“Land of Ammonihah Was Called Desolation of Nehors”

Brant Gardner

Mormon pauses to insist on his main point: In a fulfillment of Alma’s prophecy, Yahweh has had a complete victory over the rebellious city. In Mormon’s narration, the story of Alma and Amulek in Ammonihah is a symbolic confrontation between the two great ideologies: the Nephite religion and the order of the Nehors. In this confrontation, Yahweh stands against those who rebel against him. The predicted destruction not only comes, but comes with a vengeance. Ammonihah is not simply destroyed, it is utterly destroyed. It is not simply humbled, it is humiliated. It is not simply uninhabited, it is uninhabitable. Mormon stresses how the city’s pretended greatness dissolved before the power of the true God. As in the Old Testament, the fact that Yahweh’s wrath manifested itself through a mortal enemy does not change the essential facts in the least. For Mormon, Yahweh’s vengeance was wreaked upon Ammonihah in accordance with the prophecy.

Literature: Anthropologist Gordon C. Thomasson suggests that labeling Ammonihah as the Desolation of Nehors “is the perfect example of metonymy, whether it was a contemporary designation or was given after the fact. Such a name conveys both cause and effect to readers of the text.” He explains: “Metonymy or metonymic naming involves ‘naming by association,’ a metaphoric process of linking two concepts or persons together in such a way as to tell us more about the latter by means of what we already know about the former. For example, to call a potential scandal a ‘Watergate’ is to suggest volumes in a single word.” The name conveys the metamessage. The conflict between Alma, Amulek, and the lawyers of Ammonihah was not a clash of law, but of God and apostasy. That larger conflict and its inevitable outcome were clearly summed up in the name “Desolation of the Nehors.”

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