strtoupper('“A') Very Wicked and an Idolatrous Man”

Here Mormon introduces the main characters of this particular story. The sons of Mosiah and one of the sons of Alma1 are “numbered among the unbelievers.” The focus is on Alma2 at this point because the story of his conversion will dominate the narrative. Alma2 is not simply an unbeliever. He is a “wicked and an idolatrous man.” “Wicked” might describe any number of possible sins, but why “idolatrous”? Clearly he not only disbelieves the Nephite religion but espouses one that views God in some different way—a strong pointer to an “outside” religion. Having adopted that position, he actively encourages others to follow his lead.

The conflict engaged in by the sons of Mosiah and Alma2 is religious, not political. They do not persecute the kingdom of Zarahemla, but rather the “church.” They appear to be quite willing to participate in the increased wealth but have rejected Zarahemla’s religious component. With what did they replace it? I hypothesize that they replaced it with a religion more compatible with their trading partners—what later became known as the order of the Nehors. Its basic structure is seen in the religion of Noah and his priests: syncretic religion combining aspects of the brass plates with New World social structures. (See “Excursus: Religion of the Nehors,” following Alma 1.) Elites who were admired for their wealth and whose displays of wealth were copied also “exported” their belief systems.

From this story, many modern parents take comfort and hope. Mosiah and Alma1 certainly taught their children the gospel. They provided homes that were probably above standard both spiritually and economically, since Mosiah was king and Alma1 the chief priest. Nevertheless, both families had at least one child who rejected parental teachings and followed ideas antithetical to their parents’ beliefs. Many modern parents experience the same ordeal. Even when miraculous conversion does not await their children, the parents can at least take some comfort in understanding that even the best parents cannot fully prevent such departures from faith.

Brant Gardner -

Brant Gardner

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