Feast upon the Word Blog

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Book of Mormon Lesson 31 (Alma 43-52)

Posted by NathanG on August 24, 2008

I will be absent from primary to substitute for Gospel Doctrine today.  I have no real sense of what the gosepl doctrine class is like in my ward since I have been in primary since moving here.  As such, I have no real lessson plan, but here are my notes.

Alma 43-52

10 chapters, 30 pages.  Eight years.  About 30 minutes to teach.

 

Brief Outline of the Chapters

 

Alma 43-44.  (18th year) Moroni against Zarahemna.  Zarahemna comes on the tail of the rebellion of the Zoramites who subsequently join the Lamanites.  They meet in the borders of the land of Jershon and see the well-armed Nephites and flee to the wilderness.  Then Moroni and crew meet at the River Sidon for the well known and very detailed battle.

 

Alma 45  (19th year)  Helaman believes the words of Alma the Younger.  Alma prophesies the destruction of the Nephites in a prophecy that was not to be shared until after it was fulfilled.

 

Alma 46  (19th year)  Amalackiah wants to be king.  The people vote against Amalackiah.  Moroni raises the title of Liberty in response to Amalackiah.  Amalackiah and his people defeated.  Amalackiah goes to land of Nephi and Amalackiahites choose to defend with an oath or be put to death. 

 

Alma 47 (19th year)  Amalackiah becomes king of the Lamanites.

 

Alma 48 (19th year)  Moroni prepares to defend his people.  If all men had been and were and ever would be…

 

Alma 49 (19th year)  Lamanites (without Amalackiah) attempt to attack Ammonihah, which is rebuilt and fortified and then decide to move on to an unsuccessful attack of Noah without the loss of a single Nephite.  Amalackiah curses Moroni and swears an oath to drink his blood.

 

Alma 50 (20th year) More fortifications and the Nephites drive the Lamanites out of the east and west wilderness and build cities and defenses.  Verse 21-22.  Verse 23

(24th year)  Morinaton and land dispute.  Teancum heads them off near Bountiful.

 

Alma 51 (25th year)  King-men (verse 8).  Amalackiah leads army against Nephites and king-men favor the Lamanites.  Moroni diverted from defending cities to attack king-men.  In the meantime a lot of land is lost until Amalackiah meets Teancum in Bountiful and in a dark tent…

 

Alma 52 (26th year)  Ammoron now the king.  Moroni, Teancum, and Lehi retake Mulek by decoy method.

 

 

Discussion ideas

 

Why is there so much war in the Book of Mormon (Institute manual states that 1/3 of the Book of Mormon describes wars)?

Detailed wars in the Book of Mormon include

  • Zeniff and Lamanites (Mosiah 9)
  • Noah and Lamanites  (Mosiah 19)
  • Limhi and Lamanites (Mosiah 21-22)
  • Alma the Elder surrenders to Lamanites and they are preserved (Mosiah 23)
  • Amlici and his people (Alma 2)
  • Lamanites against Ammonites (Alma 24)
  • Lamanites against Ammonihahites and Zoram against the Lamanites (Alma 16)
  • Lamanites against Nephites after Ammonihah (Alma 28)
  • Zarahemna (Alma 42-43)
  • Amalackiah versus Moroni (Alma 46-47, 49-51)
  • Ammoron versus Moroni (Alma 52-63)
  • Moroni against king-men (Alma 51)
  • Teancum against Morinatun (Alma 51)
  • Moronihah against Coriantumr (at time of gadianton robbers) (Helaman 1)
  • Lamanites and Nephite dissenters take Zarahemla and Moronihah gets half lands back.  (Ultimately turned over after conversion of Lamanites by Nephi and Lehi) (Helaman 4)
  • Nephi replaces war with famine (Helaman 11)
  • Giddianhi versus Gidgidonni (3 Nephi 2-4)
  • Mormon leads Nephites against Lamanites
  • Jaredite wars on and off until destruction of Jaredites.

 

What is the purpose of the Book of Mormon, or what was the instruction for those writing it?

Title page second paragraph:  Show the great things God has done for his people, show the covenants of the Lord, convince that Jesus is the Christ.

1 Nephi 9  Small plates will contain spiritual things, but large plates contained history of wars and kings.

1 Nephi 5:11-14  (Brass plates contain a combination of things:  the Law, the prophets, a history of the Jews, and genealogy).

Jacob 1:2-4  Touch on the most sacred preaching.

3 Nephi 5:8,14-16  Mormon relates his task of making a record of these people.

3 Nephi 23:11-13 (Christ commands Nephi to write about Samuel’s prophecy of the dead rising.)

Mormon 1:4  Ammaron instructs Mormon to record his observations about the Nephites on the large plates of Nephi

Mormon 2:18-19  Mormon can’t bear to write detail of his wars in the Book of Mormon, but does detail them in the large plates of Nephi.

Mormon 9:31-35  Moroni reflects on how and why they wrote the Book of Mormon.

 

What do these passages teach about wars place in the scriptures? 

Is it included to teach that war is good?  Is it included because the Book of Mormon is like the brass plates in that it contains covenants, prophecies, and history?

Does the exclusion of detailed wars from the small plates teach anything about war (war is only referenced in small plates, but not described)?

 

What is the message of the Book of Mormon about war?

-Defend ourselves, our families, our religion from our enemies.  This is the common answer, but not a sufficient exlanation of all the wars.

-God keeps his promises.  Lamanites are kept in the land so that when the Nephites rebel against God, the Lamanites will be a scourge to the Nephites. (1 Nephi 2:23-24)  Nearly every war comes about because of the wickedness of the Nephites. (Alma 50:21-22)

-Force is an inferior way to maintain peace and liberty (Ammonites and Alma the Elder both refuse to fight.   Many Lamanites are converted because of the Ammonites.  God completely delivers Alma’s people.  Moronihah is unable to reclaim, but half of the Nephites lands.  Nephi then converts the Lamanites through his preaching (and a famine)  and the Lamanites return all of the Nephite lands.)

-If we are in a position where we will reluctantly fight, can we do so and love our enemies at the same time?  Is this what made Moroni great?

-War is destruction.  War is hell.  War has potential to bring out the worst in people.

-Those who live by the sword die by the sword.

-D&C 98  Is our modern revelation on defense and war supported by the Book of Mormon?

 

Greatness of Moroni in times of war or in spite of war. 

Alma 48:11-17  (Read verse 17 with other names listed in 18 and 19.  Does this deflate the war hero image that we usually connect with this verse?)

Numerous times Moroni lets opponents leave after making an oath to not fight.  He begins taking prisoners to trade for Nephite prisoners.

Stops battles to give an opportunity for surrender.

Relecutantly fights.  Alma 48:21

Does not delight in bloodshed.

Does he love his enemies?

 

Alma’s prophecy in Alma 45?

Why does he give a prophecy that is not to be known to the people? 

Why is the prophecy of the Nephites’ destruction by war, famine, and pestilence placed right in the middle of the story of captain Moroni?

Why does he question Helaman before giving him the plates.  Did Alma doubt Helaman, or is this similar to a temple recommend interview where Helaman has an opportunity to affirm his faith and  commitment

 

Nephites wickedness causes wars.  Particularly, when groups of people felt entitled to receive land or power, they seemed to bring on wars.  King men are “high born” in Alma 51:8.

 

Probably won’t discuss:

 

Amalackiah’s ascending to the throne.

How did Helaman learn all of this detail?

 

Alma 46 end of chapter.  Why is there this little description of fevers and medicines in the middle of this description of war?

9 Responses to “Book of Mormon Lesson 31 (Alma 43-52)”

  1. BrianJ said

    Wow! Nathan, those are very extensive notes. I hope your ward needs you again.

  2. douglas Hunter said

    Nathan,

    I like the way your propose more than one answer to the question of the BOM’s message concerning war. Both last week and this week the teachers in my ward presented lessons informed by the assumption that a full scale endorsement of just war theory is the only possible reading of Alma. They didn’t put it in those terms but that was the content of the lesson. Talk about NOT feasting on the word!

  3. Ron Madson said

    Nathan:
    thank you for the post. I am a writer for the Mormon Worker and have studied and pondered the “war” issues for the last few years. I do not know if you have read any of Rene Girard’s writings, but it has struck me how Captain Moroni is somewhat a Shakespearean tragic figure that starts off with certain “just war” and lines he will not cross but as Girard points out once parties engage in violence over time they begin to unwittingly mimic each other. In time Moroni trades angry letters with Zarahemnah and then when they give up weapons he makes them take them back because they would not take an oath (not consistent with DC 98) and then Captain Moroni turns his anger to his own anti-war dissenters. Imposes force and compulsion–martial law of “you are either for us or against us. Then at last he returns and his soul filled with anger forces anti-war dissenters to take an oath of suffer death. He is beginning to mimic the thing he deplores—force to compel the freedom of others. Note FDR before WWII involvement stated that killing civilians was NEVER justified no matter the ends, but then by end of WWII we began to mimic our enemies—Nuclear bombs and Dresden, etc. When we chose the lesser law we descend into the blackhole of us against them and in the end we become indistinguishable—as we swirl toward extinction. that is the message and warning of hte BOM for me personally. BOM war chapters to be learned from not copied. Wendell Berry said it best: “All wars are a failure of imagination.” thanks for mentioning DC 98. I have done a very long thorough analysis of that chapter for part of an anti-war book my son and I are writing together. It is our statutory law and never repealed and yet while we exalt Section 89 the dyslexia of our thinking is that we ignore Section 98.

  4. douglashunter said

    Great thoughts Ron! Thanks!

  5. BrianJ said

    yes, Ron. Thanks!!

  6. NathanG said

    Brian: We’ll see if the class will have me back (and if the primary doesn’t mind me leaving).

    douglas: I imagine the popular lesson across the nation if not the entire church was the endorsement of war.

    Ron: Thanks for your comment. I haven’t read any of Girard’s writings, but several on this blog like to comment on his work. I have often wondered what to do about Moroni because he demonstrates some very harsh actions against his enemies and his own people. Anger is used to describe his emotion as he does several of these things. I left it alone in my lesson because 1. I was already going to teach an unconventional lesson and I didn’t want to tip people over to where I might get chased out and 2. I still don’t know for sure what to make of these descriptions of Moroni.

    Here’s a couple of my thoughts. First, I think an important thing to decide before interpreting Moroni’s actions (and the war overall) is how the Book of Mormon was written. This is precisely why I listed all the references about why and how the Book of Mormon was written. The title page begins with the Book of Mormon being written by commandment and revelation. In this setting how much of the Book of Mormon was written because that’s precisely the way God wanted it written. How much of it is written because God happened to choose a war general to be the prophet-historian that would abridge. How much of the “history” part of the Book of Mormon is also under this “written by commandment and revelation”. How much liberty did Mormon take in writing the history?

    These questions are important to me because it does not seem to me that Mormon views Captain Moroni as a tragedy. After all he writes the “If all men had been…” statement and the preceding laundry list of all of Moroni’s positive attributes. So if all this positive description of Moroni is written by revelation and commandmment then I have to cautiously consider the tragic viewpoint (although I’m still left deciding what to do about his anger and actions). If, however, Mormon saw Captain Moroni and the wars of his time as a contrast to his time and so he added his own praise, I can more comfortably read the tragic view.

    A different view point that I started thinking about is first, war is hell (thanks to my war veteran mission president for putting it in these terms) no matter how you look at it and the actions of wartime are far from celestial and war has a tendency to bring out the worst in people. It is possible that in spite living a life of war Moroni learned to not only love those that he defended, but he learned to love his enemy. His love for his enemy was odd and not quite like the love the Ammonites had, but maybe it was his love for his enemy that motivated him to give people the option to make covenants of peace. Maybe by the end of his campaigns he still did not desire to be a man of blood because of the love he had. I have only thought of this idea for a few days, so I’m sure with time it will either fade away or become more solidified, but it’s another thought.

  7. Robert C. said

    I noticed a T&S post here that discusses some of these same issues. I haven’t read through the comments, so if anyone has the time and interest, I’d be interested in hearing a summary of the highlights of the discussion. The main post, at any rate, does seem to post some interesting ways of thinking about a theology of war in the Book of Mormon that takes into account other passages than just those involving Captain Moroni (and I think Nathan does make a good point about the interpretive challenges involved in reading Captain Moroni as a tragic figure in light of the positive editorial comments made about him—this does, it seems to me, offer a kind of basis for beginning to think about the conditions for just war as exemplified by Captain Moroni, though I think these thoughts must also be tempered by taking into account other passages like the Anti-Nephi-Lehites, etc.).

  8. NathanG said

    Robert,
    I couldn’t get your link to work. Is this the post you were linking to?

    The summary is that they applied the principles of the Nephite wars to our current wars. It seemed a fair number of people feel we in America are failing the test the Nephites used to justify war.

  9. Robert C. said

    Yes, that’s the link Nathan. Thanks for giving me the gist of the comments.

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