They Did Dwell in One Land, and in One Body – 3 Nephi 3:25

25 And they did fortify themselves against their enemies; and they did dwell in one land, and in one body, and they did fear the words which had been spoken by Lachoneus, insomuch that they did repent of all their sins; and they did put up their prayers unto the Lord their God, that he would deliver them in the time that their enemies should come down against them to battle.
(3 Nephi 3:25)

When Lachoneus, the governor of the land, received a threatening letter from Giddianhi, the leader of the band of robbers, he began immediately preparing his people for the coming attack. He had his people take the following actions to prepare:

  1. Gather in one place, including “their flocks and their herds, and all their substance” (3 Nephi 3:13)
  2. Build strong fortifications around themselves and assign guards to watch for the enemy (3 Nephi 3:14)
  3. Pray to God and repent of their sins (3 Nephi 3:15)

In the passage above, we read about the people responding to his guidance. I’m particularly impressed with Mormon’s statement that the people “did dwell in one land, and in one body.” It sounds like a truly unified group of people. Their willingness to live in close proximity with one another represented their commitment to protect one another and their unity of purpose.

In the most recent general conference, Sister Reyna I Aburto spoke about monarch butterflies, which migrate vast distances, from Canada to Mexico and back again. “During their journey,” she explained, “they cluster together at night on trees to protect themselves from the cold and from predators.” She explained that a group of butterflies is called a kaleidoscope.

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She explained that unity is important for our spiritual well-being:

Girls and boys, young women and young men, sisters and brothers, we are on this journey together. In order to reach our sublime destiny, we need each other, and we need to be unified. The Lord has commanded us, “Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (“With One Accord,” General Conference, April 2018).

Today, I will strive for unity with the people around me, particularly my family, my neighbors, and my fellow church members. I will remember that there is power and safety in unity. Like the Nephites under Lachoneus, and like a kaleidoscope of monarch butterflies, we can protect each other and strengthen each other more effectively by staying close to each other.

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Inasmuch As They Did Repent… – Helaman 4:14-15

14 But behold, Moronihah did preach many things unto the people because of their iniquity, and also Nephi and Lehi, who were the sons of Helaman, did preach many things unto the people, yea, and did prophesy many things unto them concerning their iniquities, and what should come unto them if they did not repent of their sins.
15 And it came to pass that they did repent, and inasmuch as they did repent they did begin to prosper.
(Helaman 4:14-15)

Mormon tells us just before this passage that the Nephites had lost almost all of their lands because of their wickedness. What sins were they guilty of? He gives us a list in verse 12:

  1. Withholding their food from the hungry
  2. Withholding their clothing from the naked
  3. Smiting their humble brethren upon the cheek
  4. Making a mock of that which was sacred
  5. Denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation
  6. Murdering
  7. Plundering
  8. Lying
  9. Stealing
  10. Committing adultery
  11. Rising up in great contentions
  12. Deserting their people to live with the Lamanites

In short, their hearts were hardened. They didn’t care about the suffering of the poor among them. They didn’t recognize the importance of sacred things. They felt no empathy when they caused pain to other people. Under these circumstances, they were unable to feel the Spirit of the Lord. As Mormon tells us later in the chapter, because they lost the companionship of the Spirit, they lost the power of God, and they became weak just like everyone else (Helaman 4:23-26). What was the remedy? They had to repent.

As we read in the passage above, Moronihah, Nephi, and Lehi preached repentance. In response to this preaching, the people began to repent, and “inasmuch as they did repent they did begin to prosper.” Here’s the message: sin cuts us off from God’s power by rendering us incapable of receiving His Spirit. Repentance removes those barriers and enables us to receive God’s power again. If we have lost our connection with God, we need to repent.

As Elder Dale G. Renlund has taught, “When we choose to repent, we immediately invite the Savior into our lives.” (“Repentance: A Joyful Choice,” General Conference, October 2016).

Today, I will remember the importance of repentance in receiving the power of God. If I feel that I am distancing myself from my Father in Heaven or if I discern something that I need to change in my thoughts, words, or behavior, I will repent. I will remember that as quickly as I repent, I will again receive the Spirit of the Lord which will give me power and will help me to prosper.

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Many of the Lamanites…Were Desirous to Join the People of Ammon – Alma 62:27-28

27 Now it came to pass that many of the Lamanites that were prisoners were desirous to join the people of Ammon and become a free people.
28 And it came to pass that as many as were desirous, unto them it was granted according to their desires.
(Alma 62:27-28)

A core attribute of Captain Moroni was his desire to preserve life as much as possible. His mission was simple: restore freedom among his people with a minimum of bloodshed. He wanted to avoid a loss of life among his own people, the Nephites and also among their enemies, the Lamanites.

After Moroni won a battle, he had to decide what to do with the Lamanites he had conquered. Fortunately for him, he had a fantastic option. In the land of Jershon, there were a group of former Lamanites who had been converted by the preaching of the sons of Mosiah and who had made an oath never to fight again. They had demonstrated a courageous willingness to take in refugees, even at great personal risk (Alma 35:6-9). They were the perfect community for a group of defeated Lamanite soldiers who didn’t want to be prisoners.

As I think about this event, I am impressed with all of the participants. I’m impressed that Moroni didn’t hate the people who had attacked his country and forced him to fight. I’m impressed with the people of Jershon who were willing to accept their former enemies as neighbors. And I’m impressed with the Lamanite soldiers who were able to quickly shift from a soldier’s mentality to a life of peace because of their desire to be free.

Today, I will follow the examples of Moroni and of the Lamanite converts by trying to do what is best for the people around me. I will remember that all people are children of God and that the commandment to love my neighbor is not limited to people who are easy to love.

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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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