Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Comparing Characters: Moroni and Amalikiah Revised

The Book of Mormon is filled with memorable people from all walks of life. There’s Nephi, the strong, faithful, younger brother who’s always being picked on by his older brothers. There’s Korihor, the anti-Christ who asked for a sign and lost his voice as a result. There’s Abinadi, the prophet who had enough faith in the Lord that he refused to deny his testimony and was killed. There’s Alma the Younger, the rebellious son who changes his ways.
One of my favorite people in the Book of Mormon has always been Captain Moroni. He was a courageous man who wrote the Title of Liberty and led the Nephites to victory against the Lamanites on multiple occasions. You can't get much better than Captain Moroni. I mean, not many people can be described like he is in Alma 48:17: "Yea, verily, verily say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever."
Talk about a great guy! I personally wouldn’t mind meeting or being compared to Captain Moroni.
Unfortunately, not everyone is like Moroni. Around the same time we meet Captain Moroni, we also meet Amalickiah, a wicked, former Nephite who uses deception and trickery to become king of the Lamanites. Amalickiah is described as being "a man of cunning device and . . . of many flattering words" (Alma 46:10) and "a very subtle man to do evil" (Alma 47:4).
In other words, not a great guy; in fact, a very bad guy.
Though I've read the Book of Mormon many times, during my most recent reading I noticed something new concerning these two individuals. One of the most righteous men and one the most wicked men in the Book of Mormon are discussed simultaneously, contrasting the two. The Book of Mormon switches back and forth between Amalickiah's actions and Captain Moroni's actions, showing their similarities and differences.
Amalickiah and Captain Moroni are similar in that they both use strategy to accomplish their goals. They're both powerful leaders and they lead armies into battle. They're both Nephites and highly persuasive.
However, they also have some very distinct, important differences. Captain Moroni follows the prophet. Amalickiah is a dissenter. Captain Moroni is righteous and fights for the freedom of his people. Amalickiah is wicked and fights for power and his own selfish gains. (In literary words, these two are a foil to each other).
In comparing these two I saw in a new way the power that one righteous man (Captain Moroni) can have and the power that one wicked man (Amalickiah) can have. Moroni led his people to victory and protected their freedoms. Amalickiah led his people to death and destruction, his own life being taken on the battle field as he attempted to overthrow the Nephites.
And I learned all of this through simple comparison.
It’s a comparison that I think can be applied to other portions of the Book of Mormon. I can’t wait to see what more I can learn by contrasting foils like Alma and Korihor or Nephi and Laman and Lemuel or Nephi and Laban or Abinadi and Noah. What more can foils teach us? I guess we’ll have to study the Book of Mormon to find out.

Statue of Captain Moroni by Josh Cotton; Image from Wikimedia

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