Sunday School Lesson 26

Lesson 26: Alma 23-29

Those who may not have a printed lesson manual can find it here.

At the heart of this material we have the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, converts of the sons of Mosiah. That story has a great deal to teach us today, but it may not be what we expect, whether we read it as a story of pacifism or as something else.

Chapter 23

Verses 2-3: The king of the Lamanites has been converted and decrees protection for the missionaries. He does so in order that “the word of God might have no obstruction” (which seems to be the same as going “forth throughout the land”) and so that people will obey the commandments (“that they ought not to murder,” etc.). He also does so in order “that his people might be convinced concerning the wicked traditions of their fathers, and that might be convinced that they were all brethren.” Are being convinced that the traditions of the fathers are wicked and being convinced that they are all brethren two things or one? If two, how are they related? Do we have wicked traditions that we have inherited? If so, what might some examples of them be? Do those traditions interfere with our ability to see others as our brothers and sisters?

Verse 6: What can we make of the fact that none of these Lamanite converts ever fell away? Does that say something about them? about the missionaries who taught them? neither? both? Is it just a fact with no other significance? If that, why is it mentioned in the scriptures?

Verse 7: Why are their weapons of war called “weapons of rebellion”? Against whom were they rebelling? The Nephites? They warred against them, but would that be called rebellion? As we have it, this verse equates being righteous with laying down their weapons. Why? Is Alma 26:32 relevant?

Verses 8-15: In some cities and regions all or almost of the inhabitants are converted and in others none or almost none are. What would account for these differences?

Verse 16: Why do you think a new name would be so important to these converts? Do you have any ideas as to why they might have chosen the name that they did? Your guess would be as good as anyone else’s. In Commentary on the Book of Mormon Reynolds and Sjodahl suggest that the word anti seems to have meant “hill” or “region of hills.” Many Book of Mormon scholars have suggested that the “Nephi-Lehi” part of the name refers to the lands of Nephi and Lehi rather than to their descendants. However Hugh Nibley tells us that the IndoEuropean root is relevant:”to imitate” or “face-to-face” (though he doesn’t explain why the IndoEuropean root rather than the Semitic root is relevant—Teachings of the Book of Mormon, vol. 2). On that evidence,”Anti-Nephi-Lehies” could mean “those who imitate Nephi and Lehi” or it could mean “those who bring together the Nephite and Lehite traditions.” Kent P. Jackson suggests that the name means “descendants of Lehi who are not descendants of Nephi” (Studies in Scripture, vol. 7). Note that this name doesn’t stick; they are later referred to as “the people of Ammon.” Why do you think they were called that rather than “the people of the sons of Mosiah”? (See Alma 27:26.)

Chapter 24

Verses 12-13: Why does king Anti-Nephi-Lehi command that the people should not take up arms against the Lamanites who were about to attack? If they were to take up their swords again, it would be in self-defense. So why does he worry that if they were to do so, the Atonement might not apply to them any longer? Does the Anti-Nephi-Lehi experience tell us anything about our own repentance?

Verse 15: How does the king explain the symbolism of hiding away their swords?

Verse 18: What is the significance of this testimony? What does bearing this testimony require if it is to continue to be a true testimony?

Verse 21: Why do the Anti-Nephi-Lehies go out to meet the Lamanites? Wouldn’t it have been better to wait for them to arrive? The covenant that they made didn’t require that they offer themselves for slaughter, did it?

Verses 23-24: What does this experience teach us about our own relations with others?

Verses 28-30: Why is it significant that none of the Nehors were converted? Mormon, the editor, interrupts his narrative here to write in his own voice: “And thus we can plainly discern.” How is Mormon’s observation important to us?

Chapter 25

Verse 1: Why do the unconverted Lamanites leave off killing the Anti-Nephi-Lehies and turn on the Nephites?

Verses 15-16: The sacrifices of the law of Moses were a type of Christ’s sacrifice, of course, but how was the law a type of his coming? Is there a connection between the covenant that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies have made and their understanding of the law of Moses?

Chapter 26

Verses 1-9: We usually think of blessings as good things that come to us. Why is it a blessing (verse 2) to be an instrument in God’s hands (verse 3)? Does that suggest that perhaps we should reconsider how we think about blessings?

Verse 10: What in Ammon’s exulting might have made Aaron think that Ammon had begun to boast? Why is Aaron so concerned about that possibility? Is Mosiah 4:5-11 relevant?

Verses 11-12 and 16: Why does Ammon call what he has been doing both boasting (verse 12) and rejoicing (verses 11 and 16)?

Verse 17: What does Ammon find amazing about the Gospel? How does that apply to him personally? to the Anti-Lehi-Nephies? to us?

Verse 22: What mysteries does Ammon have in mind? Has he been speaking of them in the previous verses, such as verse 17?

Verse 35: Is Ammon using hyperbole here? If not, how can this be true?

Chapter 29

Verses 1-2: What does Alma desire?

Verses 3-4: Why is his desire sinful? Is “sinful” too strong a word, or does Alma really mean what that word connotes? If Alma isn’t using hyperbole when he calls his desire sinful, what in our own experience might be comparable? How do we avoid such sin? What does it mean to say that the Lord grants “unto men according to their desire”? Does that suggest anything about the nature of reward and punishment in the Gospel?

Verse 5: How does this verse qualify what Alma taught in verse 4?

Verse 6: Alma speaks here of his desires and what he should desire. How is that related to what he has just said about desire?

Verse 9: How is what Alma says here related to Moses 1:39?

Verse 10: How is Alma’s missionary experience related to his own history?

Verses 11-12: How is it related to the experience of his ancestors? Is there a common theme in these three events, the conversion of the Lamanites, Alma’s conversion, and the history of Alma’s ancestors?

Verse 16: What is Alma talking about here? If we were traditional Christians who believe that the body is an impediment to spiritual experience rather than something necessary for becoming like our Father, this verse would be easy to explain. How do we explain it as LDS?

My thanks to Angela Wentz Faulconer, my daughter-in-law, for her suggestion that I add links to the scripture verses.

6 comments for “Sunday School Lesson 26

  1. james turner
    July 5, 2004 at 8:23 pm

    the anti-nephi-lehi account is truly one of the most interesting accounts to be found in any religious canon. As a student of Gandhian thought, I find it extremely interesting that the Anti-Nephi-Lehis might be the first group (several centuries before Gandhi) in any religious canon to adopt nonviolent resistance as a counter to violence. It worked for the Anti Nephi Lehis just as it did for the Gandhian Satyagrahis…as soon as the agressors began to kill unarmed individuals, their hearts were troubled and they ceased in their bloodshed.

  2. July 6, 2004 at 3:14 pm

    I’ve already posted some pretty strong thoughts about Anti-Nephi-Lehis in the past. I would categorize them as repentant murderers and not as pacifists.

    Despite that, it is intriguing to see the effect of Ghandian non-violence, of prayerfully refusing to take up arms and accepting a violent death, in preference to defending oneself. Obviously this had a very powerful and disconcerting effect on the enemy combatants, whose conscious began to sting them in the process of killing these people who refused to defend themselves.

    This is especially interesting to think of in the context of keeping covenants. How many people would go to this kind of length to keep a covenant they made with God? Most of us find the preservation of life a pretty compelling reason to do ANYTHING. Obviously the preservation of their own lives was not their highest priority.

  3. greenfrog
    July 6, 2004 at 9:03 pm

    A distraction, perhaps, from the main thrust of this thread, but these passages of scripture make me wonder about how “real” symbolic actions are or should be, and why.

  4. July 6, 2004 at 9:32 pm

    Greenfrog: I’m not sure how to deal with this excellent question in a relatively brief post, but my answer would be that the distinction between the symbolic and the real is a misleading distinction. The experience of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies demonstrates this vividly, but I think the same is true even in other “merely” symbolic actions. (It will not surprise you, then, that though I do not subscribe to the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, I have considerable sympathy for it, though not for its orthodox explanation.)

    I hate to plug my own stuff, but you might be interested in my discussion of that issue in “Scripture as Incarnation,” _Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures_. Ed. Paul Y. Hoskisson. Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center Brigham Young University, 2001, 17-61. The discussion of the Sacrament and of the doctrine of transubstantiation is the section where I deal most directly with your question.

  5. greenfrog
    July 7, 2004 at 12:31 am

    Thanks for the reference. I will hunt up a copy, especially after reading the warm and fuzzy promo blurb on the Center’s website:

    …there is no middle ground for those who claim a general faith in the Restoration while diluting the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. ;-)

  6. jblanger
    July 18, 2004 at 3:20 am

    I find that the ALNs, when all was said and done, realized that death wasn’t the end, and defending their lives by killing was not neccessary because it wasn’t the end of their lives. They had been taught by angels, remember, and they knew of the coming of Christ, they knew of the Plan of Salvation, and knew that it really wasn’t a big deal to die. BUT, the idea of killing someone in defense of something that wasn’t relevant on the eternal scale could cost them eternal salvation and THAT is what they cared more about than anything. If only people lived that way now.

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