“King Mosiah Had Given Alma the Authority Over the Church”

Brant Gardner

Culture: Although Limhi’s people are members of a church, the rest of the Zarahemlaites are not. Benjamin had placed his people under covenant to become “sons and daughters of God” (Mosiah 5:7). That covenant was to provide the Zarahemlaites with a uniform base of belief, a covenantal means of leveling society. A generation has passed and the assumption of unity has unraveled. There is now an explicit structure separate from the rest of society, something that Benjamin’s covenant did not create.

The separation of realms of influence now extends to Mosiah himself. Mosiah grants to Alma the power to ordain priests and teachers over each church. This act effectively diminishes Mosiah’s power, as he has bestowed on another an essential role in his society. Mosiah would certainly be the titular head of the church, but he was no longer its effective leader. Alma was.

Alma had tremendous influence. Given the implications of his position in Nephite society and the rapidity with which he acquired that position, we must wonder at the personal charisma he possessed to allow him to so completely imbue Nephite society with his own ideas on religion and government. Government will be discussed later; at this point, it is his religious reforms that are most apparent.

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