Saturday, November 15, 2014

Alma 45: Alma's Last Words

We're transitioning between protagonists now, as Alma and his wacky adventures have run their course.  He's an old man who's about to disappear mysteriously amid rumors of being translated, but he needs to make sure his son Helaman is in place as a worthy successor.

Mum's the Word
After conducting a quick personal priesthood interview with Helaman, Alma says that he has something important to tell him.
But behold, I have somewhat to prophesy unto thee; but what I prophesy unto thee ye shall not make known; yea, what I prophesy unto thee shall not be made known, even until the prophecy is fulfilled; therefore write the words which I shall say.
He then proceeds to foretell the demise of the Nephite nation due to the wickedness that will envelop their culture four hundred years after the coming of Christ.  But why, exactly does this need to be kept a secret?  Alma doesn't say.

It seems to me that the right thing to do in this situation would be to publicize the prophecy.  Most people will probably ignore it, sure, but isn't it fair to give the Nephites a fighting chance to avert their own downfall?

Some Exclusions Apply
Alma's fresh off an explanation of how the Lamanites will hunt the Nephites to extinction when he drops this contradictory claim:
And he said: Thus saith the Lord GodCursed shall be the land, yea, this land, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, unto destruction, which do wickedly, when they are fully ripe; and as I have said so shall it be; for this is the cursing and the blessing of God upon the land, for the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.
God cannot allow sin in any way.  Which is why he's going to kill off the sinful Nephites.  Except that he's going to use the also sinful Lamanites to make it happen.  And one thousand years later, the Lamanites are still going to be happily going about their business when the Europeans show up.  Why, exactly, are the Lamanites excluded from this zero tolerance policy?

Sure, sure, back in the day it was because the Lamanites didn't know any better and the Nephites had the truth of the gospel in their lives, bringing about greater accountability.  But by the time this prophecy comes to fruition, the Lamanites and Nephites will have both been enlightened followers of Christ and they will have both been bloodthirsty evildoers.  There's so much corrupting and converting going on in the Book of Mormon that it's completely unfair to claim that the Lamanites didn't know any better and the Nephites should have.

If God cannot look on sin with the least degree of allowance, then both tribes should be obliterated.  Or if God is actually as loving as Mormonism tries to depict him, then both tribes should be preserved.  But only one being exterminated?  The reasoning makes no sense.

High Gospel Turnover
Once his dad wanders off to meet the fate of Amelia Earhart, Helaman gets to work on fixing the religion-related problems in his society:
Therefore, Helaman and his brethren went forth to establish the church again in all the land, yea, in every city throughout all the land which was possessed by the people of Nephi. And it came to pass that they did appoint priests and teachers throughout all the land, over all the churches.
That's great.  Except that forty-five years earlier, Alma had done the exact same thing.  Did the gospel really have such a fragile foothold in Nephite society that the church would need to be reestablished in the lifetime of many who were present during its initial establishment?  Was there really such a weak cultural tradition that belief in the church could all but die out in less than fifty years?  Was the church itself so structurally unsound that its leadership hierarchy could almost entirely dissolve after a short war?

After Helaman went on his church reunion tour, there "arose a dissension" of people who refused to listen to the words of God and who began to be proud and wealthy.  This brings me to my best theory as to why the church struggled so much in the Nephite kingdomthe gospel keeps dying of whiplash.

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