Saturday, February 27, 2016

3 Nephi 4: A Chicken Couldn't Live on that Ground

Tensions continue to mount between the Nephite civilization and the massive armies of the Gadianton Robbers.

Food, Glorious Food
In anticipation of Gadianton aggression, the Nephites have consolidated their population into one ostensibly defensible knot.  They've brought livestock and seven years of "provisions"—and for good measure they've left their old homes "desolate" and free of any remaining crops.  When the Robbers descend from their mountain hideouts, they find the former Nephite territory to be an impossibly barren place to live.  But the Robbers refuse to spread out and plant crops for fear that this will leave them vulnerable to Nephite attack.

What about this makes no sense? Well, basically all of it.

First of all, how are the Nephites going to survive for seven years on "provisions?"  How did they orchestrate a harvest so monumental that it would last the better part of a decade? And if there was some foresight or planning involved, why was that not indicated in Gidgiddoni's five-point plan from the last chapter?

And what are the animals going to eat? You can't slaughter a pig to cook some bacon if all your pigs died of starvation six years back.  And there's no space to grow food, because they've gathered into one place and the Robbers' fear of putting down roots indicates that nobody can safely spread out and plant.  Which means somehow the Nephites were able to spontaneously generate enough non-perishable food to feed humans and livestock alike for seven whole years.

If this had happened, it surely must have taken a miracle.  And if a miracle had indeed transpired, isn't that exactly the kind of thing the prophets would have recorded for our day?

Old Dogs, Old Tricks
When the Gadianton Robbers return a few years later under new management, they attempt to lay seige to the Nephite settlement.  After the Robbers' food supply runs out and they're about to flee, how does Gidgiddoni ensure a decisive victory?

By sneaking his army around under cover of darkness and surrounding the enemy.  Doesn't this feel familiar?

It should, because that's basically what Captain Moroni and his cronies did in every single battle during the height of the Nephite-Lamanite conflict. While I suppose Moroni's wildly successful career would have essentially written the book on Nephite military strategy, these rehashed tactics are starting to feel less like a tried-and-true formula and more like the product of a poor writer with no combat experience.

By Their Kill Ratio Shall Ye Know Them
Remember, the Gadianton Robbers are the bad guys and the Nephites are the good guys with divine backing.  With that in mind, let's review a few of the wonderful things the Nephites have accomplished here.

In this chapter's first battle, the Nephite army drop to their knees in prayer as the Robbers charge, and God filla his chosen people with such power to repulse the assault "insomuch that there never was known so great a slaughter among all the people of Lehi since he left Jerusalem."

When Giddianhi's troops retreat, Gidgiddoni's men give chase (yes, the opposing generals have confusingly similar names) and continue killing the enemy "that they should not spare any that should fall into their hands by the way."  They take no prisoners and instead maximize their body count.

In the second battle, which begins as a seige, the Nephites use their superior rations to outlast their tormentors.  Harried by devastating daily attacks from the Nephites, the Robbers make plans to withdraw.  With full knowledge of his enemy's near-starvation, Gidgiddoni decides to turn a failed seige into an utter defeat.  Rather than let the beaten forces leave in peace, he sends part of his army out during the night to block the retreat.  The Robbers who surrender are taken prisoner, but "the remainder of them [are] slain."

Then, to top it off, the Robbers' leader, Zemnarihah, is hanged "upon the top" of a tree until he dies.  Then the Nephites chop down the tree and seal their barbaric ritual with a prayer (verse 29):
May the Lord preserve his people in righteousness and in holiness of heart, that they may cause to be felled to the earth all who shall seek to slay them because of power and secret combinations, even as this man hath been felled to the earth.
Then they launched a full-fledged celebration before Zemnarihah's rigor mortis could even set in (verse 31):
And it came to pass that they did break forth, all as one, in singing, and praising their God for the great thing which he had done for them, in preserving them from falling into the hands of their enemies.
These are the righteous?  The ones praying for violent divine retribution around the corpse of an executed enemy before almost literally dancing on his grave?  These are God's chosen people?  The ones singing, whose hearts are "swollen with joy, unto the gushing out of many tears" in the immediate aftermath of a full-scale war that cost countless lives on both sides?  This is our ancient example of righteousness?  A callous disregard for the value of human life and an obsessive loyalty to a dubious religious ideal?

Show some mercy to your enemies!  Don't condone or celebrate needlessly bloody military victories!  Take some time to bury your dead!  Mourn the loss of your friends and family members!  And if you really think your god gave you the ability to gleefully take so many lives, pick a better god to believe in.


  1. Read this chapter a few times and you may be mentally prepared to carry out your own seize and killing spree in the name of God. #mountainmeadowsmassacre

    1. Haha, that's a killer hashtag! Well, you know...killer...

  2. Dear Alex - you are indeed performing a public service by disproving a common misconception. Thanks to you, we not only see how an uneducated boy could have written the Book of Mormon, we are growing to understand that only an uneducated boy could have written it.

    Some years back I remember coming out of the theater after an action film and overhearing an adolescent boy comment to his friend: "Not enough people died."

    1. Not enough people died? It'd be difficult to make that claim about the Book of Mormon.

      I guess adolescents do tend toward hyperbole and gratuitousness. That's a good point I've never considered before. Maybe if Joseph Smith had lived in the 21st century the Book of Mormon might have read like the screenplay for a Michael Bay movie.