Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Best Book of Mormon Movie?

[Some comments I made in response to a great video posted on Mormon Dialogue and Discussion. I posted the video in question below and I quite like it.]

I talk about this a bit in the introduction to my first book, Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon.

Warfare is generally dismissed out of hand in liberal and academic circles, and this has filtered out through society. My daughter for example told me she isn't allowed to play cops and robbers because that involves guns. I pointed out that cops are here to save and protect us, so its no the gun that is the problem, but how a person uses it, and the desires of their heart that matters. I don't worry when my daughter wants to play cops and robbers because its a good way to teach basic versions of the positive and negative qualities associated with war. Warfare teaches concepts like honor, justice, duty, courage, and sacrifice, especially when you are reading about them in scriptures, service academies or other peace time venues. Of course there are negatives about war that include sexual violence, child soldiers, blood lust, and rage. The BoM contains both of these examples, so as Nehor said above, the BoM is an extremely complex book on the subject and its difficult to simply say its one or the other. Though I think that even if you can point to justifications for war, I think that even victory is ultimately futile as I wrote here and expanded in my second book: Futile Victory

About the video in question, I thought it was kind of cute. In its essential form, warfare, particularly in the scriptures, is a morality tale. The tale they are reenacting is one of the clearest examples of just war presented in the scriptures. Unlike most big ideas, it also has a clear and compelling story to go along with it. I wouldn't mind seeing these types of things between conference sessions. As a reenactment of a story that sets a clear example of just war, it only glorifies violence to the extent that the viewer dislikes the "military stud muffin" (as Jana Reiss put it) that is Captain Moroni. In some circles Moroni is just the Mormon GI Joe that sets a horrible example of militant behavior. I think its a bit more nuanced than that. I spend a good deal of time in my second book (Reassessing the Book of Mormon) looking at some of the events before the great war that might have justified his actions, but also some of the things that happened after the war that suggest the negative consequences of them. I also look at how his actions likely played into Amalickiah's hands and strengthened his ability to wage war against the Nephites. For example, Moroni expelled settlers from the East Wilderness in chapter 50. If Amalickiah was warning about the Nephite menace, and the need for Lamanites to preemptively attack them, this attack by Moroni couldn't have been a better example of that danger. This action did strengthen the Nephite realm, but it was incredibly provocative and also strengthened Amalickiah's rationale for attacking the Nephites. This kind of analysis is sorely lacking in our discussion of warfare. I've been astounded in fact at the number of otherwise intelligent people that simply haven't studied these matters in depth or refuse to consider alternative positions.

Anyways, thanks for sharing the video and letting me comment.

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