“Moroni the Man, Pahoran the Propagandist:
A Hidden Lesson for Modern-Day Readers of the Book of Mormon”
Author’s note: Due to the sometimes intense reactions that this paper seems to produce, probably due to the church history of the topic and the article’s conclusion, I have included lots of Book of Mormon quotes in this article, to provide a very detailed reading and more complete picture, to show that it’s all in the text. For those who are already quite familiar with the Book of Mormon, it should be sufficient to read the bold print in the quotes, or perhaps even skip some. Just that even with the quotes, it’s difficult for some people to see or understand. For example, one author who has published many Book of Mormon articles–right after complaining that there were too many quotations in the article–told me, “I can’t see the text supporting your hypothesis in this article.” Of course, maybe leaving all the quotes still won’t help some people see it ( :-( ).
Please excuse some parts of my format, and especially the footnotes (all of which I got off the internet–I’m writing for fun, in a place with no library nearby (especially Church books), etc.)
MORONI THE MAN, PAHORAN THE PROPAGANDIST
What is Said about Captain Moroni
In a review of literature and member’s thoughts (ranging from General Authorities to lay members) regarding the epistles written between Captain Moroni and Pahoran, the following is found about Moroni and his epistle:
“complaining, harsh language, accusing, unjustified, scolding (1); had it all wrong (2); scathing, angry, blistering (3); accused Pahoran of being iniquitous (4); mistakenly reproving (6); appears as a very tired commander, deplorable political blunder, seethes with … resentment, passing judgment with a peevish and quite unjustified charge of negligence, charged, serious (, but … worse to come), pent-up emotions, frustrated, piles one accusation on another, even goes so far …, worse still, grave charge of treason, scathingly sarcastic, flat accusation, fling a challenge, placing the blame (squarely on those to whom he is writing), bursting with pent-up emotions, goes all out, accused the wrong man, withering onslaught (7); very caustic; demanding (8); censure, complains, threatens (9); on his high horse, blows his top, very indiscreet, had it all wrong (10); very intense and very single-minded, nasty, didn’t apologize (11); [falsely accuses] (12); only thinks he was in the right (so, his anger was unrighteous anger) (13); speaks very harsh, (inappropriate) threats, harsh (14); underinformed (15); murmuring (16); really nasty, accuses him of treason (17); wrote stinging rebuke and threat (18); epistle of condemnation (19); unjustly accuse (20); mistakingly reproving (21); uses some rather harsh words, lengthy complaint (22); vulnerable to error, criticizing… harshly, accused, long letter criticizing, threatening, harsh judgment, unjustly criticized (23), accused, not at all politically correct, [un]tactful, went so far as to threaten the life of his commander and chief; accus[ing] (24); state of aggravation and frustration, questioned, threatened (25); subtly suggesting, blunt threat, written in passion, and without careful planning, harsh (and false) accusation, personal insult [to Pahoran] (26).” (see Sources in Appendix).
What is Said about Pahoran
On the other hand, these are some of the ways Pahoran’s reply is described:
“very patriotic, though censured, not angry; even praised [Moroni] (1); powerful example of self-control and meekness (2); without a trace of bitterness or defensiveness, devastating position, wrongly blamed, to his distinct credit; outstanding reply, impressive reply (3); not iniquitous (4); noble (5); wrongly accused, worthy; wise, temperate, constructive reply, didn’t get on his high horse, didn’t resent, understands perfectly, rejoices in Moroni’s greatness (7); noble and patriotic reply, conciliatory and lovely in spirit (9); [didn’t counter] with anger; healing, falsely accused (12); [tells] the truth (13); forgiving (14); sweet and generous response (15); touched; remarkable mildness; wrongly blamed (18); patriotic reply (19); nobility of soul not to condemn when he was very unjustly accused; served selflessly (20); wisdom and restraint, cordial and composed; remarkable example, some might say [he] would have been justified in responding harshly, love and respect, desire to understand, self-control, replaces anger with kindness, unjustly accused (22); restraint, understood, not offended, he understood and rejoiced in Moroni’s righteous intentions (23); must have bristled over Moroni’s accusation of disloyalty, the passions of righteous indignation must have boiled within him, shows no more than a hint of this emotion and it is a model for all who might be wrongfully accused (24); if ever one had cause to feel defensive for being falsely accused, it was Pahoran, a masterpiece of self-restraint and patience, rather than returning complaint for complaint, he calmly and kindly explained, patient response, surely…pleasing to Heavenly Father (25); designed to give Moroni immediate comfort for his grave concerns, explains the real conditions, quite well crafted (sic), well thought out (sic), took time to understand [Moroni’s epistle], very calm and conciliatory, careful not to demonstrate any personal hurt, skips over personal insult as if it did not matter, focuses on the important aspects (26).” (see Sources in Appendix).
Moroni’s epistle prompts Pahoran to write a noble and patriotic reply, conciliatory and lovely in spirit (Alma 61:2—21). Types of Literature in the Book of Mormon: Epistles, Psalms, Lamentations Sidney B. Sperry
Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Volume – 4, Issue – 1, Pages: 69-80
Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 1995 http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=4&num=1&id=80
There is only one author who included something good about Moroni in his treatise; but then he seemed to turn right around and forget it later. Of the comments above, all of those which had been made by general authorities have appeared in the Ensign; most of the rest have been printed in other publications some church members might have seen (Deseret Book books, Mormon internet magazines, gospel CD’s, etc.); and a few seem to appear only on their own internet site. It is regularly taught in church, and I think it quite safe to say that the majority of church members believe the above descriptions to be accurate and truthful. We have the picture of an ungodly, anger-from-the-devil Moroni and a wronged pious, forgiving, valiant Pahoran. However, by following Mormon’s clues and hints, the Book of Mormon actually leads us to a very different conclusion, which teaches us a few lessons that are extremely pertinent for our days.
THE SITUATION PREVIOUS TO THE EPISTLES
What was the situation previous to Moroni’s epistle?
(For those of you familiar with it or in a rush, you may skip the first few paragraphs of this part. Basically, the Nephites were getting exhausted in many ways, and getting killed.)
From the start of the war till the writing of Moroni’s epistle is about five years. During all this time, not once is there mention of Nephite superiority, especially by number. (Of course, this never is the case.) In fact, it is quite the opposite. The Nephites never have enough men, supplies, or reinforcements. Battles are won by Nephite stratagem and Lamanite fear and surrender. It seems that the Lamanites win every single battle, up until meeting with Teancum. But here they are not defeated; only opposed and stopped in their progress. Though we don’t read of epistles requesting Pahoran and his men to send provisions and men, we see, scattered throughout the record, the circumstances that Moroni and the Nephite armies are in:
“…Amalickiah had gathered together a wonderfully great army, insomuch that he feared not to come down to the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 51:11).
“And it came to pass that the Nephites were not sufficiently strong in the city of Moroni; therefore Amalickiah did drive them, slaying many…” (Alma 51:23).
“And thus had the Lamanites obtained, by the cunning of Amalickiah, so many cities, by their numberless hosts…” (Alma 51:27).
“And it came to pass that they marched to the borders of the land Bountiful, driving the Nephites before them and slaying many” (Alma 51:28).
“And now, Teancum saw that the Lamanites were determined to maintain those cities which they had taken, and those parts of the land which they had obtained possession of; and also seeing the enormity of their number, Teancum thought it was not expedient that he should attempt to attack them in their forts” (Alma 52:5).
“And it came to pass that he kept thus preparing for war until Moroni had sent a large number of men to strengthen his army” (Alma 52:7).
“And [Moroni] also said unto [Teancum], I would come unto you, but behold, the Lamanites are upon us in the borders of the land by the west sea; and behold, I go against them, therefore I cannot come unto you” (Alma 52:11).
“And thus were the Nephites in those dangerous circumstances in the ending of the twenty and sixth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi” (Alma 52:14).
“… Now Moroni was compelled to cause the Lamanites to labor, because it was easy to guard them while at their labor; and he desired all his forces when he should make an attack upon the Lamanites” (Alma 53:5).
“And it came to pass that he did no more attempt a battle with the Lamanites in that year, but he did employ his men in preparing for war, yea, and in making fortifications to guard against the Lamanites, yea, and also delivering their women and their children from famine and affliction, and providing food for their armies” (Alma 53:7).
And speaking about the people of Ammon:
“But it came to pass that when they saw the danger, and the many afflictions and tribulations which the Nephites bore for them…” (Alma 53:13).
“…they (the two thousand stripling warriors) never had hitherto been a disadvantage to the Nephites, they became now at this period of time also a great support…” (Alma 53:19).
“And it came to pass that Moroni felt to rejoice exceedingly at this request [to exchange prisoners], for he desired the provisions which were imparted for the support of the Lamanite prisoners for the support of his own people; and he also desired his own people for the strengthening of his army” (Alma 54:2).
The Nephites win a major battle, and begin to be victorious (Alma 55:27, 28); yet the Lamanites do not falter:
“And [the Lamanites] were continually bringing new forces into that city, and also new supplies of provisions” (Alma 55:34).
“And I [Helaman] did join my two thousand sons…to the army of Antipus, in which strength Antipus did rejoice exceedingly; for behold, his army had been reduced by the Lamanites because their forces had slain a vast number of our men…” (Alma 56:10).
Helaman recounts the cities taken by the Lamanites, saying:
“…these are the cities of which the Lamanites have obtained possession by the shedding of the blood of so many of our valiant men…” (Alma 56:13).
Then he says that when he and his boys arrived at the city,
“…I found Antipus and his men toiling with their might to fortify the city.”
“Yea, and they were depressed in body as well as in spirit, for they had fought valiantly by day and toiled by night to maintain their cities; and thus they had suffered great afflictions of every kind.”
“And now they were determined to conquer in this place or die; therefore you may well suppose that this little force which I brought with me, yea, those sons of mine, gave them great hopes and much joy” (Alma 56:15-17).
Two thousand unproven boys becomes a “great support”? What conditions the Nephites must have really been in!
So, from all this we understand that the Lamanite armies were much bigger, and seemed to have all the provisions they needed, while the Nephites were continually short of both supplies and men.
Then, from Helaman, we learn that at the beginning of the 29th year, there were many provisions and 6,000 men sent to Helaman (Alma 57:6). This is a big help; in fact, Helaman now calls their troops a “strong force” (Alma 57:8). But, we read that the provisions were “not any more than sufficient” (Alma 57:15). And the Lamanites are also continually receiving provisions and reinforcements (Alma 57:17), and after just one battle–one serious battle that almost spelled defeat for the whole quarter–Helaman writes that they had “suffered great loss” (Alma 57:23)–at least one thousand men were killed (Alma 57:26). Now, Helaman’s “strong force” becomes “small bands” (Alma 58:1), and “[the Lamanites] were so much more numerous than was our army” (Alma 58:2). So, Helaman sends a epistle to Pahoran and asks for men and supplies (Alma 58:4). While waiting, he says that “the Lamanites were also receiving great strength from day to day, and also many provisions…” (Alma 58:5) He and his men wait in “difficult circumstances” for “many months”, without help, even until they are “about to perish for the want of food” (Alma 58:7). Not just a few weeks or a month or a few months, but many months. Then, finally, some food and 2,000 men arrive (Alma 58:8), hardly enough to provide strong support. In fact, Helaman talks about “embarassments” (Alma 58:8). And, somehow, the men who just arrived didn’t know the situation back home either, and why there weren’t more men and supplies (Alma 58:9). If it was, as Pahoran writes, because the freemen were so daunted by the king-men that they didn’t dare go (Alma 61:4), why did these men come, and how did they not know the situation? Helaman calls the Lamanite armies at this time as “innumerable” (Alma 58:8). Helaman doesn’t know the situation in Zarahemla (Alma 58:9, 34) and finally, Helaman suggests to Moroni that there is a faction in the government (Alma 58:36).
Then happens the event that pushes Moroni to write his epistle: the Lamanite recapture of the city of Nephihah. The city of Nephihah had been taken by the Lamanites early in the war (Alma 51:24, 26). However, it seems the Nephites have already retaken it by the time of Alma 56:25, for we read that the Lamanites “…durst (not) …march down against the city of Zarahemla; neither durst they cross the head of Sidon, over to the city of Nephihah.”
Helaman writes that the Lamanites have left that area of the land (Alma 58:30), and says: “…those cities which had been taken by the Lamanites, all of them are at this period of time in our possession…”
“But behold, our armies are small to maintain so great a number of cities and so great possessions.”
“But behold, we trust in our God who has given us victory over those lands, insomuch that we have obtained those cities and those lands, which were our own” (Alma 58:31-33).
So, the city is back in the hands of Helaman for sure at this time. Immediately after receiving Helaman’s epistle, Moroni sends a epistle to Pahoran and asks him to send help to Helaman. But, nothing happens. No help, no reply–nothing. The armies are left stranded and cut off in every way, and on all sides. In these circumstances, the city of Nephihah is taken by the Lamanites again, this time with an “exceedingly great slaughter”: “And thus being exceedingly numerous, yea, and receiving strength from day to day, by the command of Ammoron [the Lamanites] came forth against the people of Nephihah, and they did begin to slay them with an exceedingly great slaughter.”
“And their armies were so numerous that the remainder of the people of Nephihah were obliged to flee before them; and they came even and joined the army of Moroni.” (Alma 59:7-8).
Why was the city so unprotected, resulting in the deaths of so many?
“And now as Moroni had supposed that [the government] should (have sent men) to the city of Nephihah, to the assistance of the people to maintain that city…”
“Therefore he retained all his force to maintain those places which he had recovered.”
“And now, when Moroni saw that the city of Nephihah was lost he was exceedingly sorrowful, and began to doubt, because of the wickedness of the people, whether they should not fall into the hands of their brethren.”
“Now this was the case with all his chief captains. They doubted and marveled also because of the wickedness of the people, and this because of the success of the Lamanites over them.”
“And it came to pass that Moroni was angry with the government, because of their indifference concerning the freedom of their country” (Alma 59:9-13).
Right when there had been some progress, with the little forces and supplies that they had, a major city is lost again, with a great slaughter. The wounded, the suffering, the desolated families, those who could escape–with all their blood and cries–stagger into his area and, like a broken record, recount the tale of horror–one that, by now, has been going on for too long. Captain Moroni does not feel anger; he does not worry that the Lamanites showed him up; he is not on some high horse. He is exceedingly sorrowful. His people have just been killed. His people are losing their lives, but worse, they are losing their spiritual lives. Captain Moroni is not happy. Why was the city of Nephihah lost? Was it only the government’s fault? Note that even in such circumstances and anger, Moroni still does not jump right on the government and blame them for every Nephite problem, for every Nephite loss. Moroni and all his chief captains know the true, deeper answer: the Nephites, as a people, were wicked. This is the prophecy given to Nephi:
“For behold, in that day that they (the Lamanites) shall rebel against me, I will curse them even with a sore curse, and they shall have no power over thy seed except [thy seed] shall rebel against me also.”
“And if it so be that they rebel against me, [the Lamanites] shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in the ways of remembrance” (1 Nephi 2:23-24).
However, notwithstanding this fact, and knowing the importance of the government and the oath of the chief judge, Moroni had expected that the government would have sent men to support the armies. Pahoran had received a report from Helaman and Moroni both, probably requesting the similar things, yet nothing had been done. When Moroni finds out that Pahoran and the others hadn’t helped, he is angry, and writes his epistle. This is not a quick venting of anger, desperation, or frustration, nor a slow seething anger of hate; but, there had been too many problems, too much suffering by too many Nephites, too little help, too much being stranded, too little leadership from the government–from the beginning of the war up until the present time–a period of about five years–with only a few noted exceptions. The Nephites in the areas of the war were always outnumbered, always hungry, always working very hard, being injured and slain, etc.
Lastly, Mormon, our abridger, who also understands the situations and problems that can occur during war, and who has the more full records of the Nephites, writes that “Moroni was angry with the government, because of their indifference concerning the freedom of their country” (Alma 59:13). Notice, he does not write “their seeming indifference” or such, but “indifference.”
CAPTAIN MORONI’S EPISTLE
So, what does Moroni’s epistle say? Moroni directs the epistle to Pahoran, “and also to all those who have been chosen by this people to govern and manage the affairs of this war” (Alma 60:1). Throughout his entire epistle, Moroni writes to this same audience. In his epistle, Moroni has one main question: why? In addition, he:
1. reminds them of their duties that they had agreed to abide by;
2. explains the great sufferings of the soldiers and the peoples;
3. says none of them he is writing to has explained any reason to him;
4. reminded them that there is a real war going on, and real people dying;
5. rebukes them for neglect and lack of diligence in their duties;
6. tells them that actions are necessary to survive;
7. fears the Nephites will be destroyed, because of their wickedness, and the slothfulness of the government;
8. traces the origin of the problems, and the cause of some of the current problems, back to the king-men;
9. admits his lack of information about the current state of the government, and the possibility that they are traitors, or less;
10. reinforces the need for the government to act to save the people;
11. says that God will not hold them guiltless if they continue to fail in their duties;
12. explains that “except ye do repent of that which ye have done, and begin to be up and doing, and send forth food and men unto us, and also unto Helaman…behold it will be expedient that we contend no more with the Lamanites until we have first cleansed our inward vessel, yea, even the great head of our government” (Alma 60:24).
13. he continues: “And except ye grant mine epistle, and come out and show unto me a true spirit of freedom, and strive to strengthen and fortify our armies, and grant unto them food for their support, behold I will leave a part of my freemen…And I will come unto you, and if there be any among you that has a desire for freedom, yea, if there be even a spark of freedom remaining, behold I will stir up insurrections among you, even until those who have desires to usurp power and authority shall become extinct” (Alma 60:25). 13. then explains that “…it is because of your iniquity that we have suffered so much loss” (Alma 60:28).
14. then tells them what will be the result of their failure to repent: “Behold it is time, yea, the time is now at hand, that except ye do bestir yourselves in the defence of your country and your little ones, the sword of justice doth hang over you; yea, and it shall fall upon you and visit you even to your utter destruction” (Alma 60:29).
15. reminds them that if they can’t do the job, they shouldn’t be in the position:
“Behold, I wait for assistance from you; and, except ye do administer unto our relief, behold, I come unto you, even in the land of Zarahemla, and smite you with the sword, insomuch that ye can have no more power to impede the progress of this people in the cause of our freedom” (Alma 60:30).
16. prophesies that “…the Lord will not suffer that ye shall live and wax strong in your iniquities to destroy his righteous people” (Alma 60:31). Note Moroni’s language: “For behold, the Lord will not suffer that ye shall live and wax strong in your iniquities to destroy his righteous people.”
“Behold, can you suppose that the Lord will spare you and come out in judgment against the Lamanites, when it is the tradition of their fathers that has caused their hatred, yea, and it has been redoubled by those who have dissented from us, while your iniquity is for the cause of your love of glory and the vain things of the world?” (Alma 60:31-32).
Compare this to Alma’s, when Alma was preaching to the people of Ammonihah:
“But behold, I say unto you that if ye persist in your wickedness that your days shall not be prolonged in the land, for the Lamanites shall be sent upon you; and if ye repent not they shall come in a time when you know not, and ye shall be visited with utter destruction; and it shall be according to the fierce anger of the Lord” (Alma 9:18).
“For he will not suffer you that ye shall live in your iniquities, to destroy his people. I say unto you, Nay; he would rather suffer that the Lamanites might destroy all his people who are called the people of Nephi, if it were possible that they could fall into sins and transgressions, after having had so much light and so much knowledge given unto them of the Lord their God” (Alma 9:19);
Alma then explains what he means by “so much light and knowledge”, then says:
“And now behold I say unto you, that if this people, who have received so many blessings from the hand of the Lord, should transgress contrary to the light and knowledge which they do have, I say unto you that if this be the case, that if they should fall into transgression, it would be far more tolerable for the Lamanites than for them” (Alma 9:23).
“For behold, the promises of the Lord are extended to the Lamanites, but they are not unto you if ye transgress; for has not the Lord expressly promised and firmly decreed, that if ye will rebel against him that ye shall utterly be destroyed from off the face of the earth” (Alma 9:24)?
Note what follows, from Moroni and Alma, respectively:
“Ye know that ye do transgress the laws of God, and ye do know that ye do trample them under your feet. Behold, the Lord saith unto me: If those whom ye have appointed your governors do not repent of their sins and iniquities, ye shall go up to battle against them” (Alma 60:33).
“And now for this cause, that ye may not be destroyed, the Lord has sent his angel to visit many of his people, declaring unto them that they must go forth and cry mightily unto this people, saying: Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is nigh at hand…” (Alma 9:25).
17. at this point, says something that some might call unrighteous condemnation:
“…your iniquity is for the cause of your love of glory and the vain things of the world… (Alma 60:32). Ye know that ye do transgress the laws of God, and ye do know that ye do trample them under your feet…” (Alma 60:33).
18. then explains why he said this: “Behold, the Lord saith unto me: If those whom ye have appointed your governors do not repent of their sins and iniquities, ye shall go up to battle against them” (Alma 60:34).
19. explains what he will do and why: “And now behold, I, Moroni, am constrained, according to the covenant which I have made to keep the commandments of my God; therefore I would that ye should adhere to the word of God, and send speedily unto me of your provisions and of your men, and also to Helaman” (Alma 60:35).
20. explains that a lack of cooperation from the government will result in this:
“And behold, if ye will not do this I come unto you speedily; for behold, God will not suffer that we should perish with hunger; therefore he will give unto us of your food, even if it must be by the sword.
21. admonishes them, “Now see that ye fulfil the word of God” (Alma 60:36).
Captain Moroni knows that Pahoran received a report from Helaman, (Alma 58:4) in which no doubt the miraculous warriors’ stories were related. Moroni refers to the success of Helaman and his stripling warriors as a foil to Pahoran and the Nephites he rules over. Helaman led and commanded in righteousness and cared for his men, and they obeyed him exactly, and were all saved–not even one died. On the other hand, thousands of Pahoran’s people are lying dead all over, all around, and many more are going to be there very shortly. Pahoran and/ or the government leaders might think or say, “I am leading and upholding my end of my oath as leader, but they aren’t following, so that’s why they are dead”; but Moroni makes it clear that the main reason the slain are dead is not because they were wicked or disobedient to their righteous leaders; it is because their leaders failed to do their part.
The government’s main sins were slothfulness, neglect, and idleness, and possibly more. Moroni lets them know that if they were to continue like so, the war would, in a short moment, become very real for them, just as it has been very real for many people and the soldiers for a long time. How did Moroni know that they were guilty of any sins? Did he really know that? Why does he threaten them like that?
Mormon tell us, when praising Captain Moroni, that:
“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” (Alma 48:15),
“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; not in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity” (Alma 48:16).
As Captain Moroni says, God has made it known to him, what he should do:
“Behold, THE LORD SAITH UNTO ME: If those whom ye have appointed your governors do not repent of their sins and iniquities, YE SHALL GO UP TO BATTLE AGAINST THEM” (Alma 60:34).
Alma 60:25 And except ye grant mine epistle, and come out and show unto me a true spirit of freedom, and strive to strengthen and fortify our armies, and grant unto them food for their support, behold I will leave a part of my freemen to maintain this part of our land, AND I WILL LEAVE THE STRENGTH AND THE BLESSINGS OF GOD UPON THEM, THAT NONE OTHER POWER CAN OPERATE AGAINST THEM–
Alma 60:29 Behold it is time, yea, the time is now at hand, that except ye do bestir yourselves in the defence of your country and your little ones, THE SWORD OF JUSTICE DOTH HANG OVER YOU; yea, and it shall fall upon you and visit you even to your utter destruction. (That phrase is used to mean divine judgment.)
Alma 60:30 Behold, I wait for assistance from you; and, except ye do administer unto our relief, behold, I come unto you, even in the land of Zarahemla, and smite you with the sword, insomuch that ye can have no more power to impede the progress of this people in the cause of our freedom.
Alma 60:31 For behold, THE LORD WILL NOT SUFFER THAT YE SHALL LIVE AND WAX STRONG IN YOUR INIQUITIES TO DESTROY HIS RIGHTEOUS PEOPLE.
Alma 60:34 And now behold, I, Moroni, am constrained, according to the covenant which I have made to keep the commandments of my God; therefore I WOULD THAT YE SHOULD ADHERE TO THE WORD OF GOD, AND SEND SPEEDILY UNTO ME OF YOUR PROVISIONS AND OF YOUR MEN, AND ALSO TO HELAMAN.
Alma 60:35 And behold, IF YE WILL NOT DO THIS I COME UNTO YOU SPEEDILY; FOR BEHOLD, GOD WILL NOT SUFFER THAT WE SHOULD PERISH WITH HUNGER; THEREFORE HE WILL GIVE UNTO US OF YOUR FOOD, EVEN IF IT MUST BE BY THE SWORD. NOW SEE THAT YE FULFIL THE WORD OF GOD.
The Nephite leaders have become the enemy. Moroni needs to cleanse the inner vessel–this was the way that the Lord would deliver them. Moroni uses a play on words–“cleanse the inner/ inward vessel”–to signify that both the figurative and literal interpretations are actually the same solution to the Nephites’ problem–“the inner vessel” meaning both the righteousness of the Nephites, and wicked Pahoran and his fellows who are safe from the Lamanites in the inner part of the land.
Moroni clearly speaks in the name of God. Would Moroni be so bold as to speak in God’s name untruthfully, committing blasphemy? So, either Moroni is a liar, or Pahoran is a liar.
Yet, why is it hard to accept that Moroni speaks by, or for, God? Only because of Pahoran’s letter and lack of direct editorial commentation.
Suddenly, we now have communication from Pahoran! And why hadn’t Pahoran sent an epistle any time over the years before that, at least to explain the situation to the chief commander of the army? It’s not clear; he doesn’t say.
Pahoran has a great plan. Let’s take a look at it:
Alma 61:14 Therefore, (1) my beloved brother, Moroni, let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, (2) let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God.
Alma 61:15 Therefore, (3) come unto me speedily with a few of your men, and (4) leave the remainder in the charge of Lehi and Teancum; (5) give unto them power to conduct the war in that part of the land, according to the Spirit of God, which is also the (6) Spirit of freedom which is in them.
Alma 61:16 Behold (7) I have sent a few provisions unto them, that they may not perish until ye can come unto me.
Alma 16:17 (8) gather together whatsoever force ye can upon your march hither, and (9) we will go speedily against those dissenters, (10) in the strength of our God according to the faith which is in us.
Alma 61:18 And (11) we will take possession of the city of Zarahemla, that (12) we may obtain more food to send forth unto Lehi and Teancum; yea, we will go forth against them in the strength of the Lord, and (13) we will put an end to this great iniquity.
Alma 61:21 See that ye (14) strengthen Lehi and Teancum in the Lord; (15) tell them to fear not, for God will deliver them, yea, and also all those who stand fast in that liberty wherewith God hath made them free.
Hey, wait a moment–this all sounds familiar. Let’s stop and take another look at Moroni’s epistle:
Alma 60:10 And now, (1) my beloved brethren–for ye ought to be beloved…
Alma 60:16 …yea, if we had gone forth against them (10) in the strength of the Lord, we should have dispersed our enemies, for it would have been done, according to the fulfilling of his word.
Alma 60:25 And except ye grant mine epistle, and come out and show unto me a true (6) spirit of freedom, and strive to strengthen and fortify our armies, and (7, 12) grant unto them food for their support, behold (4, 14) I will leave a part of my freemen to maintain this part of our land, and (5, 15) I will leave the strength and the blessings of God upon them, that none other power can operate against them–
Alma 60:26 And this because of their (10) exceeding faith, and their patience in their tribulations–
Alma 60:27 And (3) I will come unto you, and (6, 8) if there be any among you that has a desire for freedom, yea, if there be even a spark of freedom remaining, behold (2, 8) I will stir up insurrections among you, even (9, 13) until those who have desires to usurp power and authority shall become extinct.
Alma 60:30 Behold, (7, 12 ) I wait for assistance from you; and, except ye do administer unto our relief, behold, (11) I come unto you, even in the land of Zarahemla, and (2) smite you with the sword, insomuch that ye can have no more power to impede the progress of this people in the cause of our freedom.
Alma 60:33 Ye know that ye do transgress the laws of God, and ye do know that ye do trample them under your feet. Behold, the Lord saith unto me: (9, 13) If those whom ye have appointed your governors do not repent of their sins and iniquities, ye shall go up to battle against them.
Alma 60:34 …therefore I would that ye should adhere to the word of God, and (7, 12) send speedily unto me of your provisions and of your men, and also to Helaman.
Alma 60:35 And behold, if ye will not do this (3) I come unto you speedily; for behold, God will not suffer that we should perish with hunger; (12) therefore he will give unto us of your food, even if it must be by the sword. Now see that ye fulfil the word of God.
Notice how nicely Pahoran’s epistle matches up to Moroni’s? His great “plan” is taken straight from Moroni’s epistle. If Pahoran’s purposes are only upright and outstanding ones, why does he use so much of the same or very similar wording, and plagiarize Moroni’s plan, as if it were his own, but just change the “bad” people in it from himself and other officials, to the king-men?
The most important thing about Pahoran’s response is something that is not there: a deep apology of serious regret and repentance–even if he had truly had nothing to be blamed for. Pahoran blames the king men for everything (Alma 61:3-4). Granted, at the very beginning, he does say: “I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul” (Alma 61:2). But then, he immediately goes straight to the king-men and the current situation. The past, along with all the governments’ sins and mistakes, is not just glossed over–it’s completely ignored! There is no answer, not even in the smallest part, to respond to Moroni’s many askings of “why?”.
While Moroni wants to know “why?” and talks about the moral and religious issues of death, responsibility, and repentance, Pahoran avoids these issues altogether. In fact, after just one verse of “so sorry” to assuage Moroni’s temper towards him, Pahoran jumps right into strongly goading Moroni into anger against the king-men, right away pointing all ten fingers of blame at the king-men (the scapegoats) with an urgency that makes others forget all other issues: “there are those who do joy in your afflictions” (Alma 61:3). And, in fact, Moroni and his men do seem to forget.
And notice the overfluousness of positive, gun-ho, religious synonyms and groupings: “freemen” (Alma 61:3), (others have been the cause of) great iniquity” (Alma 61:4), “in the defence of their country and their freedom”, and “to avenge our wrongs” (Alma 61:6), “rejoice in the greatness of your heart”, “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” (Alma 61:9); “resist wickedness” (61:10), “our trust in him”, and “he will deliver us” (Alma 61:13), “resist evil…that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God” (Alma 61:14); “according to the Spirit of God, which is also the Spirit of freedom which is in them” (Alma 61:15); “in the strength of our God according to the faith which is in us” (61:17); “we will go forth against them in the strength of the Lord, and we will put an end to this great iniquity” (Alma 61:18); “God will deliver them, yea, and also all those who stand fast in that liberty wherewith God hath made them free” (Alma 61:21). Pahoran’s short epistle contains more of these types of references than Moroni’s; and yet, it seems to be missing any thing that might be called the power and authority of God and a testimony of the Spirit, or even a real purpose for having been put in the epistle. In other words, it is not just a very patriotic reply; it seems too patriotic, too overly patriotic. Such a positive, faith-promoting, emotionally-charged response, coming at the end of years of deathly silence, is quite drastic and suspicious.
There’s another word for this sort of thing: propaganda (27). Pahoran’s letter is full of propaganda–it uses tricky and deceitful ways to persuade Moroni to believe and act the way Pahoran wants him to. Some of the ways are this: Glittering Generality and Name-Calling (such as using words that deliver states of high positive emotion and blaming all the problems on those bad king-men), Transfer (using Moroni’s own plan and words, such as “beloved brother” and references to God and freedom), Testimonial (I am gathering a strong force of freedom fighters, so you just know I couldn’t have ever guilty of anything), Plain Folks (darn, I’ve got problems myself, just like you–never mind they pale in comparison–I just want to be a poor old chief judge, that’s all, but those bad king-men won’t let me), Fear (the rebels and the Lamanites, aren’t you worried and angry?, let’s get them like this, we can do it), and Band Wagon (God, Lehi, Teancum, freedom fighters, me, you, everyone you can gather on your way here). (Treating this subject of how Pahoran’s epistle constitutes propaganda would require another article; suffice it to say for our purposes, it clearly fits the bill.)
Is it possible that Pahoran also relied on or borrowed from Helaman’s epistle, to increase the propaganda power of Transfer and unity/ team-building between Helaman, Moroni, and himself? Though this proposition seems likely to be speculation, Helaman had written both to Moroni and Pahoran; one would assume the epistles were at least similar. Helaman writes:
“But behold, they have received many wounds; nevertheless they stand fast in that liberty wherewith God has made them free; and they are strict to remember the Lord their God from day to day; yea, they do observe to keep his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments continually; and their faith is strong in the prophecies concerning that which is to come” (Alma 58:40).
“… 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” (Alma 61:9).
See that ye strengthen Lehi and Teancum in the Lord; tell them to fear not, for God will deliver them, yea, and also all those who stand fast in that liberty wherewith God hath made them free. And now I close mine epistle to my beloved brother, Moroni” (Alma 61:21).
In only one other place in the Book of Mormon does this phrase occur–when Alma tells his people:
“And now as ye have been delivered by the power of God out of these bonds; yea, even out of the hands of king Noah and his people, and also from the bonds of iniquity, even so I desire that ye should stand fast in this liberty wherewith ye have been made free, and that ye trust no man to be a king over you.” (Mosiah 23:13).
Anything else, possibly? Helaman writes:
“But behold, we trust in our God who has given us victory over those lands…which were our own” (Alma 58:33).
“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.
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.
But I would not suffer them that they should break this covenant which they had made, supposing that God would strengthen us, insomuch that we should not suffer more because of the fulfilling the oath which they had taken.
But behold, to my great joy, there had not one soul of them fallen to the earth; yea, and they had fought as if with the strength of God; yea, never were men known to have fought with such miraculous strength; and with such mighty power did they fall upon the Lamanites, that they did frighten them; and for this cause did the Lamanites deliver themselves up as prisoners of war.
Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, yea, and also give us strength that we might retain our cities, and our lands, and our possessions, for the support of our people.
“But behold [God] doth not command us that we shall subject ourselves to our enemies, but that we should put our trust in him, and he will deliver us.”
“See that ye strengthen Lehi and Teancum in the Lord; tell them to fear not, for God will deliver them, yea, and also all those who stand fast in that liberty wherewith God hath made them free. And now I close mine epistle to my beloved brother, Moroni.”
Gather together whatsoever force ye can upon your march hither, and we will go speedily against those dissenters, in the strength of our God according to the faith which is in us.
And we will take possession of the city of Zarahemla, that we may obtain more food to send forth unto Lehi and Teancum; yea, we will go forth against them in the strength of the Lord, and we will put an end to this great iniquity.
So, some phrases are similar, though we don’t know if Pahoran actually used Helaman’s words.
Pahoran says, “… 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” (Alma 61:9). This sounds as if he was preserving the rights and the liberty of his people when he had been in the judgment-seat before; yet, though he had already had a few years to do so, the current problem was largely to blame on his not having done just that.
It is strange that Pahoran only worries about sending provisions to Moroni’s men–Lehi and Teancum–even though Pahoran had already long received three epistles from the military requesting aid for Helaman and his men: from Helaman himself (Alma 58:4), in Moroni’s first epistle of request for support for Helaman (Alma 59:3), and THREE times in Moroni’s main epistle (Alma 60:3, 24, and 34). So why does Pahoran tell Moroni (Alma 61:15-16) he has sent men and provisions to Lehi and Teancum, but not to Helaman? Does Pahoran fear he would be putting his own life in danger by not having enough protection, if he sent men to Helaman, even though Helaman and his men, and many other Nephites had been killed and were still in severe danger because they lacked this support? Yet, that he must send some things, not men, to Lehi and Teancum, to at least hopefully appease Moroni? Do fear and selfishness motivate him? But then, weren’t men, as he had written, flocking to him daily? And then why does Pahoran tell Moroni that “…we will take possession of the city of Zarahemla, that we may obtain more food to send forth unto Lehi and Teancum…” (Alma 61:18). Again, what about Helaman? Possibly to his credit, though, perhaps Helaman had written him and told him that he and his men trusted God would still deliver them; and Pahoran might have also interpreted the words of Moroni, that the most important matter was to take care of the government problem (Alma 60:23), as meaning to keep the men for the main problem first.
And how long has the rebellion Pahoran writes about been going on? How long has there been this major problem of a king in Zarahemla? This is also left unexplained. He starts by saying that the rebels are “exceedingly numerous” (Alma 61:3); but after getting kicked out of Zarahemla and fleeing to the land of Gideon, he has “…sent a proclamation throughout this part of the land; and behold, they are flocking to us daily, to their arms, in the defence of their country and their freedom, and to avenge our wrongs. And they have come unto us, insomuch that those who have risen up in rebellion against us are set at defiance, yea, insomuch that they do fear us and durst not come out against us to battle” (Alma 61:6-7). He tells Moroni to “Gather together whatsoever force ye can upon your march hither, and we will go speedily against those dissenters… (Alma 61:17). This sounds like all the freemen have already gathered to Pahoran, due to his diligence and hustle-bustle. But, had Pahoran been so outnumbered, and the gathering been going on slowly for a while, wouldn’t the rebels have attacked long ago, instead of waiting? It sounds like the fleeing and the gathering were so quick, the rebels hadn’t had time to react; if they were then set at defiance, wouldn’t all the continuing daily flocking over a long period of time give Pahoran a much superior force? Also, by what happens later–when Moroni raises the standard of liberty and gains thousands on his march to Gideon (Alma 62:5)–it seems as if this all-out rebellion and Pahoran’s call-to-arms has actually only been in existence for a week or two, at the most a month. So what about all the previous months? What about all the previous years? Yet Pahoran makes as if this had been the state of affairs for the whole time: “they have withheld our provisions, and have daunted our freemen that they have not come unto you” (Alma 61:4).
What was that? “Our provisions”? “Our freemen”? No, Pahoran! Moroni’s and the other soldiers’ provisions, and reinforcements–not yours. You never suffered from lack of provisions, and only lack of men after years.
Pahoran also writes, “I am not angry” (Alma 61:9). What?! Yeah, as the only way he could be angry would be if he were either completely NOT guilty of everything that Moroni accused him of, or completely guilty and not willing to repent, such as we see with Ammoron, in the case of his exchange of epistles with Moroni (see Alma 54:15).
Pahoran’s “Righteous” Excuse a Lie or Cowardly At Best
Towards the very end of his epistle, Pahoran finally, finally admits a hint of uncertainty and stalling (Alma 61:19)–just a tad bit of “perhaps a little of this is my fault”. His excuse for not having acted previously is this: “And now, Moroni, I do joy in receiving your epistle, for I was somewhat worried concerning what we should do, whether it should be just in us to go against our brethren” (Alma 61:19). (Wow! Pahoran has just gone from a magnimonious “not angry” (because of your epistle) to “joy” (for having received it).) This seems like a guy who doesn’t want to do wrong; who is very peace-loving. His excuse sounds good. Unfortunately for him, there had already been a few recent precedents–mostly very recent precedents–that he must have been aware of.
The first big test of the new form of government of judges–of which Pahoran was a receiver–and likely a main part of Nephite general knowledge history, was due to Nehor, in part, and Amlici–a Nephite who wanted to be king. He and his followers dissented and rebelled, chose a king for themselves, came to battle against the Nephites and lost once, united with the Lamanites, and then fought against the Nephites again. This time, Alma himself led the Nephites against them, killing Amlici personally, with the help of God (Alma 2).
The second time is when the Zoramites were rebel Nephites. They had been given chances, at least religiously, to change. But they continued their course of separation with the Nephites, and they “…became Lamanites; therefore, in the commencement of the eighteenth year the people of the Nephites saw that the Lamanites were coming upon them; therefore they made preparations for war; yea, they gathered together their armies in the land of Jershon” (Alma 43:4).
“And now, as the Amalekites were of a more wicked and murderous disposition than the Lamanites were, in and of themselves, therefore, Zerahemnah appointed chief captains over the Lamanites, and they were all Amalekites and Zoramites” (Alma 43:6).
So, here the Nephites fight against a mixture of very recent dissenter Nephites, other previous Nephite dissenters, and lineal Lamanites, whipped up by the Nephite dissenters; and in fact, all the leaders of the Lamanite forces had been previous Nephites. This happened about 12 years before Pahoran and his king-men problem, and seven years before he had become chief judge.
The third example is in Alma 46, we read about Amalickiah, the man who wanted to be king, and his followers who wanted him to be king. They rebel, and are about to leave the country, but Moroni intercepts them and captures most of them. Then we read that Moroni forces those captured to enter into a covenant of freedom or be put to death: “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” (Alma 46:35). Nevertheless, those “few” were put to death. This happened about 10 years before Pahoran and his king-men problem, and five years before he had become chief judge.
And the fourth time is when “…the people of Morianton took up arms against their brethren, and they were determined by the sword to slay them” (Alma 50:26). Moroni found out that they had “intentions to flee into the land northward” (Alma 50:31). Then we read that “…the people who were in the land Bountiful, or rather Moroni, feared that they would hearken to the words of Morianton and unite with his people, and thus he would obtain possession of those parts of the land, which would lay a foundation for serious consequences among the people of Nephi, yea, which consequences would lead to the overthrow of their liberty” (Alma 50:32). So Moroni sends and army to stop them, and “…the army which was sent by Moroni, which was led by a man whose name was Teancum, did meet the people of Morianton; and so stubborn were the people of Morianton, (being inspired by his wickedness and his flattering words) that a battle commenced between them, in the which Teancum did slay Morianton and defeat his army, and took them prisoners, and returned to the camp of Moroni…” (Alma 50:35). This happened about six years before Pahoran and his king-men problem, and one year before he had become chief judge.
Then, for a fifth example, in Alma 51, we read about the most important precedent, where Pahoran was already chief judge and himself was involved in a previous king-men dispute. When the Lamanites come to attack the Nephites, the king-men refuse to take up arms to defend their country, but joy that the Lamanites might win; Moroni then desires power “to compel those dissenters to defend their country or to put them to death” (Alma 51:15). After getting it, he commands his army to go against the dissenters; the dissenters refuse to fight for the Nephites, so a fight with the Nephites ensues, and “four thousand of those dissenters … were hewn down by the sword; and those of their leaders who were not slain in battle were taken and cast into prison, for there was no time for their trials at this period” (Alma 51:19). Note that these dissenters did not openly commit to fight against or overthrow the Nephite government.
Not only had the rebels thrown Pahoran and the rightful government out, they had also made a treaty with the Lamanites. They clearly conspired with the Lamanites to overthrow the Nephite nation. Before, Moroni and Teancum had pursued other “rebels” because they feared that the “rebels” would later turn against the Nephites; but here, the rebels had already done it. An angel had earlier told Alma to preach to the Ammonihahites:
“…except they repent the Lord God will destroy them” (Alma 8:16).
“For behold, [the Ammonihahites] do study at this time that they may destroy the liberty of thy people, (for thus saith the Lord) which is contrary to the statutes, and judgments, and commandments which he has given unto his people” (Alma 8:17).
Alma does so, telling them:
“…he has commanded you to repent, or he will utterly destroy you from off the face of the earth…” (Alma 9:12).
“Behold, do ye not remember the words which he spake unto Lehi, saying that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land? And again it is said that: Inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord” (Alma 9:13).
“For he will not suffer you that ye shall live in your iniquities, to destroy his people. I say unto you, Nay; he would rather suffer that the Lamanites might destroy all his people who are called the people of Nephi, if it were possible that they could fall into sins and transgressions, after having had so much light and so much knowledge given unto them of the Lord their God” (Alma 9:19).
It seems clear what the Lord sets forth as the result for rebellious Nephites. The Lord also makes it clear that it should and would be worse for rebel Nephites than for Lamanites. If Pahoran felt fine fighting the Lamanites, who were also relatives to the Nephites, why not the rebel Nephites?
Perhaps Pahoran felt that it would be unjust to have a preemptive strike against the rebel Nephites? He might feel so because there had not been a battle yet, and the rebel Nephites had not invaded their territory from the outside; besides, these were their brethren. Yet, there had not been a battle yet between the people of Morianton, nor with the people of Amalickiah, when the Nephites went against them. Of course the Nephites first offered peace, but then when it was rejected, they fought. Also, they had not just gathered in an empty spot–they had gathered in Zarahemla, the capital city, and kicked the rightful government out; and had they the power to, they would have killed him.
When the Lamanites, ruled by Amalickiah, fight against the Nephites, we read that the Nephites fought back. In these verses we read about some of the principles of Nephite self-defense:
“Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary…” (Alma 48:14)
“…they were compelled reluctantly to contend with their brethren, the Lamanites ” (Alma 48:21).
“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).
“Nevertheless, they could not suffer to lay down their lives, that their wives and their children should be massacred by the barbarous cruelty of those who were once their brethren, yea, and had dissented from their church, and had left them and had gone to destroy them by joining the Lamanites” (Alma 48:24).
“Yea, they could not bear that their brethren should rejoice over the blood of the Nephites, so long as there were any who should keep the commandments of God, for the promise of the Lord was, if they should keep his commandments they should prosper in the land” (Alma 48:25).
Here, the principles for Nephite defense to the point of slaying, and to what degree, and why, are pretty clearly laid out; the rebel Nephites fit the bill completely. This is even in the face of great reluctance by the Nephites, because they did not delight in the shedding of blood, and they knew it wouldn’t help the Lamanites’ salvation much (Alma 48:23)–Pahoran’s main concerns with fighting in the rebels. One more interesting point is that the Nephites clearly consider the Lamanites their brethren, also. This happened about five years before Pahoran and his king-men problem, and after he had become chief judge.
So, what seems like a righteous excuse for Pahoran, reveals itself, at best, as either a very lame excuse, or a cowardly one. At worst, it is an out-and-out, bold-faced lie. Five times–four times just recently–death was the judgment for rebels of this sort or less–and just in harrowing circumstances, not during a war when the course of action, and call to action, were much clearer. In Pahoran’s case, it is not just refusal of some men to stay and support the government, or oppose it in a precarious situation, or fight against it at a bad time–but a full-blown rebellion, even with the choosing of a king!–during a time of war and instability that seriously endangered the entire country, and that caused great suffering and the deaths of thousands of loyal countrymen. How could Pahoran not have known if it would be pMatthew Roper to fight against them? And, had he nipped this problem in the bud, it would not be, as he himself admits, “the cause of sore affliction among us” (Alma 61:4).
To top it all off, all the political leaders up to this point in the history of the Nephites, excepting probably Pahoran’s father Nephihah, were personally involved in leading their people into battle; however, Pahoran clearly sits this one out–in the middle of the land, surrounded by safety on all sides–until the king-men can’t be avoided, of course.
Near the end of his letter, Pahoran writes something that has a very interesting twist of words: “But ye have said, except they repent the Lord hath commanded you that ye should go against them” (Alma 61:20). No, Pahoran, that is not what Moroni said! The Lord was talking about you and your men, not the king-men (Alma 60:34).
Hypocritically, Pahoran tells Moroni that he sent a proclamation for the people to gather to “avenge our wrongs” (Alma 61:6). Well, the biggest wrongs I can see from this whole episode are those resulting from Pahoran and his men, not the king-men. And those wrongs were suffered by the fighters, not by Pahoran and his men. If there was any “avenging wrongs” to do, it would be done by Moroni and his men against Pahoran and his men! Woops–“avenge” is used by only four other humans in the Book of Mormon, and always by wicked men (Ammoron–Alma 54:16, 24; Giddianhi–3 Nephi 3:10; wicked Nephites–Mormon 3:9, 14; Shiz–Ether 14:24). Other than that, remember, vengeance is the Lord’s (Mormon 3:15, 8:41; Ether 8:22), not man’s.
Though Pahoran does say that he stands at the head of the freemen, and that he sides with Moroni and God and freedom, never does he present any evidence of this, nor does he answer any of Moroni’s charges against him and his men.
IF PAHORAN WERE A RIGHTEOUS MAN…
Think a moment, what letter would you really expect from Pahoran? Here’s something I imagine it might be like:
Dear Captain Moroni,
Your letter has truly pricked my heart, and caused me and my men to repent, to avoid further condemnation and death. I, along with most of my men, were lazy and slothful for quite a while, and busy thinking of our problems at home, which were many; but this is no excuse for neglecting our duties to our most valiant freemen. Your details of the suffering and deaths of our people, along with your threat on our lives, along with new forces of king-men driving us out of Zarahemla into Gideon, have awakened us to a sense of our duties. We are sending half of our provisions and food to all the soldiers on the front lines, and I have ordered my men to fast one meal a day for our success (it’s ok, we’re not fighting). If you feel this is not enough and want more, let me know, and we will send whatever you want. Your plan is a good one, and we are gathering a force right now to oppose the king-men. Please forgive us as you can. We failed to act when we could have, on numerous occasions, to bring peace and freedom to our land. We were scared, unsure who was true and who was a traitor, and how strongly; and we were afraid of not getting reelected. Come quickly, and we will be able to solve this problem once and for all, and end this war. Our sorrow and regret will never bring back our citizen’s lives or correct your sorrows and sufferings. In light of this, my men and I have all covenanted to be freemen, and have committed our lives to our country. We have all decided to either stand at the front of all battles now for as long as we live, or send our sons to the front of every battle, if they are willing to substitute for us; and, when the war is over–if we survive–we have all covenanted to step down from our positions and give up any retirement we might have coming to us. We are sorry, and are willing to do what we can now to help. We now desire to be even as King Benjamin, who spent his life in the service of his fellowman.
Your new friend,
A letter without guile or deceit, with acknowledgment of faults, shortcomings, and sins; with true sorrow, and repentance, with thankfulness for the call to repentance and the help, with a renewed spirit of commitment to life and a willingness to repair the damage done or at least try to do what is still possible to do right, serve, and love of God and country. Contrast what Pahoran wrote, for example, to the feelings expressed by: the citizens of King Benjamin (Mosiah 4:1-2, 5:2-5), Alma (Mosiah 17:2-4, 18:1-2, etc.), the sons of Mosiah (Mosiah 27:32-37, 28:2-4), the Anti-Nephi-Lehies (Alma 24:7), Alma the younger (Mosiah 27:23-37), Amulek (Alma 10:5-10, etc.), Zeezrom (Alma 14:6-7, 15:3-12), the dissenters that Nephi preached to (Helaman 5:17), and the Lamanites that Nephi and Lehi preached to (Helaman 5:50-52, 6:1)–some of the people clearly mentioned in the Book of Mormon who, after being called to repentance, repented and were similarly changed in many ways–unlike anything we see or hear of Pahoran.
Moroni is happy at the arrival of Pahoran’s epistle because he learns that Pahoran IS not a traitor (Alma 62:1); this does not mean, nor have any connection to, whether Pahoran WAS a traitor or not in the past. Being a traitor was never an accusation by Moroni, though it was mentioned as a possibility. However, Moroni never says, and neither does Mormon nor Pahoran, that Pahoran and his men were guilty or not guilty of any of the other things that he was accused of by Moroni, including being a traitor.
Pahoran had written that the first reason to win was to get food for the armies: “And we will take possession of the city of Zarahemla, that we may obtain more food to send forth unto Lehi and Teancum…” (Alma 61:18). Yet, after the king-men rebellion is put down, and “Pahoran [is] restored to his judgment-seat” (Alma 62:8), it is not Pahoran–but Moroni–who immediately sends food and 12,000 men to the warfront (Alma 62:12)–though this is Pahoran’s job, and even though it was the reason Pahoran wanted to “take possession of the city of Zarahemla”. Also, Moroni does not send them to Lehi and Teancum first, but to Helaman and his area, as he had requested that Pahoran do in his epistles many times, but Pahoran had ignored.
After the battle with the king-men, Moroni does not let Pahoran off the hook so easily. It’s time for battle on the front line for him!–fighting the king-men was just a start (Alma 62:14, 26). No longer will Pahoran be allowed to sit on his throne in Zarahemla, surrounded by safety in the heart of the land. And here in battle, Pahoran probably learns more about the realities of war and how the government’s decisions directly control and influence many of them.
MORE ABOUT CAPTAIN MORONI
What else does Mormon say about Moroni?
Is Mormon Positively Biased towards Captain Moroni?
From the start, I realize that some may say that Mormon feels a strong bond linking himself with Moroni–two great warriors with similar strong feelings for their people. I have heard this more than once. I hope it is also possible that a righteous man with such a great sacred mission to write the defining scripture of the final dispensation, to write “the words of God”, would not let his personal views consistently affect the validity of his statements and abridgements over many chapters. Some “scholars” have, for example, argued along the lines that what the Nephite prophets wrote about the Lamanites was no doubt slanted because of the personal and cultural view that the Nephites held towards them; but such claims are completely unsupported and amount to hearsay (see my article on “Lamanite Bias”), not to mention the irony of such “scholars” imposing their own personal and cultural views upon the Nephite prophet writers. It must also be that there were many more good things about Captain Moroni on the Nephite records that Mormon doesn’t tell us, and that what he writes about Moroni is, like most of the record, abridged.
We learn that: “…it was the custom among all the Nephites to appoint for their chief captains, (save it were in their times of wickedness) some one (sic) that had the spirit of revelation and also prophecy…” (3 Nephi 3:19). This was undoubtedly the case with Moroni. In fact, while there were many leaders, and even military leaders in the Book of Mormon, Mormon writes particularly of Captain Moroni. The following is his summary:
“And thus [Moroni] was preparing to support their liberty, their lands, their wives, and their children, and their peace, and that they might live unto the Lord their God, and that they might maintain that which was called by their enemies the cause of Christians” (Alma 48:10).
“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” (Alma 48:11);
“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” (Alma 48:12).
“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 48:13).
“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 against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives” (Alma 48:14).
“…this was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it; not in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity” (Alma 48:16).
“Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, 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).
“Behold, he was a man like unto Ammon, the son of Mosiah, yea, and even the other sons of Mosiah, yea, and also Alma and his sons, for they were all men of God” (Alma 48:18).
It just doesn’t seem right that Mormon would write that Moroni was this type of man, then later turn around and concentrate heavily and in detail on an episode that shows the opposite; that Captain Moroni, in fact:
sought to overthrow their liberty;
didn’t live unto the Lord his God;
was very unchristian-like;
was a man of very imperfect and unsound understanding, especially when angry;
delighted in shedding blood;
shaken by a trial;
seeking to overthrow the government;
ungrateful for the help the government had provided;
sought to destroy his own people;
sought to overthrow their liberty;
threatened to raise his sword against his friends, when their lives weren’t necessarily threatened;
gloried in doing evil;
gloried in destroying his people;
didn’t keep the commandments of God;
showed how the devil got to him through the manipulation of his emotions/ his anger;
and, acted unlike a man of God,
–all without making any editorial comment about it.
But Captain Moroni Can’t Be a Prophet!
Now, after all that–believe it or not, one Book of Mormon “scholar”–Brother X–wrote me and said that my thesis was wrong because “Moroni is a military man and is not portrayed as a prophet. He is righteous, but not prophetic. When he needs prophecy he goes to Alma.” (Does it help to say that Brother X had already published something very negative about Captain Moroni?) His point was, Moroni just plain wasn’t a prophet, and whenever he needed spiritual help or prophecy or revelation, he went to a “true” prophet; thus, Moroni couldn’t have had any revelations about Pahoran, etc. as he tells us that he did. If this were the case, Captain Moroni is in fact a liar–one more touché for Pahoran! Yes, we are aware of one time that Moroni went to Alma for prophecy. Quite a respectful act, don’t you think? When Nephi wanted to know where to go to get food, he went to Lehi (1 Nephi 16:23). However, this hardly therefore makes Nephi a non-prophet, nor does it forever deny him any possibility to receive revelation, whether Lehi was there or not. Hadn’t Nephi already, even at this point, experienced direct revelation, seen glorious visions and angels and the Holy Ghost, had faith to work mighty miracles of getting the brass plates and being freed from bonds, and had a patience that few of us will ever have?
Now, can a “military man” be a prophet also? The Book of Mormon shows us many prophet warriors such as Nephi, King Mosiah, King Benjamin, King Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, Mormon, and Moroni. And Gidgiddoni, of course, as in 3 Nephi 3:19: “Now it was the custom among all the Nephites to appoint for their chief captains, (save it were in their times of wickedness) some one that had the spirit of revelation and also prophecy; therefore, this Gidgiddoni was a great prophet among them, as also was the chief judge.”
We have already seen that Captain Moroni, when facing the kingmen, comes up with a plan, prays mightily for it, prophesies, extends a religious covenant for others, prophesies some more, and stirs people up to freedom (Alma 46:12-29). Those familiar with this should be able to accept that Moroni could have revelation.
Brother X then continued: “There is nothing detectable in Pahoran’s actions that suggest nefarious motives that Moroni discerned.” “Had Moroni been a prophet with insight into Pahoran’s dark soul…” And why is Brother X so sure of that? Was it necessary that Moroni “discerned” anything, in order that he might be called, or be, a prophet? It seems that Brother X is assuming that a prophet should have been able to discern and know the exact situation, from the beginning to the end. While that happens in the scriptures sometimes, we see that it seems to be the exception. If Moroni isn’t a prophet because he didn’t see it, what about Helaman? Was he “not a prophet” because he didn’t see it, notwithstanding all the scriptures that seem to indicate the contrary? This way of thinking leads to questions like, “Why didn’t the prophets know that the Hoffman forgeries were fake?” and “Why didn’t the Lord reveal that there would be a tornado in SLC?” Besides, how do we know that Moroni DIDN’T see it? Notwithstanding their words, do we know what the prophets (or anyone with the spirit) really see? Conclusion: nothing shows that neither Captain Moroni nor Mormon weren’t, nor couldn’t have been, prophets or men that received the revelations they said God gave them.
What about this verse in Alma 44?:
12 And now when Moroni had said these words, Zerahemnah retained his sword, and he was angry with Moroni, and he rushed forward that he might slay Moroni; but as he raised his sword, behold, one of Moroni’s soldiers smote it even to the earth, and it broke by the hilt; and he also smote Zerahemnah that he took off his scalp and it fell to the earth. And Zerahemnah withdrew from before them into the midst of his soldiers.
13 And it came to pass that the soldier who stood by, who smote off the scalp of Zerahemnah, took up the scalp from off the ground by the hair, and laid it upon the point of his sword, and stretched it forth unto them, saying unto them with a loud voice:
14 Even as this scalp has fallen to the earth, which is the scalp of your chief, so shall ye fall to the earth except ye will deliver up your weapons of war and depart with a covenant of peace…
18 But behold, their naked skins and their bare heads were exposed to the sharp swords of the Nephites; yea, behold they were pierced and smitten, yea, and did fall exceedingly fast before the swords of the Nephites; and they began to be swept down, EVEN AS THE SOLDIER OF MORONI HAD PROPHESIED.
So the soldier can prophesy, but not Moroni? Maybe the soldier is Moroni’s prophet, since Moroni can’t be a prophet? Maybe getting a little ridiculous, huh?
Captain Moroni’s Anger
From general gospel understanding, and from examples like Amalickiah and Morianton in the Book of Mormon, we know that anger can be a dangerous, out-of-control thing that results in regretted consequences. We might naturally assume that since Captain Moroni wrote the epistle to Pahoran in his anger, because he was angry with the government, it would cause him, or at least allow him, to write something unjust. However, earlier episodes that involve Moroni’s anger show that this is not a valid assumption; in fact, they show the complete opposite.
When Moroni hears about Nephite dissensions caused by Amalickiah, he “[is] angry” (Alma 46:11). And what does he do, in this state of anger? He writes the title of liberty, rallies his freedom-loving countrymen, establishes the covenant freemen, prophesies, and keeps the Nephite country from being overthrown–far from evil things.
In a previous dialogue between Captain Moroni and one enemy, Ammoron, Moroni calls him a “child of hell” (Alma 54:11)–among other things–and threatens him. Not very diplomatic, right? Yet, is there anything untrue or out-of-bounds with his letter? Nothing. Ammoron is a child of hell, isn’t he? Does Moroni make evil or unjust threats? No. Does he fulfill his word, given in this letter? Yes, he does. (You know, the arming of the women and children thing, for example.) Again, when Moroni reads Ammoron’s response, he “[is] more angry, because he knew that Ammoron had a perfect knowledge of his fraud; yea, he knew that Ammoron knew that it was not a just cause that had caused him to wage a war against the people of Nephi” (Alma 55:1). So he carries out a plan. He arms the numerous prisoners inside with weapons, and his army surrounds the city on the outside. We read “…this (slaying the drunk Lamanites) was not the desire of Moroni; he did not delight in murder or bloodshed, but he delighted in the saving of his people from destruction; and for this cause he might not bring upon him injustice, he would not fall upon the Lamanites (in their sleep) and destroy them in their drunkenness” (Alma 55:19). After the Lamanites wake up, they see their situation, and surrender, pleading for mercy (see Alma 55:23). We see that this “was the desire of Moroni”. He took them prisoners of war, and took possession of the city, and caused that all the prisoners should be liberated, who were Nephites; and they did join the army of Moroni, and were a great strength to his army” (Alma 55:24).
No doubt Captain Moroni was angry that people would want to fight the Nephites and do horrible things to them. Yet we read in many other places how Moroni could have killed many enemies in the course of battle, but instead he spared the lives of many thousands of them, always giving them ample opportunity to live, and trying to get them to surrender and leave in peace (and in one piece) (see Alma 43:53, 44:1, 6, 7, 11, 15, 19, 20; 55:19, 24; 62:15-17; 27-29).
In the matter of the king-men in Alma 51, though he is angry and might be morally right and justified in forcing dissenting Nephites to defend the Nephite nation, Captain Moroni waits for all the correct authority before acting to do so. At the end of fighting, the dissenters that surrender are allowed a trial–there is no “no surrender” possibility for Moroni until death.
Captain Moroni was a man who took his covenants and word seriously, as we see in another episode with his enemy Zerahemnah. He covenants with them, saying:
“…deliver up your weapons of war unto us, and we will seek not your blood, but we will spare your lives, if ye will go your way and come not again to war against us.” Otherwise, they would kill them. Zerahemnah gives up his weapons, but does not accept the other part; Moroni then returns Zerahemnah’s weapons and says, “…Behold, we will end the conflict…” (Alma 44:10).
“Now I cannot recall the words which I have spoken, therefore as the Lord liveth, ye shall not depart except ye depart with an oath that ye will not return again against us to war. Now as ye are in our hands we will spill your blood upon the ground, or ye shall submit to the conditions which I have proposed” (Alma 44:11).
Zerahemnah again refuses, and they continue the fight. At this point, “… Moroni was angry, because of the stubbornness of the Lamanites; therefore he commanded his people that they should fall upon them and slay them. And it came to pass that they began to slay them…” (Alma 44:17), until the Lamanites accept the covenant, at which point it’s peacefully over–once again, anger does not control him and make him do something rash. In fact, where Zerahemnah tried to treacherously kill Moroni, Moroni refuses to kill him when he has the chance–he mercifully lets him go along with the others.
Later, Moroni makes another covenant–to be a freeman. He covenants to maintain “their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them” (Alma 46:20). He covenants “[he] would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if [he] should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon [him] the name of Christ, the Lord should rend [him] even as [he] had rent [his] garments” (Alma 46:21). And, “We covenant with our God, that we shall be destroyed, even as our brethren in the land northward, if we shall fall into transgression; yea, he may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet to be trodden under foot, if we shall fall into transgression” (Alma 46:23). This is the covenant he was referring to in his epistle to Pahoran. It would be hypocritical and very unlike Moroni to use unrighteous threats and means to fulfill a righteous covenant. We see this even in an example that most men would fail: in Alma 55:18-19, we read that “and for this cause he (Moroni) might not bring upon him injustice, he would not fall upon the Lamanites and destroy them in their drunkenness”. To Moroni, ends did in no way justify the means.
Captain Moroni was one of many righteous men in the Book of Mormon, including Nephi, Helaman, Alma the younger, Ammon, King Mosiah, etc. who righteously threatened with harsh words, or even killed, as moved by the Spirit, to further the work of God. Yet none except Moroni have come under any condemnation by church members in this dispensation for it. For example, Alma was very blunt in his preaching–telling people things like: “your hearts have been grossly hardened against the word of God,” and “ye are a lost and a fallen people” (Alma 9:30); calling people “stiffnecked” (Alma 9:31); telling people it is good that something bad happened to them: “that ye may be humble, and that ye may learn wisdom; for it is necessary that ye should learn wisdom; for it is because that ye are cast out, that ye are despised of your brethren because of your exceeding poverty, that ye are brought to a lowliness of heart; for ye are necessarily brought to be humble” (Alma 32:12); saying people were proud and unrepentant: “I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest” (Alma 13:13); etc. The result? Some repented, and some: “were desirous that they might destroy Alma and Amulek; for they were angry with Alma, because of the plainness of his words unto Zeezrom” (Alma 14:12); and, “they were angry because of the word, for it did destroy their craft; therefore they would not hearken unto the words” (Alma 35:3). Yet I have never found that Alma has been criticized for speaking. Why is Captain Moroni criticized, then? One might say, Alma was preaching to sinners, but Moroni was writing to Pahoran, and Pahoran wasn’t a sinner. But how do we know–why are we so sure–that Pahoran and his men were not sinners? The Book of Mormon contains many examples of repentant sinners, such as Zeezrom–a sinner who, after hearing the word of God, had his heart pricked, trembled, knew God, and repented. But if it were the case that Pahoran were a sinner, the Book of Mormon would say so, wouldn’t it? Why do we find it so hard to believe that Moroni could have inspiration and revelation to guide him what to say? Why do we create an impossible double standard for Moroni, that none of the others in the Book of Mormon have to held to, yet we let Pahoran off so easily, with no proof?
In fact, Mormon shows that Captain Moroni and his way of dealing with men is representative of God. There is an abrupt change from Alma’s spiritual treatise to his son regarding the justice and mercy of God towards sinners in Alma 42, to the episode of Zerahemnah’s attack and Moroni’s defense in Alma 43 and 44. However, the parallels are many. In Alma 42 we read of God’s plan of salvation; he is a just God that allows sinners to suffer the consequence of breaking the law, which is death; but he is also a merciful God in that sinners may be redeemed, but only by choosing to obey a covenant that God puts forth. Moroni treats the enemies of freedom the same way, according to their circumstances. When Zerahemnah and the Lamanites sin in attacking the Nephites, Moroni gives them two choices–die, which is your natural consequence of being an enemy; or take an oath to never come back and fight (Alma 44:6). Interestingly, Zerahemnah tries another trade-off (Alma 44:8)–one in which mercy robs justice; Moroni therefore necessarily refuses (see Alma 42:25). Later, in Alma 46, 51, and 62, Moroni does the same thing with the king men–choose to die, which is your natural consequence of rebellion and sedition; or choose to obey an oath to actively support freedom. Teancum uses this same method to deal with the people of Morianton in Alma 50:35-36, and the Nephites later use it to deal with the Gadianton robbers in 3 Nephi 5:4. Just like God, Moroni gives men liberty to choose death or life (for example, see 2 Nephi 10:23, Helaman 14:30-31, 2 Nephi 2:27). (King Benjamin mentioned that the natural man is an enemy of God.) For Mormon, Moroni is the epitome of mortal man attaining godliness; the best representative of lion and lamb, of justice and mercy; the closest and clearest that a man has become Man (see 3 Nephi 11:8), other than Jesus Christ himself.
MORE ABOUT PAHORAN
What else does Mormon say about Pahoran in the Book of Mormon?
Nothing Good Written of Pahoran
Of all the judges mentioned in the Book of Mormon, Pahoran seems to be the only “good” one that doesn’t have much good written about his reign. Much is written about Alma serving righteously as chief judge (Mosiah 29:43; see also Alma 1-4). We read that Nephihah, “the second chief judge, died, having filled the judgment-seat with perfect uprightness before God” (Alma 50:37), and that he had been chosen by Alma to take over the sacred things (Alma 50:38). After Pahoran, Pahoran II was quickly assassinated (and then his brother slain); after him, we read that “…Helaman did fill the judgment-seat with justice and equity; yea, he did observe to keep the statutes, and the judgments, and the commandments of God; and he did do that which was right in the sight of God continually; and he did walk after the ways of his father, insomuch that he did prosper in the land” (Helaman 3:20); and also “Helaman died, and his eldest son Nephi began to reign in his stead (as chief judge). And it came to pass that he did fill the judgment-seat with justice and equity; yea, he did keep the commandments of God, and did walk in the ways of his father” (Helaman 3:37). Though nothing is said about their reigns, Cezoram and his son are assassinated by Gadianton robbers (Helaman 6:15, 18-19). Also, if one considers that Nephi probably followed Alma’s precedent and yielded the judgment seat to a righteous man to allow himself to preach, this also helps establish Cezoram as a good man. A Gadianton robber is then mentioned as being chief judge (obviously not good). We then hear of Lachoneus, who is described as “a just man, and [who] could not be frightened by the demands and the threatenings of a robber; …he did cause that his people should cry unto the Lord for strength against the time that the robbers should come down against them” (3 Nephi 3:12). “…therefore, this Gidgiddoni was a great prophet among them, as also was the chief judge (Lachoneus)” (3 Nephi 3:19); “‘And now it was Gidgiddoni, and the judge, Lachoneus, and those who had been appointed leaders, who had established this great peace in the land” (3 Nephi 6:6). Lastly, Lachoneus II is chief judge, of whom is written little–yet from the situation we see that he was a judge who could be counted on to deliver justice (3 Nephi 6:19, 25, 26, 29, 30). Not once, however, does Mormon write anything minimally similar about Pahoran.
After the epistels, Mormon writes just this about Pahoran:
“And thus ended the thirtieth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi; Moroni and Pahoran having restored peace to the land of Zarahemla, among their own people, having inflicted death upon all those who were not true to the cause of freedom” (Alma 62:11).
“And Pahoran did return to his judgment-seat…” (Alma 62:44).
“For behold, Pahoran had died, and gone the way of all the earth…” (Helaman 1:2).
Oath of the Chief Judge
In mentioning all the chief judges in the Book of Mormon, there is also only one time that the oath of the chief judge is mentioned. That is when Pahoran takes office. The “oath and sacred ordinance” was “to judge righteously, and to keep the peace and the freedom of the people, and to grant unto them their sacred privileges to worship the Lord their God, yea, to support and maintain the cause of God all his days, and to bring the wicked to justice according to their crime” (Alma 50:39). It is possible that including the oath here, and only here, is intentional on Mormon’s part, to give us a larger background that clarifies Pahoran’s duties, shows that he neglected them, and holds him accountable for his actions.
Right after being appointed chief judge, Pahoran is confronted with men who want to have kings instead of chief judges. Kudos that he didn’t accept a bribe to change the government in exchange for being the first king (Alma 51:3), or such, though such thinking might have had many reasons. A resolution comes before the people: choose a king government (and give up liberty) or maintain a chief-judge government (and keep liberty). These two sides are supported by king men and freemen, respectively. The people vote, and the current free form of government stands. There are two things about this situation that raise questions, though. We read that “the voice of the people came in favor of the freemen, and Pahoran retained the judgment-seat, which caused much rejoicing among the brethren of Pahoran and also many of the people of liberty…” (Alma 51:7). It might read better with a period after “freemen”, instead of a comma: “the voice of the people came in favor of the freemen. And Pahoran retained the judgment-seat, which caused much rejoicing among the brethren of Pahoran and also many of the people of liberty…” Although the freemen were happy that the current form of government was to remain, not “all” of them, nor even “most” of them–just “many” of them–were happy that Pahoran was its choice. One might say, yes, but it also says that “And those who were desirous that Pahoran should remain chief judge over the land took upon them the name of freemen;” yet, the statement following that says “and thus was the division among them, for the freemen had sworn or covenanted to maintain their rights and the privileges of their religion by a free government” (Alma 51:6)–which seems that they were not supporting Pahoran being chief judge, but Pahoran being chief judge.
Secondly, one wonders why the king-men were so bold as to ask for favors from Pahoran right after his taking office (Alma 50:40, 51:1-2). If he had been elected, appointed, sustained, etc. by the people in some way, is it that the king-men helped, perhaps with a plan to help the weakest or most corruptible judge win, or the one that they thought would most likely grant them this favor, or conspire with them? If this is the case, then one might conclude that Pahoran’s appointment was because of the king-men and “many” of the freemen, not because he was a clear better choice due to his superior goodness and superior abilities. This is not to condemn Pahoran of anything–just to understand the Nephite situation better and show other possibilities.
Poetic Justice for Pahoran and Helaman
It is perhaps poetic justice that one sees in the situation that occurs after Pahoran dies. The judgment seat becomes the bane of all three of his sons who aspire to it. Interestingly, it says that Pahoran had many sons, but only three aspired to the judgment seat (Helaman 1:3-4)—wow, sounds like none of his many sons suffered or were killed in the big war. How does a true freedom-loving leader do that—keep all his sons out of dangers way, while thousands around him are dying? Two of his sons fill the judgment seat very briefly, and are killed because of it–one by assassination and the other because of running away from it and his Lamanite enemies during war. The other is put to death for trying to lead others to rebel against his brother (this all occurs in Helaman 1).
There is more. Later, Helaman II, the son of Helaman–the religious leader who humbly became military leader and then suffered so much under the hand of Pahoran and the other political leaders–is made chief judge in their places (Helaman 2:2). Unlike Pahoran’s sons, however, he is saved from an assassination attempt (Helaman 2:9), and his son, Nephi, is later chosen to be chief judge after him (Helaman 3:37).
Also, it is interesting that Paanchi seems to have been a guy with very close connections to kingmen/ Gadianton robbers, and tries to do to his brother what his father claimed the kingmen did to him.
From his other letters and speeches, it is easy to understand that Captain Moroni was not a man gifted with persuasive political speech; he is very blunt and straightforward. Yet nowhere in the Book of Mormon does he speak irresponsibly or go beyond the correct limit of truth or fairness–i.e., he is never wrong. He is a man who does not delight in bloodshed, and tries to win battles and wars without the shedding of blood. Why do we apparently assume or understand, then, that what Captain Moroni wrote in his epistle to Pahoran was wrong? Yes, he was human; but where else in the Book of Mormon do we see a righteous man making any similar, “clear” mistake? If it were so, why does Mormon so “clearly” point it out in a long example, then not make even one comment about it? And if the plates were small, and the space and the time to write in it limited (Words of Mormon 1:5, 3 Nephi 5:8, 3 Nephi 26:6, Mormon 8:5, Mormon 9:33), why would Mormon go to such great lengths to show us that it is possible for a righteous man to have faults, make a mistake or a misjudgment, or to sin? The whole lesson could have been summed up and learned much more quickly, succinctly, and easily.
I believe it is true that Captain Moroni and others in the army could have done more to communicate and understand Pahoran and the situation. But, Pahoran and his men were in charge of the war; he was the “upper man”, so to say; the one responsible for initiating and continuing communications and informing Moroni of the Nephite situations, especially regarding war matters; and all communication attempts that Helaman and Moroni had sent to him, were unanswered in both word and action. Men, provisions, and food had been in short supply for a long time, resulting in thousands of deaths, great suffering, famine, capture (and whatever else), etc. for the armies and all the Nephite people who were in the war zone, including many women and children; yet after a long period of time, nothing about the situation had changed, even after communications about the necessity of getting them.
I believe that Moroni’s purpose in his epistle was to make it very clear to Pahoran and his men that it was time to stand up and forcefully take sides in the war, and that they would either fight with Moroni and his men, or against them; and quickly. There was no longer any time for hesitation. Does the tone seem harsh? What must be done to wake a deep sleeper, when thousands around him are dying, and the one sleeping is supposed to be their savior?
Let’s look back for a moment at what Lehi says to his sons about Nephi:
“And ye have murmured because he hath been plain unto you. Ye say that he hath used sharpness; ye say that he hath been angry with you; but behold, his sharpness was the sharpness of the power of the word of God, which was in him; and that which ye call anger was the truth, according to that which is in God, which he could not restrain, manifesting boldly concerning your iniquities” (2 Nephi 1:26).
“And it must needs be that the power of God must be with him, even unto his commanding you that ye must obey. But behold, it was not he, but it was the Spirit of the Lord which was in him, which opened his mouth to utterance that he could not shut it” (2 Nephi 1:27).
“And now my son[s]…if ye will hearken unto the voice of Nephi ye shall not perish…” (2 Nephi 1:28).
This seems to be pretty much the same circumstances as with Captain Moroni, and Pahoran and his men. So, then, why do we praise Nephi and curse his brothers, yet curse Moroni and praise Pahoran? Mostly because of Pahoran’s reply.
Moroni says, more than once, that his direction is from God. It was the word of God that told him these things; it was the Lord who made it clear that the governors had sins and iniquities, and that they needed to repent. References to God occur many times in his epistle in these conditions:
“And now, my beloved brethren–for ye ought to be beloved; yea, and ye ought to have stirred yourselves more diligently for the welfare and the freedom of this people; but behold, ye have neglected them insomuch that the blood of thousands shall come upon your heads for vengeance; yea, for known unto God were all their cries, and all their sufferings–” (Alma 60:10)
“Have ye forgotten the commandments of the Lord your God? Yea, have ye forgotten the captivity of our fathers? Have ye forgotten the many times we have been delivered out of the hands of our enemies?” (Alma 60:20).
“Or do ye suppose that the Lord will still deliver us, while we sit upon our thrones and do not make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us?” (Alma 60:21).
“Do ye suppose that God will look upon you as guiltless while ye sit still and behold these things? Behold I say unto you, Nay. Now I would that ye should remember that God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first (the great head of our government, as found in Alma 60:24), and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also” (Alma 60:23).
“And except ye grant mine epistle, and come out and show unto me a true spirit of freedom, and strive to strengthen and fortify our armies, and grant unto them food for their support, behold I will leave a part of my freemen to maintain this part of our land, and I will leave the strength and the blessings of God upon them, that none other power can operate against them–” (Alma 60:25)
“Yea, behold I do not fear your power nor your authority, but it is my God whom I fear; and it is according to his commandments that I do take my sword to defend the cause of my country, and it is because of your iniquity that we have suffered so much loss” (Alma 60:28).
“For behold, the Lord will not suffer that ye shall live and wax strong in your iniquities to destroy his righteous people” (Alma 60:31).
“Behold, can you suppose that the Lord will spare you and come out in judgment against the Lamanites…while your iniquity is for the cause of your love of glory and the vain things of the world?” (Alma 60:32).
“Ye know that ye do transgress the laws of God, and ye do know that ye do trample them under your feet. Behold, the Lord saith unto me: If those whom ye have appointed your governors do not repent of their sins and iniquities, ye shall go up to battle against them” (Alma 60:33).
“And now behold, I, Moroni, am constrained, according to the covenant which I have made to keep the commandments of my God; therefore I would that ye should adhere to the word of God, and send speedily unto me of your provisions and of your men, and also to Helaman” (Alma 60:34).
“And behold, if ye will not do this I come unto you speedily; for behold, God will not suffer that we should perish with hunger; therefore he will give unto us of your food, even if it must be by the sword. Now see that ye fulfil the word of God” (Alma 60:35).
Captain Moroni’s message is clear: repent or be destroyed. By openly communicating with Pahoran to tell him the will of God, and what he should do to save himself and his men–even though Pahoran seems to be, or is, unrighteous–Moroni once again displays his spirit of freedom and sacred honoring of life. Why does Moroni tell likely traitors and enemies what his plans will be unless they comply with his demands, which are only God’s demands? If Pahoran and other leaders and the people in Zarahemla and near parts of the land rebelled, along with all the king-men, wouldn’t that have been enough men to overcome Moroni’s army, or at least resist it, especially with the help of the Lamanites? So, it seems that Moroni really wants them to repent, and risks a lot–including his life–to give them the chance. Pahoran seems to understand this thrust of Moroni’s epistle, as he writes this in his epistle back to Moroni: “whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom” (Alma 61:14). And this is exactly the main intent of Moroni’s epistle, and what he had just done!–he had resisted evil with his words, and therefore avoided resisting evil with his sword, in order to retain his and all Nephite freedom. Thus, Captain Moroni succeeds in waking the sleeping savior, and because of it, Pahoran and his men quickly choose to follow Moroni and be true freemen–which saves the Nephite nation.
I believe we need to more fully understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ and realize that certain situations require diligence and force in defense, and understand that many of Moroni’s virtues, such as faith, faithfulness, patience, and love, are clearly evident in his epistle to Pahoran, and stop criticizing what we might see as a lack of these virtues, and see that perhaps Pahoran did deserve and need that epistle, and that his response is propaganda and not a true and fitting reply.
Or, perhaps, it just is our great understanding of the Gospel that makes us feel very uneasy about this epistle, as we are reminded of our oaths and sacred covenants–like Pahoran’s when he took office–that place great weight of responsibility on us, and curse us when we fail to carry them out. How many of us haven’t cringed when we realize that we might be responsible for others’ sins and failures, through lack of fulfilling our sacred duties, such as home teaching, or parenting? If we feel loyal to Pahoran and not Moroni when we read their epistles and this account, perhaps we also need to repent.
It might have been the case that while Pahoran was true to liberty, many of the other officials were not. At the least, Pahoran should have communicated these problems of the state to Moroni and Helaman, as they had a direct impact on the Nephite armies and their safety and warring against the Lamanites for so long.
I hope that I have not tipped the balances of justice unjustly against Pahoran. My intent has not been to prove beyond doubt that he was a wicked man and a lying traitor–just to show that Moroni was absolutely, completely justified in writing the epistle he wrote, in the way he wrote it; and that Pahoran was very likely guilty on all accounts. I believe we rely too strongly on Pahoran’s epistle of strong propaganda, and just strongly assume he was righteous because Mormon doesn’t tell us he wasn’t, and we don’t rely enough on the upright report of Moroni’s character in almost every place he is mentioned in the Book of Mormon to understand that his epistle to Pahoran is not out of character for him–his righteous character–and that he was justified by God in writing it.
While Mormon wrote many great things about many great men, never do we hear words like those he wrote for Captain Moroni. Knowing he will likely be the next to the last generation of living Nephites, Mormon names his son Moroni. Why? so he’ll be a great warrior? Not as the main reason, as Mormon likely knows that his son will not even have the chance to be like Captain Moroni, but will maybe even be killed by the Lamanites. Captain Moroni is Mormon’s epitome not only of “the warrior,” but of a “righteous man,” the closest any of the Nephites had ever become to being a “Man”–like Jesus (see 3 Nephi 11:8). Yet, notwithstanding this, never have I known or seen readers of the Book of Mormon judge other “characters” in the way that they have judged Moroni. Perhaps the lesson we can learn is not that Moroni judged Pahoran harshly and unrighteously, but that because of our lack of diligence in reading and understanding, we will one day understand that it is we that have judged Moroni harshly and unrighteously.
In the Book of Mormon, we read some untruths spoken by anti-Christs, etc., and we see much dialogue between clearly defined “righteous men” and “sinners.” We clearly understand that we should believe what the righteous men say, and not believe all that the sinners say, though there might be some of it, however little, that might be true. But Mormon helps us know what is true and what is not; what to believe and what not to. It is pretty easy reading. Then we hit the epistles of Moroni and Pahoran. President Benson once said, “We should constantly ask ourselves, “Why did the Lord inspire Mormon…to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?” (“The Keystone of Our Religion,” by Ezra Taft Benson. Ensign, October 1986.) In this case of Moroni and Pahoran, we really need to ask this, because things don’t seem to make the best sense. Here Mormon plays a game and provides a great Socratic lesson. He doesn’t tell us clearly what we should think, but instead leaves us many clues, all over the book, that will help us to understand–if we are attentive to them. Unfortunately, it seems that because Mormon does not come out and clearly tell us, we seriously flounder.
NOW FOR THE BIG LESSON: WHAT PRINCIPLE IS MORMON TEACHING US?
If it is possible for us, as readers, to so misunderstand one situation, even when there are many little clues in one book to help us understand, how easy might it be for us to be led astray by other propaganda, where we might have fewer clues and less time and resources to understand them, right now, in our own times? A while ago, President Benson said: “We are going through … the greatest propaganda campaign of all time. We cannot believe all we read (or see or hear)” (“The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson,” p. 302. Bookcraft, 1988.). He was not speaking about this on the personal level, but on a much higher level.
As a modern-day principle correlation: if it were asked right now, in a poll to LDS, who the 3 greatest American presidents were, would it surprise anyone to hear: 1. “Washington” 2. “Lincoln” 3. “FDR”. Yet, what do we know about these men and their presidencies? (It has been clearly documented by Thomas DiLorenzo, James Ostrowski, etc.–see http://www.Mises.org, http://www.LewRockwell.com–that, in fact, Lincoln was an unbeliever who did more to destroy the Constitution than any other president. FDR was the president who we now know put us in war with an intentional massacre at Pearl Harbor, and implemented many socialist programs.)
If it were asked, who the worst man in the world was, would it surprise anyone to hear “Hitler”? Yet, what do we know about him and the war he was involved in? (Much heavily-documented revisionist work has let him off the hook for many of the atrocities he supposedly committed, and in fact put the blame on Allied leaders and others.) If it were asked who the most evil man in the past fifty years in the USA was, would it surprise anyone to hear “Charles Manson”? Yet, what do we know about him and what he really did, and what really happened? (Read the stunning book, “Manson in His Own Words” and read Salvador Astucia for a very different perspective of a Christ-like man in many ways.)
Who shot JFK? Who shot Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, John Lennon, Ronald Reagan? What happened at Columbine? What happened at Waco? What happened on 9-11? Why did we attack Iraq, and why are we still there? The answer to these questions is the same from the general public: “Oh come on, everybody knows!” And it’s true–we all DO know–because it’s what we’ve all been taught in school, on the news, in the papers, and especially from the government. (No doubt some of the teaching was deliberate, and most was unknowing.) Yet, especially in light of recent research and through the internet, it is certain that what we know, especially from the government, is not true in many instances. It is only what has been allowed to have been taught us–i.e., a high form of propaganda.
It has been said that “the ‘winners’ write history”; so what happens when the winners are sinners? Is it possible that all we know, we really can’t KNOW–because it’s not really true? And what we don’t know–what the “winners” hid or are hiding from us–might be hundreds of times worse than what we think we know? And what about right now? Can we believe everything we see on the TV news, or read in the newspapers, or hear on the radio? What is our government really doing? What are other organizations, industries, companies, and people really doing? How do we know for sure? Do all the little clues add up to their answers? Is it really that simple and easy? We now have, for example, a report from Representative Henry A. Waxman (Iraq on the Record Report) says that we were told 237–two hundred and thirty-seven!!–“misleading statements”–i.e., “lies”–by our leaders to get us to go to war with Iraq. How’s that for what we really know from listening to and reading about our leaders, on TV and in the papers?! President Ezra Taft Benson has also said: “Never before in the history of our country has there been a greater need for all of our people to take time to discover what is happening in the world.” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 662. Bookcraft, 1988.) He also said, “Our great need in America today is to be alerted and informed … There is safety in an informed public. There is real danger in a complacent, uninformed citizenry. This is our real danger today.” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 582. Bookcraft, 1988.)
By understanding the lesson of Captain Moroni and Pahoran, at the least, we can learn that not everything that someone “good”–especially the government–tells us, is necessarily true–EVEN IF IT SOUNDS GOOD AND RIGHTEOUS, AND REFERS TO SCIENCE OR GOD AS PROOF. Propaganda has many tools and techniques, and comes in many forms. We cannot rely on three TV stations and two newspapers to give us the complete, unadulterated truth. We must rely on and support other sources that can at least give us more of it. God help the Saints, and all of America, and the world, to understand this, and remember that truth–whatever its source, diligence, observation, love of liberty, and the Spirit are tools that can help us overcome propaganda that can blind, misguide, bind, and control us.
(1) “Follow the Brethren,” by Elder Neal A. Maxwell. All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience, Chapter 7. © Deseret Book.
(2) “Hidden Lessons in the Book of Mormon,” by John Bytheway, January 1, 1997.
(3) Heroes from the Book of Mormon, by Bookcraft, as enhanced by Infobases, Inc. 1995.
(4) Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins. Edited with an Introduction by Noel B. Reynolds (Volume Seven In The Religious Studies Monograph Series)
(5) Book of Mormon Compendium, p. 368
(6) “Message Of The First Presidency To The Church,” read by President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., at the final session of the 112th Annual Conference, Monday, April 6, 1942, in the Assembly Hall, Temple Square, Salt Lake City.
(7) “The Trouble with Pahoran,” by Hugh Nibley.
(8) “A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon”, by Daniel H. Ludlow.
A Secular History of the Book of Mormon Peoples.
(9) “Types of Literature in the Book of Mormon: Epistles, Psalms, Lamentations,” by Sidney B. Sperry. Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1995. Pp. 69–80.
(10) “Warfare and the Book of Mormon,” by Hugh Nibley. Stephen D. Ricks and William J. Hamblin, eds., Warfare in the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book) and FARMS, 1990), 127–45.
(11) http://www.nauvoo.com/vigor/issues/14.html Issue 14 / June 1997, by David Deitrick.
(12) “Things Are Not Always The Way They Appear To Be,” by Wendy L. Watson. Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional, March 19, 2002.
(13) http://baronofdeseret.typepad.com/baronblog/movie/hulk.html, by a “29 year old BYU graduate working as a software engineer in Pleasant Grove, Utah.”
(14) “Book of Mormon Studies,” by Heather Martinson. http://ochomeschooling.com/bofm/37.html, © 2003.
(15) “Notwithstanding My Weakness,” by Neal A. Maxwell. Ensign, Nov. 1976, 12
(16) “Murmur Not”, by Neal Alma Maxwell. Ensign, Nov. 1989.
(18) “Moroni and His Captains: A Lesson in Warfare”, by Eugene England. January 09, 2002. Printed from Mormon Life (http://deseretbook.com/mormon-life).
(19) http://www.walden3d.com/nottingham_country_ward/ missionaries/nelson_hr_951001.html
(20) “No Less Serviceable,” by Howard W. Hunter. Ensign, Apr. 1992.
(21) “From the Valley of Despair to the Mountain Peaks of Hope,” by Harold B. Lee. New Era, Aug. 1971.
(22) “Slow to Anger,” by Elder Gordon T. Watts, Quorum of Seventy. Ensign, Feb. 2003.
(23) “That Ye Not Be Offended”, by Perry M. Christensen, Ensign, Mar. 1991.
(24) On the website http://www.cometozarahemla.com, by Richard G. Richard D. Grant.
(25) “Being Thankworthy,” by Geri Christensen. Ensign, Apr. 2005, 15
(26) http://frontpage2000.nmia.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/Alma61.htm, by Brant Gardner.
Labels: Book of Mormon, Captain Moroni, freemen, kingmen, Mormon, Moroni, Pahoran, propaganda
These two events in the life of the Prophet Joseph prepare us for one other scriptural example—the painful misunderstanding between Moroni and Pahoran in Alma 59 through 62. I wonder if this is where the Prophet Joseph gained his own understanding that conflicts are meaningful and we must learn from them.
Moroni is one of the great military leaders in all of scripture. At the early age of 25 he was made captain over all the Nephite armies. As you will recall, when the prophet Mormon abridged the records of Moroni’s military leadership, he called him “a man of a perfect understanding”11 and honored him with this remarkable endorsement:
If all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, 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.
Behold, he was a man like unto Ammon . . . , and even the other sons of Mosiah, yea, and also Alma and his sons, for they were all men of God.12
It has always astonished me that this same Mormon included, as part of his abridged record, a vivid account of Moroni’s conflict with Pahoran, the chief judge and governor of the Nephites.
As we learn in Alma 59, Moroni’s army was caught in a dangerous situation. Lamanite armies were rapidly gaining ground against them. As chief military leader, Moroni wrote Pahoran for reinforcements. Receiving none, the scripture reports, “Moroni was angry with the government, because of their indifference concerning the freedom of their country.”13
When no help came from the government, Moroni wrote Pahoran again. He began with the facts: the suffering of his men, the slaughter of thousands of the Nephite people, and other atrocities of war. But Moroni didn’t realize that Pahoran had been driven from his throne by the king-men and forced to take refuge in Gideon, and Moroni wrongly accused Pahoran of being a traitor to his own country. Moroni concluded with these challenging words: “Behold, the Lord saith unto me: If those whom ye have appointed your governors do not repent of their sins and iniquities, ye shall go up to battle against them.”14
We are treading sacred ground here. Is there any question whether the Lord had inspired Moroni to know there were problems at the government level that called for military help? Not at all. However, in his abridgment, Mormon made it clear that Moroni mistakenly assumed Pahoran was part of the problem and threatened to remove him as head of the government.
I have puzzled many years why Mormon would include a detailed account of this uncharacteristic error by the great Captain Moroni. I expect it was for at least two reasons.
One would be to show us that none of us, not even the great Captain Moroni, is immune from presumption and rash judgment. What a comfort it is to me, and I hope to you, that we are in the best of company when we make errors of this kind. This is not to excuse them but to give us permission to admit our mistakes and to learn from them.
The second reason is to show us one of the best examples in all of scripture of how to respond to an unjust accusation. We know very little about Pahoran except that he was an upright ruler committed to standing “fast in that liberty in . . . which God . . . made us free.”15 In chapter 61, Mormon, as editor, gave us Pahoran’s entire response to Captain Moroni. I will quote only two of the 20 verses included in his answer:
I, Pahoran, who am the chief governor of this land, do send these words. . . . Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul. …
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.16
How did Pahoran do it? How could he respond in such humility and meekness before the Lord? He probably sat right down and wrote an angry reply, venting his injured feelings against Moroni. If so, when he was finished, he did what we all must do—he tore it up and threw it away. Then he must have spent long hours in supplication to the Lord to find the strength to overlook the unjust accusations and to reply with such compassion and love.
In Proverbs we read that “grievous words stir up anger” and “a soft answer turneth away wrath.”17 Pahoran’s soft answer is a beautiful example of what the Prophet Joseph said about “the necessity of humility and meekness before the Lord, that He might teach us of His ways.”18
Even in this misjudgment Moroni is also our model. When he learned of his error, he was not prideful. He immediately marched to the aid of Pahoran, and with their combined forces they overthrew the king-men and the Lamanites, and peace was restored in the land.
As you reflect on these examples, do they call to mind any other gospel principles? I’m thinking in particular of that favorite scripture, Ether 12:27
President Kimball taught this gospel principle in terms of mirrors. He said, “Our vision is completely obscured when we have no mirror to [show us] our own faults and [we] look only for the foibles of others.”19
Learning from Our Conflicts
GERALD R. WILLIAMS
27 June 2006.
Moroni got very personal and nasty with Pahoran.
Pahoran’s response to Moroni was in the same spirit of faithful obedience as was Bishop Williams’. In the 61st chapter of Alma look at verse 2.
“I, Pahoran, who am the chief governor of this land, do send these words unto Moroni, the chief captain over the army. Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul.” (Alma 61:2)
He goes on to tell about how the king-men had rebelled and started a war against the government.
Now for the verse that impresses me the most in this whole account verse 9:
“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.” (Alma 61:9)
Brothers and sisters, if there was ever anyone who had a right to be offended, angry, and defensive it would be Pahoran at this time. Moroni had made some serious accusations and threats toward him. I would think that Pahoran would be justified in saying, “Moroni, you are such a jerk. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You are a judgmental, pious bully. I’m doing everything I can to hold the government together so you can have any support at all and all you can do is carp, complain, and criticize.”
But that was not his response. This great saint knew, as Bishop Williams knew, that he must continue to live the principles of the gospel, especially at this crucial time, no matter what.
I also find it interesting that Pahoran did not ignore Moroni’s verbal attack but recognized Moroni’s frustration and complemented him for his “greatness of heart.”
Remember Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s wonderful counsel at the last general conference when he commanded us to speak with the tongues of angles; to be positive and uplifting. Maybe Pahoran had read a scripture similar to …
Pahoran spoke with the tongue of an angle. And so should we.
Govern Ourselves by Correct Principles
Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional
April 24, 2007