Thursday, September 24, 2015

Helaman 4. Things Fall Apart Again

War continues in true Book of Mormon fashion.

That's Some Great Diagnostic Work
After Nephite dissenters swell the ranks of the Lamanite armies, the Nephites are driven out of much of their territory.  Under the leadership of Moronihah, they manage to regain about half, but this chapter has a few things to say about why they lost it in the first place (verses 11-13):
  • their wickedness and abomination
  • the pride of their hearts
  • exceeding riches
  • oppression of the poor
  • withholding food from the hungry and clothing from the naked
  • smiting their brethren
  • mocking that which is sacred
  • denying the spirit of prophecy and revelation
  • murdering
  • plundering
  • lying
  • stealing
  • adultery
  • contention
  • defecting to the Lamanites
  • boasting in their own strength
So there you have it.  It's that simple.  The Nephites are killed and driven out of their homes basically for every reason ever.  Of course, that still doesn't explain why the Lamanites, who are supposed to be guilty of most of this stuff on a regular basis, are made the instrument of the Nephites' destruction instead of being visited with destruction themselves.  Sure sucks to be God's favorites, I guess.

With God Almost All Things Are Possible
Though the Nephites manage to retake some of what the Lamanites conquered, they give up once they've hit the halfway point.  Verse 19 explains why:
Therefore they did abandon their design to obtain the remainder of their lands, for so numerous were the Lamanites that it became impossible for the Nephites to obtain more power over them; therefore Moronihah did employ all his armies in maintaining those parts which he had taken.
Because it was impossible!  Isn't one of the bigger lessons of these war chapters supposed to be that "with God all things are possible"?  Isn't that why the stories of the Stripling Warriors and Captain Moroni victorious against superior numbers and long odds are supposed to be so inspiring?  The Nephites repented of their iniquities four verses ago and they're led by a righteous man, so what's stopping God from giving them the ability to defeat their wicked enemies?

I guess it doesn't serve the plot this time.  Tough break for Moronihah and company.

A Timeline of a Fickle People
In the previous chapter, a "continual peace" was established in the 49th year of the reign of the judges.

In this chapter, it's all gone to hell a mere eight years later.  And even before actual war breaks out, dissention and contention are rampant in Nephite society by the 54th year of the reign of the judges.  That's only five years.  That's hardly continual.  (Although it's hardly the first time I've made this point.)

But even disregarding the poor word choice, these events reek of improbability. Yet again the Book of Mormon peoples are depicted as behaving as a fickle hive mind.  When's the last time a whole population did a moral one-eighty in less than a decade?  These people went from righteous and prosperous to wicked and homeless fast enough to give the whole civilization whiplash.  Even now, as some bemoan the backward slide of modern America into godlessness and amorality, it happens slowly and with great resistance from large portions of the population.  Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges are separated by forty-two years.  People pointing to the corruption of American society can't reasonably claim that such a phenomenon isn't gradual and fiercely contested.

Yet the Nephites' moral waffling is repeatedly shown to be swift and unanimous.  But that's just not how large groups of people work.

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