Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2009, February 18

Book of Mormon: “An Oath of Liberty: A Critique of the Book of Mormon as Support for a Moral Obligation to Fight for One’s Government” by grego

Book of Mormon: “An Oath of Liberty: A Critique of the Book of Mormon as Support for a Moral Obligation to Fight for One’s Government” by grego

Some people use the instances of Moroni and the freemen versus the kingmen as proof that one has a moral obligation when called upon by one’s government to fight for their country, such as the following verse:
“And it came to pass that whomsoever of the Amalickiahites that would not enter into a covenant to support the cause of freedom, that they might maintain a free government, he (Moroni) caused to be put to death; and there were but few who denied the covenant of freedom” (Alma 46:35).

However, we will see that the use of the scriptures in this way is not correct, and those who believe that the Book of Mormon preaches against conscientious objectors, draft dodgers, etc., and imposes the death penalty on them are incorrect.

First, let’s look at the history of this situation from the Book of Mormon, which is a little long, but essential to understanding the verse above:
Alma 46:1 AND it came to pass that as many as would not hearken to the words of Helaman and his brethren were gathered together against their brethren.
Alma 46:2 And now behold, they were exceedingly wroth, insomuch that they were determined to slay them.
Alma 46:4 And Amalickiah was desirous to be a king; and those people who were wroth were also desirous that he should be their king; and they were the greater part of them the lower judges of the land, and they were seeking for power.
Alma 46:5 And they had been led by the flatteries of Amalickiah, that if they would support him and establish him to be their king that he would make them rulers over the people.
Alma 46:29 And it came to pass that when Amalickiah saw that the people of Moroni were more numerous than the Amalickiahites–and he also saw that his people were doubtful concerning the justice of the cause in which they had undertaken–therefore, fearing that he should not gain the point, he took those of his people who would and departed into the land of Nephi.
Alma 46:32 And it came to pass that he did according to his desires, and marched forth into the wilderness, and headed the armies of Amalickiah.
Alma 46:33 And it came to pass that Amalickiah fled with a small number of his men, and the remainder were delivered up into the hands of Moroni and were taken back into the land of Zarahemla.
Alma 46:34 Now, Moroni being a man who was appointed by the chief judges and the voice of the people, therefore he had power according to his will with the armies of the Nephites, to establish and to exercise authority over them.
Alma 46:35 And it came to pass that whomsoever of the Amalickiahites that would not enter into a covenant to support the cause of freedom, that they might maintain a free government, he caused to be put to death; and there were but few who denied the covenant of freedom.

So, there are a few important things that happen before the key verse:
1. Many people (“king-men”) want a king instead of a judge.
2. Most of the king-men are judges (government officials).
3. They conspire with Amalickiah for future positions of power in exchange for help in making him king.
4. They are wroth with those that don’t stand with them, and want to slay them.
5. The king-men don’t ask for a vote on the matter, unlike the Amlicites (Alma 2:4-6).
6. The king-men see that they aren’t as powerful as the freemen, and want to leave Nephite land.
7. They are captured/ arrested while still in Nephite land.

At this point, it is probable that the king-men are not just in a state of dissenting opinion, contention, and dispute, but are dissenters, rebels, opposers of the government in more than word–in a state of open forceful opposition to the government. Every time the word dissenter is used in the Book of Mormon, it is more than just words–there is a physical separation because of a disagreement over law or government. The king-men have chosen to be enemies of the state. They are doing this while still in Nephite land. By doing so, they could be charged with treason and likely executed.

Now, even in this state, Moroni gives them the choice to return in good standing, or suffer the consequences of their choices. Not once do we read in the Book of Mormon of any other Nephite (other than the chief judge) having to take an oath of allegience to the Nephite government. At least for the king-men, taking the oath–after rebelling against the state–allowed them to set aside their penalty and reaffirm their citizenship and rights; refusing to take the oath would just allow the just penalty to be enforced. This oath was to support their form of government, and was a protective set-up so that when Amalickiah and the Lamanites came against the Nepites, they would not be divided on the inside.

If the Amalickiahites had not committed any crime, but had decided to leave the country and go to the Lamanites, this likely would have been fine. However, by being determined to slay” innocent people, wanting to seek kingship by force, then having the plan to leave the country with a plan to become the Lamanites allies against the Nephites, the king-men are clearly in an illegal situation.

Later, in Alma 62:7, we learn that king-men resisted the lawful Nephite government by the sword, yet the men who were not slain in battle were taken prisoners and received a fair trial. Once more, the opponenets of liberty were required to take an oath. For them, it was not just fight for the defense of the country or die, which would have still been a fair oath, I believe; but: “whosoever would not take up arms in the defence of their country, BUT WOULD FIGHT AGAINST IT, were put to death.” In Alma 62:10, it reads: “And thus it became expedient that this law should be strictly observed for the safety of their country; yea, and whosoever was found denying their freedom was speedily executed according to the law.” “Fighting against the country” and “denying freedom” are different than opposing or refusing to fight in a war.

There are many reasons given in the Book of Mormon why one can and maybe should fight. See my post here: .

The story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies must also be considered. They refused to take up arms to fight their enemies, and they were righteous:
Alma 24:6 Now there was not one soul among all the people who had been converted unto the Lord that would take up arms against their brethren; nay, they would not even make any preparations for war; yea, and also their king commanded them that they should not.
Alma 24:18 And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood; and this they did, vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives; and rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands.
Alma 27:27 And they were among the people of Nephi, and also numbered among the people who were of the church of God. And they were also distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end.
Alma 27:28 And they did look upon shedding the blood of their brethren with the greatest abhorrence; and they never could be prevailed upon to take up arms against their brethren; and they never did look upon death with any degree of terror, for their hope and views of Christ and the resurrection; therefore, death was swallowed up to them by the victory of Christ over it.
Alma 27:30 And thus they were a zealous and beloved people, a highly favored people of the Lord.

So, it should be clear that the Book of Mormon cannot be used by those who want everyone to necessarily follow the call to arms or be drafted or fight “for their country”, as twisted as that meaning is these days.

When deciding whether to fight for one’s country or not, many things may be considered:
*the country’s history of fighting;
*whether the country has ever lied about its involvement or purposes before;
*how the war started, and why;
*whether the cause is just, or not;
*whether the fighting is in direct defense of the country or not;
*whether the fighting is in the the country or not;
*what support the government gives its warriors (during and after the fighting);
This must be based mostly on real history, not future promises or “top secret confidential secret information”.

For example, when looking at the USA, we see that:
*the USA has lied about the reason for getting involved in most wars;
*the USA has lied in almost every war to get the government’s and citizens’ support;
*the USA has rarely, especially recently, fought to truly defend itself and its innocent citizens;
*the USA has rarely fought on US soil against an aggressive first offense invader;
*the USA has rarely equipped its fighters with necessities, even after repeated communications of the problems and requests by soldiers and their leaders;
*the USA has a record of betraying its fighters to the enemy, such as in Vietnam and the USS Liberty;
*the USA, since at least Korea, has treated its veterans horribly and dishonorably.
(I know, that’s probably not what you learned in history class, unless you took it from me.)

So, were anyone from the USA to choose to not be forcefully drafted, especially to fight in a foreign country, it’s clear that this person might be extremely patriotic and freedom-loving, maybe even more than those who would go. It’s an injustice to judge someone on just this issue, especially by trying to rely on the Book of Mormon for support.

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