Feast upon the Word Blog

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BoM Lesson 19 (Mosiah 18-24)

Posted by jennywebb on May 25, 2008

I know Robert put up a general post for lessons for the month, but I was asked to teach unexpectedly so I thought I’d go ahead and post my notes as they were a bit long.

I found a lot of material on the wiki  and in Jim’s previous notes very helpful, especially for chapter 18. So as to not be repetitive, I thought I would mainly post my thoughts/notes on chapters 19-24. Please note that this is a “class in review” so to speak—hopefully it might contain an idea for someone along the way.

 I started class by covering briefly reviewing the historical arc of these chapters. I’m not really a fan of just reviewing the stories, but this section was so dense and complicated I thought it might help. I made a little “map” to use as a handout so people would have something visual to refer to (I could have just drawn it on the board, but that takes so much time sometimes). After the history lesson, we started a discussion.

 Discussion Questions

  • Why would Mormon include all this history?
  • What could he be trying to teach or show?
  • What do these chapters teach us about how we should treat our enemies?
  • What do we learn about the Lamanites here? How do they act? (20:24-26, 23:28-9. 23:34, 20:15, 19:14)
  • Who imposes the greatest burden upon whom? Or Who treats who the worst?
  • Could Alma the Younger have been persecuted by the children of Amulon? (24:8) Why would that be important?
  • What do these chapters teach us about trials/burdens/challenges and the Lord?
  • Why didn’t the Lord free the people of Alma right away?
  • Why did both the people of Limhi (who originally weren’t converted by Alma) and the people of Alma (those who responded quickly to the gospel) suffer?
  • How do our trials help us stand as witnesses of God? (24:14)

We didn’t reach the second half of the questions (because I felt like we really did need to pay attention to chapter 18 as well), but some interesting thoughts emerged during the discussion, especially with regards to what these chapters might be teaching with regard to how we should treat our enemies.

The Lamanites are described repeatedly again as passionate, family-oriented, and compassionate people. They worry about their lost daughters and fight to protect their families. The people of Limhi fight back to protect their families. When they bring the Lamanite king before Limhi, he reacts with reason rather than revenge. They talk things out. The Lamanite king responds with humility rather than pride, and is also reasonable. A potential conflict is resolved rather than extended. The Lamanites are not portrayed as ruthless savages—the text is subtle. They have economic interests in keeping the people of Limhi captive. Their positions and actions are described from a viewpoint that is, if not sympathetic, at least understanding.

In contrast, the worst treatment appears to come from Amulon and the priests of Noah. The Lamanites are interested in holding captives so that they can get gain from them; Amulon, after recognizing Alma, is interested in extracting some twisted type of revenge. Amulon’s intentions are to persecute, to reinforce his position of power, to repress and deny the power of God as taught by Abinadi and Alma, and to instill that desire to persecute in the next generation. It is interesting that this persecution is in a sense internal: Nephite to Nephite.

From this discussion (who are our worst enemies and how should we deal with them/ourselves?), we transitioned back to chapter 18 and discussed the covenant of baptism and the shift towards being children of God (using much material and questions from the wiki and Jim’s notes). One point I will bring up was how it was interesting to see how the very crux of the new portion of the baptismal covenant—being willing to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort—was historically thematized in chapters 19-24: Limhi’s people being those that mourn (they suffer enormous losses against the Lamanites as they fight for freedom) and Alma’s people being those who stood in need of comfort against the physically and spiritually draining persecutions under Amulon.

We ended looking closely at what it means to be a literal child of God—all in all, I think it went all right. I’ll include the handout here as a PDF for any who are interested.

7 Responses to “BoM Lesson 19 (Mosiah 18-24)”

  1. NathanG said

    I like your thoughts about the Lamanites during this time period. I was reading about the priests of Noah and how they were appointed to be teachers to the Lamanites (mentioned just prior to Amulon persecuting Alma in Helam). Why were the Lamanites so interested in Nephites teaching them? Why did the Lamanites also allow Zeniff to take posession of the land? The hatred that Laman and Lemuel and the early Lamanites had for the Nephites seems to have faded over the 400 or so years that had passed, but they had never quite come around to be friends. As we go through Alma we see numerous references to the apostate Nephites being the ones that keep stirring the Lamanites up to fight the Nephites. When the sons of Mosiah preach, it is the Lamanites and few if any of the apostate Nephites who embrace the gospel. It is really interesting to read about these Lamanites, and equally interesting to see how angry people who leave or reject the gospel can become.

  2. JennyW said

    Nathan, those are good questions—I don’t have any definitive answers, but my impression is that the Lamanite king allowed Zeniff and his people to take possession of the land perhaps with the intent to extract some kind of tax or gain from them in the future. I think there are verses that point in that direction at least. But of course, those verses are coming from non-Lamanite sources and with the history of these chapters (where the Lamanites did “keep” the Nephites in order to take advantage of them and their goods) had already passed. If we had the Lamanite record, that original decision might be cast in a different light.

    With regards to Amulon and the priests teaching the Lamanites, if I remember right it seemed like those verses mentioned how excited the Lamanites were to be able to essentially strengthen and grow their economy based off of what they learned. And putting Amulon in charge of the captured Nephites (Alma’s group) did make sense—who better to understand Nephite culture and know how to take advantage of them, motivate (or persecute) them, and hopefully prevent their escape than one of their own?

    You’re right that the book of Alma will feature many Lamanite conversions—I think it’s interesting how these chapters set the stage for that. Essentially by the end of chapter 24, everyone ends up back in Zarahemla. It’s not unlikely that the sons of Mosiah and Alma the Younger were children during these events and heard stories of the Lamanites as they were growing up. And, even though there were many conflicts with them, it’s also not likely that they heard purely negative stories about the Lamanites—the conflicts seemed to be based more on miscommunication, cultural conflict, and economic desires than on an overriding desire to eradicate all the Nephites, and in this context, or at least in the text we have, there do seem to be positive undercurrents shall we say in the description of the Lamanites. It would make sense that the sons of Mosiah would desire to share the gospel with these people—they know about them, they’re peripherally connected to them through recent history, and based off of that history, there are indications they’d make good converts. Which, as you point out, they generally do.

  3. JWL said

    Jenny —

    I would not be quite so generous about Nephite attitudes toward the Lamanites in the generation of Alma the younger. See Alma 26:23-35 where Ammon son of Mosiah describes a very strong anti-Lamanite prejudice among the Nephites.

  4. JennyW said

    JWL, you are right, of course, concerning the popular Nephite opinion of the Lamanites at the time. I should have been more careful in my speculations. I meant to imply that there is at least some textual evidence for the possibility of understanding the Lamanites differently from the popular perception, and that Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah possibly reached a sympathetic view of the Lamanites after their conversion experiences in part as a reaction against that pervasive opinion (or, in part, because they were able to see past the negative stereotypes and into the human-ness behind the stories of the people of LImhi and Alma). It is a common pattern in conversion to, following conversion/forgiveness, desire to share that experience with others, even ones enemies (Enos comes to mind). I think the possibility that Alma the younger was alive and persecuted by Amulon’s children, who would have been half Lamanite given Amulon’s marriage to one of the Lamanite maidens, is interesting given the specific direction of Lamanite-oriented missionary work under Alma the younger’s high priestship.

  5. robf said

    Also note that Zeniff was hesitant to kill the Lamanites after he “saw that which was good among them” (Mosiah 9:1).

  6. Robert C. said

    Jenny (and others), thanks for posting these thoughts and questions.

    Also, I think your handout is esp. helpful—I tried drawing this on the board during my lesson, and it got very, very messy. (Also, as a reminder to myself, I didn’t include anything from chapters 23-24 where the Lamanites catch up to Alma and his little band and their burdens being made light before they escape to Zarahemla in my little summary here….)

  7. RuthS said

    JennyW #2 With regard the reason behind the Lamanites putting Amulon in charge, it seems you make a good point. The Lamanite rulers obviously knew who Amulon was and the status he had in the culture. It was known that he was an authority figure and one who had done what Noah wanted and would therefore serve well. It has not been uncommon for dictators and other rulers to put a member of a dissident group or just a group perceived to be a danger in charge of something. This gives that community a feeling of belonging and pride in the person who has been elevated to the service of the head man. They then become more oppressive than someone else might become simply because they want to please those they serve. It makes it possible for the real oppressors to look benevolent while at the same time remaining as cruel as they think they need to be in order to meet their ends.

    It is pretty clear that the Lamanites didn’t want any of the people from the city of Nephi to escape. To receive a tribute of one half of all their property annually is much harsher than the 20% Noah exacted in taxes. It might be a stretch but maybe there is something akin to the Stockholm Syndrome at work here. The people from the city of Nephi have a better chance of survival if they cooperate with their captors than they do in the wilderness. That being the case it is better to see the Lamanites as more benevolent than Amulon as he is the most immediate danger.

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