Right, they didn’t actually have social media back then, but it sounds a lot like something that takes place constantly on these platforms.
Alma and Amulek enter a city where their ideas were in the extreme minority.
Alma begins to share and immediately gets hit with negative feedback. Then Amulek speaks up as a second witness and this really gets the people’s attention.
With blood in the water, the lawyers appear.
Lawyers were people that had knowledge of the law and were skilled in arguing. But knowledge and skill can be used to clearly convey truth or make lies incredibly convincing.
Today we have people, like these lawyers, who likewise have knowledge but either lacks the context the gospel provides or are willing to distort the gospel to fit their narrative.
Who the real enemy is
In this case, the lawyers were not attempting to get at the truth, they were carefully waiting for anything they could find to destroy their opposition. People today watch carefully for anything “offensive” and then sound the alarm.
Here are their tactics:
Nevertheless, there were some among them who thought to question them, that by their cunning devices they might catch them in their words, that they might find witness against them, that they might deliver them to their judges that they might be judged according to the law, and that they might be slain or cast into prison, according to the crime which they could make appear or witness against them.Alma 10:13
“Cancel culture” isn’t something new. These guys came along and were just looking for any little offense that they could use to “cancel” Alma and Amulek.
This next part is just classic. Amulek tries to explain clearly that the people are living outside of the law and that he’s trying to warn them but the people don’t take that well.
…when Amulek had spoken these words the people cried out against him, saying: Now we know that this man is a child of the devil, for he hath lied unto us; for he hath spoken against our law. And now he says that he has not spoken against it. And again, he has reviled against our lawyers, and our judges.
And it came to pass that the lawyers put it into their hearts that they should remember these things against him.Alma 10:28-30
The lawyers feed of the people’s negative energy and try to solidify their own false misconceptions in their minds so that they can use those narratives to frame everything else Alma and Amulek say.
This will backfire.
Zeezrom the lawyer steps up to the plate, and after a bizarre attempt to publically bribe Alma and Amulek with money, begins to ask some disingenuous questions.
And Zeezrom said again: Shall he save his people in their sins? And Amulek answered and said unto him: I say unto you he shall not, for it is impossible for him to deny his word.
Now Zeezrom said unto the people: See that ye remember these things; for he said there is but one God; yet he saith that the Son of God shall come, but he shall not save his people—as though he had authority to command God.Alma 11:34-35
Zeezrom purposely misinterprets Amulek’s words and will say whatever sounds good as long as he “wins.”
Zeezrom claims that Amulek thinks he has the “authority to command God” to paint him as a blasphemous extremist; incite the crowd with lies.
Amulek calls him out on this.
Now Amulek saith again unto him: Behold thou hast lied, for thou sayest that I spake as though I had authority to command God because I said he shall not save his people in their sins.
And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.Alma 11:36-37
When Amulek clarifies his point, it actually served to discredit Zeezrom because it showed that he was either a liar or a fool for so boldly condemning ideas he didn’t totally understand.
Zeezrom knows he’s backed himself into a corner, he doesn’t want to respond so he simply changes the subject.
Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father?Alma 11:38
This debate has now gone viral and a huge multitude has gathered, but Zeezrom begins to become shaken after realizing that he was in the wrong.
You have to give Zeezrom credit because it must have taken a lot of guts to suddenly side with the very people you were so gung-ho at trying to destroy just minutes before.
Seeing that Zeezrom is now silent, Alma speaks up and exposes Zeezrom’s plan.
And thou seest that we know that thy plan was a very subtle plan, as to the subtlety of the devil, for to lie and to deceive this people that thou mightest set them against us, to revile us and to cast us out–Alma 12:4
After Alma delivers some beautiful teachings to the people, many believe and repent, but as for the rest, they were stuck in the narrative Zeezrom helped to reinforce.
But the more part of them were desirous that they might destroy Alma and Amulek; for they were angry with Alma, because of the plainness of his words unto Zeezrom; and they also said that Amulek had lied unto them, and had reviled against their law and also against their lawyers and judges.
And they were also angry with Alma and Amulek; and because they had testified so plainly against their wickedness, they sought to put them away privily.Alma 14:2-3
It seems that the antagonists really had a problem with “plainness” and didn’t like that really solid arguments were being made against them.
They didn’t trust the messengers because they were constantly being discredited by skillful liars.
The people seemed to continue parroting all the false talking points that Zeezrom helped beat into their heads.
So the enraged crowds reported Alma and Amulek to the “moderators:”
…they took them and bound them with strong cords, and took them before the chief judge of the land.Alma 14:4
Poor Zeezrom at this point is standing up for Alma and Amulek pleading their cause, but he gets immediately “canceled” by the mob he helped enflame.
Art thou also possessed with the devil? And they spit upon him, and cast him out from among them…Alma 14:7
They, then permanently canceled (murdered) everyone that agreed with Alma and Amulek and deleted all their offensive content. (records and scripture)
And they brought their wives and children together, and whosoever believed or had been taught to believe in the word of God they caused that they should be cast into the fire; and they also brought forth their records which contained the holy scriptures, and cast them into the fire also, that they might be burned and destroyed by fire.Alma 14:8
Alma and Amulek were then put in jail, but real jail, not Facebook jail.
And you know the rest of the story.
You see, people haven’t changed at all. We still have angry mobs and those that egg them on. We see the same old tactics, the same old arguments, the same bad ways of dealing with people who speak the truth.
Even back in Old Testament times, they called it.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.Ecclesiastes 1:9
People are the same but the settings change. I’m not sure how Alma and Amulek’s situation would have gone down with the anonymity social media provides, but it isn’t hard to imagine.
What can learn from Alma and Amulek, or the crowds, lawyers, and Zeezrom?
Speaking the truth may seem to cause more chaos than peace in the present, but it is the right thing to do.
After a great speech urging BYU staff to keep the University “unequivocally true to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ,” the Zeezroms of social media came out with venom against Holland.
Liars claim his metaphor about “musket fire” was some kind of secret signal for people to literally “take up arms” against people; here’s a small sampling:
Through the eye of faith that the scriptures provide, we can gain clarity on the times we live in because there’s truly nothing new under the sun. (Ecc. 1:9)
Can we also speak the truth and call out lies in the Spirit of the Lord without becoming contentious?
Remember that Alma and Amulek actually had a deep love for the people they were speaking to. They didn’t see them or even the lawyers as their enemies; these were people God sent them to rescue.
Even Alma and Amulek couldn’t convince everybody and those they did were murdered. But God saw the bigger picture and sustained his servants in the end.
Knowing that empowers our faith today to stand strong no matter how bad the opposition grows.
Zeezrom’s purposeful misinterpretation of Amulek’s words was the committing of a logical fallacy. With the intent to tear down Amulek’s message, Zeezrom constructed a straw man by intentionally ignoring the essential qualifier that God shall not save his people “in their sins.”
The Almas and Amuleks of our day, with messages of correct principles that oppose subversive agendas, are labeled racists, extremists, anti-this-or-that, and so on. Such labeling is the committing of ad hominem, yet another favored fallacy employed by enemies of righteousness. Their tactics are many, including gaslighting, astroturfing, Hegelian dialectic, and on and on.
In the war for our minds, hearts, and souls, we would do well to detect the accusers and heed them not, to applaud those who dare to expose their lies, and to receive those who preach righteousness.
Nice list of tactics, thank you for including them. There are two others I’d like to add, the Gish Gallop and my new favorite, Godwin’s Law.
“Godwin’s law, short for Godwin’s law (or rule) of Nazi analogies, is an Internet adage asserting that as an online discussion grows longer (regardless of topic or scope), the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Adolf Hitler becomes more likely. […] …there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that, when a Hitler comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever made the comparison loses whatever debate is in progress.”