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)
The reason why Moroni wrote this of him was because he was the epitome of a major deliverer.
The doctrine of deliverers
Jesus is the appointed divine Deliverer that delivers His people from temporal and spiritual destruction, but He also appoints mortals as major and minor deliverers on an as needed basis. Like the high priesthood, deliverers were appointed and ordained by a holy ordinance and calling, “in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for [deliverance]” (Alma 13:2).
Deliverers in the reign of kings and in the reign of judges
From the death of the first Nephi to the time of captain Moroni, there were two Nephite systems. The first was the reign of kings, which began with second Nephi (see Jacob 1:11) and continued until king Mosiah. All of these kings were appointed and recognized as the Lord’s deliverers.
And they did wax strong in love towards Mosiah;…he had established peace in the land, and he had granted unto his people that they should be delivered from all manner of bondage (Mosiah 29:40)
After Mosiah’s death, the reign of judges began with Alma the younger wearing four hats in the new governmental system: chief judge of all the Nephites, high priest (and seer) over all the church, chief captain over all the Nephite armies and the governor of the people.
And it came to pass that Alma was appointed to be the first chief judge, he being also the high priest, his father having conferred the office upon him, and having given him the charge concerning all the affairs of the church. (Mosiah 29:42)
Now Alma, being the chief judge and the governor of the people of Nephi, therefore he went up with his people, yea, with his captains, and chief captains, yea, at the head of his armies, against the Amlicites to battle. (Alma 2:16)
Major and minor deliverers
As the chief captain, Alma became the first major deliverer during the reign of the judges. All deliverers were noted for their exceedingly great faith, according to the foundational principal set forth by the first Nephi:
But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance. (1 Nephi 1:20)
But major deliverers were exceptional in their faith, even in comparison with the mighty faith of other deliverers. For this reason, the Lord set them (the major deliverers) at the head of the minor deliverers. Alma was a major deliverer, possessed of such great faith.
And it came to pass that Alma, being a man of God, being exercised with much faith, cried, saying: O Lord, have mercy and spare my life, that I may be an instrument in thy hands to save and preserve this people. Now when Alma had said these words he contended again with Amlici; and he was strengthened, insomuch that he slew Amlici with the sword. (Alma 2:30-31)
Alma ended up delivering the Nephites out of the hands of the Lamanites, but was wounded, so when a few days later another army of the Lamanites invaded, the Nephites armies were sent against them without Alma, someone else leading. This began the break-up of Alma’s four hats. These wars took place in the 5th year of the reign of the judges.
In the 8th and 9th years, the church began to be wicked, with contentions, pride, etc., which threatened to undermine the law of deliverance. For this reason, Alma delivered up the judgment-seat to Nephihah, retaining the high priesthood over the church.
The law of deliverance
Deliverance from the Lord (through His deliverers, who represent Him, or personally through direct intervention by the Lord Himself) comes according to the obedience, faith and unity of the Lord’s people. If the people are united, obedient and exercise faith, the Lord delivers them from the hands of their enemies, so that their enemies have no power over them. If the people are not united, are disobedient or fail to exercise faith, the Lord delivers them into the hands of their enemies, subjecting them to their enemies’ will. Breaking the Lord’s law of deliverance causes the people of the Lord to lose their houses, lands, cities, possessions, freedoms and even their lives, while keeping the law allows them to get most of these things back (everything except their lives) or keeps their enemies from taking these things from them in the first place.
Alma preaches to restore the power of deliverance
Alma gave up the judgment-seat and governorship in the 9th year because no deliverer could deliver a wicked people out of the hands of their enemies (Mormon and his astounding faith being a noted exception.) The people needed to be united (no more contentions), obedient (no more transgressions) and full of faith. So he dedicated the rest of his ministry to making sure that the people did not sabotage the faith of the deliverers. Although technically Alma was still a major deliverer, he took a backseat to that role, a sort of major deliverer emeritus status, allowing the Lord to raise up other deliverers in his stead.
Zoram as a major deliverer and Lehi and Aha as minor deliverers
In the 11th year, Mormon writes that Zoram lead the armies of the Nephites with two of his sons (Lehi and Aha.) He mentions these men because they were the new major and minor deliverers. Zoram and his sons repel the Lamanite invasion of this year but also do something curious: they consult with Alma to obtained revelatory strategy. This shows that although Alma was no longer in an active role, his appointment as a major deliverer was still considered intact.
The unknown leaders of the war(s) of the 14th and 15th years
There were Lamanite invasions during these years, but Mormon doesn’t reveal who the Nephite war leaders were. He only says that there was a tremendous battle in the 15th year, bigger than any battle yet, and it left a whole lot of people dead and affected by it. Nevertheless, the Nephites were victorious, being delivered, yet again.
It may be that the reason why Mormon left out the names is that so tremendous was this last battle, that the Nephite military leadership were all killed, requiring a regulation of the armies, with new appointments to captain and chief captain. It may be that captain Moroni was appointed as the chief captain over the Nephites after these wars, in the beginning of the 16th year, or at the end of the 15th. The record states that he was only 25 years old when he was appointed, so it may have been that he inherited the position because all those above him, who were older and of higher rank, were killed in this last battle.
The set-up for captain Moroni’s entrance: Korihor and the Zoramites
In the 17th year, Korihor was killed by the Zoramites, who had separated themselves from the Nephites and later rejected Alma’s preaching, kicking out all the believers. The believers went to live with the people of Ammon, which made the Zoramites angry. They then joined with the Lamanites and prepared for war. The people of Ammon (the Anti-Nephi-Lehies) removed themselves to the land of Melek so that the Nephites could protect them from the Lamanite-Zoramite army.
Moroni is at the head of the Nephite armies, as the new major deliverer
In the 18th year is when the Lamanites invade and Mormon writes that Moroni is the chief Nephite captain. Also, in this year Alma delivers the sacred records into the hands of Helaman. He had previously asked Nephihah to take the records, but was refused, so Helaman was his second choice. Alma is getting ready to leave the scene. Why? Because Moroni is getting ready to become active on the scene. This is a changing of the guard, of the major deliverers.
Alma waits until Moroni has dispatched the Lamanites (see Alma chapters 43 and 44), firmly establishing himself as the Lord’s newly appointed deliverer, and then leaves the scene in the commencement of the 19th year.
Moroni’s first outing as deliverer awes all the prophets
Alma chapter 43 and 44 is in reality only one Book of Mormon chapter on the plates of Mormon, the 64th chapter, and is an account of one of the greatest miracles of the entire Book of Mormon. We do not know exactly when 25 year old Moroni took control of the Nephite armies, for it could have been anywhere between the 11th year and the 18th year, but after he did, and prior to the Lamanite invasion of the 18th year, he completely changed the affairs of the war by putting arm shields, head shields, breastplates and thick clothing on his troops. This frightened the Lamanites so much they changed their plan of attack!
Like Zoram before him, Moroni sends soldiers to consult with Alma, for Alma had not, yet, departed, and learns where the Lamanites plan to attack. He then causes his armies to surround the much larger force and does something that had never been done before in all of Nephite history: he completely defeats the Lamanite army! Prior to Moroni, the most any king or judge or chief captain deliverer had ever accomplished with an invading Lamanite force—which was invariable always about double or more the size of the Nephite forces—was to drive the Lamanites out of the land. But Moroni doesn’t drive them out, sending them fleeing like before, instead he causes them to entirely surrender! Never at any time had the Lamanites surrendered.
This astounding miracle is made the more miraculous because Moroni then offers them a chance to leave back to their lands unharmed, merely by entering into a covenant never to attack the Nephites ever again. Those who enter the covenant leave in peace, while those who do not enter the covenant fight on until they are slain.
The whole episode shows that the Lord completely delivered the Lamanites into the hands of Moroni, His new deliverer on the scene. All the Nephite prophets of that time, and those that lived afterward, saw that Moroni had been raised up by the Lord specifically as the ideal deliverer, as an example of Himself, or of the power of deliverance which is in Himself.
The record of Alma ends; the record of Helaman begins
Alma left the scene in the beginning of the 19th year, and from this point on, which is the beginning of the record of Helaman, Moroni is in charge of everything, as the major deliverer. Everyone takes cue from him, Nephihah, Pahoran, Helaman, Lehi, Teancum, everyone. No longer does Moroni go to any prophet for revelation, but just receives it himself. He prophesies, warns, blesses, wars, and does all things in the name of the Lord. Not even the governor of the land, Pahoran, who is technically his boss, tells him what to do, but all righteous men in the land, the whole church of God, submits to his leadership. Why? Because Moroni was the appointed lion of the Lord for that time.
Moroni was the embodiment of the Lord’s righteous indignation. He represented the Lord’s judgments upon the sinful people of Nephi, as well as upon the wicked Lamanites who invaded. He was both a deliverer of the Nephites and also a judge upon the transgressor. The record of Helaman, from which Mormon takes most of his account of Moroni, deals almost entirely with Moroni. Why? Because Moroni was another type of the Lord.
Types of the Lord
From time to time the Lord sends a prophet who is lifted up as one of His types. Jonah was one such, showing the self-sacrificing nature of the Lord, etc. Captain Moroni was another, but showing the Lord’s almighty power of deliverance and sword of justice. Moroni worked with life and death, preparing his people so that they would be preserved by their enemies (life) and dealing justice upon enemies both foreign and domestic (death). His calling was to be the arm of the Lord, in judging the wicked and delivering the righteous. Moroni, then, was not just a chief captain, but was also a higher judge and a governor among the people. This made him like the judge-deliverers raised up to the house of Israel anciently, as written in the Book of Judges, with one exception: Moroni was the epitome of that calling.
Moroni is the standard by which all judge-deliverers are measured. This is why Mormon writes, “if all men were like unto Moroni.” Moroni is the standard. Other prophets have also attained standard status. For example, Melchizedek is the standard for a high priest. Moroni is like the high priest Melchizedek re-incarnated as a judge-deliverer. If such a thing could be done to Melchizedek, Moroni would be the result.
Whenever a type of the Lord makes an appearance on the mortal scene, it is imperative that we take notice of what they do and say and of their character. As the standards, the types are to be emulated. This is why Mormon stops his narrative of Moroni’s actions and words to present him as a type of Christ, lest we miss it. This is also why He doesn’t even mention any of the sermons of Helaman, given in that time. Although Helaman was a seer in possession of all the sacred records and a holy prophet, a high priest and a preacher of righteousness, Moroni’s ministry eclipsed that of Helaman. Moroni’s ministry was, simply put, more important that Helaman’s. Helaman was a prophet and seer, one of many. Moroni was a standard or type, one of a select few.
This is why we see Helaman humbling himself before Moroni in his letter to him:
Now we do not know the cause that the government does not grant us more strength; neither do those men who came up unto us know why we have not received greater strength. Behold, we do not know but what ye are unsuccessful, and ye have drawn away the forces into that quarter of the land; if so, we do not desire to murmur. (Alma 58:34-35)
In Helaman’s mind, Moroni’s needs came first before Helaman’s needs. He and his men would just suffer under the circumstances and submit to whatever Moroni saw fit as expedient for the war resources, for Moroni was the Lord’s appointed deliverer. (Helaman was also an appointed deliverer, but a minor one in comparison to Moroni, hence the submission.)
Pahoran, Moroni’s boss, also humbled himself and submitted to Moroni:
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)
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. But ye have said, except they repent the Lord hath commanded you that ye should go against them. (Alma 61:19-20)
Pahoran’s letter shows that he is definitely Moroni’s superior, yet receiving (apparent) chastisement from this particular subordinate caused him to rejoice, instead of getting angry. Also, Pahoran’s instructions to Moroni are based upon Moroni’s (not Pahoran’s) revelation, showing that even the highest official in the land recognized the hand of the Lord upon Moroni and saw fit to submit.
Why all this groveling before Moroni? Because he was a type of the Lord and all these holy prophets and just men saw it. Just as if the Lord Himself were there in person, their only desire was to obey Moroni’s instructions.
Destruction upon the Nephites
In the 19th year, two things of note happen: Alma prophesies the extinction of the Nephites, to happen 400 after the coming of Christ, and Moroni raises the title of liberty and gets the Christians of the land to covenant to support the cause of freedom or be destroyed altogether. The two occurrences show that both men were being wrought upon by the Holy Ghost, the one setting up the covenant that would eventually put in motion the penalty and the other prophesying when the penalty would be enacted.
Moroni’s authority from God
Moroni was a member of the church of God, as were Amalickiah and his followers, who were mostly lower judges seeking for higher office and greater power by making Amalickiah king. After the Amalickiahites dissented from the church, and Moroni heard about it, he rallied a citizen militia around the title of liberty, getting everyone to enter into the covenant of freedom, with an attached penalty of death. Before raising the title, though, he prayed mightily to the Lord, and Mormon writes this about his prayer:
he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land (Alma 46:13)
And therefore, at this time, Moroni prayed that the cause of the Christians, and the freedom of the land might be favored.
And it came to pass that when he had poured out his soul to God, he named all the land which was south of the land Desolation, yea, and in fine, all the land, both on the north and on the south—A chosen land, and the land of liberty.
And he said:
Surely God shall not suffer that we, who are despised because we take upon us the name of Christ, shall be trodden down and destroyed, until we bring it upon us by our own transgressions. (Alma 46:16-18)
Mormon shows by this inclusion that the judge-deliverer type that was raised up in this land prayed for the freedom of the land and named the whole of it a chosen land of liberty. This wasn’t just a simple prayer, this was a holy ordinance performed in the name of the Lord by one of the Lord’s types under valid and recognized authority and with power. In other words, this land is a land of liberty because of Moroni. This is Mormon’s point. In other words, Mormon is saying, “Here is the Lord’s deliverer standard, raised up on this land, and see, here he is praying for the freedom of the land and naming it a land of liberty, therefore, it is a land of liberty because of this man’s prayer and ordinance, for this man is the Lord’s representative, and what he proclaims in the name of the Lord is sure, as sure as if the Lord Himself said these things.”
Mormon then recounts some of the things Moroni said, quoting a prophesy of Jacob, etc. All of this shows that Moroni had the gift of the Holy Ghost and was filled with the Spirit, both to understand the word of God and previous prophecies, and to launch his own.
And now who knoweth but what the remnant of the seed of Joseph, which shall perish as his garment, are those who have dissented from us? Yea, and even it shall be ourselves if we do not stand fast in the faith of Christ. (Alma 46:27)
Did the dissenters perish? Yes; all those who denied the covenant of freedom did perish. Did those who did not stand fast in the faith of Christ perish? Yes.
Moroni was a prophet
But this wasn’t unusual for chief captains. It was actually fairly standard. Wrote Mormon,
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. (3 Ne. 3:19)
Moroni was a seer
Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer.
And behold, the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla is the man that is commanded to do these things, and who has this high gift from God.
And the king said that a seer is greater than a prophet.
And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.
But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.
Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings. (Mosiah 8:13-18)
Notice that Ammon did not say that whoever possesses the interpreters is a seer, but whoever is commanded to look in them.
Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted “seers” in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book. (Joseph Smith—History 1:35)
So, there were two types of seers, those who possessed and used them, and those who did not possess them, but were commanded to use them. During the time of Moroni, there were two people who possessed the interpreters: Alma the younger and his son Helaman. Alma and Helaman, then, were both seers of one type. But there were other seers of the second type living at that time, who did not possess the interpreters, but who were commanded to look in them. I will explain this in another post or perhaps in a comment below, but suffice it to say that a Nephite seer was one who was commanded to use the interpreters, not just one who possessed the interpreters, and that one of the characteristics of a seer was that they could know of things which are to come.
Now Moroni clearly knew of things to come, repeatedly:
Now Moroni thought it was not expedient that the Lamanites should have any more strength; therefore he thought to cut off the people of Amalickiah, or to take them and bring them back, and put Amalickiah to death; yea, for he knew that he would stir up the Lamanites to anger against them, and cause them to come to battle against them; and this he knew that Amalickiah would do that he might obtain his purposes. (Alma 46:30)
And this is, in fact, what Amalickiah did and why he did it.
And now, behold, this was wisdom in Moroni; for he had supposed that they would be frightened at the city Ammonihah; and as the city of Noah had hitherto been the weakest part of the land, therefore they would march thither to battle; and thus it was according to his desires. (Alma 49:15)
And, in fact, that’s what the Lamanites did.
Now behold, 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)
This fear was prophetic, but Moroni stopped it before it could be brought about.
Moroni’s second epistle to Pahoran, recorded in Alma 60, is a demonstration of his prophetic, revelatory and seership gifts, in which he was able to discern all of what the king-men had been doing in Zarahemla and prophesied what would come to pass if they did not repent.
Moroni was raised up by the Lord specifically to deal with the king-men
The king-men posed a clear and present danger to the Nephites. Given their precarious circumstances, in which they were faced with an ever present threat in the form of potentially invading Lamanites and a gospel law which required unity to qualify for deliverance, any dissension on the part of some of the Nephites would jeopardize the lives and liberty of the rest. The king-men, though, did not represent mere dissension, but full blown treason, sedition and rebellion. Unless the king-men were put down fast, they could have caused the end of the Nephite civilization about 75 years before Christ was born. To make sure that didn’t happen, Moroni was born as a Christ type.
Moroni always had a dual role in his calling: delivering from external threats in the form of Lamanites, and judging and executing internal threats in the form of king-men and other dissenters. Contention and dissension removed the Lord’s protections from the people, allowing the Lamanites to gain victories, therefore, Moroni’s calling was prioritized by cleansing the inner vessel first, by judging and executing those Nephites who violated their covenants, and then taking care of the Lamanites. Cleansing the inner vessel required more authority than a chief captain had, therefore, Moroni was also made a judge and governor.
Moroni was a judge and governor
After Moroni gathered a large group of freemen under his title of liberty, to stand against the Amalickiahites, the people of Amalickiah made a run for it to the Lamanites, but Moroni cut them off, arresting almost all of them. (Amalickiah and a few others, though, did escape to the Lamanites.) Here Mormon informs us that Moroni was both a judge and a governor:
Now, Moroni being a man who was appointed by the chief judges and the voice of the people, therefore he had power according to his will with the armies of the Nephites, to establish and to exercise authority over them. (Alma 46:34)
Now, the meaning of this text is that he had both judicial power (he was a judge) and executive power (he was a governor) and that this was according to the law and voice of the people. In the law of Mosiah, judges judged according to the Nephite laws, which laws were given by God, so these were not man-made laws, but divinely revealed laws, meaning that the Nephite governmental laws were the actual word of God.
Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord. (Mosiah 29:25)
No Nephite laws were man-made; all were the revealed word of God
The Nephites had no legislature. God alone legislated. All of their governmental laws were revealed through seers. The first seer was Moses, and so they used the law of Moses. The next was Lehi, who under commandment of God, modified the law of Moses. Then his son, the seer Nephi, also modified the law, under commandment of God, setting up a monarchy which took place after his death, according to the desire of the people. The monarchy was revealed by God, and thus was not a man-made system. Later, with king Mosiah, who was yet another seer, a divinely revealed system of judges was set up and the monarchy was done away with.
Although the Nephites had power to legislate, according to the law of common consent, they were forbidden to do so. If they sought to legislate by themselves, creating man-made laws, it would offend God, who had blessed them by revealing divine laws to them. It would be seen as a rejection of the word of God, and of Him, for instead of choosing Him as their Law-giver, they would become a law unto themselves by writing their own laws.
When the Nephites voted, then, they only voted for the person they wanted to be a governor (executive branch) or a judge (judicial branch). They never voted to alter any of the laws, for that was considered iniquity, or transfiguring the word of God. The governors and judges themselves, could only do what the law authorized them to do, and could only judge according to what the law prescribed. If they did not do what the law required, they would themselves be guilty of transgression, for the Nephite laws were the very laws of God.
Also, all Nephites were put under covenant to uphold the law, with penalties attached for breaking the covenant.
Covenantal obligations under Nephite law
had established laws, and they were acknowledged by the people; therefore they were obliged to abide by the laws which he had made. (Alma 1:1)
The acknowledgment was a covenant which was renewed from time to time. It had penalties affixed for breaking the covenant, which allowed the judges, governors and military captains to obtain jurisdiction over the people. The penalty affixed was determined by the law, according to what part of the law was violated, all of which was revealed by God. The law, the rights and privileges its obedience afforded, the penalties for breaking any part of it, and the duties of the various officers, including the penalty for dereliction of duty, and the covenant itself, was all set down by God. Breaking the Nephite law and covenant, which was the law of God, was not at all like committing a man-made infraction, misdemeanor or felony, but was considered a sin, capable of putting one’s very soul in danger of hell-fire.
There was no wiggle-room for leniency. If a person did not repent and renew his or her covenant, the penalty had to be inflicted. If the judge or governor did not judge or execute according to the law, that judge or governor would himself be guilty of sin, according to the covenant he had entered into, and would be judged.
Therefore thou art condemned to die, according to the law which has been given us by Mosiah, our last king; and it has been acknowledged by this people; therefore this people must abide by the law. (Alma 1:14)
The Nephite law was acknowledged by the people, by them entering into a covenant to obey the same. If they didn’t abide by the law, they would violate their covenant and the penalties attached would be exacted. If the judges did not judge according to the law, they would violate their covenant and the penalties attached would be exacted. If the governors did not execute according to the law, they would violate their covenant and the penalties would be exacted. Everybody, then, had to abide by the same law, because they all entered into these same covenants, with the same penalties. No Nephite, then, was exempt from the Nephite law, or the law of God.
Thus, none shall be exempted from the justice and the laws of God, that all things may be done in order and in solemnity before him, according to truth and righteousness. (D&C 107:84)
No one could become a Nephite unless they acknowledged the Nephite laws by covenant. Thus we see that Nephite society was covenant-based, just as the gospel of Jesus Christ is covenant-based, because both sets of laws were given of God, who does all things by covenant.
The obligation of the covenant came by way of the penalties that were affixed to it.
oblige, v. t. 1. To constrain by physical, moral, or legal force; to put under obligation to do or forbear something. 2. a To pledge as security; to pawn or mortgage. Obs. b To bind as subject to a penalty, as by a bond. Obs.
obligation, n. 1. The act of obligating, or binding, one’s self to a course of action. Now Rare. 2. Law. A bond with a condition annexed, and a penalty for non fulfillment. In a larger sense, it is a formal and binding agreement or acknowledgment of a liability to pay a certain sum or do a certain thing. 3. That which a person is bound to do or forbear; any duty imposed by law, promise, or contract, by the relations of society, or by courtesy, kindness, etc. 4. The agreement, promise, contract, oath, or the like by which one is obligated or bound. 5. That which obligates or constrains; the binding power of a promise, contract, oath, or vow, or of law; that which constitutes legal or moral duty; as, the obligations of conscience, of affection, or of ideals. 6. State of being indebted for an act of favor or kindness; also, the act itself; as, to place others under obligations; his aid was a great obligation.
Notice, in particular, definition 2 b of oblige, “To bind as subject to a penalty, as by a bond.”
American and Nephite systems are not equivalent
The American systems have man-made laws, created by legislatures, which the voters can modify however and whenever they want, without fear of breaking the commandments of God. Natural born citizens do not enter into any covenant to obey the laws of the land. They are merely forced to obey by threat or literally, regardless of their acknowledgment, or lack thereof, of the laws. Only naturalized citizens and those who are elected to public office take any kind of oath or covenant in respect to the laws of the land.
Also, those who are convicted of breaking the American laws cannot escape the punishment of the law by repenting and renewing their covenant, like the Nephites many times could. These and many other differences must be kept in mind when reviewing the actions of captain Moroni. If American sensibilities are allowed to cloud one’s judgment, it may be difficult or even impossible to understand why actions taken by Moroni or others are considered righteousness. Put under an American filter, which filter is based upon the laws and philosophies of men, a purely God-given system, such as the Nephite system, may be incomprehensible when looked at.
Moroni puts the Amalickiahites 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)
The Amalickiahites had broken their covenant, which had a penalty of death affixed to their crimes, but the Nephites didn’t just execute the penalty, but gave the people a chance to repent and recommit to the covenant, by renewing it. Some of them refused to renew their covenant and so the law had to be enacted on them. Moroni was the judge and governor in charge of administering the law in this case, and it was his moral duty to see that the law of God was enacted precisely as detailed. Had he simple forgiven these men who refused to recommit, and waived the penalty affixed to their covenants, he would have been guilty of a crime himself, and would have established the same wicked precedent as that secret combination which would later be known as the Gadianton robbers.
But behold, Satan did stir up the hearts of the more part of the Nephites, insomuch that they did unite with those bands of robbers, and did enter into their covenants and their oaths, that they would protect and preserve one another in whatsoever difficult circumstances they should be placed, that they should not suffer for their murders, and their plunderings, and their stealings. (Helaman 6:21)
Thus, the law called for the penalties affixed to the covenant to be applied, unless repentance and covenant renewal took place, but the Gadianton robbers did not believe in administering the penalties of the Nephite covenants, making the law of God of none effect. Moroni, on the other hand, was a righteous judge, therefore he administered the law exactly as God called for it to be administered.
These events took place in the 19th year of the reign of the judges.
Moroni and his fortifications and preaching
Another testament that Moroni operated by the power of the Holy Ghost is in his city, fort and land fortifications. As soon as he had put an end to the Amalickiahites, he went to work erecting forts, embankments and city walls throughout the land. This was something entirely new, that had never been done before. Also, it was being done in peacetime by a wartime army, for the Nephites had no standing army, but went right back to their farming labors after the Lamanites returned to their lands. So why was Moroni building fortifications during peacetime and why wasn’t anyone’s questioning his judgment?
The reason was because Amalickiah and a small number of the Amalickiahites had escaped to the Lamanites and Moroni prophetically knew that he would be successful in inciting the Lamanites to attack, so his preparations were inspired of God, to prepare the people against Amalickiah’s return. No other deliverer had operated in this fashion, anticipating prophetically the next war the enemy would wage and making preparations against it.
He also took part in preaching the word of God to the people:
Now it came to pass that while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God. (Alma 48:7)
He didn’t have long to wait for at the end of the 19th year, Amalickiah sent his first Lamanite army to attack the Nephites.
Mormon’s narrative interruption to extoll Moroni’s virtues
At this point Mormon stops and tells the reader in so many words that Moroni is worthy of emulation. He says he is “like unto” Ammon and Ammon, as well as the other sons of Mosiah and also the sons of Alma (Helaman, Corianton and Shiblon). This is significant because it gives us an idea as to what kind of man Moroni was.
Keeping in mind that Mormon and the other authors of the Book of Mormon were under constraint to give not even a hundredth part of the events among their people in their record, Mormon by-passes that constraint by painting a fairly detailed picture of both Alma and Ammon. So, if Moroni is “like unto” these two, then we already know a whole lot about his character.
Ammon and the sons of Mosiah could not bear the thought of anyone perishing, and desired that the Lamanites would repent and come to Christ, so we can surmise that Moroni did, too. Ammon was miraculously skilled in knowledge and physical power, as demonstrated by him slaying 7 Lamanites with a sling and stones and cutting off a bunch of their arms. We can surmise that Moroni was equally skilled. Both Ammon and Alma fell to the ground, overpowered by the Spirit in joy. We can surmise that Moroni also was at that level of penitence. And on and on we can list the virtues of those two, or the others mentioned, and the picture we get is that Moroni was as much, or more, of a holy prophet and saint as any of those other men.
Some have a hard time believing these words of Mormon concerning what Moroni was like, since the narrative Mormon gives us focuses on his anger, but that must, of necessity, be of Mormon’s design, to show that Moroni was the embodiment of God’s righteous indignation. In other words, if we want to see what righteous indignation looks like, all we need to review are the captain Moroni chapters (Alma 43-62). But Moroni wasn’t just righteous indignation, for he had all the other qualities that these other men had, too. The narrative gives us hints of these other qualities, showing that Moroni was a man of mercy, willing to allow men to repent and recommit, or an enemy to go unpunished merely by promising never to come again as an enemy. We see him open the door to Lamanites, offering them Nephite citizenship, sending them to live with the people of Ammon. We see him protecting the people of Ammon, who were Lamanites by birth, so there is no prejudice in Moroni, whatsoever. He is fully color blind, the only filter he used being the word of God. We see him as a man of prayer, “pouring out his whole soul to God.” We see him as a prophet, prophesying, as a revelator, giving revelation, as a seer, seeing the future actions of wicked men, as a member of God’s church, even a saint, opposing those who would seek to slay the church brethren.
We see him possessing the spirit of wisdom and knowledge, and defending the rights and privileges of all men. He apparently had the gift of discernment, as well as tremendous faith. We see him speak in the name of the Lord in a manner that no Book of Mormon prophet has ever spoken, because they were forbidden by the Lord, yet Moroni uses such authority as if he were God Himself. (I’ll get to that a little later.)
And yet all of that still falls short of why Mormon considered him worthy of emulation, why if all men were like Moroni the devil would have no power over men. The key to understanding this is in what Mormon says here:
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)
Moroni was the embodiment of resisting iniquity. Not just resisting his own iniquity, but resisting the iniquity of everyone around him. For most men that profess God, it is good enough for them to repent and resist the temptations of the devil, but if others sin, and that sin does not harm them, they see no need to resist the iniquity spread forth by that person. Theirs is a personal worship, in which their only concern is their own salvation and they are content to let others damn themselves to hell, as they choose. Moroni, though, was concerned about the salvation of the entire group or nation of Nephites. Therefore, he conformed to the following standard, or embodied it:
I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven; and he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts. (D&C 1:31-33)
Like the Lord, Moroni could not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance, nevertheless, he that repented and renewed their covenant was forgiven, every single time, but he that did not repent had the letter of the law applied to him. This exacting standard made it impossible for Moroni to remain still and just let things run their course. If He saw iniquity, he was compelled to resist it and stamp it out.
A prime example is the Amalickiah affair and his title of liberty. Amalickiah and his people were against the church leadership, which were Helaman, Nephihah and the rest. Moroni may have been one of the high priests among that leadership, but whereas the others just preached, Moroni was spurned to action, organizing an armed resistance to the iniquity represented by Amalickiah, before Amalickiah turned into an unstoppable force. Once he learned of the dissensions, he was in Amalickiah’s face, with a group of armed saints, ready to take it to the next level, if need be. Although the others were holy prophets and righteous men, it was Moroni who was God’s representative or type at this time, for this is how God reacts to iniquity, without the least degree of allowance.
This is the emulation that Mormon was putting forth, which, if spread everywhere, would remove all power from the devil forever. Moroni was the earthly counter-part to the archangel Michael, who fought the devil in the war in heaven. Like Michael or Adam, He didn’t pussyfoot around, but was adamant in his support for the cause of God and against the forces that opposed God, whether they proceeded from man-made philosophies and commandments or devilish doctrines.
1st Lamanite army sent by Amalickiah
In the 11th month of the 19th year, Amalickiah sends a Lamanite army towards Zarahemla armed after the manner of the new Nephite army, with shields, breastplates and thick clothing but are astounded to find the land covered in new fortifications. So, they change their attack plans and decide to attack the weak city of Noah. But Moroni has second-guessed them, yet again, and made the city of Noah stronger than even the first city (Ammonihah). The Lamanites attack the city, lose more than a thousand soldiers, while the Nephites don’t even lose one! And then the Lamanites return to their lands, to inform Amalickiah of their failure.
Again, the object of Mormon in writing all of this is to show that if the people are united, obedient to the commandments of God, and exercise faith, according to the Lord’s law of deliverance, that the Lord will deliver them out of every trouble, either personally or by sending one or more of his appointed deliverers, for these deliverers are unstoppable, for they operate by the miraculous power of the Holy Ghost. The message of the Book of Mormon war chapters is not to show that war is bad, or that war is justified, or that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies are more righteous than the Nephites, etc., but that we are to obey the commandments of God that He gives to us, no matter what they happen to be, and doing so, we will prosper in the land and be protected and delivered by God, even during times of war. It is to show that there is safety in the Lord, if we obey His commandments, according to the law of deliverance.
The miracle at the city of Noah should have caused all Nephites to cease from all their iniquities and be forever united in the faith of Christ, secure in the knowledge that God would strengthen their arms against the Lamanites no matter how numerous they would become, so that they would never have power over them. This was, in fact, the response of the people, though it did not last.
And it came to pass, that on the other hand, the people of Nephi did thank the Lord their God, because of his matchless power in delivering them from the hands of their enemies.
And thus ended the nineteenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi.
Yea, and there was continual peace among them, and exceedingly great prosperity in the church because of their heed and diligence which they gave unto the word of God, which was declared unto them by Helaman, and Shiblon, and Corianton, and Ammon and his brethren, yea, and by all those who had been ordained by the holy order of God, being baptized unto repentance, and sent forth to preach among the people. (Alma 49:28-30)
Yet another miracle accomplished by Moroni
In the 20th year, Moroni continued his work of fortifications (again in peacetime!) Why? Because Amalickiah still had not come down at the head of the Lamanite armies, according to the prophetic expectation of Moroni.
Also in this year Moroni went into the east wilderness, which were Nephite lands under the possession of the Lamanites, and drove all the Lamanites out of the land, into their own lands to the south. In other words, Moroni accomplished his appointed role in this year by delivering the Nephites lands out of the hands of the Lamanites! The Nephites now had all the lands of their inheritance given back to them! Then he began the foundations of Nephite cities in these newly liberated lands, causing the inhabitants of Zarahemla to go into the eastern wilderness and possess the land. And he continued strengthening the border between the Nephite and Lamanite lands. In the 21st year, the Nephites continued to prosper in the lands of their possessions.
Now the whole point of Mormon’s narrative is to teach the law of deliverance:
And thus we see how merciful and just are all the dealings of the Lord, to the fulfilling of all his words unto the children of men; yea, we can behold that his words are verified, even at this time, which he spake unto Lehi, saying:
Blessed art thou and thy children; and they shall be blessed, inasmuch as they shall keep my commandments they shall prosper in the land. But remember, inasmuch as they will not keep my commandments they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.
And we see that these promises have been verified to the people of Nephi; for it has been their quarrelings and their contentions, yea, their murderings, and their plunderings, their idolatry, their whoredoms, and their abominations, which were among themselves, which brought upon them their wars and their destructions.
And those who were faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord were delivered at all times, whilst thousands of their wicked brethren have been consigned to bondage, or to perish by the sword, or to dwindle in unbelief, and mingle with the Lamanites. (Alma 50:19-22)
Mormon is not concerned about pacifism, or self-defense, or any modern philosophy of man. His only concern is that if you obey God’s commandments, whether they are to lay down your weapons or to take them up, He will deliver you.
Now, the deliverance of the land, accomplished by Moroni, was so remarkable and miraculous and so joyous to Mormon, for it demonstrated just how careful the Lord is in taking care of His people, if they would only just trust in Him and obey His commandments—and the commandments given to the Nephites were to defend themselves from the Lamanites, even unto blood-shed—that he made the following statement:
But behold there never was a happier time among the people of Nephi, since the days of Nephi, than in the days of Moroni, yea, even at this time, in the twenty and first year of the reign of the judges. (Alma 50:23)
Teancum vs. Morianton
Peace continues until the 24th year, when Morianton and his people start up some contention with the people of Lehi. The people of Lehi flee to Moroni and Morianton’s people get worried, and so high-tail it out of there to the north. Moroni prophetically knows these guys are up to no good and that if they are allowed to escape, they will cause the Nephites to come into bondage, so he sends Teancum to arrest these men and bring them back. Teancum heads them off but they resist arrest and Morianton is killed and his army defeated. They are brought back as prisoners and upon them renewing their covenants, they are allowed to go back home to the city of Morianton, ending the 24th year.
Now, according to the law of deliverance, this disturbance between the people of Morianton and the people of Lehi will have dire consequences for the entire populous, for they were not united nor completely obedient (Morianton was a wicked man.) So, the Lamanites should be showing up soon and should be victorious in obtaining possession again of some Nephite lands.
And like clockwork, they do show up during the 25th year.
But before we get into that, Mormon mentions another thing that happens during the end of the 24th year: Nephihah dies and his son, Pahoran, is chosen to fill the judgment-seat.
Moroni executes more king-men
In the 25th year, the king-men want Pahoran to alter the law to allow for a king. Now, remember, the Nephite and American systems are not equivalent, the Nephite laws being the very laws of God, so this was a big deal, a grave sin on their part. Pahoran righteously refuses to alter the law and so the king-men want to remove Pahoran. A recall election is scheduled and the king-men lose, which ticks them off, since they were of high birth and wanted to rule the people as kings, seeking power and authority over the people.
And it came to pass 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, who also put the king-men to silence, that they durst not oppose but were obliged to maintain the cause of freedom. (Alma 51:7)
Why were the king-men obliged to maintain the cause of freedom? Because of the covenant all Nephites made to acknowledge the laws, which had those pesky penalties attached that activated when they broke the covenant.
After this recall election, Amalickiah starts making his way into Nephite territory at the head of a vast Lamanite army, right on schedule for the fulfillment of the law of deliverance.
And it came to pass that when the men who were called king-men had heard that the Lamanites were coming down to battle against them, they were glad in their hearts; and they refused to take up arms, for they were so wroth with the chief judge, and also with the people of liberty, that they would not take up arms to defend their country. (Alma 51:13)
Now this broke their covenants, for all Nephites were commanded of God to defend the nation. They weren’t conscientious objectors, they weren’t pacifists, they hadn’t taken an oath like the people of Ammon, no, they were just so pissed at not getting what they wanted that they thought to let the Nephite armies be defeated by their lack of support, knowing full well that Amalickiah was a king-man like themselves, and that he would welcome them into his society after he had defeated the Nephites. They didn’t care that Amalickiah would have to slaughter a whole lot of men, women and children in order to accomplish his goal. That was a small price to pay in order to rule.
As expected, Moroni popped his cork when he heard about this.
And it came to pass that when Moroni saw this, and also saw that the Lamanites were coming into the borders of the land, he was exceedingly wroth because of the stubbornness of those people whom he had labored with so much diligence to preserve; yea, he was exceedingly wroth; his soul was filled with anger against them. (Alma 51:14)
Moroni’s reaction, being a type of Christ, embodying His righteous indignation, shows us how the Lord Himself felt towards these men, for Moroni’s feelings matched those of the Lord. This was the Lord’s people whose lives these traitors were seeking to end, through sabotage. So, the Lord Himself was exceedingly wroth towards the king-men. When the Lord gets this angry towards a person or group, only repentance can save them from the inevitable, impending death.
For this particular group, Moroni did not have jurisdiction, so he sent a petition to the governor with the voice of the people, requesting it. In other words, the people voted Moroni as the man to judge the crimes of these men and execute the penalties, and he was instated. Even as bad as the king-men were, he still gave them the option of renewing their covenant, joining the army and fighting for the country. He did not go to them with the intent to just mow them down, for they were still his brethren, despite his anger with them.
Instead of submitting to Moroni’s legal authority, they resisted arrest, just as the people of Morianton did with Teancum. As a result, 4000 king-men perished. Those that did not die were arrested and cast into prison, to await their trials, and the rest, who did not resist arrest, renewed their covenant and took up arms in defense of their country, in obedience to the law.
This event shows that even with the most despicable of people, for surely the king-men were morally bankrupt, Moroni did as the law of God allowed, giving them the chance to make things right by repenting and renewing their covenant.
Mormon records, yet again, his purpose in giving this narrative, which is to teach the law of deliverance:
For it was his first care to put an end to such contentions and dissensions among the people; for behold, this had been hitherto a cause of all their destruction. (Alma 51:16)
Amalickiah attacks with success, but then dies
The combined disturbances of Morianton and the king-men grant Amalickiah power and success over the Nephites, according to the law of deliverance. While Moroni is taking care of internal affairs, the external enemy breaks through. Without going through the whole play-by-play, Teancum ends up killing Amalickiah and the 25th year ends.
Ammoron takes over the Lamanites; there are dissensions, successes, failures, etc.
Without going over everything, Ammoron, (Amalickiah’s brother), takes over the Lamanites, there are more Nephite dissensions, which cause more Lamanite victories; there are some miraculous Nephite victories, for many of these men exercise great faith, etc.
Moroni’s epistle to Ammoron
One of the most remarkable inclusions by Mormon is Moroni’s epistle to Ammoron, in which Moroni says something that is truly amazing, showing that the man was indeed a type and could speak for God in a way that other prophets dared not.
The epistle was sent in the 29th year, after Ammoron sent an epistle to Moroni asking to exchange prisoners. Moroni speaks in the name of God throughout the epistle, giving Ammoron an overview of his iniquities and the unrighteousness of his cause, and assigning two conditions for an exchange: that Ammoron withdraw his murderous purposes and that he exchange a Nephite and his wife and children for one Lamanite. During the letter, though, Moroni begins to gets angrier (righteously indignant) and writes the following:
And now behold, we are prepared to receive you; yea, and except you withdraw your purposes, behold, ye will pull down the wrath of that God whom you have rejected upon you, even to your utter destruction.
But, as the Lord liveth, our armies shall come upon you except ye withdraw, and ye shall soon be visited with death, for we will retain our cities and our lands; yea, and we will maintain our religion and the cause of our God. (Alma 54:9-10)
And behold, if ye do not this, I will come against you with my armies; yea, even I will arm my women and my children, and I will come against you, and I will follow you even into your own land, which is the land of our first inheritance; yea, and it shall be blood for blood, yea, life for life; and I will give you battle even until you are destroyed from off the face of the earth.
Behold, I am in my anger, and also my people; ye have sought to murder us, and we have only sought to defend ourselves. But behold, if ye seek to destroy us more we will seek to destroy you; yea, and we will seek our land, the land of our first inheritance. (Alma 54:12-13)
The Nephites were expressly forbidden by the Lord from entering Lamanite lands to attempt to destroy the Lamanites and from taking back the land of their first inheritance by force. They were only allowed to fight defensively, waiting for the Lamanites to attack them in their lands, and then they could repel them back to the border, but they could not go over that border to pursue them any further. But here we find Moroni saying that if Ammoron continues his murderous purposes, continually striving to destroy the Nephites, that Moroni will fight them to the border and then pass through, fighting them until they become extinct and the Nephites possess both lands of inheritance and the Lamanites are no more.
At the end of the Nephite civilization, the wicked Nephites did just that, bringing down the wrath of God upon them and sealing their destruction. So, this was a very big no-no. Yet, Moroni states this with authority: if you continue in this fashion, we will wipe you out.
There are two ways to interpret this. One is that Moroni was out of line. Such a view goes contrary to Mormon’s lifting up for emulation. So, that view is not consistent with the text. The other view, which is the correct view, is that Moroni wrote as was given to him by the power of the Holy Ghost. In other words, that Moroni was the first and only Nephite deliverer to have actually gotten conditional permission to invade Lamanite lands. And that makes sense, since this is God’s deliverer type. If anyone should be able to get permission, it ought to be him. Permission to invade is actually part of the Nephite war law:
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.
And if any nation, tongue, or people should proclaim war against them, they should first lift a standard of peace unto that people, nation, or tongue; and if that people did not accept the offering of peace, neither the second nor the third time, they should bring these testimonies before the Lord; then I, the Lord, would give unto them a commandment, and justify them in going out to battle against that nation, tongue, or people. (D&C 98:33-36)
“Going out to battle” does not refer to self-defense, or defensive warfare, but offensive warfare, warring beyond the confines of the lands one possesses or has been given as an inheritance. This is the meaning of the scripture and this is the law that was given to the Nephites. Nevertheless, from what Mormon included in his abridgment, permission was never granted, except for Moroni, for the Lamanites had promises extended to them and it was never the intention of the Lord to have them altogether wiped out.
Did Moroni’s threat come to pass? Nope, for the Lamanites eventually withdrew their purposes, but the potential for such a disaster (for the Lamanites) came closest during the times of Moroni.
Moroni, God’s appointed deliverer, obtains the prisoners and city of Gid miraculously
After the epistles back and forth, Moroni again shows that he is God’s appointed deliverer by obtaining the Nephite prisoners without an exchange and also the city of Gid without any blood-loss! None of this was done by human strategy or just dumb luck, but by the hand and Spirit of God guiding Moroni, by the power of the Holy Ghost working miracles in him, through the wisdom of God and the spirit of prophecy and revelation. All this to demonstrate that God has power to deliver His people without any blood-loss, whatsoever, or even without negotiating with the enemy! These miracles were meant to witness to the Nephites that God could and would protect and deliver them, if only they would trust in Him and obey His commandments.
The stripling warrior chapters
Alma chapters 56, 57 and 58 are the stripling warrior chapters, which tell of Helaman and his Lamanite sons. I will skip over these (for the topic of this post is Moroni, not Helaman), except to say that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, who were the converted Lamanites that became the people of Ammon, had taken their oath never to take up arms again while they were still Lamanites living in Lamanite lands. Their oath was permissible because they had never entered into the Nephite covenant to obey the Nephite laws of the Nephite lands, which laws included the law to defend the land even unto bloodshed. When they were accepted onto Nephite lands, and given possession of the land of Jershon, they were not called Nephites, for they could not take the Nephite covenant without violating the oath they had taken in Lamanite territory. Therefore, exception was made for them to reside on Nephite land and just live the gospel, contributing to the financial support of the Nephite armies, but without taking up arms themselves, because of the oath they had taken, for it is a gospel law to keep your oaths.
It is important to understand that the people of Ammon were not pacifists, meaning that they entered into their oath because they opposed violence of any type. No, they took their oath because of the love they had for their brethren, the Lamanites, and they took this oath without knowing all the revealed laws of God, given to the Nephites. This is why they considered breaking their oath and taking up arms again, to help the Nephites, for they were not opposed to self-defense, for they accepted the Nephite laws as the laws of God, revealed to them. But Helaman convinced them not to break their oath, convincing them that God would strengthen the Nephites.
Also, the 2016 young men of these people, were raised by them as Nephites, not as Lamanites, and they were not taught to follow in the footsteps of their parents, taking an oath to never fight, but instead, they were taught to follow in the footsteps of the Nephites, by entering into the Nephite covenant, which was given by God, so that they could acknowledge the Nephite laws and defend the land. This shows that the people of Ammon were not guided by any man-made philosophy of nonviolence, such as we have in modern times, but only by the laws of God, which taught them to obey whatever the current law of God was, which in that time was to “defend the land unto bloodshed” and to never break an oath. It also shows that the people of Ammon did not rank things as “higher and lower” laws of God, nor consider their oath higher than the covenant God commanded the Nephites to enter into. Each one had its place, according to the conditions, which is according to the gift of knowing the differences of administration:
And again, to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men. (D&C 46:15)
For the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, it was expedient for them, at that time and location and in those conditions, to take the oath they took, but for their sons, it was expedient to enter into the Nephite covenant, for the conditions and time and location had changed.
Moroni’s first epistle to Pahoran and another Lamanite success
After Moroni learned of Helaman’s problems with not receiving reinforcements and supplies, he sent an epistle to Pahoran to tell him to send men immediately to Helaman and then went to work planning to take back everything the Lamanites had gained, apparently confident that his orders would be followed. This is understandable as Moroni was used to issuing orders and having them followed to the ‘t’. He had no reason to expect that Pahoran and the rest would not continue to follow his instructions. It seems to me that not only was everyone around him aware of who he was before the Lord, but Moroni himself also knew this. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him and he was appointed to win these wars. It would be inconceivable that anyone would disobey him. To disobey him was akin to disobeying the Lord, for all that he did was by the power of the Holy Ghost. Surely those beneath and also above him would not be so foolish as to reject the Lord’s earthly representative, His appointed deliverer. Only gross wickedness would reject deliverance from the Lord.
And so, when another Lamanite army came in and took the city of Nephihah, a city that Moroni had ordered to be reinforced so as to remain unconquerable, and which was not reinforced according to his orders, and thus was conquered, both he and all his chief captains began to wonder and doubt, and he was filled with sorrow. Having not followed Moroni’s instructions, they had disobeyed the Lord, and for this transgression the Lord, according to His law of deliverance, allowed the Lamanites to gain power over the Nephites. This is why the record states,
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. (Alma 59:11-12)
The wickedness of the people was judged by Moroni and his men by how precisely Moroni’s instructions were followed; for there was no difference between “Moroni’s instructions” and ”the Lord’s instructions”; they were one and the same. Moroni was living the standard by which things during this time were measured.
How did Moroni react to this disobedience?
And it came to pass that Moroni was angry with the government, because of their indifference concerning the freedom of their country. (Alma 59:13)
More righteous indignation.
Moroni’s second epistle to Zarahemla, this time addressed to ALL the war governors
The epistle begins,
And it came to pass that he wrote again to the governor of the land, who was Pahoran, and these are the words which he wrote, saying: Behold, I direct mine epistle to Pahoran, in the city of Zarahemla, who is the chief judge and the governor over the land, and also to all those who have been chosen by this people to govern and manage the affairs of this war.
For behold, I have somewhat to say unto them by the way of condemnation; for behold, ye yourselves know that ye have been appointed to gather together men, and arm them with swords, and with cimeters, and all manner of weapons of war of every kind, and send forth against the Lamanites, in whatsoever parts they should come into our land. (Alma 60:1-2)
Notice that Moroni sent the epistle to Pahoran, but addressed it to both Pahoran and all the other governors and war managers. But when he begins to say what he wants to say to Pahoran, he begins by talking to them. Who are “them”? “Them” are the governors and managers of the war affairs. It is this group, not the singular Pahoran, that Moroni speaks to in this epistle, which is why he uses the plural “ye yourselves.”
This plural audience is found throughout the epistle, showing that Moroni is addressing the entire group of war managers:
“if ye had rendered unto our armies sufficient strength” (Alma 60:5)
“Can you think to sit upon your thrones” (Alma 60:7)
“that ye might have succored them, yea, ye might have sent armies unto them” (Alma 60:8)
“ye have withheld your provisions from them” (Alma 60:9)
“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” (Alma 60:10)
Behold, could ye suppose that ye could sit upon your thrones, and because of the exceeding goodness of God ye could do nothing and he would deliver you? Behold, if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain. (Alma 60:11)
Now, I will not list every instance that shows that Moroni was speaking to the governor group, apart from Pahoran. The reader can search this epistle for himself and see that this is true. But why did Moroni address this group? It was because he had received a revelation from God. He wrote,
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)
So Moroni knew, per this revelation, that the group of governors at Zarahemla were transgressing, but he didn’t know which ones they were, so he addressed the epistle to the entire group, but he made a division, leaving Pahoran out of the conversation and speaking to the rest. Pahoran could read the epistle, but the censorship was really on the others, not on him (although he thought otherwise). And the accusations he leveled at these other governors were all bull’s eyes, for it was the other governors who kicked Pahoran out, who were the king-men responsible for all their troubles, who had over-taken Zarahemla.
Mormon included this epistle for many reasons, but one of them is that it was concrete evidence that Moroni was indeed the anointed deliverer, the arm of the Lord’s deliverance. Every part of this epistle attests to the fact that he wrote it by the power of the Holy Ghost, for everything he said in it turned out to be the absolute truth. The whole thing is prophetic, from start to finish, a miracle epistle written by a miracle worker. Every question he asked was a true statement, discerned by the Holy Ghost, which knows the thoughts of men. I don’t want to expound the entire epistle, but I’ll just give some examples of what I mean.
Moroni asked, “Can you think to sit upon your thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor, while your enemies are spreading the work of death around you?” The truth was that they were thinking just that very thing, to sit upon their thrones in a thoughtless stupor.
He wrote, “The blood of thousands shall come upon your heads for vengeance”. That’s a prophecy that would be fulfilled, even as he pronounced it.
He asked, “Could ye suppose that ye could sit upon your thrones, and because of the exceeding goodness of God ye could do nothing and he would deliver you?” And this is exactly what they were supposing.
All Moroni’s questions and wonderings were prophetic, given by the workings of the Spirit in him. Mormon possessed the full record and thus knew of everything that the king-men were doing in Zarahemla, so he knew for a fact that Moroni’s epistle was chillingly accurate in its description of what these men were doing and thinking and that such information could only be known to Moroni by the workings of the Spirit in him. This is one of the reasons why Mormon said Moroni had a “perfect understanding.” All of his thoughts were enlightened by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Moroni didn’t just prophesy of future events, but also spoke “past prophecies.” I’ll illustrate what I mean by that:
For were it not for the wickedness which first commenced at our head, we could have withstood our enemies that they could have gained no power over us. (Alma 60:15)
That is spoken as the Lord’s head deliverer. Who was more qualified to know what would have happened if something different had occurred? This isn’t Moroni speculating. This is Moroni revealing what the Lord had revealed to Him. As the appointed deliverer, he had received certain promises from the Lord, certain assurances or guarantees. The Lord’s deliverer cannot be defeated and must of necessity accomplish all his goals, so the only impediment to him is the wickedness of the people he serves. Like the Lord Himself, who is the Deliverer of us all, the desire to deliver the people is overwhelmingly compelling. This was Moroni’s joy in life, to deliver the Lord’s people, according to the power that the Lord had delivered into his hand. Only glory days could be ahead, and endless happiness, for the Nephites would be safe forever, if they just would hearken to the Lord and His deliverer. Moroni understood this aspect of the Lord (the desire to deliver and the power of deliverance) better than anyone else, and so he was a man of sorrows, for, like the Lord, he watched as the people transgressed and suffered needlessly. What pain to know the Nephites could have been protected from their enemies, because of the power of deliverance that was in him, but they weren’t, because of dissensions!
But behold, now the Lamanites are coming upon us, taking possession of our lands, and they are murdering our people with the sword, yea, our women and our children, and also carrying them away captive, causing them that they should suffer all manner of afflictions, and this because of the great wickedness of those who are seeking for power and authority, yea, even those king-men. (Alma 60:17)
Moroni had eradicated the king-men already (back in the 25th year, see Alma 51:21), but here he is saying that it is the wickedness of king-men who are presently seeking for power that has caused this destruction. This shows that even though no one had told him, Moroni could prophetically discern that king-men were again in the land. And they were, for the very governors he was writing to were king-men.
But why should I say much concerning this matter? For we know not but what ye yourselves are seeking for authority. We know not but what ye are also traitors to your country. (Alma 60:18)
And they were, on both accounts.
But I will leave off the prophecy and focus on the deliverer aspect of the epistle.
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—and this because of their exceeding faith, and their patience in their tribulations— (Alma 60:25-26)
Now, this is going to sound blasphemous, but it is a true principle nonetheless, that Christ types can generate faith in others. Moroni had power to leave the strength and blessings of God upon his men, so that nothing could take away their agency. He says this is because of their faith, and he’s right, but their exceedingly strong faith in Christ was in part because a Christ type was among them, and they also had faith in Moroni. Faith in Moroni became faith in Christ. No faith in Moroni, no faith in Christ. Like other prophets, the Spirit doesn’t just confirm Christ, but also His anointed servants. This is why a latter-day saint who doubts the mission of Joseph Smith has a darkened mind. The restoration of the gospel is linked to Joseph. There is no accepting the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ without accepting the calling of His servant Joseph Smith. In like manner, Moroni was linked to God so that there was no faith in Christ without faith in His deliverer.
The next part of the epistle shows just how ballsy Moroni was:
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 60:27)
This demonstrates that Moroni did not fear anything, not even state power. Or, as he said,
Yea, behold I do not fear your power nor your authority, but it is my God whom I fear (Alma 60:28)
A man like this is worthy of emulation
I wrote this post to disabuse the minds of the people about captain Moroni and to give people a little deeper understanding into how the law of deliverance and the law of deliverers works. It may be that in a future time, we also, like these ancient Nephites, will have major and minor deliverers among us. If so, hopefully we will take these lessons to heart and learn to unite in obedience and faith under their leadership, as the people did under Moroni’s. In the meantime, we can strive to emulate him, for
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.