Mosiah 28:1 the sons of Mosiah...desired...that they might impart the word of God to their brethren, the Lamanites
Few missionary endeavors in the history of the world can be compared to the task which the sons of Mosiah are planning. They actually desire to preach the gospel to their enemies. A modern corollary would be for an American missionary to try to preach the gospel to the Iraqis after the Desert Storm conflict of the early 90's. Just as any American would be foolhardy to try to attempt to preach to their political and philosophical enemies, the sons of Mosiah are planning the unthinkable-to be missionaries to a people who think nothing of killing Nephites. They are just as likely to be killed as they are to convert anyone. Yet they are undaunted. Their plan is outlandish, ambitious, and aggressive. The faithless would argue that it is, at the same time, naïve, shortsighted and overzealous. The faithless in Zarahemla thought this plan was ridiculous, and, as Ammon later said, they laughed us to scorn (Alma 26:23). Elder F. Burton Howard describes the events of Alma 26.
F. Burton Howard
"Ammon tells about his decision to go on a mission and the blessing it is to be an instrument 'in the hands of God' (verse 3). He talks about how his friends gathered around to give him a scornful, mocking farewell. They laughingly asked if he supposed he could bring the heathen 'to the knowledge of the truth,' or if he supposed he could 'convince the Lamanites of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers' (verse 24).
"His friends reminded him that the Lamanites were difficult-that they delighted in shedding blood, that their days had been spent in grossest iniquity, and that their 'ways [had] been the ways of a transgressor from the beginning' (verse 24). They suggested that they would be better off taking up arms against the Lamanites and destroying them, lest they should someday overrun the Nephites (see verse 25).
"Notwithstanding this kind of negative peer pressure, Ammon went on a mission with the hope that, as he put it, he 'might save some few of their souls' (verse 26)." (Heroes from the Book of Mormon, p. 122)
Mosiah 28:3 they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature
One might ask, "where does this desire for the salvation of mankind come from?" Why weren't the sons of Mosiah content to preach the gospel to their own people and attend to their church duties like everyone else? The answer comes from their great desire for their fellow beings. This desire is one of the greatest expressions of charity that can be demonstrated. Their concern was not for themselves or their own people; they were worried about the salvation of the Lamanites. They were about to find out that it would take all the characteristics of charity to be successful in such a bold endeavor. Indeed, they would be required to suffer long, be kind, envy not, be humble, behave not unseemly, seek not their own, nor be easily provoked (see 1 Cor 13:4-5).
The sons of Mosiah teach us that missionary work is one of the most beautiful expressions of charity. The pure love of Christ extends to every creature on the face of the earth with the corresponding desire to do that which will be of greatest worth for both the missionary and his people. President George Albert Smith prayed that all the saints would have this kind of charity.
George Albert Smith
"Missionary work requires sacrifice. I pray that the Spirit of God may burn in the bosoms of the Latter-day Saints; that the love and charity our Father has for his children may be ours; that we may rejoice when we see his children understanding the truth and that we may be willing to make what may sometimes be termed a sacrifice; that we may be willing to make the investment to bless our kind, going forth with all our might to bring light and salvation to the children of men by preaching unto them the restored gospel of our Lord." (Conference Reports, June 1919, p. 44)
Mosiah 28:3 they could not bear that any human soul should perish
"As Lehi, Enos, the Sons of Mosiah, and Adam and Eve felt the joy of the gospel, they all wanted to share it with others. When we are as truly converted we will want to share the gospel with others as they did. That is a true measure of our personal conversion. When we are converted and we will feel the joy of the gospel, we desire to share it with others. If we feel no joy and/or have no desire to share the gospel with others, we probably are not truly converted." (Peterson, H. Donl, Tate, Charles D. Jr., The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations from God, pp. 43-44, James R. Moss)
Carlos E. Asay
"(Speaking of Mosiah 28:3-4) This and other scriptures describe a marvelous phenomenon which occurs among men when the light of the gospel illuminates their lives. Almost instinctively, it seems, that light of truth sparks a desire to share. When our minds are expanded by new knowledge, we want others to know; when our spirits are elevated by heavenly influence, we want others to feel; and when our lives are filled with goodness, we want others, particularly those whom we love, to enjoy similar experiences." (Conference Report, Oct. 1976)
Mosiah 28:4 they suffered much anguish of soul...fearing that they should be cast off forever
Truly, the sons of Mosiah had greater desires for missionary work than most. This is in part because of the pains they had experienced at the time of their conversion. Their pains must have been as acute as were Alma's which were described as follows, I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins...I was tormented with the pains of hell...the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror (Alma 36:12-14). Having tasted so vividly of the pains of hell, Alma and his brethren were horrified with the thought that any should have to suffer such pain. This became a great motivating factor, and it explains why those who have not tasted pains to this degree often lack the same degree of motivation.
This leads us to a second important point. The sons of Mosiah demonstrate that the very vilest of sinners can become the most useful of instruments in the hands of the Lord. This should be a great source of hope for those who have sinned and may have considered themselves unworthy to serve the Lord. Such self-deprecation is a lie taught by the evil one to keep them from reaching their potential, which, indeed, may be as great as that of the sons of Mosiah. Those who have sinned and repented often make the best counselors and missionaries because of a greater capacity to understand and empathize with those racked with sin.
Mosiah 28:7 Let them go up...I will deliver thy sons out of the hands of the Lamanites
Mosiah's natural concern for his sons was that they would be killed by the Lamanites. Here, the Lord blesses him according to his desires by not only promising his sons success but guaranteeing that they will not be destroyed. Mosiah could not have heard a more comforting message. Mosiah apparently told his sons of this promise because this was a source of strength for Ammon who later stood against those who had scattered the flocks of the king. These thieves did not fear Ammon, for they supposed that one of their men could slay him according to their pleasure, for they knew not that the Lord had promised Mosiah that he would deliver his sons out of their hands (Alma 17:35). See also Alma 19:22.
Mosiah 28:10 There was not any of his sons who would accept of the kingdom
Why would the sons of Mosiah all refuse the kingdom? Couldn’t they do a great work for the people as a righteous monarch? The pattern for the Nephites since Nephi was to be led by a king and it had been a great blessing, but something happened in the days of Mosiah which changed things. Later in the chapter, we read that Mosiah translated the record of the Jaredites. “Now this account did cause the people of Mosiah to mourn exceedingly” (v. 18).
When the Nephites read the account of the Jaredites, they learned how dangerous it is when conflict arises over who should be king. The single most common cause of conflict among the Jaredites stems from sons fighting for the throne.
- Corihor… rebelled against his father (Ether 7:4)
- Shule was angry with his brother (Ether 7:8)
- Noah rebelled against Shule, the king, and also his father Corihor (Ether 7:15)
- The sons of Shule crept into the house of Noah by night and slew him (Ether 7:18)
- The country was divided; and there were two kingdoms (Ether 7:20)
- Jared rebelled against his father Omer (Ether 8:2)
- Esrom and Coriantumr (sons of Omer)… did raise an army and gave battle unto Jared (Ether 8:5)
The fight to be king was always ugly. It was always family fighting against family. It involved secret combinations and murder. The kingdom was always divided. It proved the final destruction of the Jaredites. The Nephites had just learned this important lesson and the sons of Mosiah were not about to start down this ugly road.
Mosiah 28:11 all the things which he had kept and preserved
This phrase refers to the items which were kept by the custodian of the records and includes the Liahona, the sword of Laban, and the Urim and Thummim. In addition, we get a sense for what records Mosiah had at the time. He would have had the brass plates of Laban, the small plates of Nephi, the large plates of Nephi, the record of Zeniff (which probably were incorporated into the large plates of Nephi), and the record of the Jaredites (the plates of gold).
Mosiah 28:13 he translated them
Mosiah was a seer and used this power to translate the record of the Jaredites. What is interesting is that Mosiah acted as seer and not Alma. It is apparent that Mosiah had the power of seership well before Alma showed up in Zarahemla (Mosiah 8:13-14). However, when Alma arrived, Mosiah apparently recognized his capacity for spiritual leadership and gave him power over the churches of Zarahemla (Mosiah 25:19). He was given stewardship over all church administrative matters. This is especially evident in the incident of the sinners of the church found in Mosiah 26. Mosiah, as king, declined judgment to Alma who was apparently the presiding authority for the churches (Mosiah 26:12). In this situation, we see Alma inquiring for divine communication on church government and receiving an answer directly from the Lord. Yet in Mosiah 28, we see the king and seer, Mosiah, inquiring of the Lord regarding the missionary requests of his sons. Mosiah also received an answer directly from the Lord. He also translated the record of the Jaredites as a seer, which we know is a calling greater than that of a prophet. Thus, Mosiah was the king, prophet, and seer, and Alma was the prophet to whom was given administrative stewardship over the church. Their roles were different but equally necessary.
Mosiah 28:13 two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow
Here, we get a rare description of the Urim and Thummim (literally "lights and perfections"). This must have been the Urim and Thummim given to the brother of Jared (Ether 3:23-4). The Urim and Thummim consisted of a breastplate to which were attached some sort of metal pieces, called silver bows, which positioned the stones before the face of the interpreter. The stones spoken of became like translucent lenses through which the interpreter looked in order to read and translate other languages. The best physical description of an Urim and Thummim is as follows: "two transparent stones set in the rim of a [silver] bow fastened to a breast plate" (HC 4:537; JS-H 1:35).
Joseph Fielding Smith
"The Lord gave to the brother of Jared the Urim and Thummim which he brought with him to this continent. These were separate and distinct from the Urim and Thummim had by Abraham and in Israel in the days of Aaron. ...
"...King Mosiah possessed '. . . two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow' called by the Nephites 'Interpreters,' with which he translated the Jaredite record, and these were handed down from generation to generation for the purpose of interpreting languages. How Mosiah came into possession of these 'two stones' or Urim and Thummim, the record does not tell us, more than to say that it was a 'gift from God.' Mosiah had this 'gift' or Urim and Thummim before the people of Limhi discovered the record of Ether. They may have been received when the 'large stone' was brought to Mosiah with engravings upon it, which he interpreted by the 'gift and power of God. (Omni 1:20)' They may have been given to him, or to some other prophet before his day, just as the brother of Jared received them--from the Lord.
"BROTHER OF JARED AND MOSIAH HAD SAME STONES
"That the Urim and Thummim, or two stones, given to the brother of Jared were those in the possession of Mosiah appears evident..." (Answers to Gospel Questions, vol 1, pp. 159-161)
Mosiah 28:16 whosoever has these things is called seer
A seer is greater than a prophet. For a discussion of this doctrine see commentary for Mosiah 8:15.
Mosiah 28:17 it gave an account of the people who were destroyed
The people who were destroyed obviously refers to the Jaredites. What is not said is that the 24 plates of gold which Mosiah translates include a vision of the brother of Jared which is not revealed to the people at this time. It is not revealed because the doctrine in it is too sacred. Some of this material was not to come forth until after the resurrection of the Savior (Ether 3:21), and some of it was not to come forth until the Gentiles...repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord. And...exercise faith in me...even as the brother of Jared did (Ether 4:7-8). The latter section still has not been revealed and is part of the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon.
Joseph Fielding Smith
"In translating this record Mosiah kept from going forth to the people that particular part forbidden of the Lord to be revealed until after he was lifted up upon the cross. These sacred revelations given to the brother of Jared were kept from the Nephite people, as well as many other things, until after the resurrection of Christ. After the appearing of the Savior to the Nephites, the vision of the brother of Jared was revealed to the Nephites. When Moroni made his abridgment of the record of Ether, he copied on his record the vision of the brother of Jared. At the command of the Lord, however, Moroni also sealed up the greater things in this vision and the
'interpreters'--which were the same 'two stones' had by the brother of Jared, so that this vision should not be made known even in our day among the Gentiles, in the day of their wickedness; ' . . . until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord.' (Ether 4:7) So we today do not have the fulness of the account written and sealed up by the brother of Jared and again sealed by Moroni. This part of the record the Prophet Joseph Smith was forbidden to translate. We have, then, received but the 'lesser part.'" (Answers to Gospel Questions, vol 1, p. 162)
Mosiah 28:20 Mosiah...took the plates...and conferred them upon Alma
Whenever a Book of Mormon prophet hands down the plates, it is because the prophet in question is anticipating his own death (Mosiah 29:46). All preparations must be made to establish a wise successor and place the sacred records in the hands of a worthy recipient. This is what Mosiah is doing in this chapter; he is preparing for his own death by defining a successor and a protector of the plates. The most likely candidates for both would have been his sons, but they were not interested in the throne of Zarahemla. It is interesting that Mosiah doesn't confer the plates on any of his righteous sons. Instead, he confers them upon Alma the younger. This may have been directed by the Lord or this may have been because his sons had already gone on their missionary endeavors amongst the Lamanites (Mosiah 29:3). Although his sons were worthy of the responsibility, Mosiah instead chooses Alma the younger, who had no plans to proselyte amongst the Lamanites and would therefore be in a better position to protect the records. He also became the first chief judge and high priest over the church (Mosiah 29:42).