The Crafty Politician

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(This is an excerpt from the chapter "Popular Like Me" in the book Bad Guys of the Book of Mormon.)

A few years after Nehor’s death, a man named Amlici appeared on the scene with some suspiciously familiar traits. He was “a very cunning man, yea, a wise man as to the wisdom of the world, he being after the order of the man that slew Gideon by the sword” (Alma 2:1). In other words, Amlici was a Nehor-follower, and a very skilled one at that. He was so cunning that he drew away a large group of followers who wanted Amlici to become their king. Amlici was hungry for power as well, and he knew how to manipulate people and work the system. He knew that if he could get enough people to support him, he might be able to overthrow the established system of judges and become king.

Can’t you just see Amlici out among the people, shaking hands and kissing babies? Can you hear him making outrageous campaign promises, trying to convince the people that this new system of government wasn’t working and that the best idea would be to go back to having kings? I can even see Amlici trying to smear Alma’s reputation as chief judge by reminding people of Alma’s rebellious youth (see Mosiah 27:8–9).

Fortunately, the righteous people saw Amlici for what he was: “a wicked man, [who] would deprive them of their rights and privileges of the church; for it was his intent to destroy the church of God” (Alma 2:4). The people refused to make Amlici their king, which caused great joy among the righteous (see Alma 2:7–8).

There’s a great lesson for us today. It was by the voice of the righteous that Amlici was not made king over all the Nephites. What would have happened if some of the righteous people had thought to themselves, “My opinion doesn’t matter and won’t make a difference” and not cast their vote? Elder M. Russell Ballard urged us “to remember Edmund Burke’s statement: ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ We need to raise our voices with other concerned citizens throughout the world in opposition to current trends [of the world].” President James E. Faust similarly taught, “With all my heart I urge you to please help us push back the world. We must stand against the wind. Sometimes we must be unpopular and simply say, ‘This is not right.’”

Standing up to evil has its consequences, however. Satan doesn’t give up without a fight. As much joy as Amlici’s political defeat brought to some, it brought even greater anger among Amlici’s followers, who separated themselves from the Nephites and made Amlici their king anyway (see Alma 2:8–9). Amlici, who was once just a mere disgruntled politician, soon shifted his attitude and strategy like Nehor had done. Instead of trying to peacefully promote his ideas, Amlici started a terrible and bloody war with the righteous Nephites, in which thousands were killed on each side (see Alma 2:10–19).

Alma personally fought with Amlici during the course of the battle, and Amlici was slain (see Alma 2:29–31). But, just as with Nehor’s death, Amlici’s death did not stop his followers’ resolve. The Amlicites began to identify more and more with the Lamanites, even going so far as to imitate them in dress and appearance and “mark[ing] themselves with red in their foreheads after the manner of the Lamanites” (Alma 3:4). Eventually, they joined with the Lamanites and came out in “open rebellion against God” (Alma 3:18).

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