Note: This post was originally published on November 18, 2010. I was reminded of some thoughts I had in this post when Paul at A Latter-day Voice wrote about the Anti-Nephi-Lehis. I forgot that I had written about it on this blog until I was looking through some of my first posts on this blog and I found this one. I think the story of the ANL's is one worth discussing in depth, and I enjoyed Paul's insights. If you're itching to read something after you read this, head over and check out his post. It was very good.
I was reading in the Book of Mormon last night (and honestly I’ve been in the same chapter for about 5 nights, because I’ve been so tired it’s been all I could do to read just one verse). I’ve been reading about the Anti-Nephi-Lehies(ANLs) and last night I got to the part where the Lamanites came against the ANLs in war, and the ANLs “prostrated themselves before [the Lamanites] to the earth, and began to call on the name of the Lord...” A few verses later we read that “the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain; and those who had been slain were righteous people ... there was not a wicked man slain among them; but there were more than a thousand brought to the knowledge of the truth; thus we see that the Lord worketh in many ways to the salvation of his people.” We also learn that the people who were converted were “actual descendents of Laman and Lemuel” and not other “mixed breeds” of Lamanites (Amalekites or Amulonites or those after the order of the Nehors).
This time reading the story of the ANLs, I was impressed with the statement that more people joined the ranks of God than were slain, and the only people that were slain were righteous people.
Should we all just lay down our weapons of war and let the wicked kill us?
The first thing I thought of when that question popped into my mind was of Captain Moroni raising the title of liberty.
In the Book of Mormon, Moroni is described this way: “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.”
He is the one who “rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.”
So obviously, Moroni was a righteous man. So righteous that if every man was like Moroni, Satan would have no power over our hearts. Now there’s righteousness if I ever saw it.
But I had just thought the same thing about the Anti-Nephi-Lehies! So how can both laying down your weapons of war and taking up your weapons of war be righteous actions? Doesn’t that seem contradictory? We should either lay down our weapons of war to be righteous or take them up to be righteous.
How do we decide whether to fight, or whether to lay down our lives?
My next thought was that perhaps it isn’t the fighting for your lives that is bad, but just that the ANLs had chosen their weapons of war, and bloodshed, to be their chosen sign for their covenant of conversion with Heavenly Father. What if instead they had chosen to never take the Lords name in vain again, or if they had covenanted that they would always pray two times a day? What if they hadn’t covenanted to lay down their weapons of war? Well, think of all the thousand people who were converted because the ANLs did lay down their weapons of war. Those people probably would have been killed in their wickedness (because the ANLs were pretty fierce warriors, it seems like). That makes me never want any LDS member of the military anywhere to fight and kill.
But didn’t Captain Moroni and his fellow captains and soldier kill many wicked men in their wickedness?
I guess I just want to know that the ANLs were doing what was right, letting the Lamanites attack and kill them, but also that Captain Moroni was right in fighting for his family and children. And what about Nephi killing Laban? Sometimes wicked people are spared, and sometimes they are killed.
In my search for truth I found a neat article about this subject by Eugene England, a Mormon scholar and former professor at BYU.
He says this: “Like Moroni, Mormon refused to let the long, desperate fighting lead him to bloodthirstiness; instead, as the Lord directed him, he resigned his command to stand by ‘as an idle witness’ when their wickedness led them to fight in a spirit of vengeance.”
Perhaps because the ANLs had been so bloodthirsty before their conversion (killing just for the sake of killing), they chose their weapons of war and bloodshed for the sign of their covenant with Heavenly Father. Kind of like a recovering alcoholic who never takes another drink – even a sip – for fear it will turn them back to their alcoholic ways.
This probably speaks about the righteousness of captain Moroni – that he didn’t let all the warfare and bloodshed make him bloodthirsty, and when his soldiers became wicked and fought for vengeance instead of for freedom, he stood idly by instead of fighting with them. Perhaps the ANLs were worried that if they ever fought again for their own lives and the lives of their families, once that righteous desire was obtained, they would want to avenge the deaths of their brethren.
My husband and I talk about the seeming paradox between the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” and Nephi killing Laban, and captain Moroni leading his men into battle. However, there is no paradox. Commandments (especially Mosaic law) are God’s way of keeping us out of trouble. Because we should not kill people, but God may use us as instruments to save others, or in the case of Nephi, to save a nation. Even when God gave the commandment “thou shalt not kill,” he still later led His people into battle, or instructed them to wipe out entire peoples. I think God also wants us to understand the grave responsibility of taking another person’s life. Two of the three most abominable sins have to do with life – wrongfully using our power to create life, and wrongfully using our power to take life. Human life is so important to Heavenly Father.
So I think that as long as we have not made a covenant with God not to take up arms, and as long as we are not bloodthirsty, and are not killing for revenge (for “vengeance is mine, Saith the Lord”), it is absolutely righteous for us to take up arms and go to war “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children”.
What do you think about the Anti-Nephi-Lehies and captain Moroni and other righteous people who waged war in defense of their families, freedoms, and religion? Do you think there is a hard and fast rule to when we should lay down our weapons and when we should take them up?