Why do you think Mormon included so much information about war in the Book of Mormon? One answer would be to teach us how to remain Christ-like in times of conflict.
BACKGROUND ON MORONI
- Moroni was 25 years old when appointed captain (we would say "general") of the combined Nephite armies (Alma 43:17).
- The Nephites had half as many soldiers as the Lamanites did at the battle with Zarahemna (Alma 43:51).
- Moroni used innovative preparation ideas, particularly the use of armor (Alma 43:19-21) and the fortifying of cities (Alma 49-50). The word "prepared" is emphasized over and over in chapters 49 and 50. (You might suggest class members underline it each time it appears.)
- Moroni used clever strategem rather than full-front attack (Alma 43:30-33).
- Moroni had complete integrity and mighty faith (Alma 48:11-13). Wouldn't you like this said at your funeral or engraved on your tombstone: "Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto (your name here), behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men." (Alma 48:17). It's definitely something to aspire to. (It might be fun to make a little placard for each class member with this saying to encourage them to emulate Moroni throughout their lives.)
This is from the Church's Gospel Doctrine Book of Mormon video and is a really great little movie, especially for youth Sunday School classes. It is also available at lds.org (although I myself cannot get it to upload from there) and you can also access it from YouTube.
CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES FOR CONFLICT LEARNED FROM MORONI
(Your class members may come up with others as well. Go ahead and list them all on the board.)
- There must be a righteous purpose. "Nevertheless, the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for monarchy nor power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church. And they were doing that which they felt was the duty with they owerd to their God; for the Lord had said unto them, and also unto their fathers, that: Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies." (Alma 43:45-47) When was the first time in the Book of Mormon that the Nephites initiated a battle not in self-defense? It is in Mormon chapter 4, at the end of the record and signals the Nephites' fast descent into decadence. "And it was because the armies of the Nephites went up unto the Lamanites that they began to be smitten; for were it not for that, the Lamanites could have had no power over them." (Mormon 4:4)
- We must not hate our enemies. "Now they were sorry to take up arms against the Lamanites, because they did not delight in the shedding of blood; yea, and this was not all--they were sorry to be the means of sending so many of their brethren out of this world into an eternal world, unprepared to meet their God." (Alma 48:23)
- We must trust righteous leaders. "...Moroni...knowing of the prophecies of Alma [the High Priest] sent certain men unto him, desiring him that he should inquire of the Lord whither the armies of the Nephites should go to defend themselves against the Lamanites." (Alma 43:23)
- We must trust the Lord. "And it came to pass that when the men of Moroni saw the fierceness and the anger of the Lamanites, they were about to shrink and flee from them. And Moroni, perceiving their intent, sent forth and inspired their hearts with these thoughts--yea, the thoughts of their lands, their liberty, yea, their freedom from bondage. And it came to pass that they turned upon the Lamanites, and they cried with one voice unto the Lord their God, for their liberty and their freedom from bondage. And they began to stand against the Lamanites with power; and in that selfsame hour that they cried unto the Lord for their freedom, the Lamanites began to flee before them; and the fled even to the waters of Sidon." (Alma 43:48-50)
- Moroni gained his position of authority by appointment (Alma 43:17). Amalickiah gained his by deceit (Book of Mormon Index, p. 9-10 gives a quick overview; it's a fascinating story).
- Moroni allowed prisoners of war to defect to his side if they made an oath in defense of freedom. Forgiveness was always a possibility, and oaths in the Book of Mormon were serious. But if they refused, they were put to death. (Alma 46:35). Later, when a group of Nephites refused to defend liberty, Moroni obtained the legal right to exercise capital punishment upon them (Alma 51:15-20). Amalickiah coerced the Lamanites who did not want to fight to join the battle by trickery (Alma 47:3) (Although I'm not treating it specifically here, the manner in which Amalickiah achieved this is a great parable for how Satan tricks us to come over to his side, and could make a great lesson all by itself. See chapter 47.)
- Moroni rallied his troops with the noble Title of Liberty (Alma 46:12-13). Amalickiah published hateful propaganda. "And now it came to pass that, as soon as Amalickiah had obtained the kingdom he began to inspire the hearts of the Lamanites against the people of Nephi; yea, he did appoint men to speak unto the Lamanites from their towers, against the Nephites." (Alma 48:1)
- Moroni's purpose was the defense of liberty (Alma 46:12). Amalickiah's was power and bondage of others upon which to glut himself (Alma 48:4).
- Moroni lived by the principles of faith and service. "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. Yea, he had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites..." (Alma 48:7-8). Amalickiah's principles were deceit and selfishness. "...He did care not for the blood of his people..." and did not even lead them into battle, but stayed home in comfort (Alma 49:10-11).
- Moroni prepared his army (Alma 48:4-10)
- Moroni and his people thanked God for delivering them (Alma 49:28). Amalickiah cursed God and vowed revenge because he didn't win (Alma 49:27).
- Relying on the Lord. "When threatened, we become anti-enemy instead of pro-kingdom of God...We forget that if we are righteous the Lord will either not suffer our enemies to come upon us...or he will fight our battles for us." (Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, June 1976, p. 6)
- The real enemy. "No matter how wicked and ferocious and depraved the Lamanites might be,...they were not the Nephite problem. They were merely kept there to remind the Nephites of their real problem, which was to walk uprightly before the Lord." (Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah, p. 376)
- Draft-evaders. Moroni had no tolerance of them. He exercised capital punishment on those who refused to fight, except the Anti-Nephi-Lehies who had made a religious covenant not to take up arms. "Someone asked me once how I felt about amnesty for the draft card burner and the deserter. I told him I thought every one of them should be taken before General Moroni to be judged." (Vaughan J. Featherstone, October 1975 General Conference) Eight of our Apostles today served in the military at wartime. Only seven served missions as young men, thanks to being young men during times of peace for their country. (See a listing at a a previous post.)
- "In God We Must Trust." In the United States, President Abraham Lincoln had the foresight to put the words "In God We Trust" on the very thing that could so easily become our idol: our coinage. President Dwight D. Eisenhower made it the official national motto in 1956 (which had previously been e pluribis unum or "out of many, one"--also a lovely motto which is still found on the Great Seal of the United States) and added it to the paper currency. It appears over the entrance to the Senate chamber and above the Speaker's dais in the House of Representatives. (Associated Press article, published the Herald Journal, July 25, 2000). The House reaffirmed this motto in a 396 to 9 vote in November of 2011 (Daily News, November 3, 2011). The origin of the motto is thought to be the lyrics of what is now the U.S. National Anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," written for the War of 1812, which contains the words "Then conquer we must when our cause it is just, and this be our motto: In God is our Trust." For those who worry about the motto being removed from our currency, it is required by law to be on all coins that have previously had it printed on them. (See Wikipedia article "In God We Trust".) In fact, yes, even the new dollar coin contains the motto, even though it was not legally required; it's just along the edge instead of on the front. (See Snopes.com.) Many other countries have similar mottos--you should check to see if yours does. Wikipedia has an entry listing dozens of countries' mottos (which seriously distracted me for an hour). Here are a few of my favorites:
- Denmark: "God's Help, The People's Love, Denmark's Strength."
- Nicaragua: "In God We Trust"
- American Samoa: "Let God be First."
- Grenada: "Ever Conscious of God, We Aspire and Advance as One People"
- Morocco: "God, The Country, The King" The motto of the royalty of Morocco is: "If You Glorify God, He will Glorify You"
- Tonga: "God and Tonga are My Inheritance"
- Dominican Republic: "God, Country, Liberty"
- Equador: "God, Country, Liberty"
- Tuvalu (South Pacific Island): "Tuvalu for the Almighty"
- Vanuatu (South Pacific island): "Let Us Stand Firm in God"
- Tokelau (atolls of New Zealand): "Tokelau for the Almighty"
- Saudi Arabia's is the Muslim creed: "There is No God But Allah, and Mohammed is His Prophet" (Allah is the same Heavenly Father we worship. See a previous post.)
- Tristan da Cundha (South Atlantic Island): "Our Faith is Our Strength"
Freedom is worth fighting for. Jesus Christ fought a war in heaven and the cause was freedom vs. slavery. But it is the only cause worth fighting for. As Mormon wrote, "Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were aginst an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives. And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land; yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger; and also, that God would make it known unto them whither they should go to defend themselves against their enemies, and by so doing, the Lord would deliver them; and this was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it..." (Alma 48:14-16). We do not have to live in the Americas to qualify for this blessing of protection, because every land wherein the Saints of God live, gather, and worship Him is a Promised Land.