Friday, May 15, 2020

Mormon the Valiant and Unique Prophet – Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding Mormon the man, and as a Prophet, his view of the earlier Capt. Moroni. As pointed out in the last post, Moroni had a deep abiding impact on Mormon as he later read the mighty story of that earlier leader of the Nephite Nation’s military stand against wickedness and Lamanite attack.
    Following are some of Mormon’s words for us, as he looked down through time and yearned for us to learn from his people’s history:
    “Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives. And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land, … yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger” (Alma 48:14-15).
    As Mormon saw from history, “This was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it; not in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity” (Alma 48:16).
    All of this Mormon wrote: “Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, 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).
“If all men could be like Moroni, Satan would be bound”

Mormon obviously saw Moroni’s personal righteousness as a dominant factor in the creation of a national righteousness powerful enough to sustain national freedom against great odds. To drive home his point, he gives us ample detail and ample commentary on those crucial fourteen years from 74 BC to 60 BC. The time divides itself into three periods:
1) the sudden, savage outbreak of war and rebellion that lasted two years;
2) A five-year break of peace and preparation marred only by a single internal difficulty;
3) Seven strenuous years of siege, insurrection, and battle.
    Never one to sit by and watch events, during the five-year lull between battles, Moroni drove his people urgently to prepare to defend themselves in case of future attacks by the Lamanites—attacks that did in fact take place. The social and defense building effort resulting from the necessary work of guarding cities overflowed into riches, prosperity, and strength.
    Of this, Mormon took advantage of his role as a teacher of future generations to insert a “thus we see” passage that interprets the whole war, with its causes and effects, in terms of the entire history of God’s dealings with the descendants of Lehi: “The people of Nephi did thank the Lord their God, because of his matchless power in delivering them from the hands of their enemies…And there was continual peace among them, and exceeding great prosperity in the church because of their heed and diligence which they gave unto the word of God…And thus we see how merciful and just are all the dealings of the Lord, to the fulfilling of all his words … which he spake unto Lehi…And we see that these promises have been verified to the people of Nephi; for it has been their quarrelings and their contentions, yea, their murderings, and their plunderings, their idolatry, their whoredoms, and their abominations, which were among themselves, which brought upon them their wars and their destructions” (Alma 50:21).
    Finally, Mormon concludes with: “And those who were faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord were delivered at all times, whilst thousands of their wicked brethren have been consigned to bondage, or to perish by the sword, or to dwindle in unbelief, and mingle with the Lamanites” (Alma 50:22).
Of course, Mormon is not only commenting here on events 400 years old, but on what continually led to the destruction of the Nephites in the entire course of their history, including his own time. How he must have yearned for that earlier time when Moroni’s people humbly thanked God for their victory rather than boasting in their strength as he had seen his own people do. Doubtlessly with fervent appreciated and great longing, he wrote of that brief respite between wars: “But behold there never was a happier time among the people of Nephi, since the days of Nephi, than in the days of Moroni” (Alma 50:23).
    Thus Mormon, the great Nepihte leader since the age of 15 and involved in wars since then, gives us further insight into his character, and states clearly the lesson he wanted us to learn from Moroni’s life—not just to be centered in peace and prosperity, but also in those years of terrible conflict, when both body and spirit were tried by combat, treachery, and the loneliness of command relieved by the fidelity of friendship.
    It seems obvious that some of the lessons Mormon wanted us to learn from this tale of carnage and villainy, of fighting prophets and peace-loving captains were:
1. War most often comes to a people because of their unrighteousness and internal dissensions.
2. No matter how it comes, there is no single morally right response to the threat of violence.
3. Even when we take the awesome step of going to war, there are righteous limitations that must be observed.
4. Those who were faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord were delivered at all times,
5. The wicked are consigned to bondage, or to perish by the sword, or to dwindle in unbelief.
    Righteousness, after all, was the hallmark of Mormon’s message and life as it had been with Moroni 400 years earlier. We see the character of the earlier leader when we see  that Moroni, when the Lamanites drunken and the Nephites could have slain them, spared his enemies’ lives: “this was not the desire of Moroni; he did not delight in murder or bloodshed, but he delighted in the saving of his people from destruction; and for this cause he might not bring upon him injustice, he would not fall upon the Lamanites and destroy them in their drunkenness” (Alma 55:19).
We first meet Moroni in the crisis of the Lamanite attack under Zerahemnah. In a pattern Mormon notices throughout Nephite history, the warfare was instigated not by the Lamanites themselves but by dissenting Nephites.
    In addition, Mormon makes the fact of Moroni’s intelligence and inspiration which was quite evident throughout his life. This is pointed out that when “Zarahemnah appointed as his chief captains other former Nephites who were of “a more wicked and murderous disposition than the Lamanites” (Alma 43:6); and then, with traditional resentments and hatreds inflamed, he led his Lamanite armies in an attack against the Nephites in 74 BC, Moroni, only twenty-five years old, was appointed leader over the Nephites (Alma 43:16-17) and immediately proved his ability by equipping his men with armor, an unexpected innovation, and then by outmanuevering Zerahemnah, whose army was more than double the size of his own (Alma43:51).
    Moroni’s superior tactics included posting spies, while also sending to Alma to “inquire of the Lord whither the armies of the Nephites should go to defend themselves” (Alma 43:23) was a perfect combination of leadership. Almas told Moroni where to march, and his spies told him when. The Lamanites ended up surrounded and trapped against the river Sidon.
    However, instead of pressing his advantage, Moroni called a truce; he told the Lamanites, “We do not desire to slay you,” and then asked Zerahemnah to surrender (Alma 44:1).
    Mormon‘s message in Alma of the wars and contentions is quite clear. The way in which we deal with war and evil is often not to be a like response. While many skip over thisperiod in the Book of Mormon history, Mormon’s message to us today is equally clear—be more lie Moroni, of whom Mormon wrote “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). What more can be said of a person who seeks to be obedient to God than what Mormon said of Moroni. All of this was seen by Mormon as extremely important and, therefore, he dwelt upon it with extensive information.

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