It Is by the Wicked That the Wicked Are Punished – Mormon 4:5

5 But, behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed.

Mormon teaches us an important principle in this verse about the way our Heavenly Father works. He uses the actions of imperfect and even of rebellious people to accomplish His purposes. As Mormon tells us, “It is by the wicked that the wicked are punished.” In other words, even wrong actions, even intentionally destructive actions can fulfill the purposes of God.
The Nephites had become so hardened by this time that Mormon describes them in a letter to his son as “without order and without mercy.” He calls them “strong in their perversion” and “brutal, sparing none, neither old nor young” (Moroni 9:18-19). Mormon’s prayer at this point was,”Come out in judgment, O God, and hide their sins, and wickedness, and abominations from before thy face” (Moroni 9:15)!
Under those circumstances, were the Lamanites doing the will of God by destroying the Nephites? It might be helpful to think about this question on two levels:
  1. The Lamanites’ behavior was contrary not only to God’s commandments but to basic standards of human decency, even in wartime. Mormon describes their depravity as second only to that of the Nephites (Moroni 9:7-10). Their actions were horrific and inexcusable. They were clearly not doing God’s will.
  2. However, their unrighteous actions fulfilled a very important purpose in the lives of the Nephites. As Nephi had prophesied more than 1,000 years earlier, the descendants of Laman and Lemuel ultimately overpowered his own descendants “because of the pride of my seed, and the temptations of the devil” (1 Nephi 12:19). The Lord later explained to Nephi that the threat of violence from the Lamanites would provide a motivation for his people to repent and turn to the Lord. But if they failed to heed the warning, then the Lamanites would eventually overpower his people and destroy them (2 Nephi 5:25).
    As John A. Widtsoe taught in April 1942, only a few months after the United States was drawn into World War II by the attack on Pearl Harbor:

    Above the roar of cannon and airplane, the maneuvers and plans of men, the Lord always determines the tide of battle. So far and no farther does He permit the evil one to go in his career to create human misery. The Lord is ever victorious; He is the Master to whose will Satan is subject. Though all hell may rage, and men may follow evil, the purposes of the Lord will not fail (Conference Report, April 1942, quoted in Howard W. Hunter, “An Anchor to the Souls of Men,” BYU Speeches, 7 Feb 1993).

    Today, I will think about my own decisions, and the decisions of the people around me, on both of these levels. I will strive to live righteously, to follow the guidance of the Spirit, and to repent when I fall short, knowing that I am accountable for my actions. At the same time, I will remember that Heavenly Father’s plan is perfectly reliable, and that He can and does move His work forward, using both our wise decisions and our unwise ones to fulfill His purposes on the earth.

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