Thoughts on Gospel Doctrine Lesson 19

We need to turn now to features of the [Dead Sea Scrolls] scrolls which are articularly striking to Latter-day Saints. . . . A major theme of the scrolls concerns the congregation, or the "church," awaiting the Messiah. It is said that the exiled congregation must wait in the desert where persecution has driven its members. A similar notion, of course, appears in Rev. 12:1-6, where a celestial woman (the true church) gives birth to a male child who is immediately caught up to heaven in order to be preserved; she then flees to the desert for protection during a period of suffocating apostasy. Latter-day Saints immediately think of the situation of the Book of Mormon prophet Alma, about one hundred and fifty years prior to the coming of the Messiah. Because of persecution, Alma was obliged to establish a community at the Waters of Mormon for spiritual exiles who withdrew from their hostile and evil society in order to prepare themselves for fuller spiritual blessings (Mosiah 17:2-4; 18:1).

(Kent S. Brown, "The Dead Sea Scrolls: a Mormon Perspective," BYU Studies, Vol. 23, No. 1 [Winter 1983], .)

Daniel H. Ludlow on the distance between the Land of Nephi and Zarahemla:

The story of the flight of Alma and his people gives us the best clue in the Book of Mormon to the distance between the lands of Nephi and Zarahemla. It takes Alma and his group eight days to go from the waters of Mormon (in the borders of the land of Nephi-Mosiah 18:4) to the land of Helam (Mosiah 23:3). Then when they finally leave Helam, it takes them an additional twelve days of travel to go to the land of Zarahemla. (Mosiah 24:25.) Thus approximately twenty days are spent in travel by Alma and his group in going from the borders of the land of Nephi to the land of Zarahemla.

(Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 189.)

John W. Welch on the meaning of the name Mosiah:

In 1965, John Sawyer published an article titled "What was a Mosiac?" He argues that the term mosiah was an ancient Hebrew term, like go'el ("redeemer, or avenger of blood"), or sedeq ("victor, savior"). Such terms originally had meaning in Hebrew daily life and culture but came to be used among their titles for God. The word mosiac (pronounced moe-shee-ah) is a word peculiar to Hebrew, a "word invariably implying a champion of justice in a situation of controversy, battle or oppression."

Sawyer's analysis sheds interesting light on the name Mosiah in the Book of Mormon. Several subtle reasons show why Nephites, who continued to speak Hebrew in the New World, would have been attracted to the use of such a name or title.

Apparently the form of the word Mosiah is a "hiphil participle" in Hebrew. It occurs in the Hebrew in Deuteronomy 22:27; 28:29; Judges 12:3; Psalms 18:41; and Isaiah 5:29-texts that in all probability were on the Plates of Brass. This word, however, was not transliterated into the English by the King James translators, and thus the Hebrew would not have been known to Joseph Smith. It was, however, known and used as a personal name in the Book of Mormon, as well as by people in the Jewish colony at Elephantine in the fifth century B.C.

The key meaning of the word mosiac was "savior." People in danger cry out, "But there is no mosia" (Deuteronomy 22:27). After examining all occurrences of this term in the Hebrew Bible, Sawyer concludes that the term applied to a particular kind of person or role and was sometimes a title designating "a definite office or position." Typical of this office are the following traits:

1. The mosiac is a victorious hero appointed by God.

2. He liberates a chosen people from oppression, controversy, and unjustice after they cry out for help.

3. Their deliverance is usually accomplished by means of a nonviolent escape or negotiation.

4. The immediate result of the coming of a mosiac was "escape from unjustice, and a return to a state of justice where each man possesses his rightful property."

5. On a larger scale, "final victory means the coming of mosicim [plural, pronounced moe-shee-eem] to rule like Judges over Israel."

Thus the term also had judicial, legal, or forensic connotations, similar to the word advocate." A mosiac gives refuge to those on his "right hand" from their accusers in court (Psalm 17:7).

The exact derivation of the Book of Mormon name Mosiah is unknown, but it appears the same as mosiac, which derives from the Hebrew yasac ("to be wide open, free, deliver, rescue, preserve, save"). It is thus quite different from the Hebrew word masiah (anointed, "messiah," Greek christs). The Nephite word mosiah might also contain a theophoric element (-iah), thus meaning "the Lord is a mosiac."

Interestingly, the term mosiac applies perfectly to the Mosiahs in the Book of Mormon. King Mosiah I was a God-appointed hero who delivered the chosen people of Nephi from serious wars and contentions by leading them in an escape from the land of Nephi (see Omni 1:12-14). It is unknown whether he was called Mosiah before he functioned as a mosiac of his people or whether he gained this well-earned title afterward, perhaps as a royal title, but either is possible.

Indeed, the themes of God's salvation and the deliverance of his people are strong in the book of Mosiah. It tells of one mosiac after another. Alma was a God-inspired mosiac who peaceably saved his people from king Noah and the Lamanites. Zeniff tried to return to the land of Nephi to repossess the rightful property of the Nephites. His efforts failed, however, and his grandson Limhi eventually functioned as a mosiac by leading his people in their escape back to Zarahemla. At the end of the book of Mosiah, the reign of judges was established, a fitting development for a people that had been well served by mosicim for over a century. Thus, the book of Mosiah, like the book of Judges in the Old Testament, appears to have been meaningfully named.

Finally, the Hebrew term mosiac also was used as a divine title. God was and is such a savior, who would come down and bring salvation (see Mosiah 3:9). The Book of Mormon adds support to Sawyer's idea that the divine title mosiac was also at home in a cultural context. It seems to preserve traces of a broader usage when it says that "the knowledge of a Savior shall spread throughout every nation" (Mosiah 3:20; italics added), "in other words a Savior of the world" (1 Nephi 10:4; italics added).

Ultimately this term, as a divine title, was applied exclusively to God. As Isaiah 43:11 states, "I . . . am the Lord; and beside me there is no mosiac." Likewise, the angel to Benjamin affirmed the unique work of the Savior, the only way and means whereby salvation comes to mankind (see Mosiah 3:17). Thus, in several respects, the Book of Mormon usage of this term is quite remarkable, meaningful, and wholly consistent with Hebrew usage.

(John W. Welch, ed., Reexploring the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1992], 107.)

Bruce C. Hafen on the fellowship of Alma and his people:

Elder Richard L. Evans once observed that those who will live and work only with perfect people will soon be all alone. Because of our mortal limitations, some human failings will inevitably influence the Church's institutional character. At the same time, however, we must maintain a balanced perspective, valuing both the individual and the institutional dimensions of Church membership. If organizational elements predominate over personal elements, we may overlook the private, customized dimension of spiritual development. But if we regard the institutional dimension as trivial, or if we are put off too much by the human limitations of fellow Church members, we may miss out on opportunities for growth and service that are found only through the blessings of complete activity and membership in the Church.

One of those blessings is simply belonging among the Saints of the Most High. In an essay entitled "Belonging: A View of Membership," Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once described membership in the Church as coming "into the fold of God, and to be called his [Christ's] people." (See Mosiah 18:8; emphasis added.) A fully participating member of the Church is involved in a community of compassion and interconnectedness that is "more than boys' clubs or civic associations . . . more than house parties and welcome wagons. . . . This fellowship is ultimately of the Spirit and comes because Christ is our eternal head."

This is the fellowship of which Alma spoke to those he baptized at the waters of Mormon, brothers and sisters in the gospel who "are willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light; yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort." (Mosiah 18:8-9.) As described by a third-century Christian named Cyprian in a letter to a friend, "It is really a bad world, yet in the midst of it I have found a quiet and holy people. They have discovered a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of this sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are the Christians and I am one of them."

(Bruce C. Hafen and Marie K. Hafen, The Belonging: The Atonement and Relationships with God and Family Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], 132.)

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