this means, however, remains to be worked out in detail.
A brief return to verse 19 would prove helpful. The phrasing there is incredibly negative, and verse 20 follows with a parallel structure: the priests are to preach and teach nothing... save... etc. The point is that it would be better for these to preach absolutely nothing whatsoever than to preach something other than what Alma provides them as a task. As for teaching, verse 19 provides the priests with textual boundaries, as it were: the priests are to teach the words of the prophets (apparently interpreting them according to the Spirit), even as Alma has done, and so their bounds there are ultimately textual, for they are to stay within the texts of the prophets. Preaching, however, is a different matter: the bounds for preaching seem to be practical: only two topics are provided, both of which are really more a question of action than of doctrine. In other words, "repentance" and "faith on the Lord" are probably not here understood as doctrines or principles, but as things to be done. Whereas "teaching" carries with it--inevitably--the implication of an intellectual process of sorting things out, "preaching" seems to carry with it rather the implication of exhortation, of invitation, of praxis.
The task of the priest, then: to urge his hearers to trust the Lord and to repent before Him, and to explore in the Spirit the words of the prophets. In the end, there seems to be no reason to read Alma as trying to keep the priests of his church under his thumb, or limited in what they can say: rather, he sees the work of the priest to be the work of edification according to the Spirit that works upon the prophetic texts and the work of reminding the people continually of their double duty to the Lord (the double duty of faith and repentance).
  • Mosiah 18:20: Similarity to D&C 42. These verses on teaching from Mosiah 18 are very similar to those regarding teaching in D&C 42. D&C 42:11 discusses ordination, similar to Mosiah 18:18. D&C 42:12 explains that teachers should "teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon," which is similar to Mosiah 18: 19's direction to teach "the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." D&C 42:12 also commanded teachers to focus on the "principles of the gospel" which are found in the scriptures/words of the prophets, perhaps similar to Alma's direction to teach nothing but "repentance" and "faith" in Mosiah 18:20. (In addition, also note that both Mosiah 18:27-28 and D&C 42: 30 etc, talk about taking care of the poor.)
  • Mosiah 18:21. After instructions concerning teaching and preaching are laid down, Alma commands the priests further (and it is clear that the priests specifically are the ones receiving this command and all those following up through verse 26: in verse 27, Alma will turn specifically to the members of the church to begin to offer them commandments) to avoid contention among themselves. That this commandment is given specifically to the priesthood is an interesting detail, and it deserves some attention.
At first, it would appear as if this commandment against contention is redundant (the covenants the people have made quite explicitly would seem to have covered this question--see verses 8-9), but that it is directed toward the priests seems to cancel the redundancy. Rather, it is a specific clarification for those ordained to preach and teach, for the priesthood. In other words, even as the people have covenanted to uphold one another and to suffer each other, there will remain among the priests a tendency to contend. This commandment, then, seems to be issued as a corrective to the tendency toward competition among the ordained priests. Having separate stewardships (each is set over a separate group of fifty people, a group assigned, apparently, by Alma), the priests do not seem overly likely to find themselves in contention, but then it is perhaps precisely because they have separate stewardships that Alma is concerned that contention might arise. As soon as the people are split up into several groups, there is a tendency towards schism, and each priest, having a sort of autonomy with his fifty, might all too easily make them his.
What Alma wants to have happen is quite clear: rather than contention, he would have them unified (one eye, one faith, one baptism). The way this is phrased is interesting: they are to "look forward with one eye." It may be that Alma phrases the question of unity in this way so as to emphasize that the priests should not be looking at each other, but forward. The words install a very real sense of progress, and the "having" that opens the following phrase then seems to lay the groundwork for that sense of promise: "having one faith and one baptism." The single and shared faith and baptism are together apparently the foundation for the progressive looking forward: faith and baptism together point these priests forward to something yet to come (most likely the "kingdom of God"). With another "having," Alma doubles the foundation that opens the possibility of a forward orientation: "having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another." Of interest here is a sort of redirection of the priests: whereas they were pointed forward before, now they are pointed "one towards another." But this redirection is not really a redirection: their eyes are to remain looking forward, while their hearts are turned to each other. The priests are to be bound to each other precisely in their progressive vision.
The two phrases beginning with "having" come together in an interesting manner. Both are pairs (on the one hand "faith" and "baptism," and on the other hand "unity" and "love"), and they are clearly parallel, in fact, might well be read as an inverted parallelism: faith is paired with love, while baptism and unity are paired between them. That faith is tied to love is suggestive, since "look forward with one eye" can only suggest hope. Baptism and unity are clearly tied in the covenant laid out earlier in the chapter. In short, the unity performed in the covenant of their baptism lays out for these priests an intertwining of faith, hope, and love that is to define their whole being in this work. That intertwining is of some interest, perhaps most because it seems to be a different model than is offered elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. Here, faith and love are the groundwork that open the possibility of hope (hope for the "kingdom of God"), they combine necessarily to open the possibility of hope. If faith is their trust in God and love is their union to each other, then hope becomes the possibility of uniting in one their relations to God and their relations to each other (hence, the "kingdom of God," a people gathered together, yet under the perfect rule of God). This curious reading of faith, hope, and love seems to be unique to this passage. As the next verse will show, it had, for this people, an incredible effect.
  • Mosiah 18:22. The first half of this verse reads as a sort of conclusion to all of what has gone before, and the second half confirms that conclusive spirit. But the second half deserves some close attention, bringing into this question the phrase "the children of God." There is, throughout scripture, a most important connection between sonship and the kingdom. Ostensibly, the idea seems usually to be that the son of God is the one who will inherit the throne, the kingdom. To become the "children of God" seems to mean that one enters into the reality of the kingdom. That one must become a child of God, however, is curious in another way: some rite of adoption seems to be implied. It may be that the ritual of Ex 21:1-7 is implied, or there may be some other ritual at work, but it should not be missed that there is some form of official adoption at work in this verse. In keeping the several commandments Alma offers the priests, they become--together--the "children of God," and this seems then to open onto the possibility of the commandments that follow. In other words, though this verse seems to have a conclusive spirit, in the end, it is not so: there is a sort of conclusion here, but it is a conclusion that opens the possibilties of the further commandments issued next. Alma seems to have offered some commandments that brought them to this point of adoption, and then he seems to have given them further commandments, due to the road that still might be taken ahead (still looking forward). At any rate, the adoption of this verse apparently must be taken into consideration before the further commandments in the next verses.
  • Mosiah 18:23. Beyond adoption, then, Alma issues some further commandments. The first pertains quite explicitly to the ritual side of this church. Whereas the task of preaching and teaching was explicitly non-ritual (as far as one can read into the text, at least), the commandment to observe the sabbath day--and especially to "keep it holy"--is undeniably a question of ritual. With the observance and maintenance of the sabbath, these priests have entered the realm of sacred time (and the gathering place of verse 25 will suggest sacred space as well), which inevitably summons the themes of ritual, of the temple. It is not clear, it must be noted, that there is anything quite like a temple yet (there is reason to believe that any construction of a temple would be mentioned), but there is quite clearly a cultus developing among these several churches.
The phrasing of this commandment is interesting further, because it sets the sabbath in the context of daily ritual: "every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God." There is here quite clearly a sanctification of the whole of time, though there is a specific setting apart of the sabbath. That these priests--and with them, one can only assume, the people--are living in sacred time, a sacred time punctuated by even more sacred time, is suggestive of a promised land (something more profound and more explicit than the passing reference in verse 25, mentioned above). There may be some evidence that this is at work in the song of praise to the place of Mormon offered later in this chapter (verse 30). Such a pattern follows quite closely, incidentally, the early history of the Restored Church: at first the several offices are restored, but without quorum organization or a saturating ritual complex; but by the Missouri period, the nature of the sabbath (and the accompanying sanctification of all time) is taught and enjoined upon the saints, precisely as they settle into the promised land in Jackson County. The formation in verse 25 of what seem to be a quorum of these priests is also rather interesting. (It might be noted then that there is reason to understand this chapter to be quite important for the pattern of the latter-day Restoration.) At any rate, the point is quite clear: there is, following the rites of adoption in verse 22, a sort of reification of the priesthood, a hypostasis, as it were, of their work, as they enter into ritual space and time and the kingdom of God begins to be established in their midst (hope being fulfilled?).
  • Mosiah 18:24. Interjected between the sanctification of time in verse 23 and the sanctification of space in verse 25 is this peculiar command: "that the priests whom [Alma] had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support." That it comes between these two works of sanctification is doubly suggestive: it is suggestive on the one hand because it seems to suggest that one should read this command as a question of sanctification as well; and it is suggestive on the other hand because it suggests that there is some change in the structure of the priesthood's means of living even as there is a movement towards the ritualization of the church. In other words, there is in this verse at least the hint that before the adoption rites of verse 22, the priests were living off of the labor of the people, like itinerant preachers. The change is significant (it again follows the pattern of the Restoration), as it seems (as mentioned) to be connected with the development of the cultus that sanctifies everything in the world of the church. That this commandment is central, in fact, the center of a rather simple chiasm, is quite suggestive: there is a hint that this commandment is the most important one, the one that changes everything. In other words, this verse seems to be the most important shift after the rites of adoption: that the priests now begin to labor for their own support seems to suggest that a very real community is formed, and that the people are at this very moment beginning to live the law of consecration. The theme is doubled in verse 26, and it is confirmed powerfully in verses 27-28: the law of consecration grounds the sanctification (ultimately the consecration) of time and space. All of this, it must be noticed, rides on the back of the adoption marked in verse 22.
  • Mosiah 18:25. It is necessary, after all of the above, to look quite carefully at the sanctification of space that seems to be implied in this verse, but there is a great deal more at work here as well. For example, there seems to be a separation of sorts between "the sabbath day" of verse 23 and the "one day in every week that was set apart" of this verse. In other words, the "regular" (regular as in every week, though the phrase seems to suggest something not exactly strictly scheduled) meetings for teaching and worship seem not to have necessarily been scheduled specifically on the Sabbath: worship might have been a non-Sabbath activity for these people. Rather, the Sabbath may have been something more fundamental than a day simply sanctified by the act of worship (a theme that might best be explored elsewhere in scripture). This disconnection of sorts between verses 23 and 25 highlights a number of other curiosities in the present verse: the gathering is a gathering of priests (albeit "to teach the people), and the implication of the following phrase, "and to worship the Lord their God," is that the priests were gathering to worship, and not necessarily the people. This focus on the priests culminates in the final clause of the verse: the priests were, "as often as it was in their power, to assemble themselves together." This inordinate focus on the priests as the very center of worship is of some interest, and it deserves some sustained attention, especially because it seems also to have something to do with the sanctification of space implied in the "regular" gatherings.
This verse could be read in a rather democratic way—that is, it could be that the priests comprise most of the people and so separating out the other, non-priests in the congregation would be less necessary than if the priests were only a small percentage of the congregation. Also, it may be that the themselves in the first part of the verse is referring to the priests but in the second part of the verse themselves refers to the priests and the other congregation members (future priests and priestesses?). On this reading the reconciliatoin of God to priests and priests to other church members furthers the unity theme of surrounding verses (v. 21 in particular). In verse 23 the focus seems to be on individual church members sanctifying the Sabbath in relation with God (a private type of worship), whereas here the public community aspect of worship seems the focus. Whether or not these activities take place on the same day, the parallel seems unmistakeable: individual worship of God is not sufficient, community worship must accompany it. This follows the pattern in many other scriptures where individual conversion is followed immediately by a concern for the conversion of friends and family (e.g. Enos 1, Lehi's dream in 1 Ne 8, and Isa 6)—indeed, this pattern parallels the order of the great two commandments as spoken by Christ in Matt 22:34-40.
  • Mosiah 18:30. This verse appears to employ different literary styles than is consistent with the rest of the account.
  • First there is the excessive location explanation: "done in Mormon, ...waters of Mormon, ....Mormon; ... the place of Mormon, ...the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon,"
  • Second, there is a very prosaic passage almost out of the blue: "how beautiful are they to the eyes of them ... for they shall sing to his praise forever."
It is hard to know whether this is Mormon, as abridger, emphasizing the geography that bears his name or Alma's original record. It is very difficult to jump to an unusual geographic orientation and then quickly to an aesthetic style in the middle of doing a narration by a more sedate method. (This is perhaps evidence of abridgement work in that Joseph Smith would not have thought to change styles so abruptly mid-narration if he were the author.)
  • Mosiah 19.2: Gideon. In Hebrew, the name Gideon means "hacker." The root verb is used elsewhere to describe the hacking down idolatrous images or shrines (cf. Deut 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chr 14:3; 31:1). The Old Testament judge Gideon may have recieved this name as a likely foreshadowing of either hacking down of the altar of Baal in Judg 6:25-32, or the hacking down of Israel's enemies depicted in Judg 7. The Book of Mormon Gideon is similarly a man of the sword; he draws it here in fighting King Noah, and is ultimately killed by the sword in Alma 1:9.
  • Mosiah 19.24: Ceremony. Regarding the use of "ceremony" in verse 24, it's possible that it is a reference to some type of ritual killing or death of a king. The text prior to verse 24 contains a sense of building urgency and the implication that the actions could be happening quickly, one right after the other. For example, we are told that the people were "angry" (v. 19) and that they acted in anger when they "caused that he should suffer, even unto death by fire" (v. 19). In the following verses "they were about to take the priests" (v. 21, emphasis added), the priests "fled" (v. 21), the people "were about to return" (v. 22, emphasis added) when they met the men of Gideon, and they immediately tell the men of Gideon everything. The textual image is that of an impassioned people acting on their impulses; the men of Gideon could very well have arrived in the middle of events not yet wrapped up, and it is possible that there remained some unfinished ritual or ceremony with regards to Noah's death that the people had yet to perform, especially if he was offered in their anger as a sacrifice so that the people could regain their families.
Another possibility is discussed by Hugh Nibley in the transcripts of his Book of Mormon class. He sees the word as a clear reference to some type of reconciliation or peace ceremony in which two factions—the men of Gideon versus the men who originally left their families and followed Noah into the wilderness—ritually agree to not fight against each other. Given the political context at the time, it is not unlikely that some kind of formal treaty or ritual of reconciliation would be performed.
The use of the word "ceremony" stands out awkwardly among these verses, in the same way that Mosiah 17:11 stands out among its neighboring verses. In addition to its possible reference as a "ritual killing" or "death of a king," the word "ceremony" could denote an execution. In Mosiah 17:9, Abinadi refuses to recall his words, and then, in v. 10 he proclaims his suffering, death, and refusal to recall his words as testimonies. He levels his own evidence, as it were, against the king and his priests, and in v. 11, Noah responds with fear. The following verses--Abinadi's prophecy--are famous, but the overlooked preceding verses lend a sense that not only was Abinadi making a prophetic statement in verses 15-19--he was pronouncing another sentence. His own death would be evidence of their corruption--evidence which could justify their own trial and eventual execution.

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  • Why is it that Alma has success in preaching where Abinadi didn't? Or did they have different callings or objectives?
  • Mosiah 18:4: Is this verse offered as an etymology of the name "Mormon"? In other words, did the king call the place "Mormon" because it was in the borders of the land or because it was infested with wild beasts, the implication is that this is the meaning of "Mormon"?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What do we make of the name Mormon coming from the wicked king Noah?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What does it mean to be "infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts"? What kind of animals might these have been, and why would an influx of these animals constitute an infestation?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant by a "fountain" of water? Why would it be considered pure water?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant here by a "thicket of small trees"? Is this an isolated cluster of trees in a cleared area, or a brushy area within a forest?
  • Mosiah 18:7: How could a "goodly number" of people gather to a "thicket of small trees" without being observed?
  • Mosiah 18:8: What does it mean to "come into the fold of God"
  • Mosiah 18:8: How are we called the people of God? What does it mean to be his people?
  • Mosiah 18:9: What does it mean to mourn with those who mourn? Is this different in some way than comforting those who morn? (We are told that our savior comforts those who mourn in Isa 61:2).
  • Mosiah 18:9: How can we "stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places"? How can we know how well we are doing at this?
  • Mosiah 18:9: How much should we desire our own redemption and eternal life? Is it selfish to be motivated by our own eternal rewards?
  • Mosiah 18:10: What does it mean to covenant to serve the LORD and keep his commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:10: How can "his Spirit" be poured out "more abundantly" upon us? What does this terminology add to our understanding of the gift of the Holy Ghost?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Who is this Helam, and why does he have the same name as the (presumably) royal Mulekite brother of Ammon (Mosiah 7:6) sent later to inquire about the whereabouts of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Why does Alma pray like this before baptizing Helam? Is this just an example of praying before performing anything unto the LORD, or is there something else going on here?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Where did Alma get his power and authority to baptize?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Why does this baptismal prayer differ from the one we use today?
  • Mosiah 18:13: What does it mean for Christ to have been "prepared from the foundation fo the world"? What is the "foundation" of the world?
  • Mosiah 18:14: Why would Alma and Helam both be "buried in the water" in this baptism? Was Alma baptizing himself?
  • Mosiah 18:14: What does it mean that they both "arose" after the baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:15: Why didn't Alma "bury himself again in the water" after the first baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:16: What does it mean for the people to be "filled with the grace of God"? How is grace something that can fill you?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: There are several places in the scriptures where teachers are counseled to teach nothing but repentance and faith on the Lord. Verse 20 here is one example. How literally can we interpret this? Is it applicable to us today in all situations where we are teaches? Or just some?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: Did these priests have access to written scriptures in order to teach that "which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets" or were they dependent on Alma and oral transmission of teachings?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: How can we preach "nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord"?
  • Mosiah 18:21: How does Alma's injunction against "contention" contrast with the continual rounds of contention described in the Record of Zeniff?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean to "look forward with one eye?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean for hearts to be "knit together in unity"? Is there a difference between being knit and being sealed? Does this involve a priesthood ordinance of some type, or is it merely a representation of people bonding to each other?
  • Mosiah 18:22: How do the people become the "children of God"? Aren't we already the children of a Heavenly Father? How is this different and what is the distinction?
  • Mosiah 18:23: Why is sabbath day observance specifically mentioned here, rather than other commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:23: According to Alma, giving thanks to God every day is a commandment. Was this a specific commandment just for his people, or is this a commandment that is in effect for our day as well?
  • Mosiah 18:24: How does this verse serve as a precedent for modern LDS practice of a lay priesthood?
  • Mosiah 18:24: What does it mean to "labor with [our] own hands"?
  • Mosiah 18:26: What does it mean to "receive the grace of God" for [our] labor?
  • Mosiah 19.3: Why might a minority of the people have been upset with the king?
  • Mosiah 19.3: What does it mean to "breathe out threatenings"?
  • Mosiah 19.3: How does the theme of contention play throughout the history of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How might this Gideon's role as liberator echo that of the Old Testament judge Gideon?
  • Mosiah 19.4: What are we to make of Gideon? Is he a role model? A cautionary figure? What can we learn from his experience?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How should we judge Gideon's wrath, swearing, and threats of violence?
  • Mosiah 19.4: After reading this account, should we be surprised by how Gideon meets his eventual end?
  • Mosiah 19.5: Why are we told here that Noah "fled and ran"? Aren't these pretty much the same thing?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What might be the significance of a tower being "near" the temple, rather than part of the temple?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What do we know about this Nephite temple?
  • Mosiah 19.6-10: We are presented here with a rather colorful narrative of fleeing, fighting, and negotiating. What is the purpose of this account? Why would Mormon bother to include it? Why don't we just have a more abbreviated account? Is there something more here that we should be getting from these stories?
  • Mosiah 19.8: Why might Gideon have spared King Noah? Why not just kill him and then go off to flee or fight the Lamanites?
  • Mosiah 19.11: Why might King Noah have tried to get the men to leave their wives and children?
  • Mosiah 19.15: Are the Nephites expected to pay 1/2 of all they have every year, or is this just a one time payment with an unspecified level of tribute to be paid afterwards?
  • Mosiah 19.16: Why wouldn't a son of Noah have followed his father and fled into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.17: What does it mean for Limhi to be described as a "just" man?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What position in society might Gideon have had that allowed him to send scouts out into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What do the Nephites mean by wilderness? Does this just mean uninhabited lands, or is there some other meaning?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What does it mean that the men had sworn "in their hearts"? Wasn't this a fairly public decision?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What are we to make of this desire to seek revenge? Is this a noble desire? How are we supposed to feel about these men who first leave their families to potentially perish, then get upset and want to seek revenge for their deaths?
  • Mosiah 19.20: These men have killed the king? What standing might they have under Old Testament law? Was this a justified killing, or something much more grievous?
  • Mosiah 19.21: How could these men have been able to grab and kill the king, but not the priests?

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Mosiah 19:26-29

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  • Mosiah 18:9: Those that mourn. Merriam-Webster defines mourn (verse 9) as "to feel or express grief or sorrow." In the scriptures mourning is usually used in the context of expressing grief over someone's death.
One way to understand the phrase those that mourn (verse 9) is to think about anyone who is experiencing grief or sorrow. In this way we have a responsibility to connect with the people around us in grief and sorrow and share in that sorrow.
Another interpretation is to take those that mourn as a reference to those who mourn for the Savior, his death and suffering. In that case we are asked if we are willing to join the community of people who mourn for the sins of this world and the resulting suffering and death that our Savior went through in order to save us from those sins. A similar invitation is given in the hymn "He Died the Great Redeemer Died." (See the related link below.)
It is also interesting to note the way verse 9 introduces the themes that will then be played out in the narratives of chapters 19-24. If we look at the two main stories of trial and deliverance—the people of Limhi and the people of Alma—we have both an example of a people who mourn and a people who stand in need of comfort.
The people of Limhi will fight battle after battle, both in their defense and in their pursuit of freedom. Their losses are extremely numerous (enough so that in Mosiah 21:17 Limhi has to command the remaining men to help support the widows and their children): throughout this process they are truly a people acquainted with mourning.
The people of Alma will be persecuted by Amulon: they will be in bondage, they will carry impossibly heavy burdens, they will be refused the comfort of vocal prayer. As such, they will truly be a people who stand in need of comfort.
  • Mosiah 18:8-10.' Echoes of Verses 8-10 and Their Profound Implications for Our Relationship with God. These verses are echoed to great effect when Alma and his people are in trouble in the Land of Helam (which is named after the person Alma is now baptizing). See exegesis on Mosiah 24:11-15.
  • Mosiah 18:17. Despite the fact that the word "church" appears a good number of times before this point in the Book of Mormon, this verse marks the first reference to an official Nephite church, or, in other words, this is the first Nephite church mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Mosiah 25:18 seems quite clearly to confirm this, as it mentions Mosiah II's authorization of Alma to create like churches throughout the land of Zarahemla, the suggestion being that there were none before that time. But even as this cross-reference seems to confirm the origins of the Nephite church in this passage, it also clarifies what the word "church" means here: if Alma was to go on to found a number of churches, then this "church" is not a system of faith, but a congregational organization, a regional gathering of people. From the very start, churches among the Nephites seem to have been a question of a number of people who worship together in a sort of gathered community.
Also interesting to the meaning of the word "church" as used in the Book of Mormon is the attribution of the name "the church of God, or the church of Christ," in this verse, to some unnamed source: those gathered by Alma were simply "called" so. Because the phrase uses the passive voice "they were called," what would otherwise be the subject (the one or the ones doing the calling) escapes notice, and the author of the passage can leave ambiguous the source of the title. In other words, whereas the author might have said that "Alma and his people called themselves the church of God, or the church of Christ," he rather says that "they were called" so, the implication being simply that someone besides those of the church called them that. It remains entirely unclear whence the epithet comes. There is a hint in all of this, then, that "church" was a term used somewhat commonly among the Nephites, that it was not a term that those gathered into the church specifically rooted out of, say, Nephi's writings in order to proclaim their justified foundation or any such thing. Rather, it seems, the concept of a church was not unfamiliar to the Nephites, and this gathering was simply so named because others recognized an already common structure among them.
All these details come together somewhat paradoxically: it seems that Alma is at once doing something entirely unprecedented and also doing something completely familiar to outsiders. The paradox is, however, quite understandable: an idea that has been around for quite some time, and something the people generally are familiar with, but Alma takes upon himself the overwhelming task of actually accomplishing it. Everyone knew what he was doing, but that does not at all mean that it was a common proceeding: Alma has done something rather radical in forming a church. He himself has grounded it by an ostensibly granted authority (see verse 13), and this verse adds that anyone "baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his [meaning God's] church." The implication is clear: Alma's radical movement is his authorized development of something everyone has been expecting for nearly five hundred years, but no one has felt authorized to do.
Now, it might be asked why no one had created a church before this time, even as the idea seems to have been completely familiar to everyone. Or it might be asked more specifically why God had not authorized any to accomplish the task. The answer, however, seems to be buried in a few details of the following story, as well as in some major events that happen later (see verses 31-33 of this chapter, and then especially the complex development that extends across Mosiah 25-29). The answer, put quite simply, is this: the existence of a monarchical system seems to exclude not only the need for churches, but also the possibility of churches. Under the monarchy, the cult seems to have been performed under the auspices of the king and a royal priesthood, but the church assumes a sort of local priesthood, a regionalism replacing the universal authority usually claimed by a king. In other words, since a monarchy seems to have obtained from the very start of Nephite civilization, there has never been need or room for churches. Alma's formation of this first church is taken quite specifically as an act of rebellion, and when he is given royal authority in Zarahemla to establish a number of churches, it leads rather quickly to the dissolution of the monarchy. Perhaps all of this is considered rather simply in a single, weighty phrsae in the following verse: the church is a question of "the kingdom of God."
  • Mosiah 18:18. As soon as there is a unity in this plurality--as soon as the church is a church--Alma ordains a local priesthood. The move may be what most incites the cry of rebellion from Noah by the end of the chapter. The move to ordain priests is a rather complex one, and it must be understood in the right light, lest it be considered from an entirely too protracted view. First to be said about the ordination of these priests: the ordination cannot be understood--culturally, historically--to have been a natural consequence of the gathering of the baptized, but rather should be understood as a radical innovation that ultimately redefines for the Nephites the very meaning of priesthood, and this altered meaning ultimately calls for a restructuring of the entire government. This ordination is ultimately the first step toward undoing the Nephite monarchy, though it happens among a small gathering on the outskirts of a Nephite settlement in Lamanite territory. But regardless of the broadest implications of the action, there seems to be a sort of pragmatism about the verse: the ordination was not an act of defiance, but an act of charity, a way of strengthening those baptized so that they might move from church to kingdom (the kingdom of God).
With the pragmatic character of the ordination drawn out, the differences between this priesthood and priesthood in the restored Church of the latter days are quite clear: Alma does not establish quorums, nor does it appear that he has two separate priesthoods with their several offices, nor again does it appear that these priests wield authority to perform any particular ordinances. The priesthood Alma sets up is, in the end, a rather simple priesthood, a stripped-down priesthood meant to perform the task merely of teaching, though teaching the highest principles, "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." That a great deal happens concerning "the priesthood" between these first ordinations and Alma the Younger's discourse in Alma 13 is obvious: but that development must traced rather carefully and in great detail to accomplish any satisfactory explanation of these questions. At the very least, what is unquestionably clear here is this: by the same "authority" he had to baptize, Alma ordains priests (note that he does not organize a priesthood, per se), and only a rather small number at that (no more than nine would have been ordained by the time the group flees into the wilderness), to take upon themselves the task of preaching and teaching those baptized and gathered together into the church.
  • Mosiah 18:19. If teaching "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" seems an overwhelming task, even a boundless task, this verse imposes some limits on it: these priests are limited to "the things which [Alma] had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." The verses seems thus rather simple and self-explanatory, but it does raise an issue that ought to be dealt with: one can only wonder why Alma would impose limits at all on the teaching task. In other words, since other scriptures promote a rather radical form of teaching--namely, teaching by the Spirit, taking no thought for the words to say, etc.--this rather limited task, hemmed in by what has been said before, seems conservative to say the least. This may not, however, be a commandment to teach in a manner other than that of teaching by the Spirit: there are at least two ways of reading this, in fact, as a commandment to teach by the Spirit. On the one hand, Alma might be suggesting that the Spirit would only lead one to speak of that which has been spoken before. This interpretation seems somewhat flawed, as the Spirit seems in a number of places to be That which specifically goes beyond previous knowledge. On the other hand--and this seems a more likely explanation--Alma might be suggesting that the role of the Spirit in teaching is precisely to help one to interpret the words of the prophets, that the Spirit enlarges upon those words, rather than providing to the teacher new words in the moment. This interpretation presents a sort of division of labors between priests (whatever priests are here) and prophets: the prophets have experiences beyond the Spirit, but priests are to work in the Spirit so as to interpret the prophetic word. The division and correlation might be compared to the gift of tongues (prophets) and the gift of the interpretation of tongues (priests). At any rate, the suggestion is that the Spirit works upon the teaching priest precisely in his attendance upon the words of the prophets.
With all of these details worked out, there is a rather careful phrasing at work in this verse which is all to easily missed: though one might see Alma equating himself with the prophets, the wording actually suggests that he equates himself with the priests in their division of labor, over against the prophets. The clue is the word "teach": the priests are to "teach" only what Alma had "taught," which suggests that they are to do what he himself has done. If their task then extends to teaching what "had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets," there may be here an implication that Alma's mode of teaching had been quite specifically a work of interpretation (in fact, a work of interpreting Abinadi?). Alma sees himself, according to the language presented in this verse, as a priest, rather than as a prophet. As such, the priests have a model for their work: Alma.
  • Mosiah 18:20. Again the priestly task is clarified, though a different verb appears in this verse: "preach." But the instance of "preach" marks a chiastic structure that runs through verses 18-20:
  • ...did he ordain to preach unto them
  • and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
  • And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, etc.
  • Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were...
Similar, in a manner, to the division of labor implicit in the last verse, there appears here a division of sorts, though it is a division within the priestly task: the priests are to preach and to teach, and these seem to be different things. Preaching, in verse 18, seems to be quite open ended, while the teaching of verse 18 seems to be quite specific (concerning the kingdom of God). Parallel to this, verse 19 offers certain bounds (or at least a sort of regional limitation) for teaching, while verse 20 remains rather open ended about preaching. What this means, however, remains to be worked out in detail.
A brief return to verse 19 would prove helpful. The phrasing there is incredibly negative, and verse 20 follows with a parallel structure: the priests are to preach and teach nothing... save... etc. The point is that it would be better for these to preach absolutely nothing whatsoever than to preach something other than what Alma provides them as a task. As for teaching, verse 19 provides the priests with textual boundaries, as it were: the priests are to teach the words of the prophets (apparently interpreting them according to the Spirit), even as Alma has done, and so their bounds there are ultimately textual, for they are to stay within the texts of the prophets. Preaching, however, is a different matter: the bounds for preaching seem to be practical: only two topics are provided, both of which are really more a question of action than of doctrine. In other words, "repentance" and "faith on the Lord" are probably not here understood as doctrines or principles, but as things to be done. Whereas "teaching" carries with it--inevitably--the implication of an intellectual process of sorting things out, "preaching" seems to carry with it rather the implication of exhortation, of invitation, of praxis.
The task of the priest, then: to urge his hearers to trust the Lord and to repent before Him, and to explore in the Spirit the words of the prophets. In the end, there seems to be no reason to read Alma as trying to keep the priests of his church under his thumb, or limited in what they can say: rather, he sees the work of the priest to be the work of edification according to the Spirit that works upon the prophetic texts and the work of reminding the people continually of their double duty to the Lord (the double duty of faith and repentance).
  • Mosiah 18:20: Similarity to D&C 42. These verses on teaching from Mosiah 18 are very similar to those regarding teaching in D&C 42. D&C 42:11 discusses ordination, similar to Mosiah 18:18. D&C 42:12 explains that teachers should "teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon," which is similar to Mosiah 18: 19's direction to teach "the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets." D&C 42:12 also commanded teachers to focus on the "principles of the gospel" which are found in the scriptures/words of the prophets, perhaps similar to Alma's direction to teach nothing but "repentance" and "faith" in Mosiah 18:20. (In addition, also note that both Mosiah 18:27-28 and D&C 42: 30 etc, talk about taking care of the poor.)
  • Mosiah 18:21. After instructions concerning teaching and preaching are laid down, Alma commands the priests further (and it is clear that the priests specifically are the ones receiving this command and all those following up through verse 26: in verse 27, Alma will turn specifically to the members of the church to begin to offer them commandments) to avoid contention among themselves. That this commandment is given specifically to the priesthood is an interesting detail, and it deserves some attention.
At first, it would appear as if this commandment against contention is redundant (the covenants the people have made quite explicitly would seem to have covered this question--see verses 8-9), but that it is directed toward the priests seems to cancel the redundancy. Rather, it is a specific clarification for those ordained to preach and teach, for the priesthood. In other words, even as the people have covenanted to uphold one another and to suffer each other, there will remain among the priests a tendency to contend. This commandment, then, seems to be issued as a corrective to the tendency toward competition among the ordained priests. Having separate stewardships (each is set over a separate group of fifty people, a group assigned, apparently, by Alma), the priests do not seem overly likely to find themselves in contention, but then it is perhaps precisely because they have separate stewardships that Alma is concerned that contention might arise. As soon as the people are split up into several groups, there is a tendency towards schism, and each priest, having a sort of autonomy with his fifty, might all too easily make them his.
What Alma wants to have happen is quite clear: rather than contention, he would have them unified (one eye, one faith, one baptism). The way this is phrased is interesting: they are to "look forward with one eye." It may be that Alma phrases the question of unity in this way so as to emphasize that the priests should not be looking at each other, but forward. The words install a very real sense of progress, and the "having" that opens the following phrase then seems to lay the groundwork for that sense of promise: "having one faith and one baptism." The single and shared faith and baptism are together apparently the foundation for the progressive looking forward: faith and baptism together point these priests forward to something yet to come (most likely the "kingdom of God"). With another "having," Alma doubles the foundation that opens the possibility of a forward orientation: "having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another." Of interest here is a sort of redirection of the priests: whereas they were pointed forward before, now they are pointed "one towards another." But this redirection is not really a redirection: their eyes are to remain looking forward, while their hearts are turned to each other. The priests are to be bound to each other precisely in their progressive vision.
The two phrases beginning with "having" come together in an interesting manner. Both are pairs (on the one hand "faith" and "baptism," and on the other hand "unity" and "love"), and they are clearly parallel, in fact, might well be read as an inverted parallelism: faith is paired with love, while baptism and unity are paired between them. That faith is tied to love is suggestive, since "look forward with one eye" can only suggest hope. Baptism and unity are clearly tied in the covenant laid out earlier in the chapter. In short, the unity performed in the covenant of their baptism lays out for these priests an intertwining of faith, hope, and love that is to define their whole being in this work. That intertwining is of some interest, perhaps most because it seems to be a different model than is offered elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. Here, faith and love are the groundwork that open the possibility of hope (hope for the "kingdom of God"), they combine necessarily to open the possibility of hope. If faith is their trust in God and love is their union to each other, then hope becomes the possibility of uniting in one their relations to God and their relations to each other (hence, the "kingdom of God," a people gathered together, yet under the perfect rule of God). This curious reading of faith, hope, and love seems to be unique to this passage. As the next verse will show, it had, for this people, an incredible effect.
  • Mosiah 18:22. The first half of this verse reads as a sort of conclusion to all of what has gone before, and the second half confirms that conclusive spirit. But the second half deserves some close attention, bringing into this question the phrase "the children of God." There is, throughout scripture, a most important connection between sonship and the kingdom. Ostensibly, the idea seems usually to be that the son of God is the one who will inherit the throne, the kingdom. To become the "children of God" seems to mean that one enters into the reality of the kingdom. That one must become a child of God, however, is curious in another way: some rite of adoption seems to be implied. It may be that the ritual of Ex 21:1-7 is implied, or there may be some other ritual at work, but it should not be missed that there is some form of official adoption at work in this verse. In keeping the several commandments Alma offers the priests, they become--together--the "children of God," and this seems then to open onto the possibility of the commandments that follow. In other words, though this verse seems to have a conclusive spirit, in the end, it is not so: there is a sort of conclusion here, but it is a conclusion that opens the possibilties of the further commandments issued next. Alma seems to have offered some commandments that brought them to this point of adoption, and then he seems to have given them further commandments, due to the road that still might be taken ahead (still looking forward). At any rate, the adoption of this verse apparently must be taken into consideration before the further commandments in the next verses.
  • Mosiah 18:23. Beyond adoption, then, Alma issues some further commandments. The first pertains quite explicitly to the ritual side of this church. Whereas the task of preaching and teaching was explicitly non-ritual (as far as one can read into the text, at least), the commandment to observe the sabbath day--and especially to "keep it holy"--is undeniably a question of ritual. With the observance and maintenance of the sabbath, these priests have entered the realm of sacred time (and the gathering place of verse 25 will suggest sacred space as well), which inevitably summons the themes of ritual, of the temple. It is not clear, it must be noted, that there is anything quite like a temple yet (there is reason to believe that any construction of a temple would be mentioned), but there is quite clearly a cultus developing among these several churches.
The phrasing of this commandment is interesting further, because it sets the sabbath in the context of daily ritual: "every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God." There is here quite clearly a sanctification of the whole of time, though there is a specific setting apart of the sabbath. That these priests--and with them, one can only assume, the people--are living in sacred time, a sacred time punctuated by even more sacred time, is suggestive of a promised land (something more profound and more explicit than the passing reference in verse 25, mentioned above). There may be some evidence that this is at work in the song of praise to the place of Mormon offered later in this chapter (verse 30). Such a pattern follows quite closely, incidentally, the early history of the Restored Church: at first the several offices are restored, but without quorum organization or a saturating ritual complex; but by the Missouri period, the nature of the sabbath (and the accompanying sanctification of all time) is taught and enjoined upon the saints, precisely as they settle into the promised land in Jackson County. The formation in verse 25 of what seem to be a quorum of these priests is also rather interesting. (It might be noted then that there is reason to understand this chapter to be quite important for the pattern of the latter-day Restoration.) At any rate, the point is quite clear: there is, following the rites of adoption in verse 22, a sort of reification of the priesthood, a hypostasis, as it were, of their work, as they enter into ritual space and time and the kingdom of God begins to be established in their midst (hope being fulfilled?).
  • Mosiah 18:24. Interjected between the sanctification of time in verse 23 and the sanctification of space in verse 25 is this peculiar command: "that the priests whom [Alma] had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support." That it comes between these two works of sanctification is doubly suggestive: it is suggestive on the one hand because it seems to suggest that one should read this command as a question of sanctification as well; and it is suggestive on the other hand because it suggests that there is some change in the structure of the priesthood's means of living even as there is a movement towards the ritualization of the church. In other words, there is in this verse at least the hint that before the adoption rites of verse 22, the priests were living off of the labor of the people, like itinerant preachers. The change is significant (it again follows the pattern of the Restoration), as it seems (as mentioned) to be connected with the development of the cultus that sanctifies everything in the world of the church. That this commandment is central, in fact, the center of a rather simple chiasm, is quite suggestive: there is a hint that this commandment is the most important one, the one that changes everything. In other words, this verse seems to be the most important shift after the rites of adoption: that the priests now begin to labor for their own support seems to suggest that a very real community is formed, and that the people are at this very moment beginning to live the law of consecration. The theme is doubled in verse 26, and it is confirmed powerfully in verses 27-28: the law of consecration grounds the sanctification (ultimately the consecration) of time and space. All of this, it must be noticed, rides on the back of the adoption marked in verse 22.
  • Mosiah 18:25. It is necessary, after all of the above, to look quite carefully at the sanctification of space that seems to be implied in this verse, but there is a great deal more at work here as well. For example, there seems to be a separation of sorts between "the sabbath day" of verse 23 and the "one day in every week that was set apart" of this verse. In other words, the "regular" (regular as in every week, though the phrase seems to suggest something not exactly strictly scheduled) meetings for teaching and worship seem not to have necessarily been scheduled specifically on the Sabbath: worship might have been a non-Sabbath activity for these people. Rather, the Sabbath may have been something more fundamental than a day simply sanctified by the act of worship (a theme that might best be explored elsewhere in scripture). This disconnection of sorts between verses 23 and 25 highlights a number of other curiosities in the present verse: the gathering is a gathering of priests (albeit "to teach the people), and the implication of the following phrase, "and to worship the Lord their God," is that the priests were gathering to worship, and not necessarily the people. This focus on the priests culminates in the final clause of the verse: the priests were, "as often as it was in their power, to assemble themselves together." This inordinate focus on the priests as the very center of worship is of some interest, and it deserves some sustained attention, especially because it seems also to have something to do with the sanctification of space implied in the "regular" gatherings.
This verse could be read in a rather democratic way—that is, it could be that the priests comprise most of the people and so separating out the other, non-priests in the congregation would be less necessary than if the priests were only a small percentage of the congregation. Also, it may be that the themselves in the first part of the verse is referring to the priests but in the second part of the verse themselves refers to the priests and the other congregation members (future priests and priestesses?). On this reading the reconciliatoin of God to priests and priests to other church members furthers the unity theme of surrounding verses (v. 21 in particular). In verse 23 the focus seems to be on individual church members sanctifying the Sabbath in relation with God (a private type of worship), whereas here the public community aspect of worship seems the focus. Whether or not these activities take place on the same day, the parallel seems unmistakeable: individual worship of God is not sufficient, community worship must accompany it. This follows the pattern in many other scriptures where individual conversion is followed immediately by a concern for the conversion of friends and family (e.g. Enos 1, Lehi's dream in 1 Ne 8, and Isa 6)—indeed, this pattern parallels the order of the great two commandments as spoken by Christ in Matt 22:34-40.
  • Mosiah 18:30. This verse appears to employ different literary styles than is consistent with the rest of the account.
  • First there is the excessive location explanation: "done in Mormon, ...waters of Mormon, ....Mormon; ... the place of Mormon, ...the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon,"
  • Second, there is a very prosaic passage almost out of the blue: "how beautiful are they to the eyes of them ... for they shall sing to his praise forever."
It is hard to know whether this is Mormon, as abridger, emphasizing the geography that bears his name or Alma's original record. It is very difficult to jump to an unusual geographic orientation and then quickly to an aesthetic style in the middle of doing a narration by a more sedate method. (This is perhaps evidence of abridgement work in that Joseph Smith would not have thought to change styles so abruptly mid-narration if he were the author.)
  • Mosiah 19.2: Gideon. In Hebrew, the name Gideon means "hacker." The root verb is used elsewhere to describe the hacking down idolatrous images or shrines (cf. Deut 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chr 14:3; 31:1). The Old Testament judge Gideon may have recieved this name as a likely foreshadowing of either hacking down of the altar of Baal in Judg 6:25-32, or the hacking down of Israel's enemies depicted in Judg 7. The Book of Mormon Gideon is similarly a man of the sword; he draws it here in fighting King Noah, and is ultimately killed by the sword in Alma 1:9.
  • Mosiah 19.24: Ceremony. Regarding the use of "ceremony" in verse 24, it's possible that it is a reference to some type of ritual killing or death of a king. The text prior to verse 24 contains a sense of building urgency and the implication that the actions could be happening quickly, one right after the other. For example, we are told that the people were "angry" (v. 19) and that they acted in anger when they "caused that he should suffer, even unto death by fire" (v. 19). In the following verses "they were about to take the priests" (v. 21, emphasis added), the priests "fled" (v. 21), the people "were about to return" (v. 22, emphasis added) when they met the men of Gideon, and they immediately tell the men of Gideon everything. The textual image is that of an impassioned people acting on their impulses; the men of Gideon could very well have arrived in the middle of events not yet wrapped up, and it is possible that there remained some unfinished ritual or ceremony with regards to Noah's death that the people had yet to perform, especially if he was offered in their anger as a sacrifice so that the people could regain their families.
Another possibility is discussed by Hugh Nibley in the transcripts of his Book of Mormon class. He sees the word as a clear reference to some type of reconciliation or peace ceremony in which two factions—the men of Gideon versus the men who originally left their families and followed Noah into the wilderness—ritually agree to not fight against each other. Given the political context at the time, it is not unlikely that some kind of formal treaty or ritual of reconciliation would be performed.
The use of the word "ceremony" stands out awkwardly among these verses, in the same way that Mosiah 17:11 stands out among its neighboring verses. In addition to its possible reference as a "ritual killing" or "death of a king," the word "ceremony" could denote an execution. In Mosiah 17:9, Abinadi refuses to recall his words, and then, in v. 10 he proclaims his suffering, death, and refusal to recall his words as testimonies. He levels his own evidence, as it were, against the king and his priests, and in v. 11, Noah responds with fear. The following verses--Abinadi's prophecy--are famous, but the overlooked preceding verses lend a sense that not only was Abinadi making a prophetic statement in verses 15-19--he was pronouncing another sentence. His own death would be evidence of their corruption--evidence which could justify their own trial and eventual execution.

Points to ponder[edit]

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I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Why is it that Alma has success in preaching where Abinadi didn't? Or did they have different callings or objectives?
  • Mosiah 18:4: Is this verse offered as an etymology of the name "Mormon"? In other words, did the king call the place "Mormon" because it was in the borders of the land or because it was infested with wild beasts, the implication is that this is the meaning of "Mormon"?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What do we make of the name Mormon coming from the wicked king Noah?
  • Mosiah 18:4: What does it mean to be "infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts"? What kind of animals might these have been, and why would an influx of these animals constitute an infestation?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant by a "fountain" of water? Why would it be considered pure water?
  • Mosiah 18:5: What is meant here by a "thicket of small trees"? Is this an isolated cluster of trees in a cleared area, or a brushy area within a forest?
  • Mosiah 18:7: How could a "goodly number" of people gather to a "thicket of small trees" without being observed?
  • Mosiah 18:8: What does it mean to "come into the fold of God"
  • Mosiah 18:8: How are we called the people of God? What does it mean to be his people?
  • Mosiah 18:9: What does it mean to mourn with those who mourn? Is this different in some way than comforting those who morn? (We are told that our savior comforts those who mourn in Isa 61:2).
  • Mosiah 18:9: How can we "stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places"? How can we know how well we are doing at this?
  • Mosiah 18:9: How much should we desire our own redemption and eternal life? Is it selfish to be motivated by our own eternal rewards?
  • Mosiah 18:10: What does it mean to covenant to serve the LORD and keep his commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:10: How can "his Spirit" be poured out "more abundantly" upon us? What does this terminology add to our understanding of the gift of the Holy Ghost?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Who is this Helam, and why does he have the same name as the (presumably) royal Mulekite brother of Ammon (Mosiah 7:6) sent later to inquire about the whereabouts of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 18:12: Why does Alma pray like this before baptizing Helam? Is this just an example of praying before performing anything unto the LORD, or is there something else going on here?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Where did Alma get his power and authority to baptize?
  • Mosiah 18:13: Why does this baptismal prayer differ from the one we use today?
  • Mosiah 18:13: What does it mean for Christ to have been "prepared from the foundation fo the world"? What is the "foundation" of the world?
  • Mosiah 18:14: Why would Alma and Helam both be "buried in the water" in this baptism? Was Alma baptizing himself?
  • Mosiah 18:14: What does it mean that they both "arose" after the baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:15: Why didn't Alma "bury himself again in the water" after the first baptism?
  • Mosiah 18:16: What does it mean for the people to be "filled with the grace of God"? How is grace something that can fill you?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: There are several places in the scriptures where teachers are counseled to teach nothing but repentance and faith on the Lord. Verse 20 here is one example. How literally can we interpret this? Is it applicable to us today in all situations where we are teaches? Or just some?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: Did these priests have access to written scriptures in order to teach that "which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets" or were they dependent on Alma and oral transmission of teachings?
  • Mosiah 18:19-20: How can we preach "nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord"?
  • Mosiah 18:21: How does Alma's injunction against "contention" contrast with the continual rounds of contention described in the Record of Zeniff?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean to "look forward with one eye?
  • Mosiah 18:21: What does it mean for hearts to be "knit together in unity"? Is there a difference between being knit and being sealed? Does this involve a priesthood ordinance of some type, or is it merely a representation of people bonding to each other?
  • Mosiah 18:22: How do the people become the "children of God"? Aren't we already the children of a Heavenly Father? How is this different and what is the distinction?
  • Mosiah 18:23: Why is sabbath day observance specifically mentioned here, rather than other commandments?
  • Mosiah 18:23: According to Alma, giving thanks to God every day is a commandment. Was this a specific commandment just for his people, or is this a commandment that is in effect for our day as well?
  • Mosiah 18:24: How does this verse serve as a precedent for modern LDS practice of a lay priesthood?
  • Mosiah 18:24: What does it mean to "labor with [our] own hands"?
  • Mosiah 18:26: What does it mean to "receive the grace of God" for [our] labor?
  • Mosiah 19.3: Why might a minority of the people have been upset with the king?
  • Mosiah 19.3: What does it mean to "breathe out threatenings"?
  • Mosiah 19.3: How does the theme of contention play throughout the history of the Zeniff colony?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How might this Gideon's role as liberator echo that of the Old Testament judge Gideon?
  • Mosiah 19.4: What are we to make of Gideon? Is he a role model? A cautionary figure? What can we learn from his experience?
  • Mosiah 19.4: How should we judge Gideon's wrath, swearing, and threats of violence?
  • Mosiah 19.4: After reading this account, should we be surprised by how Gideon meets his eventual end?
  • Mosiah 19.5: Why are we told here that Noah "fled and ran"? Aren't these pretty much the same thing?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What might be the significance of a tower being "near" the temple, rather than part of the temple?
  • Mosiah 19.5: What do we know about this Nephite temple?
  • Mosiah 19.6-10: We are presented here with a rather colorful narrative of fleeing, fighting, and negotiating. What is the purpose of this account? Why would Mormon bother to include it? Why don't we just have a more abbreviated account? Is there something more here that we should be getting from these stories?
  • Mosiah 19.8: Why might Gideon have spared King Noah? Why not just kill him and then go off to flee or fight the Lamanites?
  • Mosiah 19.11: Why might King Noah have tried to get the men to leave their wives and children?
  • Mosiah 19.15: Are the Nephites expected to pay 1/2 of all they have every year, or is this just a one time payment with an unspecified level of tribute to be paid afterwards?
  • Mosiah 19.16: Why wouldn't a son of Noah have followed his father and fled into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.17: What does it mean for Limhi to be described as a "just" man?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What position in society might Gideon have had that allowed him to send scouts out into the wilderness?
  • Mosiah 19.18: What do the Nephites mean by wilderness? Does this just mean uninhabited lands, or is there some other meaning?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What does it mean that the men had sworn "in their hearts"? Wasn't this a fairly public decision?
  • Mosiah 19.19: What are we to make of this desire to seek revenge? Is this a noble desire? How are we supposed to feel about these men who first leave their families to potentially perish, then get upset and want to seek revenge for their deaths?
  • Mosiah 19.20: These men have killed the king? What standing might they have under Old Testament law? Was this a justified killing, or something much more grievous?
  • Mosiah 19.21: How could these men have been able to grab and kill the king, but not the priests?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Notes[edit]

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 are preferable to footnotes.



Previous page: Chapters 12b-17                      Next page: Chapters 20-24


Mosiah 20-24

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?
  • Mosiah 21:34: What is meant in verse 34 by "form themselves into a church"? It seems there was religious instruction and worship going on given that verse 31 tells us that the people had entered into a covenant with God. So what is that they aren't doing such that they consider themselves not having formed a church?
  • Mosiah 24:1-5: Since the BoM was written for our day, in what ways is the educational system created here by apostate Amulon reflected in the educational system adopted by the Americans? Is the editor trying to warn us of something?
  • Mosiah 24:4: I am curious about verse 4. Are there other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk to the Language of the Nephites as not being the same as the Lamanites? I am curious about this topic but I wonder if there just isn't enough info in the Book of Mormon about it to make the topic fruitfull. If that is true, it wouldn't be too surprising given that purposeful effort to concentrate on the religious history by Nephi originally and also by Mormon as he put stuff together.
  • Mosiah 24:8: Was Alma the Younger one of Alma's children persecuted by the children of Amulon?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:9-10. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins said: "If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder... Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life (see Mosiah 26:20). As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ."

Notes[edit]

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.



Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


Mosiah 20:1-5

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?
  • Mosiah 21:34: What is meant in verse 34 by "form themselves into a church"? It seems there was religious instruction and worship going on given that verse 31 tells us that the people had entered into a covenant with God. So what is that they aren't doing such that they consider themselves not having formed a church?
  • Mosiah 24:1-5: Since the BoM was written for our day, in what ways is the educational system created here by apostate Amulon reflected in the educational system adopted by the Americans? Is the editor trying to warn us of something?
  • Mosiah 24:4: I am curious about verse 4. Are there other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk to the Language of the Nephites as not being the same as the Lamanites? I am curious about this topic but I wonder if there just isn't enough info in the Book of Mormon about it to make the topic fruitfull. If that is true, it wouldn't be too surprising given that purposeful effort to concentrate on the religious history by Nephi originally and also by Mormon as he put stuff together.
  • Mosiah 24:8: Was Alma the Younger one of Alma's children persecuted by the children of Amulon?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:9-10. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins said: "If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder... Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life (see Mosiah 26:20). As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ."

Notes[edit]

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.



Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29

Mosiah 20:6-10

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?
  • Mosiah 21:34: What is meant in verse 34 by "form themselves into a church"? It seems there was religious instruction and worship going on given that verse 31 tells us that the people had entered into a covenant with God. So what is that they aren't doing such that they consider themselves not having formed a church?
  • Mosiah 24:1-5: Since the BoM was written for our day, in what ways is the educational system created here by apostate Amulon reflected in the educational system adopted by the Americans? Is the editor trying to warn us of something?
  • Mosiah 24:4: I am curious about verse 4. Are there other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk to the Language of the Nephites as not being the same as the Lamanites? I am curious about this topic but I wonder if there just isn't enough info in the Book of Mormon about it to make the topic fruitfull. If that is true, it wouldn't be too surprising given that purposeful effort to concentrate on the religious history by Nephi originally and also by Mormon as he put stuff together.
  • Mosiah 24:8: Was Alma the Younger one of Alma's children persecuted by the children of Amulon?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:9-10. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins said: "If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder... Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life (see Mosiah 26:20). As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ."

Notes[edit]

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.



Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29

Mosiah 20:11-15

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?
  • Mosiah 21:34: What is meant in verse 34 by "form themselves into a church"? It seems there was religious instruction and worship going on given that verse 31 tells us that the people had entered into a covenant with God. So what is that they aren't doing such that they consider themselves not having formed a church?
  • Mosiah 24:1-5: Since the BoM was written for our day, in what ways is the educational system created here by apostate Amulon reflected in the educational system adopted by the Americans? Is the editor trying to warn us of something?
  • Mosiah 24:4: I am curious about verse 4. Are there other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk to the Language of the Nephites as not being the same as the Lamanites? I am curious about this topic but I wonder if there just isn't enough info in the Book of Mormon about it to make the topic fruitfull. If that is true, it wouldn't be too surprising given that purposeful effort to concentrate on the religious history by Nephi originally and also by Mormon as he put stuff together.
  • Mosiah 24:8: Was Alma the Younger one of Alma's children persecuted by the children of Amulon?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:9-10. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins said: "If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder... Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life (see Mosiah 26:20). As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ."

Notes[edit]

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.



Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29

Mosiah 20:16-20

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?
  • Mosiah 21:34: What is meant in verse 34 by "form themselves into a church"? It seems there was religious instruction and worship going on given that verse 31 tells us that the people had entered into a covenant with God. So what is that they aren't doing such that they consider themselves not having formed a church?
  • Mosiah 24:1-5: Since the BoM was written for our day, in what ways is the educational system created here by apostate Amulon reflected in the educational system adopted by the Americans? Is the editor trying to warn us of something?
  • Mosiah 24:4: I am curious about verse 4. Are there other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk to the Language of the Nephites as not being the same as the Lamanites? I am curious about this topic but I wonder if there just isn't enough info in the Book of Mormon about it to make the topic fruitfull. If that is true, it wouldn't be too surprising given that purposeful effort to concentrate on the religious history by Nephi originally and also by Mormon as he put stuff together.
  • Mosiah 24:8: Was Alma the Younger one of Alma's children persecuted by the children of Amulon?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:9-10. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins said: "If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder... Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life (see Mosiah 26:20). As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ."

Notes[edit]

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.



Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29

Mosiah 20:21-26

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?
  • Mosiah 21:34: What is meant in verse 34 by "form themselves into a church"? It seems there was religious instruction and worship going on given that verse 31 tells us that the people had entered into a covenant with God. So what is that they aren't doing such that they consider themselves not having formed a church?
  • Mosiah 24:1-5: Since the BoM was written for our day, in what ways is the educational system created here by apostate Amulon reflected in the educational system adopted by the Americans? Is the editor trying to warn us of something?
  • Mosiah 24:4: I am curious about verse 4. Are there other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk to the Language of the Nephites as not being the same as the Lamanites? I am curious about this topic but I wonder if there just isn't enough info in the Book of Mormon about it to make the topic fruitfull. If that is true, it wouldn't be too surprising given that purposeful effort to concentrate on the religious history by Nephi originally and also by Mormon as he put stuff together.
  • Mosiah 24:8: Was Alma the Younger one of Alma's children persecuted by the children of Amulon?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:9-10. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins said: "If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder... Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life (see Mosiah 26:20). As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ."

Notes[edit]

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.



Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29

Mosiah 21:1-5

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?
  • Mosiah 21:34: What is meant in verse 34 by "form themselves into a church"? It seems there was religious instruction and worship going on given that verse 31 tells us that the people had entered into a covenant with God. So what is that they aren't doing such that they consider themselves not having formed a church?
  • Mosiah 24:1-5: Since the BoM was written for our day, in what ways is the educational system created here by apostate Amulon reflected in the educational system adopted by the Americans? Is the editor trying to warn us of something?
  • Mosiah 24:4: I am curious about verse 4. Are there other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk to the Language of the Nephites as not being the same as the Lamanites? I am curious about this topic but I wonder if there just isn't enough info in the Book of Mormon about it to make the topic fruitfull. If that is true, it wouldn't be too surprising given that purposeful effort to concentrate on the religious history by Nephi originally and also by Mormon as he put stuff together.
  • Mosiah 24:8: Was Alma the Younger one of Alma's children persecuted by the children of Amulon?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:9-10. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins said: "If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder... Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life (see Mosiah 26:20). As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ."

Notes[edit]

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.



Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29

Mosiah 21:6-10

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?
  • Mosiah 21:34: What is meant in verse 34 by "form themselves into a church"? It seems there was religious instruction and worship going on given that verse 31 tells us that the people had entered into a covenant with God. So what is that they aren't doing such that they consider themselves not having formed a church?
  • Mosiah 24:1-5: Since the BoM was written for our day, in what ways is the educational system created here by apostate Amulon reflected in the educational system adopted by the Americans? Is the editor trying to warn us of something?
  • Mosiah 24:4: I am curious about verse 4. Are there other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk to the Language of the Nephites as not being the same as the Lamanites? I am curious about this topic but I wonder if there just isn't enough info in the Book of Mormon about it to make the topic fruitfull. If that is true, it wouldn't be too surprising given that purposeful effort to concentrate on the religious history by Nephi originally and also by Mormon as he put stuff together.
  • Mosiah 24:8: Was Alma the Younger one of Alma's children persecuted by the children of Amulon?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:9-10. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins said: "If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder... Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life (see Mosiah 26:20). As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ."

Notes[edit]

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.



Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29

Mosiah 21:11-15

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?
  • Mosiah 21:34: What is meant in verse 34 by "form themselves into a church"? It seems there was religious instruction and worship going on given that verse 31 tells us that the people had entered into a covenant with God. So what is that they aren't doing such that they consider themselves not having formed a church?
  • Mosiah 24:1-5: Since the BoM was written for our day, in what ways is the educational system created here by apostate Amulon reflected in the educational system adopted by the Americans? Is the editor trying to warn us of something?
  • Mosiah 24:4: I am curious about verse 4. Are there other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk to the Language of the Nephites as not being the same as the Lamanites? I am curious about this topic but I wonder if there just isn't enough info in the Book of Mormon about it to make the topic fruitfull. If that is true, it wouldn't be too surprising given that purposeful effort to concentrate on the religious history by Nephi originally and also by Mormon as he put stuff together.
  • Mosiah 24:8: Was Alma the Younger one of Alma's children persecuted by the children of Amulon?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:9-10. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins said: "If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder... Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life (see Mosiah 26:20). As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ."

Notes[edit]

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.



Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29

Mosiah 21:16-20

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?
  • Mosiah 21:34: What is meant in verse 34 by "form themselves into a church"? It seems there was religious instruction and worship going on given that verse 31 tells us that the people had entered into a covenant with God. So what is that they aren't doing such that they consider themselves not having formed a church?
  • Mosiah 24:1-5: Since the BoM was written for our day, in what ways is the educational system created here by apostate Amulon reflected in the educational system adopted by the Americans? Is the editor trying to warn us of something?
  • Mosiah 24:4: I am curious about verse 4. Are there other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk to the Language of the Nephites as not being the same as the Lamanites? I am curious about this topic but I wonder if there just isn't enough info in the Book of Mormon about it to make the topic fruitfull. If that is true, it wouldn't be too surprising given that purposeful effort to concentrate on the religious history by Nephi originally and also by Mormon as he put stuff together.
  • Mosiah 24:8: Was Alma the Younger one of Alma's children persecuted by the children of Amulon?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:9-10. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins said: "If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder... Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life (see Mosiah 26:20). As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ."

Notes[edit]

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.



Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29

Mosiah 21:21-25

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?
  • Mosiah 21:34: What is meant in verse 34 by "form themselves into a church"? It seems there was religious instruction and worship going on given that verse 31 tells us that the people had entered into a covenant with God. So what is that they aren't doing such that they consider themselves not having formed a church?
  • Mosiah 24:1-5: Since the BoM was written for our day, in what ways is the educational system created here by apostate Amulon reflected in the educational system adopted by the Americans? Is the editor trying to warn us of something?
  • Mosiah 24:4: I am curious about verse 4. Are there other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk to the Language of the Nephites as not being the same as the Lamanites? I am curious about this topic but I wonder if there just isn't enough info in the Book of Mormon about it to make the topic fruitfull. If that is true, it wouldn't be too surprising given that purposeful effort to concentrate on the religious history by Nephi originally and also by Mormon as he put stuff together.
  • Mosiah 24:8: Was Alma the Younger one of Alma's children persecuted by the children of Amulon?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:9-10. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins said: "If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder... Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life (see Mosiah 26:20). As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ."

Notes[edit]

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.



Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29

Mosiah 21:26-30

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?
  • Mosiah 21:34: What is meant in verse 34 by "form themselves into a church"? It seems there was religious instruction and worship going on given that verse 31 tells us that the people had entered into a covenant with God. So what is that they aren't doing such that they consider themselves not having formed a church?
  • Mosiah 24:1-5: Since the BoM was written for our day, in what ways is the educational system created here by apostate Amulon reflected in the educational system adopted by the Americans? Is the editor trying to warn us of something?
  • Mosiah 24:4: I am curious about verse 4. Are there other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk to the Language of the Nephites as not being the same as the Lamanites? I am curious about this topic but I wonder if there just isn't enough info in the Book of Mormon about it to make the topic fruitfull. If that is true, it wouldn't be too surprising given that purposeful effort to concentrate on the religious history by Nephi originally and also by Mormon as he put stuff together.
  • Mosiah 24:8: Was Alma the Younger one of Alma's children persecuted by the children of Amulon?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:9-10. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins said: "If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder... Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life (see Mosiah 26:20). As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ."

Notes[edit]

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.



Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29

Mosiah 21:31-36

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?
  • Mosiah 21:34: What is meant in verse 34 by "form themselves into a church"? It seems there was religious instruction and worship going on given that verse 31 tells us that the people had entered into a covenant with God. So what is that they aren't doing such that they consider themselves not having formed a church?
  • Mosiah 24:1-5: Since the BoM was written for our day, in what ways is the educational system created here by apostate Amulon reflected in the educational system adopted by the Americans? Is the editor trying to warn us of something?
  • Mosiah 24:4: I am curious about verse 4. Are there other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk to the Language of the Nephites as not being the same as the Lamanites? I am curious about this topic but I wonder if there just isn't enough info in the Book of Mormon about it to make the topic fruitfull. If that is true, it wouldn't be too surprising given that purposeful effort to concentrate on the religious history by Nephi originally and also by Mormon as he put stuff together.
  • Mosiah 24:8: Was Alma the Younger one of Alma's children persecuted by the children of Amulon?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:9-10. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins said: "If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder... Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life (see Mosiah 26:20). As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ."

Notes[edit]

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.



Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29

Mosiah 22:1-5

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?
  • Mosiah 21:34: What is meant in verse 34 by "form themselves into a church"? It seems there was religious instruction and worship going on given that verse 31 tells us that the people had entered into a covenant with God. So what is that they aren't doing such that they consider themselves not having formed a church?
  • Mosiah 24:1-5: Since the BoM was written for our day, in what ways is the educational system created here by apostate Amulon reflected in the educational system adopted by the Americans? Is the editor trying to warn us of something?
  • Mosiah 24:4: I am curious about verse 4. Are there other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk to the Language of the Nephites as not being the same as the Lamanites? I am curious about this topic but I wonder if there just isn't enough info in the Book of Mormon about it to make the topic fruitfull. If that is true, it wouldn't be too surprising given that purposeful effort to concentrate on the religious history by Nephi originally and also by Mormon as he put stuff together.
  • Mosiah 24:8: Was Alma the Younger one of Alma's children persecuted by the children of Amulon?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:9-10. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins said: "If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder... Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life (see Mosiah 26:20). As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ."

Notes[edit]

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.



Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29

Mosiah 22:6-10

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?
  • Mosiah 21:34: What is meant in verse 34 by "form themselves into a church"? It seems there was religious instruction and worship going on given that verse 31 tells us that the people had entered into a covenant with God. So what is that they aren't doing such that they consider themselves not having formed a church?
  • Mosiah 24:1-5: Since the BoM was written for our day, in what ways is the educational system created here by apostate Amulon reflected in the educational system adopted by the Americans? Is the editor trying to warn us of something?
  • Mosiah 24:4: I am curious about verse 4. Are there other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk to the Language of the Nephites as not being the same as the Lamanites? I am curious about this topic but I wonder if there just isn't enough info in the Book of Mormon about it to make the topic fruitfull. If that is true, it wouldn't be too surprising given that purposeful effort to concentrate on the religious history by Nephi originally and also by Mormon as he put stuff together.
  • Mosiah 24:8: Was Alma the Younger one of Alma's children persecuted by the children of Amulon?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:9-10. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins said: "If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder... Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life (see Mosiah 26:20). As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ."

Notes[edit]

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.



Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29

Mosiah 22:11-16

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?
  • Mosiah 21:34: What is meant in verse 34 by "form themselves into a church"? It seems there was religious instruction and worship going on given that verse 31 tells us that the people had entered into a covenant with God. So what is that they aren't doing such that they consider themselves not having formed a church?
  • Mosiah 24:1-5: Since the BoM was written for our day, in what ways is the educational system created here by apostate Amulon reflected in the educational system adopted by the Americans? Is the editor trying to warn us of something?
  • Mosiah 24:4: I am curious about verse 4. Are there other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk to the Language of the Nephites as not being the same as the Lamanites? I am curious about this topic but I wonder if there just isn't enough info in the Book of Mormon about it to make the topic fruitfull. If that is true, it wouldn't be too surprising given that purposeful effort to concentrate on the religious history by Nephi originally and also by Mormon as he put stuff together.
  • Mosiah 24:8: Was Alma the Younger one of Alma's children persecuted by the children of Amulon?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:9-10. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins said: "If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder... Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life (see Mosiah 26:20). As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ."

Notes[edit]

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.



Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29

Mosiah 23:1-5

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?
  • Mosiah 21:34: What is meant in verse 34 by "form themselves into a church"? It seems there was religious instruction and worship going on given that verse 31 tells us that the people had entered into a covenant with God. So what is that they aren't doing such that they consider themselves not having formed a church?
  • Mosiah 24:1-5: Since the BoM was written for our day, in what ways is the educational system created here by apostate Amulon reflected in the educational system adopted by the Americans? Is the editor trying to warn us of something?
  • Mosiah 24:4: I am curious about verse 4. Are there other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk to the Language of the Nephites as not being the same as the Lamanites? I am curious about this topic but I wonder if there just isn't enough info in the Book of Mormon about it to make the topic fruitfull. If that is true, it wouldn't be too surprising given that purposeful effort to concentrate on the religious history by Nephi originally and also by Mormon as he put stuff together.
  • Mosiah 24:8: Was Alma the Younger one of Alma's children persecuted by the children of Amulon?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:9-10. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins said: "If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder... Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life (see Mosiah 26:20). As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ."

Notes[edit]

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.



Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29

Mosiah 23:6-10

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?
  • Mosiah 21:34: What is meant in verse 34 by "form themselves into a church"? It seems there was religious instruction and worship going on given that verse 31 tells us that the people had entered into a covenant with God. So what is that they aren't doing such that they consider themselves not having formed a church?
  • Mosiah 24:1-5: Since the BoM was written for our day, in what ways is the educational system created here by apostate Amulon reflected in the educational system adopted by the Americans? Is the editor trying to warn us of something?
  • Mosiah 24:4: I am curious about verse 4. Are there other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk to the Language of the Nephites as not being the same as the Lamanites? I am curious about this topic but I wonder if there just isn't enough info in the Book of Mormon about it to make the topic fruitfull. If that is true, it wouldn't be too surprising given that purposeful effort to concentrate on the religious history by Nephi originally and also by Mormon as he put stuff together.
  • Mosiah 24:8: Was Alma the Younger one of Alma's children persecuted by the children of Amulon?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:9-10. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins said: "If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder... Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life (see Mosiah 26:20). As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ."

Notes[edit]

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.



Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29

Mosiah 23:11-15

Home > The Book of Mormon > Mosiah > Chapters 20-24 (Verses 20:1-24:25)
Previous page: Chapter 19                      Next page: Chapters 25-29


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Relationship to Mosiah. The relationship of Chapters 20-24 to the rest of Mosiah is discussed at Mosiah.

Story.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 20-24 include:

Discussion[edit]

This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 24: Implications for Baptismal Covenant and Relationship with God. The implications of these verses for our understanding of baptism and our relationship to God are profound. They suggest that when we are baptized, we enter into community with God and Christ. We become, in important ways, fellow citizens with the Father and Son of a divine community. This profound meaning is suggested by the explicit echoes in these verses of Mosiah 18:8-10 which describe the covenant we make when we are baptized. At baptism, we take upon ourselves the obligation “to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light … to mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:8-10).
These verses in chapter 24 suggest that the Father and Son are bound to us by the same baptismal covenant that binds us to one another. When they act to serve us, it is as fellow members of the covenant community we enter when we are baptized. In other words, in these verses the Lord chooses to characterize himself not as a distant sovereign who exists high above us but as a fellow citizen of the divine community who labors with us to bear the burdens of those who struggle.
Thus, in Mosiah 24:13, the Lord says “I will covenant with my people.” Then in verses 13 and 14, he makes it clear that his covenant is the same one we have made. He will “visit [his] people in their afflictions” and bear their burdens that they may be “made light.” He will mourn with them as they mourn, comfort them as they stand in need of comfort. He will enable them to “stand as witness for [God]” as they have covenanted to do at the Waters of Mormon. He will undertake the same obligations as other members of the covenant community that was formed at the Waters of Mormon. In short, he suggests in these verses that he and we have like natures and like moral obligations and he ask nothing of us at baptism that he is not doing himself.
One very important implication of Christ joining us as a kind of equal in this covenant community is that our obligation to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort extends not just to our fellow Church members but to Christ himself. We are obligated to mourn with him when he mourns and to comfort him when he stands in need of comfort. But how can we fulfill that obligation? D&C 18:11-13 and Luke 24:43 may answer this question.
D&C 18:15-16 (often cited to encourage missionary work) indicates that if we labor all our lives crying repentance and bring save it be one soul unto Christ, our joy with that one soul will be great in the kingdom of the father. Much less often cited are verses 11-13 which suggest that it is Christ who most profoundly experiences joy when a soul repents. Since it was he who paid the heavy price to enable the repentance of the soul that is saved, it would naturally be he who experiences the most joy when his suffering has the intended effect of saving a soul. Thus we can partly repay the debt we all owe the Savior by brining repentant souls to him, first our own, then those of others around us.
Of course, the moment when the Savior most stood in need of comfort was in Gethsemane. Luke reports that he pled with the father that the cup might pass from him and that an angel then appeared to strengthen and comfort him (Luke 24:42-43). We can be that angel. The only comfort the Savior could have received in that moment would be assurances that his sacrifice was not in vain, that the souls for whom he suffered would choose to receive the gift of salvation he there offered them. We can comfort the Savior to whom we owe everything by going to Gethsemane in imagination and spirit and there assuring him in his moment of agony that we gratefully receive his self-sacrifice, that with broken heart and contrite spirit we are born again in him, will repent of our sins and return to the father through the grace he there offers us.
Is this possible? Christ’s atonement was infinite. It was connected to every moment of time before or after in which a soul repents. As a divine being, the Savior was immersed in both time and eternity. So it may literally be true that knowledge of our acceptance of the offering might comfort him in that moment. But whether literal or not, both he and we can benefit if we take passage to Gethsemane and gratefully receive the redemption he offered us there.
See Alma 33:23 for a related echo of the baptismal covenant.

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 23:14. Alma tells his people that they should trust no one to be their teacher or minister except that person be a man of God. Is this advice applicable to us today? How should we apply it? Is it applicable when we are learning about non-religous subjects? How about Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society/Priesthood teachers? Do we have a responsibility to evaluate whether our teachers in church are men or women of God--whether they walk in God's commandments?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Mosiah 20:13: Why were they so kind to the Lamanite king after what he had just done? What can we learn from this?
  • Mosiah 21:33: Why would Ammon consider himself unworthy to baptize?