“Taught in the Language of Mosiah”

Brant Gardner

In describing the merging of the Nephites and the Zarahemlaites, J. N. Washburn suggests that "the lamb ate the lion." (Washburn, 1968, p. 26). Of course he is referring to the smaller population dominating the larger. The evidence is certainly the choice of Mosiah as ruler of the combined population, and probably this reference to the Nephites teaching their language to the Zarahemlaites rather than the other way around. While the verse clearly indicates that there was a teaching of language in that direction, we must remember that this would be rather unusual if Nephite became the dominant language of the area. When we correlate language to geography, we find the Nephites bringing perhaps a Hebrew heritage, and perhaps a Maya heritage to the merger. The Zarahemlaites bring a Zoquean background. The persistence of Zoque in that geography throughout discernable history suggests that this teaching of Nephite (whatever language they spoke at this time) did not become the dominant language of the Zarahemlaites, and therefore of the future Nephites. If anything, we may assume Zoque as the probable daily language of the Nephites from soon after their arrival in Zarahemla.

Amaleki also notes that other records are being kept. We may safely presume that Mosiah has kept the large plate tradition, and continues to update it. Thus when Mormon is abridging the record, it is an abridgement of the large plate tradition, which would have had a much fuller account of this meeting. Since Amaleki is our best source on the Mulekites/Zarahemlaites, we may assume that Mormon had written of this incident in his abridgement, somewhere in the pages that we have lost.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon