“They Were Taught in the Language of Mosiah”

Brant Gardner

In describing the merger of the Nephites and the Zarahemlaites, J. N. Washburn suggests that “the lamb ate the lion,” meaning that the smaller population dominated the larger. The evidence is the choice of Mosiah1 as ruler of the combined population and the Zarahemlaites learning the Nephite language, rather than the other way around. Still, it would have been unusual if Nephite became the dominant language of the area. Correlating language to geography suggests that the Nephites brought perhaps a Hebrew and/or Maya heritage to the merger, while the Zarahemlaites contributed a Zoquean linguistic and Epi-Olmec cultural background. The persistence of Zoque in that geography throughout discernable history suggests that Nephite (whatever that exact language may have been) did not become the dominant language of the Zarahemlaites and therefore of the future Nephites. If anything, Zoque probably became the Nephites’ daily language soon after their arrival in Zarahemla. (See Ether, Part 1: Chapter 1, “Historical Background of the Book of Ether.”)

Text: Amaleki also notes that other records are being kept—almost certainly the large plates in Mosiah1’s possession. When Mormon abridges the record, he would have had a fuller account of the Nephite/Zarahemlaite merger than that offered by Amaleki. Mormon’s account of this incident must have been in the lost 116 pages.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 3