Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Alma 4: Alma's Absurd Abdication

In the wake of their wars with the Amlicites and Lamanites, the Nephites reacquaint themselves with the religion of their chief judge, Alma the Younger.

A Numbers Game
Verse five seems to boast of the success of their Great Awakening:
And it came to pass that in the seventh year of the reign of the judges there were about three thousand five hundred souls that united themselves to the church of God and were baptized.  And thus ended the seventh year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi; and there was continual peace in all that time.
Thirty-five hundred converts in one year?  Impressive.  That's almost a rate of ten per day.  But it's much less impressive when you review the battle statistics from Alma chapter two--in one day, twelve thousand five hundred thirty-two Amlicites and six thousand five hundred sixty-two Nephites were killed.  I guess Nephites spread the gospel at approximately one two thousandth the rate that they kill each other.

The battle report also implies a sizable society.  Making some broad assumptions here, if the Nephites and Amlicites both suffered a very steep loss of forty percent of their armies, and if every single male adult was at war, and if every single male adult had one wife and two children at home, the population of the Nephite nation before the schism was approaching one hundred fifty thousand at minimum.  More than likely, it was a much larger population than that.  Considering that the true church is implied to be one of the larger religious groups of the civilization, an increase of thirty-five hundred converts in one year among a society possibly numbering in the hundreds of thousands seems far less than miraculous.

So Much for Democracy
As the next two years pass, the members of the church begin to prosper, and, falling into the predictable pattern of the Book of Mormon, they become prideful and wicked.  Alma the Younger, seeing the iniquity among his peers, decides to abdicate the position of High Priest and preach the gospel to his people.  This is how he does it:
And he selected a wise man who was among the elders of the church, and gave him power according to the voice of the people, that he might have power to enact laws according to the laws which had been given, and to put them in force according to the wickedness and the crimes of the people.
Now this man's name was Nephihah, and he was appointed chief judge; and he sat in the judgment-seat to judge and to govern the people. 
So Alma appoints his own successor.  What happened to King Mosiah's preaching about choosing leaders by the voice of the people?

Prophet on the Go
Verse 18 makes sure to inform the reader that Alma only gave Nephihah the position of chief judge, choosing to "[retain] the office of high priest unto himself."  This is odd, considering he abdicated his political office for the purpose of travelling and preaching (verse 19).  That's a terrible idea.

Generals don't fight on the front lines. Conductors don't play violins in their own orchestras.  If you are the head of an organization that requires leadership and oversight, you can't just wander off to do other stuff.  You can't involve yourself so directly in the tasks that are supposed to be done by the people you manage.  Alma knew he couldn't leave the judgement seat empty.  Why does he think it's okay to leave the high priest's position vacant?

Unless he's just wandering around ancient America with a Bluetooth device in his ear, in constant communication with his staff at home.  Then this arrangement could work.


  1. I have always wondered how there could have been such a huge population growth. Plus, with so many men getting killed in war, and polygamy being an abomination, there's no way it could have grown so fast.

    1. This send-up of the Jaredite story posted today on Reddit also includes some interesting points about their population explosion: