Alma became the first chief judge and served simultaneously as high priest, governor, and military chief captain. Because these offices required the approval of the people, who had rejected monarchy, critics have tended to confuse the Nephite system with the democracy of the United States. However, there was no representative legislature, the essential institution in American republican ideology. Also, the major offices were typically passed from father to son, without elections (Bushman, pp. 14-17); "the voice of the people" is reported many times as authorizing or confirming leadership appointments and other civic or political actions.
By Noel Reynolds
Approving a group of people who enforce laws is not a democracy. As far as I can tell, the Nephites had no say in what the laws were. In fact, assuming that the Nephite system of judges arose due to the people’s righteousness is even a bit much of an assumption for me.
I think Sunday School lessons that emphasize apparent democratic parallels with the Book Of Mormon show a preconceived belief that democracy is always a superior system. I think the worldbank graph below,
taken from their excellent paper http://econ.worldbank.org/prr/CivilWarPRR/text-26671/ on the causes of civil war shows that perhaps we should be a bit more careful about our assumptions on the inerrancies of democracy.