Uchronia for the Book of Mormon, part of the history of a town out of Jerusalem in the reign of King Zedekiah. This article will develop a synchronicity about its history. Uchronía according to the RAE is a «Reconstruction of the history on hypothetical data» that is, from possible events in the past but that did not occur, propose an alternative to the history we know.
This is what I plan to do in this article. What would have happened if the efforts of the Nephite prophets had succeeded and the people of Nephi, together with that of the Lamanites, had remained faithful to the testimony of Christ and the laws of free governments? This attempt will also help us to better perceive the importance of the details, that «small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise» (Alma 37: 6)
Evolution of the Nephite society
Mormon’s broad view of the history of his people is very helpful in understanding events. He declares us:
«And behold, the Lord hath reserved their blessings, which they might have received in the land, for the Gentiles who shall possess the land.» (Mormon 5:19) To know what they might have received can be deduced by calculating the trajectory of that nation. Taking into account the initial direction and impulse from which they departed before they lost their vigor and dexterity in righteousness.
For this I will highlight important events that kept the Nephites on the path of a successful trajectory for a time.
During the reign of the kings, a project of a free nation began to gestate for three generations. Mosiah I (Omni 1:12), Benjamin’s father, King Benjamin himself, and Mosiah II, his son and grandson of the first. It is almost certain that the advanced ideas we see in the book of Mosiah were communicated from one generation to the next, until they matured around the year 92 BC. The fact that Benjamin chose the same name for his son as his grandfather’s suggests a continuation of those ideas that he so strongly instilled in his people. These are some of them.
Qualities of the Nephite society
- Safety and well-being. 544-421 B.C.
«having wielded the sword of Laban in their defence, and having labored in all his days for their welfare» (Jacob 1:10) The initial work of Nephi’s government, plants in his brother Jacob’s mind and by extension in his people two concepts of security and prosperity as the primary responsibility of government. This is the basis of an advanced society which does not focus on the desires of a sovereign but on the common good.
«…myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne» (Mosiah 2:14) In saying myself, King Benjamin refers to the state and describes the light burden that falls upon the Nephites. He therefore leaves the management of most of the wealth in the hands of the people. We could say that private initiative dominates economic activity. Unlike Noah’s government.
- Wealth distribution.
«And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need;» (Mosiah 4:16) It clearly states that the initiative of citizens and not of vassals is the main engine of the distribution of wealth. This can only be achieved through a social contract.
- The law of the gospel, foundation of civil law.
«… Neither have I suffered that … commit adultery; nor even have I suffered that ye should commit any manner of wickedness,» (Mosiah 2:13) At this time King Benjamin held all the powers of the nation and therefore speaks in the first person as a judge and enforcer of the laws. However, he leaves the land paid for a great future change with his son Mosiah.
- Social contract.
«And now, king Benjamin thought it was expedient, after having finished speaking to the people, that he should atakethe names of all those who had entered into a covenant with God to keep his commandments.» (Mosiah 6: 1) At the conclusion of his reign he gives his son a united people on a document and agreement similar to a constitution. That agreement not only concerns the signatories but also as a founding document, it draws the main lines of what would be the development of a free nation.
A decisive step
Having established the right to administer its own wealth and assumed responsibility for its distribution, the people are prepared to be accountable to their own laws and not to a monarch. In a word the separation of powers.
- Sovereignty of the people and the judiciary. «Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers» (Mosiah 29:25)
Mosiah renounces the monarchy and presents his subjects one step further, to become citizens. We see that in the project, the power emanates from the people, because they choose the judges and the laws they impart are those established in a document signed by them or their ancestors. In this case the laws not only affect the citizens but also limit the power of the state over them, we could speak of an embryonic rule of law.
- Equality and freedom «…and became exceedingly anxious that every man should have an equal chance throughout all the land; yea, and every man expressed a willingness to answer for his own sins.» (Mosiah 29:38) This is the engine of his future prosperity. That is the plan that Mosiah culminated, he managed to awaken in the soul of the Nephites a new feeling of free and equal citizens. That great mental change was the fruit of at least three generations and the preaching of the gospel. As Tocqueville well teaches in Democracy in America «Christianity that recognizes all equal men before God will not oppose seeing all equal men before the law»
The Nephite Transition
In my opinion it took several generations (3) to overcome the possible resistance of more or less aristocratic or rich classes. When Mosiah proposed the great change, not only did royalty die, but any segment of that society that aspired to it.
I do not wish to tire the reader with more references to the development of this incipient democratic society. But the emergence of this non-violent, fully empowered monarchy (Benjamin speaks of the state in the first person) is admirable. A transition that is very familiar to us Spaniards of the present.
Placed at this point and as enthusiastic as they are, we can imagine a promising future. However, let us remember Mormon’s words, «The Lord has reserved his blessings, which they may have received on earth, for the Gentiles who will possess the earth.
Why is that?
Let’s listen to Mormon in an epistle to his son Moroni asking himself this same question dramatically.
«O my beloved son, how can a people like this, that are without civilization— (And only a few years have passed away, and they were a civil and a delightsome people) But O my son, how can a people like this, whose delight is in so much abomination» (Moroni 9:11-12)
Weaknesses of the Nephite nation
I propose to mention some of the problems, which in my opinion, were key in the lack of maturation of the Nephite nation.
The thinness in the institutions.
In the government of kings, the king visibly embodies power and its permanence through his heir. In contrast, in the government of judges, say in a republic, it is necessary to embody that new state in a governing body of sufficient density to be perceived by every citizen. In such a way that, from the institutions and their powers, emanates a presence and authority that replaces the king. The Nephite nation did not know how to achieve it, failure in that.
We can see it in the death of Pahoran, superior judge until 52 B.C. When he died, his sons Pahorán, Paanqui and Pacumeni disputed the judicial seat. In forty years of government of the judges, they had not detached themselves from the monarchic habits, making the judicial seat a hereditary question. «Nevertheless, it came to pass that Pahoran was appointed by the voice of the people to be chief judge and a governor over the people of Nephi.» (Helaman 1:5)
The voice of the people intervenes in a matter which should be regulated by law. In other words, the thickness of that institution was very thin, it was fragile, it needed massive intervention for a simple replacement. It is not the only time that the mechanism for restoring order is the voice of the people. This «excess» of democracy is a sign of its weakness.
Lack of secularism
The gospel was the germ of the birth of this incipient democracy. However, a separation is essential for the method of government. The Nephites continued to base their social stability on their religious stability and they are certainly connected. But a nation needs a neutral, inert, protective mattress where its errors and mistakes are cushioned without suffering a fatal convulsion. A body of officials, magistrates, governors, procedures, etc., was necessary to function under any circumstance or emergency with established and permanent rules and to cushion the frequent threats of the nation. However, we see the following.
In the 17th year of the judges’ government, came one Korihor, an antichrist. He skillfully attacked the beliefs of the Nephites.
«Ye look forward and say that ye see a remission of your sins. But behold, it is the effect of a frenzied mind; and this derangement of your minds comes because of the traditions of your fathers, which lead you away into a belief of things which are not so.» (Alma 30:16)
A formidable enemy, a well-constructed and expressed argument. A formidable enemy for the church.
(20) In the land of Jerson he was bound and brought before Ammon the high priest, an illegal act, because it did not violate the laws and also presented to a wrong instance to be a statement of beliefs. Ammon threw him out of that land because he could not take action against him.
(21) In the land of Gideon he is arrested and brought before the high priest Giddona. He decides to send him to Zarahemla before Alma the highest authority of the church and before the highest judge of all the earth.
(31) In the interview in Zarahemla the superior judge does not intervene, but Alma, who by the power of God leaves him mute. No civil measure was applied to him, in no instance was he the object of the application of the law.
The confusion between the two estates (religious and civil) is manifest.
The adventure of freedom
In The Book of Mormon, we see something else. The church, faced with the challenge of Korihor, uses the civil structure to administer its discipline, but the action is led by a high priest. The two channels are mixed. Why? because it is evident that «leading away the hearts of many, causing them to lift up their heads in their wickedness,» (18) endangered the church and the nephrite society. The fear of future evil caused them to resort to means that were not their own. For the battlefield was not in justice nor in the church, but in the consciences of the people.
To venture into the uncharted terrain of freedom the only guide of the nations is the law, a law little defined for the Nephites as this case shows us.
Lack of prevention in the laws.
In the year 19 of the government of the judges (Alma 46) there is one of the biggest crises. Someone named Amalickíah, promoted the monarchy and promised positions of rulers to those who followed him, especially the minor judges. By dragging many, he succeeded in «the affairs of the people of Nephi [being] extremely unstable and dangerous» (7) In the face of this unprecedented crisis, no action of justice is described, such as sanctions or the arrest of leaders.
The situation degenerated to be unstable and dangerous. In the end the civil power gives the command to General Moroni and the solution becomes a military operation, brilliantly led by Moroni. It would have been very easy to decapitate the problem at the beginning.
In the year 25 of the government of the judges. (Alma 51) Amalickíah fled to Lamanite land, comes to power after killing the king. On the other side of the border, in the town of Nephi, a realistic faction sought to establish a king over the country. In principle it was a proposal to change the law, however the superior judge «… Pahoran would not alter nor suffer the law to be altered;» (3)
The intention of the royalists to change the law by presenting «a memorial» is adjusted by law, and also by law the superior judge, Pahorán rejected the proposal, since allowing a monarchy was incompatible with the constitution of the Nephite state. Then there is a serious and dangerous fact.
«And it came to pass that the voice of the people decided this matter of their contention. And it came to pass that the voice of the people declared itself in favor of free men, and Pahoran retained the judicial seat…» (7)
This consultation, which fortunately ended in victory for free men, may have ended with the end of the government of judges and their liberties. If Amaclickia had focused his campaign more on the people and not so much on the upper classes and the lower judges, perhaps he would have been more successful and the popular will would have been different.
To submit to consultation, what was already constituted as the form of government of the people, that which the nation approved with Mosiah twenty-five years earlier, as I say that consultation was a dangerous redundancy. It showed the extent to which the rulers were unaware of the foundations and master walls of the state. It showed irreflection, a lack of understanding of the Mosiah I-Benjamin-Mosiah II project. And it also showed that the progress of that project, the increase of its theory, the development of its laws had stopped and was lagging behind events.
And most seriously, it seems that there was no prevention of strengthening the government and its institutions, since six years earlier that hidden leviathan was shown with absolute cravings for power, appearing again continued to improvise.
Uchronia for the Book of Mormon
Once things happen, it is very easy to identify the ills of nations. In The Book of Mormon we see that the Nephites were the first Christians, they felt the fire of truth and it propelled them to the heights of freedom in their government. It is the natural movement of those who draw near to Christ, that of being free. But in their case, they needed a little more time, they needed to discover the lights that accompany progress, they needed the development of a political philosophy that would compact the terrain where they lived their religion.
The transition from a primitive mentality such as that based on a king to a philosophical mentality such as the government of judges needs a maturation in which not only time is vital. So is the use of time in what is useless for the present. To speculate about the origin of the earth, its form, the movement of planets and objects. Apply numbers to everyday reality. Wander through language and increase it in new spaces. All that engineering activity in the unnecessary awakens the ability to imagine new heights for reality.
A possible statement
A sufficient capacity to write on a scroll.
«We, the people of Nephi, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, guarantee national tranquility, strive for common defense, foster general well-being and ensure the benefits of freedom for us and for our later life, we hereby promulgate and establish this Constitution «(Preamble to the US Constitution)
Below I describe a scene, which occurs when Colon arrives in the new world. To a world where the nation that inhabits it continued its uninterrupted progress after the visit of the Savior.
An unknown coast
The traveler is approaching an unknown coastline. In the distance a strange three-masted ship warns him that it is going to be boarded. It manoeuvres skilfully despite its thirty metres in length. Columbus knows how to recognize an expert crew just by watching her maneuver. Once on board, with gestures, he is invited to port.
As they approach in the chalupa, he is impressed. The dock of stone and cement encompasses the bay, the number of boats moored and their types are innumerable. I had never seen anything like it on European soil.
Once on land he and his men observe an intense and orderly activity. Port officials, longshoremen, large carts, freight forwarding, travellers. I could think of Antwerp or Rome without going out of tune.
An escort of 15 men form a square around them and lead them through a paved avenue. The soldiers are covered in burnished steel, their hulls end in showy plumes carrying spears and swords with the belt. They keep the formation as if they were fixed to an iron frame. Columbus knows that this requires discipline and training.
In the city
The avenue is about twelve meters wide with sidewalks on both sides, there is no fecal water. It is divided into three lanes, two for goods in both directions and another for walkers. The trees on both sides are cared for and lost in the distance. The buildings are three to five floors of carved stone, wide windows and varied signs. As they walk, crosses follow one another with identical configurations. They seem to be drawn with a ruler and a square. It is a city planned from the beginning.
When you turn a corner you find a majestic building, crowned with a dome that shines in the sun. In its façade there are successive windows, wide and made of glass. It is a government building.
Inside this a wide space bathed by the zenithal light. The polished marble floor forms an intricate design. Columns, stairs and the hustle and bustle of a daily workday.
The citizens’ clothing is simple, colourful and functional. Columbus knows that in such a place the conquest does not proceed but the exchange. Everyone understands that they are in front of equals.
Suddenly in the background they discover a large tapestry with a scene. At first they don’t understand what they see because it’s impossible. But one by one they begin to presign themselves, their eyes get wet and they look at each other without being able to speak.
In detail the tapestry depicts a white man surrounded by men, women and children. He wears a white tunic, his arms are open and show the nail marks on his hands and feet.
The governor of the city, is behind their backs and watches them in silence sharing their emotion.
With a soft voice, he says «Yeshua» to them.