Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Alma 58: The Manti Stratagem

Helaman's army hits the doldrums as they plan to retake the city of Manti.  Receiving hardly any supplies or reinforcements from the High Nephite Central Command, they begin to flounder in the face of the superior Lamanite forces.  Morale drops.

There's a Reason Godmode is Considered a Cheat
As Helaman's meager forces spiral into despair before the "innumerable" army opposing them at Manti, they pray to God for deliverance.  And here's what happens (verse 11):
Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him.
That's not fair.  God just gives them faith?  Isn't that helping his children cheat on the test of life?  I thought the whole point was for us to exercise faith on our own.  If these guys are provided with faith during their time of distress, how come I wasn't provided with faith during my time of distress, when I was starting to fear that the church I was raised in was a fraud?

That Mormon God.  Always playing favorites.  Not cool, man.  Not cool.

Helaman Must Have Been Taking Lessons from Moroni
Here's the scheme Helaman comes up with to win back the city of Manti.  First, he camps his army between the city and the wilderness.  Then, he lets the Lamanite spies circle around and discover how small his army is.

Next, while the Lamanites eagerly get ready to come out of the city and stomp him, Helaman splits his men into three groups, two of which hide in the wilderness.  Then when the Lamanites come out to fight, Helaman has the main body of his army retreat and lure the Lamanites into pursuit so that his other two groups can swoop in, take out the spies, and hurry back to Manti to overpower the tiny amount of troops left guarding it.

When the Lamanite armies worry that if they follow Helaman too long he'll lead them into a trap at Zarahemla, they turn around and head back to the city.  While the Lamanites make camp for the night, Helaman marches his men through the night and beats the bad guys back to Manti.

Chancellorsville it's not.

Much like Moroni's stratagems, this relies on the enemy making some really bad calls.  First, the reason the Lamanites come out of the city is because they're worried Helaman will cut off their supplies.  That seems silly considering Helaman is parked next to the wilderness, which is on the wrong side of the city to stop any deliveries.  Second, despite having vastly superior numbers, the Lamanites still feel the need to send like ninety-five percent of their goons out to fight Helaman's little band of brothers.  Third, when Helaman immediately retreats directly into the wilderness, the Lamanites don't smell a trap.  Fourth, once the Lamanites finally think they're being tricked, they don't instantly remember that they left the city poorly guarded and consider that maybe that was the trick, so they settle down for the evening instead of double-quicking it back to Manti.

That's some fantastic strategic planning, Helaman.  I couldn't be prouder if you'd outfoxed a piece of driftwood.

Helaman Tells a Little Red Lie
In verse 28, our current warrior-prophet tries to pull a fast one:
And thus it came to pass, that by this stratagem we did take possession of the city of Manti without the shedding of blood.
Really?  Without the shedding of blood?  Let's back up like eight verses:
And it came to pass that when the Lamanites had passed by, or when the army had passed by, Gid and Teomner did rise up from their secret places, and did cut off the spies of the Lamanites that they should not return to the city.
Okay, so it doesn't specifically state that there was any blood spilled here.  But the only way this plan works is if the spies are cut off from the city and from their own army.  Which means they were either killed or captured.  Which means there was likely some kind of scuffle.  And there's no mention of Gid or Teomner lugging any prisoners with them when they went back to Manti, which makes me think the spies are dead by that point.  But just to seal the deal, the following verse lays all doubt to rest:
And it came to pass that when they had cut them off, they ran into the city and fell upon the guards who were left to guard the city, insomuch that they did destroy them and did take possession of the city.
Yep.  No shedding of blood.  Just falling upon the guards and destroying them.  Helaman is a liar.  But I guess that sets a pretty good precedent for the prophets of the restoration era, right?

Still receiving hardly any support from the higher ups on the chain of command, Helaman expresses frustration with the state of Nephite national defense (verse 32):
But behold, our armies are small to maintain so great a number of cities and so great possessions.
Aw, gee, buddy, are you guys spread too thin?  If only some idiot hadn't decided to just build a bunch of cities for no reason during a time of tense relationships with the warlike neighboring culture.  Then you'd have fewer areas to patrol and defend.  Wouldn't that be nice?

Considering these guys are supposed to be a righteous people with access to a prophet, you'd think maybe they'd have gotten some kind of divine forewarning that building too many cities like that could become problematic at some point down the line.  Or they could have just, you know, used common sense.

Beating a Horse That Merely Fainted Because of the Loss of Blood
Remember those two thousand or so of Helaman's soldiers that he won't shut up about?  Well...they're all still alive.  This is the third chapter in a row in which Helaman has harped on the fact that his untrained, super-young, uber-righteous, taught-by-their-mothers, covenant-loophole-exploiting Stripling Warriors have all successfully eluded death.  Because of their faith, of course.
The fact that the GIF loops is very fitting, considering that this KEEPS HAPPENING.
Yeah, dude, we get it.  It's a friggin' miracle.  Can you stop?

Not only is the miracle itself a little more absurd each time these guys escape a battle unscathed, but it also provides another unrealistic example of Book of Mormon groupthink.  Remember when the converts of the sons of Mosiah broke down almost perfectly along ethnic lines?  Or when every last one of Korihor's followers realized they were wrong and reconverted to the church? we have a group of more than two thousand soldiers, every last one of whom was righteously awesome enough to survive an entire war.

Not one of them doubted?  Not one of them caught a stray arrow to the throat?  Not one of them had been taught less perfectly by his mother and lost faith in the face of battle?  Come on.  How does this not read like amateur fiction?

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