Saturday, January 17, 2015

Alma 51: A Political Diversion

The Nephites have a new chief judge by the name of Pahoran.  Pahoran doesn't seem to like listening to a group of citizens who want to alter the system of government, and this generates some political discord.

In Defense of Democracy
The people who oppose Pahoran want him to step down so that a monarchy can be put in place.  They decide to call themselves "king-men."  This is how Pahoran's supporters react (verse 6):
And those who were desirous that Pahoran should remain chief judge over the land took upon them the name of freemen; and thus was the division among them, for the freemen had sworn or covenanted to maintain their rights and the privileges of their religion by a free government.
So apparently, to these people, monarchy and the free exercise of religion are mutually exclusive.  Hello?  Nobody remembers Mosiah?  The benevolent ruler dude who died just twenty-five years ago and set up this system of judges?

The Nephites have had a long tradition of monarchs ever since Nephi took command of the righteous half of his family back in the day.  Religious freedom wasn't really a problem, with a few exceptions (King Noah, for example).  It's only in the last few decades that the people have lived under any kind of government that wasn't headed by a king.  Why would they hear the king-men talking about bringing the monarchy back and immediately cry out that their freedom of religion is going to be infringed upon?

Moroni Makes No Sense
Amalackiah is back and badder than ever, planning to again invade the Nephite lands with a massive army.  The king-men throw a little temper tantrum and decide that, because they don't support Pahorah, they won't fight to defend their country. Moroni responds in exactly the way we've come to expect from this self-assured, self-righteous, bloodthirsty maniac (verses 15-16):
And it came to pass that he [Moroni] sent a petition, with the voice of the people, unto the governor of the land, desiring that he should read it, and give him (Moroni) power to compel those dissenters to defend their country or put them to death.
For it was his first care to put an end to such contentions and dissensions among the people; for behold, this had been hitherto a cause of all their destruction. 
Moroni is threatening to execute anyone who doesn't fight for the country?  Looks like we already have a king, and not a merciful one either.  It sounds to me like Moroni is telling the governor what to do.  Keep in mind, Moroni is supposed to be a military official, not a legislator or a ruler.  He should be operating the army within the constraints that the governor places on him.  Instead, the governor is making decisions based on what Moroni wants.

Our favorite Nephite captain is also worried that all this infighting and internal political strife will be the Nephites' downfall, so he decides that the best way to put an end to the ideological disagreement is to turn it into a full-blown military disagreement.  Because quashing a different opinion among the masses with lots and lots of troops never creates any kind of resentment, contention, or lingering desire for revolution.

And keep in mind that while Moroni is off trying to prove a very bloody point about cultural togetherness, he's not defending his country from Amalickiah's invasion...which, of course, is exactly what the king-men did to incur his violent wrath in the first place.  Verse 22 all but comes out and says that Moroni was an idiot for wasting so much effort on suppressing the king-men's stubborn pacifism:
Behold, it came to pass that while Moroni was thus breaking down the wars and contentions among his own people, and subjecting them to peace and civilization, and making regulations to prepare for war against the Lamanites, behold, the Lamanites had come into the land of Moroni, which was in the borders by the seashore.
Oh, look!  The Lamanites got in!  I wonder how that happened!

Beyond that, Moroni's political reasoning for his actions is just...mind-boggling.  Though he pretends to be doing this for the cause of freedom, the syntax used to describe his behavior doesn't really jive with that claim.  The rebellious king-men "yielded to the standard of liberty" and were later "compelled to hoist the title of liberty upon their towers" all because Moroni was "subjecting them to peace."  These are not phrases that smell of liberty.  These are phrases that reek of tyranny.
If the Nephites lived in Gotham, Moroni would be Commissioner Gordon and the Joker at the same time.

Yes He Didn't
When Amalickiah conquers the city of Moroni, the refugees flee to the nearby metropolis of Nephihah, which bristles in expectation of an attack.  Amalickiah, however, seems to have other plans (verse 25):
But it came to pass that Amalickiah would not suffer the Lamanites to go against the city of Nephihah to battle, but kept them down by the seashore, leaving men in every city to maintain and defend it.
Ah, so cunning ol' Amalickiah faked 'em out!  Let's keep reading (verse 26):
And thus he went on, taking possession of many cities, the city of Nephihah, and the city of Lehi, and the city of Morianton, and the city of Omner, and the city of Gid, and the city of Mulek, all of which were on the east borders by the seashore.
So instead of attacking the city of Nephihah, Amalickiah decided to attack the city of...Nephihah.  I suppose it's possible that Amalickiah took all of these cities, but not necessarily in this exact order.  Maybe he doubled back after taking Lehi and Morianton and that's when Nephihah fell.  But it seems pretty stupid to use the city that you just said Amalickiah didn't attack as the first in a subsequent list of cities that he did attack.  I mean, this is literally the next sentence.

Who wrote this thing, anyway?

Black Ops:  Teancum
After some grueling battles against the armies of the Lamanites, Teancum decides he's had enough of this Amalickiah character.  So he sneaks into the Lamanite camp late at night, creeps into Amalickiah's tent, and skewers him through the heart with a well-placed javelin.  To complete his feat of badassery, he escapes without being caught and returns safely to his men.

What's interesting to me is that, when things ramp up to the point of assassination, who's the one to do it?  Is it the Lamanites?  The wicked, murderous savages?  Nope.  It's a Nephite.  One of the righteous.  One of God's chosen people.

War is horrible enough as it is.  If you're going to pretend like you have the moral high ground, you probably shouldn't be the first one to escalate the conflict by assassinating enemy kings.  Amalickiah didn't have Captain Moroni killed, but maybe that's because, despite all his flaws, Amalickiah still has a more developed sense of honor than our current protagonist.


  1. It looks like Moroni's city fortification strategy didn't work very well after all. Though Moroni may have gotten a couple of things right, you illustrate so well that overall he's a very bad man who should not be emulated.

    I don't understand why the leaders of the church feel it's appropriate to, and basically command us to, read this book to our children every day. There are so many stories that scare and traumatize children. Just a few examples include: cutting off a head, drinking blood, burning people alive, threatening and murdering non-believers, too much war and fighting, too much death, too much rape, too much fighting and discord in families, etc. I refuse!

    1. Oh, yeah. I didn't mention the part when Amalickiah vows to drink the blood of Moroni. And just wait until we get to the showdown between Coriantumr and Shiz!

      It's a little funny that Mormons are taught not to watch R-rated movies and encouraged to read their R-rated scriptures daily.