1. The Nephites fight to defend their families and their liberty.
Alma 43: Prophets Know Where the Enemy Will Strike
Moroni’s confrontation with Zerahemnah teaches us the value of prophets in times of war and peace. When Zerahemnah’s army changed course after being frightened by the Nephite army, Captain Moroni immediately issued two orders: First, he sent spies to follow Lamanite army, and second, he sent men to inquire of the prophet Alma where the Lamanites might go. This is faith and works. He did everything in his power, and he called on a power higher than his own.
Modern prophets have continually warned that in the latter-days, the adversary will attack marriage and family. More than thirty years ago, President Harold B. Lee stated, “Satan’s greatest threat today, is to destroy the family and make a mockery of the law of chastity and the sanctity of the marriage covenant” (Church News, August 19. 1972, 3). In 1995, The Proclamation to the World: The Family was issued. Prophets tell us where the enemy strike next. The spiritual message is clear: Keep your eyes on the living prophets, they know where the enemy will attack. (JohnBytheway.com)
Alma 43:3 Now I return to an account of the wars
“The morning was dark and cold, the children were half-asleep, and our reading in the Book of Mormon seemed endless. We were mired somewhere in the last half of the book of Alma and, frankly, we weren’t getting much out of it.
“Whenever we got into those detailed accounts of the wars between the Nephites and the Lamanites, our enthusiasm for daily scripture study waned…And so, as the sleepy voices droned on, my mind began to wander. Why? Why did Mormon include so much detail about the wars? With all the wonderful spiritual events that must have taken place, why would he use so much valuable space on the plates to record military intrigue and battle strategy?
“The day’s reading session finally ended, but my search for an answer had just begun…the question continued to nag at me. It wasn’t until several weeks later that I found what was, for me, a key to the answer I sought. A friend was sharing her concern that perhaps her children would not remain righteous with all the worldly influences around them. ‘I’m really scared,’ she said. ‘It’s like a war out there.’ As she spoke, my mind filled with the unlikely scene of her children lined up on the front lawn in fierce battle against the heavily armed forces of the adversary.
“Then it hit me. That was it! This was the war that applied to me-not a war of swords and spears, but the eternal war for my soul and those of my family. Satan is waging an all-out war against truth and righteousness. His forces are everywhere, and we are involved in that war whether we like it or not. The danger is real, and the stakes are high. All around us we see the battle casualties, their lives ruined and their souls scarred. If we expect to avoid becoming casualties ourselves, we desperately need the Lord’s guidance-and there is no better place to find it than in that book of scripture prepared specifically for our day: the Book of Mormon!
“In great excitement I opened the book of Alma and began to read the main war chapters again. But this time, instead of skimming through the various battle accounts, I thought of the Lamanites, who were wicked at the time of these battles, as representing the forces of evil, with Satan at their head, and the Nephites, who were generally righteous at that time, representing the Saints of our day, struggling to protect themselves and their families. Suddenly the battlefield was no longer remote in time and place. This battle was my battle! The family under siege was mine!
“With this new insight, I found more than one hundred passages in the last twenty chapters of Alma alone that contain useful information about how Satan and his forces operate or that describe inspired strategies for defending ourselves against evil. Seemingly insignificant military details revealed valuable counsel when I simply asked the question ‘How does this apply to the war against evil today?’
“…No longer am I tempted to skip the war stories in the Book of Mormon or daydream my way through them. If I am to successfully defend my family in the great war with evil, I want to take advantage of every word of counsel from the Lord’s ‘combat manual’ for the latter days-the Book of Mormon.” (Kathleen S. McConkie, Ensign, Jan. 1992, “Defending Against Evil”)
Alma 43:9 Liberty
‘First-time readers of the Book of Mormon are often surprised at the number of references to “freedom” and “liberty.” Actually, “freedom” appears 26 times in Alma, all between chapters 43 and 63. There are only three other direct references in the entire Book of Mormon. The term “liberty” or its derivative appears thirty-three times in these same Alma chapters, more than the rest of the Book of Mormon put together. . . . Both “freedom” and “liberty” (Hebrew: deror and hopsi) have their Hebrew roots in emancipation from slavery. As is true of [Moroni] as an individual and [the Nephites] as a nation, freedom and liberty came because of making and keeping covenants with God.’ [Thomas R. Valletta, “The Captain and the Covenant,” in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of the Word, pp. 236-237]
Alma 43:16 Moroni
“At this moment the twenty-five-year-old Moroni appears on the scene, a military genius if there ever was one. He introduced improvements in armor to make his people far more than a match, man for man, for the enemy (Alma 43:19-21); he arranged the Jershon defense zone (Alma 43:22), and being on the defensive and greatly outnumbered, was particularly diligent in keeping a sharp lookout on all enemy movements, at the same time inquiring of the holy prophet Alma (after what is now known to have been an ancient custom in Israel) regarding the enemy’s plan of battle, ‘whither the armies of the Nephites should go to defend themselves against the Lamanites’ (Alma 43:23). On the other hand, the Lamanite campaign was directed by Amalekite and Zoramite officers, whose knowledge of Nephite military secrets and methods would have given them an enormous advantage over any commander but Moroni.” (Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah, p. 298)
Alma 43:23 Moroni sent spies
“Not unlike the Nephite spies, modern prophets and the scriptures can give us advance warning of the plans of the evil one. If we follow the Lord’s counsel through his prophet, as did Moroni, we too can know how, when, and where to best defend ourselves. The gospel gives us the ‘battle strategy,’ and the Church provides the necessary structure for setting up our defenses and defeating the enemy with minimum casualties.” (Kathleen S. McConkie, Ensign, Jan. 1992, “Defending Against Evil”)
Alma 44:1 We do not desire to be men of blood
“Here was Moroni’s chance to settle the Lamanite problem once and for all on the spot; a vastly superior force had entered and ravaged a large part of his country, bent on subduing it entirely, and now he had them, as he says, completely in his power. Well might he have said, ‘Kill or be killed. It is either you or us!’ and finished them off. But instead of that type of total victory he did not even ask for unconditional surrender…All he asked of his bloodthirsty foe was that they deliver up their weapons and promise not to fight the Nephites anymore; then they could go their way in peace without reprisals, punishment, hostages, or guarantees (Alma 44:6).” (Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah, p. 298)
Alma 44:3 Ye cannot destroy this our faith
“Many have got angry with us, but that is nothing new; the wicked have always shown anger when the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been upon the earth.
“Many have tried to stay the progress of the work of God, but it has continued to roll on in spite of all the opposition with which it has had to contend. The prophet saw a little stone cut out of the mountain without hands, and it continued to roll and smote the feet of the image made of clay, brass, silver, gold, and iron, and it became as the chaff of the summer threshing floor; but the little stone grew and increased until it became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
“It will be so with this stone which God has hewn out in these last days; and though men may combine to stay its progress and may set themselves in array against the Lord and His anointed, yet He will come out of His hiding place and will vex such people and nations, and He will overturn and overturn until Truth shall prevail the wide world over, and until His kingdom shall reach from the rivers to the ends of the earth; until all men shall bow to the sceptre of Immanuel; until the wicked shall be rooted from the earth, and His kingdom shall be established and given to His Saints to possess for ever and ever.” (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 13:19)
Alma 48:17 Like unto Moroni
“Captain Moroni, chief captain of the Nephite armies, is a man Mormon greatly admired. He devotes a large part of his abridgment to the wars fought by Captain Moroni and may even have named his son after this courageous captain. The description of Captain Moroni in the book of Alma gives some insight into Mormon’s personality. He admires Moroni for his skill as a general but even more for his faith in God.” (Book of Mormon Symposium Series, Alma, edited by PR Cheesman, MS Nyman, and CD Tate, Jr., 1988, p. 223)
Alma 48:19 No less serviceable
“Even though Helaman was not as noticeable or conspicuous as Moroni, he was as serviceable; that is, he was as helpful or useful as Moroni. …
“Not all of us are going to be like Moroni, catching the acclaim of our colleagues all day every day. Most of us will be quiet, relatively unknown folks who come and go and do our work without fanfare. To those of you who may find that lonely or frightening or just unspectacular, I say, you are ‘no less serviceable’ than the most spectacular of your associates. You, too, are part of God’s army.
“Consider, for example, the profound service a mother or father gives in the quiet anonymity of a worthy Latter-day Saint home. Think of the Gospel Doctrine teachers and Primary choristers and Scoutmasters and Relief Society visiting teachers who serve and bless millions but whose names will never be publicly applauded or featured in the nation’s media.
“Tens of thousands of unseen people make possible our opportunities and happiness every day. As the scriptures state, they are ‘no less serviceable’ than those whose lives are on the front pages of newspapers.
“The limelight of history and contemporary attention so often focuses on the one rather than on the many” (Howard W Hunter, “No Less Serviceable,” Ensign, Apr. 1992, 64).
2. Captain Moroni raises the “title of liberty” to inspire the people.
Alma 45: Declare the Word of God in Times of War.
‘Alma the Younger prophesied the ultimate destruction of the Nephites, and departed out of the land. Knowing more wars were coming, what did Helaman and his brethren do? Make swords? Armor? Fortifications? No. “For because of their wars … it became expedient that the word of God should be declared among them…” (verse 21, emphasisadded). The war chapters are very consistent on this point – spiritual preparation is always first. The spiritual message is clear: get your spiritual life in order, then prepare temporally for whatever may come. Physical swords come in handy, but the “sword of the spirit, which is the word of God” is a more powerful and more important weapon (see Ephesians 6:17).’ (JohnBytheway.com)
Alma 45:21 Little dissensions and disturbances
“’Little sins,’ like tiny acorns, produce massive oaks; out of small things proceeds that which is great. Tares, once small and indistinguishable, eventually choke the wheat.” (McConkie & Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 332)
Alma 45:23 There arose a dissension
“It is noteworthy that dissension in the Nephite church was associated with contention in the nation (Alma 45:21-46:7; Helaman 4:1). In other words, there may be a spill-over effect…For instance, dissension within the church preceded (and perhaps spiritually caused) the great civil dissensions that soon plagued the entire Nephite nation as it plunged into a terribly destructive series of wars with the Lamanites, who were led and strengthened by Nephite dissenters (Alma 45:20-24; Alma 46-62).” (Lynn D. Wardle, FARMS, vol. 3 No. 1-Spring 1994, p. 69)
Alma 46: Place Reminders of your Covenants Everywhere
‘Amalickiah was a Nephite who wanted to be king. He wanted to destroy the system of judges, and rule over the Nephites. Captain Moroni, well aware of the problems of having a king, rent his coat and wrote upon it the title of liberty. Later, the title of liberty was hoisted upon every tower in all the land. Amalickiah and his followers eventually fled.
Apparently, towers were the media of the day. Wherever anyone went in the land occupied by the Nephites, the title of liberty was there, “hoisted upon every tower.” The message is wonderful – place reminders of your covenants everywhere. President Kimball urged families to display a picture of the temple in their homes. We can also have a picture of the Savior to remind us of our baptismal and sacrament covenants. These visible reminders of spiritual commitments help us to remember what we are fighting for.’ (JohnBytheway.com)
Alma 46:1-2 They were determined to slay them
‘The spiritual instability of the Nephites is reflected in the fact that the whole Church split in two very shortly after Alma disappeared. Helaman and his two brothers tried to rally the people in righteousness and the resentment of those who rejected their message immediately boiled over into open rebellion. And it was not merely because the rebels wanted to reject the message. They wanted to murder the messengers. Alma’s three sons were doing missionary work at the risk of their lives.
Satan never has trouble finding someone who has secret ambitions and is willing to launch a civil war to gain power. Amalickiah turned out to be Satan’s newest recruit and he wanted to be king.’ (Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)
Alma 46:4 Amalickiah
‘Many in the church were won over by Amalickiah’s skillful oratory, for he was a charming (‘flattering’ is the word used in the Book of Mormon) and persuasive communicator. He made war the cornerstone of his policy and power, using a systematic and carefully planned communications system of towers and trained speakers to stir up the people to fight for their rights, meaning Amalickiah’s career. For while Moroni had kind feelings for the enemy, Amalickiah ‘did care not for the blood of his [own] people’ (Alma 49:10). His object in life was to become king of both the Nephites and Lamanites, using the one to subdue the other (Alma 46:4-5). He was a master of dirty tricks, to which he owed some of his most brilliant achievements as he maintained his upward mobility by clever murders, high-powered public relations, and great executive ability. His competitive spirit was such that he swore to drink the blood of Alma, who stood in his way. In short, he was ‘one very wicked man’ (Alma 46:9), who stood for everything that Moroni loathed.”‘ (Hugh Nibley, Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, p. 502)
Alma 46:13 The title of liberty
“Of course, the war in heaven over free agency is now being waged here on earth, and there are those today who are saying ‘Look, don’t get involved in the fight for freedom. Just live the gospel.’ That counsel is dangerous, self-contradictory, unsound…Now, part of the reason we may not have sufficient priesthood bearers to save the Constitution let alone to shake the powers of hell, is because unlike Moroni, I fear, our souls do not joy in keeping our country free, and we are not firm in the faith of Christ nor have we sworn with an oath to defend our rights and the liberty of our country.
“Moroni raised a title of liberty and wrote upon it these words: ‘In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.’ Why didn’t he write upon it: ‘Just live your religion; there’s no need to concern yourselves about your freedom, your peace, your wives, or your children’? The reason he didn’t do this was because all these things were a part of his religion, as they are of our religion today.
“Should we counsel people, ‘Just live your religion. There’s no need to get involved in the fight for freedom’? No, we should not, because our stand for freedom is a most basic part of our religion; this stand helped get us to this earth, and our reaction to freedom in this life will have eternal consequences. Man has many duties, but he has no excuse that can compensate for his loss of liberty.” (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, Oct. 1966, p. 122)
Alma 46:21 The people came running together
‘Our Savior’s Second Coming is drawing nearer. Let us not delay in this great cause. Remember Captain Moroni, who hoisted the title of liberty inscribed with the words “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.”21 Alma 46:12 Let us remember the people’s response: exercising their agency, they “came running together” with a covenant to act.22 Alma 46:21
My beloved brothers and sisters, don’t walk! Run! Run to receive the blessings of agency by following the Holy Ghost and exercising the freedoms God has given us to do His will.’ (Robert D Hales, General Conference, April 2015)
3. Amalickiah becomes king of the Lamanites and incites them to battle.
Alma 47: Don’t Come Down from Your Mountain!
‘The scriptures contain many types and shadows of Christ, and my conviction is that the story of Amalickiah provides us with the opposite – a type and shadow of Satan. Think of the parallels! Amalickiah wanted to be king, he was cast out, and he took his followers with him. Similarly, Satan wanted to “exalt [his] throne above the stars of God (2 Nephi 24:13), was cast out, and took his followers with him. Amalickiah is described as cunning, flattering, and a murderer. Satan is also described as cunning, flattering, and a murderer. Amalickiah poisoned Lehonti “by degrees.” Satan leads us “carefully” or “by degrees” down to hell (2 Nephi 28:21). Amalickiah did “not care for the blood of his people” (Alma 49:10). Satan will “not support his children at the last day (Alma 30:60).
Amalickiah succeeded in persuading the king of the Lamanites to attack the Nephites, but a large part of the Lamanite army refused to fight the Nephites. They found refuge on top of the mount Antipas and appointed Lehonti to be their leader. Three different times, Amalickiah invited Lehonti to come down from the mountain. Lehonti refused each time. Eventually, Amalickiah went up, nearly to the camp of Lehonti, and persuaded Lehonti to come down “just a little.” Amalickiah convinced Lehonti that he was not really an enemy, but a friend who only wanted to be second in command. Eventually, Lehonti agreed to Amalickiah’s scheme, and was unknowingly poisoned “by degrees” until he died.
As Latter-day Saints, we have gone up to the “mountain of the Lord” and made covenants. Satan continually invites us to come down. We refuse. So he invites us to come down just a little. If we do, we subject ourselves to his power where we will eventually be poisoned by degrees. If we are wounded by a gunshot, or a sword, we know about it! But if we are slowly poisoned, we might not even realize it’s happening. Poison is a perfect metaphor for Satan’s tactics, because a victim of poison may not even realize what’s happening, and may still believe he’s in control up until the moment he dies.
The spiritual message is powerful and chilling – Don’t come down from your mountain! Keep your covenants! Satan wants us to come down so he can poison us by degrees. (It’s interesting to note that Jesus was invited to come down three times from the pinnacle of the temple, but he never did. See Matthew 4:1-11).’ (JohnBytheway.com)
Alma 47:1 Did stir up the Lamanites to anger
‘One might wonder why a Mulekite or Zoramite dissenter (see Alma 52:3; 54:23) could receive such a warm welcome from the Lamanites who were ever bent on destroying the Nephites. But Lamanite tradition held that the right to government held by Laman and Lemuel, Nephi’s older brothers, had been robbed in violation of tradition by Nephi. Therefore a traditional hatred and distrust surrounding this sore point was ingrained in Lamanite culture. When Mulekites or Zoramites dissented to the Lamanites, they seem to have been especially effective in arousing Lamanite ire with an argument that probably went something like: “First, the Nephites robbed you of your right to rule. Now, they are robbing us of our right to rule.”
In Lamanite eyes, this was evidence that the Nephites were still up to their old tricks and needed to be brought into subjection. Many a Nephite-Lamanite war seems to have been instigated in this way, with the Nephites accused of being the perpetrators of injustice, when Lamanite or dissenter dominion was the actual motive.’ [Michael M. Hobby, The Mulekite Connection, p. 38]
Alma 47:36 They became more hardened and impenitent
“Then there are the dissenters who leave the Church, either formally or informally, but who cannot leave it alone. Usually anxious to please worldly galleries, they are critical or at least condescending towards the Brethren. They not only seek to steady the ark but also on occasion give it a hard shove! Often having been taught the same true doctrines as the faithful, they have nevertheless moved in the direction of dissent (see Alma 47:36). They have minds hardened by pride (see Daniel 5:20).” (Neal A Maxwell, Men and Women of Christ, p. 4)
4. War continues between the Nephites and the Lamanites.
Alma 48: Make Covenants, Then Make Swords
‘Much of Alma 48 is a stirring tribute to Captain Moroni. At the beginning of the chapter, however, we are reminded of the preeminence of spiritual preparation: “While Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing…” Preparing what? Sorry to interrupt, but what do you suppose the rest of the verse will say? Had Moroni been preparing more weapons and forts? No. The verse continues, “Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God” (verse 7, emphasis added). Once again, we see the power of faith in Christ, and the priority of putting first things first, especially in times of war.’ (JohnBytheway.com)
Alma 48:7 Preparing the minds of the people
‘When parents fail to transmit testimony and theology along with decency, those families are only one generation from serious spiritual decline, having lost their savor. The law of the harvest is nowhere more in evidence and nowhere more relentless than in family gardens’ (Neal A Maxwell, “Take Especial Care of Your Family,” Ensign, May 1994, 90).
Alma 49:30 Corianton
“Tucked in the ongoing story of the Nephite wars we find a reference to the change that Corianton made in his personal life. Peace was in the land again and the people prospered ’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’ (Alma 49:30). Notice who was back on his mission again. Hurrah! Through a parent-child interview, Alma brought about a transformation in the life of his beloved son, and this united family of missionaries and Nephite ministers made an incredible difference in the society in which they lived. It was as if they first ‘taped together’ the home and then the world began to take care of itself.” (Douglas E. Brinley & Daniel K Judd, Eternal Families, “The Parent’s Role”)
Alma 50: Fortifications and Watchmen on the Towers
‘Moroni continued to prepare his cities with a series of heaps, timbers, pickets and towers. Watchman were placed within each tower so that they could warn the inhabitants of incoming danger from afar. Imagine how silly it would be for those in the city, after hearing the watchman warn of trouble approaching, to respond, “Well I don’t see the danger.”
Prophets are called “watchman on the towers” (Ezekiel 3:17). They may see things we don’t. Perhaps our assignment is among the heaps, timbers or pickets – but prophets have the special assignment of seeing – thus, they carry the title of seers. The spiritual message is obvious – Keep your eyes and ears on the watchman, and be humble enough to realize that watchman may see things we do not.’ (JohnBytheway.com)
Alma 50:1-6 Places of security
‘There is an exciting story in the Book of Mormon beginning in chapter 48 of Alma Alma 48:1–6 It is a time of peril and commotion for the Nephite nation. Their enemies have sworn to defeat them and take them into bondage. Against what appears to be all odds, Captain Moroni must find a way to defend his people—to create places of security for them. He directs his people to dig deep ditches and build up huge banks of earth around the cities [see Alma 48:8 Later he improves upon his earlier defenses by adding works of timber topped with a frame of pickets and eventually towers to overlook the pickets [see Alma 50:1–6 So effective is his strategy that the Lamanite armies are astonished and rendered powerless, even though they greatly outnumber the Nephites. The Nephites are safe within their cities and repel the Lamanite attacks.’ (Virginia U Jensen, General Conference, October 1997)
Alma 51:5 Overthrow the free government
“It is Lucifer…who seeks the overthrow of free institutions, free churches, free government, and who saps wherever he can the foundation of the rights of man. That same fallen being, once called the Morning Star, presented himself before the Father, at the beginning, and offered himself as a candidate for the saviorship of this world. He declared–had the audacity to declare–that his purpose was to save man in his sins. ‘Not one soul shall be lost.’ He proposed to compel all to be saved, and sought to destroy the free agency of man.” (Orson F Whitney, Conference Report, Oct. 1906, p. 71)