“The Whole Multitude Fell to the Earth”

Brant Gardner

Falling to the earth, as already discussed, means that the people were overcome by the Spirit. (See commentary accompanying Alma 18:42–43.) Unlike the experience of King Lamoni and his father, this time we do not have the description that they appear to be dead. If Alma2 fell to the earth when an angel visited him, certainly all these people should also fall to the earth when the Messiah visited them.

Their response is what we would expect from so overwhelming a visitation. Nephi’s details confirm that the people remember the prophecies, now fulfilled, and fully understand that they are seeing the Messiah, about whom they had been conversing, not an angel. The fact that Nephi explains the thoughts of these Bountiful faithful makes it fairly certain that he has idealized this particular description.

The presence of the phrase “that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven” might weigh in on the debate over the timing of the Messiah’s appearance in Bountiful. (See commentary accompanying 3 Nephi 10:18–19.) Using this phrase to tie the timing to soon after his Old World ascension seems too strained. I suggest that it is an artifact of translation that is related to the Messiah’s return to heaven after the first (vocal) “appearance.”

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 5