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Introduction to Mosiah


Introduction to Mosiah

Mosiah is probably a title. It probably means deliverer.1 There are two In individuals who used this name. Mosiah I is probably the eponymous Mosiah the father of King Benjamin who was the Father of Mosiah II, for whom this book is not named.

Mosiah I is not even mentioned in Mosiah. The reader of the Book of Mormon only knows about him because of what is found in the book of Omni where Mosiah I is described as a king who had the brass plates obtained by Nephi. He lived in the Land of Nephi but was warned that he and his people had to flee from the Lamanites for their safety, so he took his people into the wilderness and discovered the people of Zarahemla The book of Mosiah is probably name for Mosiah I.

Early in Mosiah, the second verse, the reader is informed that King Benjamin, the son of Mosiah I, taught his children in “all the language of his fathers,” including everything that was necessary to gain an understanding of the scriptures contained on the brass plates. King Benjamin’s sons, then, were well educated, schooled in the scriptures and the rhetorical devices used in them. Chiasmus was particularly important. The entire book of Mosiah a chiasmus, and individual parts, especially the speech of King Benjamin, are chiastic. The chiasmi are complex. They often contain multiple levels of chiastic writing. Because this is not a common rhetorical form in the modern world, many of the teachings in the book are lost upon the casual reader. The form prevails over chronology, and the statements are repetitive. Properly viewed, however, the work is a masterpiece of ancient literature that bears study on many levels.

The overall chiastic format of the book has been discussed by John W. Welch in BYU Studies.The reader must remember that the book is not chronological, the setting and demography change without transition because there no attempt to organize the book as a history. Unfortunately, most people approach the book as part of a history where time and geographical locations would be important. Welch correctly observes the importance of understanding the form of literature so it can be read with a better understanding.

Obviously the foundation of chiasmic literature has not been reached until its underlying organization has been discovered. The Book of Mosiah serves as a sufficient evidence of this, for it surely has no chronological order and can be very confusing if the wrong organizational scheme is followed.2

It appears that the Mosiah in the Book of Mormon is missing all of what was chapter one and part of what was chapter two. The book, as discussed below, begins with what was translated as chapter three. What follows is Welch’s outline with some changes indicated by italics. This outline the reading of Mosiah.

Some notion about geography is useful for the modern-day reader. There are widely different ideas about geography, but ideas ought to be based, as nearly as possible, on the geographic information contained in the Book of Mormon as confirmed by archeology. Archeology, of course, is what it is, so judgments can be made to place events in a particular locale. The following map.3is useful.

Another problem is keeping track of the relationships between the people. Who is related to whom and from whom does one descends. This problem is complicated by the unabridged record through the book of Omni and the sudden transition to an abridgment that begins in the middle of Words of Mormon.4 Thus, it is easy to keep track of relationships in first eight books of the Book of Mormon because the writers give their lineal relationships. This precision, however, is not important to the of the remainder of the books, so one has to piece these relationships together, a problem exacerbated by the inclusion of the Mulekites in the story. The Mulekites were by King Mosiah I when he and his people fled the land of Nephi for lives and, in the process, came upon the people in Zarahemla—the descendants of the Mulekites—who had not taken with them any records when they fled Jerusalem at the time of the Diaspora, so their language and familiarity with gospel had become corrupt.

A Chronology of Mosiah5

In Zarahemla

398 Mosiah1 leads people from Nephi to Zarahemla (Omni 1:12), taking the Liahona, large plates, brass plates, sword of Laban (2 Ne 5:12,14) (Omni 1:11,25); Abinadom flees with Mosiah11 and takes the small plates

398 Mosiah1 discovers people descended from the Jews (Mulekites) (Omni 1:15); Peoples unite and Mosiah is appointed their king also (Omni 1:19); Mosiah1 begins his reign in Zarahemla (Omni 1:19); Mosiah1 interprets stone (Omni 1:20)

406 Amaleki is born when Abinadom is age 62? Zeniff is part of a spy mission from Zarahemla to Nephi (Mosiah 9:1)

Back in Nephi

407 Zeniff leads a group from Zarahemla to Nephi (Mosiah 9:3); Amaleki’s brother goes with them (Omni 1:27); Zeniff covenants with Lamanite king to let him possess Lehi-Nephi and Shilom (Mosiah 9:6)

Back in Zarahemla

408 Benjamin is born when Mosiah1 is 40? years old

Back in Nephi

420 Lamanites attack Zeniff’s group (Mos 9:14)

Back in Zarahemla

426 Abinadom (age 82, est.) gives the plates to Amaleki (age 20, est.)

Back in Nephi

428 Alma1 is born

429 Zeniff’s group begins to have peace, which lasts for 22 years (Mos 10:3, 5).

Back in Zarahemla

438 Mosiah1 dies at age 70? (Omni 1:23)
438 Benjamin begins his reign at age 30? (Omni 1:23)
448 Mosiah2 is born when Benjamin is 40?

Back in Nephi

442 Zeniff confers kingdom on Noah (Mos 11:1); Noah reigns in wickedness for 9 or 10 years; Alma is appointed a Priest of Noah.

458 Abinadi comes among people of Noah, is rejected and flees (Mos 12-17)

460 Abinadi returns and is tried dies by fire (Mosia 17:13); Alma, age 34?, escapes, hides, writes words of Abinadi (Mos 17:3-4) (age 34); Alma spends many days at Waters of Mormon (Mos 18)

462 King Noah sends his army to find Alma (Mos 18:33);

In Helam

462 Alma flees 8 days with 450 to Helam (Mos 18:34, 23:3,19)

Back in Nephi

462 King Noah’s army returns and Gideon leads a revolt.

The Lamanites invade, Noah flees (Mos 19:6); Limhi stays with women and children and makes peace, agrees to pay tribute to the Lamanites, and becomes king (Mos 19:16, 26).

Limhi and Gideon send men to search for Noah’s group (Mos 19:17-18); they find the remnants of Noah’s group (Mos 19:18); Noah has been killed and his priests of fled, abandoning their wives and children (Mos 19:20–21, 20:3).

463 The priests of Noah carry off the daughters of the Lamanites to be their replacement wives (Mos 20:5); Lamanites go to war because their daughters were taken (Mos 20:6); Limhi’s people defend themselves, capture Lamanite king, exonerate themselves (Mos 20:8-26).

Back in Zarahemla

464 Lamanites came down against the Nephites in Zarahemla, were driven out of the land (Omni 1:24, W of M 1:13-14).

465 False prophets among the Nephites (W of M 1:15-16); many dissenters join the Lamanites (W of M 1:16); holy prophets help King Benjamin establish peace (W of M 1:17-18)

Back in Nephi

466 The Lamanites begin to oppress Limhi’s people (Mos 21:2-3); Limhi’s people attempt to free themselves three times by battle and fail (Mos 21:7-12); Limhi’s people “prosper by degrees” (Mos 21:16); Limhi’s people guard against Priests of Noah, who have been stealing from them at night (Mos 21:20-21)

Back in Zarahemla

470 Amaleki gives his records to King Benjamin, so the large and small plates are kept together (Omni 1:25; W of M 1:10); Amaleki dies; King Benjamin puts this record with the large plates (W of M 1:10)

477 King Benjamin’s Tower Speech (Mos 6:4); the first year of Mosiah2’s reign, age 30 (Mos 6:4).

480 Benjamin dies (Mos 6:5), and Mosiah2 becomes king

481 Mosiah2 sends Ammon1 with 15 men to find Land of Nephi, their journey takes 40 days (Mos 7:1-5)

Back in Nephi

Limhi sends a 43-man expedition to find Zarahemla (Mos 21:25–26, Mos. 8:7), but they fail, finding, instead a land of bones, ruins, water, breastplates, etc., and the 24 gold plates (id., Ether 1:1–2; 15:39). Coriantumr, the last of the Jaredites, is also found and returns to live with the people of Limhi for 9 months (Omni 1:21).

482 Ammon1 discovered by the gates of Lehi-Nephi (Mos 21:23); Ammon1 meets Limhi (Mos 7:7); Ammon1 learns of the just-returned but failed 43-man expedition to find Zarahemla (Mos 21:25-26) (Mos 8:7–8, 26).

Ammon1 and Limhi plan an escape and flee (Mos 22:1); the Lamanites pursue the people of Limhi but get lost.

In Amulon

Lost Lamanites stumble upon the priests of Noah with their Lamanites wives and spare them after the priests send their wives out to plead for their lives, so the priests, whose leader is Amulon, join with the Lamanites and continue to search for the land of Nephi (Mos. 23:31–35)

In Helam

Lamanites and priests of Noah, still lost, stumble on Alma1 and put his people in bondage (Mosiah 23:25, 30).

Alma1 shows Lamanites the way back to Nephi (Mos 23: 36-37), but the Lamanites leave guards, and return with families (Mos 23:37-38). Amulon and the priests are appointed teachers over the lands of Shemlon, Shilom, and Amulon (Mos 24:2). Amulon teaches the Lamanites the Nephite language (Mos 24:3-7), and Amulon uses his power to persecute Alma1 (Mos 24: 8).

Back in Zarahemla

Limhi’s people arrive in Zarahemla (Mos 22:11).

Back In Helam

483 Alma’s people escape to the Valley of Alma (Mos 24:20) and arrive in Zarahemla (Mos 24:25)

Back in Zarahemla (with the denizen Nephites, including Ammon, Limhi and Alma1, and the citizen-Mulekites.)

Mosiah2 reads the records of Alma1 and Zeniff to the people (Mos 25:5, 6), and everyone is numbered with the Nephites, including the Nephite children of Amulon and his brethren—the wicked priests of Noah—who had remained with Alma1 when their fathers fled into the wilderness to the land of Amulon and started second families with abducted Lamanite women. (Mos 25:13).

Seven churches established by Alma1 (Mos 25:19,23)

492 Rising generation dissent and become more numerous (Mos. 26:1–6)
493 Mosiah2 tells Alma1 to judge the dissenters from the church (Mos. 26:7–39).

495 Church persecuted by unbelievers (Mos 27:1), and Mosiah2 commands equality among men (Mos 27:2-7). This includes persecution of the church by the son of Alma1 and the four sons of Mosiah2: Alma2, and Ammon2, Aaron Omner and Himni. (Mos 27:8–11a).

407 Conversion of Alma2 and the four sons of Mosiah2 (Mos 27:8-31)

506 Alma2, and the four sons of Mosiah2, go to the Land of Nephi (Mos 28:1–9); Mosiah2 translates the Jaredite record (Mos. 28:1–18).
509 Mosiah2 confers all of the sacred things on Alma2, (Mos. 28:20) and proposes there be judges instead of kings (Mos. 29:1–36).

510 Alma1 dies at age 82 (Mos 29:45-46)

510 Mosiah II dies in the 33rd year of his reign, 509 years from when Lehi left Jerusalem (Mos 29:46).

Another issue that is difficult is figuring out who is related to whom. This is not the important part of Mosiah, so the relationships are a little obscure. The following chart, perhaps, will be helpful.


The blue highlighting in the following chart shows who has charge of governmental affairs. The green is ecclesiastical leadership. Names highlighted in both green and blue are those who were in charge of both the government and the church.

This chart contains some assumptions. The Book of Mormon says nothing about the ancestry of Alma1, but this chart presumes that he was the son of Amaleki’s brother because this brother went back to the Land of Nephi with Zeniff, and it makes sense that the kingly and priestly lines would have been continued by those who returned. Hence, it is presumed in this chart that both Alma1 and another priest of the King Noah, Amulon, was a descendants of Jacob through Amaleki’s brother.

The chapter divisions are a mess. What is now the beginning of the book was probably chapter three as translated, but the chapter number was changed on the printer’s manuscript because all of the first chapter and part of what was the second chapter were lost with the 116 pages. Until the changes made to the chapter divisions by Orson Pratt in 1879, however, the chapters in Mosiah were as shown below (the present-day divisions are in parentheticals).

Mos. I (Mos. 1–3)
Mos. II (Mos. 4)
Mos. III (Mos. 5)
Mos. IV (Mos. 6)
Mos. V (Mos. 7–8)
Mos. VI (Mos. 9–10)
Mos. VII (Mos. 11–13:24)
Mos. VIII (Mos. 13:25–ch.16)
Mos. IX (Mos. 17–21)
Mos. X (Mos. 22)
Mos. XI (Mos 23–27)
Mos XII (Mos. 28:1–19)
Mos. XIII (Mos. 28:20– 29:47)


  1. MOSIAH may derive from the HEBREW môšīʿyāhū, “the Lord delivers/saves.” The name can be understood as the hiphil participle of the HEBREW root ʿ, “to save, deliver,” with the theophoric element yāhū, as shortened form of Jehovah/Lord. Isaiah’s, yešaʿyāhū, “the Lord is deliverance/salvation,” presents a compelling analogue.

    The hiphil participle form of yšʿ, môšīʿa, occurs at least seventeen times with verbal or nominal force in the Old Testament; cf., e.g., the participle without suffix, môšīʿa deliverer, Judges 3:9; and the participle with pronominal suffixes: Judges 3:15; 2 Samuel 22:42; Isaiah 49:26; Jeremiah 14:18; Psalm 7:11; 17:7; 18:42; 106:21. Alternatively, Mosiah may simply be from the Hiphil participle form môšīʿa, deliverer, with the name of deity suppressed, thus “(the Lord) is a deliverer.”

    As compelling as this etymology is, it does not account for the final h. So Mosiah could come from māšîa , Messiah, though this does not produce the o vowel of the first syllable. https://onoma.lib.byu.edu/index.php/MOSIAH. Cp. Savior מושיע (moshiah)

    A common mistake is made with the word  savior. If you look this word up in a concordance you will find that this word is #3467 in Strong’s Dictionary and is identified as the Hebrew word ישע (yasha). Because of this many believe the Hebrew word yasha means savior, but this is not true. The word ישע (yasha) is a simple verb meaning to deliver. When the letters י, ו and מ are added to the verb a more complex verb is formed and more specifically a hiphil participle verb. A hiphil verb is causative and would mean cause to deliver. A participle is a verb of present or continuous action meaning delivering. A hiphil participle verb combines both of these meaning causing to deliver.

    In Biblical Hebrew there is a fine line between verbs and nouns because both can be used to describe an action or a person, place or thing. The word moshiah can be used in the sense of an action, as in Deuteronomy 28:29 where it is translated as save but literally means causing to be delivered. The same word can be used as a nounm as in Isaiah 43:11 where it is translated as savior but literally means one who is causing to be delivered.

    The word moshiah (as a noun) is generally translated two different ways. Isaiah 43:11 (RSV) says, “ I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. Judges 3:15 (RSV) says “But when the people of Israel cried to the LORD, the LORD raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera.” There appears to be a contradiction between these two verses where God is the only savior, but Ehud is another savior. One is left with Israel’s deliverance being caused by God, the one and only moshiah, who sent Ehud.

  2. Welch, John W., “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies vol . 10, number 1 (Autumn, 1969).
  3. This map is taken from Allen, Joseph L., Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon (Orem, UT: S.A. Publishers, Inc., 1989).
  4. The analysis of Words of Mormon, supra, concludes that the 117 pages lost by Martin Harris were full pages of script; Harris left the partially filled 118th page behind. When translation resumed, it resumed where it left off, continuing with the rest of the unfilled page. This is the reason that verse eleven or twelve of Words of Mormon are stylistically inconsistent with the first ten or eleven verses of Words of Mormon.
  5. This chronology is an adaptation from one done by Alan C. Miner in his book Step By Step Through the Book of Mormon https://stepbystep.alancminer.com/home (accessed May 28, 2016).

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