Thursday, June 16, 2016

Book of Mormon Ammon: Hero or Zero?

When the amazed, triumphant servants of King Lamoni stream into the palace, he has them "stand forth and testify" that mysterious newcomer Ammon (in reality the Nephite prince) has single-handedly slain and driven away his enemies with sword and with sling. Lamoni "was astonished exceedingly, and said: Surely, this is more than a man. Behold, is not this the Great Spirit?"

"And they answered the king, and said: Whether he be the Great Spirit or a man, we know not, but this much we do know, that he cannot be slain. . . because of his expertness and great strength."

"And now, O king, we do not believe that a man has such great power, for we know he cannot be slain."

"And now, when the king heard these words, he said unto them: Now I know that it is the Great Spirit."

All this sounds like the stuff of legend: is it exaggerated? an embarrassment? Heroes embarrass us today: sum total zero.

Yet consider how Ramesses the great, the friend of the high god Amun, presents himself (in the "words" of his enemies), after driving his chariot like great Montu, none with him, through the host of his enemies:

He is no mere man, he that is among us!--
it's Seth, great of power, Baal in person!
Not the acts of a mere man are the things that he does,
that belong to one utterly unique!--
one who defeats myriads, no troops with him, no chariotry.

Note how the Pharaoh personifies several gods of war: Montu, Seth, Baal. Baal, Montu, Amun: it all has the Book of Mormon flavor. No mere echoes: We hear Ammon; we hear Manti!

Indeed the "traditional image of the king" appears in the following words:

He who shoots the arrow like Sekhmet
to fell thousands of those who mistake his power

(Jan Assmann, The Mind of Egypt, 261).

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