Deconstruction and the Book of Mormon Part 3

Stephen Marshbook of mormon, Mormon, scripture 10 Comments

Orson Scott Card has written some on King Mosiah, but I’ve got another point. He flees the land of their first inheritance. He arrives in the midst of a people who have fought many wars. Next thing you know, and the narrative doesn’t mention it at all, a Nephite faction leaves to go back, because they think they are strong enough to retake their homeland. That they come to grief surprises no one, but what should take your attention is that they think they can do it at all.

Think: Mosiah, Benjamin, Mosiah, three kings, in parallel, somewhat, to the King Noah and Alma, Alma the Younger story. Somewhere in there they gain enough additional strength and numbers that they think that instead of running away to avoid destruction, they are powerful enough to visit destruction instead.

Not to mention, whatever connection the second Mosiah has to the Church, and that Alma has as High Priest, when Alma has a religious/political question, Mosiah goes to his own priests to resolve it.

the church began to murmur, and complain to their leaders concerning the matter; and they did complain to Alma. And Alma laid the case before their king, Mosiah. And Mosiah consulted with his priests. (Mosiah 27:1)

Whatever is going on here, it isn’t the model I think most people have in their heads when they think of Alma as High Priest and Mosiah as a king who is a believer. He’s just a believer who has his own priests who aren’t part of the hierarchy, leadership or church that Alma is a part of, that Mosiah goes to when he has serious issues to decide.

When the writers say that the hundredth part is not contained in the book, they are not exaggerating at all.

Comments 10

  1. “When the writers say that the hundredth part is not contained in the book, they are not exaggerating at all.”

    AMEN! Great observation about the priests of Mosiah. I hear so many comments about the Book of Mormon from so many people (inside and outside the Church), and all I can think is, “That’s not what it says!” Most of the time, it’s not crucial, so I just close my mouth and let it pass.

  2. Stephen:

    See my recent post on “Churches of anticipation: Alma and John” about the Mosiah[2]/Alma[1] religious split. I think that Alma[1] was pretty much serving the same role in the New World that John the Baptism was in the Old World, including the (re)introduction of baptism in preparation for the earthly advent of Christ. The difference is that John was working in an apostate and Roman-occupied Judea, while Alma[1] was working in Nephite territories mostly ruled over by a believing and prophetic Mosiah[2].

    What’s most interesting about the Mosiah[2]/Alma[1] split is that when Benjamin preaches Christ to the Nephites/Mulekites and puts them under covenant, there is no mention of baptism. My best guess, as per my posting, is that Mosiah[1]/Benjamin/Mosiah[2] were all still operating under the Mosiah law, which did not require baptism (but did require circumcision) as a sign of covenant with God. ..bruce..

  3. bfwebster (#4)

    Except: Baptism was practiced under the law of Moses. Whether or not it was ‘required’ as a sign of covenant is debatable, but there are very few serious scholars that doubt that baptism was practiced under the law of Moses. Mosiah was undoubtedly familiar with the concept. Nephi was more than passingly familiar with the idea, and I am certain that it wasn’t a shock to those around him when he preached about it. The OT refers to baptismal fonts and their construction as part of the Tabernacle, although the description is rather unusual and it’s not always clear what the verses are describing.

    It’s one of those areas that we are able to forget quite easily, but there is absolutely no doubt that baptism is not a new commandment.

  4. bfwebster,

    I used to think that might be why there was no mention of baptism too, but I think we find some counter clues to that. 1) Ammon[1] seems to believe the only reason he can’t perform baptisms is he is not worthy, suggesting he might have considered himself ordained. But in any case, he knew what baptism was. 2) Nephi[1] has previously mentioned baptism hundreds of years previously, so we can’t rule out the possiblity that baptism was already in practice.

    So my current opinion is that baptism was not mentioned in the Benjamin address because they were already baptized. It was the later generation in the land of Nephi that was not and needed baptism.

  5. Benjamin (#5):

    My own research indicates that while the Law of Moses has ritual immersion (mikvah or, more modernly, mikva) for ritual uncleanness — typically for women (particularly after menstruation), but occasionally for men — there is no evidence that it was done, much less required, for Jews born “under the covenant” (if you will) as a covenant; only circumcision was required, and that only for men. That same ritual immersion was (and is) done as part of Gentile conversion to Judaism, not as a covenant (as we understand baptism) but because the Gentile comes to Judaism de facto ritually unclean. Note that male Gentiles converting to Judaism must also undergo circumcision, because that is the covenant ordinance under the Law of Moses.

    I’ve run across no evidence of any other form of ‘baptism’ under the Law of Moses. The tabernacle’s laver — succeeded by the ‘molten sea’ of Solomon’s temple — was used to allow the priests to ritually cleanse themselves (typically their hands and/or feet) each time before entering the tabernacle (or, later, temple).

    Bruce (#6):

    Your reading could well be correct, though my reading is that the people of Noah/Limni knew of baptism because of Alma’s activities before he and his followers fled from before the armies of King Noah. Still, one could soundly argue that baptism was lost due to apostasy among the Zeniff/Noah/Limhi splinter group, which is why we have particular mention of Limhi and his people asking for and receiving baptism.

    On the other hand, if Mosiah[1]/Benjamin/Mosiah[2] are practicing baptism and already have the church of God set up, and Mosiah[2] has his own set of priests, then why does King Mosiah[2] — as per Stephen’s original post above — immediately defer to Alma[1] (who by his own admission and record was a corrupt priest under Noah)? Furthermore, the Lord Himself states to Alma that he (Alma) has “established a church among this people, and they shall be established, and they shall be my people…For behold, this is my church; and whosoever is baptized shall be baptized unto repentance…” (See Mosiah 26, esp. vv. 17, 22; emphasis mine). My own reading of the latter part of Mosiah and the first several chapters of Alma is that Alma[1] — and subsequently Alma[2] — really were setting up something new (‘the church of God’) among both Nephites and Lamanites, and that the ordinance of baptism was being (re)introduced to signify membership in that church and a covenant with God — exactly the same process that happened in the Old World with John and then the Savior and his apostles.

    As always, your mileage may vary. 🙂 ..bruce..

  6. Benjamin (#5): By the way, I’m not claiming that baptism per se was new — it obviously wasn’t, since it was introduced to Adam after the fall (Moses 6:64-68), as I clearly stated in this post. But my own research seems pretty clear that the baptismal ordinance and covenant as we understand it was not part of the Law of Moses and was (and is) not practiced as such among the Jews. I think the ‘mikvah’ under the Law of Moses — as well as the other ritual washings — are a type and shadow both of baptism and of modern temple washings, but they’re not the same thing. If you’ve got some good references to the contrary, I’m ready to be corrected. ..bruce..

  7. Not sure if this scripture applies here, but I just noticed it last night:
    Is the transgression referred to just among the Nephite colony led by King Noah. As, Alma is referred to as the founder of their church after they merge back with the Zarahemla Nephites, does the transgression refer to the main Nephites at Zarahemla, too? Does ‘the church’ mean baptism is involved and without baptism there is no ‘church’?

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