Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Alma 2: Alma, Warrior-Monk

Now, five years into the reign of the judges, the good people of Zarahemla have to contend with a new Book of Mormon villain, Amlici.

Almost the Easiest Coup of All Time
Amlici is a former follower of the recently-executed Nehor who has gained support from many of the Zarahemlites.  As an adherent to the religious movement started by Nehor, Amlici is of course evil and wicked and in favor of all kinds of iniquities like destroying the true church and persecuting its members.  Amlici's play for power is described in this chapter:
  1. Amlici's followers want Amlici to become king of Zarahemla (verse 2).
  2. Righteous people don't want Amlici to become king of Zarahemla (verses 3-4).
  3. People from both sides gather in groups, informally vote on the matter, and bring their opinions to the judges (verses 5-6).
  4. The judges, following the will of the majority, proclaim that Amlici can not, in fact, be the king (verse 7).
This chain of events is unusual and illogical.  A man without any legal claim to leadership pretty much asks to be appointed a supreme ruler in the place of a lawfully designed network of democratically elected officials...and the government actually takes him seriously?  

If I sent a letter to President Obama telling him not that I want to be President and plan to run for office, but instead that I should be President right now, he's not going to run the letter over to Justice Roberts and say, "What do you think...should my whole administration step down so this guy can run the country?"  That's what a stupid person would do.  So I guess that means either the Nephites were stupid or the person who made them up was.

Alma Has Entirely Too Much Power
As Amlici breaks his people off of the society, sets himself up as their king, and plans a war with Zarahemla, let's examine Alma's responsibilities:
Now Alma, being the chief judge and the governor of the people of Nephi, therefore he went up with his people, yea, with his captains, and chief captains, yea, at the head of his armies, against the Amlicites to battle.
So not only is he the high priest and prophet, but he's also the chief judge and the governor—as well as a military leader.  Seems to me that, despite all King Mosiah's preaching, the Nephites have given way too much power to just one guy.  The system of judges seems like simply King Alma's cabinet of advisors.  The only real difference between Amlici and Alma now is that Alma isn't a bloodthirsty jerk.

How Righteous Men Fight
Or maybe Alma is a bloodthirsty jerk.  Let's look at his performance in the second battle, after a huge army of Lamanites have inexplicably allied with the Amlicites:
  • He prays for his life to be spared so that he can be a (bloody) "instrument" in God's hands, although he claims it's so that he can save his people (verse 30).
  • He kills Amlici himself and then tries to kill the king of the Lamanites too (verses 31-32).
  • His army throws the bodies of the dead Lamanites in the river to make a bridge so they can cross to the other side and kill the rest of their army (verse 34).
  • His men continue killing the Lamanites and Amlicites as they retreated over a great distance (verse 36).
  • The Nephites chased their enemies so far from civilization that many of the Lamanites died from their wounds or were killed by wild animals (verse 38).
Yeah.  This Alma guy is a great role model.  Not only is he power hungry, but he has an inexcusable lust for battle, no respect for the dead and little restraint to speak of.  

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