Suffering Fixes Suffering
Nephi is so distressed by the wickedness of his people that he decides to cash in on that promise God made him in the previous chapter (verse 4):
O Lord, do not suffer that this people shall be destroyed by the sword; but O Lord, rather let there be a famine in the land, to stir them up in remembrance of the Lord their God, and perhaps they will repent and turn unto thee.So Nephi wants famine instead of war? He prays to God to stop his people from killing each other by making them starve to death instead. How is this a good solution?
There's also the problem of using starvation as a way to "stir" people "up in remembrance" of God. It speaks more to desperation than faith. Why does Nephi want people to be so hungry that they cry out to any supernatural being for assistance? Doesn't he want real conversion so that there can be a lasting positive effect on his society? And it looks as though God actually works in mysterious ways after all—by starving thousands of children in order to manipulate their parents' moral choices.
The weird part is that this strategy apparently works, at least in the short term. Because when everybody's hungry, I guess they don't have the energy to rape and murder. The impossibly influential, unspeakably evil Gadianton Robbers are basically sidelined by a bad harvest season.
I, For One, Welcome Our New Kolobian Overlord
After Nephi makes a needlessly verbose prayer entreating his Father in Heaven to relieve the people from their punitive famine, God finally acquiesces and sends some much needed moisture. And what do the Nephites do? Verse 18 explains:
And behold, the people did rejoice and glorify God, and the whole face of the land was filled with rejoicing; and they did no more seek to destroy Nephi, but they did esteem him as a great prophet, and a man of God, having great power and authority given unto him from God.They rejoiced in their God and they esteemed Nephi as a powerful prophet. Do these people not realize that God and Nephi were both responsible for their suffering? Nephi asked for the drought, and God made it happen. These guys are cruel and manipulative. They don't deserve the accolades of the masses. You don't get to soak in the admiration of your peers for solving a problem you deliberately created in the first place. Especially if the cure is worse than the disease. After all, that had to have been an extremely, insanely, absurdly corrupt government for the Nephites to have been in worse shape under the Gadianton puppet regime than they were when everybody was on the verge of death from malnutrition.
The War on Terror
A mere four years after God ends the famine in response to universal penitence, everything's gone to hell again. All the prosperity and baptizing that has graced the Nephites and Lamanites over the previous forty-eight months is dissolved by dissension from the church, a fresh declaration of war, and a resurgence of the infamous Gadianton Robbers.This chapter's Gadianton Robber narrative, however, seems to defy logic.
After Nephite apostates join the Lamanites, whip some of them into a frenzy, and convince them to attack the Nephites, they take up the mantle of Gadianton and begin a long conflict with the established society. These ancient American terrorists lived in the "mountains," the "wilderness," and "secret places" from which they would emerge to attack and to which they would return for refuge. Verse 25 explains that their ranks grew with recruits on a daily basis. I wonder how such a large group of people could survive outside of civilization while remaining undetected. It doesn't sound like a lifestyle that lends itself to planting crops or herding livestock. Unless we're expected to believe that all of their necessities came from their plundering. But it seems to me that the smaller the group is, the more likely it is that they could successfully hide in the mountains.
Except the group is clearly numerous enough to challenge the might of the Nephite military. In this chapter, the Nephites send their army out to put an end to the threat of the Gadianton Robbers, only to see them return in defeat...twice. Such defeats could only have come at the hands of a large and well-supplied force. But considering that verse 33 mentions the Robbers' habit of kidnapping women and children, their apparent ability to keep themselves fed, clothed, sheltered, armed, and hidden becomes even more far-fetched.
It just doesn't add up for me.