Mormon admired Captain Moroni, a military leader who had successfully defended his people against a major invasion by their enemies. When Mormon described Moroni, he spoke of his physical abilities (“a strong and a mighty man”), his intellectual abilities (“a man of a perfect understanding”), his love for others (“a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people”), and his love of God (“firm in the faith of Christ”) (Alma 48:11-13).
Today, one of my readers asked me about one of these descriptions: What did it mean for Moroni to have a “perfect understanding?”
The phrase “perfect understanding” only appears this one time in the Book of Mormon, and it only appears once in the King James Version of the Bible. Luke begins his gospel by explaining to Theophilus, to whom the gospel is addressed, why he decided to write about the life of Jesus:
It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus (Luke 1:3).
The Greek word translated “perfect” in that passage is akribos (ἀκριβῶς), which means “with exactness.” It carries a connotation of conscientiousness in researching something to the point of extreme accuracy. Matthew used the same word in his gospel to describe the wise men searching “diligently” for the Christ child (Matthew 2:8).
The word which is translated “understanding” is parakoloutheo (παρακολουθέω), which means to “investigate” or to “follow closely.” Paul used the word when he wrote to Timothy, “Thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance” (2 Timothy 3:10, italics added). Timothy knew all of this because he had spent a lot of time with Paul, served with him, suffered with him, and heard him preach many times.
Luke wasn’t telling Theophilus that he knew everything about the life of the Savior. He was saying that he had worked hard and carefully to gather as much information as he could about the life of the Savior, and that he was therefore uniquely qualified to write about it.
Likewise, Captain Moroni didn’t know everything, but he did have remarkable expertise in several areas that were relevant to his responsibilities. He understood military strategy. He knew how to motivate people. He was able to innovate and thus stay ahead of the enemy technologically. These abilities served him well on the battlefield and enabled him to lead his people to victory.
Today, I will remember the importance of diligent and conscientious learning. I will strive to follow the example of Captain Moroni, who was able to successfully fulfill his responsibilities because of the “perfect understanding” he had gained through study and experience.