Saturday, November 2, 2013

Mosiah 29: No More Kings...Eventually

Mosiah is getting old and his sons have all been bitten by the missionary bug, and so the Land of Zarahemla is rocked by a succession crisis.

Mosiah II:  Almost as Stupid as Limhi
Marvel at the spectacular process Mosiah goes through when he decides upon whom he should confer his kingdom:
  1. He asks the people who they want as their next king, and they apparently overwhelmingly want his son Aaron (verses 1-2).
  2. Mosiah realizes that neither Aaron nor his other sons will accept the throne because they're too busy spreading the gospel (verse 3).
  3. Mosiah reasons that appointing someone other than Aaron could result in Aaron changing his mind and trying to usurp the throne, leading to a great schism that would ultimately lead to lots of war and bloodshed and iniquity among the people because that's totally a likely outcome (verses 7, 9).
  4. The people have no right to "destroy" Aaron by appointing someone other than him to be the king and permitting the possibility of the above scenario (verses 8-9).
  5. Mosiah unilaterally opts to appoint an ill-defined group of judges to rule in his stead, but only after he's dead (verse 11).
  6. He reasons that, if only kings could be relied on to be wholly good and just, then monarchy would be a perfect system of government.  Sadly, not all kings are righteous, so monarchy is a bad idea (verses 13-24).
  7. Mosiah touts his own righteous management style, probably as a way to try and justify keeping power for the remainder of his life despite preaching against the risks of monarchy and coming up with a supposedly better system (verses 14-15).
Not only does this whole thing paint Mosiah as kind of a hypocrite ("I just reigned for thirty years, but I'm here to tell you that kings are bad news, so as soon as I'm dead you guys need to stop having kings!") but it also makes him look kind of bad at problem solving and critical reasoning.  The important problem here appears to be that monarchy is too risky, but he wastes a whole lot of time worrying about who to appoint as king, predicting doom should he choose the wrong person and assuming that his children will be complete screwups.

It's also worth mentioning that Alma doesn't seem to weigh in on the matter, despite being arguably the second most powerful official in Nephite society and having addressed the same issue a few chapters earlier.

Democracy is apparently very important to KING Mosiah, which is why he's so excited for it to be instituted after his death.  He fails to mention the vital fact that his proposed oligarchy would limit the amount of power given to an individual, thus diminishing the government's capacity for corruption.  Instead, he suggests that the judges be elected by the voice of the people and sings the praises of majority rule:
Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.
By this reasoning, it's probable that the LDS church is not the true church and that premarital sex is right.  After all, the majority of people on the planet worship someone other than the Mormon version of God and (at least in Western societies) premarital sex has become far more widely accepted than it was a few generations ago.  But I doubt you'll find any Mormons preaching nondenominational Christianity and free love.  Maybe the next verse explains why:
And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time tha the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.
The basic principle here is to trust the people—but use God as a fail-safe.  If the people start making poor choices en masse, then God will just visit them with vindictive discipline.  We can clearly see how this pattern has played out repeatedly in American history.  The country went into a period of deep economic depression following the expulsion of the Mormons from the midwest.  After Roe v. Wade, there was a massive earthquake that caused a good chunk of Los Angeles to fall into the sea.  And every state to legalize gay marriage so far has reported twice as many cases of avian flu than the more righteous states.  

It's so obvious what's going on.  And it was all prophesied in the Book of Mormon.

So the people of Zarahemla get all psyched for this new system of government.  And they elect their judges.  And they choose Alma the Younger as the chief judge—despite the fact that he is also the high priest.  After all of Mosiah's pontificating about how too much power in too few hands can run horrible risks for a society, the people immediately make the highest ranking religious official the highest ranking government official.  Congratulations, Alma, you just did what the papacy spent a few centuries of the middle ages trying to accomplish.

You.  Nephites.  You're all morons.

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