CLICK HERE to read Alma 54.
This chapter and the next few are like reading over the shoulder of a couple of pen pals. Except the pen pals are not buddies! They are Ammoron and Moroni, enemies of war, and they are writing each other about the exchange of prisoners (verse 1). Moroni was initially excited that Ammoron was willing to exchange prisoners (verse 2), and so began to write to him to establish the conditions of the exchange. Primarily, Moroni was concerned about the women and children that the Lamanites had taken (verses 3-4).
Moroni wrote his letter to Ammoron, pointing out that Ammoron didn’t start the war (his brother did), but he was continuing it (verse 5). Moroni said that God would bring justice for his people if the Lamanites did not repent (verses 6-7). But since Ammoron continues to fight the Nephites, Moroni knows it will happen again and again (verse 8). So Moroni warns Ammoron that the Nephites are prepared to defend their people and right to worship (verses 9-10). Finally, he sets the conditions for the release of prisoners: that for each man the Nephites release, the Lamanites will release a man and his wife and children (the Nephites did not take women and children as prisoners) (verses 11-12).
Ammoron got this letter and was angry (verse 15). He replied to Moroni, saying that he wasn’t afraid of what Moroni had to say (verse 16, 19). He went back to the false traditions of his father, misunderstandings of teachings passed down, saying that the Nephites took the right of government that belonged to the Lamanites (verse 17). This goes way back to the sons of Lehi, when Nephi was a younger son but a believer, while the older sons Laman and Lemuel should have earned the birthright inheritance but did not do so. So the Lamanites are angry the government was not passed down to them, but the Nephites know it was because Laman was not worthy of it. This is complicated by Ammoron being a descendant of Zoram, who was a convert that joined Lehi as they left Jerusalem – but the tradition passed down is that Zoram was only a servant, and so in bondage (verse 23). Ammoron does not understand this piece about Zoram’s conversion, and so is just angry.
Ammoron says that to stop the war the Nephites must lay down their weapons and submit themselves to the Lamanite government (verse 18). However, Ammoron agrees to the conditions of the exchange, saying that giving up the women and children will save them food resources while they continue preparing for the war that will continue until the Nephites are extinct (verse 20). Then Ammoron adds that he and his people have not rejected God, because there is no such being to reject (verse 21).
The next chapter has Moroni’s response to these things.