The Pot Calls the Kettle a Murderer
Moroni comes up with this great idea to maximize the number of prisoners he can get in his proposed exchange, and so he writes a letter to Ammoron, the leader of the Lamanites. Apparently, however, Moroni's diplomatic skills are somewhat lacking, because his letter quickly devolves into self-righteous preaching (verse 7):
Yea, I would tell you these things if ye were capable of hearkening unto them; yea, I would tell you concerning that awful hell that awaits to receive such murderers as thou and thy brother have been, except ye repent and withdraw your murderous purposes, and return with your armies to your own lands.Okay, not only has Moroni had a hand in plenty of unnecessary slaughter over the last few chapters, but he's about to follow up his condemnation of Ammoron's murderous ways by...
...threatening to kill him (verse 10):
But, as the Lord liveth, our armies shall come upon you except ye withdraw, and ye shall soon be visited with death, for we will retain our cities and our lands; yea, and we will maintain our religion and the cause of our God.Good job, Moroni...you sound totally reasonable and not at all like an early American jihadist.
Yet Another Ingenious Plan
I'm not really seeing how Moroni's letter is accomplishing anything. Look at verse 11:
But behold, it supposeth me that I talk to you concerning these things in vain; or it supposeth me that thou art a child of hell; therefore I will close my epistle by telling you that I will not exchange prisoners, save it be on conditions that ye will deliver up a man and his wife and his children, for one prisoner; if this be the case that ye will do it, I will exchange.So Moroni sends the opposing general a letter announcing the desire for a prisoner exchange. But in the letter he insults the guy repeatedly, disparages his dead brother, demands incongruent exchanges and threatens more violence. And he expects Ammoron to go along with this?
The Hypocrisy Compounds
One of Moroni's good moves is that his men have only taken Lamanite soldiers as captives. Ammoron's army, on the other hand, has taken civilian women and children. But Moroni completely sacrifices this moral high ground by frothing at the mouth in verse 12:
And behold, if ye do not this [agree to the exchange], I will come against you with my armies; yea, even I will arm my women and my children, and I will come against you, and I will follow you even into your own land, which is the land of our first inheritance; yea, and it shall be blood for blood, yea, life for life; and I will give you battle even until you are destroyed from off the face of the earth.Ammoron's not looking quite as evil as he was a few verses ago. At least Ammoron never suggested conscripting children to fight over personal vendettas.
Brothers in Peace...by Coercion
Ammoron's letter of reply includes a strangely Moroni-esque ultimatum (verse 18):
And now behold, if ye will lay down your arms, and subject yourselves to be governed by those to whom the government doth rightly belong, then will I cause that my people shall lay down their weapons and shall be at war no more.In effect, Ammoron is pretending to offer peace so long as the Nephites surrender and agree to terms they obviously have no interest in agreeing to. This is basically the same stunt that Moroni already pulled on Amalickiah's men, Zerahemnah, and Ammoron's own army.
It's strange that the guy who's supposed to be the hero and the guy who's supposed to be the villain would behave so similarly. And it's also strange that either one of them expects these blatantly one-sided ultimatums to accomplish anything useful.
I think it's also interesting that even this move straight out of Moroni's playbook is still less reprehensible than what Moroni is threatening in this chapter—the use of child soldiers. Moroni's bloodlust seems to be escalating. Why is he supposed to be a role model again?
Murky Motives and Ridiculous Rationales
What does Ammoron want? Apparently he wants some kind of redress for grievances on behalf of the ancestors of the Lamanites (which, of course, are not his ancestors because he was born a Nephite and a descendant of Zoram). He wants to assert the Lamanite right to govern...except he's not a Lamanite. If he wins, then he'll have asserted the Lamanite right to govern by having a Nephite rule over them. Which doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
If anything, it's simply one of Joseph Smith's more bizarre contributions to the white savior trope. It does seem that the Lamanites need a white guy to lead them if they want to take back their glory.
There's No Way That Should Have Worked
After stating his disgust for Moroni and offering not to slaughter his people if they surrender, Ammoron does something particularly odd: he agrees to Moroni's proposed uneven exchange of prisoners.
Moroni threatened to arm the women and children of his society, march them all down south, and kill every last one of those dark and loathsome Lamanites. Why would Ammoron agree to exchange prisoners? All he has to do to win this war now is refuse to exchange, set up some strong defenses, and then wait for Moroni to be forced to carry out his threat. When Moroni attacks with a largely untrained force, going up against fortified cities with superior numbers on foreign soil, Ammoron can destroy his army and end this conflict once and for all...or at least for a generation or two.
Ammoron claims he wants to swap prisoners because the Nephites he's captured are eating too much of his food. But considering he has no problem with the extermination of the Nephites, he should have no qualms about executing all his prisoners. That would actually work well as a catalyst for the confrontation he needs—when word gets back to the Nephites that all the captives have been executed, Moroni will have to attack him. And that's when he can mop the floor with him and send his army home in bloody shambles.
This guy is not a very good villain.