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.
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?