Was Captain Moroni Right to Chastise Pahoran so Harshly?

I wrote yesterday about the difference between complaining and raising issues. I shared Helaman’s letter to Captain Moroni as a good example of raising in important issue without complaining. One of my readers responded with another good example: a subsequent letter from Captain Moroni to the Pahoran, the chief judge, requesting more troops be sent.

Helaman was extremely diplomatic. He somewhat apologetically informed Moroni that very few new troops had arrived from the capital. He speculated that Moroni may have needed the troops for other purposes. He also reassured Moroni that his armies would continue to be successful with God’s help even if they didn’t receive reinforcements.

Moroni immediately sent a letter to the chief judge, Pahoran, requesting that more troops be sent to Helaman. Then he began developing a strategy to drive out the remainder of the Lamanite armies and win the war.

However, he soon learned of a significant setback. The city of Nephihah had been lost. He had thought that reinforcements were going to be sent to that city to help them defend it. He didn’t know what was happening in the capital city of Zarahemla, and so he sent a much more pointed letter to Pahoran demanding to know what was happening and why more troops had not been sent.

On the surface, and without context, the letter seems very harsh. Moroni accuses Pahoran and his associates of “sitting upon [their] thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor” and of severe negligence, perhaps treason (Alma 60:7, 18-19). He tells Pahoran that, unless he sees an immediate change, he will take action:

I will come unto you, and if there be any among you that has a desire for freedom, yea, if there be even a spark of freedom remaining, behold I will stir up insurrections among you, even until those who have desires to usurp power and authority shall become extinct (Alma 60:27).

What Moroni didn’t know was that there had been an insurrection. Pahoran had been driven out of the city by rebels who had temporarily taken control of the government, and he was not recruiting troops in an effort to retake the city. Pahoran wrote Moroni back with an explanation, and Moroni was able to march on the capital and restore order with Pahoran’s help. Shortly after, they were able to win the war.

So, was Moroni’s letter too harsh?

As I’ve thought about the letter today, I’ve had the following insights:

  1. At least he wrote the letter. When you think someone is making a mistake, it is tempting to complain and grumble to everyone else except the person you are unhappy with. Or sometimes you may take action based on your assumptions rather than going to the source to find out the real story. Moroni’s letter told Pahoran directly what he was dealing with and that he believed Pahoran was responsible. This gave Pahoran valuable information about how his actions were being perceived on the front lines, and it gave him the opportunity to respond to the accusations.
  2. Moroni’s focus was entirely on doing the right thing. He wasn’t complaining in order to get out of work (like Laman and Lemuel). He wasn’t pursuing additional power. He wasn’t vindictive. He just wanted to get to the right answer, as evidenced by his immediate responsiveness to Pahoran once he had all the facts.
  3. They got to the right answer in the end. Relationships are messy. Sometimes we say the wrong things, and sometimes we say the right thing in the wrong way. But  continuing to communicate with each other in good faith gives us the best chance of fully understanding the situation and getting to a reasonable course of action.
  4. Moroni’s intensity inspired Pahoran to act with courage. When Moroni said, “I do not fear your power nor your authority,” and promised to cleanse “our inward vessel, yea, even the great head of our government” (Alma 60:24, 28), it inspired in Pahoran to be courageous as well. Pahoran wrote:

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.
But ye have said, except they repent the Lord hath commanded you that ye should go against them (Alma 61:19-20).

Today, I will follow Moroni’s example in my interactions with other people. I will speak up with courage, not in a self-serving way but with a goal to do the right thing. I will not avoid difficult conversations which need to happen. I will recognize that I may not say everything right the first time—I may not have all of the facts—but I will share my perceptions so that the other person can respond. I will act with courage and faith, believing that the people around me will respond in kind.

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2 Responses to Was Captain Moroni Right to Chastise Pahoran so Harshly?

  1. Aaron Roome Gmail says:

    Thanks Paul. These are some of my favorite chapters. Captain Moroni was valiant and Pahoran was meek; what great examples of not letting fear or pride stop us from taking action to serve the Lord! I’d venture to guess that their love for both the Lord and each other was the final essential ingredient to this edifying exchange.

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    • Paul Anderson says:

      I totally agree. In my opinion, the most important sentence in Moroni’s letter is this: “I do not fear your power nor your authority, but it is my God whom I fear.” This reminds me of Mormon’s statement, when he was giving guidance that he knew some people would disagree with: “Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear.” When we are focused on doing the right thing, we will be able to overcome fear and pride and take the necessary actions. Thanks for the comment!

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