Monday, June 17, 2013

A Common Sense Approach to Alma 22 and the Mulekites – Part I

Possibly no other scripture in the Book of Mormon has caused so much misunderstanding as that geographical description that Mormon inserted into the writing of Alma found in the 22nd chapter.
The seriousness of the problem is found in the interpretation of all Mesoamerican Theorists and most other Theorists writing about the location and description of the Land of Promise. The basic error surrounds an understanding of where the Mulekites (People of Zarahemla) landed, and where the Jaredites landed.
Before discussing Alma, let us look at the area of landing of the Mulekites. Our knowledge of Mulek and those who came with him out of Jerusalem at the time of the Babylonian conquest of that city, is found in two places—Omni and Mosiah, mostly chapter 25. So to follow the story of Mulek and his followers, we turn to Omni when Mosiah left the Land of Nephi with as many Nephites as would go with him:
And they departed out of the land into the wilderness, as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord; and they were led by many preachings and prophesyings. And they were admonished continually by the word of God; and they were led by the power of his arm, through the wilderness, until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla. And they discovered a people, who were called the people of Zarahemla. Now, there was great rejoicing among the people of Zarahemla; and also Zarahemla did rejoice exceedingly, because the Lord had sent the people of Mosiah with the plates of brass which contained the record of the Jews. Behold, it came to pass that Mosiah discovered that the people of Zarahemla came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon. And they journeyed in the wilderness, and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, into the land where Mosiah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth. And at the time that Mosiah discovered them, they had become exceedingly numerous” (Omni 1:13-17).
In these passages, we learn that the People of Zarahemla (Mulekites) 1) Were led out of Jerusalem at the time the city fell to the Babylonians; 2) They journeyed in the wilderness; 3) Were led by the Lord across the great waters; 4) They landed in the area where Mosiah found them; 5) Had dwelt in that location ever since landing; and 6) Had become a numerous people.
Let’s repeat that: The Mulekites left Jerusalem, wandered for a time in the wilderness, were led across the sea by the Lord, landed in the land where Mosiah found them (Zarahemla), and had always dwelt there. Now this is not rocket science—merely following the steps of their progression from Jerusalem to Zarahemla.
However, despite the simplicity of this, Mesoamerican and other Theorists try to make something else out of the Mulekites, claiming they landed in the Land Northward, intermingled with the Jaredites, eventually moved southward along the east sea, founded the city of Mulek there, then eventually all or some migrated to the area of Zarahemla where Mosiah found them. To justify this stance, they site Alma 22:30, and totally ignore the writing of Amaleki, the eye-witness of discovering the Mulekites and learning about their history, in Omni.
Which leads us to Mormon’s insertion into Alma. Now, we need to understand two things about chapter 22. 1) It covers an event surrounding Aaron’s conversion of the Lamanite king and the proclamation of that king to all his people, and 2) Mormon’s insertion governing the extent of the land of the Lamanites, and where they lived in relationship to the Nephites.
And it came to pass that the king sent a proclamation throughout all the land, amongst all his people who were in all his land, who were in all the regions round about, which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west, and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and round about on the borders of the seashore, and the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla, through the borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east towards the west -- and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided” (Alma 22:27).
In this verse, we see how the Lamanites and Nephites were separated geographically. 1) The Land of Nephi was occupied by the Lamanites and was located to the south of a narrow strip of wilderness that stretched from the west to the east, from sea to sea; 2) North of the narrow strip was the Land of Zarahemla, occupied by the Nephites; 3) The wilderness curved up to the north along the east and west side of the Land of Zarahemla for some distance and was occupied also by the Lamanites; 4) The headwaters (beginning) of the River Sidon was in the highlands of this narrow strip of wilderness, and ran from the south to the north; and 5) The borders of the Nephite city Manti was located near (or bordered) this narrow strip of wilderness, evidently up in the highlands.
From this point, Mormon then goes on to describe the Lamanite living conditions dwelling in tents in the wilderness the west coast from the Land of Zarahemla southward to the point of Lehi’s first landing (Alma 22:28), and also on the east by the seashore, and how the Lamanites nearly surrounded the Land of Zarahemla, being on the south and curving up on the west and east coasts, but that the Nephites were still in control of “northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness” from the narrow strip of wilderness to the Land of Bountiful (Alma 22:29).
Mormon then goes on to describe just how far north the Nephite-controlled lands went, telling us: “even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful. And it bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed” (Alma 29-30). Consequently, the Nephite-controlled lands continued beyond Bountiful, beyond the narrow neck of land and into the Land Northward—beyond the Land of Desolation and so far northward “it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed.”
At this point, Mormon, writing long after the Nephites had occupied the Land Northward (he being born in the Land Northward), and long after the Nephites had lost their possessions in the Land Southward, wants to make sure the future reader understood how far north he meant (since he began describing the Land of Nephi, the farthest point south in the Land of Promise)—so he includes an explanation of that land that was once occupied by the Jaredites (a name not used by Mormon or the Nephites), which he relates or identifies as the people “whose bones we have spoken, which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla” (Alma 22:30).
Now the People of Zarahemla discovered those bones some 400 years before Mormon is writing, and he knew the future reader would have identified that people as the ones who anciently had occupied the entire Land Northward. He also knew that Limhi’s 43-man expedition had brought back word of the bones of that (Jaredite) people. Consequently, Mormon is giving a relationship between lands and peoples at this point, and identifies the Land Northward as the old lands of the Jaredites “whose bones we have spoken.”
Now comes the part the Theorists have misinterpreted for decades and that has caused all the misunderstanding and controversy over the Mulekites and a connection with the Jaredites—the end of verse 30:
(See the next post: A Common Sense Approach to Alma 22 and the Mulekites – Part II,” for the rest of this article)

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