strtoupper('“A')ll the People of Zarahemla Were Numbered with the Nephites”

Much information that Mormon does not tell us can be surmised from this verse, in which Mosiah publicly introduces Alma to the people. Modern readers of the Book of Mormon are so familiar with Alma that his immediate public role does not seem surprising, but it should be. In contrast to Alma, Limhi apparently moves into a secondary position in his own community (the city and land of Gideon) even though he had been a king. What events precede this discourse that lead to Alma’s rapid ascension as Zarahemla’s religious leader?

Obviously, Alma and Mosiah held private meetings. Only a poor leader would present a full record of a people about whom he knew nothing. The private meetings would have been held separately, as the two groups arrived separately, with Limhi’s group preceding Alma’s into the city. Evidence for this sequence is that it was the army pursuing Limhi that stumbled upon Amulon’s group and, subsequently, on Alma. The establishment of the Lamanite rule in Helam (Alma’s colony) probably became oppressive fairly quickly, but it still would have taken time—say, at least a couple of months—before the situation became intolerable. Thus, Limhi’s group had been in Zarahemla for an estimated two months (perhaps more). It is interesting that there is no record of a public reading of their documents until Alma and his people arrive. There is no way to tell if this is an accurate representation of the event of reading records or if Mormon conflated two separate readings for literary convenience.

Nevertheless, this occasion is specifically about Alma. Limhi’s record is part of Alma’s background, read aloud to justify presenting Alma to the people. In their private meetings, Mosiah had learned of Yahweh’s calling of Alma and recognized Alma as a powerful religious leader. As we will shortly see, Alma not only restructures the Nephite religious system, but also their political system. Clearly, Mosiah and Alma almost immediately developed a strong trust and rapport. Not long after his arrival, Alma supplants Mosiah as the religious leader and thereafter supplants the political structure in which Mosiah was king. Either these events occurred with Mosiah’s cooperation, or he must be seen as weak and impressionable. There is no indication of the latter, so the former is the better explanation.

For these reasons, Alma addresses the people at Mosiah’s behest and with his authorization. Less clear in Mormon’s synopsis is the fact that Alma is also being installed as the chief high priest.

Brant Gardner -

Brant Gardner

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

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