Study group on headings in Alma

We are comparing the various headings that Mormon himself wrote into his text. We’re comparing them with each other, as well as with the printer’s manuscript. See the end of this post for the list of headings we’re working on. (I’ll update the conversation notes as we go along.)

  • What do these look like on the original and printer’s manuscript? Are they set off? Answer: some have underlines, markings, and some are set off in different type.
  • What about other headings in the Book of Mormon? How do they look: Answer: some are set off, some aren’t. It looks like Mosiah 9 is the first time in the Book of Mormon that the printer notices there are headings that aren’t at the beginning of a book. There is at least one heading before that that we think he misses, and that is 2 Nephi 6. Another would be Jacob 2.
  • Are there others in Alma that we are noticing that the printer didn’t? Answer: So far no. We noted the 2 passages in Alma (included below) where he talks about what he has written, but these passages do not have the same sound as the headings. We decided that headings usually do not have a verb (“An account…”) and they introduce material, rather than commenting on previously written material.
  • Are there headings after Alma that the printer didn’t see? Answer: We aren’t seeing any! It looks like the printer slowly figured out what was a heading in the text. (The heading for The Book of Zeniff seems to have clued him in — it’s a clear break, but not at the beginning of a Book, and then perhaps the printer watched for those kinds of things within the later books. Updated answer: the Book of Moroni is another question. These verses could serve as headings, easily: 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 5:1, 6:1, 8:1. Chapter 9 does have a heading. Ch. 8 is the first epistle, but that doesn’t have a heading —  but maybe it would have been an awkward heading because he talks about himself (first person) rather than third person in ch.9 (for which the printer does give a set-off heading). Does the heading of chapter 9 serve as a break between the two epistles, and that’s why it has a heading?
  • In printer’s manuscript there’s a clear distinction for a heading for Moroni chapter 9.
  • Side note — once in a while, there’s a question as to whether or not all of the original chapter breaks are perfect. 3 Nephi 27 is one question, Alma 13 is another. Often a dictation session went to the end of a chapter. But once in a while they paused, and maybe when they came back assumed it was a new chapter. Playing with an idea — that maybe Moroni chapter 9’s heading was one of these? That is, maybe chapters 8 and 9 were one chapter, with a note in the middle explaining when things switch to the next epistle, and that got treated as a chapter break but wasn’t really?
  • What are the headings doing in Alma? Answer: Well, let’s compare to Helaman first. The headings there are very tightly organized. Each sentence describes chapters; this includes the heading over (our) chapter 7. Are the headings in Alma that careful? Not necessarily.
  • All of the headings we found in Alma are at the beginning of original chapters. (But not every original chapter has a heading.)
  • Chapters 1-3 are a chapter; chapter 4 is where he lets go of the judgment seat. The heading for the book of Alma talks twice about him being chief judge. Is the heading over all of Alma meant to be a heading just for original chapter 1? The more we read this, the more it sounds like it! “A” war happens. War/Contentions among the people (Amlicites) and then a war between Nephites and Lamanites (because Amlicites go to Lamanites). Perhaps we’re on to something? 
  • Heading over all of Alma repeats that Alma is the first and chief judge. The heading over chapter 5 emphasizes that Alma is the high priest. (At that point, he has let go of the judgeship.) So perhaps this does signal that we’re on the right track.
  • What if the heading over all of Alma is actually 2 headings mixed together? The two parts would be: “The account of Alma, who was the son of Alma, the first and chief judge over the people of Nephi, and also the high priest over the Church.” And then secondly: “An account of the reign of the judges, and the wars and contentions among the people. And also an account of a war between the Nephites and the Lamanites, according to the record of Alma, the first and chief judge.” This might explain the repetition of first and chief judge. One was for the whole of the book of Alma, and the other part was for just the original chapter 1. That would mean the first mention of Alma being chief judge comes in the heading for all of the book of Alma, and the second mention comes in the heading for the first chapter.
  • Or, we might have 3 things mixed together, because we have three “accounts”: “The account of” “An account of” and “and also an account.” So, maybe three headings!
  • However, it seems like that first part of this heading would not cover all of the book of Alma. Not sufficient. But it might cover until our current chapter 16. Chapter 17 has a new “account of.” So maybe this gets us that far. It could also be that it is meant to go till the current 44, but there are other interruptions. There are nested accounts! A bit messy.
  • It’s strange that there is not a heading as we switch back after the story of the sons of Mosiah. So his might point to the first half of the heading over the book of Alma as meant to cover through 44, but the story of the sons of Mosiah is dropped in. That’s why there’s no update after their story, because it leads back into the main flow.
  • We’re noticing that there are a few headings where he doesn’t mention where he is getting the accounts from. However, these could be “nested” accounts. For example, the heading above our chapter 21 does not have that information, but perhaps the heading over our chapter 17 might be meant to cover that information. (The heading for chapter 17 says, “An account of the sons of Mosiah, who rejected their rights to the kingdom for the word of God, and went up to the land of Nephi to preach to the Lamanites; their sufferings and deliverance—according to the record of Alma.”) So perhaps it is assumed that when we get to chapter 21, we already know where this information is coming from. (It would be great for one of us to create an outline of all of these with indentations showing what’s nested!)
  • There are also other places where he talks about where he’s getting his material, and what he’s doing with it. For example, the 2 passages that Fred Axelgard added to the Facebook even page (Alma 9:34 and Alma 11:46).
  • Joe sees the whole book of Alma as being divided into two parallel parts — that is, the stories in the first half have a parallel in the second half. As we look at the headings, it seems that the headings also help point out these similarities! For example, each of the cities Alma preaches to gets a heading, and each of the sons he teaches gets a heading. (There are more, I just didn’t catch them.) (Joe’s reading of the book of Alma is quite detailed and quite good, by the way. A post for another time.) (Or read it in the JBMS — this isn’t free yet, but will be soon, on Maxwell website, after the next issue of JBMS is published.) This would help Mormon remember what part he is on that matches up with the parallel pattern?
  • But, why is there not a heading at chapter 30, which would parallel chapter 1?
  • Pause for a moment to look up all the original chapter breaks in Alma:
    • Chapters 1-3 were chapter 1
    • Chapter 4 was chapter 2
    • Chapter 5 was chapter 3
    • Chapter 6 was chapter 4
    • Chapter 7 was chapter 5
    • Chapter 8 was chapter 6
    • Chapter 9 was chapter 7
    • Chapter 10-11 was chapter 8
    • Chapter 12:1-13:9 was chapter 9
    • Chapter 13:10-15:19 was chapter 10
    • Chapter 16 was chapter 11
    • Chapters 17-20 were chapter 12
    • Chapters 21-22 were chapter 13
    • Chapters 23-26 were chapter 14
    • Chapters 27-29 were chapter 15
    • Chapters 30-35 were chapter 16
    • Chapters 36-37 were chapter 17
    • Chapters 38 was chapter 18
    • Chapters 39-42 were chapter 19
    • Chapters 43-44 were chapter 20
    • Chapters 45-49 were chapter 21
    • Chapter 50 was chapter 22
    • Chapter 51 was chapter 23
    • Chapter 52-53 were chapter 24
    • Chapter 54-55 were chapter 25
    • Chapter 56-58 were chapter 26
    • Chapter 59-60 were chapter 27
    • Chapter 61 was chapter 28
    • Chapter 62 was chapter 29
    • Chapter 63 was chapter 30
  • Page count for original chapters, to help us then see how much each heading would have covered (clarification – not every original chapter had a heading; this is just prep work):
    • Book of Alma starts on page 221 originally (1830 edition).
    • original Chapter 2 – starts on page 230, ends on 232
    • Chapter 3 – starts on 232
    • Chapter 4 – 238
    • Chapter 5 – 239
    • Chapter 6 – 242
    • Chapter 7 – 245
    • Chapter 8 – 248
    • Chapter 9 – 254
    • Chapter 10 – 259
    • Chapter 11 – 266-268
    • Chapter 12 – 269
    • Chapter 13 – 282
    • Chapter 14 – 289
    • Chapter 15 – 299
    • Chapter 16 – 304
    • Chapter 17 – 323
    • Chapter 18 – 330
    • Chapter 19 – 332
    • Chapter 20 – 340-347
    • Chapter 21 – 348
    • Chapter 22 – 362
    • Chapter 23 – 366
    • Chapter 24 – 370
    • Chapter 25 – 377-381
    • Chapter 26 – 382
    • Chapter 27 – 393
    • Chapter 28 – 398
    • Chapter 29 – 400
    • Chapter 30 – 405-407
  • The parallel parts of Alma actually have similar page lengths! That was a surprise. It is especially parallel for the first half of each part (so, first quarter and third quarter). The second half of each part (2nd and 4th quarters) aren’t equal. A lot more time is spent on the wars.
  • Side-note — interesting article: by Kent Brown
  • Joe’s article (not free yet):
  • How many years is covered by sons of Mosiah’s preaching versus wars in the end of Alma? Answer: 14 years for preaching, 21 years pass during those chapters (war within those chapters ends before those chapters are over – so the war takes 12 years itself). So the chapters are longer, and do cover 7 more years. But the preaching and the war are about the same length.  Actually, depending on how you count it, you could see it as 14 years. That scarily close! 😀
  • The first half is 15 chapters, and second half is 15 chapters!
  • There are two ways to group what is in the war chapters. For example, the original chapter 20 (battle of Zerahemna), could be included with “Alma war chapters” or not. The argument to not include it is that there is a major heading, Alma disappears, Helaman in charge, etc. Then that seems like there is a new war. But if you start with when Moroni comes onto the scene, then you do include chapter 20 in war chapters.
  • If you take Moroni as the marker, and include the original chapter 20, then quarters 1 and 4 have 11 chapters each, and quarters 2 and 3 have 4 chapters each.
  • If you include that original chapter 20, that’s when you get 14 years of war, and 14 years of preaching.
  • Mormon: Historian, Prophet, Mathematician! Wow!
  • 14 in Hebrew is the number for David’s name. (Important to Mathew when he gives the genealogy of Christ.)
  • We decided to stop at 14 minutes to 10:00pm! haha (Tyler’s suggestion).


Here’s the list of ones we’ve found:

The account of Alma, who was the son of Alma, the first and chief judge over the people of Nephi, and also the high priest over the Church. An account of the reign of the judges, and the wars and contentions among the people. And also an account of a war between the Nephites and the Lamanites, according to the record of Alma, the first and chief judge. 

The words which Alma, the High Priest according to the holy order of God, delivered to the people in their cities and villages throughout the land.

Beginning with chapter 5.

The words of Alma which he delivered to the people in Gideon, according to his own record.

Comprising chapter 7.

The words of Alma, and also the words of Amulek, which were declared unto the people who were in the land of Ammonihah. And also they are cast into prison, and delivered by the miraculous power of God which was in them, according to the record of Alma.

Comprising chapters 9 through 14.

These are not quite the same, but still commentary on what he’s doing with the text/where he’s getting his sources, etc.

Alma 9:34 And it came to pass that Amulek went and stood forth, and began to preach unto them also. And now the words of Amulek are not all written, nevertheless a part of his words are written in this book.

Alma 11:46 Now, when Amulek had finished these words the people began again to be astonished, and also Zeezrom began to tremble. And thus ended the words of Amulek, or this is all that I have written.

An account of the sons of Mosiah, who rejected their rights to the kingdom for the word of God, and went up to the land of Nephi to preach to the Lamanites; their sufferings and deliverance—according to the record of Alma.

Comprising chapters 17 through 27.

An account of the preaching of Aaron, and Muloki, and their brethren, to the Lamanites.

Comprising chapters 21 through 25.

The commandments of Alma to his son Helaman.

Comprising chapters 36 and 37.

The commandments of Alma to his son Shiblon.

Comprising chapter 38.

The commandments of Alma to his son Corianton.

Comprising chapters 39 through 42.

The account of the people of Nephi, and their wars and dissensions, in the days of Helaman, according to the record of Helaman, which he kept in his days.

Comprising chapters 45 through 62.

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