Book of Mormon Commentary - Alma 22

by Don R. Hender


Scriptural Text [& Editorial]
Commentary & Explanation
Footnotes ~ References ~ JST
             CHAPTER 22

Aaron teaches Lamoni's father about the creation, the fall of Adam, and the plan of redemption through Christ—The king and all his household are converted—How the land was divided between the Nephites and the Lamanites. [Between 90 and 77 B.C.]

[Between 90 and 82 B.C.]
1 NOW, as Ammon was thus teaching the people of Lamoni continually, we will return to the account of Aaron and his brethren; for after he departed from the land of Middoni he was aled by the Spirit to the land of Nephi, even to the house of the king which was bover all the land csave it were the land of Ishmaela; and he was the father of Lamoni.
2 And it came to pass that he went in unto him into the king's palace, with his brethren, and bowed himself before the king, and said unto him: Behold, O king, we are the brethren of Ammon, whom thou hast adelivered out of bprison.
3 And now, O king, if thou wilt spare our lives, we will be thy servants. And the king said unto them: Arise, for I will grant unto you your lives, and I will not suffer that ye shall be my servants; but I will insist that ye shall administer unto me; for I have been somewhat atroubled in mind because of the bgenerosity and the greatness of the words of thy brother Ammon; and I desire to know the cause why he has not come up out of Middoni with thee.

 1a save it were the land of Ishmael Now this was because he had given full and complete rule unto his son Lamoni over that land, he prior to that time ruling over all the land including the land of Ishmael with tributary kings under him. And this is a key as to the structure of the land of the Lamanites, that they had any number of sub kings of the various lands all being subject to the high king over all of the land. And this supports that fact that in the day of king Benjamin that the Lamanites which the people of Zeniff were dealing with were not the same group of Lamanites which did ward with king Benjamin.  1a Mosiah 29:46
   b Jarom 1:5; Alma 4:16;
      Alma 8:17; Hel. 4:22;
   c TG Citizenship
4 And Aaron said unto the king: Behold, the Spirit of the Lord has called him another way; he has gone ato the land of Ishmael, to teach the people of Lamoni.
5 Now the king said unto them: What is this that ye have said concerning the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, this is the thing which doth trouble me.
6 And also, what is this that Ammon said--aIf ye will repent ye shall be saved, and if ye will not repent, ye shall be cast off at the last day?

 1a Mosiah 29:46
   b Jarom 1:5; Alma 4:16;
      Alma 8:17; Hel. 4:22;
   c TG Citizenship
7 And Aaron answered him and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God? And the king said: I know that the Amalekites say that there is a God, and I have granted unto them that they should build sanctuaries, that they may assemble themselves together to worship him. And if now thou sayest there is a God, behold I will abelieve.
8 And now when Aaron heard this, his heart began to rejoice, and he said: Behold, assuredly as thou livest, O king, there is a God.

9 And the king said: Is God that aGreat Spirit that brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalema?
10 And Aaron said unto him: Yea, he is that Great Spirit, and he acreated all things both in heaven and in earth. Believest thou this?
11 And he said: Yea, I believe that the Great Spirit created all things, and I desire that ye should tell me concerning all these things, and I will abelieve thy words.

 9a that Great Spirit that brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem Now it can be seen that the Lamanites did maintain a rudimentary understanding of God. That he was at this time a spirit, not yet coming to earth to take upon himself flesh. And they also understood that he it was that was the creator of all things. And as stated here, they understood that it was this Great Spirit God who had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem. And thus in part was the king who was a descendant of Ishmael prepared that he did believe in God with this first level of understanding.
12 And it came to pass that when Aaron saw that the king would believe his words, he began from the creation of Adam, areading the scriptures unto the king--how God bcreated man after his own image, and that God gave him commandments, and that because of transgression, man had fallen.
13 And Aaron did expound unto him the scriptures from the acreation of Adam, laying the fall of man before him, and their carnal state and also the bplan of credemption, which was prepared afrom the foundation of the world, through Christ, for all whosoever would believe on his name.
14 And since man had afallen he could not bmerit anything of himself; but the sufferings and cdeath of Christ datone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth; and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the egrave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory; and Aaron did expound all these things unto the king.

15 And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: aWhat shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be bborn of God, having this wicked spirit crooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up aall that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.
16 But Aaron said unto him: If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt abow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the bhope which thou desirest.

17 And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did abow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried bmightily, saying:
18 O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck aas if he were dead.

19 And it came to pass that his servants ran and told the queen all that had happened unto the king. And she came in unto the king; and when she saw him lay as if he were dead, and also Aaron and his brethren standing as though they had been the cause of his fall, she was angry with them, and commanded that her servants, or the servants of the king, should take them and slay them.
20 Now the servants had seen the cause of the king's fall, therefore they durst not lay their hands on Aaron and his brethren; and they pled with the queen saying: Why commandest thou that we should slay these men, when behold one of them is amightier than us all? Therefore we shall fall before them.
21 Now when the queen saw the fear of the servants she also began to fear exceedingly, lest there should some evil come upon her. And she commanded her servants that they should go and call the people, that they might slay Aaron and his brethren.

22 Now when Aaron saw the determination of the queen, he, also knowing the hardness of the hearts of the people, feared lest that a multitude should assemble themselves together, and there should be a great contention and a disturbance among them; therefore he put forth his ahand and raised the king from the earth, and said unto him: Stand. And he stood upon his feet, receiving his strength.
23 Now this was done in the presence of the queen and many of the servants. And when they saw it they greatly marveled, and began to fear. And the king stood forth, and began to aminister unto them. And he did minister unto them, insomuch that his bwhole household were cconverted unto the Lord.

24 Now there was a multitude gathered together because of the commandment of the queen, and there began to be great murmurings among them because of Aaron and his brethren.
25 But the king stood forth among them and administered unto them. And they were apacified towards Aaron and those who were with him.
26 And it came to pass that when the king saw that the people were pacified, he caused that Aaron and his brethren should stand forth in the midst of the multitude, and that they should preach the word unto them.

General Mapping of the Land

27 And it came to pass that the king sent a aproclamation 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 bwesta, and which was divided from the land of cZarahemlab by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea westc, and round about on the borders of the seashorec1, and the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemlac2, through the borders of dMantic3, by the head of the eriver Sidonc4, running from the east towards the westc4a--and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided.

Mapping the Book of Mormon 
Many consider Alma 22 to be Mormon providing for understanding the 'details' of the lands of the Book of Mormon. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mormon provides a very generalized and very broad concept of the Land, leaving out almost all specific detail of any nature. This generalized mapping aids in under standing the flow of events which will be written about by Mormon in his continued abridgment, but being only a 1% record, so is the map but a vage generalized rendering. Most of the cities and lands of the Book of Mormon at left entirely out of it decidely because Mormon was NOT providing such a detailed geography which many pretend that he was.

Staying true to Mormon's true intent of giving the generalized relationships between the lands of the Book of Mormon and no such details which provide a detailed map, only what Mormon states is presented. Many will begin to skew the mapping from Alma 22 to fit their own particular design of where they would personally prefer these lands to be. This will be avoided here in this commentary and only what the bood does say will be presented in these mappings. And any parallel with particular actual maps of the Americas is only incidental and not intended within these mappings.

Some will find that these images do not agree with their own perspectives upon the matter. In such matters, I would suggest that this is because they have already 'skewed' in their minds eye what Mormon's description has to be in order to made their predetermined concept of these lands fit where they would force them to fit. And it just isn't in the writings of Mormon to so allow such a biased rendering here.

 27a sea, on the east and on the west This obvious feature places the 'sea east' and the 'sea west', as also stated in this verse, on the east side of the land and on the west side of the land as here depicted.
 27b land of Zarahemla The land of Zarahemla was upon the north and the land of the Lamanites, which is called in the Book of Mormon as the land of Nephi as depicted.
 27c a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west The land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi was by this date (about 80 B.C.) divided by a 'narrow strip of wilderness', which went from coast to coast, from the east to the west.
    27c1 round about on the borders of the seashore Still speaking of this wilderness and also speaking relative to the land of Zarahemla, this wildernes continued on 'round about' the borders of the land of Zarahemla along the seashore both, as it will later be varified, on the west and on the east of the land of Zarahemla as depicted.
    27c2 the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahamela This statement clarifies and varifies that Zarahemla was on the north and that it was the wilderness which was round about upon the borders of that land as depicted.
    27c3 through the borders of Manti Continuing to define this 'wilderness', it ' states that this wilderness bordered Manti, which Manti was to the south of the city of Zarahemla and its the immediate land. This substantiates that the 'national land of Zarahemla did include all the cities and lands of the Nephites, the city of Manti and its land being one such land and city.
    27c4 by the head of the river Sidon This sets out that Manti was south by the headwaters of the river Sidon and it was upon this border of these headwaters that the wilderness did border.
    27c4a running from east towards the west As the headwaters beginnings of any river does, the river Sidon would have had various tributaries. The main considered tributary still recognized as the river Sidon flowed from the east to the west and that was where Manti did border upon that narrow strip of wilderness which divided the nations of the Nephites and the Lamanites as depicted.

28 Now, the more aidle part of the Lamanites lived in the wildernessa, and dwelt in tentsb; and they were spread through the wilderness on the west, in the land of Nephic; yea, and also on the west of the land of Zarahemlad, in the borders by the seashoree, and on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers' first inheritancef, and thus bordering along by the seashoreg.

 28a more idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness
Not all the Lamanites were 'idle' as there were cities and buildings and palaces such as that of King Lamoni and his father. But there was a large group of the Lamanites which followed after the life of living in tents along the western sea coast.
 28b dwelt in tents Lehi's family had lived in a tent in the valley of Lemuel, in the wilderness as they journeyed and they would have continued to live in tents for the first part of there lives upon the land of promise and particularly in the land of first inheritance.
 28c they were spread through the wilderness on the west, in the land of Nephi They were on the west of the Land of Nephi.
 28d and also on the west of the land of Zarahemla This occupation had moved northward along the coast until these 'idle' tent dwelling Lamanites where on the west coast in the land of Zarahemla.
 28e in the borders by the seashore They lived along the borders of the seashore, likely looking to the ocean for a part of their livelihood.
 28f on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers' first inheritance Their fathers would have been Laman, Lemuel and the two sons of Ishmael, and this was the land first permanently settled in the promised land, the land of first inheritance.
 28g thus bordering along by the seashore Thus marked in yellow representative lines is the considered regions spoken of, being on the west of the land of Nephi and on the west of the land of Zarahemla along by the seashore.

29 And also there were many Lamanites on the east by the seashore, whither the Nephites had driven thema. And thus the Nephites were nearly surrounded by the Lamanitesb; nevertheless the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wildernessc, at the head of the river Sidon, from the east to the westd, round about on the wilderness side; on the north, even until they came to the land which they called aBountifule.
30 And it bordered upon the land which they called aDesolationa, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyedb, of whose bbones we have spoken, which was discovered by the cpeople of Zarahemlac, it being the place of their dfirst landingd.

 29a there were many Lamanites on the east by the seashore, whither the Nephites had driven them In a previous to this date, the Nephites in battle with the Lamanites had driven them into the 'eastern wilderness' and such Lamanites had come to live in those regions unoccupied by the Nephites though perhaps technically the Nephites did consider it to be their land. This is now depicted on the name by the yellow lines on the east of the land of Zarahamela.
 29b the Nephites were nearly surrounded by the Lamanites There were Lamanites to the left of them, there were Lamanites to the right of them, and there were Lamanites in front of them. This is nearly surrounded with the exception that they did not have Lamanites behind them to their north.
 29c the Nephties had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness These 'northern parts' ranged from the central headwaters of the river Sidon on the southern most border of the Land of Zarahemla including such lands and cities as Manti, Minon, Melek, Zarahemla (provincial), Gideon, Ammonihah, Noah, Sidom, Aaron, Jershon, Antionum and Bountiful to mention the few which are in the 1% abridgment record of the Book of Mormon, for there are many more which are unnamed but certainly implied.
 29d at the head of the river Sidon, from the east to the west In a particular sense, a river has to beginnings or two heads. One might state the the Missisippi begins or starts in New Orleans and travels up into the interior of the continental United States and all would understand well what was said. Another may speak of the beginning of the same river up high in the mountains and that it flows down to it outlet. What is the head, beginning of start of a river can be taken from these two various perspectives. In the sense that the 'head of the river Sidon' being spoken of means where it joins the sea in the 'east' and it flowing back up to the 'west'. There is other indications that this is the course of the lower Sidon river and that it does empty to the sea east.
 29e round about on the wilderness side; on the north even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful. The term 'round about' implies a circular form or shape or just going 'around/about' the perimeter of a land such a going 'round about' the whole of the land of Zarahemla until one comes to the northern most province of Bountiful. The region of Bountiful is to be further discussed but simply considered, it is the 'cork' in the narrow neck region which prohibits any Lamanite access to the land northward.
 30a it bordered upon the land which they called Desolation The land Bountiful's northern border was shared with the land called Desolation as depicted.
 30b it being so far nothward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed Bountiful reached northward on up into the narrow neck like a cork to the point that it had reached the land which had been peopled by the Jaredites who had been destroyed leaving their bones covering the landscape.
 30c which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla This land of desolation covered with dry bones was 'discovered' by Mulek's group known as the poeple of Zarahemla.
 30d it being the place of their first landing Mulek's group, the people of Zarahemla, had landed as generally accepted upon the east coast of the land of Desolation. Thier initial landing could have been anywhere along this eastern coastal region as depicted on the map. And as the statement inticates, this was but their 'first landing', which implies that they did sail again and land again, perhaps even to the sailing up the navigable northern end of the Sidon river.

31 And they came from there aup into the south wildernessa. Thus the bland on the northward was called cDesolationb, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful, it being the wilderness which is filled with all manner of wild animals of every kindc, a part of which had come from the land northward for foodd.

Lehi's Landing 
The mapping from Alma 22 has developed free from any speculative bias and has just referenced exactly what is in the Book of Mormon. Yet there is supportive and authoritive sources for certain aspects of what the book does state. In the book 'Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith', page 267, is given that the Prohet confirms the fact of the Landing of Lehi being just a little south of the narrow isthmus of land. He states, "... Lehi went down by the Red Sea to the great Southern Ocean, and crossed over to this land, and landed a little south of the Isthmus of Darien,..."

Further the concept of Lehi's landing being at the 'second Bountiful' is also confirmed by a statement of an Apostle. "Upon arriving at both lands of Bountiful, did Laman and Lemuel really thing that such good navigating was mere happenstance? Perhaps Nephi had merely 'gussed right' (see Hel. 16:16). Their ingratitude for the Liahona raises the question: What did Laman and Lemuel really think of that remarkable instrument? Was it just a convenient gadget or merely standard equipment on every ship?" (Neal A. Maxwell, October 2, 1999, 10AM Session Conference Report)

 31a they came from there up into the southern wilderness They refers to Mulek's group, called the people of Zarahemla. They came 'up', meaning from sea level up in elevation, and and 'into' implies that they did not remain on the coast but did come 'into' the interior of the land southward. This coupled with the fact that their landing in the land of Desolation was but their 'first landing' would seem to possibly imply that they did come into the interior of the land southward by a water route, having at least a 'second landing' to fill out the concept of a first landing. Could they have sailed 'up' the Sidon river?
 31b Thus the land on the north was called Desolation The name given to that land northward was first given by those who landed there, the people of Zarahemla. Thus the reason the land northward was called Desolation is because the people of Zarahemla had given it that name, being the 'first' people to have landed there from a Nephite perspective.
 31c land on the southward was called Bountiful, it being the wilderness which is filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind Mormon had just established that Desolation was called by that name as it was the name given that first land of landing by the people of Mulek, the people of Zarahemla. Mormon proceeds with that same line of reasoning in stating why the land immediately south of Desolation was called Bountiful, because it was the name first given it by those who first occupied it. And those who first occupied the land Bountiful immediately upon the south of the land desolation were those who came to a land 'filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind'. This has direct reference back to 1 Nephi 18:25 were is the only place in the Book of Mormon with this exact phases, 'all manner of wild animals' and 'of every kind'. This is consistent with the portrayal of a wilderness called Hermounts (Alma 2:37) which was on the north and on the west of Zarahemla and it was also 'infested by wild and ravenous beasts. The map depicts this wilderness of Hermounts indicating that it did indeed occupy the southern regions of the land Bountiful north of Zarahemla and around to the west of Zarahemla. This ties the wilderness of Hermounts to both Bountiful and the land of Lehi's first landing. Lehi's party had named this land of bounteous havest and domestic and wild animals of every kind, by the name of Bountiful. Yes the over all land was the 'land of promise'. But the immediate site of landing was called Bountiful after the first Bountiful they had departed from where they had built the ship. And that name Bountiful of this second land by that name had stuct and remained, as the Nephites knew it to be the same land of Lehi's landing, that second land of Bountiful.
 31d which had come from the land northward for food This added note solidifies the concept. About the time of Lehi's landing, Shiz of the Jaredites was in the midst of sweeping the land clean in a scorched earth policy. What animals that did escape the Jaredite nation would have been in search of food. The fact that Lehi's party found not only wild animals of every kind but also various domestic animals must have seemed somewhat of a miracle to Lehi's party. They had not brought animals with them. These animals where brought there after the division of the earth in the days of Peleg. The were brought there by the Jaredites. And as just stated these domestic animals 'had come from the land northward for food'. And there were right there, just south of the narrow neck of land, in the land of Bountiful for Lehi's party to find them and round them up.

32 And now, it was only the adistance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephitea, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west seab; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small bneck of land between the land northward and the land southward.
33 And it came to pass that the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea, and thus the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies, had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they should have no more possession on the north, that they might not overrun the land northward.
34 Therefore the Lamanites could have no more possessions only in the land of Nephi, and the wilderness round about. Now this was wisdom in the Nephites—as the Lamanites were an enemy to them, they would not suffer their afflictions on every hand, and also that they might have a country whither they might flee, according to their desires.
35 And now I, after having said this, return again to the account of Ammon and Aaron, Omner and Himni, and their brethren.

 32a is was only the distance of a day and a half journey for a Nephite Now it does appear that the narrow neck of land which was a small neck of land was somewhat in a funnel shape. As it is stated here that the northern border of Bountiful with Desolation, that border 'line' could be traveled by a Nephi from sea to sea in a day and a half. Later when making a defensive line near to the city of Bountiful further south away from the border of Bountiful and Desolation, it is stated that the neck's width was but a single day's travel (Helaman 4:7). Thus the distance from the 'top' of the neck down does seem to taper by at least a 33-50% distance depending upon one's persective, according to that distance that can be traveled by a Nephite in a day's time.
 32b on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea Mormon here specifies that that direction of the day and a half crossing is particularly from 'east to west', not from west to east or just a general either directional crossing. Why? William Dampier in his book specifies that all the rivers in the Darien flow from the east to the south sea. Dampier also implies that they had travel the Darien by boat upon his first crossing and that if they had stayed to the river upon their second crossing it would have taken much less time. Canoeing down a river is certainly faster than paddling up the river. Thus Mormon stipulates that the day and a half crossing was from the east to the west sea. That was the aiding direction of all the flowing rivers of the Darien.
 32a Hel. 4:7
     b Alma 50:34; Alma 52:9

William Dampier
A Day and a Half

From 1679 to 1681 William Dampier, a privateer, crossed the Isthmus of Darien twice. His first crossing took his group 10 days. On their way back across it was in the rainy season and they avoided the rivers. That crossing across land took them 23 days traveling 110 miles. Yet William Dampier recorded that if they had traveled the river by boat it would have only taken 3 days. He further records that it would actually take a Moskito Indian only a day and a half to cross the Isthmus of Darien. (A New Voyage Around the World, William Dampier, Chapter 2, Paragraph 31)) William Dampier's map follows. Click it for a larger view.