Thursday, September 18, 2014

Alma 8

(September 18, 2014)
                The Book of Mormon, upon close reading, is so full of little tidbits demonstrating its verisimilitude.  Monte Cook, a game designer, always throws a single shoe in one of his designs because that is the way life is – occasionally there is just a shoe lying there (not two, just one).  But what we sometimes fail to realize is that such imperfect verisimilitudes are a relatively new creation, and were almost unknown in the 1820s.

                Into that environment, look at Amulek’s words “I am a Nephite.” At first glance, it seems silly – of course he is a Nephite.  He is living in a Nephite city, which Alma went to in order to preach the Gospel.  But careful examination of the text reveals the depth that is there.  We know of only three Ammons in the Book of Mormon.  The first one led the mission to rescue the people of Limhi – he was explicitly mentioned as a Mulekite.  The second one was his nephew, who was the great missionary (and, by careful reading of the text, at least part Mulekite).  The third is Ammonihah who founded the city.  Why would Mormon point out that Ammonihah founded the city?  Because Ammon is a Mulekite name – and that means that Ammonihah is a Mulekite city.

                Suddenly Amulek’s words make perfect sense – he is a Nephite, yes, but a Nephite in a city full of Mulekites.  Mulekites always had a fickle relationship with the Gospel – they brought us such luminaries as Amilici (and, apparently, Ammonihah).  After Amilici’s rebellion, they took up position on the outskirts of Nephite society (and literally on the outskirts of Nephite territory when they built their city of Ammonihah).

                Thus the simple phrase – “I am a Nephite” – becomes meaningful to Mormon when he is writing (once we tease through his assumptions), and becomes meaningful to us as we read.  It becomes just one more in a long line of evidences of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

                My other thought in this chapter was on the people of Ammonihah.  When they realize that Alma has no power over them, they turn away from him.  They do not recognize that he has willingly given up his power over them out of love for them and a desire for their welfare.  They speak of freedom but they only respect power.  It is a sad state of affairs – when we see those who have given up power over us our first thought should be to welcome them, instead of demonstrating that absence of power by fighting against them.

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