May 17th, 2009

The Arrogance of Ammonihah

photo credit: TheWalkinMan

The experience of the city Ammonihah in the Book of Mormon provides an interesting case study regarding the arrogance that patriotic pride produces. Having apostatized from the Nephite faith and embraced the teachings of Nehor, the people violently rejected a prophet of God sent to call them to repentance. In their wickedness, the citizens had apparently grown so proud of their metropolis that they scoffed in disbelief at the suggestion that it might be removed from its position of prestige and power, and ultimately destroyed.

The deviation and apostasy of this people from true principles had further augmented their self-adulation and love of their homeland. They no doubt considered themselves patriotic—an ironic label that can be (mis)applied to almost anybody, anywhere. And so this love of government fostered a feeling of perennial power; those in Ammonihah apparently assumed that their city would continue to exist and succeed forever.

They were, of course, dead wrong.

In terms of application, we might take the approach of the early apostles and ask “Lord, is it I”? Do we Americans also harbor such feelings of arrogance and assured permanence? Do we erroneously assume that our country will forever have the mightiest military and the most coveted currency?

While the future has yet to be written, there is one historical fact that will no doubt repeat itself: empires are ephemeral. Or, as author Chalmers Johnson has put it: “It is nowhere written that the United States, in its guise as an empire dominating the world, must go on forever.” To assume otherwise would be folly, and an invitation for the fate of Ammonihah to be our own.

Sadly, it seems that the “status quo” mentality sometimes leads people to assume that our current position in the world’s sociopolitlcal strata is guaranteed. In this fantasy, life as it now exists will either continue or improve—but never change for the worse. This arrogance differs little from that of Ammonihah, since both groups rely on the assumption of invincibility.

America, while powerful, is not invincible.

7 Responses to “The Arrogance of Ammonihah”

  1. Cameron
    May 18, 2009 at 10:20 am #

    The question begged here is where is the present day Alma’s warning of destruction?

  2. Connor
    May 18, 2009 at 10:22 am #

    Good question. Here are just a few.

  3. Frank Staheli
    May 18, 2009 at 12:02 pm #

    I wrote recently about the faux patriotism that has been fomented in the United States for the past 100 years that has shamed many of us from taking the “isolationist” perspective and gotten us embroiled in a string of wars we had no business joining.

    Somehow, many of us, the citizens of the modern-day United States of Ammonihah, have come to the dangerous conclusion that we can do anything we want anywhere in the world simply because we’re Americans.

    In reality, though, as I said from the article linked above: “The true isolationist is at the same time the true American patriot. “

  4. Kelly W.
    May 19, 2009 at 9:19 pm #

    I am reminded of this quote.

    “If America is destroyed, it may be by Americans who salute the flag, sing the national anthem, march in patriotic parades, cheer Fourth of July speakers – normally good Americans who fail to comprehend what is required to keep our country strong and free – Americans who have been lulled away into a false security.” (April 1968, General Conference Report)

  5. Michaela Stephens
    May 20, 2009 at 2:09 pm #

    Good points. Additionally, it is interesting that the people’s main method of discrediting Alma and Amulek was litigation–the lawyers worked hard to show that good was evil and make evil seem good. Amulek noted that this was perverting the ways of the righteous and that they were laying traps and snares to catch the holy ones of God. The people cried out against Alma and Amulek for speaking against the law (which had actually been corrupted) and reviling against the wise lawyers. (Since when have lawyers been sacrosanct and beyond criticism?)

  6. Josh Williams
    May 23, 2009 at 2:53 pm #

    I’ve mentioned before here that I don’t put much stock in extraordinary prophetic claims. And forgive me for being a tough-nut skeptic here. I have a hard time discussing the story of Ammonihah since I no longer take the BoM seriously. Real history is never so simplistic.

    I agree that there’s a difference between Patriotism, and Chauvinism (or Jingoism). In my mind patriotism implies simply caring about your nation’s well-being and being willing to take action to that effect. What characterizes chauvinism the most, I think is the irrational belief that your country or group is the absolute best and can do no wrong. I don’t think a person is truly being “patriotic”, if they’re willing to sweep their country’s faults under the rug.

  7. Marc
    June 20, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    We should remember that the thing that got Ammonihah wiped out (the final straw) was when they began to kill God’s covenant people. America will get cleansed by fire if and when the govt start to persecute and kill the saints. There is so much bigotry against the church now that this day cant be far off.

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