Log’s note: The title references D&C 18:20. This is about principles, not personalities. If you feel it applies to you, then “thou art the man.” (2 Samuel 12:7)
In the war chapters of Alma, we read the following.
37 Now Moroni seeing their confusion, he said unto them: If ye will bring forth your weapons of war and deliver them up, behold we will forbear shedding your blood.
38 And it came to pass that when the Lamanites had heard these words, their chief captains, all those who were not slain, came forth and threw down their weapons of war at the feet of Moroni, and also commanded their men that they should do the same.
39 But behold, there were many that would not; and those who would not deliver up their swords were taken and bound, and their weapons of war were taken from them, and they were compelled to march with their brethren forth into the land Bountiful.
It was Moroni’s continual policy to release the Lamanites who had come upon the Nephites if they would relinquish their weapons and enter into a covenant of peace – that they would no more come upon the Nephites to war (Alma 44:14-15; 62:16-17, 27-29).
We learn that Moroni put those who would not yield up their weapons nor enter into the covenant of peace to work building their own prisons.
1 And it came to pass that they did set guards over the prisoners of the Lamanites, and did compel them to go forth and bury their dead, yea, and also the dead of the Nephites who were slain; and Moroni placed men over them to guard them while they should perform their labors.
2 And Moroni went to the city of Mulek with Lehi, and took command of the city and gave it unto Lehi. Now behold, this Lehi was a man who had been with Moroni in the more part of all his battles; and he was a man like unto Moroni, and they rejoiced in each other’s safety; yea, they were beloved by each other, and also beloved by all the people of Nephi.
3 And it came to pass that after the Lamanites had finished burying their dead and also the dead of the Nephites, they were marched back into the land Bountiful; and Teancum, by the orders of Moroni, caused that they should commence laboring in digging a ditch round about the land, or the city, Bountiful.
4 And he caused that they should build a breastwork of timbers upon the inner bank of the ditch; and they cast up dirt out of the ditch against the breastwork of timbers; and thus they did cause the Lamanites to labor until they had encircled the city of Bountiful round about with a strong wall of timbers and earth, to an exceeding height.
5 And this city became an exceeding stronghold ever after; and in this city they did guard the prisoners of the Lamanites; yea, even within a wall which they had caused them to build with their own hands. Now Moroni was compelled to cause the Lamanites to labor, because it was easy to guard them while at their labor; and he desired all his forces when he should make an attack upon the Lamanites.
6 And it came to pass that Moroni had thus gained a victory over one of the greatest of the armies of the Lamanites, and had obtained possession of the city of Mulek, which was one of the strongest holds of the Lamanites in the land of Nephi; and thus he had also built a stronghold to retain his prisoners.
“Because it was easy to guard them while at their labor.”
Imagine, if you will, some self-willed and prideful Nephite getting up on the wall of Bountiful, and essaying to mock and scorn the Lamanites whilst at their labors. (I know such a character would be almost beyond reason, but let’s go with this for a second.)
“Behold, ye fools,” we might imagine him saying with a self-satisfied smug smirk complete with upturned nose, “ye are in our power, and all your labors are spent in making your bondage unto us sure. Why do ye foolishly obey your guards? Why do ye foolishly build up your own prison? Know ye not that ye are more numerous than your guards?”
And, we might imagine the Lamanites, who otherwise would be laboring, hearkening unto this proud Nephite, and, though unarmed, seeking to break free from their guards – something like that happened with predictable results.
30 And now, these are the words which Gid said unto me: Behold, we did start to go down to the land of Zarahemla with our prisoners. And it came to pass that we did meet the spies of our armies, who had been sent out to watch the camp of the Lamanites.
31 And they cried unto us, saying—Behold, the armies of the Lamanites are marching towards the city of Cumeni; and behold, they will fall upon them, yea, and will destroy our people.
32 And it came to pass that our prisoners did hear their cries, which caused them to take courage; and they did rise up in rebellion against us.
33 And it came to pass because of their rebellion we did cause that our swords should come upon them. And it came to pass that they did in a body run upon our swords, in the which, the greater number of them were slain; and the remainder of them broke through and fled from us.
Most of the prisoners were killed in this escape attempt. Perhaps had they known they would most likely perish in this attempt, they would not have done so. Remember, though, these were the Lamanites who would not yield their weapons of war and depart the land of the Nephites in peace, neither would they enter into the covenant of peace, so these were the proud and stiffnecked.
Now, let me suggest a way to view these things, and a way to apply the object lessons in our lives. This is merely one way to read this, and is not necessarily the intended way for any particular individual.
Moroni is a type and shadow of Christ. His policy of releasing those Lamanites who would yield up their weapons of war and enter into the covenant of peace symbolizes the standing offer of repentance to all who will cease their abuse of their fellow man and covenant with God to be obedient to his will; after all, the truth will set you free. The Lamanites represent carnal, fallen humanity. The Nephites represent those who keep the commandments of God, or who seek to so do. Bountiful, formerly a city in which Nephites lived, repurposed as a prison for Lamanites, represents the doctrines, traditions, and creeds of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The guards represent the leadership of the Church. The labors represent those activities which keep the carnal busy, and makes it so that they don’t cause the harm they otherwise could and would do to themselves or others. Those labors are family home evening, home teaching, rote prayers, Church attendance, temple attendance, service projects, following the Brethren and the Prophet, Scouting, and the like.
And the arrogant Nephite, who doesn’t exist in the account in the scriptures, because such a fool would not be long for this world – that is every freelancing know-it-all who meddles with the leadership, meddles with the Church, meddles with the doctrines and creeds and traditions of the Church, and meddles with the members who are otherwise harmlessly employed doing things which protect themselves and others. Because when the carnal whose faith is in the Church and its leadership have that faith undermined, they are then encouraged to do what they are only restrained from by their traditions and creeds and doctrines and the need to fit in socially; they typically don’t become better people, but instead typically fall into wickedness and unbelief. Running themselves upon the swords of the guards represents just excommunications wherein they are overcome of the world and perish from that which is good eternally.
36 Now these dissenters, having the same instruction and the same information of the Nephites, yea, having been instructed in the same knowledge of the Lord, nevertheless, it is strange to relate, not long after their dissensions they became more hardened and impenitent, and more wild, wicked and ferocious than the Lamanites—drinking in with the traditions of the Lamanites; giving way to indolence, and all manner of lasciviousness; yea, entirely forgetting the Lord their God.
Can you hear that?
Whose purposes, therefore, do these freelancers truly serve in undermining the Church, the leadership, or the doctrines and creeds and traditions thereof?
Therefore, listen again to the words of Jesus.
“Contend against no church, save it be the church of the devil.”
And the first step in contending against the church of the devil is departing from it yourself – divesting yourself of all pride, envy, arrogance, lust, contention, vanity, and unbelief, and making your eye single to the glory of God, that you are yourself filled with the Spirit of God and light and are always abounding in good works. Once you are a member of the church of Christ, having repented of all your sins and come unto him and been sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, then can you see clearly to help others.
39 And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?
40 The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.
41 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
42 Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.
Therefore, I repeat – make sure you are right with God before you seek to right men.
Doctrine and Covenants 19:31
31 And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.