Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lamanite Kings and Approaching Armies

There are a number of episodes in The Book of Mormon that contain thematic and textual similarities. For example, both Nephi and Lehi experience visions of the tree of life that are similar, and Alma the Younger recounts his conversion story using language that is very much like his father's. (For specific comments on the latter, see my entry under Authorial Influence: Alma the Elder and Alma the Younger.) Another recurring motif appears in the context of Lamanite kings and approaching armies.

The first example concerns Nephite colonists who have returned from Zarahemla to the Land of Nephi, making a treaty with the neighboring Lamanites to occupy the city Lehi-Nephi, the city Shilom, and the adjoining land (Mosiah 7:21). Eventually, however, they are attacked by the Lamanites, during which the people of Limhi discover the Lamanite king among the wounded (Mosiah 20:12). When they ask him why he attacked without provocation, the king accuses Limhi's people of abducting Lamanite maidens (Mosiah 20:15). With a large Lamanite army marching against his people, Limhi convinces the captured king that the priests of Noah are the true culprits (Mosiah 20:23). As a result, the Lamanite king is pacified toward the Nephites and agrees to intercede with the advancing troops (Mosiah 20:24–26). Note the emphasis placed on giving up weapons:
Mosiah 20:24–26
24 And it came to pass that the king was pacified towards his people; and he said unto them: Let us go forth to meet my people, without arms; and I swear unto you with an oath that my people shall not slay thy people.
25 And it came to pass that they followed the king, and went forth without arms to meet the Lamanites. And it came to pass that they did meet the Lamanites; and the king of the Lamanites did bow himself down before them, and did plead in behalf of the people of Limhi.
26 And when the Lamanites saw the people of Limhi, that they were without arms, they had compassion on them and were pacified towards them, and returned with their king in peace to their own land.
A similar episode occurs in the exact same area some 32–68 years later. (The events under Limhi are dated to 145–122 B.C., while the subsequent account is estimated at 90–77 B.C.). In this account, the sons of Mosiah, led by Ammon, return to the Land of Nephi to serve the Lamanites and preach among them. (An earlier Ammon, also traveling from Zarahemla to Nephi enters the picture as an emissary to king Limhi some time soon after the events of the first episode.) A series of events that includes the Lamanite king finding himself in the power of the Nephite Ammon (Alma 20:8–24) culminates in thousands of Lamanites converting (Alma 23:3–8). The Lamanite cities involved include the land of Ishmael, the land of Middoni, the city of Nephi, the land of Shilom, the land of Shemlon, the city of Lemuel, and the city of Shimnilom (see Alma 23:9–12)—areas in close proximity that also comprised the geographic stage for the first episode decades earlier (see Mosiah 7:1, 5; 9: 14; 20:1–5). Soon, however, the newly converted Lamanites find themselves faced with the approach of an angry army of Lamanites, a remnant of those who did not convert. The Lamanite king, as in the first episode, advocates facing them without weapons:
Alma 24:16
16 And now, my brethren, if our brethren seek to destroy us, behold, we will hide away our swords, yea, even we will bury them deep in the earth, that they may be kept bright, as a testimony that we have never used them, at the last day; and if our brethren destroy us, behold, we shall go to our God and shall be saved.
Just as the king prostrated himself before the approaching armies in the first episode, the entire people do so in this version:
Alma 24:21
21 Now when the people saw that they were coming against them they went out to meet them, and prostrated themselves before them to the earth, and began to call on the name of the Lord;

Reflecting on these episodes I find myself wondering if these actions are influenced by culture or if the first episode affected the second in any way. Perhaps both. If the gap is really as small as 30 years, was the second king alive during the events of the first episode? Was he actually there as a young leader or soldier? Did he witness the king prostrate himself without weapons in front of his own army to protect Limhi's people? If so, does it influence his thought process as he finds himself in a similar situation decades later?

I also wonder about the thousands of Lamanites who were converted by this small missionary band of Nephites. Since the cities mentioned are the same in both episodes (with a few exceptions—probably places that were built after Limhi's time), wouldn't the Lamanites who converted—or their parents—have known (or known of) Limhi's group? This is especially true given the nature of this war and the several that follow shortly after. How did these events impact their willingness to be converted? Did it prepare them in any way? Again, how did the events in the first episode affect the second?

Fruitless questions, I know. But I'm curious.

No comments: