Come Follow Me: Alma 53-63 “Preserved by His Marvelous Power”
Speaking Truth(?) to Power
The chapters included in this lesson all take place during a time of war between the Nephites and the Lamanites. This is a high-stress situation where the stakes are high—literally, life and death. In such challenging situations, we see people at their best and worst. What can we learn from what Nephite leaders did right and wrong in these stressful circumstances?
Moroni Communicates with the Enemy
In Alma 54, a Lamanite leader, Ammoron, proposes a prisoner exchange and Moroni, a Nephite leader, is thrilled. (In Alma 54:2, the text says he “felt to rejoice exceedingly at the request.”)
Moroni’s reply demonstrates his high moral code, his boldness, his skill at military strategy…and his complete lack of diplomacy. Ammoron’s army is holding civilian hostages, including women and children. Moroni has maintained a higher code of conduct and only taken warriors as prisoners. He agrees to the exchange on the condition that for each man delivered by Moroni, Ammoron will deliver a man plus a woman and children, but he surrounds his counter-offer with threatening and condescending language and calls Ammoron “a child of hell” (Alma 54:4-14).
In spite of the incivility of the response, Ammoron agrees to the terms, only to have Moroni renege on his offer because Ammoran did not concede to Moroni’s point about Ammoron’s wickedness (Alma 55:2). Fortunately, Moroni devises a plan to free the prisoners and is able to do so without casualties, so everything works out in the end (Alma 55:3-27).
Moroni Communicates with his Allies
In Alma 60, Moroni writes a fiery letter to his own governor, Pahoran, “by the way of condemnation” for his failure to send adequate troops and supplies. I dissect his letter as follows:
1. He lists his grievances. (Alma 60: 1-5)
2. He asks for an explanation (rudely). (Alma 60:6)
3. He defends the powerless and gives voice to the voiceless. (Alma 60:7-17)
4. He questions the governor’s motives. (Alma 60:18-23)
5. He makes a call for action. (Alma 60:24)
6. He threatens revolt. (Alma 60:25-31)
7. He testifies/claims God is on his side. (60:32-36)
It’s a stirring revolution monologue with some stinging one-liners thrown in. He doesn’t call Pahoran “a child of hell” but he does call him a “traitor.”
Moroni was trying to speak truth to power, but he didn’t have all the information he needed and his assumptions were wrong. His colleague, Helaman, was less hot-headed than Moroni and gave Pahoran the benefit of the doubt:
34 Now we do not know the cause that the government does not grant us more strength; neither do those men who came up unto us know why we have not received greater strength.
35 Behold, we do not know but what ye are unsuccessful, and ye have drawn away the forces into that quarter of the land; if so, we do not desire to murmur.
36 And if it is not so, behold, we fear that there is some faction in the government, that they do not send more men to our assistance; for we know that they are more numerous than that which they have sent.
37 But, behold, it mattereth not—we trust God will deliver us, notwithstanding the weakness of our armies, yea, and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies.
Moroni’s righteous indignation was deflated by Pahoran’s explanation, which revealed that Moroni’s wrath was misdirected. Pahoran hasn’t sent troops and supplies because he couldn’t; he was overthrown in a coup, just as Helaman had guessed (Alma 61). Nevertheless, Pahoran remains gracious:
And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart. I, Pahoran, do not seek for power, save only to retain my judgment-seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free.
On Not Being Offended…or Offensive
Jesus Christ taught:
Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!
I see two great truths in these words:
- Someone will offend us, so we need to learn how to deal with it.
- We should try not to be the person who offends people.
Not Taking Offense
One of the greatest indicators of our own spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, the inexperience, and the potentially offensive actions of others. A thing, an event, or an expression may be offensive, but you and I can choose not to be offended—and to say with Pahoran, “it mattereth not.”
Reread Moroni’s letter in Alma 60, putting yourselves in Pahoran’s shoes. Consider these questions as you read:
- How was Pahoran able to see “greatness in [Moroni’s] heart” while reading such an offensive letter from him?
- What truths did Moroni teach in his letter?
- How can we truly listen to others and hear their truth, regardless of their tone?
- How can we forgive others who offend us? Why should we?
- How can we work with good—but difficult—people?
Not Being Offensive
The counsel to “cease to be offended” works best when we apply it to our own selves, like an affirmation: “I will not let this careless person thwart me. I can move past this. I don’t have to carry this in my heart.”
In our interactions with other people, we do not have a right to offend them and then order them to cease to be offended. Our goal should be as Christ taught:
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
Reread Moroni’s letter in Alma 60.
- Which aspects of the letter were assertive, helpful or necessary?
- Which parts would have been better left unsaid?
- How can we avoid making assumptions about others?
- How can we stop ourselves from being offensive?
- What should we do after we realize we have done something offensive? How do we make it right?
While it appears that diplomacy may not have been Moroni’s strong point, Alma 48:11-13 lists his many good qualities. Moroni’s longstanding reputation for service and integrity might have made it easier for his peers to forgive him when he made a mistake.
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.
- How can we build relationships that are strong enough to recover even after, as flawed humans, we make occasional mistakes?
Strengthening Youth & Letting Youth Lead
In Alma 53, we learn about the 2,000 stripling warriors. Their parents had been Lamanites and prone to war. After their conversion, they had buried their weapons and made an oath of pacifism. (Alma 53:10-12) They considered breaking their oath to defend their new Nephite community, until their young sons, who had not taken the oath, volunteered to join the army in their place. (Alma 53:13-18)
20 And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.
21 Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.
22 And now it came to pass that Helaman did march at the head of his two thousand stripling soldiers, to the support of the people in the borders of the land on the south by the west sea.
These young people weren’t beholden to the same covenant as their parents, because they did not make those covenants. So they did good in a different way, and that is okay. And although they were young and less experienced than Helaman or their parents, the adults listened to their ideas and asked for their opinions. They let the youth lead, and the youth rose to the occasion. In Alma 56:46-48, Helaman reports that they volunteered to enter battle.
46 For as I had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth; we would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone; therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of Antipus.
47 Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.
48 And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.
-Alma 56: 46-48
This verse is often quoted to show that women are important…because they raise men who do important things. While mothers do influence their sons, this interpretation does not resonate with me because I prefer to see women as important in and of themselves, not just inasmuch as they influence and train males. However, I like that these sons appreciated their mothers’ wisdom and brought their mothers’ perspectives into the conversation.
In Alma 57:20:27, Helaman reports on their success in battle.
20 And as the remainder of our army were about to give way before the Lamanites, behold, those two thousand and sixty were firm and undaunted.
21 Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them; and I did remember the words which they said unto me that their mothers had taught them.
22 And now behold, it was these my sons, and those men who had been selected to convey the prisoners, to whom we owe this great victory; for it was they who did beat the Lamanites; therefore they were driven back to the city of Manti.
23 And we retained our city Cumeni, and were not all destroyed by the sword; nevertheless, we had suffered great loss.
24 And it came to pass that after the Lamanites had fled, I immediately gave orders that my men who had been wounded should be taken from among the dead, and caused that their wounds should be dressed.
25 And it came to pass that there were two hundred, out of my two thousand and sixty, who had fainted because of the loss of blood; nevertheless, according to the goodness of God, and to our great astonishment, and also the joy of our whole army, there was not one soul of them who did perish; yea, and neither was there one soul among them who had not received many wounds.
26 And now, their preservation was astonishing to our whole army, yea, that they should be spared while there was a thousand of our brethren who were slain. And we do justly ascribe it to the miraculous power of God, because of their exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe—that there was a just God, and whosoever did not doubt, that they should be preserved by his marvelous power.
27 Now this was the faith of these of whom I have spoken; they are young, and their minds are firm, and they do put their trust in God continually.
General Primary President Joy D. Jones talked about how we can help modern youth become “sin-resistant” like the stripling warriors.
“Fortifying children to become sin-resistant is a task and a blessing for parents, grandparents, family members, teachers, and leaders. We each bear responsibility to help… Understanding the doctrine of repentance is essential for becoming resistant to sin. Being sin-resistant doesn’t mean being sinless, but it does imply being continually repentant, vigilant, and valiant…The stripling warriors “were exceedingly valiant for courage … ; but behold, this was not all—they were … true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. Yea, … they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.” These young men went to war carrying Christlike virtues as weapons against their adversaries. President Thomas S. Monson reminded us that “the call for courage comes constantly to each of us. Every day of our lives courage is needed—not just for the momentous events but more often as we make decisions or respond to circumstances around us.” Our children don spiritual armor as they establish patterns of personal daily discipleship. -Joy D. Jones, A Sin-Resistant Generation
- How can we help modern youth have the strength and courage?
Young Women general President Bonnie Cordon taught adult mentors to let youth lead:
Whatever level of leadership experience a class presidency has, start where they are and help them develop the skills and confidence that will bless them as leaders. Stay close to them, but don’t take over. The Spirit will guide you as you guide them. -Bonnie H. Cordon, Beloved Daughters
- How can we give youth leadership opportunities?
- How can we let youth use their strength and courage?
- How can we stay close to youth, without taking over?