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Painting by Walter Rane.

In this October General Conference, President Packer reminded us that we are raising our children in enemy territory. (1)  This talk impresses us with the vital duty we have to arm ourselves against the full force of our enemy, Satan, and to meet him on every field of battle, prepared to win the fight for our own souls and the souls of those who dwell on earth with us at this time.  Indeed, in this same conference, Elder Holland, in his plea for more missionaries, also declared, “We are at war.” (2) 

My son, Gregory, has long told me that a careful study of the “war chapters” in the Book of Mormon will reveal an allegory of the battles we face against Satan in these last days. In studying them with his words in mind, I have become convinced that Gregory is right.  If we read with this intent, a study of General Moroni’s conduct of person and leader does yield great counsel to us for our fight in a battle just as real as the ones he fought with the Lamanites, headed by the apostate Nephites Amalickiah and Ammoron.  It is significant, I think, that his greatest enemies were apostates from his own faith.

Set Your Goal and Keep it Ever Before You

In this battle, one of Satan’s great tools is distraction.  He wants us to let down our vigilance, and then works his way through the little cracks in our armor caused when we allow the  “wisdom of the world” to enter our minds and hearts, even in the smallest way.  Satan wraps his intentions up in attractive packaging!

Realizing a need to galvanize his people and focus their attention on the battle before them, Captain Moroni established his purpose and goal in the creation of his banner, the “Title of Liberty,” and rode among his people brandishing this creed among all the Nephites.  Mustered to action by this call, the people made their own banners to fly among their kin and neighbors: “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.” (3)

I would submit that in this last dispensation, our “Title of Liberty” has been composed most thoroughly and eloquently in the “Proclamation on the Family. 

What can we do to keep this goal ever before us?  Invest in this battle!  Let us see how Captain Moroni encouraged this. 

Building a Strong and Righteous Character

What kind of man was this great leader?  What can we learn from his character about constant, unflinching dedication to our cause—the defeat of Satan’s influence in our lives?  Several verses in the book of Alma extol him as the very best kind of hero.

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, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.

Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood. . .

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. (4) 

What a mighty man in the Captain Moroni was!  Although we do not know how he came to be the way he was, I believe we can safely say that whenever there was a choice to be made, he chose the correct path—improving on his character daily.  Character is not a static thing.  Like fine silver, it must be polished continually, or it will tarnish.

What specific tools has the Lord given us, as adults, to polish and refine our character? We hear them time after time in General Conference. (5)

From my gleanings over the years, these are the tools (when used faithfully) that have given me daily ammunition against the weapons of the adversary:

  1. Attendance in the House of the Lord, and observance of the covenants we make there, with the reminders that we wear each day.  Prayer and contemplation in the Celestial Room has been a privilege that has guided my life and given me great consolation in times of upheaval.
  2. Daily scripture study, likening what we read to ourselves, particularly in the Book of Mormon brought forth specifically as our shield and battle plan combined in these latter days. (Discussed in more detail below)
  3. Study of and use of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in our daily lives, both for its redemptive qualities and its enabling power to help us resist the adversary and attain our goals. Continual supplication to our Savior, in a repentant state, for his vital help in “making up the difference” between our personal limits and the goals we wish to reach. This is seen repeatedly in Moroni’s battle tactics where he fought victoriously a far more numerous and vicious force.
  4. Mighty prayer that a.) renders gratitude for the blessings of each day; b.)invokes the Lord’s forgiveness when we sin; c.) offers an account of our actions in pressing toward our goals; d.) supplicates for instruction in obtaining those goals; e.) pleads for the grace and help of our Heavenly Father, even to perform miracles if necessary.
  5. Action in performing our allotted tasks, using the Savior’s enabling power, to teach our families, our peers, and the “strangers in our midst.”
  6. Pure religion—practicing charity (agape or the pure love of Christ).  Paul said, “Though I give my body to be burned and haveth not Charity, it availeth me nothing.” (6)

If we neglect any of these things, we provide Satan with a space in our souls where he can undermine us, causing us to take our eyes from our goal and wander in “strange paths.”  A handy reminder is the fall of King David, one of the most beloved of our Father’s children, brought to grief in an instant’s inattentiveness to his greater goal. Instead of shunning the view of Bathsheba, he cherished it, ultimately replacing all that he knew of good with adultery and murder.

Take the Lord as Your Supreme Commander

Once we have invested our body and soul toward reaching our goal, and are daily refining ourselves to be worthy of protection and inspiration of the Lord, then what?  We must go back to those verses giving the great explication of Moroni’s character. 

Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives.


 

And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land; yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger;

And also, that God would make it known unto them whither they should go to defend themselves against their enemies, and by so doing, the Lord would deliver them; and this was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it;not in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity.(7)

Was there ever a war as personal as the one we fight?  Our Supreme Commander is not some distant figure on a horse, dressed in battle garb, weilding a sword to signal an attack.  Rather, He is available to each one of us through the Holy Ghost in our private battles through prayer and blessings given under the hands of the His Holy Priesthood.  He will warn us when to flee a threatening situation or to take a stand involving confrontation and conflict, according to our danger.  If necessary, He will also reveal  where we should go to defend ourselves, and how we will be delivered.  We should not glory in “the shedding of blood” figuratively or actually, but in preserving people from sin.

Again, reading the war chapters shows how Moroni applied this counsel.  He achieved a significant amount of his victories through strategy, not warfare.

So it is today.  The general councils of the church produce programs by inspiration to prepare tomorrow’s warriors, ever more and more skillfully, to deal with the enticements of the adversary.  The rising generation are in no doubt of the foe they face, and are far more prepared than their parents were.

Their parents are now fighting in the trenches, spiritual sergeants in this battle.  They carry out orders from their Heavenly Father as they receive them personally, or through the levels of command down the priesthood chain.  Part of a spiritual sergeant’s strategy is conceived by a parent’s one on one counsel with the Lord, and then imparted with love to children in one on one Priesthood interviews between father and child (or mother and child, as the case may be). A parent must also use vigilance, pure testimony, example,  and teaching from his or her personal arsenal of weapons against Satan.  Make no mistake: this is a battle with eternal consequences. Aside from our own salvation, there is nothing in this life more important than preparing our families to fight the battle for their souls. Even though at times, we may appear to be losing this fight, we should never discount the mighty power of a parent’s prayer on behalf of his or her children.

As spiritual sergeants, we also receive a great deal of help from headquarters: Primary, Young Men’s and Young Women’s programs, Seminary, Institute, Bishop’s birthday and other interviews and intervention, the Church’s Twelve Step Addiction Recovery Program for addicts of drug, alchohol or pornography.

Apostles and prophets are our spiritual generals.  But, as stated above, unlike a real military unit, we have access to our supreme commander through His grace.  We may receive personal revelation in our battles, and should avail ourselves of this revelation at least twice a day.

If the sergeant fails to put into action his orders, can the foot soldiers find their way?  If the sergeant does not do all in his power to follow orders, can his soldiers be blamed for erring?  The whole chain of command may fall to naught if we do not do our part.

However, I am a child of a family where this unfortunate circumstance occurred. In that case, my church leaders, and indeed, my Father in Heaven made me aware that I was more than a foot soldier, but a daughter of God.  He dealt with me directly, and there was many a battle fought in our home—mutinies aplenty as I was encouraged to go in directions counter to my personal testimony of right and wrong.

Even General Moroni threatened mutiny against his chief officer, Pahoran, when no reinforcements or supplies were reaching him.  In this case, he had to put aside for a time his battles against the Lamanites (the outside enemy) and fight with the enemy within—the most treacherous enemy—those Kingmen who became so through their pride.  In doing so, he lost much that he had formerly gained in battles against the Lamanites.  But, he had his priorities right.  The rot from within will destroy us far faster and in a more permanent way than the overt aggression of the Lamanites.

As parents, leaders, and teachers, we also have the task to be vigilant against threats from the inside, which is shown in these chapters of the Book of Mormon to be the most dire threat.  A rotten ship will not stand the batterings of the storm.

First, we must make certain that our own vessels are clean and pure.  Then we must be aware of the traitors within our camp.  In the 80’s, a church study confirmed that youth are much more likely to follow rebellious friends if they are members of the church than if they are not.  Also, it is not uncommon for adults to look beyond the mark, to think that they have a separate, more exalted standard of worthiness, or to have “gospel hobbies,” which they seek to impart unto us instead of the prescribed course. 

These dangers, from outside and in, show us why Moroni had to be such an extraordinary leader, without vanity or pride, constantly wary of all enemies.  Satan does not play fair.  But we can count on our Heavenly Father, our prophets and apostles.  And each of us could do worse than to strive in our own way, with pure intent, to be a Captain Moroni in the Lord’s army that now fights in enemy territory in this final battle for the souls of mankind.

Just one last word on this great leader, Captain Moroni: At the end of his career, so familiar were the Lamanites with Captain Moroni’s resolve and victories, that the very intelligence that his army was approaching set his enemy on the run, retreating before a battle could even be engaged. So shall Zion appear to its enemies in the last days.

I will close with the stirring quote from Sister Ella Wheeler Wilcox, from her poetical work, “Will,” (as quoted by Elder Quentin L. Cook). “There is no chance, no fate, nor destiny that can circumvent, or hinder, or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.” (8). I think she might have been speaking of Captain Moroni, and hopefully of those of us who choose to follow his example.

G.G. Vandagriff is both a journalist and an author of twelve works.  She sees her task of writing for Meridian as a great privilege.  To find out more about her, go to her website at http://ggvandagriff.com.  She loves to correspond with her readers.

Notes:

  1. “Counsel to Youth,”President Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, November, 2011, p. 16.
  2. “We Are All Enlisted,” Elder Jeffrey R.

    Holland, Ensign, November 2011, p.44.
  3. Alma 46:12
  4. Alma 48: 11-13, 17
  5. see “Teaching after the Manner of the Spirit”, President Matthew O. Richardson, Ensign, November, 2011, p. 94 as well as “Choose Eternal Life,” Elder Randall K. Bennett, Ensign, November,, 2011, p. 98
  6. 1st Corinthians 13:3
  7. Alma 48:14-16
  8. “Will,” Poetical Works of Ella Wheeler Wilcox,” 1917, 129. (As quoted by Elder Quentin L Cook in his address, The Songs They Could Not Sing,” Ensign, November, 2011, p. 106.