Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Alma 52: The Mulek Stratagem

Amalickiah is dead, thanks to Teancum, but cutting the head off this snake doesn't seem to kill it.  Amalickiah's brother Ammoron takes over as king of the Lamanites, and he shares his late brother's penchant for conquering stuff.

Moroni Outwits Jacob
Captain Moroni wants to retake the city of Mulek, which has fallen into the possession of the Lamanite army.  He hatches a brilliant scheme to lure the Lamanites out from behind their defenses (verse 20):
And it came to pass they sent embassies to the army of the Lamanites, which protected the city of Mulek, to their leader, whose name was Jacob, desiring him that he would come out with his armies to meet them upon the plains between the two cities.  But behold, Jacob, who was a Zoramite, would not come out with his army to meet them upon the plains.
Who would seriously have expected that to work anyway?  He basically asks Jacob to leave the well-defended city so that the two armies can fight out in the open to determine who wins Mulek.  Jacob, not being an idiot (at least...not yet), realizes that he already has complete control of Mulek and has no obligation to give Moroni a fair chance at it.  Unsurprisingly, he declines to leave the safety of his entrenchments.  Moroni seems crushed by the news, however, and he's forced to get a bit more creative.

He sends Teancum out with a little squad to get accidentally-on-purpose discovered by Lamanite patrols.  Jacob sends a whole bunch of guys out to destroy Teancum's men, thinking it's an easy victory.  I have no idea why he'd do this, considering Moroni has made it very clear he's trying to lure the Lamanites out of the city.  Jacob's men have encountered a small force that immediately scurries away...doesn't that make him suspicious that Moroni is still trying to draw him out?  Apparently that rather obvious thought never crosses Jacob's mind, and he throws a whole bunch of troops in Teancum's direction.

Teancum leads them on a chase northward, to where Lehi's men are defending the city of Bountiful.  Meanwhile, Moroni retakes the city of Mulek with ease because Jacob was too stupid to leave enough guys to defend it.  Then Moroni heads north as well, so that when the Lamanites reach Bountiful and they're hit by a bunch of Lehi's well-rested troops they're immediately driven back southward toward Moroni's army until they're completely surrounded and utterly routed.

Brilliant.  But, yet again, Moroni's masterful victory depends on the opposing general making a very bad decision.

Captain Ultimatum
I've claimed that Captain Moroni is bloodthirsty before, but this chapter offers some more evidence to that effect.  This is the second time Moroni has beaten an opponent by completely surrounding him (remember Zerahemnah?) and the third time he's delivered an ultimatum that's basically to the effect of, "surrender or we'll kill you all."  (Remember the Amalickiahites?)

If he's a righteous man of God, why is he surrounding his enemies?  Shouldn't he be trying to win wars with the least amount of death possible?  Shouldn't he be executing brilliant maneuvers that create advantageous conditions for his forces that are so obvious and insurmountable that the bad guys generally throw in the towel and leave in peace?  Shouldn't he be leaving at least one direction on the battlefield by which his adversaries can retreat?  Shouldn't he be showing mercy?

And why would he tell Zerahemnah's army that he'll only stop killing them if they make an absurd promise never to come to war against the Nephites?  Why would he execute any Amalickiahite who refused to "support the cause of freedom?"  And why would he tell the clearly defeated Lamanites in this chapter that he would "forbear shedding [their] blood" if they surrendered their weapons?  He had them completely surrounded!  Their leader was dead!  Their only option was to fight their way out.  He should either have left them an avenue for retreat or just started taking prisoners until the rest of them gave up.  What he did was mercilessmaybe not on its face, but when combined with his previous actions, it speaks to a murderous, violent pattern of behavior.

More Racism?
Jacob, the leader of the Lamanite armies in Mulek, is referred to twice in this chapter as a Zoramite.  The Zoramites, you may recall, used to be Nephites until they sided with the Lamanites.  Now they live among the Lamanites, except they're of white and delightsome Nephite descent.

The first time Jacob's heritage is mentioned is verse 20, when he's smart enough not to fall for Moroni's first trick:  "But behold, Jacob, who was a Zoramite, would not come out with his army to meet them upon the plains."  Why discuss his lineage there, in the middle of the sentence?  It seems like the Book of Mormon is implying that if he'd been a Lamanite instead of a Zoramite, he might have fallen for Moroni's idiotic ploy.

The second instance is in verse 33, when Moroni has Jacob's forces trapped:
And it came to pass that Jacob, being their leader, being also a Zoramite, and having an unconquerable spirit, he led the Lamanites forth to battle with exceeding fury against Moroni.
Again, why does that need to be mentioned at that particular moment?  Maybe it's because Zoramites possess an unconquerable spirit that Lamanites don't have?

It's an odd quirk of this chapter that would definitely be interpreted as more overtly racist in a modern context, but I do think the wording in both cases is a little strange.  I guess the white and delightsome people have more intelligence and more tenacity than the dark and loathsome people?  I don't think it's blatant enough to be considered outright Book of Mormon racism, but it does come off as a little unsettling.


  1. I find it curious that the Lamanites, on several occasions, are led by men who are "white and delightsome." Were the Nephites ever led by a dirty, loathsome descendant of Laman or Lemuel? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think so.

    1. I think you're right, and I noticed that too.

      Even though the Lamanites are supposed to be more numerous than both the Nephites and the Zoramites, somehow there are way more light-skinned leaders of the Lamanites than dark-skinned leaders of the Nephites. Is Joseph Smith saying that the white and delightsome race was more naturally equipped for leadership, military expertise, and positions of power?