Saturday, June 6, 2015

Alma 60: Moroni's Maximum Madness

Moroni is still steaming over what he believes is an inexcusable government mismanagement of the war effort.  He decides to send a sternly-worded letter to Pahoran.  Our favorite captain, of course, sent the letter in the previous chapter, but the audience has been withheld from learning its specific contents until now in order to increase the dramatic tension.

Reflexive Pronouns and Other Common Reformed Egyptian Grammatical Foibles
Verse 3 contains a curious mistake:
And now behold, I say unto you that myself, and also my men, and also Helaman and his men, have suffered exceedingly great sufferings; yea, even hunger, thirst, and fatigue, and all manner of afflictions of every kind.
Here Moroni has incorrectly used a reflexive pronoun.  He says "myself" instead of "I."  It's a relatively common mistake, sure, but for a book that was translated out of an ancient language and is touted by its supposed prophetic translator as being the most correct book on the face of the Earth, a little mistake like that speaks volumes.  Sure sounds like it was originally written in English by someone whose grasp of English was imperfect and not supplemented with any divine assistance.

Nephite Logicians Have a Field Day
In his blind rage toward Pahoran, Moroni sets the example for modern-day Mormons by ascribing irrational motives to people he doesn't understand (verse 12):
Do ye suppose that, because so many of your brethren have been killed it is because of their wickedness?  I say unto you, if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain;...
What?  Why would Pahoran think that?  And even if he did, it's not like there isn't some scriptural support for such an outlandish belief.  Remember the Armies of Helaman?  The ones who all survived repeated engagements because of their exceeding righteousness? doesn't take a huge stretch of the imagination to reason that other Nephite units who lost some men sustained those casualties because they were less righteous than the Stripling Warriors.

Oh, Good, Now the Faithful Will Be Up All Night
In an almost direct contradiction to Helaman's conclusions about his own army, Moroni continues with this troubling statement:
For the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked;
That is not the mark of a benevolent, loving God.  If he's all-knowing and all-powerful, he doesn't need evidence to sentence someone to Hell.  But apparently he lets good people die so that the people who kill them can be punished.  Which is completely unnecessary.  The chief judge of Ammonihah was wicked because he wanted to throw all of Alma's followers into a fiery pit and intended to go through with it.  Actually letting every last one of those people burn to death was totally unnecessary.  God shouldn't need to suffer the righteous to be slain so that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked.

Holding God to His Own Standard
A lot of this chapter could play well as a letter to an absent God.  I've seen the Mormon God derisively referred to in ex-Mormon circles as the God of Lost Car Keys, a reference to the "tender mercies" of God being evident in the minutiae of first world life and completely absent in the larger issues of the third world.  God answers a middle-class American Mormon's prayer to find his lost car keys but lets millions of African children starve in their war-torn homes.  Victims of these broader tragedies would be completely justified in directing the same kinds of anger toward God that Moroni directs at Pahoran and his men (italicized words were modified to direct the words at God instead of at the Nephite judges):
Can you think to sit upon your throne in a state of thoughtless stupor, while your enemies are spreading the work of death around you?  Yea, while they are murdering thousands of your children
Yea, even they who have looked up to you for protection, yea, have placed you in a situation that ye might have succored them, yea, ye might have sent armies unto them, to have strengthened them, and have saved thousands of them from falling by the sword. ought to have stirred yourself more diligently for the welfare and the freedom of this people; but behold, ye have neglected them insomuch that the blood of thousands shall come upon your head for vengeance;
But then Moroni crushes Pahoran with this reminder:
Do ye suppose that God will look upon you as guiltless while ye sit still and behold these things?  Behold I say unto you, Nay.
If the Mormon version of God exists, He does the exact same kind of stuff that Moroni is proclaiming He won't stand for.  The Mormon God is not guiltless.

Holding Moroni to his Own Standard
What is our hero's solution to the assumed negligence of his government?  His threats are scattered across several verses.
And except ye grant mine epistle, and come out and show unto me a true spirit of freedom, and strive to strengthen and fortify our armies, and grant unto them food for their support, behold... 
I will come unto you, and if there be any among you that has a desire for freedom, yea, if there be even a spark of freedom remaining, behold I will stir up insurrections among you, even until those who have desires to usurp power and authority shall become extinct.
Behold, I wait for assistance from you; and, except ye do administer unto our relief, behold, I come unto you, even in the land of Zarahemla, and smite you with the sword, insomuch that ye can have no more power to impede the progress of this people in the cause of our freedom.
Moroni just complained in verse 16 of this chapter about how counterproductive the king-men's revolt against the Nephite government was.  But his solution to this problem is...well, another armed revolt.  How is that less counterproductive?  How is he going to strike down everyone who desires to usurp power while he's in the process of usurping power himself?  How is this guy anything but a gigantic bloodthirsty hypocrite?

But wait, there's more!  Apparently God himself is in favor of a poorly-timed revolution, as claimed in verse 33:
Behold, the Lord saith unto me: If those whom ye have appointed your governors do not repent of their sins and iniquities, ye shall go up to battle against them.
Why would God say this?  See, Moroni doesn't realize this yet, but Pahoran actually has a good explanation for his apparent lack of support—he's been ousted by the king-men and has been forced to go into hiding away from the city of Zarahemla.  But God, being omniscient, knows this.  Why would God fuel Moroni's violent wrath by telling him something along the lines of "if the government won't help, you have to overthrow the government"?  That's basically pouring gasoline on the fire.  Unless Moroni was lying to try and make his threat sound legitimate.

Either God is irresponsible here or Moroni, one of the greatest "role models" from the Book of Mormon, is a vengeful, wrathful, deceitful insurgent.

Freedom by Any Means Necessary!
Moroni closes his letter on a confusing note:
Behold, I am Moroni, your chief captain.  I seek not for power, but to pull it down.  I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country.  And thus I close mine epistle.
So, basically, he loves freedom so much that he's going to stage a military coup and personally oversee the dismantling of his people's legitimate government because he doesn't like the decisions being made.  For freedom.

Because the rule of one rogue military officer who claims not to seek for power is the purest form of government a free society can hope for.


  1. Just when I was starting to think Captain Moroni couldn't get any worse, Joseph drops this chapter on us. That is one crazy dude, and people wake their kids up early in the morning to read this and teach them what a wonderful man he is. ):

    1. Sometimes I think maybe Joseph Smith actually had a knack for writing, because he's keeping the craziness pretty consistent with Moroni. He keeps delivering ultimatums, he's still obsessed with freedom and quick to overreact...old Joe was actually crafting a character here.

  2. Moroni is, indeed, one taco shy of a combination plate. Probably can't even find his car keys.

    1. Some people overturn the couch cushions looking for their keys. Moroni overthrows Pahoran looking for his.