We will not come down, not even part way.

Captain Moroni - Walter Rane

I love the opportunity to serve with so many great people. From the youth to the adults, a big part of the joy I get from working in the “Kingdom” is associating with outstanding, spiritual, intelligent and downright funny folks. I learned a long time ago that if I just listen, I’ll learn something awesome from almost everyone I meet. Such was the case a few nights ago in a church meeting when a spiritual thought was shared.

It was one of those cases where I said to myself, “I’ve never noticed that before!” And is another reminder that the scriptures are truly like Ogres. (You know, onions.)

In what is referred to as the “War Chapters” of the Book of Mormon (No, not included in the musical) we are confronted with perhaps the most popular war hero ever…at least for Mormons. His name is Captain Moroni and even as I sit writing, I can glance at the Walter Rane painting I have depicting this incredible man.  For those who don’t know about him, the Book of Mormon describes him in these words:

And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;

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 48:11 & 17)

Pretty impressive. On my Spiritual Studliness Scale, from 1 to 10, he gets an 18. Another reason he is so likable, is that he is human. He is a bit impulsive and quick to act, an asset in military warfare but a weakness in diplomacy. And like every great hero, he has an intense, defining “line”. For Dirty Harry it was, “Go ahead, make my day.” For Rocky it was, “Go for it.” Captain Moroni’s line was delivered when he mercifully extends a truce to an enemy his army is about to annihilate. The deal to put down their swords and never come to war again,” (Alma 44:1-10) was quickly refused by the enemy’s leader. Moroni’s response was quick, direct and classic. As he returns the enemy leader’s sword Moroni says, “Behold, we will end the conflict.” (Alma 44:10)  The battle rages on until the destruction of the enemy. Awesome!

If Moroni is an 18 then Amalickiah (a-măl’ a-kĭ a) is a negative 20. He is the opposite of Moroni. As the chapter summary indicates, “Amalickiah uses treachery, murder, and intrigue to become king…” (Alma 47 heading) He was once a Nephite just like Moroni but betrayed his people and beliefs for power and prestige.

On one end of the spectrum we have Moroni and at the other Amalickiah. It is interesting to consider where we stand on that spectrum. Are we closer to Amalickiah or Moroni? Then we are introduced to another character; someone who is not an “Amalickiah” but neither is he a “Moroni”. Like most of us, he is somewhere on that spectrum between one and ten.

Amalickiah, in an attempt to amass an army to confront Moroni and the Nephites, approaches Lehonti (lē-hän’ tī) the leader of a large army and people. They have seen the strength of Moroni and don’t want to fight. Symbolically, Lehonti gathers his army to the top of a mountain to protect themselves from Amalickiah’s army. Amalickiah sends a message to Lehonti requesting him to come down from the mountain to discuss a resolution. Lehonti refuses fearing for the safety of his army. Amalickiah sends a second message and then a third but Lehonti stands firm and will not come down.

It appears that Lehonti is standing his ground; is committed to do what he thinks is right. On our scale, he is certainly headed the direction of Moroni. But then Amalickiah suggest another course. He will meet Lehonti half way, or at least part of the way. He will even allow guards to accompany him. Lehonti decides there can be no harm in meeting Amalickiah part of the way and agrees to a meeting. This meeting is the beginning of the overthrow of Lehonti’s army and Lehonti’s death.

What happened? He was doing so well. He was so firm in what he believed and so committed to protecting that which was most important. He may not have been a 10 but he certainly wasn’t a 1. One wonders if he had just stayed on the mountain, had not compromised and succumbed to the enticing of the enemy, could he have someday been a 10? Could we be reading his name along with Captain Moroni’s as a man “firm in the faith of Christ?” (Alma 48:13)

It is a tragic ending to someone with so much potential. It was an ending much like the ending of the young ruler who had done everything good from his youth. But when confronted with the last test, to sell everything, give to the poor and follow Jesus, he just couldn’t do it. (Luke 18:18-23) He came down from the mountain.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf recently gave a wonderful talk about Nehemiah of the Old Testament. When confronted by his enemies and asked to come down off the mountain to discuss a resolution, he simply said (multiple times) “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.” (Nehemiah 6:3) What a great answer! Nehemiah is another who is a 10 on my scale.

The symbolism is obvious. Where are we on that scale and will we remain committed, firm, strong, diligent or will we come down off the mountain? Or maybe even come down the mountain just a little bit? So often, that little walk down the trail leads to total disaster and leaving the mountain all together.

We may not be 10s but it not the number so much as it is the direction we are facing. If we are facing Christ and His standard, His grace will be “sufficient.” (Moroni 10:32) That is the “why” behind His sufferings. As we refuse to come down, and continue to do this important work, we will find our names added to the list of men who were like Captain Moroni and oh, what a list! (Alma 48:19)

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10 Responses to We will not come down, not even part way.

  1. Karen Swalberg says:

    Great job Troy!

  2. Ryan Freeman says:

    This is great, Troy. One other thing I would add in discussing your 1-10 analogy is that no matter where we fall on the scale, in the end, even a 10 isn’t infinite. As we know from our childhood math classes, any number plus infinity equals infinity. It doesn’t matter whether we are a 1, 7, or even an 18 in the case of Captain Moroni. Ultimately, each of us needs the infinite addition of the Savior in order to enter the kingdom of God. We only need to give our full effort and the Lord will make up the difference through his infinite sacrifice.

    • Troy says:

      Very well said Ryan. It shouldn’t go with out saying that Christ is the center of it all.

      I would add that it is not so much that Christ fills in where we are deficient after this life. Rather, it is more about His grace that allows us to “become” every second of every minute of every day. We don’t earn grace; that has already been purchased. As we access that grace, the powers of the atonement, we become who we are destined to become and works become a bi-product of that becoming.

  3. Ryan Freeman says:

    Thanks, Troy. I especially love your comment that His grace “allows us to become every second of every minute…” Regarding grace, I do have a slightly different viewpoint although I believe we end up at the same place. Where grace has already been “purchased” through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we have do have to earn it in the sense that it isn’t free. We read in Ether 12:27 that, “…my grace is sufficient for all men (here is the qualifier) that humble themselves before me.” In other words, we must come unto Christ to receive the fullness of His grace.

    This is a great blog and I look forward to your future work.

    • Troy says:

      Thanks Ryan. I think we’re saying the same thing just from slightly different angles. I’m coming at it from the “becoming” side of things. I absolutely love Elder Oaks’ talk “The Challenge to Become” where he says:

      “…we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.”

      I imagine the final judgement being a look at who we are and though we may have become pretty good people, we will still be lacking. At that point we will declare Jesus as our personal savior which, as you described before, creates an infinitely worthy partnership. I can also imagine “justice” demanding us to prove that we are actually in a legitimate relationship with the Savior. It is then that both who we are and what we DID will come into play. Not to prove our worthiness, rather to prove that we are in fact, “under contract.”

      Then we could get into the Holy Spirit of Promise “sealing” the ordinances etc….but that is for another time. Great stuff!

      Thanks again Ryan!

  4. Brooke says:

    What a great post President Parker! You just inspired me to go read in Moroni. Thanks for that pre-Sunday spiritual insight!

    ~Brooke

  5. Ryan Freeman says:

    Absolutely. “Believing Christ” is the best book I know on this subject. It talks about that very thing…creating a partnership with Christ. Of course, in this partnership, we are all unprofitable “investments” as even the best among us falls short of the price paid. I imagine the Final Judgement as you do as we realize just how awesome and powerful and perfect and necessary the Atonement is.

    Thank you again. I share Brooke’s sentiments. 🙂

  6. Pingback: The Parable of the Squashed Bugs on the Windshield « "The Things of My Soul"

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