Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Alma 62: The Nephihah Stratagem

Moroni receives Pahoran's letter and decides to rush off to his aid.  This chapter seems to have a higher-than-average level of insanity to it, so buckle up....

Perhaps an Apology is in Order?
Captain Moroni has kind of a weird reaction to Pahoran's epistle in the opening verses of this chapter:
And now it came to pass that when Moroni had received this epistle his heart did take courage, and was filled with exceeding great joy because of the faithfulness of Pahoran, that he was not also a traitor to the freedom and cause of his country.
But he did also mourn exceedingly because of the iniquity of those who had driven Pahoran from the judgment-seat, yea, in fine because of those who had rebelled against their country and also their God. 
Okay, so I'm not liking the equating of "country" with "God," here, but the strangest part is that Moroni makes no mention of, you know...remorse.  He spent a whole chapter chewing Pahoran out and spouting threats at him for his imagined offenses, only to learn that Pahoran was still a good guy and just barely hanging on despite his own problems.  In response, Moroni is happy that Pahoran is in his corner, and sad that people had kicked him out of the capital.  But where's the sorrow for being a presumptuous jerk?  Where's the contrition for threatening to beat up an old friend?

Joining the Cause
Then Moroni marches across the country, gathering volunteers for the cause of freedom to some background music that's probably either AC/DC or a traditional battle hymn (verse 5):
And it came to pass that thousands did flock unto his standard, and did take up their swords in the defence of their freedom, that they might not come into bondage.
Wait...where were these people hiding?  Do you mean to tell me that the Nephite territory has been filled with thousands of able-bodied, armed men ready to fight for freedom this whole time?  The war's been raging for more than a decade by this point—why did they wait so long to take action?  If the king-men government is a threat to their freedom, why is it more of a threat than the basically everpresent possibility of being overrun by the Lamanites?

Oh, right, because it looks cool to have thousands of them joining Captain Moroni's march.  You know, for the montage sequence.

The Nephite Patriot Act
Moroni and Pahoran unite in Gideon to stomp the king-men and restore the legitimate government.  And then all the rebels who survived are tried according to the law.  Apparently, this whole time that Moroni has been delivering ridiculous ultimatums (exhibits A, B and C), he's actually been acting within the Nephite legal system (verse 9):
And the men of Pachus received their trial, according to the law, and also those king-men who had been taken and cast into prison; and they were executed according to the law; yea, those men of Pachus and those king-men, whosoever would not take up arms in the defence of their country, but would fight against it, were put to death.
I mean, I don't believe in capital punishment anyway, but this is pretty extreme.  These guys aren't Dahmer.  Surely you could at least imprison them, or maybe exile them.  For a culture that's currently so obsessed with freedom, these Nephites don't seem to have much respect for the freedom to live.  Or the freedom not to serve as a soldier in a war you disagree with.

Oh, but it's okay.  The following verse explains:
And thus it became expedient that this law should be strictly observed for the safety of their country; yea, and whosoever was found denying their freedom was speedily executed according to the law.
What?!  That makes absolutely no sense.  First of all, I don't know if you can claim that your country is a safe place when you keep executing groups of your own citizens.  And secondly...what is "denying your freedom?"  These people take differences in political ideology way too much to heart.  This is some Third Reich crap here.  This is not a righteous society!

And I really wish this chapter would stop saying "according to the law" like it's some kind of blanket excuse.  It may be legal, but that doesn't mean it's right.

Not to Beat a Dead Horse, But...
Verse 11:
Moroni and Pahoran having restored peace to the land of Zarahemla, among their own people, having inflicted death upon all those who were not true to the cause of freedom.
You've got to be kidding me.

This Can't Possibly Go Horribly Wrong
In verses 15 through 17, the army of Moroni and Pahoran (who is now a general apparently instead of chief judge) defeat a Lamanite force and then make them "enter into a covenant" not to fight against the Nephites anymore (because that always works—see Honor Among Savages).  After the Lamanites take the oath, they get shipped off to live with the people of Ammon.

So essentially what Pahoran and Moroni have just done is deliver four thousand enemy combatants into the care of a group of...wait for it...pacifists.  What assurances do they have that the Lamanites won't simply overpower their new friends and take control of their territory?  Just their oath.  Their oath that Zerahemnah refused to make back in the day because he was honest enough to point out that there's no way the Lamanites would ever keep it.

What makes it better is that, later in this chapter, when more Lamanites are captured during the reclamation of Nephihah, those prisoners are also sent to live with the people of Ammon.  How is no one concerned or at least suspicious about all this?

That's Not the Real Reason
Moroni and Pahoran set their sights on the city of Nephihah, which is currently under Lamanite control.  So they set up camp nearby and try to figure out how to get the Lamanites to come out of the city to fight.
Now Moroni was desirous that the Lamanites should come out to battle against them, upon the plains; but the Lamanites, knowing of their exceedingly great courage, and beholding the greatness of their numbers, therefore they durst not come out against them; therefore they did not come to battle in that day.
That's why the Lamanites didn't come out to play?  You're telling me it has nothing to do with the fact that they're holed up in a fortified and easily defensible city and that abandoning those entrenchments to face the large Nephite forces on a neutral plain would be at best stupid and at worst suicide?

More Military Brilliance
Since he can't lure the Lamanites out of Nephihah, Moroni instead personally scouts the city in the middle of the night.  He discovers that the entire Lamanite army is asleep (because honestly, who posts round-the-clock guards when your city is under the threat of attack anymore?).  Moroni then makes use of a whole bunch of ladders and ropes that his army seems to have and has everyone climb over the wall without waking up a single Lamanite soldier (because it's not like the movement of an entire army would make any noise or any of the Lamanites would get up to pee during the night).  In the morning, the Lamanites wake up to discover all of Moroni's men inside the walls of the city, and they flee for their lives.  Bloodthirsty Moroni commands his men to kill as many as possible before they escape, and everyone lives happily ever after (verse 26):
Thus had Moroni and Pahoran obtained the possession of the city of Nephihah without the loss of one soul; and there were many of the Lamanites who were slain.
Not that the ambiguous wording might be implying that the Lamanites don't have souls or anything....

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  Moroni is not an ingenious commander.  This plan, like so many of his others, relies heavily on luck and on his opponent being completely inept.
Rigged...by a really bad writer who really needs his hero to succeed.
I've said it before and I'll say it again:  Moroni is not a righteous man. If the Lamanites were really that terrified, why couldn't he just let them run away?  His objective was to reclaim his city, and that objective had been achieved.  If we're so proud of him for doing it without losing any lives on his side, why should it not bother us that he causes many lives to be lost on the opposing side, especially when he could have achieved the same goal without such violence?

Teancum's Last Stand
Eleven chapters ago, Teancum snuck into Amalickiah's camp under cover of darkness and put a javelin through his heart.  Apparently anxious to finish what he started, when all the Lamanite armies are finally surrounded by the Nephite forces, Teancum tries to do the same thing to the current king of the Lamanites—Ammoron, Amalickiah's brother.

He succeeds in killing Ammoron with his signature javelin, but apparently this guy dies more noisily than his brother.  Ammoron's guards are alerted and they chase down Teancum and kill him.

It's sad, but I guess that's what happens when you reuse the exact same plot points—something has to be different or it's just a cheap rehashing of earlier events.  Kill your darlings and all that.

Time for the Wrap-Up
Now that we're winding down the Book of Alma, this chapter attempts to give us some closure on some of the characters we've come to love.  Well, other than Teancum.  That guy died bloody, no way around it.

Pahoran goes back to his judgment seat without any explanation for why he thought it was a good idea to leave it in the first place, especially since he'd just gotten it back from a group of vicious rebels.

Helaman goes back to preaching the gospel, because the war had taken a toll on the Nephites and they needed to repent of their wickedness.  Verse 46 mentions that he "did establish again the church of God, throughout all the land" with no explanation of why it had disappeared in the first place or why it was a good idea for the prophet and leader of the church to shirk his ecclesiastical responsibilities in favor of playing general for a few years.

The Incomparable Captain Moroni hands the reins of the military over to his son Moronihah and retires "that he might spend the remainder of his days in peace" with no explanation as to how a guy that gets off on so much blood and violence and one-sided ideology could possibly enjoy a retirement devoid of such things.

The people of Nephi, as a whole, having soundly defeated the Lamanites for the first time in a long time, become prosperous and righteous simultaneously (which is a rarity).  And as the thirty-fifth year of the reign of the judges draws to a close, everyone is living happily ever after.

Except Teancum.  That guy died bloody.

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