Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mosiah 23: Sucks to be Alma

Now we switch to the story of Alma following his people's escape from King Noah's attempt to quash their religious subculture.

Alma Institutes Doublethink
So because people are stupid, the first thing that Alma's followers do when they set up a little town eight days' journey away from King Noah is beg him to be their king.  Alma responds very self-righteously:
Behold, it is not expedient that we should have a king; for thus saith the Lord: Ye shall not esteem one flesh above another, or one man shall not think himself above another; therefore I say unto you it is not expedient that ye should have a king.
...I desire that ye should stand fast in this liberty wherewith ye have been made free, and that ye trust no man to be a king over you.
But then, of course, Alma became their high priest instead.  He's too humble to be their king and possibly wield more power than one man should have, but he's not too humble to be their religious leader and wield more power than one man should have.  It's not like the head of a religion to which virtually everyone in a society belongs can influence the people or the politics of a region.  Right, Medieval Europe?

Alma makes a big show of turning down power and then, whether the people realize it or not, he accepts it in a different form.  Alma, you sly little worm, don't think we didn't notice.

Getting Toyed With by God
After Alma's people set up their little government of uncertain structure in the land of Helam, the Lamanite armies eventually find them.  This same Lamanite army had also discovered where the rogue priests of King Noah had been hiding.  By the time the Lamanites find Alma, they'd been convinced to assimilate Noah's old priests (and their stolen Lamanite wives) into Lamanite society.  When their massive armies descend upon the land of Helam, they decide to appoint Amulon, the leader of Noah's priests, as their puppet king over the easily conquered people of Alma.

Those events begin to unfold in verse 25 and continue to the end of the chapter.  But immediately before that story, in verses 23 and 24, we read:
For behold, I will show unto you that they [the Nephites] were brought into bondage, and none could deliver them but the Lord their God, yea, even the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.
And it came to pass that he did deliver them, and he did show forth his mighty power unto them, and great were their rejoicings.
Yes, great were their rejoicings, and in a nonspecific time frame not exceeding the length of a generation, they were back in bondage again.  And their powerful god, who delivered them from bondage because they were his favored race and because they'd finally started getting righteous again, decided to let them be captured by Lamanites even though they hadn't even fallen into iniquity yet.  What a stand-up guy, letting them praise him and rejoice in their freedom only to sit idly by while it is forcibly wrested away a few years later.

Can you even consider the escape of Alma's people a faith-promoting story if everything goes to crap again right after the happy ending part?  Unless the moral of the story is trust in God and have a selective memory.


  1. A King forces his own will on you. A high Priest forces his own will on you but calls it God's will. Which is worse?

    1. Yeah, at least a king would be more straightforward about controlling you.