It’s the second installment in my favourite scriptures series – aren’t you excited?! They’re not in any order of favouritism; but since I started with the earlier parts of the Book of Mormon, I’ll continue on from there.
I could start with the whole second half of Alma, where the exploits of Captain Moroni, Pahoran, Teancum, and Helaman and the stripling warriors are recorded. But there are too many scriptures in there that I love, so maybe I’ll pick just a few.
I’m just going to include the whole chapter here, again. Who doesn’t love this one? It’s sort of a guilty fave, because it’s probably not for the right reasons – Moroni tears down Ammoron with such perfect vocabulary, definitely not mincing words in this prisoner-exchange-letter:
Yea, I would tell you these things if ye were capable of hearkening unto them; yea, I would tell you concerning that awful hell that awaits such murderers as thou and thy brother have been, except ye repent and withdraw your murderous purposes, and return with your armies to your own lands.
Harsh, isn’t it? Moroni had both reason and authority, though: he was the leader of the nation’s armies in a time of war, and Ammoron was a usurper (and Nephite deserter) whose brother Amalackiah had assassinated the Lamanite king in order to take the crown for himself. Amalackiah had convinced the queen to marry him, and with his brother had compelled the Lamanites to go to war against the Nephites – despite their reluctance after a harrowing encounter with Captain Moroni had led them to take an oath that they wouldn’t come against them in battle again. Amalackiah and Ammoron were classic power-seekers who didn’t care how much others had to suffer for their own gain. They pretended and murdered their way to power and would stop nothing short of their goal of full dominion over everyone and everything. The only reason Ammoron was now king instead of his brother was that Teancum had stuck a javelin in Amalackiah’s heart, in an effort to end the war (he later killed Ammoron the same way, but died himself in the process). Unfortunately, the just-as-evil Ammoron took his brother’s place, continuing the war that had already taken such a toll on the lives and livelihoods of both sides. The only reason for this war was the greed of these two brothers (this was also Teancum’s opinion). Without them, it would have ended at Sidon with Moroni’s offer and the Lamanites’ oath. So Moroni had quite enough reason to say these things to Ammoron, and to threaten him (read on in the chapter) if he wouldn’t retreat.
This is just the next chapter, but it’s one I’ve really liked for a while. Moroni and his men break the Nephite prisoners-of-war out of the city where they’re being held. (They break them out because the exchange route ended when Moroni called Ammoron a child of hell and threatened him with extinction if he didn’t retreat, and Ammoron replied that he would exchange prisoners if Moroni would surrender and allow Ammoron and the Lamanites to rule over them. Which, apparently, was their right. The really annoying thing is that Ammoron and his brother pretended to care about the Lamanites – that the purpose of their war was to “avenge their wrongs, and to maintain and obtain their rights to government”. As if they cared!) So, chapter 55 is the excellent breakout story. Moroni and his men know all about this prison city, which was originally theirs anyway, and they have with them a servant of the murdered Lamanite king, who knew the truth about what had really happened and had run away to the Nephites. He gets all chummy with the Lamanite guards, gets them drunk, and then the Nephites go and hand in weapons to their brothers inside, so that when dawn comes, the guards discover a city filled with a Nephite army instead of weaponless prisoners, and the proper Nephite army surrounding them on the outside. At this point, they make a really good choice: “and in these circumstances they found that it was not expedient that they should fight with the Nephites; therefore their chief captains demanded their weapons of war, and they brought them forth and cast them at the feet of the Nephites, pleading for mercy” (v. 23). I wonder if Mormon meant to be that funny, because if he did, I love his dry humour.
This one is a change of pace: it’s a beautiful scripture that describes what I call the sanctification cycle (as opposed to the pride cycle that we hear so much about with the Book of Mormon). About 20 years after the long war between the Nephites and Lamanites, the Nephites had passed through a period of prosperity and peace, expanding their cities and farms and venturing out to new lands in the north by ship. Many people had joined the church of God and it had become prosperous. A few years of this had turned some of the members prideful, though, and they began to persecute the more humble ones. Apparently it got pretty bad. But those on the receiving end didn’t fight fire with fire; instead they “did fast and pray oft, and…
did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.
I just love this scripture. It teaches a humbling lesson about where true peace comes from, and how to respond to persecution of this type. And far from being something to avoid, or an indication that life wasn’t good anymore, that persecution became their pathway to redemption. They actually became more pure, more loving and filled with joy in the process of enduring this affliction. The persecution didn’t end; this was a holy space inside their very real, difficult lives, where something miraculous took place in a temple of their own making – in their individual souls and the unity of their joined discipleship.
There are so many more scriptures! So many favourites. See how it’s impossible for me to choose just one? I think this series is going to get very long. There’s still all of the Old and New Testaments to go. For now, there are a couple more in Helaman which I want to mention…
This is part of Samuel’s prophecy about the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the consequences of the Nephites’ wickedness, which had gotten so bad that it had overcome most of that nation, and now the Lamanites were actually more righteous. As we know. Samuel foretells a curse on riches and all possessions, so that people will lay something down on the ground and it will disappear; they will bury something to hide it, and won’t remember where they buried it; riches will slip through their fingers and all the things they cherish will be like water in their hands. At this point, they will lament and ask God for mercy; but God will not answer them because they are too late – all the prophets and teachers who warned them have been silenced and killed; when God gave them their chances, they didn’t want them. There comes a time when it’s just too late for some people; when their souls are so twisted and the light so far gone that they have no chances left. When they’ve chosen their path, and it descends downwards forever. This is what Samuel tells them:
But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and eternal Head.
In fact, right here God is giving them a last chance; He has sent Samuel to scare them into repentance by vividly painting for them the picture of what will become of their lives if they waste this opportunity, too.
The reason I love this scripture is for its evocation, again, of the basic theme of the Book of Mormon records: agency, choice and freedom. Our obligation to seek and know the truth, and act according to it. Always, the Lord puts the responsibility for action back on our plate. He will do the saving, but we must desire it and choose it. He will not save us without our consent, and He consistently requires us to search within ourselves for our best nature; for the boldness and love that characterised our victory over Satan and his followers in the premortal life. Here, Samuel is still speaking to the Nephites, but now in a slightly more encouraging way.
And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself [(you can’t blame it on anyone else)]; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given you a knowledge and he hath made you free.
He hath given unto you that ye may know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you.
Samuel makes it very clear that we only are to blame for our eternal circumstances; God has somehow made every person equal, giving to them the conditions which will allow each to make the decisions of spiritual life or death. Our reward in the resurrection will depend on those decisions. It’s perfect justice.