“Continual Peace and Great Joy”

Brant Gardner

The peace continues for three more years, and while not stated, we may presume that the prosperity also continued. As with earlier instances of this prosperity, it is going to be accompanied by an increase in the worldly philosophies that are behind the cultures with whom they trade to achieve this prosperity. This external trade is never explicitly mentioned, but the end results are obvious in the descriptions of the nature of the ideological problems that follow from prosperity.

Along with the prosperity inevitably comes pressure to create or emphasize a social hierarchy, ideas that were prominent in the region at this time. Even in the midst of peace, Mormon begins to prepare us for precisely this type of internal dissention that comes with the increased prosperity in Nephite culture. It is for this reason that Mormon begins to mention pride as he reiterates peace. There is a peace, but it is fragile, and it is fragile for the same reasons that have always brought internal dissention in the Nephite polity – the pressure for social hierarchies.

Textual: Verse 30 contains a contextual elucidation of meaning that tells us something about Mormon’s conception of the term “church.” Mormon indicates that “pride… began to enter the church.” He then immediately clarifies what he means: “not into the church of God, but into the hearts of the people who professed to belong to the church of God.” This conceptual confusion indicates that there is a usage for “church” which sees that term as both a collective for the religious entity, and as a collection of people. One of the innovations of Nephite religious organization was the separation of church and political structure, a separation that had real distinction, but pragmatic overlap from the time of the institution of the concept to the present.

The beginnings of the separation occur with Alma the Elder, and are made explicit during the reign of Mosiah II, and particularly with the shift to the reign of judges at the end of Mosiah II’s reign as the final king of the Nephites. At this point in the Book of Mormon the division is only about fifty years old, but for Mormon it is over four hundred years old. For Mormon, then, this conceptual division between church and state creates the church as a separate conceptual and organizational entity, and therefore one that may be referenced with, but separate from, the people who make up the church. Mormon is making certain that we understand the difference between the faults of the individuals who begin to have pride, and the church as the pure receptacle of the gospel, which would not have the pride that would be inconsistent with the gospel.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon