A few, dimly flickering candles on worn tables lighted the room. It was unkempt and dingy. Cold, half-eaten meals lay abandoned on uncollected dishes scattered on several of the tables. Chairs lay in disarray near tables. None were pushed into place. Some had fallen over on the floor and lay on their sides with no hope of being retrieved. A snoring man lay slumped over a dripping flask of wine at a table for one. The owner was nowhere to be seen. Presumably he had gone to bed some time past midnight and had chosen to save the cleanup for morning.
Meanwhile, in a corner of the room, seven men sat around a table. The largest was speaking. He slammed his brawny fist hard enough onto the table to make the candles jump. It grabbed the attention of one of his men who had become distracted by fatigue brought on by the discussion having bled into the black hours of the night.
With controlled anger, Amalickiah exclaimed, "I know he's the chief priest! And I know that the people follow him. But, that doesn't make him their leader. We're governed by our judges, not our priests! You five represent the most influential districts for our lower courts. If you support me, I'll see to it that you each become a high judge in whichever court you please!"
The first judge was unintimidated and unimpressed. He viewed the promise as nothing short of preposterous. "How? Even a high judge can't appoint judges on his own. How are you going to do this? You're not even a judge yourself. Are you going to appoint yourself as Chief Judge?"
The formerly-dozing man, Amalickiah's brother, Ammoron, barely looked up. Without attempting to make eye contact with anyone in particular, he interjected, "He's not talking about becoming a judge."
The five judges, who had been leaning forward, with their elbows on the table, were perplexed and sat up straight. They looked at each other trying to see if any of them had a clue as to what Ammoron was referring.
"He's not?" the second judge sought clarification.
"No," Ammoron replied simply, without emotion and with only a faint sign of interest.
"What then?" the third judge demanded with more than a hint of irritation. He had tired of the guessing game.
Amalickiah took advantage of their surprise and edged interest. Ensuring that he had their complete attention, he slowly leaned forward. The five judges followed suit. Amalickiah distinctly spoke one word. "King."
Immediately, four of the judges sat back disputing this as preposterous and futile. They bickered among themselves with their arms and hands gesticulating as wildly as their frustration demanded. One remained leaning forward. He was motionless. His eyes held Amalickiah's stare. A sinister smile crept across his face. Then he nodded his head in knowing approval. Amalickiah nodded in reply and sat back in his seat as this judge slowly raised his hand to silence the bickering judges.
"I see," he announced in a level, unhurried tone, with the arrogance of singular perception.
"See? You see? See what?" the fifth judge demanded. He had managed to hear this observation in spite of his other colleagues' ruckus.
The fourth judge ignored the other judge and responded directly to Amalickiah, "You can count on our complete cooperation and support." Upon saying this, he bowed his head respectfully as he added slowly and with emphasis, "Your Majesty."
Three of the other judges caught on and bowed their heads. The fifth judge remained oblivious to their actions and had still not caught onto the situation. He again demanded to know, "What? What does he see?"
The second judge elbowed the slow judge, who finally looked about him and saw how the others were reverencing Amalickiah by bowing their heads to him. It finally dawned on him that if Amalickiah was appointed king, he would have the power to appoint new high judges, and would be inclined to reward his supporters, as well as punish his dissenters.
With an embarrassed look of recognition, the fifth judge mumbled, "Oh, yes, I see," and awkwardly bowed his head as a token of his support.
Amalickiah was too pleased with the other judges to pay the fifth judge's ignorance any mind. With sinister delight he summarized, "It's agreed then. We need to win over more of the lower judges and convince these people that they need a king to keep them safe from the marauding Lamanites."
~~~ - ~~~
Helaman had taken his new calling to heart. His days were spent traveling and preaching. Zarahemla was only one of many Nephite cities to benefit from his diligence. Within a matter of months, his name and his face had become well known among all the Nephite people. The people flocked to his sermons. Although his topics began with discussions on love, charity, faith, service, or sacrifice, they all concluded by tying them into the concept of the coming Messiah and the great sacrifice He would make for all mankind.
The soles of Helaman's sandals showed extreme wear. His clothing was simple, but his stature was straight, broad, and true. He was a physically powerful man, but humble enough to have an even more powerful ability to draw men's attention to their Lord and God. It was not uncommon for couples to leave his sermons and comment to each other of their surprise at his ability to so clearly articulate and explain gospel doctrine.
On one such occasion Helaman declared the following:
I have been privileged to travel among many of you. It does my soul good to see so many faithful men and women yearning to follow the commandments of God. In my journeys, I have also encountered some who are downtrodden and full of woe. They despair because they believe that we are a lost and forgotten people. They say that we are without the blessings of God and unremembered because we are separated from the rest of the House of Israel. I tell you that God our Father knows all of His children. He loves them with an equal love.
It is true that we are separated from our brethren in the Old World, but we are not forgotten. Our father, Nephi, wisely brought with him the sacred records of the prophets of his day so that we may learn of their teachings, their ways, and their prophecies, that we should not wander in ignorance or disbelief. Many of these prophets saw our day and prophesied that we would be led out of the Old World to this Promised Land.
When father Jacob blessed his 12 sons, he told our father, Joseph, that he and his descendants were as ‘a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall.' Just as the boughs of a bush run over the edge of a wall, we, the descendants of Joseph, have traveled across the sea to this land. As descendants of Joseph, we still retain the rights to all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The Lord also told the prophet Ezekiel that there should be two records kept of two people. The first record should be of the people of Judah living in the Old World. The second should be of the people of Manasseh, Joseph's son. We are the people of Manasseh, and we keep our record. I have been entrusted with the sacred call to maintain that record.
God knows our doings and He directs your leaders. He loves us and will impart His wisdom to us here in this land of promise the same as in the Old World. The Messiah shall come not only for the benefit of those in the Old World, but for all mankind. This includes us.
I know that some day the record of our people will be joined with the record of the people of Judah in the Old World and all mankind will be united as one, with one redeemer, one Messiah, one gospel, one truth. Do not despair while we await that great day. Instead, look forward to it with longing, expectation, and joy. For you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, the elect of God.
~~~ - ~~~
Amalickiah's late-night rendezvous was more than mere whispers in the dark. Over the course of many weeks he had actively sought ever-growing audiences. His first meetings were in darkened rooms with limited space. Only those with knowledge of certain key words were permitted to enter. Even then, if their faces were not familiar to those guarding the entrance, they were not permitted to enter until someone else could be found from within the building that could vouch for them.
These closed-room meetings soon gave way as their crowds grew beyond capacity. On one fateful day, Amalickiah dared to hold such a meeting in public. He stood defiantly in the city square speaking of the glories of kingship and the pathetic stalemate of being led by judges. In a bit of irony, the judges were incapable of finding a point of law by that they could detain him, or prohibit such meetings. With the success of the first such meeting, he took a hold of the concept and both continued and expanded the scope of his open-air meetings.
At one such gathering, Amalickiah rose and addressed his crowd in the following manner:
I tell you this plainly. Our government is faulty. It is an offshoot established by deranged and indecisive men who were incapable of making up their own minds. Rather than bare the brunt of actually making and enforcing decisions, they shifted blame and responsibility among themselves as if it were some form of water from a communal well. Just as water spills from a leaky cup, these men's indecisiveness is full of holes and the people's throats dry from thirst. Our fathers surely did not intend this.
Our great father, Nephi, whose name we still proudly bear as a people; whose brilliance led us out of the Old World and to this land of promise; whose keen intellect was the very foundation of the society which we perpetuate; used his uncompromising wisdom to establish a form of government for this people. He himself knowingly and approvingly allowed this people to crown him king, King of the Nephites.
How is it that this people has fallen away from his example, intentions, and established pattern to the point that we have not only lost our king, but we have degraded ourselves to the point that we actually declare the very concept of a king as abominable? Nephi was no abomination! He was a leader! One of the best this people has ever known! Now is the time for another great leader to step forward and shake off the foolish traditions that infest this peoples' minds and acknowledge the responsibilities of proper leadership!
Now is the time for us to return to the true foundations of this society and resurrect the concept of a king! If we ignore this, we will remain a lost and fallen people, doomed to forever wander according to the whims of noncommittal, uninspired, disagreeable committees of men who dare call themselves ‘judges.'
By what right does this floundering group dare claim leadership of this mighty people? Leadership must come from those unafraid to lead. I tell you here and now, I am unafraid to lead. I am unafraid to make the hard decisions. I am unafraid to enforce those decisions. It is your God-given right to be led by him who is most capable of leading. I am that man, and I am unafraid of leading you.
The electricity of the speech was inescapable. As one, the crowd had been mesmerized and wholly drawn into his seductive words. With one accord they erupted into uncontrollable shouts and applause. Those with walking staffs pounded the ends into the ground. Those with bundles in their hands held them high above their heads and shook them to the rhythm of the pounding staffs. Their clapping also became rhythmic and a chant escaped a few lips, then was overtaken by the entire throng. No other sound could be heard over the frenzied pounding and the chanting of the word, "King! King! King! King! ..."
Helaman stood at the back of the city square. He saw the frenzied looks on the peoples' faces. None of them seemed capable of individual thought. Their eyes and very thoughts seemed inescapably affixed on Amalickiah. Amalickiah ate up the attention. He was more than thoroughly impressed with himself and the effect he had evoked on his new followers. His expression made it clear that he felt success was only a few steps away. It was also clear from Helaman's furrowed brow that he feared the same. He shook his head sadly and with genuine concern.
Helaman was roused from his despairing musings by a sudden rush of commotion behind him. He turned in time to see a horde of angry men rushing into the city square from the alleys behind him. Dozens of men leaped over barrels and dodged tables as they charged the square. Helaman could only barely distinguish their war cries. It sounded to him as if some were shouting, "Down with Amalickiah!" others, "No king! No king!"
Before Helaman had a chance to react, the men had raced past him and engaged Amalickiah's newest converts. The initial fistfight quickly turned into an out and out brawl. Men beat upon each other with the ferocity of animals. Walking staffs were turned into clubs and scraps of wood became human-flung projectiles. Blood poured from many wounds before the city's soldiers were called and able to put a stop to the skirmish.
©1999, 2003, 2012 by Douglas V. Nufer
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