Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.Jeremiah 17:5
I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.2 Nephi 4:34 (See also 2 Nephi 28:31.)
Mormon became a military commander at the age of 15. At first, he lost control of one city after another as his army retreated in fear. But he gathered his people as quickly as possible, and they fortified the land of Shem. As the enemy approached, he “did urge them with great energy, that they would stand boldly…and fight for their wives, and their children, and their houses, and their homes” (Mormon 2:23). This time, they won. With an army of 30,000, they withstood an army of 50,000. They subsequently followed the retreating army and beat them again.
How did Mormon feel about this victory? Discouraged. His army had won the battle, but they were not well-positioned for sustainable success. “The strength of the Lord was not with us,” he observed; “yea, we were left to ourselves, that the Spirit of the Lord did not abide in us; therefore, we had become weak like unto our brethren” (Mormon 2:26).
Mormon understood the principle articulated above by Jeremiah and by Nephi: If you place your confidence in mortal strength, you will fail. Because he understood this principle, he was not distracted by victories or losses in battle. He was playing the long game, and he recognized that his people were losing that game, because they were unwilling to repent and place their trust in God.
Ten years later, he resigned, immediately after a military victory. The behavior of his people—their boasting and hatred—convinced him that their success would be short-lived. (See Mormon 3:5-12.)
Elder D. Todd Christofferson recently warned us:
When people turn from a sense of accountability to God and begin to trust instead in the “arm of flesh,” disaster lurks. Trusting in the arm of flesh is to ignore the divine Author of human rights and human dignity and to give highest priority to riches, power, and the praise of the world (while often mocking and persecuting those who follow a different standard). Meanwhile, those in sustainable societies are seeking, as King Benjamin said, to “grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created [them], or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.”“Sustainable Societies,” General Conference, October 2020
Today, I will remember that short-term successes and failures may not be indicative of my long-term trajectory. I will measure my performance as Mormon did, by asking the following questions: Is the strength of the Lord with me? Do I recognize my reliance on Him, or am I relying instead on “the arm of flesh?”