We will not come down, not even part way.
July 23, 2011 10 Comments
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)