Book of Mormon – A Story of Conflict

Book of Mormon – A Story of Conflict

Disputes between Laman/Lamuel and Nephi

  • 1 Nephi 2:11 “for behold they did bmurmur in many things against their cfather, because he was a dvisionary man, and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem,”
  • 1 Nephi 2:12 And they did bmurmur because they cknew not the dealings of that God who had dcreated them.
  • 1 Nepth 2:13 Neither did they abelieve that Jerusalem, that great city, could be bdestroyed according to the words of the prophets. And they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem, who sought to take away the life of my father.
  • 2 Neph 5:3 Yea, they did murmur against me, saying: Our younger brother thinks to arule over us; and we have had much trial because of him; wherefore, now let us slay him, that we may not be afflicted more because of his words. For behold, we will not have him to be our ruler; for it belongs unto us, who are the elder brethren, to brule over this people.

Disputes between Lamanites and Nephites

  • Mosiah 10:11Now, the Lamanites knew nothing concerning the Lord, nor the strength of the Lord, therefore they depended upon their own strength. Yet they were a strong people, as to the astrengthof men.
  • Mosiah 10:12 They were a awild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, believing in the btradition of their fathers, which is this—Believing that they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem because of the iniquities of their fathers, and that they were cwronged in the wilderness by their brethren, and they were also wronged while crossing the sea;
  • Mosiah 10:13 And again, that they were wronged while in the land of their afirst inheritance, after they had crossed the sea, and all this because that Nephi was more faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord—therefore bhe was favored of the Lord, for the Lord heard his prayers and answered them, and he took the lead of their journey in the wilderness.
  • Mosiah 10:14 And his brethren were awroth with him because they bunderstood not the dealings of the Lord; they were also wroth with him upon the waters because they hardened their hearts against the Lord.
  • Mosiah 10:15 And again, they were awroth with him when they had arrived in the promised land, because they said that he had taken the bruling of the people out of their hands; and they sought to kill him.
  • Mosiah 10:16 And again, they were wroth with him because he departed into the wilderness as the Lord had commanded him, and took the arecords which were engraven on the plates of brass, for they said that he brobbed them.
  • Mosiah 10:17 And thus they have taught their children that they should hate them, and that they should murder them, and that they should rob and plunder them, and do all they could to destroy them; therefore they have an eternal hatred towards the children of Nephi.
  • Alma 3:11-

Disputes between Jacob and Sherem

  • Jacob 7:2 And it came to pass that he began to preach among the people, and to declare unto them that there should be ano Christ. And he preached many things which were flattering unto the people; and this he did that he might boverthrow the doctrine of Christ.
  • Jacob 7:And ye have led away much of this people that they pervert the right way of God, and akeep not the law of Moses which is the right way; and convert the law of Moses into the worship of a being which ye say shall come many hundred years hence. And now behold, I, Sherem, declare unto you that this is bblasphemy; for no man knoweth of such things; for he cannot ctellof things to come. And after this manner did Sherem contend against me.

Disputes between Abinidi and Noah

  • Mosiah 12:28 => And they said: We teach the law of Moses.
  • Mosiah 12:32 => And they answered and said that salvation did come by the law of Moses.

Disputes between Alma and the next generation

  • Mosiah 26:2 => They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ.
  • Mosiah 27:8 => nevertheless, he became a very wicked and an bidolatrous man. And he was a man of many words, and did speak much cflattery to the people; therefore he dled many of the people to do after the manner of his einiquities.
  • Mosiah 27:30 I rejected my Redeemer, and denied that which had been spoken of by our fathers; but now that they may foresee that he will come, and that he remembereth every creature of his creating, he will make himself manifest unto aall.

Disputes between Alma the Younger and Nehor

Alma 1:3-4 And he had gone about among the people, preaching to them that which he atermed to be the word of God, bearing down bagainst the church; declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become cpopular; and they ought dnot to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people. And he also testified unto the people that aall mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they bneed not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had ccreated all men, and had also dredeemed eall men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.

Alma 1:12 But Alma said unto him: Behold, this is the first time that apriestcraft has been introduced among this people. And behold, thou art not only guilty of priestcraft, but hast endeavored to enforce it by the sword; and were bpriestcraft to be enforced among this people it would prove their entire destruction.

Disputes with followers of Nehor

  • Alma 1:17: therefore they pretended to preach according to their belief; and now the law could have no power on any man for bhis belief.
  • Alma 1:22 Nevertheless, there were many among them who began to be proud, and began to contend warmly with their adversaries, even unto blows; yea, they would smite one another with their afists.
  • Alma 1:32 For those who did not belong to their church did indulge themselves in asorceries, and in bidolatry or cidleness, and in dbabblings, and in eenvyings and fstrife; wearing costly apparel; being glifted up in the pride of their own eyes; persecuting, lying, thieving, robbing, committing whoredoms, and murdering, and all manner of wickedness; nevertheless, the law was put in force upon all those who did transgress it, inasmuch as it was possible.

Disputes between Alma the Younger and Amlici/Amlicites

  • Alma 2:4 Therefore, if it were possible that Amlici should gain the voice of the people, he, being a wicked man, would adeprive them of their rights and privileges of the church; for it was his intent to destroy the church of God.
  • Alma 2:10 Now when Amlici was made king over them he commanded them that they should take up arms against their brethren; and this he did that he might subject them to him.
  • Alma 3:18 Now the Amlicites knew not that they were fulfilling the words of God when they began to mark themselves in their foreheads; nevertheless they had come out in open arebellionagainst God; therefore it was expedient that the curse should fall upon them.

Church of God

  • Mosiah 25:21 – 24 Therefore they did aassemble themselves together in different bodies, being called churches; every church having their priests and their teachers, and every priest preaching the word according as it was delivered to him by the mouth of Alma. And thus, notwithstanding there being many churches they were all one achurch, yea, even the church of God; for there was nothing preached in all the churches except it were repentance and faith in God. And now there were seven churches in the land of Zarahemla. And it came to pass that whosoever were desirous to take upon them the aname of Christ, or of God, they did join the churches of God; And they were called the apeople of God. And the Lord did pour out his bSpirit upon them, and they were blessed, and prospered in the land.
  • Mosiah 26:18 Yea, blessed is this people who are willing to bear my aname; for in my bname shall they be called; and they are mine.
  • Mosiah 26:22 For behold, athis is my bchurch; whosoever is cbaptized shall be baptized unto repentance. And whomsoever ye receive shall dbelieve in my name; and him will I freely eforgive.
  • Mosiah 27:25 Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be aborn again; yea, bborn of Godcchanged from their carnal and dfallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his esons and daughters;
  • Alma 1:26 And when the priests left their alabor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man baccording to his strength.
  • Alma 1:27-29 And they did aimpart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the bpoor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly capparel, yet they were neat and comely. And thus they did establish the affairs of the church; and thus they began to have continual peace again, notwithstanding all their persecutions. And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly arich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need—an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and also abundance of grain, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things, and abundance of bsilk and fine-twined linen, and all manner of good homely ccloth.
  • Alma 4:13 Now this was a great cause for lamentations among the people, while others were abasing themselves, succoring those who stood in need of their succor, such as imparting their substance to the apoor and the needy, feeding the hungry, and suffering all manner of bafflictions, for Christ’s csake, who should come according to the spirit of prophecy;

Book of Mormon – Prophetic Transfer

  • Nephi (brother)- Jacob -(son) Enos – (son) Jarom – (son) Omni – (son) Amoron – (brother) – Chemish – (son) Abinadom – (son) Amaleki – (non-related) Benjamin -(son) Mosiah – (not related) Alma

Politics In the Book of Mormon: Mosiah 29- Alma 4

Key Verses & Themes

Dangers of a kingdom.

  • 29:1: A democratic election for kingship.
  • 29:5-6: for ye are desirous to have a king. Now I declare unto you that he to whom the kingdom doth rightly belong has declined, and will not take upon him the kingdom.”
  • 29:9 And if my son should turn again to his pride and vain things he would recall the things which he had said, and claim his right to the kingdom, which would cause him and also this people to commit much sin.
  • 29:13 “Therefore, if it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments, yea, if ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father Benjamin did for this people—I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you.”
  • 29:17 “For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction!”
  • 29:21 “ye cannot dethrone an iniquitous king save it be through much contention, and the shedding of much blood….”
  • 29:26 “Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right;

Benefits of a democracy

  • 29:10 “Do that which will make for the peace of this people.”
  • 29: 14: “to teach you the commandments of God, and to establish peace throughout the land, that there should be no wars nor contentions, no stealing, nor plundering.”
  • 29:28-29 “And now if ye have judges, and they do not judge you according to the law which has been given, ye can cause that they may be judged of a higher judge. If your higher judges do not judge righteous judgments, ye shall cause that a small number of your lower judges should be gathered together, and they shall judge your higher judges, according to the voice of the people.”
  • 29: 30 “That if these people commit sins and iniquities they shall be answered upon their own heads.”

Doctrines and Consequences of Nehor

  • Alma 1:3 – 4 “preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God, bearing down against the church; declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people. And he also testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men, in the end all men should have eternal life.”
  • Alma 1:16: “Nevertheless this did not put an end to the spreading of priestcraft through the land; for there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor”.
  • Alma 1:22: “Nevertheless, there were many among them who began to be proud, and began to contend warmly with their adversaries, even unto blows; they would smite one another with their fists.”
  • Alma 1:32: “For those who did not belong to their church did indulge in sorceries, and in idolatry or idleness, and in babblings, and in envyings and strife, wearing costly apparel;
  • Preaching for wealth and popularity skews natural incentives if those are the motives. There’s no room to change your mind. You’re kind of tied to your audience.

Questions

  • Why would the people be so insistent to have a king? Why is Mosiah’s oldest son the person to “whom the kingdom doth rightly belong.” How does this help explain the original schism and the Lamanite’s long-lasting grudge with the Nephites?
  • Is Mosiah right that democracy protects society against societal sin? The main argument he makes is that while the minority often wants that “which is not right”, it is “not common” for the majority to go against that “which is right”. Is this actually true? (thinking here of slavery, genocide, etc.).
  • It’s interesting that Mormon describes a society anxious to have “an equal chance throughout all the land” and a “willingness to answer for his own sins” and that “they were exceedingly rejoiced because of the liberty which had been granted unto them”, as if this weren’t already true, but reading about King Benjamin and Mosiah, it seems like they had these experiences were already given to them. I understand the risks they might lose this and maybe it’s a projection of that possibility but it seems like inevitably, democracy and accountability doesn’t end up saving them.
  • Nehor’s doctrine is similar to Noah’s in that they wanted the people to lift up their heads and rejoice that they will be saved as they are. (Salvation in their sins. Salvation by the law of Moses alone), but Nehor seems to take it further, dropping the law of Moses altogether, whereas other dissenters, including Alma the Younger’s dissension focused on Christ.
  • Sherem, Alma the Younger and Mosiah’s sons seem to have similarities but are decidedly dissimilar to Nehor (we don’t know actually exactly what Alma the younger or Mosiah’s sons preached). But in the cases of Sherem, Alma and Mosiah’s sons their conversion was triggered by a miraculous intervention and their testimonies healed their community.
  • Nehor had no such conversion and in fact enforced his words with the sword, killing Gideon who withstood his words.
  • What is priestcraft? What are modern day examples of those who preach for the sake of riches and honor?
  • There’s some interesting descriptions about the church – they were modest, their hearts were not on riches, they cared for the poor, but then they prospered far more than those who were seeking for riches. There’s something about wealth, that if you don’t seek for wealth, often you get it, especially if you’re goal is to use it for good.
  • What is this attraction for Amlici? Alma 2 describes the vulnerabilities of a democracy. You can vote away your freedom.

Sin and Redemption – Mosiah 25-28

Introduction

The Book of Mormon is an ambitious book in it’s scope, covering 1000+ years of history and multiple civilizations, while putting forward, as its primary purpose, a sophisticated theology. As a result, the narrative runs pretty quickly, weaving together the story with enough strategic pauses to make these theological points. Given the scope and reach of the book, it leaves plenty of room for personal interpretation, forcing the reader to fill in gaps, often with their own biases and predispositions. The narrative is delivered from the point of view of very human narrators. If the reader believes in the book’s historicity, the primary narrators are Nephi, Mormon and Moroni, if not, than Joseph Smith with possible assists from Oliver Cowdery and their contemporary influences tell the story. Either way, the book’s narrative comes through flawed filters, allowing for very human, though potentially, and I will try to make this case, inspired points of view.

I worry, then, that the standard interpretations of the Book of Mormon suggested by official church manuals, have played too heavy of a hand for the typical, faithful reader. As church members are encouraged to read the Book of Mormon daily, we aren’t encouraged, often enough, to read it carefully or critically. We don’t allow, nearly often enough, the book to take an active role in our lives. The characters in the book are portrayed superficially, not spending time on backstories or motivations that might paint the “evil characters” with greater sympathy and nuance or the “good characters” more critically. The casual reader may assume the book to be merely a training manual on how to be on the good side of that ledger. We need to go deeper and allow the book to challenge us in unexpected ways .

Background

With that introduction, let’s dive into Mosiah 25-28. Mosiah begins with a deep dive into King Benjamin’s sermon, but then moves back in time to describe the story of Zeniff’s attempt to build a society near the Lamanites. After establishing a successful community, things change abruptly when Zeniff’s wicked son Noah takes the reigns. Abinidi’s warning sermon to Noah and his priests that lead to Abinidi’s death. Alma, one of Noah’s priests, end up becoming Abinidi’s lone convert, but as he attempts to share Abinidi’s message, enough people are convinced to form a church. Forming that church gets them chased into the wilderness. Things don’t end up well, when Lamanite military conflict lead to Noah’s death and Lamanite control over the people. Both Alma’s people and Limhi’s people ultimately escape Lamanite bondage and control and find their way back to the people of Zerahemla under King Mosiah’s rule.

Brief Summary of Mosiah 25-28

Mosiah 25 describes the reunion, Alma’s call to organize churches among the people of Zerahemla. In Mosiah 26, we read about the rising generation that include both Mosiah’s and Alma’s children who reject the church’s teaching and work to persuade others out of belief. Mosiah 27 describes Alma’s and Mosiah’s conversion through an angelic rebuke. Finally, Mosiah 28 describes Mosiah’s sons desire to live among Lamanites in hopes of converting them to the church.

Through these chapters, church organization, conversion and rebellion contrasts the conflict between believers and unbelievers. In that tension, we can about the role sin plays for those inside and outside the church, what it means to live lives of faith, and why and how each of us must experience our own conversion.

The next three sections describe general themes and verses that specifically reference those themes.

Theme One: Sin

  • 25: 11 “And again, when they thought upon the Lamanites, who were their brethren, of their sinful and polluted state, they were filled with pain and anguish for the welfare of their souls.”
  • 26: 1 “They did not believe in the traditions of their fathers. They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ.”
  • 26:2-4 “And now because of their unbelief they could not believe the word of God; and their hearts were hardened. And they would not be baptized; neither would they join the church. And they were a separate people as to their faith, and remained so ever after, even in their carnal and sinful state; for they would not call upon the Lord their God.”
  • 26: 32: “Now I say unto you, Go; and whosoever will not repent of his sins the same shall not be numbered among my people; and this shall be observed from this time forward.”
  • 27:8 : Alma “became a very wicked and an idolatrous man. And he was a man of many words, and did speak much flattery to the people; therefore he led many of the people to do after the manner of his iniquities.”
  • 27:14 “that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.”
  • 27:16 “Now I say unto thee: Go, and remember the captivity of thy fathers in the land of Helam, and in the land of Nephi; and remember how great things he has done for them; for they were in bondage, and he has delivered them.”
  • 27:30 “I rejected my Redeemer, and denied that which had been spoken of by our fathers; but now that they may foresee that he will come, and that he remembereth every creature of his creating, he will make himself manifest unto all.”
  • 28:2 “That perhaps they might bring them to the knowledge of the Lord their God, and convince them of the iniquity of their fathers; and that perhaps they might cure them of their hatred towards the Nephites, that they might also be brought to rejoice in the Lord their God, that they might become friendly to one another, and that there should be no more contentions in all the land which the Lord their God had given them.”

Theme Two: Church

  • 25:15 “And Alma did speak unto them, when they were assembled together in large bodies, and he went from one body to another, preaching unto them repentance and faith on the Lord.”
  • 25:18 “and as many as he did baptize did belong to the church of God; and this because of their belief on the words of Alma.”
  • 25:22 “And thus, notwithstanding there being many churches they were all one church, yea, even the church of God; for there was nothing preached in all the churches except it were repentance and faith in God.”
  • 25:23 “And it came to pass that whosoever were desirous to take upon them the name of Christ, or of God, they did join the churches of God; and they were called the people of God. And the Lord did pour out his Spirit upon them, and they were blessed, and prospered in the land.”
  • 26:15-18: “Blessed art thou, Alma, and blessed are they who were baptized in the waters of Mormon. Thou art blessed because of thy exceeding faith in the words alone of my servant Abinadi. And blessed are they because of their exceeding faith in the words alone which thou hast spoken unto them. And blessed art thou because thou hast established a church among this people; and they shall be established, and they shall be my people. Yea, blessed is this people who are willing to bear my name; for in my name shall they be called; and they are mine.”
  • 26: 22 “For behold, this is my church; whosoever is baptized shall be baptized unto repentance. And whomsoever ye receive shall believe in my name; and him will I freely forgive.”
  • 27: 5 “Yea, and all their priests and teachers should labor with their own hands for their support, in all cases save it were in sickness, or in much want; and doing these things, they did abound in the graceof God.”

Theme 3: Conversion

27:25 “And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in no wise inherit the kingdom of God.”

Questions and Possible Answers

  • These verses are very vague on what what it means to sin, what sort of sins do these verses point to?
  • These verses describe a very active role within church membership. It comes down to repentance and faith in the Lord. But there are a few passages that connect belief, primarily belief the resurrection and the coming prophecies of Jesus Christ to this kind of life. How are belief and behavior connected?
  • The Book of Mormon constantly connects prosperity with righteousness. How are they connected in ways that don’t sound like the prosperity gospel?
  • Why is it important to remember the sacrifices, deliverances, and traditions passed down from our heritage or to consider the sins and mistakes of this heritage? Verses in these passages describe both.
  • What is church and how broadly can we define it?

Possible answers:

  • When the Book of Mormon describes sin and righteousness, I think it has much more to do with a willingness to be led by truth. If God is truth, belief in God is belief in truth. It’s a willingness to shed ideologies, personal stories, or anything else that keeps us from living in the world in its fullness.
  • Facing the world without deep conversion is unbearable. We must accept our own limitations, we must be willing to deal with pain, the pain we experience and the pain others feel, and in all the ways we’ve been complicit in it. We must accept our own failures. This kind of honest living in the world, requires grace. A willingness to walk in faith, live by grace, readily forgive others, readily repent and ask for forgiveness. It’s not easy. It requires deep conversion.
  • Conversion is a willingness to become children of God, to live and abide in spirit, to connect ourselves with others, to be merciful and to accept mercy. To be concerned with the welfare of both the group and of the individuals living within the group. To seek for both equality and peace and to love our enemies.
  • A willingness to live in deep truth, opens up the doors toward prosperity in ways that are equitable and sustainable. Conversion does not free us from suffering, but in the suffering, we learn and as we learn, we find connection with others and with the world in ways that allow us to live with more fullness, deeper understanding and in this way, with more abundance.

Broader application:

  • Deep conversion yields fruit, allowing us to face our heritage – it’s sins as well as its accomplishments – American slavery and native American genocide, but also the drive toward freedom, equality and prosperity. Or within the Mormon tradition, the deep and painful consequences of polygamy, exclusions of blacks from the priesthood, early Utah theocracy, Mountain Meadows Massacre, etc. But also the strong leadership of Brigham Young, the vision of Joseph Smith and the significant sacrifice of early Mormon pioneers who managed to build up the Utah community and eventually build a thriving, global church.
  • Expand the notion of church that extends beyond institutional boundaries. Recognize that there are many who live by word and deed in grace, forgiveness, and a vision for a better world. There are churches across the world, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist that share in these goals. We should find common cause. Deep conversion happens across institutional boundaries. We should support each other in the core goal of broad conversion and help as many people find their way to it through whatever cultural and religious contexts works for them.