They Were About to Break the Oath – Alma 53:13-15

13 But it came to pass that when they saw the danger, and the many afflictions and tribulations which the Nephites bore for them, they were moved with compassion and were desirous to take up arms in the defence of their country.
14 But behold, as they were about to take their weapons of war, they were overpowered by the persuasions of Helaman and his brethren, for they were about to break the oath which they had made.
15 And Helaman feared lest by so doing they should lose their souls; therefore all those who had entered into this covenant were compelled to behold their brethren wade through their afflictions, in their dangerous circumstances at this time.
(Alma 53:13-15)

What a dilemma these believing Lamanites found themselves in! After being converted to the gospel by the preaching of Ammon, they had buried their weapons and made an oath to never fight again. They had demonstrated on multiple occasions that they were committed to this oath, that they were even willing to give up their lives rather than break it. But now, with the Nephites fighting and dying to defend them, these Lamanite converts were wavering. How could they stand by while their neighbors paid such a terrible price? Under these circumstances, wouldn’t they be justified in taking up arms, even though they had sworn never to do so again?

With much effort, Helaman and other church leaders persuaded them not to break their oath. Fortunately, a solution emerged. About 2,000 of their sons, none of whom had taken the oath, volunteered to fight with Helaman as their leader.

I can understand why these Lamanite converts would consider breaking their oath, and I can also understand why Helaman didn’t want them to. The oath had become a symbol of their conversion. To take up arms now would call into question everything they had become and what they stood for. (See Alma 24:17-19.) Better to keep the oath, even at the cost of their neighbors’ lives, who had taken them in and sworn to defend them. (See Alma 27:22-24.) Better to maintain their integrity than to break a solemn promise to God and possibly lose their souls.

After seeing this struggle and recognizing the priority Helaman placed on personal integrity, is it any wonder that the sons of these great Lamanite converts were young men of integrity? As Mormon tells us later in this chapter, “they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted” (Alma 53:20). And Helaman later marveled that “they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness” (Alma 57:21). Their integrity was built on a firm foundation: they had learned from their parents’ example that personal integrity was more important than life itself.

Today, I will remember the importance of integrity. I will strive to fulfill all of my duties with exactness and to be true to my word. I will keep the promises I have made to God, to myself, and to others.

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Supposing by Their Numbers to Overpower Teancum- Alma 52:21-24

21 And it came to pass that Moroni, having no hopes of meeting them upon fair grounds, therefore, he resolved upon a plan that he might decoy the Lamanites out of their strongholds.
22 Therefore he caused that Teancum should take a small number of men and march down near the seashore; and Moroni and his army, by night, marched in the wilderness, on the west of the city Mulek; and thus, on the morrow, when the guards of the Lamanites had discovered Teancum, they ran and told it unto Jacob, their leader.
23 And it came to pass that the armies of the Lamanites did march forth against Teancum, supposing by their numbers to overpower Teancum because of the smallness of his numbers. And as Teancum saw the armies of the Lamanites coming out against him he began to retreat down by the seashore, northward.
24 And it came to pass that when the Lamanites saw that he began to flee, they took courage and pursued them with vigor. And while Teancum was thus leading away the Lamanites who were pursuing them in vain, behold, Moroni commanded that a part of his army who were with him should march forth into the city, and take possession of it.
(Alma 52:21-24)

After taking possession of a number of Nephite cities on the east coast, the Lamanite king traveled to the west coast. The cities which they had conquered were relatively easy to defend because Moroni’s armies had worked so hard to fortify them. The king left very clear instructions: “He did command that his people should maintain those cities, which they had taken by the shedding of blood” (Alma 52:4). It had been costly to take those cities, and he did not want to lose control of them again.

Captain Moroni, who was at the time in the western regions, sent orders to Teancum to retake the city of Mulek if at all possible. Mulek was the northernmost city which the Lamanites had taken on the east coast. Teancum made some preparations to attack, but ultimately abandoned the effort, recognizing that he would not be successful (Alma 52:16-17).

Sometime after, Moroni brought an army to the east coast. He and Teancum and their chief captains held a council of war. Recognizing that they would not be able to retake the city by attacking it directly, they created the following plan to entice the Lamanite army, which was led by a commander named Jacob, to come out of the city:

1. Moroni hid with his army in the wilderness just west of the city. Teancum marched past the city on the east with a small number of soldiers.

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2. Recognizing that they could easily beat Teancum’s army, the Lamanites abandoned the city and began to pursue Teancum. Moroni’s army emerged from the wilderness and easily took control of the city.

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3. As Teancum approached the city of Bountiful, another Nephite army, led by a man named Lehi began to pursue them. When they tried to return to Mulek, they discovered Moroni’s army in the rear. They were surrounded.

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While I’m sure there are many lessons to be learned from this battle, I’m thinking today about the importance of steadiness and perspective as we make decisions throughout the day. If the Lamanites had simply stayed true to their core mission—defending the city—they would not have left it defenseless as they pursued a lesser goal. Likewise, we can easily be distracted by enticing opportunities which may seem very attractive but which may ultimately be preventing us from achieving our highest goals.

In our most recent general conference, President Dallin H. Oaks reminded us of the importance of being consistent in doing the small things which will help us over time to achieve our most important goals:

Consider the scripture study we’ve been taught to incorporate into our daily lives. Or consider the personal prayers and the kneeling family prayers that are regular practices for faithful Latter-day Saints. Consider attendance at seminary for youth or institute classes for young adults. Though each of these practices may seem to be small and simple, over time they result in powerful spiritual uplift and growth…
None of these desirable small and simple things will lift us to great things unless they are practiced consistently and continuously (“Small and Simple Things,” General Conference, April 2018).

Today, I will be consistent in doing those things which will help me achieve my highest goals. I will avoid being distracted, and I will strive to remember my priorities, so that I don’t fail to achieve my core goals by pursuing less important objectives.

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This Was a Critical Time for Such Contentions – Alma 51:9

9 But behold, this was a critical time for such contentions to be among the people of Nephi; for behold, Amalickiah had again stirred up the hearts of the people of the Lamanites against the people of the Nephites, and he was gathering together soldiers from all parts of his land, and arming them, and preparing for war with all diligence…
(Alma 51:9)

As Captain Moroni prepared his people to defend themselves against the Lamanites, he had to deal with two internal disturbances. The first was caused by an ambitious but undisciplined leader named Morianton, who invaded a neighboring Nephite territory and had to be driven back to his land by Moroni’s army. The second happened shortly thereafter: a group of people wanted to do away with the democratically elected government and reestablish a monarchy. They were not successful—the people voted to retain their freedom. Nevertheless, the timing couldn’t have been worse, as the Lamanites were now preparing to invade the Nephite lands.

Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matthew 12:25). In so many areas of our lives, it’s clear that unity is critical to our safety. When we aren’t at peace with ourselves and “[settled]…in [our] hearts,” we are more vulnerable to temptation. (See the Joseph Smith Translation in the footnote to Luke 14:27.) Marriages and families can become weakened by internal contentions, and that weakness is particularly dangerous when external pressures are high, whether those pressures are financial, cultural, or spiritual. If we are wise, we will be aware of those external threats, and we will be particularly conscientious about resolving rifts in our relationships quickly, so that we can stand united and strong in the face of those challenges.

Speaking of the importance of unity as a church, Sister Reyna I. Aburto said:

Girls and boys, young women and young men, sisters and brothers, we are on this journey together. In order to reach our sublime destiny, we need each other, and we need to be unified. The Lord has commanded us, “Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (“With One Accord,” General Conference, April 2018).

Today, I will remember the warning in Mormon’s description above. It is never a good time for contention, but it is a particularly bad time when the organization is under attack. I will strive for unity with my wife, with my children, with my teammates at work, and with fellow members at church. I will remember that we can overcome the storms and the pressures which we will face if we are unified.

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Being a Man of Much Passion – Alma 50:29-31

29 Therefore, Morianton put it into their hearts that they should flee to the land which was northward, which was covered with large bodies of water, and take possession of the land which was northward.
30 And behold, they would have carried this plan into effect, (which would have been a cause to have been lamented) but behold, Morianton being a man of much passion, therefore he was angry with one of his maid servants, and he fell upon her and beat her much.
31 And it came to pass that she fled, and came over to the camp of Moroni, and told Moroni all things concerning the matter, and also concerning their intentions to flee into the land northward.
(Alma 50:29-31)

A strong human spirit with control over appetites of the flesh is master over emotions and passions and not a slave to them. That kind of freedom is as vital to the spirit as oxygen is to the body! Freedom from self-slavery is true liberation (Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Decisions for Eternity,” General Conference, October 2013).

Effective leadership and success in any venture begins with self-mastery. This is one of the fundamental lessons of the war chapters in the Book of Mormon. As we saw earlier this week, Mormon described in some detail the noble attributes of Captain Moroni, and he explicitly linked those attributes to Moroni’s military success.

In contrast, we read in the passage above about Morianton, a Nephite leader who led an invasion into a neighboring Nephite territory. Knowing that Moroni’s army would likely drive them out again, he attempted to escape with his people into “the land northward”—he clearly hadn’t thought through how this would play out—but was thwarted even in that plan.

Why? As Mormon tells us, Morianton was an undisciplined man, “a man of much passion.” We don’t know what triggered his abuse of a female servant, and it seems unlikely that this was an isolated incident. Nevertheless, on this occasion, this servant had had enough, and she escaped to the camp of Moroni to provide valuable information which enabled Moroni’s troops to prevail.

Moroni was successful because of his own positive attributes. On this occasion, he was also helped by a significant flaw in the character of his opponent. Morianton’s failure to master his emotions was his downfall.

Today, I will remember that self-discipline is essential for my success. I will strengthen my spirit, so that I can be the master of my passions and not a slave to them.

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They Were Prepared – Alma 49:6-8

6 Now the leaders of the Lamanites had supposed, because of the greatness of their numbers, yea, they supposed that they should be privileged to come upon them as they had hitherto done; yea, and they had also prepared themselves with shields, and with breastplates; and they had also prepared themselves with garments of skins, yea, very thick garments to cover their nakedness.
7 And being thus prepared they supposed that they should easily overpower and subject their brethren to the yoke of bondage, or slay and massacre them according to their pleasure.
8 But behold, to their uttermost astonishment, they were prepared for them, in a manner which never had been known among the children of Lehi. Now they were prepared for the Lamanites, to battle after the manner of the instructions of Moroni.
(Alma 49:6-8)

Why was Captain Moroni such a successful military commander? In large part, it was because he prepared for battles so effectively.

  • In his first battle, against the Zoramites, he introduced the concept of armor. It might not seem innovative to wear breastplates and carry shields, but it apparently hadn’t been done before in this society, and it gave his armies a tremendous advantage over their enemies (Alma 43:19-21, 37-38).
  • Now, nearly two years later, a Lamanite army invaded the Nephite territories. Remembering Moroni’s prior preparations, the Lamanites came wearing breastplates and carrying shields, as they knew the Nephite armies would also do. But this time, Moroni had made additional preparations which the Lamanites had not anticipated. Around the cities of Ammonihah and Noah, his armies had dug a ditch, and behind the ditch, he had built up a ridge of dirt. His soldiers were able to stand on the ridge of dirt and defend the city very effectively against the invading army (Alma 49:4, 18-22).
  • In subsequent years, he continued to prepare. He turned the Nephite cities into veritable fortresses by having his troops build a wooden wall on top of the ridge of earth, with well-protected towers on top of those walls. He did this in every Nephite city, so that his armies would be prepared for the next invasion (Alma 50:2-6).

So often, we take our challenges most seriously when we are in the heat of battle. But as President Thomas S. Monson often reminded us, “When the time for performance arrives, the time for preparation is past.” (“Our Sacred Priesthood Trust,” General Conference, April 2006). The question becomes: how do we choose to spend our time when we are not in danger, when there is no need for urgency? Do we take our blessings for granted and become less diligent? Or do we spend our time preparing for the challenges which surely lie ahead?

In our most recent general conference, Elder Quentin L. Cook reminded us of the importance of spiritual preparation in our personal lives:

Fulfilling divinely appointed responsibilities, based on righteousness, unity, and equality before the Lord, brings personal happiness and peace in this world and prepares us for eternal life in the world to come. It prepares us to meet God (“Prepare to Meet God,” General Conference, April 2018).

Today, I will remember and follow Captain Moroni’s example of preparation. I will remember that the decisions which will be most impactful in my life may occur long before they are urgently needed. Above all, I will prioritize spiritual preparation, remembering that my efforts to live the gospel today will not only bring me happiness and peace, but will also prepare me to return to the presence of my Heavenly Father in the future.

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Moroni Was a Strong and a Mighty Man – Alma 48:11-13

11 And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;
12 Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.
13 Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood.
(Alma 48:11-13)

Today, I’m pondering the attributes of Captain Moroni, as he was described by Mormon in the passage above. Here are some of the attributes I see:

  • Moroni was capable. Mormon refers to him as “a strong and a mighty man.” He knew how to be an effective soldier, and his people were willing to entrust the leadership of their armies to him because they knew he had the ability to lead them effectively.
  • Moroni was wise. Mormon says that he “was a man of a perfect understanding.” His respect for freedom and his understanding of the limitations of force and violence are examples of his wisdom.
  • Moroni was humane. He had a profound respect for human life. Even though he knew that there were some things important enough to fight for, he “did not delight in bloodshed.” Even as a military commander, he avoided bloodshed wherever possible.
  • Moroni was respectful of the agency of others. His “soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country.” Unlike Amalakiah, whose goal was to become king and “destroy the foundation of liberty which God had granted unto them” (Alma 46:4,10), Moroni did not seek for power (Alma 60:36). And when the war was over, “he retired to his own house that he might spend the remainder of his days in peace” (Alma 62:43).
  • Moroni was thankful. His “heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people.” Moroni’s gratitude was a vital component of his wisdom and helped him to maintain perspective even during a bloody and agonizing conflict.
  • Moroni was hard-working. He “did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.
  • Moroni was faithful. He “was firm in the faith of Christ” and could be counted on to fulfill the things he had promised to do.

This is a remarkable list of attributes. It’s no wonder that, after this description, Mormon tells us that, if everyone were like Moroni, “the very powers of hell would [be] shaken forever” (Alma 48:17). Today, I will strive to follow the example of Captain Moroni by exemplifying the attributes identified by Mormon. I will strive to act with strength and wisdom, to be kind and respectful of the people around me, to be thankful for the privileges I have been given, and to be hard-working and dependable.

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Moroni…Had Been Preparing the Minds of the People – Alma 48:7-9

7 Now it came to pass that while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God.
8 Yea, he had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort; throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, and also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land.
9 And in their weakest fortifications he did place the greater number of men; and thus he did fortify and strengthen the land which was possessed by the Nephites.
(Alma 48:7-9)

In the preceding chapters, Mormon relates the story of how Amalikiah became king of the Lamanites, one deception at a time. Now, he turns our attention to Captain Moroni and the Nephites, who were busy during this time preparing for the return of the Lamanite armies. Moroni had defeated Amalakiah’s armies, but he knew that Amalakiah had gone to the land of the Lamanites, and he anticipated that his people would have to fight again.

I’m interested in Mormon’s choice of words in this passage. He describes the preparations made by the Nephites: erecting forts, surrounding them with banks of earth and walls of stone, and ensuring that their soldiers were well-placed. But Mormon introduces the passage by saying that Moroni was “preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God.” More important than the military preparations were the spiritual preparations they were making, so that they could receive God’s power as they fought to defend themselves.

In last week’s general conference, President Dallin H. Oaks reminded us that the small decisions we make every day are preparing us to face the large challenges which will come less frequently. He quoted Dan Coats, former senator from Indiana: “The only preparation for that one profound decision which can change a life, or even a nation, is those hundreds and thousands of half-conscious, self-defining, seemingly insignificant decisions made in private.” President Oaks then added:

Those “seemingly insignificant” private decisions include how we use our time, what we view on television and the internet, what we read, the art and music with which we surround ourselves at work and at home, what we seek for entertainment, and how we apply our commitment to be honest and truthful. Another seemingly small and simple thing is being civil and cheerful in our personal interactions (“Small and Simple Things,” General Conference, April 2018).

During the same session, Elder Larry Y. Wilson shared a story about a young ensign in the U.S. navy who was able to miraculously save a ship by receiving specific answers to a series of prayers. One of the lessons Elder Wilson learned from this story was that this young naval officer had prepared for that moment:

Could he have prayed with such calm assurance if he had not received guidance from the Spirit on previous occasions? The arrival of a typhoon is no time to dust off the gift of the Holy Ghost and figure out how to use it. This young man was clearly following a pattern he had used many times before, including as a full-time missionary. We need the Holy Spirit as our guide in calm waters so His voice will be unmistakable to us in the fiercest storm (“Take the Holy Spirit as Your Guide,” General Conference, April 2018).

Today, I will prepare my mind for the challenges I may face today or in the future. I will do this by making the seemingly small decisions which will fortify me: surrounding myself by positive influences, being honest and kind, and seeking to follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

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