The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is not only (1) a witness for the mission of the Savior, which it is and (2) an instrument of conversion to his kingdom which it also is; it is likewise (3) a handbook filled with practical directions for protecting and delivering people from physically and spiritually damaging environments. The contents of the book are carefully designed to nurture and strengthen men, women, and children and guide them toward spiritual maturity, while they are living in conditions of perplexing social and cultural conflict. The Book of Mormon is a handbook for individuals and families on how to successfully cope in this troubled world; it offers specific solutions in the context of divine assistance based on love, correction, and providing a way for us to prevail. Among the issues dealt with in the Book of Mormon are several that seem particularly relevant to the period in which we now live. Instruction on these elements that strike me as vital are what must be done to (a) discern between truth and error, (b) emphasize human dignity, (c) extend personal freedom, and (d) nurture justice and equality. From my perspective most of the crime, riots, social upheaval, and political controversy that permeates and dominates our daily news, are linked to one or more of these concerns. It is evident that these issues are difficult and challenging for millions of people. In every culture there is a danger in being oblivious to the obvious. Personal awareness sufficient to promote proper action is essential for true success. For example, when we lack the kind of personal awareness that leads to productive action our vision dims, obscurity increases, and spiritual darkness prevails. Decades of formal research now indicates that most people in America report they revere the Bible, but few read it. Most people say the Ten Commandments are good rules for living, but they cannot name them and do not live them. When we have the truth and do not live the truth, the truth is of little value. While it is remarkable to have a book that correctly explains ways to handle the kinds of challenges mentioned above; simply having access to the solutions is not the same as implementing those solutions. Therefore, the initial hurdle seems to be generating enough personal desire to become sufficiently aware to create sustained action. The aim of this brief project is to help increase that quality of awareness. Awareness is vital because it is the essential platform upon which we exercise our powers of personal agency. We hold the key. Heavenly Father does care for each of us enough to respond. He will answer if we care enough to knock and we will care enough to act if our awareness is adequate. It’s simple but not automatic.
The Two PlansOne powerful message I feel from the Book of Mormon is that all programs on this earth are but variations of two basic plans: (1) a plan of salvation conceived by God and implemented by his son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, and (2) a plan of destruction conceived by Satan in rebellion and carried out by those who give themselves up to his influences. Like a contextual umbrella these two themes seem to resonate within all cultures and social settings. I see repeated efforts by the Book of Mormon writers to help me discern between these two plans and to recognize the stark differences that exist between their inevitable outcomes. The described methodologies of the two options are made deliberate and clear by the writers in the Book of Mormon. They present historical evidence which demonstrates the consequences of following the plan of salvation versus the plan of destruction. As this evidence is laid out in simple and graphic detail, the writers adroitly weave in theological reasons. These reasons explain how following the one plan will set me free, save me from sin, and exalt me with my heavenly parents; while following the other plan will destroy my freedom, imprison my soul, and strand me in spiritual darkness. The various consequences are described for those who embrace each of these patterns; these may be immediate as well as eternal—physical as well as spiritual. As the Book indicates, our purpose for entering this mortal domain was to confront and respond to these two plans; this partly explains and enhances mankind’s vacillating struggle with both the physical and spiritual forces of mortality:
And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his infinite goodness doth prosper those who put their trust in him. Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people . . . they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God. . . . And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him. . . . Such is the human response in the face of this ever-present challenge of mortality. As it was among those who lived just prior to the Savior’s first coming to this earth, so it seems to be with the people who now live in anticipation of the Savior’s second coming to rule and reign on this earth. In light of the experiences of those prior days, Helaman records for our benefit the following warning:
Angels did appear unto men, wise men, who did declare unto them glad tidings of great joy; . . . nevertheless, the people began to harden their hearts, all save it were the most believing part of them . . . [the others] began to depend on their own strength and upon their own wisdom, saying: “some things they [the believers] may have guessed right . . . but behold we know that all these great and marvelous works cannot come to pass, of which has been spoken.” And they began to reason and to contend among themselves, saying: “that it is not reasonable that such a being as Christ shall come; if so, and he be the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, as it has been spoken, why will he not show himself unto us as well as unto them who shall be at Jerusalem. . . . we know that this is a wicked tradition, which has been handed down unto us by our fathers, to cause us that we should believe in some great and marvelous thing which should come to pass, but not among us . . . therefore they can keep us in ignorance, for we cannot witness with our own eyes that they are true. . . and thus will they keep us in ignorance if we will yield ourselves unto them, all the days of our lives.” And many more things did the people imagine in their hearts, which were foolish and vain; and they were much disturbed, for Satan did stir them up to do iniquity continually; yea, he did go about spreading rumors and contentions upon all the face of the land, that he might harden the hearts of the people against that which was good and against that which was to come. And notwithstanding the signs and the wonders which were wrought among the people of the Lord, and the many miracles which they did, Satan did get a great hold upon the hearts of the people upon all the face of the land. We can now see for ourselves, in our day, these very arguments, contentions, and attitudes. We do live amidst an increasingly chaotic, confusing, and contentious society. Certainly, it should be worth our time and effort to seriously consider the warnings and the proposed solutions offered in this book. Is this not self-evident, in light of the difficulties that surround us, clutter our lives, and impede our happiness? I believe it is better to act and not just be acted upon. We all make the choice. And the respective consequences are unavoidable.
Discerning Truth from Error; Embracing Truth and Rejecting ErrorIn a simple singular sense, personal desire leads to awareness, awareness to knowledge, knowledge to choices, and choices to consequences. We all experience the process. The Book of Mormon emphasizes that the most essential educational objective is learning to discern the difference between truth and error and then to embrace truth and reject error. Samuel, the Book of Mormon Prophet instructed by an angel, summarized this process in these words:
Remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free. He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or you can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you. Lehi instructed his family regarding this same process as follows:
All men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. . . all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. . . . For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not . . . righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon. And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man . . . the Lord gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other. . . . And because [humankind] are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon . . . according to the commandments which God hath given. Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. This brings us to learning and teaching, sharing information, and education; topics of significant importance according to the Book of Mormon. A helpful context is provided. There are two types of what can be called “institutionalized” schooling—learning we obtain beyond the natural personal experience of gaining and applying information—which is experience based self-instruction. Beyond this are the institutions. The first type of “institution” that provides schooling is (a) the family; the second type envelops (b) all other secondary institutional forms created to provide specialized or formal training—this includes any and all of the various forms of schools, guilds, lyceums, lectures, apprenticeships, internships, corporate in-service training, etc. that exist outside the family circle. The Book of Mormon acknowledges the individual’s efforts to learn and it also makes reference to both of the institutional forms—(a) the family and (b) schooling structures beyond the family. Sometimes these two forms of schooling mentioned in the book are combined; for example, King Benjamin’s temple address Mosiah ch. 2-6 and the Savior’s temple addresses 3 Nephi ch. 11-28. In these instances both the informal and the formal are inferred. Whatever our circumstances it is vital to understand the foundation—the assumptions and the intentions—of those who teach us regardless of the setting. Alma, a Book of Mormon prophet, warned his people to “. . . trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments” . Another factor that deserves serious consideration is this: The central element of all institutions is authority; without legitimate authority or persuasive claims to authority no institution can long endure. The themes within the Book of Mormon proclaim this fundamental truth: God has legitimate authority and does delegate that authority to his servants according to his wisdom; while Satan and those under his influence claim to have authority and seek to persuade others to believe in their claim. God uses his authority to bring to pass good. Satan uses his pretense to authority to bring to pass evil—even when he mingles it with truth. The Book of Mormon provides a sketchy but highly relevant commentary—from an educational perspective—on how this conflict between good and evil was manifest in a former era. This record and the messages woven into it was preserved for our benefit. The basic account focuses on the descendents of two particular families and a friend. It is primarily the story of Lehi and Sariah, and their posterity who left Jerusalem about 600 B.C., who journeyed to the Western Hemisphere. The storyline in this account follows a familiar pattern; much like the posterity of Adam and Eve who divided themselves between the righteous and unrighteous— (a) the inhabitants of the city of Enoch and (b) the victims of the flood in Noah’s day. Like these predecessors, Lehi’s posterity also divide into two contesting cultures. In both cases, as in every era, the basic issue is always truth and authority; believing and not believing, accepting and rejecting, embracing and substituting. (see Moses chapts. 5, 6) The application of authority in the process of learning and teaching in the Book of Mormon has been described in one publication like this:
Truth comes from God. . . . [and] truth is delivered from God to man by (1) angels sent from God, (2) his own voice, and (3) the gift of the Holy Ghost. Traditionally, the process of receiving divine revelation is associated with a temple and priesthood ordinances. Always the Adversary seeks to counterfeit this pattern and offer substitute errors for the truth both in content and process. In his abridged account of happenings among Lehi’s descendants, . . . Mormon reports an ideological conflict between two orders—the Holy Order of God and an alternative system called the order of Nehor. Although Mormon’s objective was not to explain the historical details associated with this alternative order, his commentary does provide a general description that includes some names, assumptions, curriculum decisions, teachings, and the type of strategies employed. Those ideas associated with the order of Nehor originated in Mormon’s account, from certain advisors who served a king named Noah (ca. 160 B.C., Mosiah 11:1) to the time of a man named Korihor (ca. 75 B.C., Alma24:28-29; 30:6-12). During this period of nearly a century, the philosophical theories of the order of Nehor seem to have flowered. The impact of the Nehorian philosophy on the society at large was significant. The storyline of this educational conflict may intrigue and perhaps instruct those of us who live in the twenty-first century. It begins with a distant colony (Mosiah 9-22) during the reign of the Kings (Mosiah 7) and ends with its impact on the established republic (Mosiah 29). The account focuses on a king named Noah, who ruled a colony of the descendants from the Nephite side of Lehi’s family. The record shows that King Noah “did not keep the commandments of God” but staffed his court with clever, literate advisors who were “lifted up in the pride of their hearts”. These advisors claimed to teach the morality and the laws of Moses [i.e. Ten Commandments, etc.] but did not live those teachings themselves. Only one of these advisors, a young man named Alma, was converted by the message of a prophet named Abinadi, who came among the people, warning them to repent and change their lifestyles. The storyline continues by reporting the brutal death of the prophet, Abinadi, by King Noah who burned him at the stake. After the conversion of Alma, he hid himself from the King in a remote location and from this seclusion went among the people privately to teach them the message of Abinadi. This secluded form of schooling while he was in exile, grew into a religious organization called the Church of Christ. The group numbered about 450 people; they were baptized and schooled by Alma to teach one another and conduct their lives according to the commandments of God (Mosiah ch. 18). The record then explains the eventual overthrow and demise of King Noah in conjunction with the invasion of a Lamanite army and the flight of his cowardly court of advisors who fled into the wilderness. These royal officials abandoned their wives and children to the invading army and fled to preserve their own safety—led by a man named Amulon. These unrighteous and reprobate fugitives eventually were able to kidnap a group of innocent Lamanite girls, made them their wives and created new families. After a period of time, this hidden community was discovered by the Lamanites. These fugitives then used their Lamanite women and children as bargaining chips to persuade the Lamanite King to spare their lives which he did. The ironic agreement by the Lamanite King, however, included a stipulation that these literate, but miscreant characters were to establish an educational system among his people that would improve their circumstances.
Mormon describes the curriculum of Amulon’s educational system as a basic literacy program—secular by intentional design. The people were taught to read and write and engage in commerce. Measured by secular standards, it was very successful. The temporal and economic outcomes of the system were impressive. “The Lamanites began to increase in riches, and began to trade one with another and wax great, and began to be a cunning and wise people, as to the wisdom of the world”. But according to Mormon the program was flawed. He specifically points out that Amulon’s established curriculum in this school system excluded all teachings about God, morality, and the mission of Christ. One would expect this exclusive type of curriculum, given the background of Amulon and his colleagues. Concerning the education of these teachers, the prophet Abinadi at an earlier time observed: “I perceive that ye have studied and taught iniquity the most part of your lives”. .Mormon does not detail the relationship between Amulon’s schools and the rise of Nehor, whose name is used in connection with the power structure of a large and pervasive counter culture; an order or guild that was created and functioned among these ancient people, but he does make the connection. It is clear that a professional social order developed from these schools; this association Mormon identifies as the order of Nehor. It is also apparent that those who fostered and maintained this special society and its unique curriculum were primarily dissidents who left the Nephite communities and went to live among the Lamanites. The professionals who belonged to this order were well educated according to the standards of the school system. They apparently studied a number of disciplines and became influential lawyers, priests, and teachers. Mormon describes the teachers and students in this system as those “who loved the vain things of the world” and sought after “riches and honors”. He identifies the basic beliefs, policies, and practices of these professionals; their general strategies are also described in several instances that involved Alma and his associates as they interacted with these people. Amlici, a prominent member of the order of Nehor, is mentioned by name as “a very cunning man, yea, a wise man at to the wisdom of the world”. He had both the credentials and professional reputation. In another episode, Alma and his associate Amulek were confronted by a person called Zeezrom, also a product of this agnostic educational order (a lawyer by specialization). At this time, it is apparent that the general society was still conversing in theistic terms but their concept of and allegiance to God was suspect. There was a nominal acknowledgement of a “God”–whatever meaning that term might have had for different individuals. The growing conflict between the doctrine of the Holy Order of the Son of God and the philosophical premises driving the order of Nehor is evident. There were vital disagreements over the fundamental doctrines of life and salvation. The result was different schools with different educational aims and purpose and they fostered different types of societies. These differences were vividly evident in the city of Ammonihah, an intellectual center it seems for the order of Nehor. It was here, the angel told Alma, that a project was underway that would “destroy the liberty of the people.” Participants in the Nehorian movement were designing a system which was “contrary to the statutes, and judgments, and commandments which” God had given to his people . By the time another decade had passed (74 B.C.), an educated man named Korihor emerged from this counter cultural environment. He flaunted not only distortions of religious doctrines, but professed a full-blown atheistic denial of the supernatural world-view. Korihor used a polished rational approach to knowledge, a thoroughly naturalistic argument, as a basis for denying the existence of God and the validity of religious doctrine as taught by the believers. Commitment to such superstitious notions was, he felt, evidence of “frenzied” and “deranged” minds. He maintained that whatever cannot be demonstrated and confirmed through the physical senses does not exist. Alma challenged Korihor’s conclusions by pointing out that they were based on the use of an empirical method in areas where it could not apply. In a different setting with a more open and honest audience, Alma explained an approach to gaining knowledge that went beyond Korihor’s limited rhetorical technique, adding a balance to the learning process that can protect as well as expand man’s efforts to understand and grow. Alma’s was a faithful approach. He acknowledged both the natural and the supernatural paths to learning the truth. He used both experimentation and reason, but also divine revelation. The educational programs that were established among these two divisions of the people—the believers and the non-believers—reflect competing philosophies and values. And they did produce conflicting outcomes among the respective participants. These educational programs influenced and were influenced by the social practices, forms of government, and the religious beliefs of the people. Tensions similar to those we experience today were created by the competing ideas taught in the different educational programs. Behaviors and aspirations were affected. The children in these two societies were reared under the influence of these differing but rudimentary teachings that perpetuated strong generational postures. It is these educational platforms that seem mark the ebb and flow of civilization. We tend to act on the basis of what we learn and what we are taught. Everything else seems to be accessory and ornamental—be it social, political or religious. The political and legal background of this educational dichotomy portrayed in the Book of Mormon infers an intriguing drama. During the two centuries (from 180 B.C. to A.D. 34) prior to the Savior’s visit to these people, the form of government among the righteous segment of Lehi’s family descendants changed from a kingdom founded on religious principles to a republic founded on religious principles. During the early period of the republic, the people used theistic premises to establish and enforce their laws—including a legally defined separation of church and state. Does this sound familiar? Perhaps it should.. Both the description and the outcomes are eerily contemporary to our own day. Due to a sustained and pervasive unrighteousness among the people at that time, the republic eventually experienced internal political confusion and abundant corruption; social and legal premises shifted from theism to agnosticism, and finally to degenerate atheism. The outcomes then and there, proved to be both prophetic and inevitable for that culture and its people. In their case, somewhat strangely like here and now, it appears it was prosperity that seemed to be the fuel the acceleration of these changes. The people’s view of truth and error, like right and wrong, was seriously impaired. As contention and corruption increased, warring factions eventually led to a disintegrating social order and tribal-like governments. Gangs and lawless behaviors permeated the respective societies. Life was no longer sacred; it was a matter of salvage. Nefarious destruction evolved into an attempted massive genocide. Spiritual darkness prevailed. And the people suffered. The foregoing account of these people in the Book of Mormon was intentionally preserved for our day; it is a useful framework for our times. The remaining issues for discussion in this article, are common factors associated with that framework. They seem to inevitably appear within the educational processes of human history—each one repeatedly finding a place in the various episodes of humankind’s efforts to discern between truth and error, right and wrong, good and evil. It is this tidal element that is the underlying force that changes the definitions of life, liberty, and happiness. Many of the consequences seem self-evident; while strangely the true solutions are considered obscure if not irrelevant. As conditions worsen, the tendency seems to be for people to run to fro seeking answers in the same places, from the same sources that led to the conditions that are deemed unacceptable, painful, and perhaps unavoidable. Faith wanes, hope vanishes, and despair prevails. The Book of Mormon proclaims there is a better way and invites us to embrace it.
Human DignityThe Book of Mormon declares that a spirit being gives life to the physical body of every human being—this spirit being is a child of God. It naturally follows that all other explanations of human origin—who we are, where we came from, and what our destiny can be is simply a speculation in the grab-bag of human supposition. I like the way the Book of Mormon teaches that man is special. We are special because we are the offspring of God—we are worth preservation. The narrative in this record repeatedly reveals our specialness in a sensitive and reverent way by acknowledging the feelings associated with the experiences of the specific people about whom the book was written and for whom it was written. Much of the world today acts as if they believe humans are not special—in fact they may be expendable, or disposable, and are certainly replaceable. In many ways contemporary culture treats people as “objects” and “products” to be used and/or managed. Such people seem to be controlled by an opposite doctrine regarding human dignity. There is a growing notion that people are like soap bubbles that just come and go—into oblivion. Personal existence is temporary, fleeting and ultimately inconsequential is the new message pushing various modern policies. In contrast, there are many sermons quoted and incidents described in the Book of Mormon that convey a much different view. The premise underlying this record is that all value is connected to existence and human dignity is an extension of personal worth. Where there is no existence there can be no value and where there is no value there is no basis for worth— personal or otherwise. And without worth there is no purpose for dignity. The Christlike empathy portrayed by many individuals described in the Book of Mormon is indicative of this fundamental assumption held by the writers who created the record. They emphasize the significance of human dignity by focusing on individuals who served, exhorted, instructed, valued and often revered the people among whom they lived. This dimension of their perception has not been edited out—it is intentionally included. In fact, it seems that special care has been exerted to highlight this element of enduring warmth, which is essential to human relationships. For example, it touches my feelings when I read that Lehi spoke to his children “according to the feelings of his heart and the spirit of the Lord which was in him”. As a father, I identify with that phrase. Such feeling is more than a passing impulse. Nephi also speaks to my experience when he shares his innermost feelings of anguish and joy in poignant, poetic language after the death of his father. Such lasting connections as these are essential to the nurture of human dignity. I admire Alma as he counseled his son Corianton, who had committed a grievous sexual sin. His instruction conveys as much compassion as it does counsel and it certainly portrays dignity.
And now, my son, I would to God that ye had not been guilty of so great a crime. I would not dwell upon your crimes, to harrow up your soul, if it were not for your good. But behold, ye cannot hide your crimes from God; and except ye repent they will stand as a testimony against you at the last day. [After an extensive explanation and perhaps some period of time, Alma ultimately concludes his efforts to assist his son with the following exhortation.] … And now, O my son, ye are called of God to preach the word unto this people. And now, my son, go thy way, declare the word with truth and soberness, that you may bring souls unto repentance, that the great plan of mercy may have claim upon them. And may God grant unto you even according to my words. Amen.The report of Jesus’ visit to the people on this hemisphere following his resurrection exudes warmth and feeling toward people. His message is conveyed in the context of great human dignity. And it came to pass that Jesus spake unto them, and bade them arise. And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full. And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them. . . . And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones. The message I sense from the Book of Mormon regarding human dignity is clear. Humankind is special. Each of us is a child of God. “Men are that they might have joy”. Men and women are potentially Christ-like in embryo. Moroni speaks to my deepest desires when he exhorts all men that they “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, . . . that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure”. Human dignity is a fruit of righteousness not wickedness.
Personal FreedomThe insight on personal freedom I gain from the Book of Mormon is this: The social freedom of men on this earth is lost within the heart of some person before it is ever taken from a group. We learn from the teachings of the Book of Mormon that when an individual gives up his or her freedom by the transgression of moral imperatives, he or she comes under the influence of Satan. And when we succumb to his influence he works to take away our freedom and stimulate desires within us to exercise disregard for ourselves and to exercise unrighteous dominion over others for our own selfish purposes. This is the primary source of all social evil—including the loss of personal freedom and true social liberty. The stories in the Book of Mormon of wicked King Noah and his corrupt advisor Amulon, previously mentioned, are descriptive illustrations of this process at work. Alma said this of Korihor, who sought freedom and personal advantage through transgressing and violating truth, by explaining that the devil had obtained power over Korihor’s soul and that he had become a tool in the devil’s hand “that he may destroy the children of God” (Alma 30:42). Satan has lost his freedom. He is miserable and desires that we all become like him. The evidence of this truth is ever-present. Jesus taught that prayer is the key to personal freedom. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him”. Alma explains that to the extent our minds and hearts are darkened we “are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell” . The idea expressed in the Book of Mormon about freedom is simple: freedom is knowing and complying with the truth. This idea emphasizes the importance of doing all we can to see that good and honorable men are permitted to serve as our leaders. But even when I cannot choose the leaders of society, the Book of Mormon tells me how to retain my own personal freedom to whatever extent this is possible. This will be sufficient in the eternal scheme of my responsibility and requirement for success.
Nurture Social Justice and EquityThe intensity with which the Book of Mormon speaks to me about how I must behave when I get exercised about righting the wrongs that exist in the world is sobering. The story of Enos teaches me some vital lessons on this matter. Diligence and patience become evident. When the Spirit of the Lord came upon Enos, impelling him to seek a remission of his sins, he describes the feelings of concern for his brethren that flooded over him (Enos 2, 9). I suppose many of us have feelings of “justified rebellion” when we experience the negative consequences of much that going on in the world today, most of it the results of misguided and/or selfish desires. But the Book of Mormon teaches me that direct, physical confrontation is not the only way, nor necessarily the best way, to set the ignorant or downtrodden free. In Enos’ case the Lord spoke directly to him and said, “I will visit thy brethren according to their diligence in keeping my commandments” (Enos 10). Father will do his part if we do our part. Enos then pursued his missionary labors. He said that he “prayed and labored with all diligence” but his labors were only partially successful . During his lifetime he was not able to see his brethren set free of the false traditions and undesirable circumstances of their life-styles. Enos wrote, “For at the present our strugglings were vain in restoring them to the true faith” (Enos 14). The Book of Mormon clearly demonstrates that it is the absence of the principles of the gospel in the lives of men and women that creates social inequity and injustice. The Lord desires all people to be treated equal in relationship to the blessings he wants to bestow upon them and to have all people relate with each other in love and fairness. His plan, the one designed to save, outlines how this can be accomplished. Substitute systems will not. For example, consider this:
And again, the Lord God hath commanded that men should not murder; that they should not lie; that they should not steal; that they should not take the name of the Lord their God in vain; that they should not contend one with another; that they should not commit whoredoms; and that they should do none of these things; for whoso doeth them shall perish. Satan’s strategy is just the opposite. His plan to destroy is based on contrary notions. Early in the history of this earth he introduced a covenant of his own, “which covenant was given and administered by the devil, to combine against all righteousness”  The intent and consequences of this covenant are
to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning. (Ether 8:25)It seems obvious that social justice and human equality cannot exist in the environments created by men and women who are under this evil influence of Satan. And it seems just as obvious that if all people lived according to the moral order that would ensue by keeping the commandments given by God there would of necessity be social justice and equity. An earlier account in the Book of Mormon describes the initial steps toward social inequality and injustice. The descriptive expressions of the writer, Mormon, sound eerily familiar—like much of today’s media content used to describe various conditions that lead to riots, rebellion, and oppression. But what seems always to be left out of contemporary reports to the general public, is the precise causes of the negative, disruptive, and ultimately destructive behaviors. The Book of Mormon makes it clear that the cause fueling the confusion and contention is first and foremost a rejection of the principles, ordinances, and practices of the true gospel of Jesus Christ and the substitution of a person’s own preferential indulgences. We cannot skip the foundation and build lives of a paradisaical nature. Apparently, then like now, the people dismissed the idea of sin, inserted the substitute of crime, and finally claimed causation was due to some form of illness—mental or otherwise. Sins became crimes and the basic cause of crimes became illness and environmental conditions—that seems to be the world’s substitute. Personal discipline and accountability were discounted—gratification and rational justification were enthroned. All of this, in our day, mirrors the patterns instituted under the Order of Nehor, in their day. As Mormon framed it:
. . . there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world. And from that time forth they did not have their goods and their substance no more common among them. And they began to be divided into classes. . . . they did deny the more parts of his [Christ’s] gospel, insomuch that they did receive all manner of wickedness .False belief systems were circulated and false organizations formed in place of the true Church and its teachings. And they did “multiply exceedingly because of iniquity, and because of the power of Satan who did get hold upon their hearts” (4 Nephi 28). It is easy for me to see that living the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, is the only way to establish and maintain social justice and equality among humankind. Mormon’s logic rings true in my heart as he reflected on the history of the ongoing and various tumult and wars between the Lamanites and the Nephites.
And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men. And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord; and thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing—sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life.We have the handbook; I suppose the time will come, when it will be self-evident, that when all else has failed—we shall read and follow the Handbook with greater care, our awareness will be enhanced and our actions will abundantly bear the fruits of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- ↑ Helaman 12:1-3
- ↑ Helaman 16:14-24
- ↑ Helaman 14:30-31
- ↑ 2 Nephi 2:5-27
- ↑ Mosiah 23:14
- ↑ Mosiah 11:2, 5
- ↑ Mosiah 12:28-30
- ↑ see Teach the Children, pp. 85-98
- ↑ Mosiah 24:5-7
- ↑ Mosiah 13:11
- ↑ Ibid. p. 95
- ↑ Alma 21:4; 24:28-29
- ↑ Alma 1:16
- ↑ Alma 2:1
- ↑ Alma 8:17
- ↑ Alma 30:6-60
- ↑ Alma 32:17-43
- ↑ 2 Nephi 4:12
- ↑ see Nephi’s psalm, 2 Nephi 4:17-35.
- ↑ Alma 39:7-8
- ↑ Alma 42:31
- ↑ 3 Nephi 17:19-23
- ↑ 2 Nephi 2:25
- ↑ Moroni 7:48
- ↑ see the record of Zeniff, Mosiah chapters 9-22 and Mosiah 24:8-11.
- ↑ 3 Nephi 18:15
- ↑ Alma 12:11
- ↑ vs. 13, 15-17
- ↑ 2 Nephi 26:32
- ↑ 3 Nephi 6:28
- ↑ 4 Nephi 24-27