11 Now it came to pass that the king commanded them that all the men should leave their wives and their children, and flee before the Lamanites.
12 Now there were many that would not leave them, but had rather stay and perish with them. And the rest left their wives and their children and fled.
For two years, King Noah ruled his people in unrighteousness. As we read yesterday, that unrighteousness affected their behavior, and many people sinned as a result of his influence. According to King Mosiah, at least some of the culpability for those sins fell squarely on the shoulders of the king (Mosiah 29:31).
But in the passage above, we see that there are limits to a king’s influence. When the Lamanites attacked his city, King Noah commanded his people to flee, and he led the way (Mosiah 19:9). Then, when the Lamanites overtook them and began to kill them, he commanded the men to abandon their wives and children and follow him.
It’s hard to know what influenced some of the men to obey that reprehensible order. I’m sure it all happened very quickly, leaving them little time to think. Did they imagine that the king knew more than they, and that the order must have been part of a larger, rational plan? Did they believe that the Lamanites would spare the women and the children, and that only the men were in genuine danger? Or, after living so long under the rule of a king, were they simply conditioned to obey without questioning and to trust the moral judgment of their leaders? Regardless of what motivated so many to obey the order, there were many others for whom conscience overcame loyalty and temporal duty. They refused to obey, choosing instead to remain with their families and to face likely death. Their courageous act of disobedience to the king was the right thing to do.
Mormon taught that we all have an intrinsic sense of right and wrong: “The Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil” (Moroni 7:16). As important as it is for us to fulfill our duties and to respect authority, it is more important for us to be attuned to our moral compass and to do what we know to be right, regardless of the consequences.
Today, I will remember that the most important consideration in every decision I make is my own sense of right and wrong. When I am pressured to do something that is not right, I will follow my conscience.