4 And Amalickiah was desirous to be a king; and those people who were wroth were also desirous that he should be their king; and they were the greater part of them the lower judges of the land, and they were seeking for power.
5 And they had been led by the flatteries of Amalickiah, that if they would support him and establish him to be their king that he would make them rulers over the people.
It seems pretty intuitive that Amalackiah’s sales pitch was not going to result in sustainable leadership. “I want to be king so that I can have power over this people. If you support me, you can have power too, just not as much as me.” Like a pyramid scheme, the system was bound to break down at some point because the people at the bottom of the hierarchy would get nothing. Amalackiah’s gamble was that he could convince enough people to support him so that he could impose the system on everyone else by force.
Moroni had a different goal. When he saw the preparations of Amalackiah, he prayed for the freedom of his people. Then, he said, “Surely God shall not suffer that we, who are despised because we take upon us the name of Christ, shall be trodden down and destroyed, until we bring it upon us by our own transgressions” (Alma 46:18). He raised the title of liberty—a flag which reminded the people of the things they valued most: God, freedom, peace, and family. When the people saw this standard and heard his appeal, they “came running together, with their armor girded about their loins” and followed him into battle against the Amalickiahites (Alma 46:19-22).
By contrasting the leadership styles and motivations of Amalackiah and Moroni, Mormon illustrates a significant principle: leadership by force is not strong, and is certainly not durable. As the Declaration of Independence of the United States attests, “Governments…[derive] their just powers from the consent of the governed.” And as Joseph Smith later learned while imprisoned in Liberty Jail:
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile (D&C 121:41-42).
Today, I will remember that the decision to follow a leader is a choice. I will strive to uplift the people I lead and to help them achieve their goals. I will avoid power struggles and will seek instead to empower others.