I Was Somewhat Worried Concerning What We Should Do – Alma 61:19-20

19 And now, Moroni, I do joy in receiving your epistle, for I was somewhat worried concerning what we should do, whether it should be just in us to go against our brethren.
20 But ye have said, except they repent the Lord hath commanded you that ye should go against them.
(Alma 61:19-20)

When we act with courage, we can inspire the people around us to do the same.

When the chief judge, Pahoran, received a scathing letter from the military commander, Moroni, he recognized immediately that Moroni didn’t have all the facts. Pahoran was dealing with a group of insurgents, who were hoping to gain control of the Nephite government and disrupt Nephite defenses until the Lamanites were able to win the war. Pahoran had fled the city and was recruiting troops willing to defend the government. Pahoran responded to Moroni’s inaccurate allegations by explaining the issues and asking for help. As Elder David A. Bednar explained in the most recent general conference, this measured response was an indication that Pahoran possessed the Christlike attribute of meekness (“Meek and Lowly of Heart,” General Conference, April 2018).

But there is another lesson to be learned from this experience. As Pahoran explains in the passage above, he had been somewhat hesitant to use force against the rebels who had threatened him. He probably knew them personally. As he says, he wasn’t sure whether he was justified in fighting back. But when he read Moroni’s letter, he was emboldened by Moroni’s unequivocal language. Moroni had threatened to bring part of his army to Zarahemla and attack Pahoran in order to ensure that the Nephites had a government which supported the cause of freedom. (See Alma 60:24-30.) Moroni said he was “constrained, according to the covenant which [he had] made to keep the commandments of…God” (Alma 60:34). Even though these words had been directed at Pahoran personally, he was able to apply them to the insurgents and to take courage from Moroni’s conviction. He was therefore able to join forces with Moroni and defeat the insurgency.

Today, I will follow Moroni’s example of boldness. I will remember that words of truth, courageously spoken, can inspire others to be courageous as well.

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He Was Exceedingly Sorrowful, and Began to Doubt – Alma 59:11-12

11 And now, when Moroni saw that the city of Nephihah was lost he was exceedingly sorrowful, and began to doubt, because of the wickedness of the people, whether they should not fall into the hands of their brethren.
12 Now this was the case with all his chief captains. They doubted and marveled also because of the wickedness of the people, and this because of the success of the Lamanites over them.
(Alma 59:11-12)

After retaking the cities of Mulek and Gid, taking a large number of Lamanite prisoners, and freeing the Nephite prisoners without a battle, Moroni received a letter from Helaman recounting his success on the other front of the war. Moroni was encouraged and inspired by Helaman’s success. He wrote to the chief judge and then began planning to retake the remaining Nephite cities.

But in the midst of this planning, he encountered a serious setback. The city of Nephihah, which had remained under the control of the Nephites, had been lost. A confluence of factors had led to this defeat. Lamanites fleeing from Helaman’s army had joined forces with the Lamanite army near Nephihah. Also, the reinforcements which Moroni had expected to be sent from the capital city of Zarahemla had not arrived. Many Nephites died in the battle, and the remainder fled and joined Moroni.

As Mormon tells us in the passage above, Moroni was terribly discouraged after this setback, as were all of his chief captains. Just when the Nephites seemed to be gaining the upper hand, they lost another city. The momentum seemed to be turning against them.

But in reality, the momentum was not turning. They were in fact very close to victory. There was a reason the troops hadn’t been sent from Zarahemla: the chief judge was dealing with an insurrection there. Once Moroni learned about this and was able to restore order there, he returned to the battle front and quickly retook the remaining Nephite cities with the assistance of Lehi and Teancum.

In reality, the war was nearly over. But Moroni didn’t know that, and the loss of Nephihah caused him to doubt, temporarily, that the Nephites would be successful. Fortunately, Moroni didn’t give up. He kept fighting. He figured out what was holding them back and addressed it. He kept moving forward until he was successful.

In our most recent general conference, Elder Lynn G. Robbins reminded us that “success isn’t the absence of failure, but going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm” (“Until Seventy Times Seven,” General Conference, April 2018).

Today, I will follow the example of Captain Moroni and keep trying, even when I encounter discouraging failures, and even when I can’t tell how close I am to victory. I will keep trying, in spite of my doubts and fears, until I achieve success.

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They Stand Fast in That Liberty Wherewith God Has Made Them Free – Alma 58:39-40

39 And those sons of the people of Ammon, of whom I have so highly spoken, are with me in the city of Manti; and the Lord has supported them, yea, and kept them from falling by the sword, insomuch that even one soul has not been slain.
40 But behold, they have received many wounds; nevertheless they stand fast in that liberty wherewith God has made them free; and they are strict to remember the Lord their God from day to day; yea, they do observe to keep his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments continually; and their faith is strong in the prophecies concerning that which is to come.
(Alma 58:39-40)

Helaman’s epistle to Captain Moroni describes the miraculous preservation of the faithful sons of the Lamanites who had been converted by Ammon. Throughout the epistle, he praised their obedience, their faith, and their courage. Now, as he closes his epistle, he praises their consistency. They weren’t just obedient under pressure on the battlefield, and their faith and courage weren’t limited to the battlefield. Rather, as Helaman says in the passage above, “they are strict to remember the Lord their God from day to day; yea, they do observe to keep his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments continually.”

Helaman uses a phrase which had been used by his grandfather, and which would later be used by Pahoran and even later by the Apostle Paul: “They do stand fast in that liberty wherewith God has made them free.” (See Mosiah 23:13Alma 61:9, 21, Galatians 5:1). Lehi had taught his sons that we are free to choose either liberty or captivity (2 Nephi 2:27). That imagery must have been particularly vivid to Helaman, who had just freed three Nephite cities from Lamanite bondage, and who had done so by luring the Lamanite armies out of their safe fortresses where they were more vulnerable. To “stand fast” in their freedom must have been a particularly valuable trait to him, knowing the potential cost if they started to become overconfident and neglected their duty.

Today, I will follow the examples of these young sons of Lamanite converts. I will choose to “stand fast in that liberty wherewith God has made [me] free.” I will do so by remembering my Savior and by fulfilling my duties quietly and consistently.

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We Were Not Sufficiently Strong – Alma 56:39-40

39 And it came to pass that before the dawn of the morning, behold, the Lamanites were pursuing us. Now we were not sufficiently strong to contend with them; yea, I would not suffer that my little sons should fall into their hands; therefore we did continue our march, and we took our march into the wilderness.
40 Now they durst not turn to the right nor to the left lest they should be surrounded; neither would I turn to the right nor to the left lest they should overtake me, and we could not stand against them, but be slain, and they would make their escape; and thus we did flee all that day into the wilderness, even until it was dark.
(Alma 56:39-40)

The two thousand young men who joined the Nephite armies and served under the command of Helaman were miraculously successful. In at least two battles, in which many people died on both sides, every one of these sons of Helaman survived. (See Alma 56:56, Alma 57:25).

Helaman attributed this miracle to their strong faith in God, and surely that is the central lesson of the story. But Helaman’s own wisdom was also a key contributor to their success. In the passage above, we see Helaman leading them with good judgment. A Lamanite army was pursuing them. Helaman knew that the young men he led “were not sufficiently strong to contend with them.” So he continued their march until additional reinforcements arrived. Earlier in his epistle, Helaman indicated to Captain Moroni how grateful he was that the Lamanite army had not attacked them sooner, “for had they come upon us in this our weakness they might have perhaps destroyed our little army; but thus were we preserved” (Alma 56:19).

Helaman also recognized when his army was in a position of strength. When Ammoron, king of the Lamanites, sent him an epistle offering the city of Antiparah in exchange for prisoners, Helaman responded “that we were sure our forces were sufficient to take the city of Antiparah by our force; and by delivering up the prisoners for that city we should suppose ourselves unwise” (Alma 57:2). Helaman’s wisdom was manifest in his accurate perception of what his armies could and could not do. He may not have anticipated the miraculous survival rate among his young men, but he surely contributed to it by avoiding rash decisions based on inaccurate assessments or unrealistic expectations.

Today, I’ll follow Helaman’s example of righteous leadership. I will strive for an accurate understanding of what the groups I lead—my work team, my seminary class, and my family—are capable of. Like Helaman, I will take responsibility as a leader to guide them toward challenges which maximize their probability of success and to help them avoid circumstances in which they are likely to fail. I will recognize that they depend on my good judgment, and that my decisions can have a far-reaching impact on them.

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I Am a Bold Lamanite – Alma 54:23-24

23 I am Ammoron, and a descendant of Zoram, whom your fathers pressed and brought out of Jerusalem.
24 And behold now, I am a bold Lamanite; behold, this war hath been waged to avenge their wrongs, and to maintain and to obtain their rights to the government; and I close my epistle to Moroni.
(Alma 54:23-24)

One thing Captain Moroni had little patience for was hypocrisy. He was a man of integrity, and he expected integrity from other people. When he received word that Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, wanted to negotiate for an exchange of prisoners, he responded with an offer, but he made sure there was no question where he stood on the topic of this war. The Lamanite army had invaded Nephite lands. The Nephites were merely trying to defend themselves. They were not on equal moral ground; the Lamanites were at fault.

In Ammoron’s response, he agreed to Moroni’s terms but then made it a point to tell his side of the story. The Lamanites were not in the wrong to attack the Nephites. Why? Because 550 years earlier, Nephi led part of the family away from his older brothers, Laman and Lemuel. The older brothers, according to Ammoron’s reasoning, had the right to rule over the entire family. Therefore, their descendants had the right to rule over the Nephites.

This argument was calculated to appeal to the Lamanite armies and to energize them. They had been wronged. They weren’t taking something away from these innocent Nephites; they were claiming what was rightfully theirs.

But there was a significant problem with this argument: Ammoron was a Nephite, not a Lamanite. He and his older brother Amalackiah had been born and raised among the Nephite people. Only when Amalackiah was rejected in his attempt to become king of the Nephites did they defect to the Lamanite lands, where Amalackiah became king of the Lamanites through a series of deceptions and murders.

Ammoron explains away this inconvenient fact in the following way: he and his brother were not direct descendants of Nephi but of Zoram, the servant of Laban who Nephi had compelled to join the family in the wilderness (1 Nephi 4:30-37). Never mind that Zoram later became one of Nephi’s most loyal supporters (2 Nephi 1:30), and that his family chose to follow Nephi, not Laman and Lemuel, and to call themselves Nephites (2 Nephi 5:6). Zoram was wronged by Nephi just like Laman and Lemuel were wronged by Nephi, which made Ammoron an ally of the Lamanites. The argument sounded plausible enough, and it was apparently convincing to the Lamanite armies who followed Ammoron, but it was based on falsehoods and distortions.

Moroni was furious when he read this letter. “He knew that Ammoron had a perfect knowledge of his fraud; yea, he knew that Ammoron knew that it was not a just cause that had caused him to wage a war against the people of Nephi” (Alma 55:1). As a result, he refused to negotiate for prisoners and he immediately began crafting a plan to rescue the Nephite prisoners without an exchange.

I think Mormon quoted this letter for a reason. He wanted us to see for ourselves how convincing Ammoron’s arguments might have been to the Lamanites. He also wanted us to sense Moroni’s frustration with an opponent who pretended to be sincere and respectable but whose motives were corrupt and immoral.

Today, I will remember and seek to emulate Moroni’s commitment to truth. I will remember that Moroni’s sincerity and virtue were critical contributors to his eventual success, while Ammoron’s dishonesty and hypocrisy laid the foundation for his eventual defeat.

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They Were About to Break the Oath – Alma 53:13-15

13 But it came to pass that when they saw the danger, and the many afflictions and tribulations which the Nephites bore for them, they were moved with compassion and were desirous to take up arms in the defence of their country.
14 But behold, as they were about to take their weapons of war, they were overpowered by the persuasions of Helaman and his brethren, for they were about to break the oath which they had made.
15 And Helaman feared lest by so doing they should lose their souls; therefore all those who had entered into this covenant were compelled to behold their brethren wade through their afflictions, in their dangerous circumstances at this time.
(Alma 53:13-15)

What a dilemma these believing Lamanites found themselves in! After being converted to the gospel by the preaching of Ammon, they had buried their weapons and made an oath to never fight again. They had demonstrated on multiple occasions that they were committed to this oath, that they were even willing to give up their lives rather than break it. But now, with the Nephites fighting and dying to defend them, these Lamanite converts were wavering. How could they stand by while their neighbors paid such a terrible price? Under these circumstances, wouldn’t they be justified in taking up arms, even though they had sworn never to do so again?

With much effort, Helaman and other church leaders persuaded them not to break their oath. Fortunately, a solution emerged. About 2,000 of their sons, none of whom had taken the oath, volunteered to fight with Helaman as their leader.

I can understand why these Lamanite converts would consider breaking their oath, and I can also understand why Helaman didn’t want them to. The oath had become a symbol of their conversion. To take up arms now would call into question everything they had become and what they stood for. (See Alma 24:17-19.) Better to keep the oath, even at the cost of their neighbors’ lives, who had taken them in and sworn to defend them. (See Alma 27:22-24.) Better to maintain their integrity than to break a solemn promise to God and possibly lose their souls.

After seeing this struggle and recognizing the priority Helaman placed on personal integrity, is it any wonder that the sons of these great Lamanite converts were young men of integrity? As Mormon tells us later in this chapter, “they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted” (Alma 53:20). And Helaman later marveled that “they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness” (Alma 57:21). Their integrity was built on a firm foundation: they had learned from their parents’ example that personal integrity was more important than life itself.

Today, I will remember the importance of integrity. I will strive to fulfill all of my duties with exactness and to be true to my word. I will keep the promises I have made to God, to myself, and to others.

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Supposing by Their Numbers to Overpower Teancum- Alma 52:21-24

21 And it came to pass that Moroni, having no hopes of meeting them upon fair grounds, therefore, he resolved upon a plan that he might decoy the Lamanites out of their strongholds.
22 Therefore he caused that Teancum should take a small number of men and march down near the seashore; and Moroni and his army, by night, marched in the wilderness, on the west of the city Mulek; and thus, on the morrow, when the guards of the Lamanites had discovered Teancum, they ran and told it unto Jacob, their leader.
23 And it came to pass that the armies of the Lamanites did march forth against Teancum, supposing by their numbers to overpower Teancum because of the smallness of his numbers. And as Teancum saw the armies of the Lamanites coming out against him he began to retreat down by the seashore, northward.
24 And it came to pass that when the Lamanites saw that he began to flee, they took courage and pursued them with vigor. And while Teancum was thus leading away the Lamanites who were pursuing them in vain, behold, Moroni commanded that a part of his army who were with him should march forth into the city, and take possession of it.
(Alma 52:21-24)

After taking possession of a number of Nephite cities on the east coast, the Lamanite king traveled to the west coast. The cities which they had conquered were relatively easy to defend because Moroni’s armies had worked so hard to fortify them. The king left very clear instructions: “He did command that his people should maintain those cities, which they had taken by the shedding of blood” (Alma 52:4). It had been costly to take those cities, and he did not want to lose control of them again.

Captain Moroni, who was at the time in the western regions, sent orders to Teancum to retake the city of Mulek if at all possible. Mulek was the northernmost city which the Lamanites had taken on the east coast. Teancum made some preparations to attack, but ultimately abandoned the effort, recognizing that he would not be successful (Alma 52:16-17).

Sometime after, Moroni brought an army to the east coast. He and Teancum and their chief captains held a council of war. Recognizing that they would not be able to retake the city by attacking it directly, they created the following plan to entice the Lamanite army, which was led by a commander named Jacob, to come out of the city:

1. Moroni hid with his army in the wilderness just west of the city. Teancum marched past the city on the east with a small number of soldiers.

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2. Recognizing that they could easily beat Teancum’s army, the Lamanites abandoned the city and began to pursue Teancum. Moroni’s army emerged from the wilderness and easily took control of the city.

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3. As Teancum approached the city of Bountiful, another Nephite army, led by a man named Lehi began to pursue them. When they tried to return to Mulek, they discovered Moroni’s army in the rear. They were surrounded.

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While I’m sure there are many lessons to be learned from this battle, I’m thinking today about the importance of steadiness and perspective as we make decisions throughout the day. If the Lamanites had simply stayed true to their core mission—defending the city—they would not have left it defenseless as they pursued a lesser goal. Likewise, we can easily be distracted by enticing opportunities which may seem very attractive but which may ultimately be preventing us from achieving our highest goals.

In our most recent general conference, President Dallin H. Oaks reminded us of the importance of being consistent in doing the small things which will help us over time to achieve our most important goals:

Consider the scripture study we’ve been taught to incorporate into our daily lives. Or consider the personal prayers and the kneeling family prayers that are regular practices for faithful Latter-day Saints. Consider attendance at seminary for youth or institute classes for young adults. Though each of these practices may seem to be small and simple, over time they result in powerful spiritual uplift and growth…
None of these desirable small and simple things will lift us to great things unless they are practiced consistently and continuously (“Small and Simple Things,” General Conference, April 2018).

Today, I will be consistent in doing those things which will help me achieve my highest goals. I will avoid being distracted, and I will strive to remember my priorities, so that I don’t fail to achieve my core goals by pursuing less important objectives.

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