Alma 27:1 Lamanites…found…that it was in vain to seek their destruction
After describing Ammon’s joy and rejoicing, Mormon returns to the narrative history. He picks up where he left off in Alma 25:13, where he said, And it came to pass that when the Lamanites saw that they could not overpower the Nephites they returned again to their own land. This Lamanite army was a diverse group of Lamanites, Amalekites, and Amulonites. By way of review, the Amulonites, or descendants of the wicked priests of Noah, were scattered, driven and executed according to the words of Abinadi (Alma 25:8-9). Some of the Lamanites were converted and joined the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi (Alma 25:14). The third group, the Amalekites, never tired of making life miserable for the righteous. Angry that they couldn’t kill more Nephites, they stirred up the Lamanites against the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi. We are approaching the section of the Book of Mormon which deals primarily with warfare. The Amalekites continue to be one of the main forces for destruction among the Lamanites, Zerahemnah appointed chief captains over the Lamanites, and they were all Amalekites and Zoramites. Now this he did that he might preserve their hatred towards the Nephites, that he might bring them into subjection to the accomplishment of his designs. For behold, his designs were to stir up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites (Alma 43:6-8).
Alma 27:2-3 they began again to destroy them
This time the Amalekites had amassed a more wicked army. They were not going to be affected again by the peaceful, faithful nature of their victims (Alma 24:21-26). Although we are not given specifics about the manner and number slaughtered, we do know that these converted Lamanites would not fight back, they would suffer death in the most aggravating and distressing manner which could be inflicted by their brethren (v. 29).
Alma 27:4 they were treated as though they were angels sent from God
Missionaries are wingless, mortal angels who are sent from God just as literally as those who abide with Him in his royal courts above. Many pray for an angelic visitation, and get a home teaching visit instead. The Lord doesn’t need to send angels to do things that his mortal servants are capable of doing for him. He doesn’t need to send angels with trumpets to declare salvation to the wicked of the world. Rather, he uses Mormon missionaries to do this for him. Elder Robert L. Simpson tells a story of how one man was visited by this kind of angel:
“[Elder Simpson] described an Englishman working in his flower bed on a Saturday morning. A voice from behind asked him: ‘Sir, do you love the Lord?’ The man turned around, ‘fully expecting to see an angel standing there; instead there were two angels, two Mormon missionaries,’ said Elder Simpson. ‘It was all so simple, so genuine. It was an approach that the Savior might have used.’” (Church News, 4/15/84)
Alma 27:9 It is against the law…that there should be any slaves
It is truly remarkable that the Nephites prohibited any form of slavery. In contrast, the United States government, which was established upon the principle that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” (Declaration of Independence) allowed such a depraved institution for almost 90 years of its history. Abraham Lincoln said, “There is only one question that you need to answer to know whether or not we should have slavery, and that is this: Is slavery right or is it wrong? Is it right for some men to hold other men in bondage?” The Nephites knew the answer to that fundamental question better than the founding fathers.
Alma 27:16 this was a joyful meeting
The joyful meeting between Alma and the sons of Mosiah is recorded in Alma 17:1-4. It has taken ten chapters of abridged history to tell the story of the sons of Mosiah.
Alma 27:21 the chief judge sent a proclamation…desiring the voice of the people
The Nephites are new at the concept of democracy. Although kings in the past had sought for the voice of the people (Mosiah 7:9; 22:1), they had just recently absolved the monarchy of king Mosiah and established a system of judges (Mosiah 29:25). In this instance, the chief judge, (possibly Nephihah who was appointed to fill the absence when Alma abdicated that responsibility, see Alma 4:17-19) doesn’t take it upon himself to make the decision. Wisely, he gives this responsibility to the people.
Interestingly, he does not give them a proposition on which to vote “for” or “against.” He leaves the entire proposition up to the people. They, as a group, come up with the idea to give up the land of Jershon for their brethren. This kind of democracy lays the responsibility at the feet of the people. Having made the decision themselves, they are much less likely to complain about the Anti-Nephi-Lehies when things get difficult.
Alma 27:23 we will set our armies…that we may protect our brethren
Racial prejudice, ingrained over generations, is rarely completely overcome. Yet, remarkably, the Nephites have no agenda for revenge. When those who had once been their enemies ask for forgiveness, it is granted. Though they had killed many Nephites in previous battles, the Nephites were still sympathetic even to the point of protecting them with their armies. This shows a spirit of mercy among the Nephites which is worthy of emulation. They were able to do more than just say, “your forgiven,” they were able to back up their words with their actions.
Spencer J. Condie
“The conversion of the war-mongering Lamanites who became the Anti-Nephi-Lehies was remarkable. But just as remarkable was the instant forgiveness of the Nephites, who apparently had friends and relatives who had been killed by the Anti-Nephi-Lehies prior to their conversion (see Alma 27:6). Conversion involves a mighty change of heart, a process experienced by both Anti-Nephi-Lehies and Nephites alike.” (Your Agency: Handle with Care, p. 106)
Alma 27:26 they were called by the Nephites the people of Ammon…ever after
Many have wondered about the name of Anti-Nephi-Lehi. Elaborate explanations have been given to explain how it doesn’t mean what it seems to mean. Yet, for a moment, let’s entertain the possibility that the name really meant “against Nephi and Lehi.” The king of the Lamanites had at least two sons, one was named Lamoni and the other was named Anti-Nephi-Lehi (Alma 24:3). Given Lamanite traditions, it would not be surprising if he gave one of his sons a name which was derogatory to the Nephites. Later, of course, all three of these Lamanite kings were converted to the gospel. Anti-Nephi-Lehi was made king prior to his father’s death (Alma 24:3). He became a great king and spiritual leader. Therefore, it is entirely possible that the people took the name of Anti-Nephi-Lehi not because they were against the Nephites, as the name suggests, but because they were taking upon themselves the name of their leader, a common practice in the Book of Mormon.
Furthermore, it is not surprising that the Nephites preferred to call them by a different name, “the people of Ammon” or “Ammonites.” Apparently, they were never known as the Anti-Nephi-Lehies after they began to dwell with the Nephites because the term Ammonites was considerably less threatening.
Alma 27:27 they were perfectly honest and upright in all things
Honesty is the only virtue which is so important that it is a temple recommend question. It is an attribute of perfection which is harder than it seems to master. To be perfectly honest and upright shows that the Ammonites had mastered the principle.
“We need to learn, practice, study, know and understand how angels live with each other. When this community comes to the point to be perfectly honest and upright, you will never find a poor person; none will lack, all will have sufficient. Every man, woman, and child will have all they need just as soon as they all become honest. When the majority of the community are dishonest, it maketh the honest portion poor, for the dishonest serve and enrich themselves at their expense.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, ed. by John A. Widstoe, p. 232)
Neal A. Maxwell
“Total morality must concern itself both with man's relationships with God and with his fellowmen. In Alma 27:27 we read of Church members of another age who were also distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things...’ These members looked upon the shedding of blood with ‘the greatest abhorrence,’ but they did not look upon death ‘with any degree of terror’ because of their ‘views of Christ and the resurrection.’ The gentleness and integrity that are borne of the perspective of the gospel are truly impressive when one sees them in others. In this fragment of history we see an impressive statement about an entire group who bore up under persecution in a time of tribulation without losing their love of God and man.” (For the Power is in Them, p. 30)
Alma 27:28 they never did look upon death with any degree of terror, for their hope and views of Christ and the resurrection
Neal A. Maxwell
“Quite clearly, therefore, ultimate hope is tied to the verifiable expectation of a resurrection and the better world to follow. Paul observed that if our hope in Christ pertained to ‘this life only,’ a resurrectionless view of Christ, we would be ‘of all men most miserable.’ (1 Corinthians 15:19.) In other words, proximate hope, disengaged from the reality of the resurrection (what some inconsistently espouse as a Christian existentialism), is not Christian hope at all!
“…When we have appropriate hope of receiving eternal life (Alma 13:29), and we retain that hope through faith (Alma 25:16), then we will—even though we love life, family, and friends have ‘no terror of death’ ‘because of [our] hope and views of Christ and the resurrection.’ (Alma 27:28.) Indeed, true hope springs directly from our ‘views of Christ.’
“No wonder the writer of Proverbs could say that ‘the hope of the righteous is gladness.’ (Proverbs 10:28.) Because of the attitudinal anchor that gospel hope gives us in life, it is vital (in terms of avoiding being tossed to and fro) just as is membership in His prophet-led Church, which also keeps us from being tossed to and fro by every manner of doctrine. (See Ephesians 4:11-14.)” (Notwithstanding My Weakness, p. 44)