Saturday, September 27, 2014

Alma 35: Shortsighted Foreign Policy

The upper crust of Zoramite society doesn't approve of what Alma and his Super Missionary Friends have been up to.  The spread of the gospel among the poorer Zoramites has "[destroyed] their craft" and they decide to do something about it.

Musical Homelands
In keeping with the Book of Mormon's motif of frequent mass migrations, the wealthy Zoramites cleverly figure out who all of Alma's followers are and then kick them out of the country.  The believers flee to Jershon, where the Anti-Nephi-Lehi-People-of-Ammon have set up shop.  Both groups of people are devotees to the One True Religion, and they get along famously.

Unfortunately, the leader of the Zoramites is a vindictive grudge-holder and he orders the People of Ammon to turn away all the refugees.  The People of Ammon have no intention of abandoning their brethren in the faith, however, and ignore the Zoramite leader's request.  He, in turn, declares war.

So then the entire Ammonite population relocates to a place called Melek so that the land of Jershon can be used as a designated battleground for the impending showdown between the Nephites and the new Zoramite/Lamanite alliance.

Let's not forget that the Book of Mosiah was full of various groups of people sneaking off, moving around, joining other groups and moving again.  I think this plot device has run its course.

Priorities, People!
This is what you get when you stick your nose into other people's business:  all-out war.

Okay, maybe not, but this whole story reads like a cautionary tale about overreaching foreign policy and insensitivity toward other cultures.  Alma and his friends waltz in like they own the place, teach a different religion, upset the socioeconomic status quo (although, in their defense, it was an unfair one) and disrupt the Zoramite society to the point that people get kicked out of their homes.  Then, people who weren't even involved in the first place are also forced to abandon their homes as Alma's countrymen prepare for war against the Zoramites, who've roped in another initially uninvolved society to help.

And what have we learned from this by verse 14?
And Alma, and Ammon, and their brethren, and also the two sons of Alma returned to the land of Zarahemla, after having been instruments in the hands of God of bringing many of the Zoramites to repentance...
They're patting themselves on the back?  After all the damage they've caused, however indirectly, they still think they've been "instruments in the hands of God?"  Are they really that blind to the consequences of their actions?  Verse 14 continues:
...and as many as were brought to repentance were driven out of their land; but they have lands for their inheritance in the land of Jershon, and they have taken up arms to defend themselves, and their wives, and children, and their lands.
Oh.  So it's okay that they were forcibly uprooted from the lives they knew, because they have a new home.  And it's also okay because they're about to defend their new home from the onslaught of armies led by a vengeful ruler.  A lot of these people are probably going to die and it's all because Alma and his cronies were such great instruments in the hands of God.  Isn't the gospel wonderful?


  1. I won't go into great detail, but this is comparative to the early members of the church. They were kicked out of their homes, were driven from state to state, were murdered or died during the difficult treks. I wonder if the teachings in this chapter prepared them to be more willing to put up with the abuse.

    1. Careful, you're making Joseph Smith sound all prophetic and stuff!

      It's a good point, though. One I definitely hadn't considered. I've heard references to the Lord easing the burdens of the people of Alma (back in Mosiah 24) in connection with the suffering of the early saints. But perhaps the recurring theme of a righteous people getting kicked out of their homes was a comfort as well. Except that the Nephites never really found their Salt Lake Valley and they kind of got wiped out.