Happy President’s Day! In the United States, today is a day to honor two great American presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. In my continuing quest to glean healthy living nuggets from the Book of Mormon, I’m quite sure they celebrated great leaders in Book of Mormon times as well. While many iconic Book of Mormon heroes might easily have a holiday named after them, today my vote goes for Moroni, the iconic war leader in the lengthy book of Alma. “Moroni Day …” It has a ring to it, don’t you think?
As epic battles and war strategies dominate page after page, his legendary character and leadership skills are brought to our attention time and again. Could he be compared to General George Patton? Or Winston Churchill? Or other contemporary war heroes? While that makes for an interesting study, what applies more directly to us today is that Moroni was a man who was capable of change himself and inspiring change in others. His impressive life, both while on the earth and then as it relates to the restoration of the Gospel with his angelic visits and instructions to Joseph Smith can be a guiding star for anyone who wants to change their own life.
For those of us who have health habits that we need and want to change, his life is sheer inspiration.
We meet Moroni in Alma 43, where his call to be a military leader at age 23 marks him as a truly exceptional man. In chapters 43-48, we get to know Moroni better through the accounts of the battles, spy tactics and his passion to do what is right for his people, God and his country.
It is in Chapter 48:11-13, however, that we have a concise character description: “he 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 bretheren from bondage and slavery … he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ …”
I repeat for emphasis, “a man that did not delight in bloodshed …” yet he led his soldiers without reservation into the killing fields of gruesome hand-to-hand encounters. If his nature was peaceful, where did he find the strength and ability to overcome the natural man to do this? In prayerfully pondering over this, perhaps the following thoughts will have some inspiration for you as they have for me:
1) Emotions create passion that can be powerfully channeled: The dramatic background for creating the Title of Liberty (Alma 46:11-13) stems from Moroni’s anger over Amalicikah’s dissent. His fury over the dissensions caused him to tear his coat and create a banner that read “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom and our peace, our wives and our children!” that would inspire his soldiers and people to victory.
2) Defense of the good allows us to do bigger, better things than we could ever do for ourselves: After passionately carrying the banner within his immediate vicinity, he caused that additional Titles of Liberty be created (Alma 46:36) and “hoisted upon every tower which was in all the land, and thus Moroni planted the standard of liberty among the Nephites.” In essence, it was a campaign to remind and inspire his people of what their lives must be about in order to literally survive..
3) Taking action is not necessarily pretty or convenient: As chapters 46 to 50 unfold, there is no relaxing. There are no days off. In a war torn state of affairs, every individual lived with uncertainty as to whether they would even be alive from hour to hour, yet eventually, through Moroni’s brilliant directives, they created a safehaven and built cities ((Alma 50:17-20) where they prospered, felt safe and in short, “there was never a happier time among the people of Nephi than in the days of Moroni.” (Alma 50:23).
All in all, there’s a surprising relevance to managing our own health battles. Have you ever felt anger over your present health or weight? I know I have, and still do at times! For some of us, as we have seen in our own family and close situations, what we are eating and what we weight is in very deed a matter of life and death. For me, there is anger that non-nutritious foods taste so good and are always so available and affordable, anger that other people can eat them without seeming to gain a pound, anger that when I’m feeling responsible and don’t want to eat them, there’s a social expectation that I will in order to please someone, anger that my metabolism isn’t as speedy and effective as others in my own family, anger that my body type does not allow me to hide even five or 10 pound. Then there’s the anger and sadness that people I love are literally killing themselves with their diet and lack of exercise. What about you? What are the things about your weight and body, (or of someone you love and worry about) that create feelings of anger?
And what do we do with that anger? Of course, it’s easiest to just eat something fattening and hope the feelings will go away. Truthfully, they do not go away on their own. For many of us the pounds we carry are the manifestations of heavy feelings in our hearts. Prayer helps, and so does education and training. As a member of Stake Relief Society presidency many years ago, our wise Stake President sent used approved funds to send several leaders to an anger management program that would teach us how to teach others how manage feelings of anger. We learned that feelings of anger are very acceptable, healthy and not at all to be feared when one knows how to steer them. For several months we went from ward to ward to present the material: l that it’s OK to be angry and how to deal and direct the powerful (and sometimes frightening) energy that anger stirs up.
Moroni would have been a poster child for this training program! In truth, he could have just vented to his wife or his soldiers or subordinates, but instead, he took powerful action: he addressed the issue and his anger by creating the Title of Liberty. It not only reflected his own thoughts, it inspired his people in a huge way to action!
The Title of Liberty was something tangible and visible. Creating a banner is actually something that we could easily do for any just cause. Practically speaking, it’s a poster for a refrigerator or mirror. Nevertheless, how powerful it would be if the next time we feel the clanking and banging of anger or frustration over our weight, we were to spend a bit of time creating a poster or document that read something like “In memory of my body – God’s great gift to me –my freedom, my peace, my family and my children …” posted where we would see and remember it?
For some of us anger is not the issue, It’s just complacency as Moroni struggled with in his people. He reached out effectively to the complacent with his emphasis on doing what was right as in terms of defense of others. This is an important consideration: if we can’t muster the energy to do it for ourselves, then we can be inspired by Moroni to were to do it for our FAMILIES, our SPOUSES and our children who need us to be with them, who need us to be strong, who need us to help them positively build their lives.