That's a Bad Mission Statement
The header to the Book of Helaman begins:
An account of the Nephites. Their wars and contentions, and their dissensions. And also the prophecies of many holy prophets, before the coming of Christ...Contrast this with the mission statement of the Book of Mormon from its title page:
...Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations—So the purpose of the Book of Mormon is to teach us about the history between God and the ancient peoples, to allow us to learn and take advantage of covenants, and to convince everyone of the Jesusness of Jesus. So what is the Book of Helaman going to be about? Wars and political upheavals of the Nephites. And also, by the way...religious stuff, prophecies, Christ, you know.
One Big Happy Family
In the wake of chief judge Pahoran's death, the voice of the people decide to democratically vote on his replacement from the confines of his lineage. His sons Pahoran, Paanchi and Pacumeni are the frontrunners. Pahoran junior wins the election, class act Pacumeni throws his support behind his victorious brother, and super-villain Paanchi smolders in jealousy. Eventually Paanchi tries to convince his followers to overthrow Pahoran, but in an act of precognitive crimefighting that both Tom Cruise and Philip K. Dick would have been proud of, the government catches him before he can go through with it, puts him on trial, and sentences him to death.
Damn. Harsh. One brother down.
Paanchi's gang, incensed by these events, send in Kishkumen, who murders Pahoran on the judgment seat in plain view like an idiot, but somehow manages to escape capture.
Ouch. Brutal. Two brothers down.
Then, suddenly, Lamanites attack, led by a brilliant and imposing man named Coriantumr, who is, unsurprisingly, a disgruntled Nephite. Coriantumr blazes straight through to Zarahemla, conquers and ransacks the city, and then chases down Pacumeni and slams him against the outer wall of the city, killing him.
Yeesh. Bloody. Three brothers down.
Does this actually feel like the way things happen in real life? Doesn't this seem like contrived, dramatic storytelling? I mean, a brother sentencing his own brother to death for treason is then murdered on his throne by one of his deceased brother's disciples? Murdered on the throne? Because sneaking into his house at night or gunning him down in the street (with a sling, not a gun) would be too risky? And then, to top it off, when the big bad guy invades suddenly out of nowhere, it's he, personally, who kills the reigning political power of the land? Out of all the people in that army, Coriantumr is the one who confronts Pacumeni? Come on.
I mean, it's an exciting story and it would make one hell of a movie, but don't try and tell me it reads like legitimate history.
How Thick Can You Get?
Why does Zarahemla fall to the invaders? Verse 18 explains:
And it came to pass that because of so much contention and so much difficulty in the government, that they had not kept sufficient guards in the land of Zarahemla; for they had supposed that the Lamanites durst not come into the heart of their lands to attack that great city of Zarahemla.Well, if it's a great city, doesn't that make it kind of a logical target for attack? Especially considering it's the freaking national capital? Have they not met the Lamanites? They love attacking the Nephites and starting wars! They've been doing it for the last five hundred years! Since the two societies live so close to each other and hate each other's guts, how stupid would one of them have to be to leave its capital so poorly defended in the years immediately following a long and bloody conflict?
And who is in charge of the Nephite armed forces? None other than Moronihah, son of the famed and lauded Captain Moroni. I guess the apple falls very far from the tree. Or maybe it's just that Moroni always fought incompetent generals and Coriantumr doesn't seem to be an idiot. So maybe it's apples and oranges.
Although, once Moronihah defeats Coriantumr and his army (by surrounding them, probably a page from daddy's old playbook), he demonstrates that he's not much of a chip off the old block at all. Moroni would have given his prisoners an ultimatum, forcing them to swear an oath of peace and loyalty on pain of death. Moronihah just lets them all go back home.
What's this? A Nephite general exhibiting mercy? It's like the world has turned upside down.