Saturday, August 8, 2020

FOMO in the Book of Mormon

Fear of Missing Out, FOMO, is referenced frequently in contemporary popular culture. It is an anxiety that others may be enjoying something while you are on the sidelines, not participating. It can lead to obsessive social media consumption as victims try to stay abreast of other's lives. 

Photo Illustration by Gary Meander, Duluth News Tribune

Marketers cleverly exploit FOMO to incite a herd mentality to purchase the latest iPhone, watch SuperBowl ads, etc. The term "FOMO" entered our lexicon in 2004 in a Harvard Business School publication. The idea, though, it is as old as the human race. In earlier years it went by the name "keeping up with the Joneses." I have seen it many times in my lifetime as televisions, microwave ovens, the Internet, smart phones, and big-screen TV's have quickly swept through the world and been adopted by a large percentage of people on the planet.

We see FOMO in the Book of Mormon. Ca. 64 BC Helaman and the 2,000 stripling warriors decoyed a strong army of Lamanites out of the fortified city of Antiparah with a strategem. They pretended to be taking provisions to the city by the west sea. The Lamanites detected their small numbers and stripling stature (the English word "stripling" means immature, not yet filled out according to the OED), left the city of Antiparah in droves, and followed as Helaman led them on a wild goose chase northward with Antipus in pursuit Alma 56:35-37. Why did the Lamanites en masse fall for Helaman's ploy? FOMO. They were bored cooped up in Antiparah and a lop-sided fight with 2,000 youngsters seemed like an attractive diversion. After a terrible battle in which Antipus was killed, Antiparah was repatriated into Nephite hands without further loss of life Alma 57:4.

Ca. 64 BC in the battle of Mulek, Captain Moroni and Teancum executed a similar feint. Teancum decoyed a strong Lamanite army out of the fortified city of Mulek with a small force who led the previously bored enemy on a wild goose chase northward up the east coast Alma 52:22-24. So many Lamanites left Mulek that Moroni had little trouble taking the city while surrounding the tired enemy on the south as Lehi pressed them into surrender from the north. The Lamanites in Mulek fell for Teancum's ruse, sensed a quick kill, and nearly everyone wanted to get in on the action.

The same tactic worked for Helaman a year later in the battle of Manti. The weaker Nephite army decoyed the stronger Lamanite army out of their fortified city in such numbers that a small force of Nephites under Gid and Teomner easily overpowered the few defenders left in Manti Alma 58:14-19. Few Lamanite soldiers occupying Manti wanted to miss out on what seemed to them like an easy victory.

Nephite tacticians took advantage of Lamanite FOMO to lure the enemy into 3 separate traps in a 2 year time span.