“The Amlicites Set the Mark Upon Themselves”

Monte S. Nyman

Mormon returns to the “mark of red” placed in the forehead of the Amlicites by themselves (v. 4, 13). Some students of the Book of Mormon have suggested that the red color of the mark was chosen because the darker skin of the Lamanites was red. Furthermore, the description of the heads of the Lamanites being shaved and their bodies naked except for a skin about their loins (v. 5) is basically the same as the one given by Enos several hundred years earlier (see Enos 1:20). Although Enos’ description does not mention a marking of red in the forehead, Mormon’s abridgment does say “after the manner of the Lamanites” (Alma 3:4). Dr. Daniel H. Ludlow comments:

This statement has two possible interpretations: (1) the Lamanites had red skin so the Amlicites marked themselves with red, or (2) the Lamanites marked themselves with red, and the Amlicites imitated them by marking themselves with red. Regardless of which interpretation is correct, this statement may provide a clue concerning the origin of war painted faces among this people which continued to the coming of the white man some 1600 years later.

Whichever interpretation is chosen, the important point is that the Amlicites were fulfilling the prophecy given to Nephi shortly after Lehi and his party left Jerusalem concerning both the curse and the mark (see 1 Nephi 2:21–24). Even more important is the precept given to us by Mormon at this point.

Book of Mormon Commentary: The Record of Alma