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The people once again have peace (verse 1), but instead of maintaining it, they fall right back into contention (verse 2). The new judge of all the people is Pahoran, but some of the people want some of the laws changed even though Pahoran doesn’t want to change the laws (verses 2-3). This made the others angry, and they didn’t want him to be their judge anymore (verse 4). They did not declare war, but they wanted Pahoran kicked off the throne (verse 5), and “to overthrow the free government and to establish a king over the land” (verse 5).
So now we have two groups again, because of contention, the “freemen” who want to keep their free government and use judges, and the “kingmen” who want to overthrow the free government and have kings instead (verses 5-6). The kingmen were those of noble birth, who wanted to claim their power and authority (verse 8).
But, all of them agreed to let the majority of the people decide, so they voted, and the freeman won, allowing Pahoran to keep his judgment seat. Even the kingmen could not complain, because the people had decided, and so they “durst not oppose but were obliged to maintain the cause of freedom” (verse 7).
Giving in to contention was bad timing for the Nephites, because Amalickiah was still out there stirring up the Lamanites to war against the Nephites. While the Nephites were fighting over whether to have a king or not, the Lamanites were re-organizing their armies and preparing for war (verse 9). His armies were smaller because of their previous losses, and many who had covenanted with Moroni to keep the peace would not go again to war (verse 11). So this time Amalickiah had to lead them to battle himself (verse 12).
The kingmen heard the news that the Lamanites were on their way, and they were glad and refused to take up arms with their fellow Nephites, hoping that Pahoran would lose his judgment seat (verse 13). Such foolishness! They failed to defend their own country because of political disagreement! When Moroni found out about this, he was angry at their stubbornness (verse 14), and so he asked permission to give the dissenters a choice to either defend their country or be put to death for treason against it (verse 15). He wanted to re-focus the people as one people, and stop all these contentions and dissensions that he knew kept leading them back into bondage and destruction (verse 16).
So Moroni asked the kingmen to humble themselves and to “support the cause of liberty” (verse 17). Instead, they lifted themselves up in pride, claimed their nobility, and went to war against Moroni (verse 18). Four thousand dissenters died in battle, and the rest were cast in prison to await trial after the war with the Lamanites (verse 19). This was the end of the kingmen (verse 21), who then joined the rest of the people to fight with Moroni in battle against their enemies rather than battling each other (verse 20).
In the meantime, precious time was lost while energy was wasted fighting amongst themselves, and the Lamanites got into the Nephite land while they were fighting each other (verse 22). Distracted by their own bickering, the Nephites were not “sufficiently strong”, and Amalickiah took possession of their first city (verse 23). The Nephites fled to the next city, to try to prepare in time for the next battle with the Lamanites (verse 24). Amalickiah continued this pattern, taking city after city, while the Nephites were busy fighting each other instead of their enemy (verses 25-26). This is how he gained Nephite cities for his own Lamanite strongholds (verse 27), driving the Nephites before them and slaying many” (verse 28).
The Nephites continued suffering these losses at the hands of the Lamanites, until Teancum took charge in his area (verses 29-30). This became the showdown, between Teancum and Amalickiah (verse 32). Teancum and his army “did exceed the Lamanites in their strength and in their skill of war, insomuch that they did gain advantage over the Lamanites” (verse 31).
Teancum’s army pitched their tents for the night, and Amalickiah’s army pitched their tents for the night (verse 32). Amalickiah and his army were worn out from the hard work and heat of the day, and collapsed into deep sleep. Teancum and his army used this to their advantage, sneaking into Amalickiah’s camp while they slept (verse 33). Teancum even went right into Amalickiah’s tent, and “put a javelin to his heart”, killing him so fast that even the servants not wake up (verse 34). Then Teancum went back to his camp, and woke the rest of his army, and told them what he had done (verse 35).