The Lamanites were a wicked and bloodthirsty people, disregarding the value of human
life, as they did not know the God who had created them, and who is the Father of
all mankind. When Ammon and his brethren converted a group of them, they wanted
to forever live in peace. Their king encouraged them to make a covenant with God:
“Now, my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains, and our swords
have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren.”
Our swords are made bright, let us hide them away;
Our swords, let us stain them no more.
Our swords are washed clean through the blood of the Lamb,
After their years of trying and successful missionary labors, Ammon spoke enthusiastically
about all the Lamanites who had been brought into the fold of God. His brother Aaron
rebuked him, saying that he was carried away with boasting.
Ammon replied, “I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold,
my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.” He
goes on to praise God for all their success.
My heart is brim with joy; in my God I do rejoice.
Meanwhile, back in Zarahemla, Alma, as leader of the church, was experiencing challenges
as his people drifted in their faith and faithfulness. The Book of Mormon records
his heartfelt expression of longing to preach repentance to the whole world in such
a way that they would have to believe. But he immediately recognized how that plan
is not God’s way, and that God has given to each person sufficient information for
their time and place.
I’d speak with the trump, with the trump of our God,
In one of many beautiful and incisive sermons, Alma taught the people, “Now, we will
compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted
in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it
out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will
begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye
will begin to say within yourselves - It must needs be that this is a good seed,
or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth
to enlighten my understanding; yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.”
You’ll know it is good by its growth and its light.
“And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because
of thy Son that thou has been thus merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee
in all mine afflictions, for in thee is my joy; for thou hast turned thy judgments
away from me, because of thy Son.”
In the Book of Mormon a group of people (Zoramites) who were not allowed in the houses
of worship because of their poverty questioned the missionary Alma as to how they
could worship God. He quoted an ancient prophet Zenos in teaching that they could
pray anywhere and any time, and God would hear and respond.
Alma’s missionary companion Amulek answered the poor Zoramites’ question of how to
worship God outside of a dedicated building. He very eloquently told them to pray
always, in all places, and for all things important to them.
Cry unto him in field and house, and over all that’s dear;
Cry morning, midday, cry at night, and God our plea will hear.
The Book of Mormon gives three different accounts of the conversion of Alma the Younger,
who later became the chief judge and high priest over the Nephite people in Zarahemla.
This chapter is a transcript of his own words to his son Helaman, as he prepared
to give him the prophet responsibility and the gold plate records. It is a beautiful
and eloquent description of his agony because of sin, and his joy in Christ’s grace
and forgiveness. In addition, it is “one of the finest examples of chiastic composition
anywhere in world literature.”
Alma the Younger was a prophet of God in the Americas during the two centuries immediately
prior to the birth of Jesus Christ. The story of his own waywardness and subsequent
repentance as a youth—resulting in a greatly altered life--is a story of hope to
all who earnestly seek forgiveness when it seems that forgiveness is impossible;
nevertheless, this painting is concerned with the forgiveness that this repentant
father extends to his wayward son, Corianton.
When Corianton was a young man, he accompanied his father, older brother, and several
other carefully selected servants of the Lord, who embarked upon a mission to preach
the gospel of Jesus Christ to a people who had apostatized from the Church and established
their own heathen religion. During his ministry, Corianton abandoned his commission
and became entangled in harlotry. His conduct adversely affected the overall success
of the effort to reclaim those who had left the Church.
Not long after returning home, Alma, preparing to depart on yet another missionary
journey, gave his farewell blessing to each of his sons. His charge to Corianton
is not only one of the finest doctrinal discourses in all of scripture, but reaches
out to his erring son as an example of undying love fit for the ages. It is the
conclusion of that paternal benediction captured in this painting (see Alma 42:30-31).
Nor was the manner in which Alma dealt with his son futile, for Corianton did repent,
did return to the ministry to which he had been called, and did endure faithful to
the end of his days (see Alma 63:10-11).
Symbolism in This My Son
While Alma faces the viewer, Corianton is facing away. Consequently, in the expression
on Alma's face we see reflected the willingness of God to let us turn our back on
the sins we have committed, on the trouble and anguish we have caused, and on the
destruction the adversary has prepared for us—the destruction of our happiness, our
lives, our very souls. Alma's embrace is neither a partial nor a tentative expression
of forgiveness, love, and acceptance, but is powerful in its very grasp; conveying
the completeness of the Father's desire to lift us—from where we are—up and out of
the darkness seeking always to drag us down. Nor can we see Corianton's face, which
means that were we to see him in another context, for example, we would not recognize
him, we would not know him for the sinner he had been; we would know him only in
the sublime context of God's forgiveness, a truly blessed condition in which He declares
that the sins of anyone this forgiven shall be remembered no more.
Corianton's clothing is iconic of the wanderer (any prodigal); unlike the simple
purity of Alma's robe, Corianton's garb also draws attention to itself and the wearer.
Just as Corianton's boastful behavior drew him "among the borders of the Lamanites,
after the harlot Isabel," so his clothing faintly echoes perceptions of traditional
“Now the leader of the Nephites, or the man who had been appointed to be the chief
captain over the Nephites – now the chief captain took the command of all the armies
of the Nephites – and his name was Moroni.”
Chosen to lead the Nephite armies at age 25, Captain Moroni became an example of
firmness, strength, commitment, and unconquerable faith.
Alma the Younger was born during the second century before Christ and lived into
the early part of the first century B.C. He was the first chief judge elected by
the Nephites when they altered their form of government to establish rule by judges
instead of kings. Alma the Younger was also the presiding high priest over the church
among the Nephites who were followers of Jesus Christ.
As ruler of the Nephites, he fought to preserve their form of government when civil
war erupted and the dissenters joined forces with the Lamanites. Alma fought with
the sword, face to face, with the leader of the rebels and with the Lamanite king.
He later resigned his political office to devote full time to what amounted to an
extensive itinerant ministry among his own people.
“Alma blessed the church, yea, all those who should stand fast in the faith from
that time henceforth.
“And when Alma had done this he departed out of the land of Zarahemla, as if to go
into the land of Melek. And it came to pass that he was never heard of more; as
to his death or burial we know not of.
“Behold, this we know, that he was a righteous man; and the saying went abroad in
the church that he was taken up by the Spirit, or was buried by the hand of the Lord,
even as Moses.”
The Book of Mormon records that, though the Nephites enjoyed freedom under a constitutional
republic, one man, Amalickiah, wanted to be king. He was joined by many others who
wants to exercise power over others.
The Nephite General Captain Moroni took action to educate his people as to their
present privileges, and their obligation to fight for their own freedom:
“And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote
upon it – In memory of our God, our religion and freedom, and our peace, our wives,
and our children – and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.”
“In the picture, CAPTAIN MORONI RAISES THE TITLE OF LIBERTY, we see yet another towering
figure, that of Captain Moroni, rallying followers to fight for liberty. When this
picture was being considered, it raised a problem concerning Moroni’s writing on
the Title of Liberty. In the English version of the Book of Mormon, we read that
Moroni wrote upon his torn coat, ‘In memory of our God, our religion, our freedom,
and our peace, our wives, and our children:’ We read it in English, but Moroni didn’t
write it in English. He wrote it in the language of his time, probably a version
of Hebrew. There were those who insisted the lettering be in English. But in a picture
of this historical event the artist wanted the writing to look as close as possible
to how it appeared on the actual flag. The nearest anyone could come to the original
language was to go back to Hebrew as it was at the time when Lehi left Jerusalem.
So I went to my friend Rabbi Cardon and asked him to write out the words of Captain
Moroni as it would have appeared at the time of Lehi and Jeremiah. At that time the
squarish lettering we know today as Hebrew had not yet been invented, so they selected
an earlier writing style, closer in appearance to that of the time of Moses. Of course,
more than 500 years had passed between Lehi’s time and that of Moroni. A language
can change a great deal in that time and we have no way of knowing what such changes
might have been. In the painting, as in the book, there is a factor easily skipped
over but of historical importance. We read that Moroni tore his coat and wrote upon
it. This doesn’t mean that in a burst of passion he ripped the coat to shreds. Rather,
his action bears out a long-established Israelite ritual.
“To rend one’s coat was the most extreme emphatic expression of one’s statement or
belief, something akin to swearing with a great oath. Some even carried a small knife
to make a modest incision, constituting “tearing.” We recall that at the trial of
Christ, the high priest “rent his garment” as evidence that there was no further
proof required to sentence Christ before the Jews. To carry this custom even further,
the men rallying to Captain Moroni’s call, tore their garments and cast them about
Moroni’s feet as a token or covenant of the fervency of their support. Such details
are carefully shown in the painting. This last point, that of tearing the cloaks,
is a strong evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. For if, as critics
claim, Joseph Smith had written the book just as a novel, it is stretching the imagination
to believe he could have known such an obscure bit of Israelite ritual.”
Captain Moroni used the Title of Liberty to rally his people to fight against the
invaders of their country. The Book of Mormon says that “He went forth among the
people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing
which he had written upon the rent part.”
Captain Moroni, waving the title of liberty, issued a challenge and an invitation:
“Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in
the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their
rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.”
“Holding high his rent garment inscribed with the title of liberty, Moroni is framed
on either side by four soldiers–two are kneeling, writing their oaths on their torn
garments, and two stand at Moroni’s side as they rend their garments in covenant.
Probably painted in 1930, the mural reflects Teichert’s beaux-arts training in its
linear quality, well-defined physical features, and a symmetry intensified by the
use of framing figures. Moroni stands at the top of a stairway that is flanked by
two images of the feathered serpent with startling turquoise eyes. The architecture
suggests Moroni is rallying his people at a temple. The symmetry and perfect balance
of the mural, the clouds on the horizon, and the still horses capture a moment of
noble calm before the storm of battle.”
At a critical time in the history of the Nephites, the Book of Mormon records that
their military commander was Captain Moroni. He was “a strong and a mighty man.
He was a man of a perfect understanding, yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed;
a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren
from bondage and slavery.”