Saturday, April 26, 2014

Alma 20: Everybody Gets Threatened

God tells Ammon that his three brothers are in prison in another Lamanite kingdom.  King Lamoni offers to assist Ammon by accompanying him to the land of Middoni and convincing its king to release his Nephite prisoners.

Non-Believers are Such Scum
Lamoni and Ammon cross paths with Lamoni's father, the king of the entire Lamanite nation, on their journey to the land of Middoni.  Lamoni's father is furious with him and effectively personifies a common theme in the Book of Mormon:  people who don't believe in the gospel are horrible, horrible people.  Here's what Father of the Year does:
  • Exhibits paranoid racism when he repeatedly calls Nephites "sons of a liar" who want to seize Lamanite property and asks his son to explain why he's keeping company with a Nephite
  • Orders Lamoni to execute Ammon on the spot because he's a Nephite
  • Tries to murder Lamoni when Lamoni refuses to execute Ammon
  • Tries to kill Ammon when Ammon defends Lamoni, insisting that Ammon "hast sought to destroy" Lamoni
  • Turns into a sniveling coward as soon as Ammon gains the upper hand, promising Ammon half his kingdom in return for sparing his life
Is it any wonder Mormons can be so fearful of the world and so eager to avoid people who are not of their faith?  Look at what their scriptures have taught them about non-believers.  How many sympathetic characters in the Book of Mormon are not members of God's church?  The book is divided between righteous and wicked, prophets and hedonists, disciples and murderers.   There's not much middle ground.  With this book as a guide, how can Mormons be expected to see those of other faiths in a positive light?  How can they be expected to see atheists as anything other than bigoted, bloodthirsty and corrupt?

Death Threats are the Way of God
When Lamoni's father tries to kill Ammon, Ammon defends himself and even fights back, "[smiting] his arm that he could not use it."  And then Ammon does something that falls perfectly in line with his violent nature (verse 24):
Now when Ammon saw that he had wrought upon the old king according to his desire, he said unto him: If thou wilt grant that my brethren may be cast out of prison, and also that Lamoni may retain his kingdom, and that ye be not displeased with him, but grant that he may do according to his own desires in whatsoever thing he thinketh, then I will spare thee; otherwise I will smite thee to the earth.
So this is how we do things now?

Picture two missionaries giving a discussion to an investigator.  The investigator expresses disapproval of, say, the concept of sending out fresh-faced brainwashed kids who are ignorant of some important historical and doctrinal aspects of the church to recruit more members.  The senior companion then grabs the investigator by the hair and puts a bowie knife to his throat while the junior companion explains that they won't kill him if he promises to be baptized.
I'm sorry, Joseph, but if you expected me to believe that this Ammon guy was a prophet of God, you probably shouldn't have made him threaten a king's life for leverage to get his idiot brothers released from prison.  This is not acceptable behavior for a representative of the Lord.

Why So Grateful?
Then Lamoni's father reacts strangely to Ammon's death threat:
Now when Ammon had said these words, the king began to rejoice because of his life.
And when he saw that Ammon had no desire to destroy him, and when he saw the great love he had for his son Lamoni, he was astonished exceedingly, and said: Because this is all that thou hast desired, that I would release thy brethren, and suffer that my son Lamoni should retain his kingdom, behold, I will grant unto you that my son may retain his kingdom from this time and forever; and I will govern him no more 
And I will also grant unto thee that thy brethren may be cast out of prison, and thou and thy brethren may come unto me in my kingdom; for I shall greatly desire to see thee. 
The king of the entire Lamanite population is in a surprisingly benevolent mood, considering he just received a mortal threat from a despised foreigner.  Instead of trying to put Ammon in his place, delivering some kind of "we do not negotiate with terrorists" speech, or acquiescing with secret loathing, Lamoni's father is positively exuberant.  Instead of being appalled by Ammon's audacity, he's impressed by his lack of greed and happily agrees to his terms.  And then he invites him over to his place for a barbecue.

What?  No.  Come on, that's not how this guy, who minutes ago was ordering Ammon's execution (and then trying to kill his son for refusing the order) would behave.  He likes having power, and Ammon just made him powerless.  Without any reference to God softening his heart to explain his bizarre change, this is just poor characterization.  But I guess that's what happens when you get someone with a third grade education self-publishing his first novel without the benefit of an editor.


  1. How did I ever miss, in the many times I've read the Book of Mormon, that Ammon is a murderous thug who in no way should be emulated? Unbelievable!

    "In the world but not of the world." Not only are non-believers evil, we have to shield our children from them or our children will be led away, lost, and destroyed. Many members are downright paranoid of outsiders, and I'm sure these types of bi-polar stories - believed to be praiseworthy, historical facts - greatly contribute to that messed up attitude. There are a lot of people in Utah who home school or put their kids in private schools and charter schools run by Mormons, because they think the regular schools run by and mostly taught by Mormons are too secular. On top of that, pretty much every high school in the state has an LDS Seminary building that actually shares a property line with it. How is that possible? Hey, but if they're home-schooled their entire life, the kids can be just like Joseph with little to no formal education.

    1. Yeah, I'm pretty shocked that I never noticed Ammon's propensity for violence, too. It's right there, how could we miss that?!

      I had a roommate at BYU who was Utahn and homeschooled. I shudder to think what would happen if he were unleashed on the non-Mormon world.