Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Alma 26: Ammon Bloviates

Ammon, Aaron, Omner and Himni are considering their success as missionaries in the land of the Lamanites.

Ammon Humblebrags
In a manner to be imitated by thousands of Mormon missionaries centuries hence, Ammon reviews the glories of his own achievements while pretending to credit them to God.  Until, of course, Aaron calls him on it:
And it came to pass that when Ammon had said these words, his brother Aaron rebuked him, saying: Ammon, I fear that thy joy doth carry thee away unto boasting.
To which Ammon swiftly replies:
I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.
Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.
It might have been a convincing correction to his earlier appearance of pride had he not continued for twenty-five more verses in a dramatic, grandstanding mini-sermon to his missionary brothers.

Ammon Doesn't Understand God
Our favorite righteous psychopath makes some specious claims about his Father in Heaven during his lengthy speech:
Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord?  Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men?  Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.
Who could have supposed that our God would have been so merciful as to have snatched us from our awful, sinful, and polluted state? 
Okay, first of all, genius, God is the one who put us in our awful, sinful and polluted state.  It was part of his ineffective and unnecessarily complicated plan for us.  And secondly, look at all the unmerciful, unforgiving  things he's done to your civilization in the last few hundred years.  Look at how much death and destruction has been perpetrated among the Nephites and Lamanites that was either done in his name or credited to him.  He's not a very nice guy.  He doesn't deserve your verbose accolades.

And just you wait until he uses the wicked Lamanites to destroy your people in five hundred years or so.

Self-Sacrifice Isn't Inherently Good
Ammon praises the virtues of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies and their willingness to die rather than fight against their murderous kin.
...and we know that they have gone to their God, because of their love and of their hatred to sin.
It seems silly that it needs to be said, but let me be clear anyway:  A person's willingness to die for his beliefs is only an indicator of the level of his convictions.  It does not mean that his motives are pure.  The Anti-Nephi-Lehies' pacifism doesn't mean they were all wonderful people who abhorred sin and loved their fellow man.  Ammon seems to think that sacrificing one's life is a true and irrefutable sign of godliness.  But it's only a sign of a willingness to sacrifice one's life.

And often, I think it's a sign of being duped.  These people became convinced by Ammon and his brothers that their lives were less important than their pacifism and that it was better to die than to justifiably defend themselves.  I see nothing good in that.  Ammon, however, sees only good in that.

But then, Ammon isn't exactly the model of righteousness what with his wanton violence, so what does he know?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Alma 25: Just Desserts

So where were we?  The Lamanites are still bloodthirsty and evil and the Anti-Nephi-Lehies are too stupid to run away from them.

Never Blame Yourself
The Lamanites make a confusing collective decision in verse 1:
And behold, now it came to pass that those Lamanites were more angry because they had slain their brethren; therefore they swore vengeance upon the Nephites; and they did no more attempt to slay the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi at that time.
Standing over the bloody corpses of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, the Lamanite soldiers realize that some of their buddies have actually joined the group of pacifists and been slaughtered alongside of them.  Their reaction?  To go kill some Nephites.

What do the Nephites have to do with any of this?  Why not keep killing the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, since they're the ones who'd lured their brethren to their deaths?  Or why not, you know, stop butchering people and go home?

But somehow, they decide that it's not their fault that they murdered their own countrymen.  It's those damn dirty Nephites.

Some Delicious Comeuppances
The Lamanites, in their inexplicable rage against the Nephites, "fell upon the people who were in the land of Ammonihah and destroyed them."  Finally those arrogant jerks who rejected Alma and Amulek all those chapters ago get what they deserved, right?  Funny how when the chief judge of Ammonihah burns a whole pile of people it's a horrible tragedy but when God punishes the entire city by having the Lamanites kill everyone it's justice.

And then the Lamanites hunt down the people of Amulon, who were the wicked King Noah's priests back in the day.  Verse 9 reads:
Thus the words of Abinadi were brought to pass, which he said concerning the seed of the priests who caused that he should suffer death by fire.
Sure, some of Abinadi's prophecies were brought to pass.  The descendants of Amulon's cronies were indeed chased and smitten and destroyed.  But he wasn't batting anywhere close to a thousand:
And it will come to pass that ye shall be afflicted with all manner of diseases because of your iniquities.  (Mosiah 17:16)
Where was that one fulfilled?  And then there's the most memorable, dramatic threat of the bunch:
And in that day ye shall be hunted, and ye shall be taken by the hand of your enemies, and then ye shall suffer, as I suffer, the pains of death by fire.  (Mosiah 17:18)
As far as this chapter is concerned, the Lamanites destroyed Amulon's clan with the sword.  There's no mention of the Lamanite hordes burning them alive.  But questionable prophet cred aside, at least we get to enjoy some tasty cathartic destruction of some people who we're told totally had it coming.

Why Are We Doing This Again?
The righteous civilizations then lapsed back into a period of peace and piety, focusing on adherence to the Law of Moses:
Now they did not suppose that salvation came by the law of Moses; but the law of Moses did serve to strengthen their faith in Christ; and thus they did retain a hope through faith, unto eternal salvation, relying upon the spirit of prophecy, which spake of those things to come.
If I'd been an ancient Nephite, I would've been pretty pissed about this.

So...we're following a set of extremely rigorous rules because God told us to, except we can't overcome our sinful natures and ascend to heaven by doing it?  Why should we follow these rules then?  To earn irredeemable brownie points?  Screw that.