I Have a Question

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    Questions of general interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy

    I Have a Question

    We learn in Mosiah 25:6 that the account of Alma’s group covered the time they left Zarahemla until they “returned again.” Since Alma and his followers were presumably born in the land of Nephi and had never been to Zarahemla, how is this matter reconciled?

    Donald A. Cazier, Church Educational System coordinator, Athens, Georgia. To better understand this intriguing question and its possible answers, it may be helpful to review the highlights of a confusing period of Nephite history.

    The early Nephites lived in the land of Nephi. They eventually became so wicked that the Lord warned Mosiah1 to lead a righteous group of people into the wilderness. They reached Zarahemla in due time and merged with the Mulekite civilization. Zeniff later led a group of Nephites from Zarahemla back to the land of Nephi. By then their homeland was under Lamanite control. The Lamanite king granted them permission to settle there but intended to subjugate the unsuspecting Nephites.

    Zeniff was succeeded on the throne by his son Noah, who ordered the death of the prophet Abinadi and drove newly converted Alma and his followers into hiding. Noah was eventually overthrown and executed by his own people. His son Limhi inherited the throne but soon found himself and his people in bondage to the Lamanites.

    During Limhi’s reign, a search party from Zarahemla, headed by Ammon, discovered their long-separated brethren. With Ammon’s help, Limhi’s people escaped their captors and rejoined the main Nephite body in Zarahemla. At the same time (about 120 B.C.), Alma and his followers similarly were enslaved by the Lamanites and then freed through divine intervention. They joined Limhi’s people and the other Nephites in Zarahemla, which was now ruled by Mosiah2, Mosiah’s grandson. To celebrate the arrival of the two groups, Mosiah2 assembled his people for a public reading of the records of Zeniff and Alma, “from the time they left the land of Zarahemla until the time they returned again.” (Mosiah 25:6.)

    However, because about eighty years had presumably elapsed since Zeniff’s group left Zarahemla until Alma’s group arrived there, it seems at first glance improbable that Alma could have been part of Zeniff’s original colonizing expedition, especially since Alma was not born until about 173 B.C. (see Mosiah 29:45–46), or some twenty-seven years after the supposed date of Zeniff’s departure. How, then, could Alma be said to have returned to a place he had apparently never been?

    Although we may not know how Mormon would have reconciled this apparent inconsistency in the scriptural record, it is possible to identify at least two plausible explanations that are consistent with known facts.

    A first possibility is that the phrase “Alma and his brethren” includes the group’s ancestors as well as all who were ever part of the colonization effort. It is likely that Alma would have included in his history some mention of Zeniff’s exodus from Zarahemla, even if he had not been part of it, since Alma was such a meticulous record keeper. (See Mosiah 17:4.) So in that collective sense, the passage poses no problem. We should be no more bothered by such usage than we are by Genesis 48:21, where Jacob assures Joseph, “God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers,” despite the fact that Joseph himself would be long dead by that time, and it would be his posterity who would be brought “again” into a land where they had never been. [Gen. 48:21]

    A second possibility is that Alma and other members of his group did originally come from the land of Zarahemla. If the events that Amaleki recorded in the book of Omni are chronological, then Zeniff’s group left during the early years of Benjamin’s reign. Because Limhi’s group returned soon after Benjamin’s death, the time between the two events may have been no longer than the length of Benjamin’s reign.

    Benjamin’s son and successor, Mosiah2, presumably the oldest son, began to rule in 124 B.C., “in the thirtieth year of his age.” (Mosiah 6:4.) If Benjamin was no older than thirty when his first son was born, and no younger than nineteen when he became king, his reign—and therefore the absence of the Zeniff-Limhi group—would not have exceeded forty years. Thus, unless Amaleki’s account of Zeniff’s departure in the closing verses of Omni is an afterthought rather than a chronological account, Alma could easily have been part of Zeniff’s group.

    Further support for this possibility is seen in the fact that only three time intervals, totaling twenty-six years, are specified from the time of Zeniff’s departure until Limhi’s and Alma’s return. (See Mosiah 10:3; Mosiah 12:1; Mosiah 19:29.) Other events of unspecified duration could easily have fit into another ten to twenty years. Since Alma was fifty-two years old shortly before his escape to Zarahemla, he and some of his associates could well have been part of Zeniff’s “considerable number” (Omni 1:29), including women and children, who originally left the land of Zarahemla to recolonize their homeland. (See Mosiah 7:2; Mosiah 29:46.) Also, the Nephites’ persistent curiosity about the fate of their compatriots suggests a concern for those who may have been living rather than the more academic interest in their descendants one might expect if eighty years had passed since the departure.

    It may not be possible to know how Mormon would have responded to the puzzling language of Mosiah 25:6, but with these plausible explanations, we should neither be troubled by the passage nor feel a need to spend excessive amounts of time trying to determine which explanation is the most probable.

    [illustration] Alma Baptizes in the Waters of Mormon, by Arnold Friberg

    How can chaperones help ensure that Church standards are maintained at Church youth dances?

    Annette P. Bowen, Relief Society president, Bellevue Fifth Ward, Renton Washington North Stake. For most of my adult life, I have had the privilege of working with the youth of the Church, and I have attended and chaperoned many youth dances. I can remember clearly the burden and confusion I felt as a newly married young woman when I was first asked to chaperone a youth dance. Me—a chaperone? What was I supposed to do? What were the Church standards and policies regarding youth dances?

    I feared the role of being an enforcer. Would my participation as a chaperone jeopardize my relationship with the youth in the stake? Couldn’t I just go and dance? If a problem did arise, how could I best handle a confrontation and a loving correction?

    My experience has yielded some answers to those questions. I’ve also talked with numerous people—other chaperones and adult leaders, as well as young people and youth leaders—and they have shared their experiences and their answers with me.

    It is important to know exactly what the Church standards and guidelines are for youth dances. The 1990 Activities Committee Handbook offers the following guidelines for dance activities:

    “1. Lyrics should not be contrary to gospel principles.

    “2. The beat of the music, whether instrumental or vocal, should not overshadow the melody.

    “3. Lights should be bright enough for people to see across the room. Strobe lighting is generally not advised; psychedelic lighting that pulsates with the beat is not acceptable. Lights on the floor, in the corners of the hall, or spotlighting creative wall and ceiling decorations are appropriate.

    “4. Music volume should be low enough so that two people standing side by side can hear each other as they carry on a normal conversation.”

    It is important that local guidelines and policies, as well as general Church standards, are clearly understood by both the youth (including nonmember friends) and their leaders; and that these guidelines and policies are consistently, but lovingly, followed.

    Avoid instituting too many rules and regulations. To keep the youth informed and reminded of standards and policies, our stake prints its guidelines on the back of an annual youth activity calendar distributed to each young person in our stake. All of the stakes in our area use a dance card—issued to young people after an interview has taken place at which the standards are explained—and each young person (member or nonmember) signs the card, agreeing to uphold those standards while attending youth dances.

    The youth should always be encouraged to govern themselves: to help avoid situations in which chaperones are required to confront or to correct—in hopes of moving away from a punitive atmosphere to one of cooperation and mutual enjoyment. In addition, youth leaders, especially those serving on stake youth committees, should be encouraged to help monitor behavior and to set fine examples of behavior and fellowship. Of course, there will be a few situations where chaperones will need to intervene.

    After consulting with experienced chaperones and with many of my young friends, I offer the following suggestions:

    1. 1.

      Chaperones should be carefully selected. Ideally, those adults who attend youth dances should be people who love working with the youth—and show it. They should remember that their most effective teaching method is to be models of appropriate behavior as leaders, as friends, and as adults who care about young people.

    2. 2.

      Dance! Without exception, my young friends have said that they most enjoy a dance at which the chaperones are out on the dance floor having a great time. And when the need arises to correct youth participating in inappropriate dancing, it is easier and better for a chaperone already on the dance floor to say a gentle word of reminder to a couple who may need to modify their dancing than it is to embarrass them by barreling out from the sidelines to call them to repentance.

    3. 3.

      Treat youth with respect and kindness. Teenagers acknowledge that they sometimes need to be reminded, instructed, or corrected, but they appreciate being treated as if they are valued and respected—and they will respond better if they are treated this way.

    4. 4.

      Monitor the building and parking lot occasionally. I used to balk at this suggestion, but I have since found it is sometimes necessary to literally “herd the sheep back into the fold.” Of course, we can’t force them to come into the cultural hall, but we can let them know that the grounds and building will be monitored.

    5. 5.

      Solve issues related to lighting and music and atmosphere before the dance begins. Performing groups need to sign a suitable performance contract (one is available at no charge from Church distribution centers—Publication No. PXMU0028.)

    A word about lighting—if the room is too light, teenagers will not dance because they will feel self-conscious. Instead of using many glaring overhead lights, leaders can arrange for well-placed spots and other alternative light sources in order to provide a suitable amount of light.

    As leaders, we have stiff competition for the attention of our young friends. It is our opportunity to uphold our standards while providing activities for them that they will want to attend, activities where they are welcomed, respected, instructed, and loved.