Thursday, December 31, 2009

What a Nice Necklace: The Flattering of Amalickiah

In reading Alma chapter 47 I couldn't help but get the impression about the stupidity of Amalickiah's enemies. Then I realized that much of their "stupidity" was a result of the Amalickiah's flattery. With that flattery stripped from the account we can better understand his dangerous game.

A good example are the events surrounding Lehonti's encounter with Amalickiah. In chapter 47 we read that the "larger part" of the Lamanite army did not wish to fight the Nephites. So Amalickiah led the loyal part of the army to subdue the rebellious part according to the orders of the King.

8 Now it was not Amalickiah’s intention to give them battle according to the commandments of the king; but behold, it was his intention to gain favor with the armies of the Lamanites, that he might place himself at their head and dethrone the king and take possession of the kingdom.
9 And behold, it came to pass that he caused his army to pitch their tents in the valley which was near the mount Antipas.
10 And it came to pass that when it was night he sent a secret embassy into the mount Antipas, desiring that the leader of those who were upon the mount, whose name was Lehonti, that he should come down to the foot of the mount, for he desired to speak with him.
11 And it came to pass that when Lehonti received the message he durst not go down to the foot of the mount. And it came to pass that Amalickiah sent again the second time, desiring him to come down. And it came to pass that Lehonti would not; and he sent again the third time.
12 And it came to pass that when Amalickiah found that he could not get Lehonti to come down off from the mount, he went up into the mount, nearly to Lehonti’s camp; and he sent again the fourth time his message unto Lehonti, desiring that he would come down, and that he would bring his guards with him.
13 And it came to pass that when Lehonti had come down with his guards to Amalickiah, that Amalickiah desired him to come down with his army in the night-time, and surround those men in their camps over whom the king had given him command, and that he would deliver them up into Lehonti’s hands, if he would make him (Amalickiah) a second leader over the whole army.

Why would Lehonti agree to this? Amalickiah was dangerous and presenting a deal too good to be true. But Amalickiah could argue that he did not desire to shed blood. He had the "smaller part" of the army and had to attack a fortified position and could argue that he was saving his army from destruction. Plus, if his army lost the battle with Lehonti (which was likely considering his disadvantages)he would have no command and maybe loose his head in battle or from the Kings wrath for failing. So he was saving at least partial command by offering his army's surrender to Lehonti.

Amalickiah presented a win win situation because Lehonti did not have to kill his brethren and he gained greater strength to his army. Lehonti probably had his ambition flattered as well. Amalickiah could argue that with the combined strength of the armies that Lehonti could place himself on the throne.

14 And it came to pass that Lehonti came down with his men and surrounded the men of Amalickiah, so that before they awoke at the dawn of day they were surrounded by the armies of Lehonti.
15 And it came to pass that when they saw that they were surrounded, they plead with Amalickiah that he would suffer them to fall in with their brethren, that they might not be destroyed. Now this was the very thing which Amalickiah desired.

In addition to fulfilling the win win situation he gained the loyalty of his army by saving them from certain destruction.

16 And it came to pass that he delivered his men, contrary to the commands of the king. Now this was the thing that Amalickiah desired, that he might accomplish his designs in dethroning the king.
17 Now it was the custom among the Lamanites, if their chief leader was killed, to appoint the second leader to be their chief leader.
18 And it came to pass that Amalickiah caused that one of his servants should administer poison by degrees to Lehonti, that he died.
19 Now, when Lehonti was dead, the Lamanites appointed Amalickiah to be their leader and their chief commander.

In debating class I was often told that aiming to hang your opponent is too obvious and won't work, you need to make him look at the rope and say "what a nice necklace or neck tie". Amalickiah presented what appeared to be acts of self preservation: saving his army (and neck) from a frontal attack against a larger army in a fortified position. And he flattered the ambition of Lehonti by giving him command over the combined armies and perhaps by appealing to his desire to be king. These two things made the decision of Lehonti the most logical choice and cautions the modern reader to be aware of the pretty necklace or neck tie.

1 comment:

Michaela Stephens said...

Love the pretty necklace metaphor in this post.

Something else that is interesting is how Amalickiah keeps both factions of the army happy after he gains top command. (Naturally we cannot expect that the anti-war faction would instantly change their minds once Amalickiah gained power.) Basically he plays one side, then the other, letting them both have their way in turn.

A servant from the pro-war faction was probably responsible for Lehonti's death.

Members from the anti-war faction undoubtedly were responsible for the Lamanite king's assassination. (We can imagine how Amalickiah convinced them he was returning to the Lamanite capital just so that they could stop war before it started by killing the king.)

And of course Amalickiah appealed to the pro-war faction ("whoever loved the king, kill the servants who killed him!") to chase after the king's servants.

And then he used his anti-war hit team as witnesses and backup when talking with the Lamanite queen to argue the guilt of the king's servants.

And then he must have used his pro-war servants to spread anti-Nephite propaganda from the towers.

Amalickiah is exactly the kind of politician that neither side can really trust because he is out to get his own way regardless of what anyone else wants.