Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Alma 54: Moroni and Ammoron are Both Idiots

Now the magnificent Captain Moroni decides he wants to exchange some prisoners because the Lamanites incarcerated in the city of Bountiful are eating all his food...oh, and he also wants his own people returned so he can have more troops.

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, 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 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 menZerahemnah, 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 chapterthe 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.
That's lunacy.

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 needswhen 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.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Alma 53: Another Wartime Intermission

Victorious in battle, Captain Moroni realizes that all the dark and loathsome enemy combatants he's captured can be used for...wait for it...slave labor.

Where's the Public Outcry?
Here's what the brilliant general-slash-dictator does with his prisoners.  First he makes them bury all the dead from the last battle, which means the Nephites don't get much in the way of a funeral for their own soldiers.   Then he has his captive laborers build fortifications around the city of Bountiful (because apparently the defenses erected in the previous chapter weren't good enough for his brilliance).  Then he turns Bountiful into a penal settlement and sits there cackling over the juicy concept of forcing the Lamanites to build the walls of their own prison.

In true Moroni style, he hasn't consulted anyone about this decision even though he's not actually a government official and shouldn't be allowed to unilaterally foist his miltary agenda upon the general public.  And none of the citizens of Bountiful raises a hand to suggest that maybe not everyone is comfortable with their hometown suddenly having a few thousand new inhabitants who were just trying to kill the native population a few days earlier.

Yeah...this is totally realistic.

Inconsistent Punishment 
The People of Ammon see the Lamanite advances into Nephite territory and want to help defend their adoptive country (cuz they used to be Lamanites before they found Jesus and became Nephites).  But there's a problem:  they made this promise of pacifism to God and they can't break it without endangering their souls.

Enter the loophole: they have two thousand of their sons sitting around who hadn't been born when the covenant was made.  So those dudes can go to war without fear of divine retribution.

My problem with this is...since when does the Book of Mormon God let later generations off the hook for anything he's done to their forefathers?  He keeps punishing the Nephites because he promised Nephi 500 years ago that he'd make them prosperous if they were righteous. He makes sure Lamanites are born dark-skinned because he's pissed at Laman and Lemuel for rebelling way back in the day.  But now, when it's convenient to the plot, he lets the People of Ammon go to war a mere generation after they promised not to?

The Stripling Warriors are sure lucky they caught God in a good mood.

Warrior Prophet Looks Great on a Resume
The Stripling Warriors "took their weapons of war, and they would that Helaman should be their leader."

And that's when Helaman says, "Sorry, you guys, but I'm the prophet and I have a lot of propheting I need to get done.  Also, like King Mosiah, I understand the risks of consolidating too much power in one man, so I can't accept a military position at this time because you poor schmucks have your hands full with Captain Moroni's bloodthirsty, power-hungry shenanigans. But thanks anyway."

Wait, what's this? "And it came to pass that Helaman did march at the head of his two thousand stripling soldiers, to the support of the people in the borders of the land in the south by the west sea."

Helaman, what are you thinking?  You've just failed to teach an important lesson and to make matters worse, you used an inexcusably lengthy string of prepositional phrases in the process.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Mormon-Themed Memes 10: The Dehlinocalypse

As John Dehlin awaits the verdict of Sunday's disciplinary council, I'd like to point out once again that excommunication is an act of religious savagery.  If you believe in the truthfulness of Mormonism, excommunication is essentially the spiritual death penalty.  Not only could John lose his membership in the church, but he can be stripped of all the blessings he's been eligible for in the past.  This means his baptism is nullified and his temple marriage is no longer valid.  Unless he reconciles with the church leadership, he cannot qualify for the highest degree of glory...and even if he did, he would no longer be sealed to his family.

It's a cruel, barbaric overreaction on the church's part that this kind of punishment exists and is even being considered in Dehlin's case.  

And in terms that the church leadership can understand, this is a bad PR move.  A decent amount of the world already thinks Mormonism is weird.  The media attention that this has attracted, while not exactly front page news, can only convince more people to shift Mormonism from the "weird" category into the "cult" category.

I don't exactly understand John Dehlin's personal stance about the truth claims of the church, but I do think that he's a genuine, well-meaning guy who's done a lot of good.  Also, unlike some people who have utterly failed to put themselves in John's shoes, I think he is truly brave for defying a religion so central to his life and his identity while being willing to risk such harsh, public punishment in order to follow his conscience.

Although I'm overjoyed to see that the church is behaving so irresponsibly because it might help the membership and the public come to see it for the damaging, fraudulent organization that it is, it's hard to see something so appalling happen to a good guy who's just trying to do the right thing.

I don't drink alcohol, but tonight I'm enjoying this jamocha shake from Arby's in your honor, John.  Best of luck to you and your family during what is surely a harrowing time.

Past Mormon Memes: