Alma 43

Alma 43:3 now I return to an account of the wars

"The morning was dark and cold, the children were half-asleep, and our reading in the Book of Mormon seemed endless. We were mired somewhere in the last half of the book of Alma and, frankly, we weren't getting much out of it.

"Whenever we got into those detailed accounts of the wars between the Nephites and the Lamanites, our enthusiasm for daily scripture study waned...And so, as the sleepy voices droned on, my mind began to wander. Why? Why did Mormon include so much detail about the wars? With all the wonderful spiritual events that must have taken place, why would he use so much valuable space on the plates to record military intrigue and battle strategy?

"The day's reading session finally ended, but my search for an answer had just begun...the question continued to nag at me. It wasn't until several weeks later that I found what was, for me, a key to the answer I sought. A friend was sharing her concern that perhaps her children would not remain righteous with all the worldly influences around them. 'I'm really scared,' she said. 'It's like a war out there.' As she spoke, my mind filled with the unlikely scene of her children lined up on the front lawn in fierce battle against the heavily armed forces of the adversary.

"Then it hit me. That was it! This was the war that applied to me-not a war of swords and spears, but the eternal war for my soul and those of my family. Satan is waging an all-out war against truth and righteousness. His forces are everywhere, and we are involved in that war whether we like it or not. The danger is real, and the stakes are high. All around us we see the battle casualties, their lives ruined and their souls scarred. If we expect to avoid becoming casualties ourselves, we desperately need the Lord's guidance-and there is no better place to find it than in that book of scripture prepared specifically for our day: the Book of Mormon!

"In great excitement I opened the book of Alma and began to read the main war chapters again. But this time, instead of skimming through the various battle accounts, I thought of the Lamanites, who were wicked at the time of these battles, as representing the forces of evil, with Satan at their head, and the Nephites, who were generally righteous at that time, representing the Saints of our day, struggling to protect themselves and their families. Suddenly the battlefield was no longer remote in time and place. This battle was my battle! The family under siege was mine!

"With this new insight, I found more than one hundred passages in the last twenty chapters of Alma alone that contain useful information about how Satan and his forces operate or that describe inspired strategies for defending ourselves against evil. Seemingly insignificant military details revealed valuable counsel when I simply asked the question 'How does this apply to the war against evil today?'

"...No longer am I tempted to skip the war stories in the Book of Mormon or daydream my way through them. If I am to successfully defend my family in the great war with evil, I want to take advantage of every word of counsel from the Lord's 'combat manual' for the latter days-the Book of Mormon." (Kathleen S. McConkie, Ensign, Jan. 1992, "Defending Against Evil")

Alma 43:6 Zerahemnah appointed chief captains...and they were all Amalekites and Zoramites

"We see that, similar to enemy forces in Nephite times, Satan and his followers use apostates to lead attacks against the Church today. Zarahemnah's evil plotting reminds us that Satan's plan is to usurp power over men and bring them into [subjection]. Like the Nephites, we must fight this evil, for if Satan is allowed to prevail, our precious rights to life and liberty will be lost." (Kathleen S. McConkie, Ensign, Jan. 1992, "Defending Against Evil")

Alma 43:13 the Nephites were compelled, alone to withstand against the Lamanites

The Nephites were in the unenviable position of fighting against much greater numbers. In the battle at the river Sidon, the Lamanite forces were more than double the number of the Nephites (v. 51). But with God all things are possible, and faith can bring the powers of heaven as in the case of the prophet Elisha. When the prophet and his servant were encompassed by the Syrian army, they prevailed because of the heavenly host which protected them. Elisha comforted his fearful servant, saying, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha (2 Kgs. 6:16-17).

In the latter-day fight against evil, we feel just as outnumbered. Nephi saw the latter-day saints and said that their numbers were few (1 Ne 14:12). Compared to the hosts of Satan and the wicked of the world, the faithful church members are vastly outnumbered. To succeed, we must exercise the faith of Moroni, the sons of Helaman, and Elisha. Then, if we could see with spiritual eyes, we would see that they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

Alma 43:16 his name was Moroni

Of all the history that he abridged, we find that Mormon identified most strongly with Captain Moroni (the Book of Mormon never refers to him as a "general"). Both had been chief captains at a young age. Both led armies which were outnumbered and impeded by the wickedness of the people. Both were men of God. Apparently, Mormon so loved this great man, that he named his son after him. Later, Mormon says of captain Moroni, he 'was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding...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 48:11,17).

Maybe one of the other reasons why Mormon spent so much time discussing these Nephite wars was because he wanted us to be acquainted with the power and personality of this man, for if we were all like him, we would quickly win our war against evil. Hermann Melville, in his classic, Moby Dick, spends over 500 pages in a character study of a revengeful sea captain. In the last chapters of Alma, Mormon spends only 53 pages in a character study of a righteous chief captain. We must be thankful to Mormon for including this detail, for without it, we could never become as Moroni-mighty and unshakable in the face of the devil and his angels.

Hugh Nibley

"At this moment the twenty-five-year-old Moroni appears on the scene, a military genius if there ever was one. He introduced improvements in armor to make his people far more than a match, man for man, for the enemy (Alma 43:19-21); he arranged the Jershon defense zone (Alma 43:22), and being on the defensive and greatly outnumbered, was particularly diligent in keeping a sharp lookout on all enemy movements, at the same time inquiring of the holy prophet Alma (after what is now known to have been an ancient custom in Israel) regarding the enemy's plan of battle, 'whither the armies of the Nephites should go to defend themselves against the Lamanites' (Alma 43:23). On the other hand, the Lamanite campaign was directed by Amalekite and Zoramite officers, whose knowledge of Nephite military secrets and methods would have given them an enormous advantage over any commander but Moroni." (Since Cumorah, p. 298)

Alma 43:19 Moroni, had prepared his people with breastplates and with arm-shields

"As the Nephite armies prepared, we prepare for that spiritual battle by putting on 'the whole armour of God,' which will enable us to 'stand against the wiles of the devil.' (Eph. 6:11.) Satan has a difficult time conquering an individual protected by this armor. Like the opposition leaders, Satan will usually focus his attack on our weakest parts, hoping for a major attack on our souls after our defenses crumble." (Kathleen S. McConkie, Ensign, Jan. 1992, "Defending Against Evil")

Alma 43:23 Moroni...sent certain men unto him, desiring him that he should inquire of the Lord

The most decisive military victories came when the chief captain requested divine direction through Alma. In a previous battle, Moroni's predecessor, Zoram, had been told where to go to recapture a large body of Nephite captives (Alma 16:5-8). However, this practice does not continue, in part because Alma is soon to depart out of the land of Zarahemla never to be heard of again (Alma 45:18).

"Not unlike the Nephite spies, modern prophets and the scriptures can give us advance warning of the plans of the evil one. If we follow the Lord's counsel through his prophet, as did Moroni, we too can know how, when, and where to best defend ourselves. The gospel gives us the 'battle strategy,' and the Church provides the necessary structure for setting up our defenses and defeating the enemy with minimum casualties." (Kathleen S. McConkie, Ensign, Jan. 1992, "Defending Against Evil")

Alma 43:45 Nevertheless, the Nephites were inspired by a better cause

James E. Faust

"With the increased onslaught of forces that cause families to disintegrate, we ought to dig in our heels to preserve all that is great and good in the family. We are reminded that in times of tribulations, the Nephites were not fighting for a political cause, such as monarchy or power; rather, they 'were inspired by a better cause.' For 'they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church.' (Alma 43:45.)" (Ensign, Aug. 1990, "Where is the Church?")

Sheri L. Dew

Twelve years ago President Ezra Taft Benson taught: 'Never before on the face of this earth have the forces of evil and the forces of good been as well organized. ... The final outcome is certain-the forces of righteousness will win. But what remains to be seen is where each of us ... will stand in the battle-and how tall we will stand. ... Great battles can make great heroes and heroines' ("In His Steps," address to Church Educational System personnel, Anaheim, California, 8 Feb. 1987).

"Are we not like Captain Moroni's armies who, though vastly outnumbered, were 'inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for monarchy nor power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, ... yea, for their rites of worship and their church'? (Alma 43:45).

"You and I compose a pivotal battalion in the army of the Lord! May we arise in this, the greatest cause on earth. May we go forward together in the strength of the Lord. More than ever He needs our faith and faithfulness, our vitality and our ingenuity, our unwavering commitment and conviction.

"This life is a test. It is also a glorious privilege. May we work toward the kind of Big Finish the Apostle Paul described: 'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith' (2 Tim. 4:7-8)." (Ensign, July 2000, "This is a Test")

Moroni 43:46-47 When are the saints of God justified in going to war?

The Book of Mormon reiterates the law of the Lord on the matter. In this verse we are given two basic rules:  1) do not be guilty of the first or second offense, and 2) defend your families even unto bloodshed. The former rule could be termed the "turn the other cheek" rule. The Lord taught that when we are smitten (first offense) we should turn the other cheek (for the second offense). But after two assaults, we don't have any uninjured cheeks left to turn! At this point, retaliation is justified. But even then, the D&C explains that even greater blessings can be obtained if restraint is used:

   '...if your enemy shall smite you the second time, and you revile not against your enemy, and bear it patiently, your reward shall be an hundredfold.

   And again, if he shall smite you the third time, and ye bear it patiently, your reward shall be doubled unto you four-fold;

   ...Behold, this is the law I gave unto my servant Nephi, and thy fathers, Joseph, and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, and all mine ancient prophets and apostles. And again, this is the law that I gave unto mine ancients, that they should not go out unto battle against any nation, kindred, tongue, or people, save I, the Lord, commanded them.' (DC 98:25-26,32-33)

Boyd K. Packer

"A message of the First Presidency dated April 6, 1942, states:

'. . . the Church is and must be against war. . . . It cannot regard war as a righteous means of settling international disputes; these should and could be settled -- the nations agreeing -- by peaceful negotiations and adjustments.

'But the Church membership are citizens or subjects of sovereignties over which the Church has no control. The Lord himself has told us to `befriend that law which is the constitutional law of the land': . . .

'. . . When, therefore, constitutional law, obedient to these principles, calls the manhood of the Church into the armed service of any country to which they owe allegiance, their highest civic duty requires that they meet that call. If, harkening to that call and obeying those in command over them, they shall take the lives of those who fight against them, that will not make of them murderers, nor subject them to the penalty that God has prescribed for those who kill.'" (Conference Report, Apr. 1968, p. 34)

David O. McKay

"There are, however, two conditions which may justify a truly Christian man to enter-mind you, I say enter, not begin-a war: (1) An attempt to dominate and to deprive another of his free agency, and (2) Loyalty to his country. Possibly there is a third, viz., Defense of a weak nation that is being unjustly crushed by a strong, ruthless one." (Conference Report, Apr. 1942, p. 72 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 350)