“Every Living Soul of the Ammonihahites Was Destroyed”

Brant Gardner

Geography: This Lamanite attack is unusual for several reasons. First, Ammonihah is located fairly deep in Nephite territory, and the Lamanite army had to pass other cities to attack it. Second, it does no real damage to the Nephite political center. But the crucial point is the role of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies in this attack, which is discussed below. (See commentary accompanying Alma 24 and 25.)

This battle is the same one described in Alma 25:1–3. The intervening chapters tell about the missions of the sons of Mosiah—an extended flashback—that will rejoin the main narrative at this chronological point with the Lamanite attack on Ammonihah. Mormon recounts the destruction of Ammonihah from two different perspectives. As a conclusion to Alma’s missionary journey, Ammonihah’s destruction spells out the moral that the unrepentant wicked are destroyed as prophesied. In the Alma 25 version, the city’s destruction is part of a political, not moral, story.

Culture: Warfare was extremely common in Mesoamerica and had many causes. While a prominent reason was the attempt to create tributary cities for a particular polity, the Ammonihah attack is destroys the city and annihilates its inhabitants except for those taken captive. The capture of prisoners during battle, as already discussed, had increasing importance among the Maya during these years and later.

The Lamanites make no effort to annex Ammonihah’s territory, nor set up any type of dependence. The reason for this war will be more apparent in the Alma 25 narrative.

Variant: The printer’s manuscript and 1830 edition both have “and also some around the borders of Noah and taking others captive.” In the 1852 edition, taking was changed to taken which remains in the 1981 edition. The change was made to smooth out the grammar.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 4