This passage is problematic because it does not fit the typical king-to-king pattern of power transfer. Nor does this passage describe an election. Indeed, verse 6 suggests that the voice of the people simply confirmed the typical pattern of kingship.
A possible parallel to this situation had occurred in the city of Lehi-Nephi when Limhi and his people are planning an escape: “And now it came to pass that Ammon and king Limhi began to consult with the people how they should deliver themselves out of bondage; and even they did cause that all the people should gather themselves together; and this they did that they might have the voice of the people concerning the matter” (Mosiah 22:1).
This process is known as the “voice of the people.” (See Excursus: “The Voice of the People,” following Mosiah 29.) At this point, the significant message is that even the Nephite monarchy accommodated communal involvement. Nor is such involvement out of place in a Mesoamerican context, though firm information for it comes, perforce, from a much later period.
Text: As noted in the commentary accompanying Mosiah 28:20, that verse was originally attached to this first verse of our current chapter 29. Here is the reattached paragraph:
And now, as I said unto you, that after king Mosiah had done these things, he took the plates of brass, and all the things which he had kept, and conferred them upon Alma, who was the son of Alma; yea, all the records, and also the interpreters, and conferred them upon him, and commanded him that he should keep and preserve them, and also keep a record of the people, handing them down from one generation to another, even as they had been handed down from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem.
Now when Mosiah had done this he sent out throughout all the land, among all the people, desiring to know their will concerning who should be their king. (Mosiah 28:20–29:1)
Mosiah 28:20 begins with “and now” which Mormon typically uses to mark a new subject. Mormon has split the power transfer from king to judges into two pieces: preparation, and the creation of the judges (ch. 29).
Variant: The 1830 typesetter changed the printer’s manuscript’s “out through the land” to “out throughout the land.” It appears that he was attempting to smooth out the phrase, but the result was the somewhat awkward “out throughout.”