Book of Mormon Commentary - Mosiah 8

by Don R. Hender

Scriptural Text [& Editorial]
Commentary & Explanation
Footnotes ~ References ~ ETC
             CHAPTER 8

Ammon teaches the people of Limhi—He learns of the twenty-four Jaredite plates—Ancient records can be translated by seers—The gift of seership exceeds all others. [About 121 B.C.]

1 AND it came to pass that after king Limhi had made an end of aspeaking to his people, for he spake many things unto them and only a few of them have I written in this book, he told his people all the things concerning their brethren who were in the land of Zarahemla.
2 And he caused that Ammon should stand up before the multitude, and rehearse unto them all that had happened unto their brethren from the time that aZeniff went up out of the land even until the time that he bhimself came up out of the land.
3 And he also rehearsed unto them the last words which king Benjamin had ataught them, and explained them to the people of king Limhi, so that they might understand all the words which he spake.

 1a Mosiah 7:18-33
 2a Mosiah 7:13
   b Mosiah 7:3
 3a Mosiah 2:9

4 And it came to pass that after he had done all this, that king Limhi dismissed the multitude, and caused that they should return every one unto his own house.
5 And it came to pass that he caused that the aplates which contained the brecord of his peoplea from the time that they left the cland of Zarahemla, should be brought before Ammon, that he might read them.
6 Now, as soon as Ammon had read the record, the king inquired of him to know if he could ainterpret languages, and Ammon told him that he could not.

 5a he caused that the plates which cantained the record of his people The Record of Zeniff was also kept upon plates as this verse explains. Thus Zeniff had institued among his people not only the keeping of records, but his did also require that a history of his people be kept on plates.  5a See Mosiah, chapters 922
   b Mosiah 9:1; Mosiah 22:14
   c Omni 1:13
 6a 1 Cor. 12:10; Mosiah 21:28

7 And the king said unto him: Being grieved for the afflictions of my people, I caused that aforty and three of my people should take a journey into the wilderness, that thereby they might find the land of Zarahemlaa, that we might appeal unto our brethren to deliver us out of bondage.
8 And they were lost in the wilderness for the space of amany days, yet they were diligenta, and found not the land of Zarahemla but returned to this land, having traveled in a land among many waters, having discovered a land which was covered with bbones of men, and of beastsb, and was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind, having discovered a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel.
9 And for a testimony that the things that they had said are true they have brought atwenty-four plates which are filled with engravings, and they are of pure gold.

The Maps of Zarahemla 
(Mouse click on the images for enlarged views of these maps)
When one consider's the route of Limhi's 43 explorers, there comes to mind three defining relative maps which present the picture of their journeyings. First, one considers the landings of Lehi and Mulek and their original journeyings in the land:
Lehi according to Joseph Smith (TPJS p. 267), landed a little south of the Isthmus of Darien in that land which Elder Maxwell called that 'Second Bountiful', the first being that site in the old world where Nephi built the ship and from where they launched it from. From that landing site, Lehi's party journeyed in the land south through the western mountain valley of the Cauca river and on until they reached that 'Land of First Inheritance'. This marks the similar route which Limhi's 43 explores take for the most part in their search for Zarahemla. Mulek's 'first landing' was just north of the narrow neck in the land of Desolation where they found Coriantumr who had wandered the whole of the land from Cumorah in his search in vain for any remaining living souls amoung all of this millions and millions of people. Mulek's group then sail again and travel up the Sidon or Magdalena river/valley to their city of occupation of Zarahemla.
The second map defines the proper route to and from the land of Zarahemla from the mountain just north of Shiblom, which was taken by Mosiah, Zeniff, Ammon and eventually Limhi's people in their successful return to Zarahemla.
And it also marks Limhi's 43 explorer's unsuccessful route who became confused in the highlands of the converging three cordillera's of Colombia in the south, and fatefully venturing on down the Cauca valley rather than the Magdalena or Sidon valley.
Third, the final map show where the expanding populous established there expanded lands, after the arrivals of Limhi's and Alma's people to the land into that 'newly' explored parallel valley now known well by Limhi's 43 explores in the lands of Melek and Ammonihah.
As noted at the end of '7a' in the column to the right, it is the people of Noah and Limhi who fulfill a significant part of the prophecies of Abinadi in the burning of the innocent Christians at Ammoniahah in the days of Alma II and Amulek. This 'expansion' into all of the national lands of Zarahemla almost goes unnoticed by many who quickly read the Book of Mormon, but it is well placed and noted in Mosiah 27:6 where it states in Mormon's abridged language that 'the people did expand to the north, south, east and west, building large cities and villages in all quarters of the land' precisely during the influx of the peoples of Limhi and Alma coming into the land.

A Land Covered with Bones

Limhi's explorers were diligent and searched for many days. And they found a great city and land covered with bones. What city and land was that? Desloation is the common Book of Mormon answer, but in terms of the Jaredite people and their land, it was most likely the great city and land of Lib which Lib had built by the narrow neck that led into the land southward (Ether 10:19-21). This city of Lib was also the likely place where the party of Mulek came and discovered Coriantumr, who would have wandered all the way back down to the furtherest south city of the land in search of any possibility of someone, anyone else having survived the Jaredite annilation. And it was aparenetly some obvious place there that Ether left his 24 plates of gold to be found, which Limhi's exporers did find.

 7a I caused that forty and three of my people should take a journey into the wilderness, that thereby they might find the land of Zarahemla Now in considering this journey of these 43 people, likely some of King Limhi's most trusted and skilled men, perhaps even with Gideon amoung them, that they were well prepared in all the knowledge and understanding of the land of Zarahemla which they could obtain. It would have been this generation's grandparents who had come from Zarahemla, and they had kept records. So it would most presumeably have been understood by these explorers that Zarahemla was was to be found in the center of the land, mid-course upon a mighty river in a south to north running river valley, and upon the west bank of that river. This suggests right off that since they had come to the presumption that Zarahemla had been destroyed, that they had found just such a river valley to follow. Now how could they miss a great city such as Zarahemla upon the west bank of that river? They could not. The only logical conclusion is that they did find such a river valley which they followed but it was not the Sidon river valley, but that it was a 'parrallel river valley' of another great river to the Sidon River Valley. It would have been that river vally of the Cauca River which Lehi's party did journey south in to journey from the second land of Bountiful of Lehi's first landing to that 'Land of First Inheritance' which parralleled the land which Nephi had settled inland and in which Limhi's people currently lived upon those ancient border between the Lamanities of Shemlon on the east and one of the cities of the people of Nephi on the west. Certainly the lands of the Jaredites were north of Zarahemla through the narrow neck and by way of one of the narrow passes upon either the west or east seashore. And thus Limhi's 43 explorers would have had to have followed the north to south running river valley which they found and presumed to be the Sidon which must have parralleled the Sidon Valley through the greater national lands of Zarahemla. This is the only logical arrangement of the land. And in addition, when one considers just where the once people of King Noah did settle in the land of Zarahemla who fulfilled the prophecies of Abinadi, in that land of Ammonihah, it becomes practically a given that this certainly was the arrangement of the land (See Commentary-Alma 14:8-11).
 8a they were lost in the wilderness for the space of many days, yet they were diligent Limhi's 43 explorers were lost in that they mistakenly stumbled upon the wrong river valley. This by the way is likely the same error which the Lamanites who came upon and destoryed Ammonihah and attacked the city of Noah committed in thinking they had come upon the great provincial lands of Zarahemla. Though not so stated in the Book of Mormon, certainly the Lamanites were in no great hurry to make their way back out of the land of Zarahemla in fear of any great Nephite retalliation. The prophet Alma II and Zoram, the then leader of the Nephite armies had time to hear of the destruction and consult together, and then for Zoram to lead his army to the southern most region of the national lands of Zarahemla, namely Manti, where he was able to cut off by surprise attack and recover the captured Nephites of the city of Noah as they crossed the river Sidon in its head waters above, to the south of Manti.
As to the 'diligence' of the 43 explorers of Limhi, though unknowingly being lost, as they presumed they did travel the proper river valley not understanding that there were two such parallel twin valleys; they did perserver until they had traveled north through the narrow passage and north into the southern reaches of the land of Desolation. They likely came upon that southern most 'great' city of Jaredite commerce which was the jumping off point for the Jaredites in their exploitation of their preserved wilderness specifically utilized for that very purpose. When one reads the book of Ether account carefully, the land south was not preserved as an untouched prestine wilderness, but it was maintained as a wilderness upon which could be drawn such wilderness resources for the Jaredites who inhabited the land north. This is a type of 'conservation' for the specific purpose of utilization of the land's natural replenishable resourses (see Ether 10:19-22). It was also likely to this 'great city of commerce' to which the Phoenician ships did bring Mulek, and to which Coriantumr had found his way in search of any such survivors of his people. This is also where Limhi's 43 explorers were to be so led by the hand of the Lord to discover the 24 plates left there by the hand of the Prophet Ether. Coriantumr and the party of Mulek had not found them, but Limhi's party did. I might guess by the hand of Gideon without any other to so place this discovery's credit upon. Mormon's abridged account of it being a land of 'many waters' is vage enough at this point in the account to have perhaps not meant the same great and 'many waters' of Cumorah. but rather as to the lower Jaredite lands of lakes and rivers beginning with that once great sea port and city of Jaredite commerce.
 8b discovered a land which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts Here in lies a double testimony. First the land which Lemhi's explorers did come to was certainly the southern reaches of the lands of the Jaredites. It was not the northern reaches where the hill Ramah was located. Even the last battle of the Jaredites did not likely occurr at the famed hill associated with Cumorah. For four years after the noted encampment near the hill ramah did Shiz and Coriantumr search the then remaining inhabitted land drawing all of the remaining people to the one or the other. The Book of Mormon never states where the final battle took place after that four year interval since the encampment near Ramah. Now to suppose that Lehi's explorers traveled all the way north to 'Cumorah' is not supported by the Book of Mormon either. What is here supported is that they came to the land were men and beast had been destroyed. This seems more as the lands south of Ramah which Shiz had swept clean before him in a type of 'scortched earth' policy. And this makes sense that these were the more southern regions of the Jaredites lands prior to the four year gathering and the final great multi-day battle. Neither was it necessary for Ether's 24 gold plates to have been anywhere in particular, and they may have been placed by Ether in a southren city by God's commandment to ensure their eventual discovery. The whole matter of Lemhi's explores coming upon the last great battle field is not supported by the Book of Mormon. It is a presumption of preference according to the minds of certain men. That the more northern regions of the land still had animals and trees and such is so supported. Thus this land where even the bones of the beasts lay upon the ground would have been the southern region which Shiz had swept clean before him and not north were the last four years were spent and certainly not at the hill Ramah. The buildings and ruins discovered by Lemhi's explorers were in the southern lands of the Jaredites. They did not transverse the whole of the land north, just the southern destoryed and swept clean region. And now second, this is from whence whatever animals which remained found their way into the land south for the 'want of food', and that is were Lehi's group found such animals of the Jaredites which has so servived (See 1 Nephi 18:25, Alma 22:31).
 7a Mosiah 21:25
 8a Alma 50:29; Hel. 3:4 (3-4); Morm. 6:4
   b Omni 1:22; Mosiah 21:26-27
 9a Mosiah 21:27; Mosiah 22:14

A Land of Ruin 
When one considers the vast lands of the Jaredites, it is quite unlikely that Limhi's 43 explorers traveled the whole of it. It must be considered that they traveled the southern regions where Shiz had executed his scorched earth policy of sweeping the earth clean before him as he left it in complete and utter ruin with not a tree or forest left standing for the later occupying Nephites for resources some 500 years later. In addition, it must be pointed out that the Book of Mormon never does state that the final great battle of the Jaredites where over 2 million people died in that last great struggle was in fact fought at the hill Ramah. It was merely four years earlier that the hill Ramah was specifically mentioned. From thence it becomes a misnomer that while gathering the remaining people of all the remaining lands of the Jaredites either to the army of Shiz or to the army of Coriantumr took place while Shiz and Coriantumr stood still upon the same sector of land for all four years of so gathering the people. It is more than likely that the army of Shiz and the army of Coriantumr out of necessity had to go forth upon the land not just to recuit the remaining populous, but to also supply and continue to feed such a massive accumulation of society. It is more likely that the last great battle of the Jaredites was fought upon a land more favorable to food production than the small area of western New York or any such limited area of a single hill of Ramah. It has been one of those 'quick read' presumptions made by the 'Book of Mormon Scholars of History', which has laid the foundation concept that after four years of going forth and gathering the people and supplying their armies of millions from the resources of the land, that Shiz and Coriantumr happened to return to the hill Ramah of a four years prior encampment. Mormon does not state it as such, only that the hill Cumorah that he had gathered his people to was that same hill Ramah where Coriantumr at one time camped his army. This is all that the Book of Mormon states. The rest is quick presupmtion and romatic speculation that both civilizations perished upon the same little hill.
It becomes interesting which 'quick presumptions of history' the Mesoamerican theoriest of the Book of Mormon lands maintain. The Book of Mormon never does state that after landing upon the land of promise that Lehi's people's general trek was ever northward, but that is exactly the presumption the Mesoamerican theoriest maintain by having Lehi's and Nephi's people move from an 'out of the blue' presumed landing site north to the land of Nephi and then north to the Land of Zarahemla, and then North to the land of the Jaredites. If one does not just 'presume' one can take the actual landing site recorded by Joseph Smith (TPJS p. 267) at being a little south of the Isthmus of Darien, where it is most logical for them to find the remaining domestic herds of the Jaredites, which had come to the land southward for want of food. From there Lehi journeyed south to the 'Land of First Inheritance' and NOT 'ever northward at all'. Such are the 'misnomers' of Mormon perception which are either adopted or discarded upon a whim of supporting a theory of Book of Mormon geography, not even based so much upon fact as it is upon personal preference.
Another 'quick presumption' is that since the Jaredites took four years in gathering all of their people to the 'assumed' hill Ramah, then it also took Mormon four years to gather his remaining Nephites to Cumorah. The Book of Mormon NEVER does state that! It states that Shiz and Coriantumr did spend four years gathering their people either to the army (NOT the location of Ramah) of Shiz or Coriantumr. The Book of Mormon NEVER does state what time frame it took to collect what remaining Nephites he could to Cumorah. And it appears that Mormon DID NOT collect all his remaining Nephites, for the Lamanites did go from city to city after Cumorah still killing any remaining Nephite resistance and commitment to Christ that remained. Even Mormon is not recorded by Moroni to be killed until a later battle with the Lamanites. Thus Mormon's more limited collection of supporting Nephites to Cumorah was not a 'four year comprehensive effort' as was the Jaredites', but much more limited both in time and distance, which left a number of Nephite pockets of cities un-gathered. Mormon's limited gathering is more logically limited to a year, say 384 A.D., to a fixed location, whereas the Jaredite gathering was totally universal over all remaining lands, never so stated to any such fixed location. It is amazing what has been read in-between-the-lines into the Book of Mormon. One really needs to read, reread and study the book in and of itself to detect what is fact and not to just openly assume what has been 'quickly surmised' and traditionally stated as misnomers of preference and fiction rather than those of fact.

Two River Confussion

Just how close and confusing do the head waters of two rivers need to be for a party of unfamiliar explores to choose the wrong river to follow in search of Zarahemla? Here is a topical map of the headwater regions of the western valley river and the eastern 'Sidon' river valley. How easy it would have been for Limhi's explorers to have selected the wrong river to follow in their search for Zarahemla with two such rivers and river valleys to find the right one and follow it to Zarahemla, which they were unable to do?
If they were told to follow the one river north out of the land of Nephi to its head waters and then follow the ridge line north to the head waters of the river which flows south, stay on its west bank until reaching Zarahemla. Now which of the two rivers do they select? Is there room for confusion given those instructions? Perhaps they never did find the head of the river Sidon and found only the head of the western valley river that I call the river Sidom. Easlily lost I would say.

10 And behold, also, they have brought abreastplates, which are large, and they are of bbrass and of copper, and are perfectly sound.
11 And again, they have brought swords, the hilts thereof have perished, and the blades thereof were cankered with rust; and there is no one in the land that is able to interpret the language or the engravings that are on the plates. Therefore I said unto thee: Canst thou translate?
12 And I say unto thee again: Knowest thou of any one that can translate? For I am desirous that these records should be translated into our language; for, perhaps, they will give us a knowledge of a remnant of the people who have been destroyed, from whence these records came; or, perhaps, they will give us a knowledge of this very people who have been destroyed; and I am desirous to know the cause of their destruction.

 10a Ex. 25:7; Ether 15:15
     b Ether 10:23

13 Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can atranslate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called binterpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commandeda, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called cseer.
14 And behold, the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla is the man that is commanded to do these things, and who has this high gift from God.

 13a the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded Now these were known in the Bible as the Urim and Thummim. And the Nephites did have them before the 24 plates of Ether were found. And it would appear that the Nephites brought them with them into the land of Zarahemla, for the first Mosiah also was able to interpret the language of the Jaredites when first the Nephites found the people of Zarahemla. For it would seem the Coriantumr, who lived with the people of Zarahemla for nine lunar months had engraven a large stone with his language telling of his people the Jaredites. And it was not until Mosiah I came to the land of Zarahemla that the people of Zarahemla delivered unto him this great stone for Mosiah to interpret, which he did. And he most assuredly used the Urim and Thummim which he had brouth with him from the Land of Nephi which enable him to do this (See Omni 1:20). Thus it would seem that certain things did accompany the plates of brass from the time that Nephi obtained them from the treasury of Laban. Where else would the Nephites have come in possession of them prior to when Mosiah I led them out of the Land of Nephi and down into the Land of Zarahemla?  13a Dan. 5:16; Omni 1:20-22;
       Mosiah 28:17 (11-17)
     b Ex. 28:30; Mosiah 21:28 (27-28);
       TG Urim and Thummim
     c TG Seer

15 And the king said that a aseer is greater than a propheta.
16 And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man havea, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.
17 But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.
18 Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings.

 15a the king said that a seer is greater than a prophet Now many teach this a doctrine, that a seer is greater than a prophet, but it was not an authorized prophet who so stated it. It was king Limhi who said it. Ammon, also not a prophet seems to qualify the concept that a seer has an added calling but he does not so state that it made or how it made a seer 'greater' than a prophet. Care needs to be taken in subjugating one prophet unto another under the concept of who is and who is not also a seer or who actively practices the work of a seer. Now it is true that no greater gift there is than that of being a seer. But that is a 'gift' from God and is by the power of God wrought and not of the man. It is not appropriate to place the greatness upon the man, but it is better to associate it with the calling or mantle from God. Thus the activities of seership may well be greater than a prophet messenger, but as to the man, that has to be another matter. We do not know that Christ ever practiced as a seer in his life time. But we do know that no greater man ever lived than he.
 16a a gift which is greater can no man have To be able to see all things, past, present and future is the ability of a seer. And it is by the use of the interpreters, the Uruim and Thummim by which a seer may look. Joseph Smith was such a seer and by the power of the Spirit of Revelation, he was given to see and know many things which even he could not reveal unto the saints as the saints were not prepared to receive them. Yet Joseph did reveal certain things, namely the book of Moses, and many of the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. By this power of interpretation of languages, Joseph translated the Book of Mormon and likely also corrected the Bible in many respects, receiving further revealation concerning it which added to and corrected and rearanged certain parts of it. Thus it is that Joseph Smith qualified as a seer by the definition given in the next verse.
 15a 1 Sam. 9:9; D&C 21:1

19 And now, when Ammon had made an end of speaking these words the king rejoiced exceedingly, and gave thanks to God, saying: Doubtless a agreat mystery is contained within these plates, and these interpreters were doubtless prepared for the purpose of unfolding all such mysteries to the children of men.
20 O how marvelous are the works of the Lord, and how long doth he suffer with his people; yea, and how ablind and impenetrable are the understandings of the children of men; for they will not seek wisdom, neither do they desire that she should rule over them!
21 Yea, they are as a wild flock which fleeth from the shepherd, and scattereth, and are driven, and are devoured by the beasts of the forest.

 19a Ether 3:26 (21-28); Ether 4:4 (1-8)
 20a TG Spiritual Blindness

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