Alma 47:4-35 Amalickiah...being a very subtle man...laid the plan in his heart to dethrone the king
Amalickiah is the prototype of wickedness. The forces of good and evil are polarized in the characters of Amalickiah and Moroni. Amalickiah's subtle yet successful subversion is a type for the wicked devices of every generation. In chapter 47, Mormon takes the time to show us his modus operandi. How does this help us today? Certainly, those whose goal it is to become like Moroni, strong, mighty, and of perfect understanding (Alma 48:11), must learn to recognize and combat the methods of the evil one as typified by his servant, Amalickiah.
Amalickiah was unscrupulous, Machiavellian, and scheming. But the list of his attributes is much longer than that. He was also:
- Traitorous-fled from the Nephites to the Lamanites (v. 1)
- Warmonger-he did stir up the Lamanites to anger against the people of Nephi (v. 1).
- Designing-he obtained command of part of the king's army (v. 3-4)
- Disloyal-Now it was not Amalickiah's intention to give them battle according to the commandments of the king (v. 8).
- Shameless glory seeker-it was his intention to gain favor with the armies of the Lamanites (v. 8).
- Deceitful-has his own army surrounded by the enemy (v. 13).
- Calculating-predicts the response of his surrounded army (v. 15).
- Disobedient-he surrendered his army, contrary to the commands of the king (v. 16).
- Murderous-he caused that one of his servants should administer poison by degrees to Lehonti (v. 18).
- Instigator of secret combinations-plotted with his servants to kill the king (v. 22-24).
- Cover-up artist-blamed the king's servants for the murder (v. 26-29, 33-34).
- Phony-pretended to be angry at the king's death (v. 27).
- Liar-testified to the queen that the king's servants had killed him (v. 32-34).
- Power hungry-sought the favor of the queen, and took her unto him to wife (v. 35).
For every attribute of wickedness which Amalickiah had mastered, his contemporary counterpart, Moroni, had perfected the corresponding attribute of righteousness. Hence, Mormon said of Moroni, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men (Alma 48:17). (See also commentary for Alma 48:11)
Alma 47:9-16 Amalickiah seduces and destroys Lehonti
Others have suggested that we consider Amalickiah as a type for Satan. This is particularly useful in considering his interaction with Lehonti. Consider Amalickiah as Satan and Lehonti as a member of the church like yourself. You are prepared for battle on a high mountain; in effect, you are standing in a holy place. You know the enemy is coming, and you are ready for him. You have an army with personal guards, armor, and you stand on higher ground. Certainly, you have the advantage.
Amalickiah sends his secret embassy to tempt you to lower your standards and come all the way down the mountain. Standing on high ground, you of course refuse. You would never do something that stupid. Yet, Amalickiah persists. Like Satan, he tempts you a second and a third time. Wisely, you decline his offer. Just as your confidence waxes strong, Amalickiah tries one more time. This time, he doesn't ask for any great thing. Rather, he has come almost all the way up to your camp-pretending to be completely harmless. He guarantees your safety if you just leave your comfort zone for a moment. "Bring your guards!" he says, coaxing you into his lair. You don't have to come all the way down the mountain, just a short distance.
This is the moment of decision for Lehonti. He is completely safe with his armies on top of mount Antipas. But Satan wants him to descend just a little, to make a little compromise, to travel to the edge, to push the limits. What does Lehonti do? Does it matter that he had three times rejected the temptation? Is he really safe because Amalickiah presents no immediate threat?
Next comes the offer. Amalickiah offers Lehonti something he can't refuse. He gets power, authority, and strength for nothing. What a deal! Too good to be true! A temptation wrapped in tinsel. It looks great on the surface but danger and destruction lie in wait. Lehonti falls into the trap like a fly on flypaper. Having made just a small compromise, he left himself open for a large temptation. "It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing... Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one." (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, 48)
Alma 47:12 he went up into the mount... and he sent again... his message unto Lehoti, desiring that he would come down
"Amalickiah convinced Lehonti that he was not really an enemy, but a friend who only wanted to be second in command. Eventually, Lehonti agreed to Amalickiah's scheme, and was unknowingly poisoned "by degrees" until he died.
"As Latter-day Saints, we have gone up to the "mountain of the Lord" and made covenants. Satan continually invites us to come down. We refuse. So he invites us to come down just a little. If we do, we subject ourselves to his power where we will eventually be poisoned by degrees. If we are wounded by a gunshot, or a sword, we know about it! But if we are slowly poisoned, we might not even realize it's happening. Poison is a perfect metaphor for Satan's tactics, because a victim of poison may not even realize what's happening, and may still believe he's in control up until the moment he dies.
"The spiritual message is powerful and chilling - Don't come down from your mountain! Keep your covenants! Satan wants us to come down so he can poison us by degrees. (It's interesting to note that Jesus was invited to come down three times from the pinnacle of the temple, but he never did. See Matthew 4:1-11)." John Bytheway (http://www.ldsmag.com/article/1/11211/1/page-1)
Alma 47:18 Amalickiah caused that one of his servants should administer poison by degrees to Lehonti
Satan delivers poison by degrees to those who have allowed themselves to fall into his grasp. Spiritual death is rarely a sudden death-it takes time. The poison destroys bit by bit until the life is completely sapped. Nephi expressed this concept as follows, "He leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen (soft) cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever... thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell" (2 Ne. 26:22; 28:21). Amalickiah's plan "was a very subtle plan, as to the subtlety of the devil, for to lie and to deceive [Lehonti]... And behold I say unto you that this was a snare of the adversary, which he has laid to catch [you] that he might bring you into subjection unto him, that he may encircle you about with his chains, that he might chain you down to everlasting destruction" (Alma 12:4,6).
Carlos E. Asay
"Those who become followers of the evil one do not generally reach their captive state with one misdeed; they lose their freedom one sin at a time-one error after another-until almost all is lost. Flaxen cords are transformed into awful chains of steel as they allow themselves to follow the downward course. Each easy step away from the line of goodness and truth makes it more and more difficult to recover." (In the Lord's Service: A Guide to Spiritual Development [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1990], 74.)
Alma 47:36 they became more hardened and impenitent, and more wild, wicked and ferocious
"Strange as it may appear at first thought, yet it is no less strange than true, that...apostates after turning from the faith of Christ, unless they have speedily repented, have sooner or later fallen into the snares of the wicked one, and have been left destitute of the Spirit of God, to manifest their wickedness in the eyes of multitudes...When once that light which was in them is taken from them, they become as much darkened as they were previously enlightened, and then, no marvel, if all their power should be enlisted against the truth, and they, Judas like, seek the destruction of those who were their greatest benefactors." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 67)
Neal A. Maxwell
"Willful dissent ages ago [among the Nephites] produced yet other symptoms that are worthy of our pondering today as life confronts us with determined dissenters who leave the Church-but who then cannot leave the Church alone." (Plain and Precious Things, p. 72)
Neal A. Maxwell
"Then there are the dissenters who leave the Church, either formally or informally, but who cannot leave it alone. Usually anxious to please worldly galleries, they are critical or at least condescending towards the Brethren. They not only seek to steady the ark but also on occasion give it a hard shove! Often having been taught the same true doctrines as the faithful, they have nevertheless moved in the direction of dissent (see Alma 47:36). They have minds hardened by pride (see Daniel 5:20)." (Men and Women of Christ, p. 4)