Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Were There Other People in the Land of Promise? Part II

Continuing with the last post, Sorenson’s next points are:

3. “We who are confident of the historicity of the Book of Mormon are assured from these incidents and other textual references that substantial numbers of local "native" residents had joined the immigrant parties. If we had the plates of Nephi that reported the more historical part of their story, perhaps we would find on them explicit information about such contacts with resident populations.”

Forever hoping for a validation of his theories, Sorenson draws attention to the Large Plates of Nephi, upon which can be claimed anything one wants, until they are actually available—which is not likely until we learn what is in the present Book of Mormon far more thoroughly. Besides, those plates may show the contrary—that these wars and contentions were just small skirmishes where a few died, but most fought until they tired and pulled away. Simply put, there is no value in claiming that something might exist when it runs contrary to the scriptural record we have, and there is no other record to compare it against.

4. “Other statements in the Book of Mormon also indicate that the writers were familiar with, rather than surprised by, the idea of non-Israelites living among the Nephites. The only example we will cite is when Alma visited the city of Ammonihah and Amulek introduced himself with the words, "I am a Nephite" (Alma 8:20). Since the city was nominally under Nephite rule (see Alma 8:11-12, 24) and was a part of the land of Zarahemla at the time, Amulek's statement seems nonsensical, unless many, perhaps most, of the people in the land of Ammonihah did not consider themselves to be Nephites, by whatever criteria.”
This is just another effort to cloud the issue. While the location of the city and background of the people are correct, there is a big issue not addressed by Sorenson—these Nephites had fallen away from the Church (Alma 8:11), and that “Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people of the city of Ammonihah; therefore they would not hearken unto the words of Alma” (Alma 8:9). They paid no attention to Alma’s preaching and reviled him and spit upon him and cast him out of the city (Alma 8:13) and “while he was journeying thither, being weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people who were in the city of Ammonihah” (Alma 8:14). However, the angle of the Lord told him to return to the city (Alma 8:15-16), and to tell the people “Yea, say unto them, except they repent the Lord God will destroy them. For behold, they do study at this time that they may destroy the liberty of thy people, (for thus saith the Lord) which is contrary to the statutes, and judgments, and commandments which he has given unto his people” (Alma 8:16-17).

Obviously, this was not a message the people would accept and, no doubt, Alma had mixed emotions as he returned. Yet, he returned quickly (Alma 8:18). As he entered the city from the south, which was another way than he had been before, he was hungry and thirsty and asked a man he met for something to eat (Alma 8:19). This is where the man said, “I am a Nephite, and I know that thou art a holy prophet of God, for thou art the man an angle said in a vision” that he was to receive (Alma 8:20).

Being a Nephite was always a distinction of those who believed in and followed Christ. Obviously, this man, Amulek, lived in the city and was well known (Alma 10:4) and a wealthy man. Obviously, he knew the nature of the people there and that they were opposed to the prophets and followed their own “satanic” hearts. To make sure Alma knew him to not be like them, but a man of direct religious lineage, he identified himself the only way he could that would not cause Alma to be suspicious of him: “I am a Nephite.”
While they were Nephite dissenters, the scriptures do not refer to the people of Ammonihah as Nephites. They were called Ammonihahites (Alma 16:9). Therefore, Sorenson’s comment about why did Amulek identify himself as a Nephite is not that there were other people in the land other than Nephites, but no one in the city was a Nephite follower of God and is obviously answered by the scriptural record itself.

(See the next post, “Were There Other People in the Land of Promise? Part III,” for more on Sorenson’s comments about other people in the land of promise)

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