Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mosiah 24: The Greater Escape

This chapter is pretty much Chapter 22 reloaded.  I'm pretty sure that this is the way Joseph Smith wished he'd written Chapter 22 the first time.  But once he'd screwed that one up, he couldn't tell his scribe they were going to go back and rewrite it without threatening his claim of divine inspiration.  So instead, he simply told a very similar—but improved—story.  Here are some key differences:

God is involved.  The almost-miraculous escape of Limhi's people from Lamanite rule was entirely attributed to acts of man.  But in Alma's story, the people pray for deliverance and are given three miracles.  God is depicted as being heavily involved and central to the story.

God speaks directly to his people.  Instead of plotting an escape in a very public meeting, the people of Alma are provided with their solution by God, who is probably much better at communicating in secret than that idiot Limhi.  Although it seems pretty weird that so many people got to hear the voice of God despite the fact that it's been a while since even a modern prophet made such a claim, at least the story makes sense by itself.

The Lamanites go into a deep sleep instead of getting smashed.  Rather than offering the Lamanites extra wine and hoping that none of them had any self-control whatsoever, Alma's people have the assurance of a divine miracle.  The Lamanites fall into what appeared to be a temporary God-induced mass coma, which makes it more believable that so many people can take everything they own, including animals, and walk out without getting caught.

God confounded the pursuing Lamanite army.  While Alma and his people are fleeing in the wilderness, God informs him that the Lamanites are coming for them.  He tells Alma to get the people out of their current location and that he will "stop" them there so that they can pursue them no further.  This stands in stark contrast to the absurd events of chapter 22, in which the fleeing people of Limhi, with all their children and livestock and possessions, inexplicably manage to outstrip a trailing Lamanite army by a significant margin.

The other point I'd like to make is that at two different locations in this chapter, Alma's followers attribute things to the wrong people.  In verse 15, when God makes their burdens feel light, it says that "they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord."  That's a little strange, considering that the will of the Lord was only helping them.  It's more noteworthy to say that they submitted cheerfully to the will of their evil Lamanite taskmasters.  You can hardly be said to "submit" to something that you're totally on board with, such as an all-powerful being doing you a solid when you're in a tight spot.

The second time this occurs is in verse 20, when the freshly-escaped people camp out in a valley in the wilderness.  They name the valley Alma "because he led their way in the wilderness."  That's a little strange, considering that, based on recent events, you'd think it would be more appropriate to name the valley the Nephite word for "glory to God" or something.  It doesn't seem very grateful of such a righteous, humbled people, to, after God sticks his neck out for them twice, name the first place they come to after the man who was simply acting as his mouthpiece.

Even though it's a huge improvement over the earlier story it mirrors, this chapter still has its dumb moments.

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