Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Alma 24: The Anti-Nephi-Lehies' Last Stand

Lots of stuff happens in this chapter.  The Lamanites decide they hate the Nephite-loving, righteous-living Anti-Nephi-Lehies, so the only obvious choice for them is to send an army to kill them.  Meanwhile, the Anti-Nephi-Lehies have pledged pacifism and buried all their weapons underground.

When the Lamanites attack, the Anti-Nephi-Lehies just sit there praying while their enemies brutally slaughter them.  Some of the Lamanites, however, realize that killing people who are praying instead of fighting back might be morally wrong, instantly repent, throw down their swords, and join the pacifists.

Yeah, it's kind of a weird book.

It's a Numbers Game
Verse 22 mentions that the Lamanites killed one thousand and five of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies.  But it's totally fine because verse 26 explains that "the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain."  Because it doesn't matter how many innocent people were slaughtered just so long as the membership has a net gain, right?  Surely this bloody spectacle is a cause for celebration.

Martyrdom is Not a Virtue
Verse 26 highlights a particularly dangerous quality of some religions (and lots of cults).
And it came to pass that the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain; and those who had been slain were righteous people, therefore we have no reason to doubt but what they were saved.
This tries to spin the senseless violence as a victory for the victims, which kind of devalues their lives...and condones reckless self-sacrifice.  Sacrificing yourself to push your daughter out of the way of an oncoming car is one thing.  Letting yourself be stabbed to death because you have faith in God and you were silly enough to make a covenant with him that precludes you from defending yourself doesn't really strike me as responsible decision-making.

And beyond that, why can we assume that just because someone has the conviction to die for their beliefs it follows that they were righteous enough to achieve salvation?  Dying for what you believe in doesn't mean you led a virtuous life.

Also, "but what they were saved"?  I take it that's an ancient Reformed Egyptian syntax?

Less Racist, but Only Just
This chapter, shockingly, depicts Lamanites manning up and doing the right thing (after doing something horrible).  But before we celebrate the Book of Mormon correcting a bit of its own racism, let's check with verses 28 and 29:
Now the greatest number of those of the Lamanites who slew so many of their brethren were Amalekites and Amulonites, the greatest number of whom were after the order of the Nehors.
Now, among those who joined the people of the Lord, there were none who were Amalekites or Amulonites, or who were of the order of Nehor, but they were actual descendants of Laman and Lemuel.
Oh, okay.  So two groups of the cursed descendants of some bad guys finally get their chance to shine by abandoning their murderous ways, but the actions described still break down pretty simply along ethnic or ancestral lines.  The Anti-Nephi-Lehies formerly known as Lamanites?  They're all good.  The Amalekites?  All bad.  The Amulonites?  All bad.  At least the Lamanites get split between the good and evil camps, but they're still slaughtering each other, so I don't know that this really counts as a nuanced (read:  not racist) depiction of their people.