Shortly before his death, in about the year 91 B.C., King Mosiah announced to his people that he would have no successor. None of his sons wanted to be king, and he had been horrified to hear about the suffering caused by an unrighteous king named Noah. To prevent such a situation arising again, Mosiah instituted a new form of government, in which leaders were chosen “by the voice of the people” (Mosiah 29:25-27).
Less than five years after Mosiah’s death, a man named Amlici challenged this new form of government. He wanted to be king, and he convinced enough people to support him that the judges decided to put the question in the hands of the people.
We don’t have a lot of details about how the process worked, but there was passionate debate, and in the end, there was some form of voting:
The people assembled themselves together throughout all the land, every man according to his mind, whether it were for or against Amlici, in separate bodies, having much dispute and wonderful contentions one with another.
And thus they did assemble themselves together to cast in their voices concerning the matter; and they were laid before the judges.
And it came to pass that the voice of the people came against Amlici, that he was not made king over the people.Alma 2:5-7
The people who opposed him were relieved. But Amlici and his followers were unwilling to accept the outcome. They took up arms, a civil war ensued, and tens of thousands of people died. (See Alma 3:26.)
Thirty-five years later, the Nephites experienced another contentious election. The chief judge, Pahoran, had died, and three of his sons all wanted the position. “They did cause three divisions among the people,” Mormon said. One of them, also named Pahoran, was chosen “by the voice of the people.” His brother Pacumeni, although disappointed in the outcome, “did unite with the voice of the people.” But the third brother, Paanchi, could not accept the result. “Therefore, he was about to flatter away those people to rise up in rebellion against their brethren” (Helaman 1:4-7).
The attempted coup was thwarted, and Paanchi was tried and condemned. But his followers were so angry that they organized a secret society which assassinated the chief judge. That secret society, named after its second leader, Gadianton, plagued the nation for the remainder of its history. According to Mormon, “this Gadianton did prove the overthrow, yea, almost the entire destruction of the people of Nephi” (Helaman 2:13).
What can we learn from these tragic events?
When we belong to an organization, whether it be a family, a team, a congregation, or a country, the stability of that organization and the well-being of its members ought to be a high priority for us. Ensuring that all voices are heard ought to be more important to us than getting our way. In a democratic country with diverse citizens, we won’t agree with every decision that is made, but we can be gracious when we are disappointed.
As President Dallin H. Oaks recently reminded us:
We peacefully accept the results of elections. We will not participate in the violence threatened by those disappointed with the outcome. In a democratic society we always have the opportunity and the duty to persist peacefully until the next election.“Love Your Enemies,” General Conference, October 2020
Today, I will do what I can to foster peace and patience as we await the outcomes of this week’s election. I will recommit to building unity within every organization I am part of, including my country.