Logic of Alma the Younger's Missions to Zarahemla
by Don R. Hender
"And it came to pass that king Mosiah granted unto Alma that he might establish
churches throughout all the land of Zarahemla; and gave him power to ordain priests and teachers
over every church.
"Now this was done because there were so many people that they could not all be governed by one
teacher; neither could they all hear the word of God in one assembly; Therefore they did
assemble themselves together in different bodies, being called churches; every church having
their priests and their teachers, and every priest preaching the word according as it was
delivered to him by the mouth of Alma.
"And thus, notwithstanding there being many churches they were all one church, yea, even the
church of God; for there was nothing preached in all the churches except it were repentance
and faith in God.
"And now there were seven churches in the land of Zarahemla. And it came to pass that whosoever
were desirous to take upon them the name of Christ, or of God, they did join the churches of
God; And they were called the people of God. And the Lord did pour out his Spirit upon them,
and they were blessed, and prospered in the land."
~ Book of Mormon | Mosiah 25:19-24)
A Historical Prospectus
After the people of Limhi and the people of Alma
had returned to and joined unto the people of Zarahemla, this became their situration. The people
did spread themselves out upon the land in their various locations. Thus with and of Gideon unto
Gideon, and the rest variously some into that parallel valley of the Sidon, which Limhi's
explorers had mistaken for the Sidon river valley and they had found good for settlement, and
others still throughout the land. And thus were the people separated from the central city of
Zarahela and also there became the need for diversified and delegrated 'church' facilities, which
the fore presented qouted text explained that there became seven churches set up in the days of
Alma the elder under that authority of King Mosiah. [A regional mapping of roughly Peru to
Colombia is shown at the right for a perspective of possible Book of Mormon lands presumeing
an early Book of Mormon published note as to the identity of the river Sidon to be the same as
the river Magdalena of Colombia. (Lehi's Landing TPJS p. 267, Sidon=Magdalena 1906 Triple
Combination referenced note to Alma 2:15, Temple at Chavin De Haunter like unto Solomon's temple
<1 Nephi 5:16) & per Erich von Daniken, Strategy of the Gods, p. 50.)]
Now Alma the younger had once been an enemy of the church, but by the visitation of an angel and
Alma the younger's deep and sincere repentance he became the strength of the Church and became
both the leader of the Church after the death of his father and also in conjunction of the pending
death of Mosiah, with none of Mosiah's sons to become king, having departed into the land of
Nephi in order to convert the Lamanites, therefore was Alma the younger also appiont as the
Chief Judge over the land.
And it would be that under Alma the younger, the administration of the 'Judges' did parallel
that form and structure of the churches. And each region of the land came to have its only
local administering local chief judge and ministering head priest, both of whom would be under
the Chief Judge and Great High Priest of the land, which was Alma the younger. But Alma the
younger found that the administration of both had become a burden which he could not keep up
with and that the various churches and likely also the local judgeships were becoming corrupt
in their separated regions. And thus Alma did determine resign his position of Chief Judge to
a righteous man, Nephihah a descendant of Nephi, and to assume the full duty of the prophet of
God and High Priest of the Chruch and go and visit the the churches of the land and minister
unto them personally and all them to repentance and need be the case, and in so doing and by
the righteousness of the church it was felt that the judges would be kept in line as well as
they were elected by the voice and righteousness of the people and their laws were the laws
set in place by the righteous King Mosiah.
Now as the settlements of the greater land an nation of Zarahemla were now widely spread out,
it would become necessary for Alma to divide his ministry to the churches and separate local
judgeship regions out over such time that would make such ministrations and missions to these
settlements of the people feasible. And his would would have to divided out over the space of
a number of years in order to travel the distances and take the time required for the
administration and delivery of his message to all of the people. Now according to Almas' mission
efforts it may be deduced that the various church, judgeship and land regions were such as
beginning with the local area of the City of Zarahemla there was the local region of Zarahemla
itself. There there was that of Gideon, Melek, Ammonihah, Aaron [Jershon], Antionum, and perhaps
such as Manti and even Bountiful. Now each of these regions would also have accompanying rual
village and neighboring cities. The local region of the city of Zarahemla seems to have
included such as Minon and Ammonihah had neighboring cities of Noah and Sidom which were
associated with the administrations of the region of Ammonihah.
Alma the Younger's Missionary Efforts
Alma the Younger, son of Alma the Elder, was appointed the first Chief Judge under the system of
Judges after the death of King Mosiah II. None of the sons of Mosiah would accept being King and
preferred to go on a missionary labor of love to convert the Lamanites. Alma the Younger was
also the head of the Church and God's Prophet. After a few years of being the chief judge, Alma
the Younger determined that his more important calling was to be head of the Church. The land
had development from its early phases of being locally centered and centers of population were
now spread throughout the land. Thus Alma the Younger undertook a design of Religious Revival of
to bring the dispersed people of Zarahemla back under the umbrella of the true Church of Christ
as many had fall away into various other paths of inactivity or corrupt worship as mislead by
such false teachers as Nehor.
Alma's Missionary efforts where motivated by his Revival efforts and all his missionary efforts
can be associated with the 7 or then more churches as first set out by his father Alma the
elder. While Alma the Younger's scripturalized missionary efforts only are recorded to have
reached 5 or perhaps 6 of the seven Church regions, those which he did reach scripturally can
actually be grouped into three results. The Zarahemla central mission, the Gideon Mission and
the Melek mission turned out to be nothing more than stregthening revivals of the faith. The
Ammonihah mission was actually his greatest challenge and God's hand of providence was a
defining function of that mission mission. And the mission to Antionum to the Zoramites was
largely defined by the division of the people into secession and expulsion. And these missionary
efforts of the Revival Missions can be marked by four land regions which further hint of the
locations of the 7 or more church and civil jurisdicion provinces.
Alma's Revitalization Mission to the Nation of Zarahemla was a masterful plan. It considered
all the currently inhabited lands of the Nation of Zarahemla. Alma's Mission was to begin in
86 B.C., the year he stepped down from being the High Chief Judge over the entire nation in
lieu of Nephihah, to take the gospel to the Nation of Zarahemla. Alma's plan had divided the
Nation of Zarahemla geographically into regions and according to the locations of the churches
and their population centers. He was not going to be able to achieve all his efforts in just
one year, so he scaled his efforts to match with the various regions he intended to cover.
A land review of such regions will be enlightening coupled with what the Book of Mormon reports
and Alma the younger's times spent. This review is built upon the conception suggested by my
grandfather's 1906 edition of the triple combination wherein Alma 2:15 it is reference noted
'g' that the river Sidon was 'Supposed to be [the] Magdalena' river of Colombia in South
America. With the Times and Seasons 'Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith' that Lehi landed
a little south of the Isthmus of Darien (TPJS p. 267), this was not a bad conclusion.
Four Geographic Regions of Zarahemla on a Map of Colombia
To understand Alma's logical break down of the land, one must understand two things. The
first is just what the name Zarahemla usage really was referring to in terms of geographic
meaning. The name Zarahemla could actually be used in four different geographical references.
First from largest to smallest, Zarahemla was the entire Nation of the Nephites, meaning all
the cities, lands, and peoples of the Nephites north of their old Land of Nephi, now occupied
by the Lamanites, to the narrow neck of land which lead north and was border by the land called
Desolation. Alma chapter 22 verses 27-34 give a very good period description supplied by Mormon
as a period peice which he must have either copied, abriged or deduced form either a map or other
such descriptive items at this juncture of time about 90 B.C. Second, Zarahemla was also a
regional state or provincial area which could include other lands and cities. In terms of the
geography of Colombia, this would entail the whole of the central Sidon or Magdalena River
Valley and from the named cities therein it would be Zarahemla city and Minon to the north
though the Book of Mormon does allude to others center of the land cities as well. Thrid,
Zarahemla could also just refer to the immediate land or suburbs surrounding the walled city
called Zarahemla including such rual areas, farms and villages. There is a similar situation in
the State, County, and City of New York with its three differing geographical inferences. It
is also similar to Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City with its two geographical inferences,
only Zarahemla had four such levels of inference. The fourth geographical reference was to the
city of Zarahemla proper, likely that which may have been within the walls of the city like
I will further attempt to explain what each of the four geographical inferences of Zarahemla
actually included. The Nation of Zarahemla included the entire country and in terms of the
proposed model, this basically would include the whole of what is Colombia today, more or less.
The Regional State or provincial inference would be that central heart of the land that
Zarahemla referred to and in the case of the presented model this would include the whole of the
central valley of the Sidon River. This would include Minon and the land of Minon and such as
might have been the land of David (Mormon 2:5) and many other primary cities in the capital
parts of the land (Helaman 1:27) that were north of Zarahemla in the central valley on the way
to Bountiful, for certainly Amilici and his 'kingmen' came from the north and not from Minon
which was south. Yet such cites and lands of the coast of the Sidon such as possibly Mulek and
such as the land and cities of the higland Sidon head waters like that of Manti would be beyond
this capital, central and heart region called Zarahemla of that respect. Now whether the region
of the central valley of the Sidon or Magdalena River valley was considered a 'quarter' of the
land as later referenced or just as the central heart land with 'quarters' of the land round
about on the four sides, is a further topic covered when Captiam Moroni and the Nephite -
Lamanites wars would take place thus associated. But for now this Regional land of Zarahemla
would be those lands and cities and such as lay in that entire central valley, which.
marked the Center of the land. Now there was also the local land of Zarahemla. This, like
Salt Lake County included whatever communities surround Salt Lake such as Sandy, Murray,
Sugar House, Highland, etc. Then of course, there is again the formal City of Zarahemla with
its city limits immediate to the city community and its center. These are the four geographical
inferences of the name of Zarahemla that may have been used indiscriminately and thus cause
some confusion to the Book of Mormon reader who on the one had might attempt to mark such as
Bountiful not a part of Zarahemla in one respect but certainly from the national perspective
Bountiful was a part of the nation of Zarahemla just as Palmyra or Madison was a part of the
state of New York but not of the county, city or even region of New York city. And yes,
Zarahemla was that big and full of cities bound together as observed by Mormon when he traveled
there at what must have been at its height of development.
The further geography of the land is a second thing to understand about Alma's logical break
down of the land relative to his mission. Colombia has three major Andean mountain ranges,
the western range, the centeral range, and the eastern range. With in these three mountain
ranges are two wide interior valleys and several other tributary valleys, some of significance.
Alma divided the land into four geographical sectors according to the land's inhabited regions,
not just necessarily according to its geography, although both came into play as they related
to each other. The two major mountain valleys of the Cauca River and the Magdalena or Sidon
River, made up the western and centeral regions of the land. A third distinct or region
was that of a major tributary valley of Gideon that was off of the major Sidon River valley of
the central region which rose to a plateau region running to the eastern. And then the land east
of the eastern range of mountains to the sea east made up the fourth region and that of we can
conclude as part of the mission efforts of Alma. The western seacoast of the land beyond the
western range was basically non-inhabitable due to the mangrove swamps and marshes that filled
almost all of the western coast line of the land Colombia. Coming up is a map which
will help in this visualization.
Combining the Book of Mormon text to this discussed geography of Colombia gives many
interesting contributing understandings to apply Alma's missions to the Colombia topology,
though today we are post the earth changing events occurred at the time of the death of Christ
changed much of the Americas landscape, and gives reason to why the whole of Colombia does not
seem to match what else is given about Zarahemla and the Colombian topological features today.
Thus the analysis is given here with the realization that land changes may well differ in
a number of respects of the map today compared to Alma's Zarahemla nation some 100+ years before
Christ's death events.
The map utilized here shows various ancient populated areas of Colombia though not
necessarily those of the Nephite eras of 90 B.C. The map is further
altered to help in the visualization of the four regions of the Nephites of
Alma's missionary era, 1 Central Region of the Sidon river valley of Zarahemla, 2 Western
Region of that parallel river valley, 3 Gideon Region east tributary valley, and
4 Eastern Region south of Antionum.
Sidon/Magdalena River valley including
Minon, Zarahemla local city precinct and all other lands and
cities in that valley north to south with perhaps the San Agustin upper
area being near or a part of the Manti highlands.
Western Cauca Region
The western parallel valley by its modern
name, the Cauca River Valley. This included the Land and precinct of Melek
in the upper highland or southern valley and the Ammonihah precinct accessible
by a 3 day down river trip, including such as Noah and Sidom in the lower
The Valley of Gideon is the third region and its own precinct. It
included the lands, cities, towns, and villages of the Valley of
Gideon up to the plateau of Bogota and represents one access route from
the central Sidon valley to the Eastern Plains Region.
Eastern Plains Region
The fouth region was the largest in
size, but it was the least populated. It
included the city of Aaron, possibly on the western edge of
the Orinoco Plains to the sea
coast of the Eastern (Amazon) Sea including the Land of Jershon.
Note: When Alma left the Amonihah precinct of the lower valley
of Region 2, to go to the Eastern Region where the city of Aaron was, it was
easier to take the low land southern route to the east than to go back up the
up the river valley and/or over the mountainous 'Hermounts' wilderness west
and north of Zarahemla and then up the Sidon valley to Aaron via the Gideon
Also Note: Click on the image above to be taken to the original
map and notice how, without any real attempt to manipulate the information,
the lands of Zarahemla fall right into place even to the detail of the Gideon
Valley off to the east of the land of Zarahemla.
Before proceeding further, I pause to comment on a unique oddity at this point.
Alma's missions reported in the Book of Mormon do not account for all the 'lands and
churches', as they end with the accounts of those identifiable regions of Zarahamela,
Gideon, Melek, Ammonihah, and Antionun, whose descriptions match the modern day map
of Colombia for those particular regions. It does not devote specific Alma missionary
effort to Manti, Bountiful or even Jershon though we know that Jershon did exist then
and was possibly where the city of Aaron was located that Alma once attempt to journey
to before stopped by an angel of the Lord and told to return to Ammonihah. What is
piculiar is because of the land differences today, those land regions, particularly of
Jershon do not exactly match today's mapping of Colombia. It is known that once there
was an Amazon Sea that would serve as the East Sea - Science, Bible and Scriptures
not agreeing as to time and events such as Noah's flood, the dividing of the land in
the Days of Peleg rather than hundreds of thousands of years ago according to scientific
theory. And with the variance of the timing of the dividing of the land in Peleg's time
we do have a working scenario for the existance of the Amazon Sea as the East Sea of
the Book of Mormon, rather than working with Science's conclusions. Even today there is
a water way division of the land as the Orinoco river and the Amazon river to connect
by a natural canal of water. That is you can boat up the Amazon into the interior and
make your way back out to sea via the Orinoco river if you know your water ways.
All that would be left to make the fit complete is to have an 'earth shattering
event such as the Book of Mormon discribes at the death of Christ. Some belittle
that into a 'local' event other take the Book of Mormon at its word that it changes
the geopraphy of the lands of American to where what was solid connected land was
raised up and could be seen as to its land stratification seams after the event. Such
an acceptance of a great event like that could account for the difference in Columbia's
north west qaurter. Which being first and foremost a faith based intellectual I
accept. Some time in earths history land masses 'collide', raise mountains, drain seas,
and fill in areas once below and/or above sea. Science just doesn't like it happening
quickly and during the life time of man. The Bible and scripture puts such events
into the life span of man since the days of Adam. Who am I, a faith based intellectual
going to believe, the scriptures or man?
Now as for Columbia's northern lowland regions, some 2,000 years since
Alma's nation of Zarahemla being a part of that nation back then, one must
first consider the earth changing events at the death of Christ and the fact
that many of these low land areas are still threatened by the sea today and
that they are not stable in their nature due to today's flooding of their
interior regions. The uplift at the time of Christ's death may have began to alter
the land and eventuate into their further creation. They may not have even been a
connected part of the nation of Zarahemla of Alma's era.
Now Alma's plan was comprehensive. It included all the populated lands of
of the Nephites including the 7+ provencial domains at the date of 86BC,
which were likely associated with the 'seven churches' and their so related
precincts, which may well have included the Zoramite lands as a separate precinct,
the Bountiful region and/or even the upper highlands of the Manti regions not necessarily
included in those regions and precinct so already mentioned. So a second map roughed out
from including such things and the Alma's 22:27-34 discription is here also presented.
Alma begins his mission with the Zarahemla Church established at the City of Zarahemla.
Alma 5 gives the sermon that Alma delived at what must have been a great 'Stake Conference'
gathering of all the members of the Church from the cities round about the valley, sort of
like the address of King Benjamin or at Conference time at Temple Square. This was in the year
of about 83 B.C. and if the years were as in Jerusalem it may have been round about passover
time in the spring of the year at the first of the year. With the people all having come to
Alma, Alma had plenty of time that year to continue on his ministry to the near by 'Stake
Center Church' of the Gideon valley. His message and an abridgment of his ministry there in
Gideon is read in Alma 6 and 7. After that Alma returns to his home in Zarahemla city and rests
himself. If you make it a limited model he is done in a month. If it is a greater sized
land and people, then he has spent most of the year of 83 B.C. before he rests up for the
next year's missionary efforts to the west.
Then is 82 B.C., the 10th year of the judges, 'Alma departs from Zarahemla and takes his
journey "over into" the land of
Melek west of the river Sidon. John Sorenson in his writings points out that such words as
'over' and 'into' have meaning as to course of travel. I agree, because Alma went 'over' the
Central Cordilleras and thence 'into' the valley of the Cauca River which included the land
in its upper valley, and down river would be Ammonihah with Noah and Sidom. Alma Chapter 8
reports that Alma has great success in Melek where the people came in from all the border
of Melek and he taught all the people of Melek and the people were baptized throughout all
the land. I like to think that will the name of 'Melek' this was were the righteous people
of and with King Limhi did settle. And then chapter 8 continues that that same year Alma
did journey 3 days north to the land of Ammonihah which was named after its founder
Ammonihah. Now 3 days by foot isn't a very great distance. But 3 days boating down
river can be over 200 miles distance. Thus there is really very little in ability to
determine the land size from Alma's 3 day journey to Ammonihah.
Because of the events that Alma would experience in Ammonihah, I preclude that it was
a mix of the people of King Limhi who settled there from righteous to wicked. The
city seems influence by the teaching of Nehor which did stem out of the very courts
of wicked King Noah. And in fact Ammonihah's neighboring city was called Noah. The reason
I make this presumption is that the events of wicked of King Noah's people were to burn
the righteous of King Noah's people who believed in Christ in fulfilling the prophecies
of Abinadi. Alma's missionary work with Amulek at Ammonihah take the remainder of 82 B.C.
and into 81 B.C. By which time the wicked of Ammonihah have burned the wives and children
of those who believed in Christ and vanquished their men who believed in Christ, imprisoned
Alma and Amulek, and Alma and Amulek have come over to Sidom where the righteou refugees
found asylum and they formed a church there in Sidom this all reported in Alma 8-15. And
them Alma and Amulek together return to Zarahemla.
By now Alma has completed at least half his task of reclaiming and revitalizing the Church of
God in the land of Zarahemla. The Churh at Zarahemla had been ministered to, the Chruch at
Gideon had been ministered to, the Chruch at Meek had been ministered to, the Church at
Ammonihah had been ministered and the leaders of that provincial city had reject the message
and either burned or cast out the righteous from among them. And Alma and Amulek did estabish
a Church in Sidom which would replace the Chruch at Ammonihah. But Alma and Amulek were not
able to continue on with the remainder of Alma's administration tasks as there had come the
events of War upon the land of Zarahemla by Lamanite Attack. And the Lamanites had crept into
the land staying in the wilderness side of the west wilderness. Whether they had made the
mistake of the Limhi explores and thought themselves in the valley of Zarahemla or not is
unknown, but they crept by Melek, perhaps thinking it either Manti and/or Minon, so as not
to set off an alarm and went directly to the city of Ammonihah, which was ripened unto
destruction because of their wickedness and the Lamanites totally destroyed the city. And
they went on to the city of Noah and beat those of that city and took many of them captives
with them to return to the Land of the Lamanites with.
Now despite the war event which may momentarily posponed the mission of Alma, chapter 16 reports
just after giving the 78 B.C. date mark (Alma 16:12) that Alma and Amulek went forth preaching
unto the people in their temples, sanctuaries, and synagogues. And they did so throughout
the land likely to such as Aaron of Jershon and perhaps Bountiful and they were on their way
about 71 B.C. from the land of Gideon south towards the land of Manti. [Here in lies a hint
as to Captain Moroni's short cut to beat the combined army of Zoramites and Lamanites to
Manti] And Alma and Amulek met with the sons of Mosiah and the converted Lamanites with them
from the Land of Nephi. And it was a space of time of placing the Lamanites first in the land
of Jershon, which was likely similar to the lands they had lived in near the sea.
The Book of Mormon then takes a jump of 10 chapters to give a parallel time account of
the work of the sons of Mosiah and their missions unto the Lamanites (Alma 17-26).
Alma had completed the first three phases of his four regions missionary plan by 81BC. He
had yet to begin his mission to the fourth region or quarter, the Eastern Quarter. Alma having spent much time and suffering many events in the Western Quarter, he and Amulek had returned to Zarahemla rather than to go to Aaron at that juncture. Then the Lamanites invaded and destroyed Ammonihah and Noah. Then insued peace for a number of years in the which Alma and Amulek finished the missionary revival throughout the land and likely began revisiting the established areas of the Church.
It was during this Status Quo Mission period, in the course of carrying
the gospel from place to place that Alma and Amulek encounter the returning sons of Mosiah with their converted Lamanite hosts in 78BC. Alma and Amulek where traveling toward Manti when they encountered them. Thus began the time of establishing the people of Ammon in the land of Jershon and the next round of the Lamanite wars. When these wars where completed a man named Korihor, an antichrist came and influenced many from the Gospel including the Zoramites who dissented from the Nephites and relocated to the eastern sea shore in the land of Antionum by 74BC. After the disposition of Korihor, Alma organizes the mission to the Zoramites who having removed themselves from the rest of the Nephites posed an additional threat. They had not only dissented from the true religion but they had moved to the southeast and built a city called Antionum. Alma feared that since they had forsaken Christ and dissented from the rest of the Nephites and established their own city and land bordering the lands of the Lamanites that they might next dissent over to the Lamanites. Thus began the Mission to the Zoramites.
The mission to the Zoramites was successful and it was not successful. The poor of the Zoramites where converted and after being expelled from the land of the Zoramites, they came and lived with the people of Jershon, Jershon being the land just north of the land of Antionum. The rest of the Zoramites resented that their expelled poor had obtained lands and refuge in Jershon and they contended with and sought to war against Jershon and the Zoramites there. It was during this course of events, that the Zoramites in Antionum did join with the Lamanites. Moroni had to vacate the people of Ammon out of Jershon for their own safety for they would not fight to defend themselves according to their oath with God. And Moroni would established defended cities between the lands of the Zoramites and the Nephites. This included Nephihah on the plains between Antionum and the borders of Jershon, and Moroni on the eastern sea between the two lands. Antionum itself had become confederate with and a part of the Lamanites lands from this time forth.
At this juncture we have completely lapsed from the missionary scene to
that of the scene of war and those events and effects will be covered under
that topic. As for Alma and his missionary work, he continued to preach the
gospel and in 73BC was last seen traveling to Melek, one of his favorite
missionary lands in the Western Region. He had blessed his sons and had set
everything in order. Alma is said to have been taken to the Lord as was
Moses, not tasting of death.