Thursday, December 8, 2011

Was Amalikiah a Zoramite?

One of the problems we find in reading the writings of Book of Mormon scholars and theorists is that they often make flat-out statements that are not supported by the scriptural record. The additional problem is, that few people reading these writings, whether about Mesoamerica, the Great Lakes, Heartland, or other theories, is that they do not check out the comments made to see if they are, in fact, correct—and if the scriptural record supports such a statement, belief, or stand.

One of these statements is made by Michael M. Hobby, in his book “The Mulekite Connection,” page 50, who states:

“It is significant that Amalickiah, Ammoran, and Tubaloth were a now generations-old Zoramite dynasty ruling over the Lamanites.”

This Amalickiah was a Nephite apostate who wrangled his way into becoming the Lamanite king, but first sought to be a king over the Nephites (Alma 46:4), and was supported by lower judges who were seeking for power (Alma 46:4). Amalickiah flattered his supporters, telling them that if he were king, he would make them rulers over the people (Alma 46:5). Many in the church were led away by him (Alma 46:7), despite their recent victory over the Lamanites. At this point, Mormon inserts a parenthetical note: "Thus we see how quick the children of men do forget the Lord their God, yea, how quick to do iniquity, and to be led away by the evil one" (Alma 46:8).

Denied being named king of the Nephites, Amalickiah, who was a cunning man (Alma 46:10) sought to destroy the foundation of liberty among them. This caused Moroni to be angry with him (Alma 46:11) and raise an army to preserve their liberty (Alma 46:28). Amalickiah and his followers, called Amalickiahites, fled before Moroni toward the land of Nephi to join up with the Lamanites (Alma 46:29). Moroni cut him off and many Amalickiahites were captured (Alma 46:33). Those who would not convenant to "support the cause of freedom, that they might maintain a free government" Moroni executed (Alma 46:35). But Amalickiah escaped and joined the Lamanites, stirring them up to war (Alma 47:1).

Through his cunning, Amalickiah gained control over the Lamanite army (Alma 47:35) with an ultimate goal of bringing the Nephites into bondage (Alma 48:4). Amalickiah eventually was named king over the Lamanites (Alma 48:2), and appointed Zoramites as chief captains over the Lamanite army because they were "the most acquainted with the strength of the Nephites, their places of resort, and the weakest parts of their cities" (Alma 48:5). But Amalickiah was killed by Teancum (Alma 51:34), and Amalickiah’s brother, Ammoron, was appointed king in his place (Alma 52:3). Ammoron's son, Tubaloth, eventually succeeded him to the Lamanite throne (Helaman 1:16). Thus, two brothers and one of their sons were kings over the Lamanites.

However, this Amalickiah was not a Zoramite at all, but a Nephite (Alma 49:25). But there are those who read that Amalikiah “appointed Zoramites as chief captains over the Lamanite army” (Alma 48:5), thinking Amalikiah was a Zoramite to do so. But his reason for making such appointments was “because they were the most acquainted with the strength of the Nephites, their places of resort, and the weakest parts of their cities” (Alma 48:5). Later on, we find Mormon identifying Jacob as a Zoramite (Alma 52:20), who was one of the Zoramite chief captains that Amalikiah had appointed. But at no time was Amalikiah, Ammoron, or Tubaloth, identified as Zoramites.

To better understand all this, there were those Nephites that had grown proud “being lifted up in their hearts because of their exceedingly great riches” (Alma 45:24) and would not give heed to the preaching of the churches Helaman appointed over the land (Alma 45:23).

At this time, Moroni raises the title of liberty and rallies the people to defend their religion. But “as many as would not hearken to the words of Helaman and his brethren were gathered together against their brethren” (Alma 46:1). Now the leader of those who were wroth was a man named Amalikiah (Alma 46:3), and he “was desirous to be a king, and those people who were wroth were also desirous that he should be their king; and they were the greater part of them the lower judges of the land, and they were seeking for power” (Alma 46:4).

Thus, Amalikiah was a Nephite dissenter who, through manipulation, worked his way to becoming the king of the Lamanites. In putting together a great army to defeat the Nephites, who had rejected his bid to be the Nephite king, he looking around his army and chose Zoramites among the Lamanites to be his chief captains. This was because of their greater knowledge of the Nephites and their society, defenses, and structure.

Consequently, Amalikiah was not a Zoramite, nor was his brother, Ammoron, nor Ammoron’s son, Tubaloth—at least not according to the scriptural record.


  1. Ammoron says that he is descendent of Zoram in Alma 54:23.

  2. It is an interesting comment we are dealing with here. Alma 49:25 states: "And it came to pass that they returned to the land of Nephi, to inform their king, Amalickiah, who was a Nephite by birth, concerning their great loss." Obviously, then, his brother Ammoron would also be a Nephite by birth. Yet, in Alma 54:23, Ammoron claims that he was a descendant of Zoram (Laban's servant), who defected to become a Lamanite (Alma 54:26). In the following exchange of these letters, Moroni is angry, knowing Ammoron "had a perfect knowledge of his fraud; yea, he knew that Ammoron knew that it was not a just cause that had caused him to wage a war against the people of Nephi" (Alma 55:1). Either Alma was referring to Ammoron's statement of being descended from Zoram was fraudulent, or though Amalikiah was born a Nephite, he was descended from Zoram originally, but by the time of these events in 63 B.C., the Zoramites who had been called Nephnites for well over 500 years, were not thought of as Zoramites, at least not to be confused with others called Zoram (Alma 16:5), or the Zoram who separated from the Nephites and his people were called Zoramites (Alma 30:59; 31:1). In any event, Amalikiah and his brother were born Nephites according to Alma 49:25.

  3. Jacob 1:13 Now the people which were not Lamanites were Nephites; nevertheless, they were called Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites. Is it possible that in alma 49:25 the more general usage of the term Nephite which includes Zoramites? But that in Alma 54:23 Ammoron was making a point of his genealogy and of being a Zoramite although he was also a Nepite under the broader sense of the term Nephite? In fact per Jacob 1:13 wouldn't any Zoramite by definition also be a Nephite? I realize Jacob 1:13 was hundreds of years prior to Alma so let me know if I should not be applying this scripture to the later timeframe.

  4. In Alma 54:23, Ammoron says he is a descendant of Zoram. However, he does NOT say that he or his brother belonged to the Zoramite sect, which caused so much trouble. Yes, his brother Amalickiah caused a lot of trouble, but nowhere do we read that Amalickiah held to the Z sect tenets, such as denying the Christ who should come and proclaiming that he was among the elect to be saved, or even any devotion whatsoever to the Z sect's god. Chapters 45 and 46 DO say that after Helaman and his brethren reestablished the church, there was a dissension by those who were proud and lifted up because of their riches, and that their leader was Amalickiah. Yes, the Z sect did focus on pride due to riches, but the Z sect had joined with the Lamanites, and Amalickiah was living among the Nephites. He also clearly had become angry at Helaman only after he started preaching, for Alma 45:24 indicates this group "grew" rich and "would not" give heed, indicating that this was a developing thing, not something this group, including Amalickiah, had had ingrained in them from having lived among the Z sect at the time Alma and company first preached to them. Yes, Amalickiah wanted power more than anything else, and the record makes it clear that the Z sect wanted this as well, due to their insatiable focus on beating down the poor Zoramites even after they left. But nothing in any of these chapters definitively proves that either Amalickiah or Ammoron were devotees of the Z sect, even if they were Zoramites by birth. And Alma 48:5 simply indicates that Amalickiah used the Z sect as his captains because they knew the military inclinations of the Nephite population - not because he himself belonged to their sect. In the sense of this article, then, which deals with the issue of whether Amalickiah was a Zoramite in the sense of belonging to the Z sect - not as to whether he was a descendant of Zoram, which are two entirely different things - the scriptures are silent...