The woes of the Jaredites continue, but they continue in an imperceptible blur of genealogical summaries.
Father of the Year
King Shez has a son who apparently did not inherit the righteousness gene from his dad. Take a look at verse 3:
And his eldest son, whose name was Shez, did rebel against him; nevertheless, Shez was smitten by the hand of a robber, because of his exceeding riches, which brought peace again unto his father.Okay, the first and simplest problem is that this verse does a terrible job of differentiating between Shez Sr. and Shez Jr. You'd think if it were really the word of a perfect God, he would have had Joseph play around with the phraseology a bit so that we didn't need to rely on context halfway through the sentence to figure out which Shez got mugged.
But the bigger problem, of course, is that when his son is apparently killed—or at the very least robbed, injured, and traumatized—this brings peace to Shez. Yet, in the sentence immediately preceding this one, Shez is described as "[walking] in the ways of the Lord." So this is a righteous guy. A good guy. A guy who...is relieved that his rebellious son has been brutalized?
Listen, if that's your definition of righteousness, then...well, I guess that does kind of fit the theme of the Book of Mormon so far. Righteous Nephi decapitated a guy, righteous Ammon cut off a bunch of people's arms, righteous Alma calmly let hundreds of people burn to death without even attempting to raise a finger, righteous Captain Moroni relied on battle strategies designed to inflict maximum death upon his enemies and liked to require unreasonable terms for surrender that resulted in more killing...you get the idea.
But those situations at least involved strangers. This one involves family, which makes it just a smidge more heartless. The scriptures don't say that this brings peace to the society or stability to the government or tranquility to the church. Peace to the father. This man is comforted by the fact that his son was murdered, even considering that his son died in his iniquity and probably has no good prospects for the afterlife. That's not righteousness. That's depraved indifference. If that's walking in the ways of the Lord, then we have a terrible Lord.
Weirdest Government Ever
King Kim gets overthrown by his unnamed brother in verse 14, but instead of killing Kim or driving Kim out of the land like all the other usurpers in Ether, the brother sets him up as some kind of puppet instead. Because, in the next verse, Kim's son Levi succeeds him and "[serves] in captivity" for forty-two years. And then Levi overthrows the king, which is kind of weird, because it sounds to me like Levi was the king. This puppet regime or suzerainty or potemkin monarchy or whatever the hell it is doesn't make a lot of sense.
What also doesn't make much sense is that, four generations later, somebody else does the same exact thing. Hearthom has his throne "taken away from him" and "[serves] many years in captivity." In this particular instance, the wording seems a little more vague about whether or not Hearthom was still some kind of king or figurehead or whatever. But it still uses the word serve, which hearkens back to verse 15, which states that Levi "did serve in captivity after the death of his father." (Emphasis is mine, of course.)
If the service starts after the death of his father, that doesn't sound to me like serving a sentence in prison. It sounds like public service. Like he inherited a job only upon his dad's demise. And the use of the same word in Hearthom's case leads me to believe that Hearthom too was a puppet king. It's weird that this should happen twice, especially since it backfired so horribly the first time.
And, what do you know, it backfires the second time too. In verse 32, Hearthom's great-great-great-grandson steals half the kingdom from his overlords, bides his time, and then goes to war and steals the rest of it.
It's not just a weird government with weird writing. It's lazy storytelling.
Not a Good Drinking Game for Ether
By my count, there are fifteen rulers named in this chapter as well as a handful who aren't. This chapter is only thirty-four verses long, so there's a different monarch every two paragraphs or so. Do not take a shot every time a new king is crowned.
And this is really one of my biggest problems with the book of Ether as a whole. This is a (purportedly) historical summary. We learn nothing from this chapter that we can't learn from other parts of the Book of Mormon. The only doctrine here is that when you're not righteous, God gets pissy. This is essentially the mission statement of the whole book, and if you haven't learned that lesson by the time you get to Ether, then you're never going to learn it. Honestly, you can just read the chapter summary written wayyyy after the fact and not miss a single important item:
One king succeeds another—Some of the kings are righteous; others are wicked—When righteousness prevails, the people are blessed and prospered by the Lord.See what Bruce R. McConkie did there? He kept everything that you needed to know but condensed it down to a much shorter bit of text. It's brilliant! But wasn't abridging the scriptures originally supposed to have been done by someone else? Man, that guy really sucked at his job.