Samuel the Lamanite: Key Prophet in the Returning Prophet Type-Scene

Charles Swift

Charles Swift is an associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University.

The prophet Samuel, the Lamanite prophet in the Book of Mormon, stands out in the entire narrative of this book of prophets. He is “a rare and complex figure in a lengthy and intricate narrative.”[1] He is “a poet.”[2] He is, in fact, the only Book of Mormon prophet who had been commanded by the Savior to testify to the Lord’s people regarding a specific prophecy, and then years later, when personally visiting the people of the Book of Mormon, the resurrected Christ himself would require the Nephite and Lamanite records be brought before him so he could question his disciples about that prophecy and its fulfillment (see 3 Nephi 23:6–13). No other prophet in the Book of Mormon is thought of in the same manner as Samuel the Lamanite. While he is also remembered as the prophet who stood upon the wall of the land of Zarahemla and preached repentance to the Nephites, the prophet who prophesied in remarkable detail of the wonderful signs in the Book of Mormon world of the Christ’s birth, as well as the cataclysmic signs in that world of his death, and the prophet who was miraculously protected from the arrows and stones of the angry throng of Nephites as he preached to them, it is significant that he will always be remembered and be called by how he is recognized in the story: the one major prophet in the Book of Mormon named as a Lamanite—as the Lamanite.

At first glance, the fact that Samuel is the only Lamanite prophet mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon may make him seem significant only in a quantitative manner. On closer inspection, however, it is clear that Samuel also enjoys an important qualitative uniqueness as something like an equivalent of John the Baptist—a kind of “messianic forerunner” for the Lamanites and Nephites who prepares a people for the Savior’s coming.[3] In addition to highlighting Samuel’s Lamanite identity and unique status as a forerunner, the narrator[4] further amplifies Samuel’s role and importance by structuring his narrative as a type-scene.[5] This type-scene, unique to the Book of Mormon and which I have named the returning prophet type-scene, is exemplified by two earlier Book of Mormon prophets, Abinadi and Alma2.[6] Samuel’s story does more than simply conform to the returning prophet type-scene, however. In this essay I will argue that Samuel’s narrative is in fact the climactic iteration of this type-scene within the Book of Mormon and that the type-scene itself also serves to point to the coming of Christ. In this way, the structure of the narrative functions every bit as a messianic forerunner, as does Samuel himself.

Before we delve into a discussion of the returning prophet type-scene, it is essential to understand the nature of the type-scene in literature and how Latter-day Saint writers have perceived that form in the Book of Mormon.

Type-Scenes in Story and Character Development

Robert Alter coined the term type-scene to describe scenes in biblical narratives that are “more or less the same story” and that often seem “to be told two or three or more times about different characters, or sometimes even about the same character in different sets of circumstances.”[7] Type-scenes are not just a matter of repetition, however; such scenes in narratives occur at key moments in the main characters’ lives. “Since biblical narrative characteristically catches its protagonists only at the critical and revealing points in their lives,” Alter explains, “the biblical type-scene occurs not in the rituals of daily existence but at the crucial junctures in the lives of the heroes, from conception and birth to betrothal to deathbed.”[8] These scenes can help with developing characters, as well as with foreshadowing what will occur later in the story.[9] And, while it is important to see what each retelling of the story has in common, it is even more important to be aware of how the new iteration of the story is different from the previous one.[10] In the case of the returning prophet type-scene, this last point is of particular significance since Samuel’s iteration will be specifically relevant to the resurrected Christ’s coming.

While some Latter-day Saint writers who have studied the Book of Mormon text through a literary lens have noted the presence of significant repeating narrative patterns, with a few even aware of elements that the narratives of Abinadi, Alma, and Samuel share, none has fully identified and analyzed the returning prophet type-scene. For example, Michael Austin examines the type-scenes of the “eating [of] a specific fruit,” “the exodus pattern,” and “the conversion of men who persecuted the church,” each of which he found in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon.[11] And in his essay about the Book of Mormon, Edgar Snow Jr. writes that “an analysis of the frequency with which events are reported usually reveals the importance which the implied reader should attach to the events.”[12] He discusses “separate similar events [that] are often narrated to highlight commonalties for a narrative effect at the expense of their differences” (something he calls “multiple-similar narrations”) and identifies one such event as the “prophetic failure/success stories, such as the stories about Abinadi and Alma1.” He includes Samuel the Lamanite as an “example of the prophetic failure/success story . . . [because he] attempts to preach, is rejected, is prompted to preach again by a divine source, and thereafter meets success.”[13] Note that while Snow sees patterns involving Samuel, Abinadi, and Alma, those patterns concern the elder Alma, not his son as figured in the returning prophet type-scene; and although Snow’s patterns share some common ground with the type-scene, they are not nearly as developed.

Additionally, Mark Thomas discusses similar patterns, though he names them “narrative scenes” instead of type-scenes.[14] Thomas does not examine the type-scene consisting of Abinadi, Alma, and Samuel the Lamanite, but he does write of the warning prophet form” appearing in narratives of prophetic warning” that are presented in formulaic plots that contain four plot elements appearing in the same sequence: a heavenly call, a prophetic message of repentance and Christ, violent reaction from the people, and the prophet’s divine deliverance.”[15] He sees Abinadi, Alma, and Samuel the Lamanite as being a part of that form, but he also discusses Lehi, Nephi (son of Helaman), and Ether as part of that form as well.[16] In Richard Dilworth Rust’s writing about the importance of repetitive patterns in the Book of Mormon, he identifies how Abinadi, Alma, and Samuel the Lamanite are cast out of cities and then return at the Lord’s bidding.”[17] While he does discuss Alter’s type-scenes and how they occur in the Book of Mormon, he does not identify the narrative of these three prophets as a type-scene.[18] And Grant Hardy likewise identifies similarities between Alma and Amulek, including that they are both “prophets who start to leave when their words are rejected only to receive a directive to return and deliver a final warning.”[19] However, he does not include Samuel in his discussion, nor does he consider the prophets as playing roles in a type-scene.[20]

Though it is important to see the repeating elements each narrative shares in the stories of the prophets Abinadi, Alma, and Samuel, as discussed above, the development of the narrative through its retelling with each iteration of the type-scene reveals much more than the simple repetition of events. As we proceed to identify the elements of the returning prophet type-scene, and analyze their evolution throughout the text, we will better understand the importance of the role of the prophet Samuel in the Book of Mormon as a whole.

The Type-Scene of the Returning Prophet

In addition to Abinadi, Alma, and Samuel the Lamanite being cast out of the cities where they were preaching and then commanded by the Lord to return (a general pattern that will become clearer below), there are other repeated components in these narratives. In fact, I have identified a total of ten distinct elements of the returning prophet type-scene in the Book of Mormon.

First visit

  1. The people of the city view the prophet as an outsider. This status can be understood on several levels; it is often referred to as being seen as “other.”
  2. The prophet, called of God, preaches repentance to the people of a particular city.
  3. The people reject the prophet and his message.
  4. The prophet leaves the city.

The Lord commands the prophet to return

  1. The Lord commands the prophet to return to the city and preach repentance to the people.

The second visit

  1. The prophet returns to the city by way of some unusual means, not being able to return by a straightforward manner because of his previous rejection.
  2. The prophet preaches a very specific message: the people must repent or the Lord will destroy them.
  3. The majority of the people reject the prophet and his message a second time.
  4. The people attempt to harm the prophet.
  5. The Lord miraculously protects the prophet

As we study each of the three prophets within the framework of the returning prophet type-scene, we will see that the elements enumerated above are not simply repeated in each narrative. While some elements may be nearly identical, others differ, thus helping the type-scene to evolve in such a way as to progress toward the climactic event of the Savior’s visit to the Lamanites and Nephites.

“There Was a Man among Them”: The Abinadi Type-Scene

Regarding the use of type-scenes in the Hebrew Bible, Alter writes that people being perfectly familiar with the convention, took particular pleasure in seeing how in each instance the convention could be, through the narrator’s art, both faithfully followed and renewed for the specific needs of the hero under consideration.” [21] First, of course, the readers had to become perfectly familiar with the convention.” We will fulfill the same function in this essay through the story of Abinadi, which will serve as our introduction to the returning prophet type-scene.

1. First visit: The people view the prophet as “other”

The narrator first brings Abinadi to our attention when he writes that “there was a man among them whose name was Abinadi” (Mosiah 11:20). This spare text offers nothing about the character’s past, ancestry, or identity. Though the statement allows for the possibility that the people of the city are acquainted with him, there is nothing in the story indicating that anyone knows Abinadi. When King Noah learns of Abinadi’s teachings, his response possibly reflects both a lack of awareness of the prophet’s identity and lack of regard for his authority: “Who is Abinadi, that I and my people should be judged of him, or who is the Lord, that shall bring upon my people such great affliction?” (Mosiah 11:28).[22]

2. First visit: The prophet, called of God, preaches repentance to the people of a particular city

Abinadi begins his prophesying by making clear that it was the Lord who had called him to preach repentance to them. This is made clear through a repetition of a prophetic formula ascribing his words to the Lord: “Thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me, saying, Go forth, and say unto this people, thus saith the Lord—Wo be unto this people, for I have seen their abominations, and their wickedness, and their whoredoms; and except they repent I will visit them in mine anger” (Mosiah 11:20).

3. First visit: The people reject the prophet and his message

After Abinadi preaches to the people, they are so angry with him that they seek to take his life. King Noah is likewise “wroth” with him and demands that the prophet be brought to him so he can have him executed. Apparently, their anger toward the prophet prevents the people from seeing clearly and accepting his teachings: “The eyes of the people were blinded; therefore, they hardened their hearts against the words of Abinadi, and they sought from that time forward to take him. And king Noah hardened his heart against the word of the Lord, and he did not repent of his evil doings” (Mosiah 11:29).

4. First visit: The prophet leaves the city

After Abinadi is rejected by King Noah and his people, the narrator does not tell us what happens to the prophet. There is a significant gap in the narrative; Mosiah 12:1 designates a “space of two years,” after which Abinadi reappears in some sense, having “come among” the people. We do not know if the prophet left the city and had been gone for the entire two years or if he remained for some, or even all, of that time; but it is reasonable to infer that he was out of the public eye, since the narrator has nothing to say about Abinadi, keeping readers in the dark regarding the prophet’s movements. Whether Abinadi has physically left the city or left it for all intents and purposes, no longer active in the affairs of the people, the narrative fits with this element of the type-scene.

5. The Lord commands the prophet to return

Just as the narrative omits explicit notice of Abinadi’s movements, it also does not depict the moment of Abinadi’s command to return. That detail comes from Abinadi himself when he informs the people that the Lord had commanded him to “go and prophesy unto [his] people” because they had “hardened their hearts against [his] words” and had not repented of “their evil doings” (Mosiah 12:1).[23]

6. Second visit: The prophet returns to the city by unusual means

When Abinadi returns to the city, he does so by extremely unusual means. He “came among them in disguise, and they knew him not” (Mosiah 12:1). We have no other instance in the Book of Mormon of a prophet utilizing a disguise, let alone making a disguise a part of his ministry.[24]

7. Second visit: The prophet preaches repentance or destruction

In this first iteration of the type-scene, this element is admirably straightforward. Abinadi prophesies that the people shall be “brought into bondage, . . . smitten, . . . driven by men, and . . . slain” and that the “vultures of the air, and the dogs, yea, and the wild beasts shall devour their flesh” (Mosiah 12:2). After prophesying more about the dire circumstances that await the people, and their king, Abinadi tells them, speaking directly for the Lord, that “except they repent I will utterly destroy them from off the face of the earth” (v. 8).

8. Second visit: Most of the people reject the prophet and his message a second time

Once again, the people reject Abinadi and his message, capturing the prophet and taking him to King Noah (see Mosiah 12:9). They tell the king that they “are guiltless,” that the king “hast not sinned,” that the prophet “has lied” and “has prophesied in vain” (v. 14), and that the king should do whatever he wants with the prophet (see v. 16). Owing in part to this rejection, Abinadi spends the remainder of the story preaching to the priests (sometimes with the king present) rather than to the people in general.

9. Second visit: The people attempt to harm the prophet

After King Noah hears what Abinadi has been teaching, he decides to take violent action against the prophet. He directs his priests to take him and “slay him; for what have we to do with him, for he is mad” (Mosiah 13:1). The men do as their king ordered them and attempt to lay their hands on the prophet with the intent of taking his life.

10. Second visit: The Lord miraculously protects the prophet

When the king tells his priests to slay Abinadi, they try to lay their hands on him but the prophet warns, “Touch me not, for God shall smite you if ye lay your hands upon me, for I have not delivered the message which the Lord sent me to deliver; neither have I told you that which ye requested that I should tell; therefore, God will not suffer that I shall be destroyed at this time” (Mosiah 13:3). After the prophet speaks these words, the people of king Noah durst not lay their hands on him, for the Spirit of the Lord was upon him; and his face shone with exceeding luster, even as Moses’ did while in the mount of Sinai, while speaking with the Lord” (v. 5).

Key to understanding one reason why the Lord preserves Abinadi’s life, as indicated in the prophet’s warning to the priests as they are about to seize him, is that he has not yet finished delivering the message the Lord sent him to deliver. Such a statement might be read as foreshadowing that once Abinadi has delivered his message, the protection will be lifted, but of greater literary power in the scene are the imagery of the shining face of Abinadi as a witness of the miraculous protection of the Lord and the direct comparison to the prophet Moses on Mount Sinai.[25]

“Alma Labored Much in the Spirit”: The Alma Type-Scene

The second iteration of the returning prophet type-scene is the story of Alma preaching to the people of the city of Ammonihah. As Alter observed about the nature of type-scenes, there are differences between the accounts of Abinadi and Alma and those differences have interpretive significance (as I will explore in more detail below). For the moment, however, I will limit this section to an outline of the Alma type-scene in terms of its ten key components.

1. First visit: The people view the prophet as “other”

Readers of the Book of Mormon are familiar with Alma from reading about his rebellious youth and conversion (see Mosiah 27:8–37; Alma 36) and his service as chief judge and high priest (see Mosiah 29:42–43; Alma 1–3). We also know that he lives in the land of Zarahemla, not Ammonihah, making him quite literally an outsider to the people of this city. While it is true that the people of Ammonihah know about Alma, they want nothing to do with him, rhetorically positioning Alma as “other” in their verbal rejection of him:

Nevertheless, they hardened their hearts, saying unto him: Behold, we know that thou art Alma; and we know that thou art high priest over the church which thou hast established in many parts of the land, according to your tradition; and we are not of thy church, and we do not believe in such foolish traditions. And now we know that because we are not of thy church we know that thou hast no power over us; and thou hast delivered up the judgment-seat unto Nephihah; therefore thou art not the chief judge over us. (Alma 8:11–12)

2. First visit: The prophet, called of God, preaches repentance to the people of a particular city

The fact that Alma places a high premium on preaching God’s word is exemplified in his choice to deliver up the judgment-seat so he could “go forth among his people . . . that he might preach the word of God unto them” (Alma 4:19). We learn “that when Alma had come to the city of Ammonihah he began to preach the word of God unto them” (8:8). We also know Alma was focused on repentance because when the people were not open to what he taught them, he prayed to God that he would pour out his Spirit on the people “that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance” (v. 10).

3. First visit: The people reject the prophet and his message

The narrator writes that when Alma came to Ammonihah and began to preach, “they would not hearken unto [his] words” because “Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people” (Alma 8:9). Even after Alma perseveres in his preaching, however, the people’s rejection escalates: they “withstood all his words, . . . reviled him, and spit upon him” (v. 13).

4. First visit: The prophet leaves the city

The people “caused that [Alma] should be cast out of their city, [and] he departed thence and took his journey towards the city which was called Aaron” (Alma 8:13). In keeping with the returning prophet type-scene, Alma leaves the city, having been both personally and verbally rejected.

5. The Lord commands the prophet to return

Alma journeys toward the city of Aaron “weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people who were in the city of Ammonihah” (Alma 8:14). As Alma travels, an “angel of the Lord” appears to him, saying, “Behold, I am sent to command thee that thou return to the city of Ammonihah, and preach again unto the people of the city” (v. 16).

6. Second visit: The prophet returns to the city by unusual means

Following the angel’s commandment, Alma wastes no time—the narrator reports that he “returned speedily to the land of Ammonihah.” However, he is not able to enter directly into the city but has to enter “the city by another way, yea, by the way which is on the south of the city of Ammonihah” (Alma 8:18).

Entering the city by “another way” is not the only unusual manner by which Alma gains his entrance into Ammonihah. Rather than walking into the city and immediately preaching, as did Abinadi, Alma asks a stranger for food (see v. 19). The man replies that he is a Nephite and that he knows Alma is a “holy prophet of God” because an angel told him in a vision to receive him. He then invites the prophet into his home and allows him to stay with him and his family for several days (see vv. 20, 27). This man, Amulek, becomes Alma’s companion in the ministry and a great witness himself of the Savior. This episode and the provision of a co-preacher for Alma together constitute the “unusual means” by which Alma returns to the city.

7. Second visit: The prophet preaches repentance or destruction

When the angel commanded Alma to return to Ammonihah, he included a specific message for Alma to teach: “except [the people] repent the Lord God will destroy them” (Alma 8:16). Alma is true to that commandment from the Lord, preaching to the people of Ammonihah that the Lord “has commanded you to repent, or he will utterly destroy you from off the face of the earth; yea, he will visit you in his anger, and in his fierce anger he will not turn away” (9:12).

Later in his sermon, Alma is more specific about how this potential destruction would occur: “But behold, I say unto you that if ye persist in your wickedness that your days shall not be prolonged in the land, for the Lamanites shall be sent upon you; and if ye repent not they shall come in a time when you know not, and ye shall be visited with utter destruction; and it shall be according to the fierce anger of the Lord” (v. 18).

8. Second visit: Most of the people reject the prophet and his message a second time

Although a few of Ammonihah’s citizens believe Alma’s message, “the more part of them were desirous that they might destroy Alma and Amulek; for they were angry with Alma, because of the plainness of his words” (Alma 14:1–2). This rejection leads directly to violence against Alma and Amulek.

9. Second visit: The people attempt to harm the prophet

Most of the people are “desirous that they might destroy Alma and Amulek” (Alma 14:2). The two men are delivered to the officers and are cast into prison and smitten; they suffer for many days, being deprived of food and water and “bound with strong cords” (v. 22).

10. Second visit: The Lord miraculously protects the prophet

After they withstand persecution for an extended period of time, “the power of God was upon Alma and Amulek, and they rose and stood upon their feet” (Alma 14:25). Alma cried to the Lord, “Give us strength according to our faith which is in Christ, even unto deliverance” (v. 26). With that they broke the cords that bound them, “the earth shook mightily, and the walls of the prison were rent in twain, so that they fell to the earth,” taking the lives of those who had smitten them (v. 27). “And Alma and Amulek came forth out of the prison, and they were not hurt; for the Lord had granted unto them power, according to their faith which was in Christ” (v. 28). The narrator closes this scene with particularly evocative language:

Now the people having heard a great noise came running together by multitudes to know the cause of it; and when they saw Alma and Amulek coming forth out of the prison, and the walls thereof had fallen to the earth, they were struck with great fear, and fled from the presence of Alma and Amulek even as a goat fleeth with her young from two lions; and thus they did flee from the presence of Alma and Amulek. (v. 29)

Once again, the Lord miraculously protects the prophet; however, unlike in the first version of the returning prophet type-scene, he does not allow him to be martyred. The image of Alma and Amulek coming forth as two lions while the people who had been spitting on them and mocking them are now fleeing as “a goat fleeth with her young” conveys not only the fear of these people but also the justice of the Lord. The Lord answered Alma’s prayer and miraculously protected Alma and Amulek, delivering them from the prison and from any further harm.[26]

“There Was One Samuel, a Lamanite”: The Samuel the Lamanite Type-Scene

It is by no means necessary that the protagonist of each variation of a type-scene be connected to the other protagonists of the different variations. However, in the case of the returning prophet type-scene in the Book of Mormon, there are several interesting and important relationships among the three prophets. First, Abinadi preaches to the priests of King Noah; this includes Alma1, the only priest converted by the prophet. In fact, it is because of Alma1 that we have the record of what Abinadi taught.[27] Further, Alma1 is the father of Alma the Younger, a rebellious youth who eventually experiences a miraculous conversion. He later becomes the chief judge and high priest, living in the land of Zarahemla. After some time, this Alma gives up his judgment-seat to preach, journeying from the land of Zarahemla to the city of Ammonihah, where he preaches in his role as prophet in the returning prophet type-scene. He warns the people of the city of their need to repent lest they be destroyed by the Lamanites. Finally, years later, Samuel, a prophet descended from the people who destroyed the city of Ammonihah, travels to the land of Zarahemla. There Samuel plays his own role in the returning prophet type-scene.

Though Samuel’s story is clearly patterned on this type-scene, it’s important to recognize that the story of Samuel the Lamanite is not just the same narrative with a couple of minor twists. To begin with, Samuel is fundamentally different from Abinadi and Alma by virtue of the fact that he is a Lamanite. Additionally, in this final iteration of the type-scene, we have a prophet hailing from a people that are nearly always viewed as wicked in the broader narrative boldly preaching repentance to the opposing group that is almost always portrayed as the righteous people. As Jared Hickman writes:

Instead of a white Nephite missionary weepily deigning to make his benighted black brethren aware of the eternal fate that awaits them unless they abandon “the traditions of their fathers,” the spectacle Samuel presents is of an enlightened dark prophet bluntly advising, in vivid and violent language, his fair Nephite brethren that “four hundred years pass not away save the sword of justice falleth upon this people.” (Helaman 15:4; 13:5; compare Mosiah 28:3)[28]

As we have discussed, type-scenes are much more than repeating scenes. They often occur at key moments in the main character’s life, they help with character development and narrative foreshadowing, and, while it is important to recognize what each version of the type-scene shares in common, their significance depends far more on the way each scene differs from previous iterations. “The type-scene is not merely a way of formally recognizing a particular kind of narrative moment,” Alter writes, “it is also a means of attaching that moment to a larger pattern of historical and theological meaning.”[29] Particularly with this final portrayal of the returning prophet type-scene, we will come to realize not only how important Samuel the Lamanite is to the overall narrative of the Book of Mormon but also how this type-scene contributes fundamentally to the Christ-centered message of the book.

Indeed, the idea that repeating structurally similar scenes might contribute to a single, bookwide message is already part and parcel of the notion of type-scenes. Alter explains that he had been

stressing the elements of divergence in the various invocations of the [type-scene] in order to show how supple an instrument of expression it can be. The fact of recurrence, however, is as important as the presence of innovation in the use of the type-scene; and the convention itself, the origins of which may well antecede biblical monotheism, has been made to serve an eminently monotheistic purpose: to reproduce in narrative the recurrent rhythm of a divinely appointed destiny in Israelite history.[30]

Just as biblical type-scenes produce a strong sense of divine providence undergirding the salvation history of ancient Israel, the returning prophet type-scene in the Book of Mormon (most especially in its Samuel the Lamanite variation) produces a bookwide rhythm of the divinely appointed foreordination of Lehite peoples and their relationship with the Savior. In what follows, I will analyze the Samuel narrative in terms of the ten characteristics of the returning prophet type-scene, but this time in more depth than in the case of either Abinadi or Alma. Because of Samuel’s key role in testifying of Christ, we will linger on each of these points at greater length.

1. First visit: The people view the prophet as “other”

Samuel is “other” in the most basic sense because he is not of Zarahemla. Unlike Abinadi, he was not from among the people, but he “came into the land of Zarahemla” (Helaman 13:2), having traveled from another location, as did Alma. However, Samuel’s status as “other” is much more significant than one from an “other” place. We see this element of the type-scene develop from the first character, Abinadi, who is from among the people of the city but unknown. One can be from there, in other words, but still not seen; in the crowd, but alone. The second character, Alma, is from outside the city but known and not accepted. As often happens, one can be well known in terms of reputation and official capacity but rejected in terms of authority. Such authority may exist, but it is meaningless for people who do not recognize it and allow the person endowed with it to bless their lives. With Samuel the type-scene is further developed dramatically: this third character is an outsider, is unknown, and is unaccepted. He is from an “other” place and is “other” in every sense of the word.

The narrator introduces us to this new prophet in an intriguing manner: “And it came to pass that in this year there was one Samuel, a Lamanite, came into the land of Zarahemla, and began to preach unto the people” (Helaman 13:2). Note the phrase “there was one Samuel, a Lamanite.” The wording adds a measure of distance between the character and us, the readers, in tone. Using the adjective one also emphasizes the uniqueness of Samuel, helping us to sense that it may be all the more difficult to relate to him. The narrator offers us nothing about this new character; there is no sense of context: we have no ancestry, history, location, nothing about this man, this “one Samuel . . . [who] came into the land of Zarahemla.”

This introduction further echoes the introduction of a completely different kind of character in the Book of Mormon much earlier in the narrative: Korihor, the anti-Christ: “But it came to pass in the latter end of the seventeenth year, there came a man into the land of Zarahemla, and he was Anti-Christ, for he began to preach unto the people against the prophecies which had been spoken by the prophets, concerning the coming of Christ” (Alma 30:6). As with Samuel, Korihor is a man with no context who comes to the land of Zarahemla and begins to preach. Their introductions both begin with conjunctions (and, but), indicating that their scenes are to be read as if they flow seamlessly from the previous narrative. Consider the remarkable similarities in the structure and, to a large extent, content between the introductions of the two men:

TABLE 1. Similarities between introductions of Samuel the Lamanite and Korihor the anti-Christ

Elements of introductions



Beginning conjunctions“And . . .“But . . .
Key phrase immediately follows[31]“it came to pass”“it came to pass”
Year identified“in this year”“in the latter end of the seventeenth year”
Phrase about coming to Zarahemla“came into the land of Zarahemla”“there came a man into the land of Zarahemla”
Identifier Nephites consider extremely negative“a Lamanite”“he was Anti-Christ”
Preaching“began to preach unto the people”“began to preach unto the people”
Tonedistant, impersonal, a new character without contextdistant, impersonal, a new character without context

While modern readers would never consider Samuel the Lamanite to be cut from the same cloth as Korihor, an anti-Christ, the narrator must have had a reason for introducing the two men in such a similar manner. The narrator writes that Korihor was “Anti-Christ” because he preached “against the prophecies . . . concerning the coming of Christ.” This explanation of “Anti-Christ” presents us with a fascinating juxtaposition of these two outsider characters and, perhaps, even a reason for why the narrator might introduce such different men in a comparable manner. While Korihor preaches against the prophecies concerning the coming of Christ, Samuel the Lamanite, more than any other Book of Mormon prophet insofar as the record provides, preaches about Christ in the most concrete, precise, and impressive manner regarding his coming. Introducing the two men in ways so similar may draw attention to how dissimilar they are: Korihor opposes everything Samuel is about.

Alternatively, the two introductions may be read without any sense of juxtaposition at all. Though the narrator never mentions any account of the Nephites referring to Lamanites as anti-Christs, the Nephites certainly considered the Lamanites to be unbelievers and viewed the name “Lamanite” negatively. The introductions can be understood as placing great emphasis on what Samuel and Korihor have in common: their status as “other.” Both are outsiders in a very negative sense. Though Samuel is a believer, he is not a Nephite, and he belongs to the group who has consistently been identified as a threat to the covenant people.

Most important to Samuel’s status as an outsider, of course, is the fact that he is a Lamanite. According to the Nephites, the Lamanites are those cursed by God “because of their iniquity. For . . . they had hardened their hearts against him.” Nephites viewed Lamanites as those on whom “the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come” that “they might not be enticing unto [the] people” of Nephi (2 Nephi 5:21)—the very people to whom God had called Samuel to preach.[32] Samuel is consistently identified as “Samuel the Lamanite,”[33] and such labeling is part of who he is in the narrative. Hickman notes the following:

It is significant that Samuel is always identified as “the Lamanite” rather than, say, an “Ammonite.” He is depicted as an interloper in rather than a resident of Zarahemla (Helaman 13:2), which distinguishes him from the sons of Mosiah’s Lamanite converts, who lived under Nephite protection in Zarahemla and “became” Nephite—and white (Alma 53:10). Samuel, by contrast, comes from and returns to “his own country . . . and his own people” (Helaman 16:7). His bracing otherness is immediately manifest in his incorrigible refusal and

pointed inversion of Nephite paternalism.[34]

The Nephites not only reject Samuel because of his message, but they reject him, at least in part, because of who he is. As Samuel will say to them later after his return, “Because I am a Lamanite, and have spoken unto you the words which the Lord hath commanded me, and because it was hard against you, ye are angry with me and do seek to destroy me, and have cast me out from among you” (Helaman 14:10).

Samuel’s identity as a racialized outsider does more than simply reiterate the type-scene, however. This aspect of his portrayal reinforces his role as a type of Christ, because the Savior is also an “other”—in fact, the definitive “other”—to the Lamanites and Nephites on several levels. At the most basic level, of course, the Lord is an outsider to the Lamanites and the Nephites because he is not of their land or even their hemisphere, but his otherness goes much deeper than geography. As with the returning prophet type-scene, the Savior’s visit to the Book of Mormon peoples involves not one but two visits: a first visit in which the people hear his voice only (see 3 Nephi 9–10) and a second visit in which he appears in his resurrected, glorified body. When the narrator first introduces Christ’s voice to the people, he does so in a way similar to how he introduces Samuel—with a somewhat distant, rather impersonal tone: “And it came to pass that there was a voice heard among all the inhabitants of the earth, upon all the face of this land” (9:1). This choice of words suggests that the people initially perceive the Lord as “other,” in some sense, especially since the narrator provides no evidence that the people recognize the voice as the Savior’s. This voice is not even recognized as belonging to Christ until several verses later (see v. 15).

In the second visit, the people also likely perceived the Lord as “other” since he first appeared in the sky, unlike anyone they are familiar with, then descended. In fact, before he told them his name, they did not know who he was and surmised that he was an angel (3 Nephi 11:8). Christ later instructed them to “arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world” (v. 14). The people came to know him as Jesus Christ, their resurrected Lord and Savior, their God—a being most definitely not one of them.

Because of the remarkable nature of his otherness, Samuel the Lamanite best foreshadows the Savior’s visit to the Lamanites and Nephites in this first element of the type-scene.

2. First visit: The prophet, called of God, preaches repentance to the people of a particular city

As in both of the previous variations, this element of the type-scene is fairly straightforward. The narrator writes that Samuel “came into the land of Zarahemla, and began to preach unto the people. And it came to pass that he did preach, many days, repentance unto the people” (Helaman 13:2). After he returns, he tells the people that he had preached during his first visit “words which the Lord [had] commanded” him to speak (14:10).

3. First visit: The people reject the prophet and his message

In the first iteration of this type-scene in the Book of Mormon, the narrator provides readers with a good idea of the content of Abinadi’s initial preaching to the people of King Noah. Readers are given a direct quotation of six verses of what he tells the people before he is forced to leave and then return. With the second version of the returning prophet type-scene, readers are told much less about the first visit, only that Alma preached, the people would not listen, he labored much in the spirit, and the people rejected his authority and cast him out. The narrator offers us no direct quotations of what Alma preached to the people during his first visit, though we are provided with a direct quotation of what the people told Alma when they rejected his authority.

With this last iteration, interestingly, the narrator offers us the sparest narrative of all three type-scenes—the account of Samuel’s first visit does not even last an entire verse! “And it came to pass that in this year there was one Samuel, a Lamanite, came into the land of Zarahemla, and began to preach unto the people. And it came to pass that he did preach, many days, repentance unto the people, and they did cast him out, and he was about to return to his own land” (Helaman 13:2). From this verse, all we learn about what he preached to the people of Zarahemla during his first visit is that he preached repentance, which apparently made them angry enough that they cast him out. The people’s anger is made even clearer in Samuel’s own words when, after he returns, he reminds the people that “ye are angry with me and do seek to destroy me, and have cast me out from among you” (14:10).[35] Though the account of Samuel’s first visit is brief—in fact, far briefer than the same element in any other iteration of this type-scene in the Book of Mormon—enough information is provided to make it clear that the people have rejected the prophet and his message. And, as we discussed above, they rejected Samuel not only because of his message but specifically because he was a Lamanite.

It appears that in each instance of the returning prophet type-scene, emphasis is always placed on what is taught during the second visit. This emphasis on the second-visit teachings may explain why the narrator provides us with little of what Abinadi taught during his first visit, less of what Alma taught, and even less with Samuel. Perhaps the main purpose for providing any teachings of the first visit is to establish that the first visit is indeed a proper visit of a prophet, namely, prophesying, testifying, and preaching repentance as commanded by the Lord. Once that pattern of the type-scene is firmly established in the first iteration of the returning prophet type-scene with Abinadi, the reader recognizes the type-scene and it becomes less necessary to dwell on what is taught during that first visit until, with the last iteration, all that is necessary is to simply state that Samuel preached repentance to the people and they cast him out. The key message regarding that first visit, particularly in terms of the type-scene, is that the prophet is called of God to preach repentance and the people reject him, and the narrator is able to convey that message more and more succinctly as the Book of Mormon proceeds.

4. First visit: The prophet leaves the city

In the account of Abinadi, readers become aware that the prophet has left public life only when the narrator announces that Abinadi comes among the people a second time (see Mosiah 12:1); he provides us with no information about when or how Abinadi left in the first place. The narrator supplies readers with slightly more information in the second iteration of the type-scene by writing that the people “caused that [Alma] should be cast out of their city, [and] he departed thence” (Alma 8:13). Note the passive nature of the language, however: the people “caused” that Alma should be cast out, as if they were not the ones to cast out the prophet but had someone else perform the task; and Alma “departed thence,” almost giving the impression that he was able to depart the city on his own terms even though he had been cast out.

In the case of Samuel the Lamanite, however, the narration becomes more direct and active than in either of the previous two iterations: the people “did cast him out” (Helaman 13:2). Samuel leaves the city, as the type-scene requires, but there is no doubt that it is the people who are the ones driving the prophet out of the city.

5. The Lord commands the prophet to return

Though we do not have the actual account of the Lord commanding Abinadi to return to preach to the people, during his second visit with the people of King Noah, Abinadi tells them that the Lord had commanded him to “go and prophesy” to the people (Mosiah 12:1). In the case of Alma, we have a fairly detailed account of the angel commanding him to return to the city of Ammonihah and preach once again to the people, perhaps, in part, because this was the same angel who had called Alma to repentance when he was a younger man.

In Samuel’s version of the type-scene, the narrator briefly shares with us that the Lord tells him to return, but little else. We read that “the voice of the Lord came unto [Samuel], that he should return again, and prophesy unto the people whatsoever things should come into his heart” (Helaman 13:3). If the Lord provided the prophet with further detail (e.g., the particular content of what he should preach), we are not told. Instead, the Lord appears to place immense trust in Samuel by telling him to prophesy whatever comes into his heart. Though we later learn that in one moment the Lord gave Samuel precise words to speak (see v. 5), this does not diminish the fact that, at the time the Lord directs Samuel to return to the city and preach, he does not feel the need to give him any specific instructions regarding what to preach about, but apparently trusts his servant to respond to divine promptings in the moment rather than needing to be instructed about what to say in advance.

6. Second visit: The prophet returns to the city by unusual means

As with Abinadi and Alma, the account of Samuel’s second entrance into the city is brief and straightforward. Readers are told simply that that the people “would not suffer that he should enter into the city; therefore he went and got upon the wall thereof” (Helaman 13:4).

Though brief, this account of Samuel’s second entrance into Zarahemla can be read as having significant symbolic meaning. While the narrator does not explicitly state that the wall places Samuel high above the Nephites, we know that when they try to harm and even kill him with stones and arrows, “they could not hit him” (Helaman 16:2). It is therefore natural to infer from the text that, in addition to divine protection, the wall is placing the prophet somewhat high above the people. “Though it represents a real wall in the narrative,” Edgar Snow writes, “[it] may also act as a symbolic setting.”[36] The wall and its height has the potential to represent a number of things. For example, this placement of Samuel high above the Nephites could be read as symbolizing his spiritual closeness to the Lord and the Nephites’ distance from the Savior and his prophets, as well as symbolizing, according to Snow, “their stubbornness.”[37] The wall could also symbolize a strong, solid foundation on which Samuel and the Lamanites have built their lives, contrasted with the uncertainty on which the Nephites are basing their lives at the same time.

While there are other times in the Book of Mormon when the Lamanites are portrayed as having righteous qualities, these are usually depicted with limited scope—that is, a few isolated, admirable qualities that are clearly marked as exceptional (such as when the Lamanites were raising their families well[38] or possessing some general good quality,[39] or when a group of them converted).[40] Samuel, however, stands out in the Book of Mormon because he arrives at the moment of full reversal in the Nephites’ and Lamanites’ respective fortunes. Each nation is held before us in stark contrast, assuming the role for which the other has been traditionally known.[41] Samuel’s location atop a wall therefore seems an apt symbol, separating the two people while also lifting up the Lamanite prophet.

The wall could also symbolize the narrative division between the Lamanites and Nephites that we have consistently seen throughout the Book of Mormon: the Lamanites are generally depicted as a wicked, rebellious people, while the Nephites are portrayed as those who have righteously followed the Lord. Keeping with this theme of Lamanite and Nephite division, the wall could symbolize the prejudice the Nephites in general may have had toward Lamanites. Jan Martin develops this idea elsewhere in this volume:

Samuel needed to find a better way in order to help the Nephites find a better way. In climbing atop the city wall during his second visit, Samuel physically demonstrated a desire to conquer Nephite prejudice rather than letting it conquer him. By boldly introducing himself as “a Lamanite,” Samuel made no apologies for who he was and, at the same time, set the stage for a nonhostile but direct confrontation of the Nephites’ erroneous perception of the Lamanites.[42] (Emphasis added)

Along lines similar to Martin’s study of prejudice, Max Mueller discusses how one result of Laman’s conspiracy to kill Nephi generations before Samuel was the establishment of “two distinct racialized lineages. The Nephites become the white-skinned keepers of the Abrahamic covenant while the Lamanites become cursed, dark-skinned, illiterate apostates.”[43] Therefore, another symbolic interpretation of the prophet climbing the wall is that “Samuel’s ascent atop the walls of Zarahemla signifies the culmination of the inversion of the Book of Mormon’s normal racial hierarchies.”[44] Now it is the dark-skinned Lamanite, representing the righteous people in the book, standing high on the wall, with the white-skinned Nephites, in a state of wickedness, far beneath, looking up at the Lamanite.

Since the Book of Mormon peoples shared a common heritage with the Israelites of the Old Testament, it may be justifiable to consider the potential symbolic meaning of walls to be similar in both books. Walls in the time of the Old Testament often defined cities and became “social centers for public and civic activity.”[45] It should also be noted that “because of their usefulness in protecting a city, walls were the visible sign of a city’s success and stature. They were a source of pride and beauty, and without them a city was incomplete.”[46] Walls provided more than protection for a city at the time of the Old Testament; they also “carried connotations of civilization as opposed to barbarism, settledness contrasted to chaos and rootlessness.”[47] Thus Samuel’s standing on the wall of Zarahemla could be further interpreted to represent the righteous Lamanites rightfully demanding their place in civic society alongside their Nephite brothers and sisters. After all, it would not be that long before Lamanites and Nephites would join together in forming a Zion society.[48]

In addition, the shared symbolism of walls serves to foreshadow Christ and his salvation. As one biblical scholar writes: “Carried a step further, walls become a symbol of salvation itself. Just as a wall could literally provide physical salvation for a people living inside them, so also the Lord’s salvation ultimately protects his people.”[49] This, of course, would be the ultimate symbol of the wall for this scene of Samuel, the Lamanite prophet: The wall represents salvation, and Samuel stands on it, the messenger of the Lord offering salvation to the wicked Nephites.

In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. (Isaiah 26:1; emphasis added).

Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise. (60:18; emphasis added)

Clearly, this sixth element of this version of the type-scene is strongest in foreshadowing Christ’s coming to the people of the Book of Mormon. Just as Samuel stands high on the wall, symbolically bringing together the worlds of the Lamanites and the Nephites, and literally delivering salvation to the Nephites since they must look into the sky for his words, this version of the returning prophet type-scene points to a time when the Savior will arrive from high in the heavens, bringing together the people and delivering them as their Lord.

7. Second visit: The prophet preaches repentance or destruction

With this final portrayal of the type-scene, Samuel also meets the standard of preaching repentance or destruction, warning the Nephites in Zarahemla that “heavy destruction awaiteth this people, and it surely cometh unto this people, and nothing can save this people save it be repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Helaman 13:6). He further tells them that the Lord has said, “I will visit them in my fierce anger, and there shall be those of the fourth generation who shall live, of your enemies, to behold your utter destruction; and this shall surely come except ye repent, saith the Lord; and those of the fourth generation shall visit your destruction” (v. 10). In fact, the prophet provides the people with great detail regarding the destruction.

What is markedly distinct in this version of the type-scene, however, is the expansive nature of the destruction that awaits the Nephites if they do not repent, and the detail with which Samuel prophesies about that destruction.[50] Although Abinadi and Alma warned that destruction awaited their audiences, Samuel prophesies the destruction not only of his listeners but also of the Nephite civilization as well. Speaking for the Lord, the prophet proclaims that

four hundred years shall not pass away before I will cause that they shall be smitten; yea, I will visit them with the sword and with famine and with pestilence. Yea, I will visit them in my fierce anger, and there shall be those of the fourth generation who shall live, of your enemies, to behold your utter destruction; and this shall surely come except ye repent, saith the Lord; and those of the fourth generation shall visit your destruction. But if ye will repent and return unto the Lord your God I will turn away mine anger, saith the Lord; yea, thus saith the Lord, blessed are they who will repent and turn unto me, but wo unto him that repenteth not. (Helaman 13:10–11)

Samuel’s listeners cannot claim ignorance. After hearing the Lamanite prophet’s words, they cannot argue they had supposed their actions would have no consequences, or even would hold negative consequences for themselves alone. Samuel makes clear that the very future of their civilization depends on their righteousness and that of their descendants.

Samuel continues in his sermon to call the people to repentance and warn them of the impending destruction if they fail to heed his call. This preaching of repentance and destruction is in keeping with the returning prophet type-scene. Unlike the two previous versions of this type-scene that are limited to the destruction of primarily the people in the prophet’s direct audience, Samuel’s sermon calls the entire Nephite civilization to repentance lest it face ultimate extinction.

8. Second visit: Most of the people reject the prophet and his message a second time

Previous iterations of the returning prophet type-scene involve audiences of different sizes as the prophet is rejected and then returns. Abinadi first taught a general audience and only secondarily was brought before the more limited audience of Noah’s court. Similarly, Alma first taught a broad audience only to later teach a single man, Amulek. With Samuel, however, there are no such gradations in audience size; he teaches the Nephites only as a group in the land of Zarahemla. Any gradation in audience occurs only in the people’s reaction: though there were many who believed the prophet’s words, there were also many “who did not believe in the words of Samuel” and who “were angry with him” (Helaman 16:2).

It is further significant to note that, as the narrator explains, those who rejected Samuel were in the majority: “the more part of them did not believe in the words of Samuel” (Helaman 16:6). Nor can we ignore the importance of Samuel being the only Lamanite prophet in the entire Book of Mormon and arriving at a time when the moral status of the Nephites and Lamanites has reversed. The fact that “the more part” of Samuel’s audience rejects his words, combined with Samuel’s status as a racially marginalized outsider, creates a particularly acute condemnation of Nephite wickedness in the book of Helaman.

This new dimension adds a depth to the meaning of the returning prophet narrative we have not seen before. For instance, consider why a Lamanite, of all people, was chosen to deliver this oracle to the Nephites. After all, Nephi was present in the land; he was available to baptize those who repented as a result of Samuel’s preaching and even preached and prophesied himself (see Helaman 16:3–4). But Nephi is not the central figure chosen to deliver this message in the Book of Mormon; it is Samuel the Lamanite. It is my contention that the racially marginalized status of Samuel helps underscore the moral reversal taking place at this point in Nephite history.

Additionally, this reversal is further emphasized in the majoritarian language used to describe Samuel’s rejection. This is not the “more part” of the people of King Noah, nor is it the “more part” of the people of the city of Ammonihah—this is the “more part” of the entire Nephite civilization. While it’s possible that the narrator intends “more part” to refer only to the people of the Zarahemla within earshot of Samuel’s voice, there are symbolic overtones to the people’s rejection of Samuel that should not go unnoticed. While the story of Samuel the Lamanite is, on one level, the account of just one man speaking to just one group of people, on another level it is the story of a prophet from the Lamanites speaking to the Nephites as a civilization. This is made clear by the narrator’s own tendency to characterize the people as a whole. For example, the text states that “the Nephites did still remain in wickedness, yea, in great wickedness, while the Lamanites did observe strictly to keep the commandments of God, according to the law of Moses” (Helaman 13:1). Samuel’s sermon is contextualized on a much larger moral stage than a single city. These civilizational stakes are further emphasized by Samuel himself when he tells the people that the Lord said, “Because of the hardness of the hearts of the people of the Nephites, except they repent I will take away my word from them, and I will withdraw my Spirit from them, and I will suffer them no longer, and I will turn the hearts of their brethren against them” (v. 8). Note that the Lord did not say the “hardness of the hearts of the people of the land of Zarahemla,” but of “the people of the Nephites.” And when the prophet speaks of impending destruction unless the people repent, he quotes the Lord as saying, “Wo be unto all the cities which are in the land round about, which are possessed by the Nephites, because of the wickedness and abominations which are in them” (v. 16). The focus is not placed on the people of one location, as it was with the previous two instances of this type-scene, but is placed on the Nephites as a whole.

9. Second visit: The people attempt to harm the prophet

In the prophet Samuel’s story, many of the people who reject Samuel choose not to simply walk away from him but instead intend to do him harm. “But as many as there were who did not believe in the words of Samuel were angry with him,” the narrator writes, “and they cast stones at him upon the wall, and also many shot arrows at him as he stood upon the wall” (Helaman 16:2). Although there are several noteworthy differences in the people’s attempt to harm Samuel as compared to the previous iterations of this type-scene, their full significance largely comes into view in conjunction with the next element.

10. Second visit: The Lord miraculously protects the prophet

It is both interesting and significant that Samuel experiences the least physical harm of any of the returning prophets discussed in this paper. In fact, unlike Abinadi and Alma (including Amulek), he experiences no physical harm whatsoever. Though the Lord miraculously intervened in this first version of the type-scene, protecting Abinadi when the wicked priests tried to lay their hands on him, the Lord also later held back, allowing the prophet to die as a martyr. And, in the second iteration of this type-scene, while the Lord did allow the people to harm Alma and Amulek, he ultimately protected them, freed them from prison, and preserved their lives.

However, Samuel experiences no physical harm in the story. The text states that “the Spirit of the Lord was with him, insomuch that they could not hit him with their stones neither with their arrows” (Helaman 16:2). Although some of Samuel’s protection may conceivably have stemmed from the height of the wall, it is clear from the phrase “the Spirit of the Lord was with him” that the Lord was protecting his prophet from harm. Indeed, Samuel’s protection was so obviously divine that it was responsible for the conversion of some holdouts: some of the people, upon seeing that they could not hit the prophet, believed his words and went to Nephi to be baptized (v. 3). After this initial protection, however, there is no further divine intervention; rather, Samuel simply “cast himself down from the wall, and did flee out of their lands,” returning to his own country where he preached among his own people (v. 7).

While Abinadi was initially protected and then killed only after the completion of his message, and while Alma and Amulek were initially harmed (though not killed) and only then divinely protected, the final iteration of the type-scene has the Lord completely protecting his prophet from all harm. Indeed, it’s possible to read Samuel’s casting himself down from the wall as almost performative: as if to prove his total health and well-being, Samuel jumps from a great height, then flees to his own country to continue preaching, a testament to his energy, commitment, and wherewithal to continue the Lord’s work.

Naturally, some of this variability is a simple reflection of differing historical events, but there is also a narrative and theological climax toward which these renditions of the type-scene are developing: the resurrected Christ’s coming to the Lamanites and Nephites.[51] Once again, it is this third iteration of the type-scene that offers the most developed foreshadowing of what the Savior actually does in the Book of Mormon: visit the Lamanites and Nephites to bring them the message of salvation.


As we study the returning prophet type-scene, we learn not only from the differences between each iteration but also from their progressive development over the course of the Book of Mormon. While each of the renditions share the ten elements, the last one offers the most fully developed and most theologically mature foreshadowing of the coming of Christ in the Book of Mormon. It is fitting that such a singular prophet in the book of Mormon—indeed, a Lamanite, hailing from a nation and race so often derided in this narrative—should end up being one of the most significant representatives of the singular Savior in all of holy writ.


[1] Kimberly M. Berkey and Joseph M. Spencer, “‘Great Cause to Mourn’: The Complexity of the Book of Mormon’s Presentation of Gender and Race,” in Americanist Approaches to The Book of Mormon, ed. Elizabeth Fenton and Jared Hickman (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 299.

[2] S. Kent Brown writes, “In this brief foray into the world of Book of Mormon poetry, it should be clear that my focus has been narrow. I have looked at only two pieces incorporated within the prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite. From my investigation, I believe that I can conclude with some confidence that Samuel was a poet. It is the first and shorter lament that leads me to this view. It seems to be his own composition. In the case of the second and longer piece, Samuel was likely quoting a hymn that was already known. I arrive at this observation principally because the formal expression of the hymn was known by a later generation that lamented the loss of properties, and secondarily because of the indicators of a worship context that appear in the opening lines, namely, the use of the verb ‘to remember,’ which is associated with the title ‘Lord God.’” S. Kent Brown, From Jerusalem to Zarahemla: Literary and Historical Studies of the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1998), 141.The first lament Brown refers to is Helaman 13:32–33; the second is Helaman 13:33–37.

[3] Shon Hopkin and John Hilton III, “Samuel’s Reliance on Biblical Language,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 24, no. 1 (2015): 31–52. The authors describe how both Samuel the Lamanite and John the Baptist “emerged from the wilderness to cry strident messages of repentance, working to prepare a people for the coming of Christ. Both prophesied of the coming of the Messiah, warning that those who rejected the message would be hewn down (see Matthew 3:10; Helaman 13:5–6). Both relied on biblical language to strengthen their messages (see Matthew 3:3). In other words, both employed the ancient language of the biblical word in order to prepare for the coming of the living Word, who would also teach from scripture, bringing it to life in new ways” (36). As the authors point out, “like John the Baptist, [Samuel] chooses to decrease his role as a messenger so that the Lord can increase (see John 3:30). Rather than call attention to himself as the messenger, he points to the Lord as the giver of truth” (41).

[4] While it is common for writers to simply refer to Mormon as the writer of Helaman and other books that comprise his abridgment of the large plates of Nephi, or speak in terms of “the Book of Mormon states,” for the purposes of this essay, I will intentionally use the generic term narrator to represent the idea of whoever chose the wording of the text. I prefer this term because I believe it reminds us that we are discussing a book that was written by people, not an impersonal artifact that makes statements, while also acknowledging to some extent the difficulty in knowing who composed the text we are reading. When it comes to the Book of Mormon, determining who has chosen the actual wording of the text is a difficult enterprise, considering it is a multifaceted, nuanced idea potentially involving the person who wrote the original text on the plates, the person who abridged the plates (depending on which section of the Book of Mormon we are discussing), and the interpretive role of Joseph Smith as translator (in whatever form that role took shape). By using the term narrator rather than any one individual’s name, or the title of the book itself, I believe it helps remind the reader that no one person effectually chose the words that we are discussing in the essay, but that someone did choose the words. Since all of the writers of the Book of Mormon are male, I will use masculine pronouns when referring to the narrator.

[5] Whether this role for the prophet as character in the type-scene was intentionally designed by the narrator or not I do not claim to know; what is relevant to this essay is the effect such a literary device has on the construction of the narrative and on us as readers. Of course, such an act of crafting does not imply the story is the result of the narrator’s imagination; writers can and often do utilize literary devices in crafting their accounts of historical events. As Erich Auerbach writes, “The fulfillment is often designated as veritas, . . . and the figure correspondingly as umbra or imago; but both shadow and truth are abstract only in reference to the meaning first concealed, then revealed; they are concrete in reference to the things or persons which appear as vehicles of the meaning. Moses is no less historical and real because he is an umbra or figura of Christ, and Christ, the fulfillment, is no abstract idea, but also a historical reality. Real historical figures are to be interpreted spiritually . . . , but the interpretation points to a carnal, hence historical fulfillment . . . —for the truth has become history or flesh.” Erich Auerbach, Scenes from the Drama of European Literature (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1973), 34.

[6] Alma2, also known as Alma the Younger, is the son of Alma, one of the priests of King Noah. From this point onward in the essay, I will refer to Alma the Younger as “Alma.”

[7] Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic Books, 2011), 58. Such scenes include the following: the annunciation of “the birth of the hero to his barren mother; the encounter with the future betrothed at a well; the epiphany in the field; the initiatory trial; danger in the desert and the discovery of a well or other source of sustenance; the testament of the dying hero.” Alter, Art of Narrative, 60.

[8] Alter, Art of Narrative, 60.

[9] See Alter, Art of Narrative, 67.

[10] See Alter, Art of Narrative, 61.

[11] See Michael Austin, “How the Book of Mormon Reads the Bible: A Theory of Types,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 26 (2017): 60.

[12] Edgar C. Snow Jr., “Narrative Criticism and the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4, no. 2 (1995): 103–4.

[13] Snow, “Narrative Criticism,” 104. The other two types of multiple-similar events are “(1) confrontations with anti-Christs such as Sherem, Nehor, and Korihor, (2) righteous-wicked Nephite cycles (which are self-evident in the text—just look for the words ‘and thus we see’).” Snow, “Narrative Criticism,” 104.

[14] “Alter uses the term ‘type scene’ [sic], but I prefer ‘narrative scene’: it is slightly broader in scope and avoids possible confusion with ‘typology’ in the Book of Mormon.” Mark D. Thomas, Digging in Cumorah: Reclaiming Book of Mormon Narratives (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999), 31n20.

[15] Thomas, Digging in Cumorah, 37.

[16] Thomas, Digging in Cumorah, 37–39. While Thomas does touch on some aspects of the Abinadi, Alma, and Samuel the Lamanite narratives that overlap with this essay in a limited way, for the most part his discussion is quite different.

[17] Richard Dilworth Rust, Feasting on the Word: The Literary Testimony of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997), 22. Rust does not go beyond noting that the three prophets are cast out and then told to return.

[18] Rust, Feasting on the Word, 23–25.

[19] Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 160. Hardy also discusses a number of other commonalities the two prophets share in their narratives, including “a dramatic confrontation with the authorities; a challenge to interpret scripture; the deliberate misconstruing of the prophet’s words; imprisonment; a single, named convert who pleads for the prophet and then is himself driven out (Alma1 in the first case and Zeezrom in the second); and martyrdom by fire.” Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon, 160.

[20] In fact, Hardy may not consider the type-scene as a literary device present in the Book of Mormon. He writes that “similarities in the Book of Mormon often look like historical coincidences rather than cultural conventions or archetypes. . . . In the Book of Mormon, the significance lies in the literal repetition of actual events rather than in the ways they are recounted, even if Mormon’s editing sometimes is intended to draw our attention to earlier precedents or later reenactments.” Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon, 155.

[21] Alter, Art of Narrative, 69.

[22] Contrast King Noah’s response to that of the people in the synagogue when Jesus read from Isaiah. They clearly knew who Jesus was as a person but rejected what he was saying (see Luke 4:22–31).

[23] One might suggest a counterargument—that Abinadi is not referring to a moment when the Lord is commanding him to return to the city but rather a time when the Lord, in general, told him to prophesy to the people, perhaps even before the first time he preached to them. While that interpretation is certainly a possibility, it would bring up two questions. First, does the counterargument fit the context of Mosiah 12:1 as well as the interpretation that the Lord had commanded Abinadi to return? The prophet’s statement about the Lord’s commandment comes across as his explanation for what he is doing there in the city in disguise. Second, if the statement is referring to an earlier, more general commandment from the Lord, then what has Abinadi been doing for the past two years when he should be prophesying to the people, as commanded?

[24] Some have asked me why Abinadi would wear a disguise and then publicly pronounce that the Lord had said to him, “Abinadi, go and prophesy unto this my people” (Mosiah 12:1), divulging his name to all those present and thus negating the purpose of the disguise. Their question seems to be based on the premise that the purpose of the disguise is to hide the prophet’s identity so that he can be safe from the possible consequences of his preaching. However, I believe the purpose of his disguise is simply to help him gain access to a place within the city where his voice can be heard. Judging from the text, Abinadi is apparently not concerned for his safety; he is concerned about fulfilling the commandment of the Lord—namely, to prophesy unto the Lord’s people. Without the disguise, most likely Abinadi would not have been able to gain entry into the city and his message would have not been delivered. Once he gains entrance, it is evident that he no longer has need of the disguise and boldly quotes what the Lord said to him.

[25] The prophet will continue to preach to the priests for some time about a number of important teachings. Eventually, however, the priests bind him and scourge him and Abinadi dies a martyr’s death (see Mosiah 17:13–20). The fact that the Lord allows Abinadi to die such a death does not diminish the reality that he miraculously protected him, prolonging his life and allowing him to fill his mission.

[26] Interestingly, one might argue that the harm had already been done and that the Lord did not protect them from anything. After all, Alma and Amulek had already been imprisoned and smitten for days, so while their deliverance was definitely miraculous, how does it fit into the type-scene’s tenth element of the Lord’s protection? Considering the context of the scene, however, we see that the people were “desirous that they might destroy Alma and Amulek” (Alma 14:2). They had cast out all the men of the city who had believed the words of Alma and Amulek, sending men to cast stones at them. Then, most horrific of all, they had burned alive the women and children who had “believed or had been taught to believe in the word of God,” forcing the two messengers of the Lord to witness the martyrdom (vv. 8–9). Taking into account all that has happened in the narrative up to this point, it is reasonable for us to believe they had planned on doing further harm to Alma and Amulek, most likely even taking their lives. Thus what happened as a result of the Lord’s miraculous intervention seems to fit well with this type-scene element.

[27] “But there was one among them whose name was Alma, he also being a descendant of Nephi. And he was a young man, and he believed the words which Abinadi had spoken, for he knew concerning the iniquity which Abinadi had testified against them; therefore he began to plead with the king that he would not be angry with Abinadi, but suffer that he might depart in peace. But the king was more wroth, and caused that Alma should be cast out from among them, and sent his servants after him that they might slay him. But he fled from before them and hid himself that they found him not. And he being concealed for many days did write all the words which Abinadi had spoken” (Mosiah 17:2–4).

[28] Jared Hickman, “The Book of Mormon as Amerindian Apocalypse,” American Literature 86, no. 3 (2014): 430–61, 453. Hickman also points out, “It is clear that the Lamanite prophet cedes nothing to the Nephites as his supposed spiritual superiors. If the white Nephites had long interpreted the black Lamanites in instrumental terms as a providential ‘scourge’ meant to ‘chasten’ them towards humility, then the Lamanite Samuel turns the tables to interpret the Nephites as mere instruments in the hands of the Lord to restore the Lamanites to their rightful place: ‘Salvation hath come unto [the Lamanites] through the preaching of the Nephites; and for this intent hath the Lord prolonged their [the Nephites’] days’ (1 Nephi 2:24; Helaman 15:4).” Hickman, “Amerindian Apocalypse,” 452–53.

[29] Alter, Art of Narrative, 72.

[30] Alter, Art of Narrative, 72; emphasis added.

[31] “It came to pass” is a “key phrase” in that it is a significant phrase appearing often in the Book of Mormon. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to discuss in depth the possible meanings of the phrase, but one recent interpretation is particularly relevant to our analysis. Hardy writes, “If there is any validity to the Talmud’s observation that the phrase ‘it came to pass’ signals impending trouble, we know that things will not turn out well in the Book of Mormon” (Understanding the Book of Mormon, 7). If we accept this understanding of the phrase, then the narrator considers both introductions to be instances of “impending trouble.” It is clear why introducing an anti-Christ would fit that criterion for the use of “it came to pass,” but it is more ambiguous when it comes to the narrative of Samuel the Lamanite. Is it because the narrator knows the Nephites will reject the prophet? Could it be because the Nephite narrator considers it troublesome to recount the story of a Lamanite prophet?

[32] Though there are various interpretations regarding this and other verses, offering readings in which “a skin of blackness” refers to something other than skin pigmentation, exploring these alternative interpretations is beyond the scope of this essay. For the purposes of this essay, I will accept the plain meaning of the verse, as do other scholars (e.g., see Hickman, “Amerindian Apocalypse,” 440–41, and John Christopher Thomas, A Pentecostal Reads the Book of Mormon: A Literary and Theological Introduction [Cleveland, TN: CPT, 2016], 235–40). For an insightful overview of race in the Book of Mormon, see Russell W. Stevenson, “Reckoning with Race in the Book of Mormon: A Review of Literature,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 27 (2018): 210–25.

[33] Repeatedly in the Book of Mormon, Samuel is called “Samuel, the Lamanite” (see Helaman 14:1, 10; 16:1; 3 Nephi 1:5; 8:3; 23:9; Mormon 1:19); that is the name by which he is best known in the book. He is only called “Samuel a Lamanite” twice: when the narrator introduces him and when he refers to himself (see Helaman 13:2, 5). Of course, it would be odd for him to call himself “Samuel the Lamanite.” There are two instances in which he is referred to as “Samuel the prophet” (3 Nephi 1:9; Mormon 2:10) and two in which he is simply called “Samuel” (3 Nephi 1:6; 20:24). The Savior is speaking in 3 Nephi 20:24, adding significance to that occasion, but the actual use of Samuel’s name is somewhat different in that the Lord is not speaking about the prophet in particular so much as he is using him as a reference point: “Verily I say unto you, yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have testified of me.” In fact, the Savior himself refers to the prophet as “Samuel, the Lamanite” when he says to the twelve disciples, “Verily I say unto you, I commanded my servant Samuel, the Lamanite, that he should testify unto this people, that at the day that the Father should glorify his name in me that there were many saints who should arise from the dead, and should appear unto many, and should minister unto them” (3 Nephi 23:9).

[34] Hickman, “Amerindian Apocalypse,” 452.

[35] As we attempt to better understand what the prophet Samuel may have taught the people during his first visit, we may gain some insight from what he tells them during his second visit about their false claim regarding their supposed righteousness when they compare themselves to their ancestors:

And now when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out. Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil. But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet. (Helaman 13:25–27)

It is reasonable to deduce that Samuel may be referring to his experience during his first visit to the people when he portrays how the wicked Nephites would treat a prophet who would come among them. Perhaps he, in fact, declared to them “the word of the Lord,” which testified of their “sins and iniquities,” which would certainly match the description we have of his preaching repentance to the people. And the results he described, that of people becoming angry with the prophet and casting him out, are exactly what the people of Zarahemla did to Samuel.

[36] Snow, “Narrative Criticism,” 99.

[37] Snow, “Narrative Criticism,” 99.

[38] For example, Jacob tells the Nephites that “the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you”; however, they are more righteous in that they “have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father—that they should have save it were one wife, and concubines they should have none, and there should not be whoredoms committed among them” (Jacob 3:5). The Nephites of that time were practicing polygamy without divine sanction. As for the Lamanites, they were not simply monogamous, but they also “love[d] their wives, and their wives love[d] their husbands; and their husbands and their wives love[d] their children” (Jacob 3:7). And while Jacob does ask his people, “How much better are you than they, in the sight of your great Creator?” when he attributes Lamanite unbelief and hostility to the iniquity of their fathers, he never explicitly states that he considers the Lamanites as generally more righteous than the Nephites.

While I see Jacob’s praise of the Lamanites as more limited, Deidre Nicole Green suggests that Jacob views the Lamanites as an example of “a vision of a godly society.” Deidre Nicole Green, Jacob: A brief theological introduction (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Brigham Young University, 2020), 57. However, she also points out that the “Lamanites do not have to get everything right that the Nephites get wrong to be a revelation [for the Nephites]. Note that Jacob enumerates a multitude of Nephite sins, but he does not describe the Lamanites as having practices and/or attitudes that are antithetical to each of them. The Lamanites do not have to outshine the Nephites in every aspect of their lives in order to prove revelatory for them.” Green, Jacob, 47.

For additional insight on how women are portrayed to some extent in the Book of Mormon, see Joseph M. Spencer, 1st Nephi: A brief theological introduction (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Brigham Young University, 2020), 100–115.

[39] Zeniff saw that there was “good among [the Lamanites and desired] that they should not be destroyed” (Mosiah 9:1). He does not claim that they were righteous or good in general, but that there was good among them. When the Lamanite queen tells Ammon that she believes his words that her husband is still alive, he replies that she is blessed because of her “exceeding faith” and that “there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites” (Alma 19:10). Still, this is a case of one Lamanite having more faith than all the Nephites, not the Lamanite people having such great faith.

[40] There are also examples of Lamanites who are converted, such as the Anti-Nephi-Lehies (Alma 23:16–17) and a group of Lamanites who take up arms with the Nephites to fight the Gadianton robbers, are “numbered among the Nephites,” have the curse removed from them, and are called Nephites (3 Nephi 2:12, 14–16).

[41] It is true that there will come a time later in the narrative when the wicked among both the Lamanites and the Nephites will be destroyed during the destruction at the time of the crucifixion of the Savior, and the “more righteous” among the two peoples (3 Nephi 9:13) who survive will partake of the Savior’s ministry and be numbered among those who are “all converted unto the Lord” (4 Nephi 1:2). However, that period of history will portray the two groups not in contrast but as one, united in righteousness, to the point, in fact, that there will be no “manner of -ites; but they [will be] in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God” (4 Nephi 1:17).

[42] Jan J. Martin, “Samuel the Lamanite: Confronting the Wall of Nephite Prejudice,” in this volume.

[43] Max Perry Mueller, Race and the Making of the Mormon People (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2017), 50.

[44] Mueller, Race, 50.

[45] Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III, eds., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery: An Encyclopedic Exploration of the Images, Symbols, Motifs, Metaphors, Figures of Speech, Literary Patterns and Universal Images of the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 923.

[46] Ryken, Wilhoit, and Longman III, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, 924.

[47] Ryken, Wilhoit, and Longman III, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, 924.

[48] As alluded to earlier: “In the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another” (4 Nephi 1:2). “There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God” (v. 17).

[49] Ryken, Wilhoit, and Longman III, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, 924, offering examples from Isaiah 26:1; 60:18.

[50] Samuel cautions the Nephites of the destruction that awaits as a sign of the Savior’s death. While there will be signs such as darkness, when the sun, moon, and stars shall give no light for “the space of three days” at the time of the Savior’s death (Helaman 14:20), the prophet also proclaims to the Nephites that there will be “thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours, and the earth shall shake and tremble,” rocks will be broken up, there shall be great “tempests, and there shall be many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great. And many highways shall be broken up, and many cities shall become desolate” (vv. 23–24). Samuel assures the Nephites that those who believe will be saved, and “that whosoever will not believe, a righteous judgment might come upon them” (v. 29); the Lord will judge people in righteousness, and “whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself” (v. 30).

[51] Of course, the martyrdom of Abinadi can be seen as pointing toward Christ, for the Savior did die for us. However, there are two problems with this thinking relative to the returning prophet type-scene. First, while readers studying the first version of the type-scene might understand that part of the story as pointing to Christ, Abinadi’s martyrdom is not part of the type-scene. And, second, this type-scene is a Book of Mormon type-scene, and the story of the death of the Savior is not a Book of Mormon narrative. While the Book of Mormon does speak of it, of course, it does so only as an event that happens in a world outside the book’s world. My argument is that the returning prophet type-scene ultimately points to the Savior’s coming to the Lamanites and Nephites—a Book of Mormon event. This Book of Mormon type-scene does not ultimately point to a New Testament event.

Similarly, Alma’s suffering in prison can be seen as foreshadowing the suffering of the Savior; God did not intercede to prevent his Son’s suffering in Gethsemane, his arrest, his being mocked, his scourging, nor his suffering on the cross. However, once again, it is not Alma’s suffering that is elemental to the type-scene, but the Lord’s protection of Alma from further harm by miraculously delivering him from prison. Plus, the Savior’s suffering occurred in the world of the New Testament, not in the world of Book of Mormon.