Friday, August 30, 2013

Mosiah 15: Abinadi's Soapbox, Part IV

Abinadi continues his self-righteous rambling in the court of the wicked King Noah:

Wait, God is WHAT Now?
Here is what we can learn about the nature of God from the first few verses of this chapter:
  • God himself will redeem his people—meaning that God is Jesus (verse 1)
  • Because he will have a body, he will be called the Son of God (verse 2)
  • Because he was conceived by the power of God, he will be called the Father (verse 3)
  • He is both the Father and the Son (verse 3)
  • The Father and the Son are one God (verse 4)
This is idiotic.  Can Abinadi, a prophet of the Lord, be any more vague?  I'm still not sure if he's talking about two separate beings that are part of the same godhead or if he's talking about one being that has two separate roles. This is scripture?  This is the word of the Lord?

I find it very difficult to believe that an infinitely intelligent god would be unable to find a better way to communicate the details of his identity to his people.  Because this description is useless.  

Maybe we're the first world that our God created.  Maybe we're kind of a rough draft or a trial run.  I'm sure the next world he creates will have more of the kinks ironed out.

Abinadi Teaches Random Stuff...oh, and Repentance
God has sent Abinadi into this sinful society because they need to repent.  But when Abinadi gets in front of the highest government officials, what does he talk about?  He spent the last chapter quoting Isaiah's prophecies of Christ.  In this chapter, he babbles about what God is, enthuses about the awesomeness of Jesus's suffering and intercession, discusses the eventual resurrections in the millennium, delineates who is and who is not of Christ's "seed," and quotes some more Isaiah.

Where's the calling to repentance?

I think I may have found it—Abinadi briefly threatens his audience in verse 26:
But behold, and fear, and tremble before God, for ye ought to tremble; for the Lord redeemeth none such that rebel against him and die in their sins; yea, even all those that have perished in their sins ever since the world began, that have wilfully rebelled against God, that have known the commandments of God, and would not keep them; these are they that have no part in the first resurrection.
...and shortly thereafter, we're back to Isaiah.  So much for crying repentance unto the people.

Troll Level:  Maximum
In verse 16, Abinadi says:
And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that are still publishing peace!
Sound familiar?  Probably because of what the priest asked Abinadi in chapter 12, starting at verse 20:
And it came to pass that one of them [the priests] said unto him [Abinadi]:  What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying:
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth; 
So Abinadi is asked a direct scriptural question, which, in his role as a prophet, he completely ignores.  Then, three chapters later, having still not answered the question, he makes a reference to it like it makes perfect sense and proceeds to offer no explanation.

What a dick.

Especially considering that he also quotes the rest of the question in the last three verses of the chapter ("Thy watchmen shall..." "Break forth into joy..." and "The Lord hath made bare...").  What exactly does the Lord's mouthpiece accomplish by trolling his audience?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mosiah 14: Abinadi's Soapbox, Part III

Now that King Noah's priests are for some reason paying close attention to his words, Abinadi does the only smart thing and starts quoting Isaiah.

Not this crap again.

Over these twelve verses, there aren't many notable changes to Isaiah 53.  Abinadi-slash-Mormon-slash-Joseph-Smith-slash-any-edits-the-LDS-church-may-have-made amounts to very little of import.  As best I can tell, three commas were removed.  Two commas were added.  Eleven colons were replaced with semicolons.  The lowercase letter F was capitalized.  The words "a" and "of" were removed.  "Hath" became "has."  "Iniquity" and "transgression" were pluralized.  "Openeth" became "opened."  "Bare the sin" became "bore the sins."  Here is the only change that I found that even approaches something noteworthy:
Isaiah:  "He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth."
Abinadi:  "He had done no evil, neither was any deceit in his mouth." 
If you ask me, that's not even a good change.  Violence and deceit are both bad, but they're separate things.  Deceit is a subset of evil.  Obviously, if he didn't do any evil, he also had no deceit in his mouth.  I think Isaiah's version makes more sense logically and poetically.  But somehow this is the most important change made to this chapter.

If the Bible had many "plain and precious" truths removed from it by evil men over the last two thousand years or so and the Book of Mormon is the untainted word of God received by pure revelation, why doesn't the Book of Mormon quote more of the parts of the original Bible that the evil men changed?  Wouldn't it be useful to have this second testament of Jesus Christ correct the parts of the Bible that are supposedly wrong?  Why all this direct quoting with only a few edits to the grammar and punctuation?

And, more importantly, why the hell are the wicked priests still standing there and listening to Abinadi spouting this pointless drivel?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Mormon Worldview

I had a totally unexpected memory a few days ago.  A children's song I used to know well but hadn't listened to in years and years suddenly got stuck in my head.

I was at work when the song inexplicably came to mind.  And, immediately struck by the obvious irony of the song that had never occurred to me as a child, I found myself chuckling.  It's a good thing no one saw me, because laughter without an observable trigger is generally construed as a sign of insanity.

My mom used to play this collection of LDS children's songs every now and then, and I remember liking them.  My sister and I would sing along to them. It was probably not an official church product  (come to think of it, it might not have actually been of LDS origins) and I'm pretty sure it was on a record, so it was probably already kind of dated back when we used to listen to it.  And after spending an embarrassing amount of time Googling what snippets of lyrics I could remember, I came up with absolutely nothing.  I don't know where these songs came from.

And since I can't verify the song's lyrics or even its existence, I'll just hope I'm remembering these two lines correctly:
The Pharisees and Sadducees, they did not know what Jesus was
They could not see what didn't fit their picture of the world.
The irony, of course, is that this song mocks one of the most frustrating characteristics of many faithful Mormons--the refusal to accept or even acknowledge things that don't fit into their Mormon worldview. My parents, despite being educated and reasonably intelligent, just can't see that Joseph Smith was a con man, that the church brainwashed them and all their children, that being gay is not a choice, that tattoos are not the mark of a lesser person, or that it's actually a good thing my girlfriend lives with me because she doesn't make enough money to support herself and she no longer has family in the area.

They can't see what doesn't fit their picture of the world but they have derided that precise quality when discussing Pharisees, Sadducees, Lamanites, anti-Mormons, Scientologists and Democrats.

And it's not just that they can't see it--it's that they won't.  There are some serious mental and ideological gymnastics required to make some concepts jive with their preconceived notions.  They're modifying the results to conform to the hypothesis.  And I know we're all guilty of that sometimes--bias and preconception are difficult to escape entirely.  But there are some occasions when my family's hypocrisy is just too egregious for me to easily forgive.

And I'm pretty sure that the majority of it is a direct result of lifelong participation in Mormonism.

Incidentally, if anybody recognizes that song or knows where it comes from, I'm still dying to know.  I think I have an unhealthy urge to review the indoctrination of my childhood.  On the off-chance that anyone will remember these songs, I leave you with part of the song I remember the best:
My name is Paul and I used to [something something]
Saying Jesus couldn't be real
But then something happened to teach me a lesson
And it changed the way I feel 
Oh, I'm off on a mission
There's important work to do
Oh, you've got to share a good thing
When a good thing comes to you
I know Jesus is the son of God
I know the gospel's true
Oh, I'm off on a mission
I'm a Christian through and through
Sound familiar to anybody?

Monday, August 19, 2013

How To Pray

When I was around eleven years old, my Sunday School teacher gave a profound lesson about prayer that stuck with me for a very long time.  It just happened to pop into my head today.

He was teaching us how to organize our prayers and explained that, after beginning by respectfully addressing God the Father, we needed to express gratitude before asking for anything.  He illustrated his point by role-playing how the beginning of our class could have gone.

TEACHER:  Good morning, Danny, it's great to see you.  How are you?
DANNY:  Um...good, thanks.
TEACHER:  I'm glad to hear that. Would you mind saying the opening prayer for us?

Our teacher then proclaimed that, if Danny hadn't wanted to give the opening prayer before, he was more inclined to give it now, after he'd been treated so nicely.  This immediately clicked with me--it made so much sense!  Of course that's how you should organize your personal prayers!  How could it have ever been any other way?

I have two problems with this.

First, that makes God sound like a little snot-nosed brat that you need to butter up before you can expect him to lift a finger.  If he's an omniscient, benevolent God (like we'd been taught he was), he shouldn't be the kind of being to require brown-nosing.

Second, why the hell was he teaching us the "correct" way to pray?  This was the last year before I was given the Priesthood--we weren't toddlers anymore.  Why was he wasting time teaching almost-deacons stuff that really has no value?  Is God going to return your prayer, marked insufficient postage, because you asked for help before you thanked him for your family?  This is the equivalent of an English teacher focusing her class on proper citation of references and skipping the vocabulary and the grammar.

But then again, the church does have a thing for focusing on superfluous exactness.  The sacrament prayer has to be exactly right or it doesn't count.  There is a precise limit to the number of earrings you can wear.  And the debate about whether caffeine is against the Word of Wisdom rages on.

None of that seems right to me.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Mosiah 13: Abinadi's Soapbox, Part II

And now Abinadi turns the self-righteousness from stun to overwhelm...

Abinadi Pulls a Nephi
King Noah is understandably irritated by the preachiness, so he orders his men to kill Abinadi.  But Abinadi takes a page from his distant ancestor's book and says:
Touch me not, for God shall smite you if ye lay your hands upon me....  God will not suffer that I should be destroyed at this time.
Sound familiar?  Remember 1 Nephi chapter 17, verse 48:
In the name of the Almighty God, I command you that ye touch me not....  And whoso shall lay his hands upon me shall wither even as a dried reed...for God shall smite him.
The two men have different reasons why they are lethal to the touch—Nephi was just so damn full of the spirit of God and Abinadi had holy business that was just too damn unfinished.  But that doesn't excuse the bad writing.  Not only does Joseph Smith keep bringing people from Israel to the Americas, but he also reuses the a cop-out when he's written himself into a corner with a prophet who's about to get killed.  That's some shoddy storytelling.

I guess that's what you get for claiming to translate your novel by the power of God from existing documents—you lose the ability to edit your work.  I mean, sure you can have it quietly revised over the years, but you can't overhaul weak plot points or people are going to notice.

I suppose if the Book of Mormon is true, then it's just God who's not very creative (except for creating the whole universe and stuff).  And apparently he grew tired of this effect because I haven't heard of the "touch me not" gimmick occurring at all in the modern era.

[Citation Needed]
While Abinadi is hulking out, the Book of Mormon states that "his face shone with exceeding luster, even as Moses' did while in the mount of Sinai, while speaking with the Lord."  I'm admittedly a little unclear as to who actually is supposed to have written this chapter originally, but regardless of who it was, there is no possible way that this person was present during the time of Moses.  None of the possible writers had any firsthand knowledge of what Moses's glow-gasm looked like and therefore had no business comparing it to Abinadi's display.

Sure, it could have been that whoever authored this particular passage had been given a vision Nephi-style (come to think of it, where have all the visions gone since the days of Nephi?) and been shown the events of Moses's life by an angel.  But in the context of Abinadi's situation, it's completely unnecessary to compare him to Moses.  The rebuke and the glowing countenance were what established that he was acting by the power of God.  And nobody in the book's audience was present for Moses's rave-face trick either, so it's not like this is a reference to something they can all remember and relate to.

It seems to me that, especially considering how difficult it's supposed to have been for these words to have been scratched into metal, the only real reason why that comparison is thrown in is, once again, for Joseph to build credibility for his book of rediscovered scripture by forcing in similarities with the Bible.  I'm picturing Joseph having Exodus and Mosiah open side-by-side on his kitchen table, saying to Brigham Young, "See?  Same little trick.  That totally means it's the same God.  See?"

Abinadi Imparts Groundbreaking Doctrine
Now that he's gotten the attention of the wicked King Noah and his wicked priests, what does Abinadi do?  He reads them the Ten Commandments.  He doesn't come up with some new angle that will blow their minds and make them rethink their lives or reconsider their stance on the morality of their actions.  He reads them the Ten Commandments.  Whoop-de-doo, Abinadi.

And apparently all these wicked people sit there and listen to him.  If I were the wicked King Noah, I'd probably leave the throne room and let my senior high priest know that if anybody needed me, I'd be with my favorite harlots.

God Always Loses Money at the Racetrack
In a part of the lecture concerning the law of Moses and its eventual obsolescence, Abinadi makes this peculiar comment:
And now I say unto you that it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel, yea, even a very strict law; for they were a stiffnecked people, quick to do iniquity, and slow to remember the Lord their God;
Ooookay, so if all that is the case, then remind me—why is Israel God's chosen people?  Because it kind of sounds like he bet on the wrong horse.

Those Pesky Divine Identity Complications
Abinadi is reminding the priests of the Messiah whose atonement will erase the need for the Law of Moses (which also seems dumb, but I should save that doozy for another time) when he makes this little gaffe:
Have they [the prophets] not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?
God himself took the form of a man?  Actually, what he did was take the body of a woman (and I do mean take her) so that she could later give birth to a kind of Herculean hybrid who would then atone for the sins of the world.  Once again, the Book of Mormon shows evidence of a contradiction with doctrines in later evolutionary stages of Mormonism.

I'm sure Mormon apologists have addressed this issue ad nauseam and come up with lots of mindbending little ways of fitting this square verse into a round modern doctrine.  For example, it doesn't explicitly state that this will be God the Father.  To me, though, it's pretty clear—the Book of Mosiah strongly implies that God and Jesus were the same being.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Not Serving a Mission

My decision not to go on a mission for the church was probably the first big decision I ever made for myself.  I felt predestined to go to BYU--that's where every other member of my immediate family had gone and I'd grown up expecting to attend.  I chose computer science as a major because my friends in high school were all into computers and that's why I'd become interested.  (Notably, the first tech-savvy friend I ever had was Mormon.)  But when I decided not to go on a mission, it was a huge, life-altering decision--and I made it myself.

It sucked.  At the time I felt like I was simply taking the easy way out, just like always.  In retrospect, though, I have come to feel a level of pride from the courage it took.  It wasn't easy and it went against the grain in a way that broke new ground for me.

I'd always expected to serve a mission, but I never really wanted to.  As I understood it, missionary service was an expectation and a requirement for young men.  When I was growing up, I just figured it would happen.  I'd probably go somewhere foreign and Spanish-speaking, just like my dad and my sisters.  That's just how it was.  That was the reality.  I'd never thought to fight it, but it was easy to accept the eventuality when I was fourteen and five years in the future seemed like a lifetime away.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mosiah 12: Abinadi's Soapbox

Now we get to the tragic story of Abinadi in earnest.

A Master of Disguise
This is how cleverly Abinadi, the exiled prophet of God, got himself back into the preaching game:
And it came to pass that after the space of two years that Abinadi came among them in disguise, that they knew him not, and began to prophesy among them, saying:  Thus has the Lord commanded me, saying—Abinadi, go and prophesy....
Abinadi had gotten kicked out for preaching.  So when he sneaks back in to do the Lord's work surreptitiously, the first thing he tells his his name.  He may have been clever enough to wear a fake mustache, but he wasn't bright enough to use an alias.

Stop Trying to Legitimize Yourself!
After spending several verses going into great detail about the impending destruction if the people don't repent of their assorted sins, Abinadi makes an odd comment:
And it shall come to pass that except they repent I will utterly destroy them from off the face of the earth; yet they shall leave a record behind them, and I will preserve them for other nations which shall possess the land; yea, even this will I do that I may discover the abominations of this people to other nations.
So, basically, Abinadi is telling the people this:
  1. You guys need to repent.
  2. If you don't repent, God will destroy you all.
  3. If God destroys you he will preserve a record of these events for the benefit of later civilizations.

Why does he expect the wicked people to care about their destruction being used as a warning to future peoples?  This detail is irrelevant and its inclusion in his prophesies is bizarre.  From Abinadi's angle, it makes little sense.  From Joseph Smith's, however, it makes a bit more—it is one more of his numerous attempts to try and prove his book true with itself.  The Book of Mormon prophesies of itself and of its emergence in the modern era many times.  This is just one of the least seamless attempts to use the Book of Mormon to validate the Book of Mormon.

Noah's Priests are Horrible Interrogators
After letting Abinadi rot in prison for a spell, King Noah allows him to be brought before his priests to be questioned.  But somehow, the priests lose control of the situation when one of them asks Abinadi to interpret a passage from Isaiah.  They begin answering questions posed by their own prisoner and when the dust clears, their interrogation has turned into a four-chapter sermon from Abinadi.

And not one of the priests thinks of pointing out that, despite all his self-righteous pontificating, he still fails to provide an answer to the original question.  This may act as a precedent for many arguments in theological discussions with Mormons.  If you haven't read the transcript of Marlin K. Jensen's "Swedish Rescue" meeting, that is a prime example of trying to give the appearance of being right without offering any direct answers to the actual questions asked.  Of course, Mormons are not the only people who do this, but the skill does seem to be prevalent in the church's culture.

An Idiom of Reformed Egyptian
Abinadi claims that King Noah's life will be "valued as a garment in a hot furnace."  Is that a saying?  Has that ever been a saying, anywhere, in any language or any culture?  Ever?

As far as imagery goes, it seems kind of, well, dumb.  Why would a garment wind up in a hot furnace?  It seems about as helpful as saying Noah's life will be valued as a green banana in a tub of salty bathwater.  You might be able to make a point using the image, but it's not exactly an occurrence that people can immediately relate to.

Why not just say Noah's life will be meaningless?  Or why not just say King Noah is going to die?  Oh, right—because when you're prophesying doom and gloom, you always need to make sure it sounds as cool and as ominous as possible.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mosiah 11: Fat Guy in a Purple Coat

Now we meet Zeniff's son, King Noah, who has become one of the more famous villains of the Book of Mormon.  Every Mormon child knows that he was fat, wore purple, and kept leopards in his throne room.  King Noah was a wicked man whose reign of iniquity had adverse effects on his society as depicted in this chapter.

That Pesky "Many Wives" Thing
I think it's notable to point out that the first of King Noah's sins that is mentioned specifically is that he had many wives and concubines.  This is not the first time the Book of Mormon has condemned polygamy (see Jacob 2).  It just occurred to me that this was probably part of the reason why Joseph Smith had to keep his polygamous relationships a secret from the general membership of the church.  When the Book of Mormon was still new and not an embedded cultural foundation the way it is for born-in-the-covenant Mormons today, the hypocrisy might have been more painfully obvious to the members.  We read the Book of Mormon following study guides and gospel doctrine classes that give us things to zero in on while the rest is glossed over.  Someone reading the book in 1840 might have picked up on the references to polygamy as an abomination a little better than a modern Mormon might.

It was always annoying to me as a faithful member how that pesky polygamy issue kept cropping up.  It's kind of amusing to see that the founding book of scripture for the religion has the same problem.  I wonder if Joseph later wished he could go back and remove a couple of those verses and save himself a few uncomfortable questions from his followers—because those who weren't his followers already gave him enough grief for the polygamy thing.

Laboring to Support Iniquity
Let's review some of the things that King Noah does that this chapter condemns:
  • imposes a high, flat tax rate on his people
  • uses the taxes to pay for a lavish lifestyle for him and his friends
  • uses the taxes to build many "elegant and spacious" buildings
  • fails to protect his people by not placing enough guards at the borders
Now let's examine some similarities to King Noah in Mormonism:
  • tithing is essentially a flat tax rate, although more is expected through various offerings
  • many of the top leadership have suspiciously expensive homes
  • tithing money is used to build many elegant and spacious temples...and I do mean "many"
  • the church fails to protect its people by not placing adequately trained bishops in positions to counsel those with complex problems
And yet, as King Noah's people worked hard and paid one fifth of what they had to support a kingdom built on iniquity, modern Mormons work hard and pay at minimum one tenth of what they have to support a religion built on hypocrisy.

Joseph Outlines the Effects of Living Under Corruption
The Book of Mormon kind of condemns King Noah in a "by their fruits shall ye know them" kind of way by illustrating the devastating effect his wickedness has on his people.  Under his rule, the Nephites become idolatrous, drunken, prideful and begin to commit "whoredoms and all manner of wickedness."

I don't want to say that Joseph Smith has a good point here, but Joseph Smith might have a good point here.  Since I've already compared King Noah's society to Mormonism, let's try it one more time.  Under the rule of the prophets, Mormons have become naive, self-righteous, bigoted, arrogant, self-loathing and closed-minded.  For the record, obviously, not every Mormon is like that.  My point, however, is that all of these characteristics are common negative side effects of church culture.  Perhaps the decline of King Noah's people and the decline of Mormon society mirror each other because both groups of people lived under a similar form of corruption.

God Allows Murder in His Own Time
The Book of Mormon has comic relief!  I actually chuckled when I read this verse about Abinadi, a prophet who preaches to the people of King Noah about how wicked they are and how they should stop it before God gets madder, turns green, and smashes them (or allows the Lamanites to smash them):
Now it came to pass that when Abinadi had spoken these words unto them they were wroth with him, and sought to take away his life; but the Lord delivered him out of their hands.
The Lord delivered Abinadi out of the hands of the guys who wanted to kill him.  Abinadi didn't simply escape, the Lord delivered him.  I find that description hilarious considering that God famously lets Abinadi get burned to death later.  Why go out of your way to say that God helped him survive when you're about to tell the story about how God let him become a martyr?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mosiah 10: Good Thing the Nephites Didn't Have Nuclear Subs

And now we enter the cold war era between the Nephites and the Lamanites—a tenuous peace of mutually assured destruction.  The Lamanites have the power of numbers and probably the greater military might, but since the Nephites are on God's side, their smaller civilization is just as much a threat to the Lamanites.

Taxing a Conqueror
Since we've already established that, since the Nephites defeated the Lamanites in battle, there should no longer be a subservient relationship, I have to wonder how exactly the Lamanites got their exorbitant taxes from the Nephites.  In verse 2, Zeniff mentions that he posts guards around the borders of his land to defend against a surprise attack from King Laman. Which I think implies that the unnecessary taxes got to King Laman in one of two ways.

First, it could be that, because Zeniff is an idiot (and apparently it's hereditary, because his grandson is quite incompetent himself), he and his people voluntarily offered up the taxes they'd been paying.  Every month, Zeniff sends a shipment of crops and livestock and perhaps even currency over to Laman.

Or, instead, maybe King Laman sent tax collectors.  Once a month, the Nephite guards would encounter a group of Lamanites, but then, after determining that they were simply the tax men, they'd willingly grant them passage into Nephite territory.

Neither way makes any sense.  You just defeated Laman in battle after he attacked you—why are you still paying him for the right to live on the land that he gave you permission to live on?

The Duties of Kingship
Again, perhaps because he had no idea how running a government and a society actually works, Joseph Smith summarizes the duties of a monarch very oddly (see Mosiah: Survival Expert).  After mentioning all the military stuff that Zeniff did, Joseph wrote this (or Zeniff wrote this, depending on who you believe):
And I did cause that the men should till the ground, and raise all manner of grain and all manner of fruit of every kind.
And I did cause that the women should spin, and toil, and work, and work all manner of fine linen, yea, and cloth of every kind, that we might clothe our nakedness; 
Do you really think it's necessary, as king, to make sure people plant their own food?  Do you really think that the people needed King Zeniff to remind them that they don't have clothes and that it gets cold in the winter?  Do you really think that the Nephites are so stupid and so clueless that they can't scrape together the intelligence required to follow some of their most basic survival instincts?

Don't waste your time organizing trade, erecting buildings, arranging roads, providing education, or maybe working on some kind of irrigation technique or sewage system.  Just make sure your people are ready for war and issue a royal decree telling the men to plant food and the women to sew.

Terrible Word Choice
I know that I keep mentioning this, but it is maddeningly idiotic--there is no reason the Nephites should still consider themselves to be in servitude to the Lamanites!  And Joseph Smith knows it, because in verse 6, he says that, following the death of King Laman, his son "began to stir his people [the Lamanites] up in rebellion against my people [the Nephites]."

Yeah.  Rebellion.  Did the Union rebel against the Conferacy?  Did the Empire rebel against Luke Skywalker?  Did the Mormon church rebel against me?  In order for one to rebel, there has to be an established power for the rebel to be initially subject to.  If you're rebelling, you're doing so from a position of no authority or at least a supposed weakness.

So why would the Lamanites, who extract high taxes from the Nephites, be stirred up to rebellion against them?  If they're going to rebel, that implies they're not the strongest nation in the first place.  So why do the Nephites consider themselves to be in bondage to a society that feels the need to rebel against them?

This makes no sense.

The Oldest Trick in the Book
In verse 9, Zeniff hides "the women and children" in the wilderness so that the men could face the Lamanite hordes in battle.  This is stupid.

How are you going to hide a city's worth of women and children?  You might as well keep them close, where you can defend them.  He's lucky the Lamanites didn't have a few hundred soldiers peel off to follow the cloud of dust and kill all the unarmed women and children.  I guess if Joseph Smith had lived long enough to watch a few movies he would have realized that Zeniff's plan here is a classic and oft-exploited mistake.

We Fight Because...Reasons
These are the motives the Lamanites have for trying to slaughter Zeniff's people:
  • Their ancestors were "wronged in the wilderness by their brethren, and they were also wronged while crossing the sea"
  • Their ancestors were "wronged while in the land of their first inheritance" because Nephi actually listened to God
  • Nephi took it upon himself to rule the new civilization
  • They thought that the plates of brass belonged to their ancestors and Nephi had stolen them
The chapter heading puts these events at between 187 and 160 BC.  While these things may have happened a few dozen pages ago, each event has been over and done with for about four hundred years.  I'd expect this kind of thing to fade over time and get weaker across each successive generation—much the same way that racism and homophobia are slowly waning.  After enough generations, people don't care as much what happened to their ancestors—especially if it hasn't stopped them from forming a society with a decent amount of economic gain and a strong military presence.  Oh, here's why it didn't fade:
And thus [the Lamanites] have taught their children that they should hate [the Nephites], and that they should murder them, and that they should rob and plunder them, and do all they could to destroy them; therefore they have an eternal hatred towards the children of Nephi.
Okay, I have two problems with that—first, seriously?  This has got to be the Book of Mormon being racist again, because I don't think the fair-skinned Nephites ever go four hundred years being bloodthirsty and solely intent on the utter destruction of the Lamanites.  But the barbaric, dark-skinned, head-shaving, leather-thong-about-their-loins-wearing Lamanites, of course, they live for murder and hatred and blood and evil, down all the generations.

Second, this is another reason why the Book of Mormon smells like fiction.  An entire civilization brainwashed into wanting to kill all the Nephites?  People don't do groupthink that well in reality.  Children of racist parents learn that diversity isn't a bad thing.  Victims of Mormon childhood programming learn to think for themselves.  There are plenty of stories of German citizens during World War II who didn't buy into Hitler and his charisma and his warmongering.  And none of those things has persisted effectively for four hundred years.  But the Book of Mormon is saying that the Lamanite lust for Nephite blood has that kind of longevity and complete uniformity.  That's unrealistic—probably because it isn't real.