The Anti-Nephi-Lehies, who were converted to the gospel by the preaching of the sons of Mosiah, decided as a group to renounce violence. Encouraged by their king, they buried their weapons as a symbol of their commitment to live differently (Alma 24:6-19). The buried weapons had a very literal consequence for them shortly afterward. They were attacked by the people who did not believe, and they demonstrated their commitment to the promise by refusing to fight, even when it meant giving up their own lives. But the covenant was more than a promise of pacifism. It was a vow to follow a new way of life.
Mormon explained the terms of their covenant with three parallel statements:
- Rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would up their own lives.
- Rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him.
- Rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands.
Interestingly, these were the three evils Mormon had originally attributed to the Lamanites at the beginning of the mission of the sons of Mosiah: murder, robbery, and idleness (Alma 17:14-15).
The covenant had a lasting impact not only on the behavior of these people but also on their perspective. “They did look upon shedding the blood of their brethren with the greatest abhorrence; and they never could be prevailed upon to take up arms against their brethren” (Alma 27:28).
As I’ve pondered the Anti-Nephi-Lehies’ dramatic oath, I’ve wondered what “weapons” I can bury. I don’t think I own any physical weapons, but I do have a stockpile of emotional weapons which seem to appear involuntarily when I feel threatened. These “weapons” include blaming other people for my shortcomings, attributing negative motives to people’s words or behavior, and withdrawing from engagement with other people. My thought today is this: Can I figuratively bury those weapons? Is my commitment to healthy relationships strong enough that I’m willing to renounce all violence, even the subtle violence of thoughts and words? Can I bury those instinctive tendencies to be defensive in order to continue building rich and fulfilling relationships?
Today, I will bury my weapons. Rather than blame other people, I will accept my shortcomings and strive to do better. Rather than attribute negative motives to others, I will assume positive intent. And, rather than disengage when I have a negative interaction, I will continue to invest in relationships with hope and confidence that things will go better.