Friday, March 18, 2016

3 Nephi 6: Trouble in Paradise

With the Gadianton threat destroyed, the Nephites spread out in their reclaimed territory and return to their normal lives.

Robber equals Lamanite
So what did the Nephites do with the Robbers who had surrendered to them (verse 3)?
And they granted unto those robbers who had entered into a covenant to keep the peace of the land, who were desirous to remain Lamanites, lands, according to their numbers, that they might have, with their labors, wherewith to subsist upon; and thus they did establish peace in all the land.
Forty acres and a mule, basically.  But my problem with this is that Lamanites effectively didn't exist anymore.  The old Lamanites had become righteous and united with their sister society under the broadened moniker of "Nephite."  It wasn't Nephites versus Lamanites anymore, it was Nephites versus Gadianton Robbers.

Another problem is that the Gadianton Robbers were also composed of Nephites.  There's no mention of how the victorious Nephites may or may not have assimilated vanquished Robbers of similar lineage into their society, and that absence kind of conflates Gadianton Robber with Lamanite in a way that is entirely unfair—especially since this whole organized crime mess originated in the Nephite community.

The Non-Prosperity Gospel
Verse 5 pretty clearly equates poverty with transgression:
And now there was nothing in all the land to hinder the people from prospering continually, except they should fall into transgression.
So the only thing that can make the people poor is sin?  Okay, now compare that to what Dallin H. Oaks declared in General Conference just last year:  
Those who believe in what has been called the theology of prosperity are suffering from the deceitfulness of riches. The possession of wealth or significant income is not a mark of heavenly favor, and their absence is not evidence of heavenly disfavor.
Which one is accurate?  The depictions in the Book of Mormon or the platitudes of a modern apostle?

Convert Retention
In the 28th year, everything was fine.  By the 30th year, the church has been dismantled except for a pocket of righteous Lamanites.  What the hell happened in two years?  Has there ever been such a rapid period of apostasy in a closed society in recorded history?  Even for the Nephites, the speed of vacillation between wickedness and righteousness is record-setting.

In fact, Google and the CES Letter, with all their insidious non-faith-promoting materials, haven't managed to get within light-years of dealing this kind of damage.

Who's Running This Country?
Following the mass exodus from the church, a few random guys get inspired to start preach the gospel, much to the anger of government officials who had probably been among the believers just two years prior.  Verse 21 states that "those who were angry were chiefly the chief judges, and they who had been high priests and lawyers."

Since when is there more than one chief judge? A few chapters ago, Lachoneus was introduced as the "governor" of the Nephite society that had absorbed the righteous Lamanites.  What happened to "chief judge" as the title of the highest government office? When did it become some kind of plural subordinate position beneath the governor?

Anyway, these angry chief judges resorted to secretly executing the proselytizers because it was "contrary to the laws of the land, that any man should be put to death except they had power from the governor of the land," who is the presumably righteous son of Lachoneus (who is also named Lachoneus, in true unimaginative Book of Mormon fashion).  Either this is a plot hole or it's is a law that the Nephites created in response to Captain Moroni's rampant, indiscriminate, and indemnified executions.

These angry chief judges proceed to amass a following intent on destroying the righteous and establishing a monarchy.  And in the first verse of the next chapter, they'll set off a political crisis by murdering the chief judge—singular, with a definite article.  There's no mention of any "governor" and the government breaks up into little tribes without a unifying figure of centralized power.

What is a chief judge? Why does the definition keep changing? What is a governor?  Why does the office crop up with no explanation and later suddenly cease to exist?  How is this divinely inspired scripture and not the product of an imaginative guy dictating stories by the seat of his pants?

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