17 And at the time that Mosiah discovered them, they had become exceedingly numerous. Nevertheless, they had had many wars and serious contentions, and had fallen by the sword from time to time; and their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator; and Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could understand them.
18 But it came to pass that Mosiah caused that they should be taught in his language. And it came to pass that after they were taught in the language of Mosiah, Zarahemla gave a genealogy of his fathers, according to his memory; and they are written, but not in these plates.
Nephi was grateful that he had been taught “somewhat in all the learning of [his] father” (1 Nephi 1:1). This learning included an understanding of his father’s language. Enos was grateful that his father “taught [him] in his language” (Enos 1:1). When Nephi and his brothers traveled back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, one of the reasons was to “preserve unto our children the language of our fathers” (1 Nephi 3:19).
In the verses above, Amaleki shows us the alternative ending to this story. The people of Zarahemla left Jerusalem a little after Lehi and his family and were also led by the Lord to the American continent. However, “they had brought no records with them.” The consequences were severe:
- “Their language had become corrupted.”
- “They had had many wars and serious contentions.”
- “They denied the being of their Creator.”
King Mosiah began by instructing them in his people’s language, after which the other problems were resolved. Interestingly, Mosiah then translates an ancient record into their language so that the people can benefit from additional written words (v. 20-21). Those writings contained (among other things) the account of the people at the time of the Tower of Babel, who were cursed for disobedience by having their language confounded (v. 22. See also Genesis 11:1-9.)
Communication is important. The ability to communicate effectively can reduce the probability of conflict, allow people to work together more effectively, and build faith. The written word is particularly important, partly because of our limited ability to remember. King Benjamin told his sons that there is no way Lehi could have remembered all of the gospel principles he needed to teach his children without the help of the brass plates (Mosiah 1:4). As the passage above illustrates, we not only preserve knowledge, but also language—the ability to communicate effectively—by reading and writing.
Today, I will remember the importance of effective communication. I will make an effort to communicate more effectively, in order to avoid misunderstandings and to inspire and assist the people around me. I will also remember the importance of the written word in preserving knowledge and in preserving our ability to communicate.