Evidence #8 | September 19, 2020

Limhi’s Words

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Scripture Central

Abstract

Limhi’s words, as recorded and abridged by Mormon, all come from situations where a scribe would likely have been available to record them. They are also consistent in wording and details with documents found later in Mormon’s abridgment.

On several occasions, Mormon directly quoted Limhi, the son of the wicked King Noah. As identified by John Gee, these quotations can be found in the following locations:1

  1. The trial of Ammon, Amaleki, Helem, and Hem (Mosiah 7:8–15)
  2. An official address given to all his subjects at a covenant renewal ceremony (Mosiah 7:17–33)
  3. The discussion with Ammon about the records (Mosiah 8:5–21)
  4. The interrogation of the king of the Lamanites (Mosiah 20:13–22)

After mentioning these instances, Gee commented,

All the direct quotations derive from situations where an official scribe would be on hand to write things down: a covenant renewal ceremony where the king would have “caused that the words which he spake should be written” (Mosiah 2:8), two trials, and an inspection of the records where Limhi obviously hoped to get a translation of some otherwise mysterious records (Mosiah 8:6, 11–12).2

King Limhi, by Jody Livingston.

In the case of Limhi’s interrogation of the King of the Lamanites (Mosiah 20:14) and also the debate over how to escape bondage (Mosiah 22:1–10), Limhi’s statements are either brief or absent. Gee contrasts these instances with the sometimes more fanciful methods of ancient writers such as Thucydides or Herodotus, “whom scholars have taken to task for composing long speeches and putting them in the mouths of the heroes who are engaged in the middle of battle and under fire.”3 Mormon’s quotations of Limhi are also different from some “novelist[s] of Joseph Smith’s day” such as Solomon Spaulding, who similarly peppered their writings with “long quotations” and “long clandestine conversations” in implausible locations.4

Even when quotations of Limhi are lengthier, such as on the occasion of his speech to his people, they are believable. Not only would a scribe likely have been recording Limhi’s statements in such a setting, but the statements themselves are corroborated by documents that show up later in Mormon’s abridgment. During his Speech, Limhi reviewed the history of Zeniff, the martyrdom of Abinadi, and various other historical events that occurred among his people. As shown in the following chart, the details—and in some cases even the wording—of Limhi’s account are all supported by Mormon’s much lengthier abridgment of this same history.

Topic

Limhi’s Historical Summary     (Mosiah 7)

Flashback (Mosiah 9–21)

Zeniff’s Overzealousness

7:21 And ye all are witnesses this day, that Zeniff, who was made king over this people, he being over-zealous to inherit the land of his fathers

9:3 And yet, I [Zeniff] being over-zealous to inherit the land of our fathers

The Cunning and Craftiness of King Laman

7:21 therefore being deceived by the cunning and craftiness of king Laman, who having entered into a treaty with king Zeniff

9:10 Now it was the cunning and the craftiness of king Laman, to bring my people into bondage

Zeniff and Laman Enter into a Treaty

7:21 therefore being deceived by the cunning and craftiness of king Laman, who having entered into a treaty with king Zeniff, and having yielded up into his hands the possessions of a part of the land, or even the city of Lehi-Nephi, and the city of Shilom; and the land round about

9:2 Therefore, I contended with my brethren in the wilderness, for I would that our ruler should make a treaty with them

9:6 And I went in unto the king, and he covenanted with me that I might possess the land of Lehi-Nephi, and the land of Shilom.

Laman’s Intent is to Put Zenniff’s People into Bondage

7:22 And all this he did [yielding up the land], for the sole purpose of bringing this people into subjection or into bondage.

9:10 Now it was the cunning and the craftiness of king Laman, to bring my people into bondage, that he yielded up the land that we might possess it.

The Nephites Pay Tribute to the Lamanites

7:22 And behold, we at this time do pay tribute to the king of the Lamanites, to the amount of one half of our corn, and our barley, and even all our grain of every kind, and one half of the increase of our flocks and our herds; and even one half of all we have or possess the king of the Lamanites doth exact of us, or our lives.

19:15 Therefore the Lamanites did spare their lives, and took them captives and carried them back to the land of Nephi, and granted unto them that they might possess the land, under the conditions that they would deliver up king Noah into the hands of the Lamanites, and deliver up their property, even one half of all they possessed, one half of their gold, and their silver, and all their precious things, and thus they should pay tribute to the king of the Lamanites from year to year.

Mourning for Slain Nephites

7:24 Yea, I say unto you, great are the reasons which we have to mourn; for behold how many of our brethren have been slain, and their blood has been spilt in vain, and all because of iniquity.

21:8–9 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did beat them, and drove them back, and slew many of them. And now there was a great mourning and lamentation among the people of Limhi, the widow mourning for her husband, the son and the daughter mourning for their father, and the brothers for their brethren.

A “Great Evil” Afflicts the Nephites Because of Their Transgressions

7:25 For if this people had not fallen into transgression the Lord would not have suffered that this great evil should come upon them.

12:13 And now, O king, what great evil hast thou done, or what great sins have thy people committed, that we should be condemned of God or judged of this man?

12:29 Why do ye … cause this people to commit sin, that the Lord has cause to send me to prophesy against this people, yea, even a great evil against this people?

Contentions among the Nephites

7:25 But behold, they would not hearken unto his words; but there arose contentions among them, even so much that they did shed blood among themselves.

19:3 And the lesser part began to breathe out threatenings against the king, and there began to be a great contention among them.

19:20–21 And the king commanded them that they should not return; and they were angry with the king, and caused that he should suffer, even unto death by fire.

The Nephites Slay a Prophet (Abinadi)

7:26 And a prophet of the Lord have they slain; yea, a chosen man of God, who told them of their wickedness and abominations

17:20 And now, when Abinadi had said these words, he fell, having suffered death by fire; yea, having been put to death because he would not deny the commandments of God, having sealed the truth of his words by his death.

Abinadi Taught That Christ Was God, the Father of All Things

7:27 And [Abinadi] said unto them that Christ was the God, the Father of all things

15:2–3 And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God

God Will Come Down among Men

7:27 And [Abinadi] said unto them that … God should come down among the children of men

13:34 Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?

15:1 And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.

Christ Will Take upon Himself Flesh

7:27 And [Abinadi] said unto them … that God should … take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth

15:2 And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God

The East Wind

7:31 And again he saith: If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the east wind, which bringeth immediate destruction.

12:6 And it shall come to pass that I will send forth hail among them, and it shall smite them; and they shall also be smitten with the east wind; and insects shall pester their land also, and devour their grain.

 Commenting on these relationships, Gee noted,

There is another odd feature here. In the Book of Mormon, Limhi’s quotations of the documents precede the cited documents themselves. If Joseph Smith were making up the story at the rate of seven or eight pages a day, that would be quite a trick. Furthermore, all quotations are from material chronologically preceding Limhi and to which he could have had access. Limhi’s prophecies do not come from Malachi or Alma2. But in the Book of Mormon, the quotations precede the material quoted and the quotations make perfect sense in the original context. A man dictating without correction at the rate of eight pages a day would have a hard time keeping the facts straight if the events never happened.5

Conclusion

After careful analysis of Limhi’s various speeches, which are “dotted with quotations from previous records and prophecies,” Gee concluded that they “show a man very well versed in his records” and who “was probably more comfortable in the library than the throne room.”6 Creating a fictional character as believable as Limhi would have been no small task. His statements evince a detailed awareness of the backstory of his people (as is later abridged by Mormon), and also a believable underlying system of record keeping. Limhi’s words thus offer good evidence of the Book of Mormon’s literary complexity, while simultaneously increasing its credibility as an abridged historical document.

John Gee, “Limhi in the Library,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1, no. 1 (1992): 54–66.

Mosiah 7:8–15 Mosiah 7:17–33Mosiah 8:5–21Mosiah 20:13–22

Mosiah 7:8–15

Mosiah 7:17–33

Mosiah 8:5–21

Mosiah 20:13–22

Complexity
Intertextuality (Internal)
Limhi's Words
Book of Mormon

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