I have been reading the Book of Mormon since I was a boy but my real efforts to understand this powerful testimony of Christ began as a 19-yr-old missionary. Poring over it for the first time in my life, I became interested in the doctrines of Christ found in the pages of the book. Since those days, my study has helped me to see and learn many things that have improved my life.
In my early years of study I sometimes struggled with the purpose of the “war chapters” found in the book. But with age and experience (and a little effort) I have begun to see the great value in the things Mormon included in the record pertaining to war. Mormon’s life was spent in battle (he was a Nephite general at age 16) and he developed some powerful insights that can help us all prepare for the events that will surely come in our day. That is a subject I would like to address in this little missive.
As he compiled the record of the Nephites, Mormon often highlighted the attitudes and attributes of the Nephites and Lamanites. One area I have found of special interest is the attitude he takes toward the Nephite general Moroni. It is obvious to any reader that Mormon had a great respect for Moroni (so much so that he gave his own son the same name). Many of the attributes we see in the writing of Mormon about his own military experiences shadow the things he appreciated about Moroni. While a much longer paper could be made of these connections, I would like to focus on one truth Mormon highlights related to the great Captain Moroni’s righteousness.
On several occasions, Moroni found himself and his armies in precarious situations. For instance, Alma 44 covers a battle between the Nephite forces and a massive Lamanite army, led by the apostate Nephite Zerahemnah. Chosen for his hatred of the Nephites and his skill in warfare, Zerahemnah took the Lamanites to battle with the intent to destroy the whole of the Nephite nation. But a series of setbacks and missteps plunged the Lamanite army into a situation that was precarious to the degree of utter destruction.
And it came to pass that he [Moroni and his army] met the Lamanites in the borders of Jershon, and his people were armed with swords, and with cimeters, and all manner of weapons of war. And when the armies of the Lamanites saw that the people of Nephi, or that Moroni, had prepared his people with breastplates and with arm-shields, yea, and also shields to defend their heads, and also were dressed with thick clothing—now the army of Zerahemnah was not prepared with any such thing; they had only their swords and their cimeters, their bows and their arrows…and they were naked, save it were a skin which was girded about their loins;… (Alma 43:18-20)
Seeing the preparations of the army of Moroni, the Lamanites were afraid to engage in battle and chose to move their attack to a different part of the land – hopeful to find a less prepared enemy.
Not one to simply hope for the best, Captain Moroni acted quickly. First, he sent spies to scope out the plans of the army of Zerahemnah. Then, he called on Alma, the prophet of the Church, to ask for guidance from the God of their fathers. Alma sought help from God and was given directions to help Moroni prepare for the work of their enemies. Thus, when the Lamanites arrived at their designed battleground they found the army of the Nephites waiting to confront them. What they didn’t find was the second portion of Moroni’s army that was secreted in the valleys, waiting for them to pass by. Now the whole of the Lamanite army was surrounded by the well equipped and protected Nephite militia. The ensuing battle was a bloodbath with the Lamanites contributing most of the liquid.
As the battle raged, the leaders of the Lamanite army used every trick to inspire their men to face the well-trained and favorably suited soldiers of the armies of Moroni. And though there was some success, as the battle progressed the Lamanites found themselves being slaughtered with comparative ease. Then, at a critical point in the struggle, Moroni detected the fear and terror of his enemies. Unlike most other military leaders in a similar situation,…
…Moroni, when he saw their terror, commanded his men that they should stop shedding their blood. (Alma 43:54)
REALLY!! What military man would pass on the chance to decimate the enemies’ greatest asset?
Yet, that is precisely what Moroni did. And to complicate things even more, Moroni went a step further. To Zerahemnah, the leader of the Lamanites he said:
…We will not seek your blood, but we will spare your lives, if ye will go your way and come not again to war against us. (Alma 44:6)
In other words, Moroni offers to free Zerahemnah and his army on a PROMISE. No other strings attached.
Understandably, the Lamanites had some difficulty accepting/believing what was happening but in the end, they agreed to surrender and live (though Zerahemnah lost a little in the process). The ensuing events can be read in Alma 44:8-24, but this amazing experience only highlights the strength and faith of a man of war who relied on the teachings of God. He had no desire to kill or destroy – he was willing to let people live if they would just stop their destructive behavior. All he sought was peace for his people, so they could worship God and Christ as they desired.
Moroni was a great man of war, but he was a greater man of God. He worked to protect his people from destruction by their enemies but always looked to God for the way he should do his business. Is it any wonder that Mormon, a man who spent most of his life practicing warfare to protect his people, would find hope in the exploits of Moroni?
Those who read and study the word of God (whether in the Book of Mormon or other scriptures) can find instances where real men do the things of God, despite the ideas of the world. Moroni is one of those men and is an inspirational example for all who read his exploits. I understand, completely, why Mormon (nearly 500 years removed from the time of Moroni) would find strength in the faithfulness of Captain Moroni, the great Nephite leader.
If you would like to see a short video portraying this exciting experience, check out this link.
For more experiences with Moroni, check out Alma 43-63 in The Book of Mormon.